Home Gym Equipment Wish List

One of the most frequently asked questions I get it: “what equipment should I get for my home gym?”

In a previous post I included only the basics, but many of you expressed a desire to know more about what to add as you expand your home gym, so I’ve broken down today’s post into:

  • The Starter Wish List

  • The Intermediate Wish List

  • The “I Want To Do It All” Wish List

I’ve included links to where you can purchase items, but please note I am not in any way affiliated to these companies. Some items I have personally purchased, others I have not - please do your homework, particularly for higher ticket items, prior to purchasing. These links are just to give you some ideas of what is out there. Prices may change after this post is published, so they may not be exact.

While name brand stuff may look cool and offer fun colours, know that you’re definitely paying a premium for the name. Unless you plan to open a commercial gym one day, the basics (without the name brand) will definitely suffice.

Kijiji is also a great place to find used equipment, especially for simple things like dumbbells or kettlebells.

Quick note: If you have a home gym and want some workouts, I’m giving away a FREE 7-Day Workout Plan right now, available until June 29th only. You can grab your free copy here.

The Starter Wish List:

  • Dumbbells

  • Mini-bands

  • Super-bands

  • Lacrosse ball

Dumbbells

  • Quantity: 1 lighter set for upper body + 1 heavier set for lower body

  • Weight: This is TOTALLY dependent on you. If you are relatively new to lifting, 8-12lbs may be enough for upperbody, and 15-20lbs for lower body. If you're deciding between a set, my recommendation would be to pick the heavier option - ie. go with the 10lb set instead of the 8lb set for upper body - because initially you can decrease reps, and then add in reps as you get stronger. If you go for the lower weight that you can comfortably do now, you'll be needing a new set in short time - not a bad thing, but if cost is a consideration, go for the slightly more challenging weight now.

  • Style: I prefer the hex dumbbells, simply because they don't roll across the floor when I set them down, and can also be used from a plank position safely.

  • Shop it:

Mini-bands

  • Quantity: 1 medium band, 1-2 heavy bands

  • Resistance: I'd recommend getting one medium and one heavy resistance to start so you can swap between the two or combine them. Even if you’re relatively new to weight training, usually the lightest resistance will be too easy, so skip it and head straight to medium resistance.

  • Shop it:

Super-bands

  • Quantity: 1 light, and 1 medium

  • Resistance: One light band is a great start (0.5"), but for some movements you want a heavier one as well (0.75") - again this will totally be dependent on you! 

  • Shop it:

  • Door Anchor: To add versatility to your banded workouts, these door anchors are a super simple solution that won’t break the bank. You can grab a 2-pack here on Amazon.ca for $15.

Lacrosse ball

The Intermediate Wish List:

  • Box and/or bench

  • TRX

  • Pull-up bar

  • Additional dumbbell weights

  • Foam roller

Box or Bench

  • Having a raised surface adds so much versatility for training, and are great for hip thrust variations, step-up variations, box jumps, etc.

  • Quantity: 1

  • Shop it:

    • For a basic flat bench for $135 at Fitness Depot shop here, or for $239 from Rogue shop here. You can start of basic or add one that inclines, and the price range is pretty huge for benches.

    • For a Rogue box shop here, cost is $160. If someone in your house is handy with woodworking, build one yourself for $30 worth of supplies.

    • If you want to incorporate box jumps but wood edges scare you, there are also foam plyo box options available, like this stackable set from Fitness Depot for $388 or purchase single foam boxes like this one from Amazon.ca.

    • For some movements, an exercise ball will do the trick as a raised surface, and are much friendlier on the budget if you’re starting off. For $12.88 you can get a 55” ball at Fitness Depot here. Adjust the ball size based on your height.

TRX

  • More versatile that rings, and easier to install as you can purchase door attachments to make it usable in the space you have. Great for adding in more rowing work, or some more advanced hamstring curls, or core work.

  • Quantity: 1

  • Shop it:

Pull-up bar

  • Much easier on the budget, and much easier to install if you don’t have a dedicated gym space where you want to be bolting things into the wall, is the doorframe pull-up bar. There are lots of options available, but the one I started with is similar to below. Note - it will mark up your door frame at the top a bit, so be aware of that when deciding where to do your pull-ups if that’s a concern.

  • Quantity: 1

  • Shop it:

Additional dumbbell weights

  • The key to getting stronger is to continually challenge yourself, so as you progress you will find you’ll need a larger variety of weights so that you can pick an appropriately challenging weight no matter what the rep scheme is.

Foam roller

The “I Want To Do It All” Wish List:

  • Kettlebells

  • Cardio machine: rower, bike, etc

  • Squat rack

  • Anything else you consider the fun, but not necessary stuff: battle ropes, rope anchored for rope climbs, rings, slamballs, hurdles, etc.

Kettlebells

  • Quantity: 1 lighter and 1 heavier to start your collection, and build from there.

  • Weight: I'd recommend getting one lighter one that you can use for single arm overhead work to start (overhead press, snatch), and one heavier one for things like kettlebell swings, single leg work, etc.

  • Shop it:

  • There are various styles of kettlebells, pick what works for you and just go with it.

  • Competition kettlebells: are all the same size, but different weights. Price will vary by weight of the kettlebell, this 16kg is $58 from Fitness Depot here.

  • Russian kettlebells: again will vary in price based on weight, an example is here from Fitness Depot for $40.

  • Vinyl coated: there are various versions of these, but they might be a kinder option for your floors depending on where your workouts are happening. A 40lb vinyl coated option from Fitness Depot for $44 can be found here.

Cardio machine

  • Quantity: 1

  • Style: Go with what you enjoy! Rower, bike, treadmill, elliptical, etc.

  • Shop it: I’ll leave the shopping to you here, as there are SO many options out there and price points. If you have specific questions, let me know:) We have a Concept 2 rower, and an Assault Bike, so those are really the only two brands and machines that I can personally speak to.

