Archive | April, 2012

All Banged Up

30 Apr

After a 2 week hiatus, I finally got myself back in the gym today.  Between the wedding, honeymoon, then getting sick I just didn’t have the energy (or desire) to train until now.  Every progressive training program needs to incorporate periods of rest, so it happens a couple times per year that I take a week or so off.  Though by the end of that week (or two) I always find my body beginning to itch for some vigorous exercise.  And who am I to deny it that?

So today I started back on the same program I’d been on before the wedding.  I made the ambitious decision to start with a leg day which included 10 sets x 6 reps deadlifts.

Tip: Remember that when you’re working in a low rep range (4-6) you should keep your weight HIGH.  Then as you increase your number of reps (8-12, 12-15, 15-20, etc.), the weight you use should DECREASE.

Here’s what I’ll say about deadlifts: if your legs aren’t banged up and bruised after 10 sets, you weren’t doing them right! 😛



Strong is the new Skinny: Part II

27 Apr

Some time ago, Tess posted a wonderful post on Strong being the new Skinny and the messaging that it inferred to her.   In the past few weeks there has been some controversy within the online healthy living community over whether this only feeds fuel to the body image fire.

Since we began this blog last November, we have always maintained we have different views on health and fitness.  We also acknowledge that regardless of our differences on these perspectives, we respect and value each other’s opinions.  So we’re sure it comes as no surprise that even in the face of this controversial topic, we have unique views on this subject and we thought we’d share these with you today.

Jess’ Take

I’d like to preface this by saying these words are meant as my opinion and only my opinion.  They are shared with an open heart and mind and I hope you will read them with equal openness.

I’ve wanted to share my opinion on this topic for a while now, but I’m glad I’ve finally worked up the courage to speak out. I’m also equally glad that Tess was willing to share her thoughts on this topic as well because not only do I know her arguments are sound, it will balance out what I have to say.

The inspiration behind this post comes from a post written by Gena from Choosing Raw.  Gena has been somewhat of a mentor to me in the past and I truly admire her for her views and opinions on feminism, health and veganism (among many other topics).  For those of you who haven’t checked out her blog, I really recommend you do.

Strong is the new skinny.  For me this phrase encompasses so many emotions and feelings; some uncomfortable, others empowering.   What I find empowering about this message is that it celebrates healthy living ideals- eating balanced meals, living a fit and active lifestyle.  It is a strong message that carries “weight” (sorry, had to) with many of the values Tess and I share as athletes and women.

I’m sure many of you have seen these photos or others similar to it circulating around the internet:

Or like this one:

Now, here is where I have some issues with these messages and ideals: these images, regardless of their intention as positive messaging, place an overwhelming importance on body image and appearance.  Now, for the sake of argument, I realize that our appearance and body image has been one that has been a part of every society and culture since the beginning of mankind. You can trace it back to the Paleolithic era where large and curvaceous women were valued for their ability to bear children.

"Venus of Willendorf", 24 000 - 22 000 B.C.E

The Egyptians placed a huge importance on aesthetic beauty, and so did the Greeks with idealized body compositions.

Ancient Egyptian mural

Greek statue

Fashion and body image have gone hand in hand since the beginning of time.  But, why in today’s advanced society do we continue to place so much of our personal value against it?

We measure, critique, and comment on a person’s shape and size before we so much as utter two words to them.  We see a person walking down the street and, based on their appearance, we say they’re too skinny, too fat, curvy, unhealthy, fit, etc…  Meanwhile, we know nothing of these people- their social habits, eating habits, exercise habits, personal health and yet we are so quick to pass judgment.

Through advertising and media, and now with the aid of social media, we place mass judgments on a collective people on these specific ideals as Strong being the new Skinny.  Or, real women have curves.   Why is it that if I’m “skinny”, I am not “strong”? I’m a runner clocking anywhere from 30-40 kilometers per week, eating a balanced diet of carbs, healthy fats and proteins, and I have naturally slim build.  Yet, because of my appearance, I am questioned on my strength, my diet and eating habits.  I have not been graced with the hour glass “womanly” curves that have been so celebrated as of late.  So does this mean that I am “less of a woman” or “fake”?

On the flip side, a larger woman will be critiqued about her diet choices or exercise habits before you have the opportunity to even get to know her. For all you know, she’s at the gym 5 times per week, eats a healthy balanced diet and lives a wonderful lifestyle.  How is she “unhealthy” or “fat”?

