Exercise Tips During Your Period:

Bloating, aching, mood swings and fatigue! These are all symptoms of our dear friend “aunt flow”.  Perhaps you’ve been on your fitness regime a while, yet when your time of the month rears its ugly head you seem to relapse into habits of binge eating and little to no exercise.
When it’s that time of the month, how do you try to stay on track?

 Here is some advice based on science:

Changes in temperature will affect your cardio:
When it comes to your period, do you ever notice that sometimes you may have all of the energy in the world, and other times you feel like death? Has this ever affected your cardio? Well, guess what! Cardiovascular performance during menstruation is highly dependent on the weather! The University of Newcastle Australia explains that cardiovascular changes do not occur in temperate conditions,  however, increased fatigue just before your period was evident in conditions of 32 degrees Celsius and during humidity of 60% or greater (Jonge de Janse, 2012). Perhaps decreasing your level of cardio or sticking to a strength program in hot and humid conditions, especially one week before your period, may be more beneficial to your overall performance.

Changes in strength may occur:
 Sakamai and Yasuda, researchers at the University of Tokyo, demonstrate that isometric strength decreases during your period. However one week before your period your isometric strength increases. Isometric exercises are activities where the joints and muscles do not move. Such exercises include the plank, isolated lunges (holding a lunge for an extended period of time with the front leg in a 90 degree angle) and isolated squats. Movement exercises such as the chest press, squats, and the row may be performed with greater effectiveness during your period. Sakamai and Yasuda also demonstrate that muscle growth (hypertrophy) and strength gains are increased one week prior to your menstrual cycle. Perhaps a lower repetition range and harder exercises should be explored during this premenstrual time.

Changes in metabolic process: is it easier to gain weight?
We have all experienced excessive cravings and overeating during that time of the month. We usually crave carbohydrates such as chocolate, chips, or dare I even say it…POUTINE!  This is explained by a shift from fat oxidation to carbohydrate oxidation both before and during your period. In other words, you are using more carbohydrates to fuel your metabolism (D. Campbell, 2001). The glucose we use is the kind that is directly in our blood (plasma glucose) and not in stored muscle glycogen. This means we need to consume carbohydrates immediately to obtain energy from them!  Taking a carbohydrate supplementation or drink during exercise one week prior to and during your period can potentially take away fatigue caused by lack of plasma glucose stores!
The best part is you don’t really gain weight! Sure, you may feel bloated, but this is mainly water retention.  There are such drastic metabolic changes occurring in a woman’s body during her menstrual cycle that the metabolism actually speeds up by approximately  500 extra calories! (Clark, 2008). So if you find yourself feeling famished during your monthly visitor, add an extra 500 calories to your day!

This advice comes purely from a scientific perspective and, like most science, results are generalized and may vary. The only person that can really judge how you feel is yourself. Personally one week before my period, my blood pressure drops, my strength levels decrease and I feel exhausted. I don’t care what the studies say! During that time of the month you may not see me in the gym!


Clark, N. (2008). Sports Nutrition Guidbook. Chestnut Hill: Human Kinetics.
D. Campbell, A. a. (2001). Glucose kinetics and exercise performance during phases of the menstrual cycle: Effect of glucose ingestion. American Journal of Physiology, Endrocrinology and Metabolism.
Jonge de Janse, T. C. (2012). Exerciise performance over the menstrual cycle in temperate and hot, humid conditions. Medicine and science in sports exercise.
M.Sakamaki, Y. A. (2012). Comparison of low intensity blood flow restricted training induced muscular hypertohpy in the follicular phase and luteal phase and age-matched men. Clinical physiology and functional imaging, 185-191.


Quiz: how much Cardio should I be doing in a day?

Time is such a constraint for so many of us hard working, family oriented individuals.  Exercise is often the first item to be crossed off the list.   Yet many of us understand how truly important fitness is for our health.  I am often asked:

When you’re just too busy to exercise, how much could be enough to get healthy?

Well my friends, the answer to that question should be as unique as your finger print!  As we already know, no one size fits all!  Just take a look at the dreaded one size fits all underwear (we have all been there).  The sheer disaster of that elastic cuts off our circulation and forces us to say “no thank you, I think I’ll stand”.

 Exercise is exactly the same way. In order to get fit, the solution must fit

I have designed a special quiz that helps you determine the quantity of exercise that is enough for you.  It is based on your fitness level, time constraints, energy levels and desire to get fit.
It may not be perfect, but consider it the fitness small, medium or large that gives you a much greater rate of success than any one size fits all solution ever could.