Barbells + plates

  • Quantity: 1 barbell (women’s specific) + numerous plates + safety clips

  • Weight: Women’s bars are not only lighter (35lb versus 45lb for the men’s bar), but the diameter of the bar is smaller as well. For most women, it will be more comfortable to get a solid grip on a women’s bar - particularly helpful for anything taken from the floor like deadlifts, snatch, or cleans, but also helps with overhead work like overhead press and thrusters.

  • For plate weight, it will depend where your current strength is at, but start with a set of 10lb, 15lb, 25lb, and you’ve already got enough to make any combination from 35lb to 135lb. Add to your collection as needed:)

  • Shop it:

    • This is one category you can definitely keep on the simpler side, or blow the budget on. Honestly, be realistic with what you’re using it for. I went with basic Fitness Depot Northern Lights bars and they have stood up to numerous personal training clients and classes over the past 4 years. But hey, if a custom designed pink or purple Rogue barbell is calling your name and Santa is willing to bring it, nothing wrong with that! Eleiko bars are bar-none (pun intended) the best barbells out there, and have an incredible customer service policy. They come with a price, but if you are a high performance athlete, or plan to run a performance gym, they may be worth the investment to you. Or, again, if you have a super generous Santa.

    • Note: You’ll see bars labelled as “weightlifting”, “Olympic”, or “powerlifting” bars. Weightlifting and Olympic bars (the same thing, just different names depending where you’re buying them from), will have more whip to the bar and rotation in the bearings since they are designed for the snatch and clean. Powerlifting bars are designed for the power lifts - deadlift, bench press, and squat. What do you need? Again, if you aren’t a competitive athlete in any of the above sports, just grab yourself an appropriately weighted bar (35lb women, 45lb men) that’s within your budget.

    • Fitness Depot models can be found here.

    • Rogue Canada models can be found here.

    • Eleiko top notch bars can be found here.

Squat rack

  • I kept this separate from the barbell and plates, because you really don’t have to have a squat rack to be able to start using a barbell - you can do deadlifts, cleans, and snatches without a squat rack, and once you know how to clean you’ll be able to get the weight up to do overhead or squat work as well (of course at weights limited to your cleans)

  • Quantity: 1

  • Shop it:

    • Similar to the cardio equipment, I’ll leave this one up to you to seek out. There are SO many models, price ranges, sizes, from basic to having tons of features - it’s going to come down to how much space you have, money you want to spend, and how many of the additional features you really have to have.

Fun stuff

  • What else do you want to add in? This is where you get to customize based on what you like to do! Hate jumping? Probably don’t want to invest in hurdles. Want to learn entirely new skills? Maybe a rope for rope climbs is on your list.

If you have any questions, as always feel free to email me. I could talk gym stuff all day long.

P.S. Here’s the link again for your FREE 7-Day Workout Plan, available only until June 29th. Grab yours while you can!

Picky Eaters? Food Guilt? Keep Reading, Mama...

Me: My kid won't be a picky eater.

Also Me: Yes, crackers and cream cheese ARE the 4 major food groups.


If you're looking for some no-stress, no-guilt advice on feeding children - keep reading.

One night my daughter was refusing dinner, and I was doing exactly what I'd been conditioned to do my whole life - "eat, eat, finish your meal!" Still went to bed basically on 4 blueberries. That night, she puked. Huh. Turns out she knew what her body needed, or didn't need, after all - not me, the mom.

Shortly after that a Balance 365 podcast episode gave me SO much insight and helpful tips - without stress or guilt - on how to go about feeding these little humans and setting them up for success. Success meaning enjoying food, guilt free, shame free, and with the ability to self regulate and know their own body.

Recently, the To Birth & Beyond podcast also released a podcast on this topic - driving home these same principles on how to allow our children to become competent eaters.

The common factor between both podcasts is the underlying research and data based on years of experience and knowledge from Ellyn Satter. 

Some of the highlights that have been particularly useful to me include:

  1. Division of responsibility:

    • Parents: Parents or caregivers decide what, when, and where children eat. What = what goes on their plate, when = regular meals & snack times, which allows them to be hungry and actually eat at mealtime, and where = the physical location - dinner table, outside, etc.

    • Children: Children decide how much, and whether they eat. It's up to the children to choose their portion size.

  2. Praising for TRYING foods - not for finishing it or even eating it.

  3. Having discussions at mealtime that AREN'T food centered. The less we make food a big deal, the less it'll be a big deal to them. This one I found really eye-opening for myself. My instinct is to tell her why things are healthy for her, why she needs to eat them. But really, why do I need to do that? Isn't showing her enough? Letting her experience it for herself. Letting her learn as she goes - both how she feels when she eats, skips a meal, or eats too many cookies and has a stomach ache.

  4. Checking our own biases and stories around food. What messages were you taught as a child, and that you still carry with you? We can learn SO much about our own relationship with food as we teach our own children.

  5. Sugar, dessert, "forbidden food" : There is a ton of great info in both podcasts on this. Jenn from the Balance 365 podcast has some great stories about her own boys surrounding hoarding pop (soda), and Halloween candy overload.

Below are Ellyn's website, as well as the two podcasts if you want to have a listen for yourself. I definitely recommend it all - I can't emphasize enough how much guilt they help remove, and how useful and simple the tips are (even if the tips make you silently squirm inside as you start to implement them in real life, hah!)

  • Ellyn Satter: ellynsatterinstitute.org

  • Balance 365 Podcast: Episode 16: Feeding Our Families - Growing Healthy Relationships With Food

  • To Birth & Beyond Podcast: Episode 65: Raising Competent Eaters with Jillian Murphy

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Miscarriage: Your Story Matters At Every Phase

Content warning: Miscarriage

The second time I was pregnant, I knew instantly - okay, within 5 days to be totally accurate. My bras filled up, my poops changed, and I had that full body exhaustion where it’s not just your eyelids that want to close but your entire body wants to turn off. I took a pregnancy test even though I knew it was too early to show on the pee stick (it was).

A couple weeks later, I wanted to involved my husband so I told him the 3 minutes was up for the pregnancy test and as he walked into the bathroom I said, “two lines means yes, one line means no.”

