Category Archives: Exercise

It’s Never a Glorious Rise to the Top!

You want better health, you want more energy and focus, you want to lose weight, you want to kick old unhealthy habits and create new healthier ones – Great!

We at Vibrant Living have exhausted the notion that there is not magic pill that will give you better health, but there is a ‘lifestyle’ change that will help you achieve a vibrant quality of life!  Unhealthy habits are hard to break and new habits take time and effort.

As you embark on your journey of Vibrant Living, it’s important to acknowledge that it’s never a glorious rise to the top!  In fact, we go through several stages and bumps in the road before we can achieve long term, stable change.

Below we’re going to go through the Stages of Change Model, or SCM.  SCM explains the mind/body stages we go through when we make changes in our life, weather it’s developing new habits or kicking old ones.   The SCM model has been applied to a broad range of behaviours including weight loss, overcoming alcohol, and drug problems among others.

The idea behind the SCM is that behaviour change does not happen in one step. Rather, people tend to progress through different stages on their way to successful change and each of us progresses through the stages at our own rate.  Moreover, each person must decide for himself or herself when a stage is completed and when it is time to move on to the next stage.  MOST importantly, this decision to change must come from the inside, and not because someone is asking us to change or wants us to change… as per the popular saying ‘We can’t change others but we can change ourselves!”

The Stages of Change

As we work through the stages of change I will use the example of starting an exercise program (new healthy habit) for the purpose of trying to lose weight

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Stage One: Precontemplation

In the precontemplation stage, people are not thinking seriously about changing and are not interested in any kind of help. People in this stage tend to defend their current bad habit(s) and do not feel it is a problem. They do not focus their attention on their bad habit and tend not to discuss their bad habit with others.  This stage is often referred to as the “denial” stage.

This person sees no problem with getting absolutely no exercise; this person will drive two blocks to the corner store because they wouldn’t even consider the idea of walking.

Stage Two: Contemplation

In the contemplation stage people are more aware of the personal consequences of their bad habit and they spend time thinking about their problem.  They are able to consider the possibility of changing and are weighing the pros and cons of quitting or modifying their behaviour. It might take as little as a couple weeks or as long as a lifetime to get through the contemplation stage. (In fact, some people think and think and think about giving up their bad habit and may die never have gotten beyond this stage).

Here the individual recognizes that if they don’t start exercising and losing weight they could die at a young age of a heart attack like their father did, or they may not be able to play with their kids because it’s too painful on their joints.  They may also feel it’s impossible to get back on track, or it’s too painful to even try, or perhaps they’ve tired before and failed and they don’t want to fail yet another time.

Stage Three: Preparation/Determination

In the preparation/determination stage, people have made a commitment to make a change. Their motivation for changing is reflected by statements such as: “I’ve got to do something about this – this is serious. Something has to change. What can I do?”

People in this stage are trying to gather information about what they will need to do to change their behaviour and what resources are available to help them make this change.

Now the individual is calling different fitness club inquiring about cost or programs. They may ask friends or family what they did to get back in shape.  They maybe are looking at their schedule to see when they could fit exercise into their day.

Too often, people skip this stage: they try to move directly from contemplation into action and fall flat on their faces because they haven’t adequately researched or accepted what it is going to take to make this major lifestyle change.

Stage Four: Action/Willpower

This is the stage where people believe they have the ability to change their behaviour and are actively involved in taking steps to change their bad behaviour by using a variety of different techniques.

This is the shortest of all the stages. It generally lasts about 6 months, but it can literally be as short as one hour! This is a stage when people most depend on their own willpower. They are making overt efforts to quit or change the behaviour and are at greatest risk for relapse.

Mentally, they review their commitment to themselves and develop plans to deal with both personal and external pressures that may lead to slips. They may use short-term rewards to sustain their motivation, and analyze their behaviour change efforts in a way that enhances their self-confidence. People in this stage also tend to be open to receiving help and are also likely to seek support from others (a very important element).

Here the individual is using their new gym membership. They are choosing to go to the gym right after work because they know that if they come home they will get distracted.  They find a reliable friend to go to the gym with so they have extra support, and they find ways to reward themselves for their hard work!