Or better yet, you see an unquestionably fit and muscular woman and wonder if she isn’t taking steroids or feel that she no longer appears feminine or womanly.

There has been so much debate over what is healthy: what is a measure of beauty, what is too thin, what is too fat, too muscular, curvy, not-curvy.  This fixation on ourselves as nothing more than a body image is one that needs to stop.  Who can tell you if you’re healthy or not? A licensed health-care practitioner, a registered dietician, and your doctor. Who can tell you if you’re fit? A certified personal trainer and again, your doctor. Who can tell you if you’re a real woman? You.

It is time to stop measuring ourselves against others and generic spouted ideals. “Strong is the new skinny” is a powerful message, but not powerful enough.

My elementary school’s cross country coach used to emphasize one phrase to us as we prepared for our next race: that we cross the finish line “happy and healthy”.  It didn’t matter if we were first, middle of the pack, or dead last.  If we crossed the finish line “happily and healthfully” that was all that was important.

So really, it shouldn’t matter what size you are; so long as we’re healthy- both mentally and physically, we should be happy with who we are.

Healthy is the new happy.


Tess’ Take

“Strong is the new Skinny”

My first translation of this sentence is that muscular is sexy.  My personal preference has always been towards athletic bodies. I love the look of a muscular woman; I revere the bodies of women like Erin Stern and Jamie Eason and have sought to build myself a similar physique (though I know I am still, and will always be, a work in progress).  And ever since I can remember, I’ve been attracted to big, strong, muscled men.  Not like the Calvin Klein models – I mean the pro athletes and bodybuilders.  But that’s just me.

The issues that arise from this sentence “Strong is the new Skinny”, I believe, stem from differences in interpretation.  More specifically, our individual views of beauty.

For men, there has long been an agreement that “bigger is better”.  For men, broad shoulders and a V taper are what’s commonly accepted as the archetype for the male structure.  For women, on the other hand, there is little consensus on what is globally accepted as beautiful.  As Jess pointed out, beauty ideals vary culturally and historically – West Africa prefers their women to be overweight, Brazilians like a guitar shape, and Chinese would rather be tall and thin.   Now, as Western culture reaches obesity rates of unprecedented proportions, there seems to be a shift towards lean, athletic bodies.

I think that in a globalized world of such varying beliefs, backgrounds, cultures, timelines, history, and views it is nearly impossible to find one all-encompassing ideal of beauty.  In that case, why not decide what YOU think is most beautiful and work towards that?

Although I realize that the muscular look, whether it be on a man or woman, is just not everybody’s cup of tea, I’ve decided to treat other people’s opinions as just that – their own personal opinions and preferences.  I will continue to work towards what I consider “beautiful”, regardless of what others may think.

To me, the word “strong” means to be healthy, capable, and empowered.  It does not mean being muscular like an athlete, nor curvy like Marilyn Monroe, or thin like a Hollywood actress.  To be strong means loving your body by treating it well with sound diet, daily exercise, and positive thoughts.  There are so many ways to be healthy and fit and still achieve the body of your dreams.  Just because you are active does not mean your body will look a certain way.  YOU have the control over how your body looks.  So find what you believe to be beautiful, and then find a way to healthfully work towards becoming that.

This word, “strong”, is meant to conjure feelings of empowerment in who you are… not to make you feel as though you should now be fitting into a different box as determined by the media.  When your body is healthy and happy, it will be beautiful.  And when you feel beautiful, you will also feel strong.



Restaurant Review: Fressen

26 Apr

One of the advantages to visiting Toronto on a regular basis is that I get to check out the plethora of vegan/vegetarian restaurants this city has to offer.  Don’t get me wrong, Montreal has some wonderful eateries catering to the herbivores, but Toronto has been in the veggie game for a bit longer (not to mention has a larger population) so more options are available.  This is especially true in the “fine-dining” category where Montreal hasn’t really caught on to the fact that vegetarians like to get fancy every once in a while, too!

Enter Fressen.

This chic spot located on the trendy Queen St. W is an all vegan restaurant with a warm Safari/Exotic-inspired ambiance.  Think plush seating, natural woods, and a palette of rich greens, golds and browns.

Dustin had never been before and ever since his newfound obsession with Fresh and their sweet potato burrito, he’s been excited to try out new veggie spots with me.

Clearly, this is a guy after my own heart.

Anyway, we stopped in over the weekend to enjoy the delights of Fressen and their unique menu.   One of the reasons why I love Fressen so much is their fun appetizers.  With the option of ordering 3 for $15, they make for a fun way to start off the meal with your dining partner(s).