He came out of the bathroom with a puzzled look, “what if one line is faint?”

Me, “no fu@k!ng way!!”

The smiles on our faces said it all. We were excited. After all the things leading up to this, it felt right (read this blog post where I chat all about our struggle with how to know if we were “one and done”, our couple’s therapy, and my decision to ask for PPD medication).

Within 5 minutes of excitement the obvious impact hit me, and tears started flowing, as I realized we really were about to go back down this path. Things like, “but I JUST feel like myself in the gym again” and “argh I’ve been craving sushi!!” came out of my mouth. As silly and petty as those things sound, they were really just the tip of the ice berg of knowing what I was in store for for the next 9 months, and what we’d be in store for as a family after that.

Not more than a week or so after, I felt the cramps, and again, knew immediately. I knew something was wrong. The heavy bleeding followed, and I had to break to my husband that this one wasn’t meant to be. After 5 days I took another test, to confirm what I knew, because both of us were still holding on to a little bit of hope that maybe things were okay. But this one wasn’t meant to be.

As soon those two pink lines confirmed a baby was on the way, we were picturing Christmas 2019 with an almost 3 year old and a 4 month old. Would it be a boy this time? Another girl? Up until getting pregnant I’ve said I wanted another girl - partly because I have boxes of clothes waiting downstairs - but as soon as we saw the two pink lines, it didn’t matter. It became the old, “as long as it’s healthy.”

Now, working out, eating sushi, and having wine, didn’t seem like a big deal, nor even enticing anymore. I didn’t touch a drink for a couple weeks after the miscarriage, even though I was “dying for one” when I found out I was pregnant. I still haven’t, months later, had sushi – again, that I was craving so badly, apparently.

It confirmed for us how much we did want this. No question now. We were sad.

And boy did we appreciate our little girl that much more. We were, and continue to be, so thankful that she came to us, and is the healthy spitfire she is.

I was additionally upset because I felt like the medication I had just started for my postpartum depression wasn’t working. I was low, sad, my social anxiety heightened again, and I didn’t want to partake in anything. I quickly reminded myself – no, this IS a reason to feel sad. If anything, it was a sign that my medication wasn’t “numbing” me as so many false claims are made about anti-depressants (especially maddening when those claims are made by famous people with huge influence circles, and add to this stigma. Not naming names. We’ll call this fictional character Hewis Lowes.)

There are always surprises in these life events. With my miscarriage, the surprise was in my inability to allow myself to be outwardly sad. I didn’t feel worthy of sadness. Why? Because I wasn’t far enough along. Because I never met my baby. I fell into the comparison trap of “my story isn’t tragic enough.” I was “just another statistic” of the many many women who will experience miscarriage in their life. But the truth is, the SECOND we found out we were pregnant, that child existed to us. It was the 4th at the Christmas table next year. It was Anna’s sibling. It was the 2nd grandchild (on one side) and the 34th grandchild (on the other side - yes, 34th).

Again and again I’m reminded – everyone, EVERYONE has their struggles, and every single struggle and story matters. Everyone is entitled to feel all the feelings, go through all the thoughts, and mourn or celebrate or laugh or cry. If you’re feeling like your situation isn’t worthy – it is. It absolutely is. And you have every right to feel every and all of the emotions over it.

I’ve come to view this experience as a necessary one for us. Never ever has a decision been so all-consuming, and it was the scariest thing in the WORLD to try for a second. Even when it happened, I still had a huge piece of me saying, “do we REALLY want to do this again?” Despite the tantrums, the hard days, the sleepless nights, the teething, the sickness, the trips to the Children’s Hospital, the constant physical contact, the constant repeated questions, the lack of time for us as a couple, the lack of time for us as individuals - despite ALL of it, we were sad when that was all taken away from us. It was the confirmation piece we needed to say, “Yes. This is a bad shit crazy ass way to live. But for some reason, we want it, and we want to add to the chaos.” (And even as I write that, I still don’t 100% believe it, hah! Do you EVER believe it?).

Going Upside Down In Pregnancy & Postpartum: CrossFit Open 19.3

Welcome back for week 3 of the CrossFit Open! If you’re new here, hi! And welcome. Each week I’m offering considerations, strategies, and modifications for the Open workouts for pregnant and postpartum athletes.

Open 19.3 - For Time:

  • 200-ft. dumbbell overhead lunge [Scaled: front-rack]

  • 50 dumbbell box step-ups [Scaled: same]

  • 50 strict handstand push-ups [Scaled: 5-in. elevated]

  • 200-ft. handstand walk [Scaled: bear crawl]

    • Time cap: 10 minutes

    • Men: 50-lb. dumbbell / 24-in. box

    • Women: 35-lb. dumbbell / 20-in. box

As in previous weeks, let’s break this down movement by movement!

Dumbbell Overhead Lunges

Considerations:

  • The main consideration with an overhead position while pregnant or postpartum is are you able to maintain core control to keep your ribs over your hips, without thrusting your rib cage up to the sky? Thrusting your rib cage puts extra tension on your core - of consideration if you’re healing a diastasis, or are pregnant and trying to keep avoid excess stretching. Second, thrusting your rib cage takes your diaphragm, core, and pelvic floor out of alignment, possibly meaning more strain on your pelvic floor than necessary.

  • If you’re experiencing pelvic pain like pubic symphysis (in the front) or SI joint (either side of your bum), lunges may be something that is aggravating to you at this point. Really, my only advice here is, if it hurts, don’t do it:)

Modifications:

  • Front rack carry, and/or reduced weight: could help to take away any rib thrusting, and will be kinder on your core and pelvic floor.

  • Squat instead of lunging for pelvic pain: Since the squats won’t move you forward, either pick a reasonable number to do that you can do with controlled form, or take a few steps forward after each squat.

Dumbbell Box Step-Ups

Considerations:

  • Hip movement: Pelvic pain or not, as we get bigger in pregnancy and adapt a “waddle”, there’s no need to exaggerate this movement with a step onto a 20” box. Try to pay attention to if you’re able to maintain control on the way up and down.