Stage Five: Maintenance

Maintenance involves being able to successfully avoid any temptations.  They are able to anticipate the situations in which a relapse could occur and prepare coping strategies in advance.  The goal of the maintenance stage is to maintain the new status quo. People in this stage tend to remind themselves of how much progress they have made and remind themselves what they are striving for is personally worthwhile and meaningful. Here people may have thoughts of returning to their old bad habits, they resist the temptation and stay on track.

This individual will be able get through the holiday season or go on vacation without gaining 10 lbs because they have anticipated the temptations involved and have set out strategies before hand, such as picking a resort with a gym, choosing one course of a dinner party to indulge in instead of indulging in the whole meal.


It is common to cycle through the five stages several times before achieving a stable life style change – thus, relapse is considered a normal part of change.

The risk with relapse is that it can really make you feel like a failure and give you little confidence to get back on track.  On the flip side, by analyzing how the slip happened, relapses can be an important opportunity for learning and becoming stronger by finding better coping strategies for the next time a high stress situation arises or one is faced with temptation.


Eventually, if you “maintain maintenance” long enough, you will reach a point where you will be able to work with your emotions and understand your own behaviour and view it in a new light. In this stage, not only is your bad habit no longer an integral part of your life but to return to it is not an option.

In Summary:

  • Precontemplation (Not yet acknowledging that there is a problem behaviour that needs to be changed)
  • Contemplation  (Acknowledging that there is a problem but not yet ready or sure of wanting to make a change)
  • Preparation/Determination (Getting ready to change)
  • Action/Willpower (Changing behaviour)
  • Maintenance (Maintaining the behaviour change)
  • Relapse (Returning to older behaviours and abandoning the new changes)
  • Transcendence (Bad habits are no longer a integral part of your life – returning to old ways is not an option)

As you progress through your own stages of change, it can be helpful to re-evaluate your progress in moving up and down through these stages. Remember relapsing is normal and don’t let it paralyze you!  Relapsing is like falling off a horse – the best thing you can do is get right back on again.

The Truth on Energy Bars

As many of you have already watched, I had the opportunity to do a segment on CTV news on energy and sports bars. Since the aired segment was short, I thought I would expand on what to look for and what to stay away from.

In preparing for this talk, one of the things that I found most interesting is where these bars are located. The bars that I consider “healthy” were found in the health food section of the grocery store…I knew where those were. However, I had to go on a hunt for the other sports bars. You will never guess where I found those…that’s right, the pharmacy aisles. To the average consumer this is very confusing, as how could things in the pharmacy section be THAT bad!

Here are the things that you want to keep in mind when eating these bars:


All of these bars use sugar. It is just a matter of what type of sugar they are using. The purpose of most of these bars is to act as quick energy for athletics, so they use sugar such as maltodextrin, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup and glucose to provide a powerful punch to the body and give it instant energy. The problem is, these sugars set off a cascade reaction in the body that causes inflammation and insulin levels to spike. So, while you may be getting a “punch” of energy during your workout, the question is…are you really gaining health?

What are these ingredients doing to your body long term? The answer is…nothing good!

Outside of athletics, the average person is using these as a snack thinking that it is a better choice than a chocolate bar. The problem is, the sugars in these bars are broken down and absorbed rapidly making it hard for the body to use all of this energy all at once. Instead, it conserves it for a later date…and it does so as body fat!

It has been shown that foods that contain high fructose corn syrup set off yet another hormonal cascade in the body that actually causing leptin resistance. Big deal! Well leptin is the hormone that is produced by your fat cell to signal your brain when it is full. So, these bars will actually make you feel hungrier causing you to want to eat more and more.

Look for these sugars in products – the are less inflammatory, have a lower glycemic index and send good messages to the body:

  • Dates, figs, raisins
  • Agave nectar
  • Organic brown rice syrup
  • Evapourated cane juice
  • Organic cane sugar
  • Honey


Most people know that hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats are not good for you. Long term use of these toxic and inflammatory fats has been linked to things like cardiovascular disease, obesity and high cholesterol.

Manufacturers have now become smarter, and have started using things called modified fats. While these may be better than the hydrogenated/trans fats, they are not much better and have still been linked to chronic disease.

Avoid anything that says – hydrogenated, partially hydrogenated or modified fats. 

Look for good fats – hemp oil, flax oil.


