Healthy Habits: Best Fitness Tips from Five Fabulous Women

How's that beach bod coming along? I don't know about you, but I'm finding 2016 busy and complicated - making healthy choices difficult. It takes a lot of discipline, planning and a little bit of willpower to get the results you want. I chatted with five inspirational women who make healthy living a priority and share their different perspectives on the topic. Even though these are their proven tips; what works for one woman, might not work for another. I hope you find something for you in their stories below. Now, dust off those sneakers!

1. Meet, Sarah

Occupation: Social & Self-Help Customer Experience Manager 

Describe what you generally eat throughout the day: I follow a ‘flexible dieting’ program, although, I don’t really like to use the word diet because its really not. I usually just say that I count my macros. Its definitely a lifestyle designed to fit into anyone’s busy schedule. When I adopted this lifestyle, I was able to lose 25 pounds while increasing my strength and performance at the gym. You could technically eat junk food as long as the macros fit in your numbers. In saying that, eating high volume foods like veggies, fruit and lean meats will keep you fuller for longer, and will probably make you feel a lot better!

The point of flexible dieting is to ensure that an individual has the right ratio of carbs, fats and protein in their diet to reach their goals – losing weight, increasing strength, gaining weight, changing body composition, etc. On the flexible dieting program, I strive to meet a certain number of macronutrients within a full day based on different factors: height, weight, body fat percentage, activity level, job type, etc. It takes a lot of planning and MyFitnessPal is my best friend, but I love it! – Mostly because I get to eat A LOT. 

Typical Sample Weekday Comprises of: 

Breakfast: Protein pancakes.

Lunch: A protein like pulled chicken with mashed butternut squash, broccoli and edamame.

Dinner: Always something different but my favourites include: meatloaf with zucchini noodles and tomato sauce, homemade flatbread, or spinach salad topped with delicious ingredients (This gets so big that I have to eat it out of my biggest mixing bowl – YUM!).

Snacks: I snack a lot throughout the day and love to have a sweet treat after dinner. So I get creative with my food choices to make it all work. These are my snacks from yesterday: Lots of fresh fruit, sugar snap peas, jello, greek yogurt with PB2, Popcorner's Mango Salsa Pop Chips (swoon), rice cakes, oatmeal (pre-workout) and blue menu strawberry banana frozen yogurt.

How often do you workout each week and what do your workouts involve? I workout 5 days a week and follow a strength program called The Barbell WOD. The program focuses on Olympic lifts and other accessory movements/drills that promote an overall increase in strength and muscle balance. I also compliment this program with CrossFit style met cons/WODs to get that cardio in and keep my endurance up. I have a few workout buddies at my gym and we like to come up with new workouts everyday, which definitely keeps things interesting!

Biggest tip to get fit and stay healthy?  Find something or someone that will keep you accountable and set goals! Motivation is key and looking forward to something is a great way to stay on track. Get outside of your comfort zone and eat all the carbs!! 

2. Meet, Maddie

Occupation: Personal Trainer 

Describe what you generally eat throughout the day: I never used to be a breakfast person, but in the last year or so I have started to focus on eating when I wake up. My breakfast is usually the same: two eggs, a couple slices of turkey bacon and half an avocado. Side note: I am obsessed with cooking with coconut oil. Not only for the health benefits, but I also love the little hint of flavour it adds to my food!

Lunch and dinner usually consist of a salad (spinach and kale) and always some sort of protein. Chicken or steak are my go-to picks. I will add tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and goat cheese to my salads to make them less bland. I am also big on quinoa and quinoa pasta and will mix them with ground turkey/chicken/beef in a plain tomato sauce. I tend to stay away from gluten, I am not allergic, but I do find my body feels better when I eat gluten free.

Some healthy snacks I tend to eat are: an apple with Earth Balance coconut and peanut spread. (This stuff is amazing! Especially coming from someone who hates regular peanut butter!). Skinny Quinoa Sticks are basically a healthier chip option made with quinoa and chia seeds and come in different flavours. My favourite is the Ancient Grain Sweet Onion. Lastly, protein shakes - combine water, ice, lots of spinach, unsweetened coconut milk, half an avocado, banana and protein powder! 