  • Again, if you’re experiencing pelvic pain like pubic symphysis (in the front) or SI joint (either side of your bum), step-ups may be aggravating. Same advice as above - if it hurts, don’t do it, or at least not as written:)

Modifications:

  • Lower box and/or reduced weight: Does a lower box or step help you better control the movement? Does it diminish your pelvic pain?

  • Hip thrust (shoulders elevated), with or without dumbbell on your hips. Alternate between right leg, left leg, and both legs for variation.

  • Consider reducing reps.

Handstand Push-Ups

Considerations:

  • Holy core pressure batman. Lol. I don’t even know what else to say. Hah! Read below under “Handstand Walk” for my take on doing these upside down movements. For the record - being upside down isn’t necessarily the issue - if you’re a gymnast or yogi and have been inverted for the last 5, 10, 20 years, your body is familiar with this position. What’s more the issue, is the core control required to do the movements while upside down - the push up or walking itself.

  • Plus the whole being upside down thing in pregnancy - nausea, dizziness, acid-reflux, all the blood rushing to your head.

Modifications:

  • 5-in. elevated: while this is the scaled option, I don’t particularly love it as a modification. It’s sort of like saying single skips are a modification for double-unders. Still a TON of core pressure here. Let’s maybe leave upside down for a little later.

  • Push-ups: From the floor - still core intense but not as much, or incline - getting better on the core pressure situation now.

  • Dumbbell Z Press: From a seated position this one is all upper body, and is a great alternative to HSPU. Not only that, you’re directly working on strength to eventually be able to do a HSPU, when the timing is right.

  • For any of the above, feel free to reduce reps as well. 50 is a LOT of one movement in a row, and form is likely to diminish no matter how strong your first 20 look.

Handstand Walk

Considerations:

  • Core pressure, core alignment - all of it! For fun, I googled “pregnant handstand walking” and found a number of videos that visually showed what I expected to see - a LOT of lumbar curve. Think about it - you’re walking on your hands, feet in the air, with a large belly throwing your centre of gravity off. Most women won’t have the strength (or balance) to maintain a neutral spine, so to compensate for the belly their belly is forward, while hands and feet are behind - resulting in a huge “C” shaped body. The resulting pressure on your outstretched belly is a lot, as you walk across the floor.

  • While postpartum doesn’t have a belly pulling you forward, I’d still caution being in this “C” shaped position and the strain it will place on your linea alba (abdominal muscles), particuarly if you are healing or managing diastasis.

  • Again, being upside down in pregnancy and dealing with nausea, dizziness, and/or acid-reflux. Not fun.

Modifications:

  • Bear crawl: If having your head down doesn’t make you dizzy or want to vomit, bear crawl is a much more core friendly movement.

  • Offset front rack kettlebell carry: If you’re later into pregnancy and being bent over in any way shape or form is just not happening, opt for an upright walk instead. You’re still working on a ton of core stabilization, plus you can walk the same distance as everyone else - just be sure to switch hands at the half-way point.

How did you modify your workout? Let me know below! I’ll be doing mine later today and will check in with you all after:)

Deadlifts: How To

Deadlifts are probably one of my favourite movements ever. They target your entire backside from your calves all the way up your back, with a huge focus on your hamstrings and glutes.

They're one of the more complex movements in the gym, and not one we are taught from a young age unless you're in sports that specifically coach it.  I recently had a request to go over deadlift technique, specifically on how to *not* feel it in your low back in a painful way.

First off - if you're feeling more than just deadlifts in your low back, I would recommend seeing a physiotherapist to check you out. In my case, no amount of form correction was solving my low back pain, and it was because of other asymmetries and weaknesses pulling and shifting my pelvis.

Note: All the videos are demoing more of a Romanian (stiff-legged) deadlift. For each video I've done 2-3 reps with adjusted form, followed by a couple showing what *could* be giving you discomfort, followed again by a few adjusted reps so you can see the difference.

  1. Pelvic Floor Health:

    You know I can't get through a post without talking about your pelvic floor, so let's start there. Stop at neutral when you stand up versus thrusting your hips forward. I often see clients do this one thinking they are getting just a little bit more glute work out of it by doing the thrust. By thrusting your hips forward you're taking your core and pelvic floor out of alignment, which could mean putting added pressure or stress on your pelvic floor. That extra little hip pop is not going to give you mad gains, so stop at neutral and show your pelvic floor some love.

  2. Hip Hinging vs Squatting:

    Hip hinging is a hard movement to initially learn, so learning to load your hips and hamstrings and hinge at the hips will take some mind work and lots of repetition. Start unloaded, a few inches away from the wall and REACH your bum back to the wall. Feeling it more in your hamstrings now? Awesome! You've moved too far away from the wall if you can't maintain solid full foot contact on the floor, and you're probably too close if you're not feeling it in your hamstrings. Play with the distance until you find your sweet spot. I'll even have clients new to deadlifts perform all their reps this way (loaded) during a workout so they can feel it with each and every rep.

  3. Where is the weight in relation to your body?

    If it's way out in front of you, pull it back closer to your body. Those ridiculous looking high socks you see people wear on deadlift days? It's because the bar path should be THAT close to your shins. Hot tip: Use a yoga block or something similar as a target for your dumbbell or kettlebell - placing it directly in between your feet to remind you to drop the weight straight down, not out in front.

  4. Core Engagement:

    Are you allowing your midline (core) to completely relax, or are you keeping it engaged? Start from standing and lock in your core - ribs over hips, slight low back curve. Maintain this strong core position as you hinge, to keep your low back neutral (small curve) and not allow it to hyperextend (big curve). It's not that you are tucking your pelvis under (like in #1), you are finding neutral. This one is hard to see in the video, but there is a reason I used a lighter kettlebell for this one - I can feel it BIG time in my low back when I arch.