The old rule applies here…if you can’t pronounce something, you probably shouldn’t be eating it. Common additives on labels of bars are things like sodium benzoate which can cause skin rashes and aggravate asthma, and sulphites which are known to cause rashes, headaches, trigger IBS and aggravate asthmatic conditions. The other things to watch out for are natural and artificial flavours which are like the “mystery meat” of the additive world.


A typical snack should be anywhere from 180-220 calories. Most commercial bars are anywhere from 200-300 – so a snack would be ½ bar (**this depends on activity level, and if you are trying to lose or maintain weight). Keep in mind the calories, and how many serving sizes are in a bar (most calories are per bar…but just double check this).

I am not against the use of these bars, I just think people need to be aware what they are eating. Eating the right bar can provide you with a nutritious convenient snack but just make sure that you are eating good quality bars.

Examples of Nutritious Bars:

Lara, Vega, Elev8me, Luna, Gen Soy, Think Organic, Dr Weil, Perfect 10, Organics, Clif

Homemade Nut and Honey Energy Bars

This recipe was already posted, but it provides a great example of a homemade energy bar that can be made at home.

  • 1 cup oatmeal 300
  • 1 cup granola 300
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds 50
  • ¼ cup flax seeds 50
  • ½ cup wheat germ 100
  • ½ cup bran 100
  • ½ cup protein powder 20
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ cup maple syrup 400
  • ½ cup honey 480
  • 1 cup peanut butter 760
  • ½ cup pecans 400 
  • Optional ¼-1/2 cup coconut, raisins, dried fruit


  1. Grease pan, mix dry ingredients.
  2. Mix peanut butter, maple syrup and honey in a saucepan and stir until very hot, but do not boil
  3. Pour mix over dry ingredients
  4. Press into pan, and let sit 24 hours in the fridge
  5. Cut into individual bars, and wrap or store in container in fridge or freezer and the Enjoy!

Don’t Let Vacation Set You Back!!

I have been getting many questions lately about vacations, so I thought I would address it in this week’s blog. We all need, deserve and should take vacations…however we need to keep in mind that the majority of people will gain 10lbs in a week.

Now, those of you who have been working with me know that very rarely can you LOSE 10lbs in a week. So, with respect to vacation here is the trick…your goal is weight maintenance. Enjoy yourself, indulge but keep your healthy eating and exercise habits through your whole vacation.

Breakfast Tips

Many times it is really easy to start the day off right. Instead of choosing those high glycemic foods such as the waffles, donuts, bagels, toast – choose an omelet or fresh fruit and yogurt. If you just have to eat the waffles, then do it 1-2times per week instead of everyday…your waistline will thank you!

Eating Frequently

When people are away they tend to sleep in, have a huge breakfast and then a huge dinner drink lots of alcohol and don’t exercise…so it is no wonder that people gain 10lbs. The key is to keep eating frequently. Take a piece of fruit, nuts/seeds or some veggies as a snack. When we travel, we either bring protein and energy bars with us, or find a grocery store as soon as we get there to buy fresh fruit, veggies and nuts. If you are at a resort, take an extra piece of fruit for a mid morning and afternoon snack. If you sleep in, it is important to not get in the pattern of only eating 2 meals per day.

Watch your Extras

I know you are on vacation, but that doesn’t mean that the whole week can be a no holds barred eating frenzy. You need to pick and choose what you really want to splurge on. Sometimes we get into a pattern where the food is there, so you just eat it…you don’t really totally enjoy it, but you just eat it. Pick the things that you really enjoy. For some it might be dessert, for others it might be the fruity drinks with the pink umbrellas (frankly these are my favourites) or an ice cream cone. Indulge and enjoy in moderation.


One of the easiest ways to keep that weight off is to keep your exercise habits up. Usually the all inclusive resorts have great gyms, which are surprisingly totally empty!! Structured exercise is the easiest way to keep burning off those extra calories that you are consuming in a day. Try to get there every day, or take one of the classes that are offered. I remember when we were in Dominican Republic they had great pool aerobic, and a yoga/stretching class on the beach. Try something you would never experience at home, like a salsa class…it is a great way to have fun and burn extra calories.