Dustin and I opted for their basil hummus, spicy red lentil balls and their mixed green salad.  The hummus was really good but my only complaint was that I could barely taste the basil as it was overpowered by the cumin.  However, it’s only inspired me to try my own hand at basil hummus, so be on the lookout for a recipe shortly.

The spicy red lentil balls I’d had before.  I find the name a little misleading as you would think it more like a “meat-ball” type dish, when in fact it’s a spread, thankfully our server did point this out to us which was nice of her.  The spice in the spread nicely complements the texture and pungent taste, again very delicious- especially when served with their piping hot garlic loaf with huge chunks of garlic peeking out of the slices.

Our third appetizer was the mixed green salad which featured crisp vegetables, peppery arugula, and sweet baby greens, topped with an orange miso vinaigrette and sesame seeds.  Dustin really enjoyed this as he loves all things sesame.  I thought it was good and appreciated the freshness of the dish and that it nicely balanced out the heavier hummus and red lentil spread, but I’m not the hugest fan of miso based dressings.  If you’re a lover of the miso- dive right in, if you’re not, this may not be the dish for you.

Next up, came our mains. Dustin opted for the Chimichuri sauce-stuffed Portobello mushroom. This dish is essentially Fressen’s spin on a traditional steak dinner.  Piled high with fresh vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, corn and kale, the huge stuffed mushroom takes centre stage with a lovely “au jus” surrounding the goodness.  Dustin was very impressed with the flavour and noted there were subtle hints of spices that made a great flavor combination, rather than a blast of too much spice to your taste buds.

I ordered their pasta special which was rigatoni topped with fresh snowpeas, zucchini, shallots and cherry tomatoes, tossed with a cashew cream sauce.   I thought the sauce was very flavourful, again subtle in the spices and seasonings so that it blended well together for a nice savoury dish that wasn’t overpowering.  Albeit, the pasta was a bit overcooked but the veggies were done perfectly with tender-crisp snowpeas and juicy tomatoes.

As you can imagine, neither of us had room for dessert so I’ll have to go back and try that out another time.  Tough life, don’t you think?


Mrs. Tess Franklin

24 Apr

I’m baaaaack!  Thanks Jess for holding down the fort while I was away 🙂  Wow, these last couple weeks have been a total whirlwind!  I’m going to try and do my best to recap it all for you in this post.


As you may remember, I kicked my training into high gear during the last 4 weeks leading up to the wedding and scaled my diet back so I could lose a few pounds (5-7) for my wedding day.  I’m happy to say that I succeeded, and reached my goal weight of 130lbs by wedding day 🙂  In addition leaning out, I think I even managed to thicken my mid-back, which was a nice surprise!

March 15th

April 13th

The day before the wedding my mom, sisters, and bridal party all came over to the house for the rehearsal dinner.  This is when it FINALLY started sinking in that we were getting married, and I actually started to relax about the wedding.  The whole week before had been crazy busy with finalizing details, running errands, and of course fitting in the last workouts.  It was so nice to just sit back, get my nails done (by my sisters Rachel and Emily), and enjoy having my family in our house.  The church rehearsal was quick, and I was in bed by 9:30pm the night before.

Relaxing with my sisters, listening to Julia tell us all about Thaliand

Wedding Day

Jess and I woke up bright and early to go for a run before the day got started.  I carved out some time that morning to sit by a pond and reflect on everything that had happened so far in my life, and what my intentions were going into this marriage.  The rest of the day went totally smoothly – our hair and makeup appointments ended right on time, we (my bridesmaids and I) had a good snack before getting dressed, and everybody was on time to the church.  As we drew closer to 2 o’clock people approached me telling me how handsome John looked in his Navy whites (dress uniform), which made me all the more excited to see him!

My dashing groom

The ceremony was simple, and perfect.  John was, as I already knew, exceptionally handsome.  I had a hard time holding his gaze at times, for fear that I would break down in tears.  Although weddings are happy and joyous, they’re also very serious and earnest.  We both listened very carefully, and spoke every word with meaning.

Me and my MOH, Tanya, showing off our fancy shoes

The reception was charming.  As much as we had wanted to invite our entire families (aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.), we opted to keep the wedding small – only 40 people attended – and in the end it was the right decision for us.  We were able to chat with all our guests, and even enjoy some alone time.