  5. Upper Body Engagement:

    Are you rounding through your shoulders and low back? Sometimes in an effort to get the weight lower, without the hamstring flexibility to get there, I'll see clients round their shoulders and low back in an effort to reach the ground. From standing, actively pull your shoulder blades back and maintain this position as you hinge.

I thought I wanted a fit pregnancy. What I really needed, was a supported pregnancy.

During pregnancy everyone asks about the baby. Your doctor wants to know how much it's grown. The nurse asks if you plan to breastfeed. Friends ask "what's the gender?", "what's the name?", "will you do baby-led weaning?" Family asks which school system they'll attend, and if you'll still be home for Christmas. Coworkers ask how many weeks left. Strangers ask how many are in there.

But what about the mom?

There is one message out there, and while it carries benefits (or at least I think is trying to), I'm going to unload my issues with it. That message? #fitpregnancy and everything surrounding it. The MAIN focus we see being directed towards moms during pregnancy, is fitness.

Sound weird that as a trainer I have issues with this? Hear me out.

First - YES there are absolutely multiple benefits to working out during pregnancy. Research supports this, I am not disputing this, nor saying that someone shouldn't workout during pregnancy. I absolutely support and think they should - in ways that feel good for their pregnancy body, and ALSO support their mind.

Buuuuut. (You knew there was a but coming).

But why is it "fit pregnancy"? Images of thin women with round bumps looking adorable as they squat, in adorable outfits, smiling. Or in the CrossFit world I follow, videos of women well into their second or third trimesters doing workouts at a 9/10 intensity with little to no scaling or modifications. We've hit another extreme. Swing, pendulum, swing!

The message this gives off: We care about you, too, moms-to-be. But we still have impossibly high expectations of you while you're pregnant. Be fit. Be strong. Be amazing. Be invincible. Be superwoman. 

Enough.

You know what a pregnant woman wants when she goes to the gym? To be spoken to like she's NOT just a vessel for another human to rent out for 40 weeks.

When's the last time you told someone at the gym how big or small they look?

When's the last time you reached out and touched someone at the gym's belly, without permission, and made a comment it as you touched it?

While you get asked about 500 times during pregnancy, "how are you feeling?" I would actually much prefer to hear this over and over. Because at least it asks how I'm doing, and gives me the opportunity to answer for myself, as a whole person, not just a body that happens to be growing an incredible little human being.

The focus goes from fit pregnancy, to bouncing back. Getting in your old jeans. Shedding the baby weight. Barf. I am so sick of these phrases.

What, instead, could be helpful for a new mom?

Do you have resources for BOTH breastfeeding and bottle feeding?

Who can help you have some time to yourself when baby is born, so you can sleep, nap, or take a bath?

How do you feel about your transition from career life to mom life?

Do you have someone who you feel comfortable talking to when things get tough (because they will)?

Do you have some numbers on hand to reach out to for depression, anxiety, PTSD, or couples therapy?

What do YOU need from me?

And moms-to-be, what do you need from yourself? 

Grace, to know you're going to have bad days, but that doesn't make you a bad person, nor a bad mom.

Patience, to know that you are going to heal, and that you are going to make it through.

Confidence, to say no, and to ask for what YOU need.

Permission to ease off, of the gym, of work, of life's tasks. Permission to do LESS, and not be invincible.

Acceptance, that some things won't be the same. But also Faith, that some of those things will be even better than before.

Courage, to speak up about the hard things, and to take action even when fear is telling you not to.

Resiliency, to forge your own path - the one that has your best interest at heart. Not what society wants of you, not what medical staff want of you, friends, family, social media - the list goes on.

I am not immune to the body talk surrounding motherhood. I know it's not easy to shift your thinking. But, together we can interject in the conversations that revolve solely on aesthetics. We can speak up when someone fails to understand there is SO much more important things to talk about than how our physical body has changed.

I thought I wanted a fit pregnancy, but what I really needed, was a supported pregnancy. Someone to say, it’s okay to ease off. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to feel lost. You are not defined solely on what your body can or cannot do.

I'm curious - what did you think you wanted in pregnancy, and what did it turn out to be that you actually needed in retrospect? Comment with yours below:)

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Double-Unders and Toes-To-Bar in Pregnancy & Postpartum: CrossFit Open 19.2

Open 19.2

  • 8-min. AMRAP + bonus time:

  • 25 toes-to-bars

  • 50 double-unders

  • 15 squat cleans, 135/85

  • 25 toes-to-bars

  • 50 double-unders

  • 13 squat cleans, 185/115lb

My first thought when I saw this? "Well shit." Haha. Way to throw some of the least pregnancy and postpartum friendly movements in this week!

My toes-to-bar strength hasn't returned yet, nor has my pelvic floor stamina for that many double-unders at once. Ah well, modifications here I come:)

If you are new here, each week I'm doing a post on the Open workouts with considerations and modifications for pregnant and postpartum athletes. Postpartum can be any point in time from 4 months to 10 years postpartum. These considerations would also apply to anyone who hasn't had children, but who is experiencing pelvic floor or core dysfunction. Let's dive in.

Toes-To-Bar

Considerations:

  • Main consideration here is the core pressure that's created. While you may visually be able to see it on your abdomen with coning, what you may not also feel is the pressure on your pelvic floor.

  • [Edit] During pregnancy I would not recommend T2B, K2E, or hollow holds due to the core pressure they create.

Strategies:

  • Breath: You're going to see a common theme here week to week;) Test out what works for you - exhaling as you start your kip, or maybe a little bit later of an exhale as you raise your legs.

  • Core control: If you are coning or trenching, are you able to activate your abdominals to control the gap and pressure as you raise up? Practice first on the ground so you can get a solid feel for it, and then progress your way back up to the bar.

Modifications:

  • Knees to elbows: Can you better control your breath and core if the movement is shortened?

  • Ball slams: They'll keep the pace of your workout moving, again remember to breath with these!

  • Hollow body hold or repetitions: The hollow body position transfers to so many CrossFit movements. What do you notice? Are you better able to control your core with repetitions? Or with a steady hold? When you're steady holding, how long are you able to hold it before you feel your core engagement start to go?

