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My Favourite Things: The March Edition

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FITNESS
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In February 2016 -- holy Batman, time flies -- I compiled my first "favourite things" blog -- a list of current favourite exercises, nutrition tips, recipes, and health mantras. I so enjoyed the experience that I have posted a fresh list roughly every five weeks! This edition includes a workout format, helpful tips for eating out, a mindfulness trick for improved posture, and a life mantra that has profoundly improved my daily existence.

1. Current favourite workout format: Cardio machine and weight combo

I stay motivated by going on what I call "fitventures" with friends. Sampling different classes gives me an excuse to see friends, allows me to do research without feeling like I am "working," and ensures I actually complete my planned workout -- I would never "skip" when someone is waiting.

Cardio machine and weight combo classes sandwich bouts of strength training between cardio -- usually on a treadmill or rower. Time-crunched individuals will appreciate getting both a strength and a cardio workout in one hour. One-stop shopping! If you like the sound of such a workout you are in luck -- I am sure there is a class near you. The style has recently exploded.

I first tried the format at Barry's Bootcamp in NY maybe five years ago. At Barry's you alternate bouts on a Woodway treadmill with weights. In Toronto (my home stomping ground), Elle Fitness and Social just "joined the party" with their Bodies by Elle class. I am also a regular at Track Fitness -- their Circuit 60 class is almost identical to a Barry's class. At Ferris360 you alternate between weights and cardio, but you can choose to use the treadmill, rower, VersaClimber, or SkiErg (sort of like rowing, but standing). At Núcleo Fitness and Ultimate Athletics you alternate between bouts on the rower and weights. I have not yet tried Orangetheory Fitness in Toronto (they are a recent addition to Canada), but I am excited to go. It has existed throughout the States for years and is now exploding in Canada.

Main take-away: If you need some motivation, try a fun fitness class either solo or with a friend.

2. Current favourite nutrition tip: Get your eating out under control by being PREPARED

-Never get to an event starving.

-If the venue allows it -- bring a healthy snack. I always have a hardboiled egg, a few almonds, or a pepper in my bag.

-Look at the menu before you go. Decide in ADVANCE what you will eat. When you arrive, don't give yourself the option of having anything else. Frame what you have decided to eat as "non-negotiable" in your head. Other food is off limits. If it motivates you, tell your friends your eating plan in advance -- get them to help keep you on track.

-If you want to enjoy a treat with friends, go for it. Everyone deserves a small portion of something they love -- I call that my "love it" rule -- but decide in advance what the treat will be and make sure you have a modest portion and that you ENJOY it. Don't eat anything mindlessly and only have the treat you have decided on ahead of time.

-If you know you are going to have a small treat, make sure to do a good workout earlier in the day and make healthy choices during the day leading up to the event. One unhealthy nibble at an event -- when decided on in advance -- is fine. An entire day of unhealthy choices is not OK. 

3. Current favourite mindfulness trick: The colour challenge

If you are concerned about your posture, pick a colour to use as your "mindfulness trigger." Then, watch for your chosen colour throughout your day. When you notice it, take a moment to assess your posture. Check if your ears, shoulders, and hips are stacked over top of each other. If your body is not aligned properly -- which is the case for most of us -- sit or stand up straight to draw your shoulders and head back.

4. Current favourite mantra: #findmy40%

I recently read the The How of Happiness. One of the book's main take-aways is that while we are all born with a basic set-point of "happy," we have 40% of our happiness to "play" with by manipulating our mindset, environment, actions, and social support.

After reading this I committed to waking up every day with the mindset that finding my 40% is non-negotiable. I focus on finding pockets of joy whenever and wherever possible; I acknowledge then celebrate the little things. Finding this 40% is based on the mindset flip that my happiness and perception of my life are both the sums of what I decide to pay attention to -- what I notice in my life. We all have so many things we could focus on, but we have a limited capacity for attention. So we have to decide what is worthy of that attention.

For me, the simple (but never easy) act of celebrating the little things reminds me to appreciate life. Now, I am not arguing that you shouldn't have sad moments. I absolutely feel sad sometimes -- owning and honoring your emotions is healthy -- but I have decided to acknowledge such moments and then not let them influence my physical and physiological well-being.

Instead of letting negatives bleed into the rest of my life, I am working on finding things that make me happy and focusing on them. Find your personal moments of joy. Then, let that joy snowball; use the positive energy to lace up your running shoes and get out the door! Or, on the flip side, if you are feeling down and thus can't find joy, make yourself go for a walk; then use the energy and positive feelings created by moving as the catalyst for an upward spiral of happiness and productivity!

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