Me and Hannah, then and now

The GL girls, at it again

Bishop's family

Franklin family

Grise women + John

Our venue (Strathmere) was beautiful, and the reception took place in a house-like building, which made it even cozier and more familiar for our guests.  The food was delicious!

Wedding cake

Enjoying some hors d'oeuvres

John - "What are you doing? You're going to spill all over your white dress!"

But I think the thing that stuck out most to us about that night were all the heartfelt, beautiful speeches that our friends and family gave.  We went over every single one when we went to bed later that night; I hope we can remember all the kind and insightful words that were spoken to us on our wedding day.

John's dad, delivering his speech

Dancing with my mom

*If there was one thing I could have changed, I would have toned down my spray tan by a shade or two 😛  Let that be a lesson to all you future brides!*

The Honeymoon

The day after the wedding we hosted John’s dad and sister (now MY dad and sister as well), who were staying with us until Monday.  We showed them around downtown Ottawa, shopped, and of course ate some excellent food.  It was nice to have them all to ourselves for that whole day, as we only get a chance to see his family about once per year.

Steph and Dad at the war memorial

We took our honeymoon in Niagara Falls, and wow, what a beautiful place!  We wasted not one minute of that entire trip and visited everything we could possibly want to see.  It would seem that Niagara is very well set up for tourists, and we took full advantage.  We did some shopping across the US border, enjoyed some delicious meals, and did a lot of laughing in between 🙂

Niagara Falls

John, getting soaked on the Maid of the Mist

Maybe the most romantic moment (for me), came one night when we had made our way up to the viewing deck of our hotel after dinner, got cozy in a chair, and watched the light show that was being projected onto the falls.

Romantic view

And so, now we’re back.  Unfortunately, I came down with a cold the day we returned, no doubt from the lack of sleep over the past 2 weeks.  There were a good 4-5 days of eating with no restrictions, so I’ve put back on a couple of those pounds I had lost lol.  No matter – it was totally worth it!  John was back in the gym the day we got home (I love the way that man’s mind works) and I’ll be joining him as soon as I feel better.

I’m happy to be back to blogging!  Stay tuned for my new goals and workouts.

-Mrs. Franklin (aka. Tess)

Half Marathon Training: Breaking Past “The Mark”

20 Apr

Yes, believe it or not I AM still running and training for my upcoming races. Funny, since none of you have heard neither hide nor hair of it since I posted some tips on speedwork training way back when.

My bad

Well according to my “Smart Coach” app there are only 16 days left until race day.  She’s comin up fast!

Thankfully, I’ve been putting in my dues and gradually increasing my distance so my body will feel strong and confident come race day.  Increasing ones distance gradually has been something that has been hard for me as a relatively novice runner to work up to.  Sure, I totally see the logic (and the science) backing up the 10-15% rule, but it doesn’t mean I enjoy the slow pace of it.

For those of you who aren’t aware, the 10% rule states that you should only increase your overall weekly mileage by no more than 10-15% each week.  So for example: if I run a total of 17km in one week, I should not run more than 19km next week.  This will help your body build up core and cardio endurance and also reduce the possibility of injury.

Anecdote: I learned this the hard way last year and suffered a MASSIVE hip flexor injury post-race where I was unable to walk properly for 3 weeks.  Lesson to take away: FOLLOW THE 10% RULE.

Now back to increasing your distance.  Everyone who runs long distance races- anywhere from 21.1 km to 125km- will tell you it’s more of a mental game than anything else.  You can be as fit as a fiddle but getting your mind to accept how many kilometers you are set to run can be a whole different ball game.  I’ve seen this in myself even when training for a half-marathon.

In the early stages of my training schedule, I find it very hard to get past that elusive 10km mark.  Don’t ask me why, but for some reason going on a run longer than 10km will seem like a bit of task, partially because I know it means I now need to set aside at least an hour of my day solely for running.

So how do I get past this “mental block”? One of my favorite tricks is to map out a run beforehand that is longer than 10km, but I’ll give myself two options: one “short-cut” that will put me at 10km to finish my run, and one that will put me anywhere from 11 to 13km.  This way, when I’m on my run, I can see how I’m feeling and if my body (not my mind) is telling me to cut it short, I’ll run 10km. But unless I’m in physical pain and cannot tolerate 30 more steps let alone 3 more kilometers, I will push through to attain the longer goal.  I’ve really found this to be a useful tool and it’s definitely helped me gradually increase my distances.