  • Birddog: Seriously Nicole, birddog in the Open? Here's the thing. If you aren't at a point where you are able to control coning or pressure or your breathing, why chance taking a few steps backwards in your recovery for an Open workout? Yes, they are exciting, it feels like everyone is doing it, but remember you're in this for the long game. Is it worth the risk to push hard for a couple Open workouts, only to be a few steps behind in physio and recovery after? Be kind to yourself, and your healing or growing body. 

Double-Unders

Considerations:

  • Where do I start, lol. Double-unders are highly taxing on your pelvic floor. So are single skips while we're at it, just not quiiiite as much. If you experience leaking during skipping, I wouldn't recommend it. Leaking is a sign that your body is taxed - perhaps your pelvic floor is tight, perhaps it's weak - either way, leaking is a sign to back off of skipping.

  • If you are postpartum and aren’t experiencing leaking, I still would not recommend diving into skipping in your first year UNLESS you have built up to impact movements slowly, and with a ton of strength work in addition (like, a few months of strength work). If you’re only just starting to introduce skipping or impact work into your workouts again - 50 double-unders isn’t the way to introduce it;)

  • If you are pregnant, even if you're not experiencing leaking, I recommend to my clients to stop skipping after the first trimester, that is if they reeeeaaaally want to be skipping at all - if it’s not important to them, we’ll remove it right away. Again, where is your risk versus reward conversation taking you?

Strategies:

  • Alignment: Rib cage down, chest straight ahead, eyes forward.

  • Breathing: Breath naturally. Double-unders aren't a movement you'll be able to match breath to movement for, so just keep breathing, focusing on big breaths into your ribcage - avoiding breathing only into your chest (shallow breathing).

  • Relax your belly: This is probably one of the ones I see the most with clients - and to be honest with myself until I caught it and realized it was causing the majority of my problems with double-unders. Our mind says, "I'm jumping, I need to grip to keep from leaking and protect my pelvic floor" but our pelvic floor says, "hey, you're restricting my natural movement by squeezing me with a vice grip - lay off a little and let me do my job." [Side note: wouldn't it be seriously amazing if our pelvic floor could actually tell us what it needs? I mean, assuming we'd listen all the time?]

Modifications:

  • Single skips (if not pregnant, and if you’ve built up to skipping over a number of months): If the above strategies don't address leaking, try single skips. If that's enough of a change in stimulus that it stops leaking, carry on. If not, try the below.

  • Bike: The bike, like ball slams, will keep your workout moving if that is your goal. For 50 double-unders I'd probably sub around 10-15 cals on the bike, again depending how early postpartum, how late in pregnancy, or how exhausted you are from the previous night's (lack of) sleep.

Squat Cleans

Considerations:

  • Load: 85lb may be a doable weight for you, but the caution I would place here is that you have 15 reps in a row, in a competitive environment. Can you breath through each rep? Can you do each rep with proper form?

  • Exhaustion: You’re coming straight off of 75 reps before getting to your first round of squat cleans, meaning you’re already going to be out of breath and fatigued. The first two things that usually go in this case? Form, and breathing. Form is a consideration for anyone, regardless of pregnancy and postpartum. Breathing and not straining or holding your breath is going to be important for pelvic floor and core pressure.

  • Power movement: With any power movement, there is no slowing it down, unlike a squat or deadlift that you can really take your time on to pay attention to form and breath. It’s a dynamic movement requiring quick response by your whole body - brain, muscles, joints, and pelvic floor.

Modifications:

  • Dumbbell hang power clean: Particularly if you are pregnant and your belly is now in the way of the bar path, switch to dumbbell hang cleans instead. By continuing to train with a barbell you are undoing all your previous training to drill the correct bar path in. [Check my blog post here on this very topic].

  • Reduce load, reps, and range of motion: Perform with an empty barbell, cut the reps in half, reduce to a hang power clean - do any one of or combination of these to allow you to move with intention for each rep.

I am loving seeing your posts on how you are modifying your workouts!! Please keep tagging me and keep them coming. You are also a HUGE support to moms going through the same thing - it’s so helpful knowing you aren’t the only one wishing you could do it, and knowing that there are more like you out there who have long term health in mind over one season or competition. Big love to all of you who are taking care of yourselves, it’s not easy, but you are doing it.


Box Jumps: How To

Box jumps build explosive power, and are a hip extension exercise. If box jumps don't:

a) translate to your sport of choice, or

b) aren't something you enjoy - then really, why ARE you doing them?

"Because they're fun!"

"Because my sport requires explosive power!". Great answers!

"My gym programs them, but they kill my knees." Probably time to find a substitution. 

Here are five ways to build up to box jumps, as well as two common faults with some ideas on how to work on correcting them. Check this post here for all six accompanying videos.

  1. Jump on the spot: Get used to launching off of two feet and landing on two feet. Practice using your hip (glute) power to launch you straight up. Not sure what to do with your arms? Think of them leading you where you want to go, down as you load your glutes, and UP as you jump

  2. Kettlebell swings: KBS are great for training hip extension and power. I also like KBS as a postpartum progression to train your breath and pelvic floor for more dynamic movements PRIOR to including impact.

    Let's pause and talk breathing for a second: Everyone will be different, but my go-to breathing technique for box jumps is exhaling BEFORE my feet launch off the ground. If I try exhaling when I'm in the air, I have a tendency to leak with multiple reps. Whatever works for you just remember to BREATH. Don't hold your breath. I promise, that little bit of extra air you're holding in your lungs isn't really having the hot air balloon effect you're hoping for to get you higher. I would not have someone start with ANY jumping movements until a solid strength base is built up and breathing techniques have been incorporated into non-impact dynamic movements.

  3. Low box: I wouldn't recommend my unstable IKEA stool, but if you're at a gym that has the stackable 6" and 12" mats, start with these. The foam will help ease your nerves, and you'll be able to master solid reps at lower heights first.

  4. Box jump: Look forward to go forward (skiing between trees? Same idea.) Land with both feet FULLY on the box, knees slightly bent. Step down to save your achilles.