How often do you workout each week and what do your workouts involve? I workout 5-6 times a week. My workouts usually consist of circuit training with HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) in between each circuit. Most commonly, skipping. My circuits include free weights, medicine balls, battle ropes, sled pushes, bosu balls, exercise balls and TRX. I try and focus on quick reps with little rest between each exercise. An example of a typical workout format would be as follows: 3 circuits, 4 exercises, 10 minutes/circuit +3 minutes skipping in between each circuit = 42 minutes. Core is my favourite part of the body to work out so you will almost always find me doing some sort of 10 minute ab workout to finish off my workout.

I am not a big cardio person, so you will never find me on an elliptical or stairmaster. I do enjoy running outside as I tend to run a couple half marathons and 15K races a year. But, running is more of a personal preference for me to get outside and catch some fresh air, not so much a part of my workout regime.

Biggest tip to get fit and stay healthy? Biggest tip: Eat right! I have always been into working out and eating healthy, however I noticed the biggest transformation in my body when I really paid attention to the fat and sugar content in the foods I was eating. I try and stay away from foods with high sugar, even eating lots of fruits, as they are high in sugar. I focus on eating organic food whenever possible, and if I need to snack I will try and make it high in protein or healthy fats (such as coconut oil peanut butter or almonds) as these will fuel the body and fill you up so you don’t have to keep snacking! Do not make extreme dietary restrictions such as no chocolate, no treats, no carbs etc. Not only is it very impractical and will not keep the weight off, it also will make you miserable. Make choices for a healthy lifestyle that are manageable!         
Make your workouts short and sweet! You do not need to be in the gym for hours at a time. If you are running short on time, doing a quick 15-20 minute workout is better than nothing! Create a circuit of 2 or 3 exercises and do as many rounds as you can in the 15-20 minutes you have. Find a friend or community! Having people to uplift you, encourage you and keep you accountable will not only make you work harder, but will make working out way more fun. It also makes working out less intimidating if you are just starting out and not really sure what to do.

Get fit with Maddie on Saturday mornings from 9:30-10:30am. MADDNESS is located at the Ontario Hockey Corporation (1090 Aerowood Dr. - which is 401&Dixie). Bonus: it only costs $10 to start your weekend right! 

3. Meet, Jess

Occupation: Childcare Cook 

Describe what you generally eat throughout the day: I eat gluten and dairy free. I do not have any allergies, but I just feel better when I cut them out of my diet. I am a creature of habit and eat the same stuff A LOT. I keep it simple! I am currently following the 21 day fix/hammer and chisel diet plan. We use colour coordinated containers that you put your food in! 

Yellow: carbs
Purple: fruit
Green: vegetables
Blue: healthy fats
Orange: seed and dressings
Red: protein

Breakfast: 1 cup of gluten free rolled oats with wow butter (cooked with water) & coffee (sweetened with natural maple syrup and I use unsweetened coconut milk).

Morning snack: 1 cup of some kind of fruit (grapes, melon, etc).

Lunch: Ground turkey or chicken with sliced cucumbers.

Afternoon snack: 1 cup of pineapples.

After workout: Protein shake which includes: 1 scoop vega one, 2 cups water, handful of ice and one cup of frozen mixed berries.

Dinner: I eat something different everyday for dinner. I keep it simple with lean proteins and vegetables. I love salad so I eat that a lot! My salads normally contain: romaine, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, peppers and red onion.

How often do you workout each week and what do your workouts involve? I workout six days a week. I am currently following a program through Beachbody called hammer and chisel. Previously I completed two rounds of the 21 day fix and one round of the 21 day fix extreme. 

Biggest tip to get fit and stay healthy? Be organized and plan. Write down what you are eating. Make a meal plan chart or template and fill it out on Sundays for the week. Keep meals simple and do not be afraid to eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch everyday. It cuts down on costs, you can cook ahead of time, which makes your life easier during the week. It also keeps you on track, which will make it less likely that you go out for lunch or stop at a fast food place on the way home. I also love to post on social media. Yes, it can be a bit much sometimes but it's great accountability for you! 