Jot down the letter that best corresponds to you:
1      1.  The following statement describes my 
             current fitness lifestyle: 
        (A)  I already do cardio at least 3 times a week from 
              30 minutes to an hour 
        (B) Right now I’m not doing a cardio routine, but I 
              know I need to start.
c      (C)  I sporadically start and stop cardio programs and 
              then get bored or run out of time to continue.
        (D)  I am so stressed out; I barely have the time to even   
              brush my teeth. How do you expect me to fit in 

     2.  How much time can you allocate to exercise most 
          days of the week?
A) Even 30 minutes to an hour is pushing it, but I’m determined
B)  I can do 45 minutes to an hour and a half maximum
C)  I can’t do any more than 20 minutes to 45 minutes maximum
D)  I don’t think I have the time to do cardio. Is there anything else I could do instead?
     3. What statement best describes your energy levels 
         after a cardio session?
A) I usually feel energized and refreshed.  If I didn’t have energy before,  I  have some after.
B) In the past sometimes I feel more tired than before I started.
C) When I start I feel good, but cardio is the first thing to go if I run out of time.
D) I have never done cardio before.
          4. What statement best describes how you feel 
              about cardio and exercise?
A) I love it/ like the feeling it gives me afterwards. I   
    know I’m healthy because of it.
B) Doing cardio isn’t rewarding.  I like to do things   
    that have purpose and cardio doesn’t have a   direction or purpose.
C) I like it, but I don’t miss it when it’s gone. I’m really worried that if it’s too long I may not stick to it.
D) I’d rather not do it.
          5. On a scale of 1 to 10, during a cardio session I 
              work at a level that is:
A) 7-10 out of 10.  I know I’m working hard, but I can handle it quite well.
B) 5-6 out of 10. I usually don’t push myself too hard.
C) 7-10 out of 10 but short. I can push myself hard briefly but then I stop all together. I may not want to continue.
D) 3-5 feels like 9-10. I feel like I am exerting myself way too much. I can’t sustain it.

          6. What statement best describes your      
A) I am very busy, but I enjoy being ambitious
B) I like to stop and smell the roses.
C) I have many responsibilities that take me away from my own personal goals
D) I never feel relaxed. I have too much on my mind.

6         7.   If I have a free moment I:
           A) Run, bike or do cardio
           B) Read a book or take a nap
           C) I have been known to do physical activity in my 
               free moments, but right now I don’t
           D) I never have a free moment
          8.  When I walk upstairs I feel:
A) A bit out of breath but it feels fine/not at all out of 
B) I’m panting. I may need to stop half way up
C) Some days it feels harder than others
D) Really out of breath/stressed when I know I have to go upstairs

          9.   How committed are you to good health?
A) I’m very committed
B) I’m very/somewhat committed but I wish it didn’t  
    need to feel so monotonous.
C) I know it’s important but sometimes my commitments are put on the back burner for others.
D) I don’t think I’m ready yet

         10.  Describe how you would like to work out:
A) Get right in there and get it done.
B) I get an hour or two of free time I could  
     workout then
C) I get little breaks throughout the day and I could 
    squeeze something in quickly
D) I have no time right now at all.

Count the letters for each one and pick the corresponding answer 

Mostly A’s: Tabata Training
Congratulations! Your fitness level is high enough that you can successfully enjoy the fastest, quickest time saving method of cardio. This will reduce the amount of time you spend working out and will allow you to focus on the other important things in your life.  If done properly Tabata’s can be done in just 4 minutes! Various studies have demonstrated that this exercise can increase lung capacity, and strengthen your heart in similar ways to a 30 minute run! The catch, you have to go all out! 100% of your capacity for every Tabata sprint.  I suggest trying this on a spinning bike at first.

Exercise prescription: 5 minute warm up
 4 minutes: 8 sets of 20 second sprints with 10 seconds rest in between. 5 minute cool down
Total: 14 minutes
 Mostly B’s: Walking
Your fitness level may not be as high as it could be to benefit from quick and easy cardio routine.  Your laid back nature and need for purpose in the activities you do may make walking the best form of cardio you can do.  Although it may seem like a long time, a one hour walk at 60%-70% of your heart rate maximum is just as beneficial as a 25-30 minute run. Instead of taking the car, choose a purposeful destination to walk to such as the grocery store or the bank.

Exercise prescription: 1 hour brisk walk 60%-70%* heart rate maximum

Mostly C’s: Run or bike
You may have many responsibilities pulling you away from exercise at the moment so quick and to the point would be the best solution for you.  Your sporadic exercise nature has given you some cardio benefits, but you’re still not at a level where you can do a short one shot bout of sprints and move on with your day.   The best form of exercise for you is 30-45 minutes running or biking at a heart rate of 70%-85%.  This may seem long, but guess what? You can break up the exercise time into 3 10 minute short bouts throughout your day! It is a great way to save time, and to take your exercise needs into consideration while taking care of the other responsibilities in your day.

Exercise prescription: 3 sets of 10 minutes run on the spot, bike 70%-85%* heart   
                                           rate maximum

Mostly D’s: light stretching, meditation or yoga
Congratulations on taking this quiz. It means that you’re contemplating life changing decisions. However, you’re not quite in the mindset to begin a cardio routine.  Starting with a 10 minute light stretching, meditation or yoga routine just before bed may start to form a pattern of exercise for you.  It will quiet the mind and help you reduce your stress levels. Perhaps after 6-8 weeks of following this routine, you can reassess whether or not a cardio based program is right for you.