If you are touring a town or city, try going for a run or walk to explore the town. When my husband and I were in Australia and New Zealand for our honeymoon the first thing we would do is put on our running shoes and grab our camera and some money for a drink and go explore. You can see great sites, learn the layout of the city and get a great, fun workout.

Enjoy your vacation, just keep in mind that you don’t want to undo all the weight loss or progress that you have made in one week.

The Best Things in Life Are FREE

I spent my holidays in Florida this year where the warm temperatures gave me the opportunity to get outside and run.  This routine of running daily allowed me to jump-start my New Year’s resolution of incorporating more movement into my day.  Running is nothing new to me, but it had been a long time since I’d been on a regular running routine.

Feeling energized after returning home I was motivated to continue running, but found the cold outdoor temperatures too much to bear.  Although I have access to a treadmill at my office/clinic, I remembered enjoying my experience of running on the track at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex a couple years ago and decided to give it a shot again.

Not only did I find refuge from the cold, but the track at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex is FREE to the public most of the week, making it easier to find time that fit my schedule.  I made a running schedule, writing down the days and times I would go to the track, knowing I would be more likely to succeed in carrying out my resolution if I scheduled it into my weekly routine (see The Power of Goal Setting- Commit to a Better You).

Wow, a FREE and warm place to run, but my experience at the track extended far beyond that…

It was inspiring to see people, lots of people, people of every size, shape and age all on a healthy mission to GET MOVING!  And whether they knew it or not they were doing wonders for their body composition (see What is Body Composition?).  There were a group of woman walking together catching up, moms walking with their babies in strollers, and a senior couple walking hand in hand as they circled the track with a brisk walk.  The more experienced runners were taking fast powerful strides around the track, while others were incorporating walking sticks to give the upper body more of a workout.

My favourite group on that first visit was a dad and his young daughter (who was around 7 years old) running around the track together.  Everyone was moving to their own beat, transferring energy and inspiration to their fellow track visitors!  It was the energy of the track full of people that I really enjoyed.  It was wonderful to see so many people of vast levels of fitness and age making time to give their body the power of movement!

I encourage you to come check it out!  A FREE indoor track is the perfect opportunity to overcome the barrier of cold winter weather that may be keeping you from getting active.  There is no obligation to join, and no need to invest in a membership – it’s FREE!  If you’re just starting, or thinking of starting, a regular exercise routine and don’t have access to a treadmill (or even if you do), come out to the track for a walk or run and enjoy being inspired by fellow track visitors!

Here are some ideas to get you to the track…

  1. Instead of meeting a friend at Starbucks for a coffee suggest going to the track for a brisk walk while you catch up.
  2. You can ask your husband or wife to join you for an entertaining night on the track, and keep yourself motivated by making dates with different people throughout the week!
  3. Or, you can go on your own and get lost in the music of your iPod like I do!  Strollers are welcome, so feel free to bring your kids or grandkids!

A few important tips:

  1. Slower movers stay to the left and those of you with speed keep to the right, which keeps the flow of traffic smooth.
  2. It is over a rink so you need to be dressed appropriately (But note, there are no gushing winds and the temperature is always the same, so you know what to expect!).
  3. If you warm up pretty fast while running a sweater or running jacket is plenty of clothing to keep you warm.
  4. You can always store your coat or boots on the bleachers, so don’t be afraid to bring extra layer.
  5. And there are also a few lockers and washrooms available for changing if needed.

Remember it’s FREE! And open for hours that will suit most anyone’s busy schedule.

Below is a list of FREE tracks and schedules in the KW area:

Waterloo Memorial Recreational Complex RIM Sports Complex Activa Sports Complex
Address 100 Father David Bauer, Waterloo (corner of Caroline St. and Erb St.) 2001 University Avenue, Waterloo Lennox Lewis Way, Kitchener (Cortland and Homer Watson, behind Peter Hallman Ball Park)
Phone Number 519-886-1177 519-884-5363

ext. 221

Hours of FREE Track Time Monday – Friday

6:00 am – 5:00 pm

8:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Saturday & Sunday

6:00 am – 8:00 am

8:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Hours are subject to change due to scheduled Hockey Games.

Paid track time available on weekends from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm

Walking Loop only

Monday – Sunday

6:00 am – Midnight

Track open daily

6:00 am – 11:00 pm

If you know of any other free indoor track facilities please email us and we will pass along the information!