I also find that bringing a small water bottle helps as well.  If ever you’re on a run for more than an hour, your body will need fuel in the way of water or an electrolyte to keep you going longer, otherwise you risk dehydration and muscle cramping.  Having your calves seize up 3km away from your house is not anyone’s idea of fun, just sayin’.  Not that I would know or anything.

So there you have it, my tips on how to break past the 10km or whatever distance mark that is holding you back from making your running goals come true.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be giving you updates on the final stages of my training. For those of you who aren’t aware, my first race of the season is the Goodlife Toronto ½ Marathon on May 6th.  If you have any specific running questions post them in the comments section below and I’ll address them in another post.

Happy Running!


Citrus Kale Salad

17 Apr

Tess is off on her Honeymoon and has left blogging duties to me this week- suckers!

Spring is a wonderful, wonderful time of year, don’t you think?  Not only does it represent new beginnings, or in Tess’ case, new chapters in our lives, but also the shedding of layers. Layers of clothing, layers of dust we’ve kind of neglected in the corners of our apartments over the winter months *ahem* and layers, upon, layers of root vegetables.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a lover of the squash, potato, and parsnip as much as the next girl.  But really, to me spring means fresh new produce and, let’s be honest, a few lighter dishes to reflect the lighter days and the lighter layers of clothing.

This salad is a perfect example for a warm spring evening, like the one we experienced in Montreal yesterday.

Combining a few of my favorite things like Kale and Avocado, along with some citrus notes to add some tangy sweetness, this is just plain delicious.  I suggest you go make it now, no, seriously. Go!

Spring Kale Citrus Salad

1 bunch of Kale

1 grapefruit

1 large avocado

¼ c. slivered almonds

1 lemon

2 tbsp olive oil, divided

1 tsp maple syrup


Remove the Kale leaves from the stems and tear into bite sized pieces. Rinse thoroughly and dry, place into large bowl.  Add 1 Tbsp of olive oil and massage kale until it turns bright green.

Remove the pith from the Grapefruit, slice into bite-sized pieces and add to your salad, same with the avocado.

In a small bowl, squeeze in the juice from your lemon, add 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp maple syrup.  Whisk together, taste and adjust to your preferences.  Pour over salad and toss to combine.  Top with slivered almonds.


April 14, 2012

15 Apr

On Saturday, April 14, 2012 one of my best friends, my co-blogger, and sister, Tess, married the love of her life, John, in a beautiful and intimate ceremony witnessed by her closest friends and family. This post is for them.

I’d like to say thank you to Tess and John for allowing me to be a part of their day.  The journey you have taken to get to this point has been special and beautiful and I consider myself lucky to have borne witness to it.

After today, you embark on a new fork in the road and I wish you both happiness and good health for this long journey ahead.

I’ll never forget the day when I met Tess. It was our second year of university and for some reason we both felt it would be a great idea to take a class entitled “Le Theatre du Quebec 1885 to 1985”.  I’m sure it’s no surprise to you all when I say that meeting Tess was the only good thing about that class.

Pre-wedding run.

As time went on we got to know each other, and our group of friends quickly formed into what it is today- a tight-knit group of people that really, is more of a family than friends.

BU Family: Caitlin, Tanya, Jess, Mike, Tess, John, Dan, Liz, Karo

We laugh, we bicker, we push and encourage one another.  Nothing could be a more accurate description for mine and Tess’ friendship.  Even John has remarked that we act more like sisters than friends.  Looking at Tess’ beautiful family today, I can only assume it’s because she’s had so much practice with it.

Grisé girls!
From left: Jaclyn, Tess, Julia, Emily, Kim and Rachel

Within a few weeks of knowing each other in that horrible class, we instinctively knew we’d make for great roommates, and decided to move in together the following year.

See John?  You’re not the only who moves fast when they recognize a good thing!

Tess has always been the sunny and positive one in our group, never one to waste time being grumpy or in a bad mood- that was always left to me before coffee in the morning.  Her positivity and happy disposition is one that just draws you in- who can resist such a person?

Lucky for Tess, John couldn’t either.

When Tess first told me about John it was hard not to notice the excitement and sheer happiness in her voice.  Obviously, there was something special about this one.

Within 5 minutes of meeting him, I immediately understood why.  John’s easy going and fun loving nature beautifully compliments Tess’ energetic and quirky disposition.  Watching you two fall in love has been a wonderful site.  I consider myself blessed and lucky to have been a bystander of it all.  I wish you nothing but happiness and fulfillment in your marriage.