  5. Common fault - knees caving in: I couldn't bring myself to actually land with my knees caved, but you get the idea - check your landing form. If needed, lower the box height, do some banded squats to work on form before adding complexity.

  6. Common fault - no hip extension: If you're landing in such a deep squat are you really even jumping or just tucking your feet under you to land on the box? Go back to #1 and #2 above, or do some banded goodmornings, deadlifts, hip thrusts - anything to work on fully extending your hips - squeeze your bum!

Questions on the breathing and how to get back to impact activity? I am launching a Return To Running online program that will start with foundations, and build you back up to launching - whether onto a box or down the running trails. Sign up for more info via rawfitnessyyc.com/run

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Wall Balls & Rowing For Pregnant & Postpartum Athletes: CrossFit Open 19.1

Here we are, back to the Open! I’ll be posting weekly with tips on how to approach the workouts if you are pregnant or postpartum.

First - when I’m talking postpartum that could be a huge range of years. Most definitely I would apply this advice to anyone in their first year postpartum because healing is still happening, sleep is still likely lacking, and it’s still the rebuilding phase of working out post pregnancy. But, I would also apply this advice to anyone who is years postpartum but is experiencing pelvic floor and/or core symptoms: leaking, significant diastasis, prolapse, pelvic pain, etc.

Before we get to the individual workouts, I recommend reading “Why The CrossFit Open Can Wait.” While it’s not specific to the individual workouts, I talk all about the mindset side of the Open if you are pregnant or postpartum, and feeling feeling left out of the fun this year.

Open Workout 19.1:

15-minute AMRAP

  • 19 wall balls

  • 19 cal row

3 things pop out at me for this workout:

  1. High volume: You can accumulate A LOT of reps in 15-minutes, regardless of the fact it’s “just” a 14lb or 10lb ball.

  2. Alignment during wall balls: There can be a tendency to thrust your rib cage which throws your core & pelvic floor alignment out, which may or may not cause an increase in symptoms (pelvic floor heaviness for example). Rib thrusting during pregnancy while loading overhead is also not something I would recommend in order to be mindful of your diastasis.

  3. Breath holding during wall balls: A tendency as it gets tougher with more and more reps is to breath hold during the movement, which puts extra pressure on your pelvic floor as well as core.

  4. Rowing pressure on core: Core positioning and engagement required by rowing can cause coning for pregnant women, as well as postpartum women with diastasis.

Considerations & Modifications:

  • High volume workout considerations:

    • Take set rest breaks after each movement. Example: Take 20-30 seconds rest after completing your full set of wall balls, or 10-15 seconds rest after each set of 5 wall balls, and 20-30 seconds rest after completing your row. If pregnant, aim to work at a pace that allows you to carry on a conversation.

    • Reduce the number of reps and cals performed each round to allow better attention to your reps, and not performing as many at that exhausted point. For example, 10 wall balls and 10 calorie row, still implementing the conversational pace if pregnant.

    • Slooooow and steady. Ignore the “push the pace” cheers, and stay in your own lane, mama. Think long term here - not just 15-minutes of glory:)

Wall Balls:

  • Alignment during wall balls, specifically rib cage:

    • Consider using a lighter ball or lower height target, to be able to better control keeping your rib cage down and stacked over your rib cage.

    • Instead of wall balls, sub in med ball thrusters so you can focus on pressing overhead while keeping your rib cage down, or perform med ball squats. If the med ball is awkward, by all means, sub in dumbbells.

  • Breath holding during wall balls:

    • However you choose to breath, just ensure you ARE breathing! One option could be to inhale as you lower down, and exhale as you rise up. Another option could be to just continually breath, not necessarily matching breath to movement.

Rowing:

  • Rowing pressure on core:

    • If you notice coning of your abdomen, try stopping your pull prior to leaning back (stop at more of an upright seated position) and see if that changes the outcome.

    • Pay attention to your breathing, by exhaling as you pull, does it allow you to better control your core and avoid coning? If you aren’t comfortable matching your breath to pulls (eg. inhale as you recover, exhale as you pull your arms/push your legs) try breathing throughout - does taking away breath-holding change the outcome?

    • The above tips can also be useful if managing prolapse, as managing pressure through position and breath may also carry over to your pelvic floor, not just your abdomen and coning.

    • If altering your technique doesn’t help the coning, consider switching to the bike for calories instead.

Proof that I do as I say below - here’s me modifying my own 19.1. I’m currently doing a lot of corrective exercise for my low back, and one of the things that aggravates my back is squatting. So I did the entire workout doing wall ball lunges instead. Not as bad as it sounds when all you’ve been doing is single-leg work for 4 weeks straight :) Thank you to Jenn @ Most Physical Preparation for the pic!

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10 Random Facts About Me

Oh hey there! I haven't done an official introduction post, ever, so here it goes.

Born in Vancouver, Calgary raised, on the playground, field, running track, and pool is where I spent most of my days (I promise, Fresh Prince rhymes stop now).

Random facts about me:

1. I gained 11 brother & sister-in-laws (17 including spouses) and 32 nieces and nephews when my husband and I got married. My husband gained 2 brother-in-laws.

2. If you asked me in University what I'd be doing in life I would have told you I'd be living in Australia, as a physiotherapist, being a "surfer girl", as I walked around in my pukka shell necklace (I cringe at how cliche I was).

3. My husband and I met at Nashville North (at the Calgary Stampede) and got married in our living room 5 years later without telling anyone until after the deed was done. Might have had something to do with #1 and trying to plan a “regular” wedding LOL.

4. I'll take short intense workouts with power, weights, and intervals, over a long steady workout any day. Hence my University days competing in 200m, 300m, and 400m sprints, and my now training regime of CrossFit style athletic training.

5. My mission: to help enhance the lives of women through the power that physical movement and nutrition can have on our WHOLE well-being. Providing women the chance to experience sanity, strength, self-care, empowerment, and confidence are at the core of what I strive for everyday with my clients. The fire in my heart and in my head comes out of my own experiences. I'm here for the real talk, open and honest conversations, and bringing you information that isn't necessarily popular or sexy, but much needed IMO.