4. Meet, Olivia

Occupation: Personal Trainer

Describe what you generally eat throughout the day:  My nutrition plan doesn't subscribe to one particular method or theory, I enjoy eating so I focus on quality. Every meal needs to include some green veggies and protein. During the day I eat good fats with my breakfast and lunch, at night I eat a whole carb with my dinner. 

I try to make sure that all the food I buy is organic, but where I have noticed the biggest difference is in the quality of the meat I buy. Free-range, grass-fed, antibiotic free, hormone free meat has helped clear up my skin and make me feel energized again. Making that change alone helped me feel healthier!

My biggest nutrition tip is that you can truly out-eat any workout. Bad eating habits run deep and it takes a lot of work to correct them, but it is worth it!

How often do you workout each week and what do your workouts involve?  I workout 3-6 days a week depending on what I'm doing. I do a lot of resistance training with weights, 3-5 days a week, that's the core of my workouts. Using weights are so good for women because it helps with everything from bone density to regulating hormones. There is so much you can change about a workout; weight, tempo, implement, exercise and focus areas. Lifting heavy makes your body tight and lean, ladies, don't be afraid of strength training!

I go for a long walk once a week to make sure I am getting outside and letting my mind wander, that helps me de-stress. I also do a variety of other things for fun; animal flow, yoga, spin class, online dance classes, etc. These extra activities keep fitness fun for me.

Biggest tip to get fit and stay healthy? Be consistent in your efforts and keep your workouts varied. Consistency is the key to success, I can't stress this enough. It's important to work on your nutrition, workouts, and sleep - simultaneously and consistently. 

Look to a professional to help you get started. 1-on-1 personal training isn't the right fit for everyone, I get that, just find a group with an educated leader so you can get some coaching. This will keep you injury-free and the accountability will help keep you consistent! 

5. Meet, Lauren

Occupation: Fitness Coordinator and Trainer

Describe what you generally eat throughout the day:  I’m that person who is constantly hungry throughout the day, so for me, it’s making sure I have food with enough nutrient value to keep my hunger under control. As long as you have some staple items in your fridge for the week, eating clean can be done! 

Breakfast is my favourite meal and also an important one to get me set up for the day. It will always include eggs alongside a mix of chia seeds, oats, Kefir, frozen fruit, psyllium husk, plus a few other items.

Usually my snacks include nuts and maybe some vegetables or fruits. I sometimes make my own energy bars as well. 

Lunch and dinner is a mix of complex carbohydrates, protein, along with some healthy fat, like avocado. I’m not one of those people who fears carbs, as my body needs them for my workouts. 

How often do you workout each week and what do your workouts involve?  I typically exercise 5 days a week and each workout varies a little bit. I do try to tap into the different energy systems. I particularly love HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) because it’s fast, efficient and challenging, but becomes equally as addictive. I usually do HIIT workouts twice a week tapping into my anaerobic system. For my HIIT workouts, I’ll program 4-5 exercises and try to complete them as many times as possible, usually with a 15 – 18 minute time cap. I’ll rest and then usually complete another HIIT style workout. Gone are the days where we need to spend an hour plus at the gym. HIIT has proven just as effective as an hour long workout that can be done in less than 30 minutes. I definitely see the trend staying here for a while!

I’ll also do one day of pure strength. I always love seeing my progress here. Typically my ‘lift’ day includes some sort of push, a pull, a quad exercise and a hip dominant move of sorts. Lastly, I’m a runner at heart and a spin instructor, so I use these days to get my heart rate up and unwind mentally. 

Biggest tip to get fit and stay healthy? Firstly, I think you need to know yourself. Just because one thing works well for one person, like following a paleo diet, doesn’t mean it’s going to work for you. You may not have the patience or commitment to follow some of the programs out there. Because our eating habits have a big influence on our body composition and how we feel, I tell my clients to plan ahead. Take two hours on Sunday afternoon to prep your meals for the week. Wash all your veggies, cook your meat, and make sure everything is ready to go. Time is often a huge hindrance when it comes to eating clean. Having things readily available after work or after the gym really helps keep people on track!