As you know, it is on this blog where Tess and I try to lead by example to show our readers what it means to lead a healthy and happy lifestyle.  We like to share tips and tricks on exercising, and healthy eating.  While I like to believe I’ve gotten to be pretty good at giving this sort of advice, I know that today, no advice needs to be given to these two.

Mrs. Grisé was in agreement that Tess had indeed chosen the man of her dreams

Lovely sister (in-law) Stephanie, also imparted some words of wisdom to the couple

I know that they will love and respect each other in only the way that two people who love as deeply as Tess and John do.

Tess and John's first dance

As we’ve mentioned before, Tess and I met at Bishop’s Univeristy.  Bishop’s is a school that that prides itself on strong academics as well as a –er strong social life.  We are also a school that prides itself on tradition.  At every Bishop’s event be it a football game, or a special alum gathering, the school song will traditionally be sung.  While I know that John didn’t attend Bishop’s, I’m pretty sure he was “Christened” after attending homecoming last fall.

So in honour of this special union, I’d like to present a re-mixed version of the song for the bride and groom.

Raise a toast to Theresa and John

On the mighty Ottawa Canal

They’re conditioned to their fate

They will never separate

They will be together forever more

Married days will linger ever in their hearts

Having kids, growing old and bickering

And we’ll show esprit de corps as we watch Zuhri Roar

On to victory

So raise your wine glass or your little shot glass

To Theresa and John!


Road Tripping

10 Apr

When your boyfriend lives in Toronto and you live in Montreal, it’s to be expected that you will spend a lot of time driving along the road known as the 401.

Honestly, the drive ain’t that bad and it’s one I’ve been making since I was a baby, so I’m quite used to it.  The only thing that kind of sucks are the rest stops, they don’t exactly boast a whole lot of healthy snack options.  Rather than fret over my limited options, and debate the safety hazard of driving whilst attempting to dip flatbread into hummus, I’ll usually pack my own snacks.

Before my most recent trip to the T-Dot I was fortuitous enough to make a trip to Bulk Barn for some errands.  Bulk Barn is road-trip heaven as far as I’m concerned.  Dried fruit, nuts, candy, chips, etc…  And all for a much lower price than traditional grocery store fare.  Since I was there, I picked up some mixed dried fruit: prunes, apricots, dried apples and peaches as well as some yogurt covered pretzels.

Cut-up veggies are also a great idea as they are easy to pack and easy to munch on when you’re driving.  As you can see, I’m not really one for stopping and eating.  Rest stops are for pea-breaks, gas, and maybe a coffee here or there 😉

I’m also a fan of packing wraps for myself.  This one is pretty simple with some hummus, greens, bell peppers and zucchini.  Note- do not put tomatoes or anything especially soggy in a wrap, it will not lead to good things.  Trust me.

A bottle of water is always a good idea as hydration keeps you alert, just don’t overdo it or else you may find yourself stopping far more frequently than you had hoped. 😉

Oh, and the ultimate reward to a road trip?

Ok, ok,  Dustin is too.


What are your favorite road trip snacks?


1 Dish, 2 Spoons: Salad Bar

9 Apr

Last weekend for Tess’ bachelorette the gang had a pot-luck salad bar dinner, where every guest brought one item. What a fun way to have a dinner! Everybody brought something different and we ended up with a well-rounded list of ingredients to work with:

Spinach, kale, broccoli, carrots, tomatoes, celery, feta cheese, cheddar cheese, croutons, chicken, sunflower seeds, dried cranberries, and quinoa.

Tess’ Take

I can be a little picky about my salads. First, they need multiple colors, and protein. I tend to avoid carbs in salads (never been much for croutons). I also like to minimize calorie-dense ingredients such as cheese, dried fruit, and candied nuts as they can add up quickly, and for me, salads should be light. Oh, and no dressings above 45 calories per tbs. Now, I do stray from these “rules” from time to time, but that night I was feeling stubborn, so this is what I ended up with.

Spinach, kale, celery, tomatoes, carrots, chicken, sunflower seeds.

Not pictured is my balsamic vinaigrette. Thanks again girls for the yummy dinner and fun night!


Jess’ Take

So… Yeah this was supposed to go up yesterday, but I was a tad busy making these


Don’t worry a post on these babies is forthcoming.

In the mean time, I’ll tell you about the delicious salad I was able to enjoy last weekend. As you can imagine, I started off with massages kale which I then topped with a plethora of veggies including: avocado, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, carrots and chickpeas; topped off with sunflower seeds, croutons, feta cheese, and Kelly’s delicious maple balsamic dressing.