Exercise prescription: 10 minute stretching, meditation or yoga before bed

*to calculate your heart rate: 220-age X percentage. Find pulse for and count the beats for 10 seconds. Multiply by 6.



As a personal trainer and fitness expert, I am passionately in the gym at least 4 times a week.  I squat vigorously, curl until fatigue.  The sweat is pouring off of my pink face! Then after a carefully timed rest break, I look down at the weights that once swung proudly over my head and I think “ugh, I have to put these things away?” I feel so lazy!
Whether it’s weight training or walking to work, there is a  habitual pattern that so many of us get into of making our life less active because we have fabulous excuses that we have run out of time, we go to the gym, we eat healthy, we do enough already!
Aren’t we all culprits of this? 

So let’s challenge ourselves to be a little bit more fit in a fun and unique way! 
I propose a five day hands free challenge!   Let’s increase our energy expenditure in the following ways:

Day 1: No hands to stand: no using hands to get up off of the floor, to roll out of bed, to support ourselves against a desk to lift up.   By using our powerful legs to lift us, engaging our core to sit up, we expend more calories and wake up useful muscles that we may have forgotten existed. 

Day 2: Chew Xantham or Stevia sweetened chewing gum:  Chewing gum is a hands free way to rev up your caloric expenditure. Recent studies have demonstrated that one small piece of gum used for approximately 12 minutes can increase your caloric expenditure to 70 calories an hour. After 3 hours of chewing, this equates to just over 1 cup of brown rice.  Make sure to choose a naturally sweetened type of gum to reduce harmful chemicals in your blood. Xantham and Stevia are both wonderful options

Day 3: Use the stairs hands free: That’s right, without the railing! If you don’t use stairs that often, make the conscious effort to take at least one set a day.  This hands free method will increase your heart health while simultaneously increasing caloric expenditure.

Day 4:  Use your legs more often: park farther away from entrances than you normally would.  While increasing energy expenditure, the short walk will increase your lung capacity and mentally prepare you for your day.

Day 5:  Make Friday “Backrest Free”:  At your desk, in the car or while seated make a conscious effort to sit away from the backrests on your seats.  This engages your core and focuses on increasing strength in important back muscles that get lazy over time, lead to bad posture and create back problems.  The more muscles you use throughout the day, the more calories you expend.

If you feel daring add each previous days’ challenges to the new day’s challenge.  By the end of the week you will have accumulated 5 great energy expending routines and 5 new healthy habits!

 Good luck! Keep me posted on your success!

Swiss Chalet, Always So Good For So Little!

For years I have been telling my friends, family, clients and even the stranger standing next to me during random line ups in banks or grocery stores that Swiss Chalet is my number one, on the go healthy restaurant choice!!
First let’s discuss the succulent flavor of their rotisserie chicken. Packed full of protein, the meat is so tender and juicy that anyone on a strict eating plan is sure to believe they are cheating! The secret is the rotisserie process, which slowly cooks the chicken from the outside, leaving the skin crispy and the meat tender and soft.   Much like a home cooked chicken breast, Swiss Chalet’s skinless option accounts for only 240 calories (Chalet, 2012). The dipping sauce is warm and flavorful, yet for 100 mls it only contains 25 calories and .5 grams of fat (of which none consists of trans fats!) (Chalet, 2012). Healthy sides include steamed vegetables, crispy salads, and freshly baked potatoes. Leave on the skin for added nutrients!  

In 2007, Swiss Chalet was the first restaurant to join The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Health Check program (Foundation, 2007)Registered dieticians assess menu items to ensure that they meet nutrient criteria.  Understanding that 40% of meals in Canada are not purchased at home, Health Check was implemented to inform consumers of healthier meal choices (Stroke, 2007).  Swiss Chalet not only meets Health Check criteria, but also continues to work at making their products consistently healthier. 

As always, there are many critics out there.  Some individuals complain that Swiss Chalet chicken is factory based. Although Cara Foods (the owner of the Swiss Chalet brand) has never fully divulged this information, I must admit that their large donation of $500,000 dollars to the McGill University Centre of Poultry Research is quite suspicious (Howarth, 2005). For this reason I could understandably appreciate your restraint from Cara chicken.  My only question becomes, what are you substituting for Swiss?

Where does the chicken on your pizza come from? And the chicken from those wings that came with that combo?  I hate to break it to you, but if you have decided to eat out, you are probably not deciding the fate of your fowl.
I confidently stick by my love for Swiss Chalet!

On those long and busy days when making my meals just isn’t an option, on the days when I have been too tired to cook, I have happily dialed up my local Swiss Chalet.  I have received the Health Check Chicken combo in less time than a 40 minute pizza.  My vegetables have always been steamed to perfection and my taste buds playfully dance to the familiar Swiss Chalet melody “Swiss Chalet, always so good for so little!”