6. I fuel my sweet tooth daily with either Little Tucker Snickaroos, a single serving coconut brownie made from scratch, sweet & salty popcorn, or a spoon straight into the coconut peanutbutter jar.

7. I'm an extroverted introvert, so I NEED my alone time and personal space to recharge (learning to navigate this with a toddler is a daily challenge) but I also crave regular adult interaction. As a stay at home mom and work from home entrepreneur, one way I fuel my need for connection is through my workouts 4x/week at Most Physical Preparation.

8. Despite what I said in #2, my degree took me towards almost being a CPA, and later a Project Manager for a large web design company - favourite account I worked on was adidas obvi. Yah, I followed the crowd with my degree, not my heart - KNES would have made more sense for this girl. But I believe it’s never too late to change your path in life, for anything. Quitting my "sure thing" desk job with benefits for the entrepreneur life was the scariest thing I'd done up to that point in my life. When I quit I was only teaching one spin class a week and there were lots of tears over "WTF have I done?". My entrepreneur husband pushed me through, and it's the BEST decision I've ever made.

9. I'm annoyingly not spontaneous.

10. Things that really irk me: people chewing with their mouth open, gossip, tearing down other women instead of building each other up, my food touching on my plate, and the 459 times a week I have to vacuum having a 12 year old German Shepherd mix rescue.

I'd love you to stick around if any of this resonates with you. To ensure you're getting my wisdom, dry sense of humour (I blame my Welsh Dad), lifting and life tidbits, join my (not quite monthly) newsletter via the link here.

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"Don't Lift More Than 10lbs" - Let's Discuss

"Don't lift more than 10lbs." I don't agree with this postpartum advice. Well, except for sometimes.

My problem with it is that usually these women aren't given any strategies, only a blanket statement of what not to do, but then left in the dark on what they CAN do, or how to do those necessary things like lifting your baby in the carseat, groceries, laundry baskets, getting up and down from the floor a million times a day, and picking up your baby or toddler a billion times a day.

You're likely going to be lifting more than 10lbs the first time you lift your baby in their carseat. Let's teach you how to breath and engage your core and pelvic floor when lifting heavy objects.

You're going to go back to the gym eventually. Let's teach you where to start, what symptoms to watch for, how to test, and how to progress.

I had some fun doing these videos illustrating why it's so important we teach moms HOW to move. They 're going to do it anyways - let's give them the tools and knowledge to do it in a way that supports healing and promotes healthy function.

Now for the, "except for sometimes."

Just because a client will be lifting more than 10lbs, doesn't mean I'll be pushing the weight right away.

It doesn't matter how fit you were prior - pregnancy and birth MATTER postpartum, and your body deserves (and needs) adequate recovery. New moms discount how MUCH they do in a day - lifting, getting up and down, lack of sleep, lack of hydration, lack of adequate nutrition, if breastfeeding - the physical energy it requires. This all takes a toll on our body's ability to heal and recover. A gym session is just one piece of the daily load.

So, we start with basic movements, reminding the body how to move again, how to breath, how to engage. Yes, I want her to be comfortable lifting her toddler's weight, but we don't need to do 40 reps at that weight, reps can also be done for form and practicing breathing and testing alignment. If no symptoms arise, we add a little more next time, and a little more after that. Testing and retesting.

There's no simple answer. But the answer is so much more than, "don't lift heavier than 10lbs."

For 5 videos demoing how much gym life transfer into postpartum life, head to my IG post and watch me drop a baby*.

*Not a real one.

#BellLetsTalk 2019

I find it so hard to put into words what mental illness was/is for me. Before I went through it, I never would have fully understood it either, because the problem with trying to understand it when it's not you is that you are thinking about it with a clear mind. And mental illness is anything but a clear mind.

I remember telling my therapist early into postpartum that it felt like I was always wearing a giant heavy cloak made out of chainmail. I couldn't take it off, it followed me everywhere, and it weighed not just on my physical body, but on my heart, my mind, and my energy.

It robbed me of happiness and enjoyment. It constantly lied to me.

Hiding it became a full-time acting gig. If I was feeling down, I would cancel. If I went out, I smiled, wore clean clothes, did my hair, looked presentable. Mental illness doesn't only appear on the faces of the homeless, who wander the street shouting at themselves. It's much, much, closer to home than that.

It’s not always crying. Apathy was my demon. Some days I wished for true sadness, because at least then I’d be feeling an emotion and not be the apathetic robot I felt like.

Two months ago, almost 2 years after my daughter was born I took the terrifying step into my doctor's office and asked for medication. I was doing the "right" things - working out, nutrition, therapy - but it wasn't enough, and I couldn't convince myself anymore that I would eventually grow out of it.

When I shared my story I was met with so much support and many of you shared your own story. Some of you even took that step into the doctor's office the very next week, which I don't think you will ever know how much it meant to me to hear you took action off a post about my messy life.

But still, not more than a week after I opened up, I had someone close to me let me know about some "natural options" out there, so that "when I wanted to get off the medication" I could check out these natural options. I appreciate this person's heart was in the right place. But this is another piece of the stigma that needs to end. Would you tell a diabetic to find a more natural solution than insulin? WTF.

I am not doped up, I am not numb to the world. Quite the opposite - I finally feel awake for the first time in years. I am sad when sad things happen, happy when joyous things happen - the way it should be. Yes, I lose my cool when my daughter asks for something for the 100th time in 5 minutes, but I am also getting SO much more joy with her now.

Medication is not the easy way out. Mental illness does not make you lesser of a person.

You matter. Your story matters. You are worthy of love, and you are loved. Your purpose on this earth is so much greater than you believe it to be. There are people who want to help you, please reach out. And if you're not in it yourself, ask those around you how they're doing. How they're REALLY, doing. Even the ones who appear to have it all together. ESPECIALLY the ones who appear to have it all together.

Let's talk. For real.

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