As you can see it, we had some fabulous salads for an equally fabulous evening!

Now, Dustin and I are on the GO train headed to Oakville for Easter dinner. I hope you all have a great rest of your weekend!

Happy Easter!

Interview with an inspiration: Tammy Carter

7 Apr

I first met Tammy 2 years ago as I was training for my first fitness show.  She was training with another one of the Personal Trainers at Goodlife and was a friend of my posing coach, Aimee.  Aimee introduced us as a means for me to ask Tammy any questions about suits, posing, backstage, etc. being that she was an experienced pro!

Tammy quickly took me under her wing.  The night of the competition she helped me backstage to even out my tan, go over last-minute posing, and even bikini-bit my suit (which, for those of you who know about bikini bite, is a very personal experience!).  Since then, we’ve both changed gyms but have kept in touch.  I can never get over the fact that Tammy is a working mom, and somehow still has the body of a 20-something year old.  Her dedication to, knowledge and love of the sport of bodybuilding are apparent.  And though she may be too humble to admit it, she’s one tough competitor!

Tess:  Hi Tammy!  Thanks so much for doing this interview.  I’m really looking forward to learning more about what makes you tick 🙂  First question: When did you start competing, and why?
Tammy: My first competition was in Nov 2008 after only 18 months of weight training. I had begun training the year before with Pedja Stojnic, a trainer at Goodlife Fitness. I had sought him out in particular because he had trained a friend of mine for competition. I was fascinated by her transformation and although competition was the furthest from my mind his training and nutrition principles rang true for me. Really all I was interested in was halting the middle age spread I was experiencing at 40 years old. I had been reading a little bit about how lifting heavy was just as important for women as it is for men and had already bought into the fact that lifting would not make me bulky. Also I was becoming a little more educated about macronutrients but didn’t feel like I had enough knowledge to apply these things to myself. My initial training package was for just 3 months but saw me eating more than ever before and dropping numbers on the scale like crazy. This convinced my husband that Pedja was worth the expense and we signed on for another year’s worth of training so that I could achieve my personal goals of squatting 135 pounds and 8 chinups. I transitioned to maintenance nutrtion and as I was approaching my PR’s my husband started to mention that I was looking like the gals on the cover of fitness magazines. The seed of competing was born and I thought that as a very shy woman it would be a crazy way to do something ‘out of the box’. I placed dead last in that first show in a lineup of 15 girls but for some reason I was hooked. I learned so much and had so much fun that I felt I had more to give in this industry.
Had you been very active before then?
NO!!! Haha I am that emphatic! In my younger years I was the farthest away from an athlete that you can imagine. I was literally the last girl chosen for gym class teams. After I finished going to school for Respiratory Therapist I dabbled in gym memberships doing aerobics classes rarely venturing into the weights area. I didn’t know how to do anything there and the short orientation only showed you how to do a machine circuit that I quickly grew bored of. After the birth of my first child I lost the baby weight by taping exercise shows and doing a couple back to back and eating low fat food (the wisdom of the time). After the second child I was busy with a toddler as well as high needs foster children and working full time.
What does a typical day look like for you
When I work it is 12 hour shifts; it could be anything from days, nights, 11am to 11pm or 9am to 9 pm. Running around a 30 bed ICU is enough of a workout for me on those days! Fortunately with 12 hour shifts you have more days off and that is when I get my workouts in. When I am not working I still get up at 5 am. I leave the house at 6 to take my teenage kids to an early morning religous class. After I drop them off at school I head straight to the gym if I do not have training session with Pedja which lately has only been once a week. In the off season I am usually done by 10 or 10:30. Right now with a contest preparation underway I take a little longer for a short HIIT session of cardio, extra stretching so that I can improve my mobility for onstage poses, and posing focussing particularly on engaging my lower abs to improve the presentation of that part of my body. Afterwards is errand running usually involving replenishing groceries and then home. Afternoons are for catching up! Paying bills, tidying the house, catching up on emails, planning monthly activities for a women’s organization, planning for my next Habitat for Humanity build and if I am really stretched, squeezing in a nap!  After preparing dinner and eating with my family I often have more meal prep so that I have food prepared to bring to work. Somewhere in there I talk to my husband and kids!
So many parents tell me that they just don’t have time to exercise. As a mother and worker, what do you say to these people? Do you have any advice for them?
Now we know that we do not have to spend hours pounding the pavement or being hamsters on a treadmill to be fit.  Cardio can be done in the form of high intensity intervals in just 10 or 15 minutes. Kettlebells or  TRX take very small areas to have a great workout in your home. Many gyms have children’s programs now so that there is something for everyone. The internet and various books are wonderful resources to educate yourself in training and nutrition principles if you are careful about it. Nutrition is 80% of the game so ensure you are following clean eating principles and above all recognize that you are worth it! Someday your children will be grown and you may want to back off in your worklife so you want to be able to have the health and stamina to enjoy life. 

If you could list one thing you’ve learned about your body or health since you’ve started competing, what would it be?  
I have learned that sound nutrition and weight training is the fountain of youth! I am 46 years old and feel incredibly vital and healthy. I feel more energetic than when I was 20 and feel like physically there is nothing that I can’t accomplish if I feel like it.

What’s your favourite form of exercise? Ex. Weightlifting, bootcamp classes, dance, running, etc.
Essentially I stick with weight training. I can do it anytime and don’t have to be anywhere at a certain time to take a class. There are so many variations for weight training and often I change my focus of what I want to achieve and that keeps me motivated. For instance I wanted to do a 1 arm push up so did all kinds of extra core strengthening work and variations of pushups until I was able to do one. Last summer I trained Westside style to increase my PR’s for bench press, squats, and deadlifts. My favourite thing is kettlebells. I adore Turkish get ups and snatches. To deload I will do a bit of yoga. Running….never haha!

Diet is undoubtedly the most important part of achieving a great body. Obviously you have a very specific diet during contest prep, but I know you personally and can honestly say you look amazing year-round. What does your diet look like in the off-season?
Well the reason I began my quest to improve my nutrition and learn to train with weights is that I knew that that was what I needed to do for longevity and to look good in a t-shirt! The physique competitons were just a way to focus my determination and then I learned how much fun the process was and I adore all of the people I have met along the way. Therefore I never lose sight of the real reason to eat clean and exercise. I have peers my age with sloping shoulders and poochy bellies and physical limitations. I want to be just as active in 30 years as I am now. Off season my diet is not a whole lot different. There are more calories of course but I stick with a higher protein, higher fat, low carb approach through the week with a little more variation in types of protein sources and fats. On the weekends I allow myself a meal or two of anything that I especially want with no feelings of guilt.
What is the body part you’re most proud of, and what do you do to train it?
I have been told that my back is ‘sick’. I lean out my upper body the easiest and I can get pretty ripped back there! I love doing chin ups so do lots of those. Lat pulldowns, rows, rear flys have also been beneficial to develop my back.
It takes a lot of discipline and motivation to do what you do every day. What drives you?
As I have mentioned before, long term vitality is my primary focus. Another one is fun! I LOVE TO TRAIN! Someone said to me once that it if fun to watch me workout because I look like I am having a good time. I am not one of those people that mopes around the gym.

Do you have any mentors, or people who inspire you?
In the gym my biggest mentor of course would be Pedja. After 5 years he is more than a trainer and we have developed a friendship over that time. I appreciate his wisdom that has allowed me to be gracious with my fellow competitors and maintain balance with my family and other aspects of my life. One of the reasons why I have been able to stick with him for so long, never seeking advice from anyone else is that he is constantly pursuing knowledge and upgrading his qualifications as a trainer. I am constantly amazed at how he has fine tuned my nutrtion specifically to me and identified physical deficiencies in my body and worked with me to improve them.
     As for people that inspire me I am confronted with them every day! My kids who are navigating this crazy world and turning out to be good people and my husband who has worked so hard to help pay for all my hours in the gym and the expenses necessary for competition. As far as fitness inspiration goes I am most inspired by those who have overcome limitations and obstacles and achieved more than those around them would have believed them capable of. I think one of the reasons I continue to compete is the people I meet and the stories they tell and the camaraderie amongst everyone.

Do you practice goal setting? If so, what are some of the goals you have for yourself over the next 3 years?
I don’t really practice goal setting formally but I do maintain a ‘bucket list’ in the back of my mind. My list at the moment is to continue to be involved in the fitness industry even if I don’t compete after this year. I love to be considered a mentor to women and convey the message that is never too late to make physical improvements and improve the quality of your life. I am a little intriqued by kettlebell challenges so will pursue that after the summer season of competing. I am passionate about the organization Habitat for Humanity and I have become a team leader in their Global Village program. I plan on leading at least one team a year to build locations around the world.
Thanks again, Tammy!  I’ll be seeing you around the competition circuit this summer 🙂