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2007 Toronto Ski and Snowboard Show

Toronto Ski and Snowboard ShowWhile the temperature remains above zero in Southern Ontario for the time being, like every year, before we know it we will be covered in several feet of snow. But it doesn’t mean that all is lost for outdoor sports. That’s right folks, the ski season is right around the corner.

The Toronto Ski and Snowboard Show is being held this weekend at the Exhibition Place. We ventured there today to scope it out (and for me, to purchase a new snowboarding jacket).

Like previous years, there were a load of exhibitors crammed in the building and thousands of people packed in like pickles. This year there seemed to be even more tourism exhibits setup and fewer shops displaying their sale price 2007 merchandise. However, there were still many shopping options available.

Raffles and draws were being held left and right and at 3pm today, several athletes put on a show. A few skiers and snowboarders took to the stage and showed off some serious flip tricks on a monstrous fake ski jump. They were accompanied by a couple of Canadian National championship trampolinists (is that what they’re called?). Bethany Gee and Philip Barbaro showed off some great trampoline skill, both strapped into some skiing equipment and without.

As usual, I found there to be too many people in too little a space with far too much going on. But all was not lost. I came home with a new jacket as planned.

Here’s a very shotty video that I took of the “air show”. I caught the moves on a Motorola v3i phone camera.

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To walk or run – a question that many people, getting into exercising ask themselves. Generally, it is well known that any kind of exercise is better than sitting on the couch, playing video games. It’s obvious. But what isn’t so obvious is whether moderate or viorous exercise is better.

In order to attempt to get the public engaged in daily activity, many governments have programs and guidelines. Unfortunately while a bit of government intervention is good, getting the proper advice is often better.

A recent study by Exeter and Brunel universities in Britan found that 56% of men and 71% of women currently believe that moderate activity is best when it comes to staying physicaly healthy. Activities such as walking have become the cup du jour for many Britains. This is likely due to the British government’s promotion of 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week which includes activities such as housework and gardening.

Unfortunately, moderate levels of activity only work moderately well. Dr. Gary O’Donovan, the study’s main author says that

“time and time again, the largest and most robust studies have shown that vigorously active individuals live longer and enjoy a better quality of life than moderately active individuals and couch potatoes.”

Brisk walking is definitely a popular activity these days. Whenever driving somewhere in town, I never fail to count at least a couple of people walking, spandex on and water bottles in hand. In fact, I’ve also seen some bodybuilding websites suggest that long bouts of moderately paced walking to be good for muscle building. But to me, this is somewhat counter intuitive.

I’m of the mindset that the more physically or cardiovascularly challenging an exercise, the better it is for you. While I believe that walking is certainly better than nothing, more vigorous activity should definitely also be on the menu. Here are a couple of exercises to add to your workour regime in order to accomodate some more vigor.

  • Join a spinning class. Spinning is similar to stationary cycling but usually done in a class with a high intensity and an instructor taking you through some nice intervals. Many gyms offer spinning classes for no additional cost. The beginner classes are a great way to get a little more sweat on.
  • Running. You may hate running or have trouble doing it, but it’s probably the least expensive, most accomodating method of getting in shape. Even a moderately paced run will increase your heart rate significantly over a brisk walk. Most running stores (the Running Room, for example) will host classes for beginners to advanced runners. If running is something new to you, finding a beginner class is a fantastic way to get into it.
  • Hit the weights. While many people believe that weight training is either not a vigorous method of exercise or that it is strictly for bodybuilders, lifting weights is actually a great workout with the ability to scale intensity to all levels. Working out in a circuit, in fact, may not only be vigorous activity but may also contribute to weight loss and muscle building post-workout, while resting.
  • Body weight exercising is also an inexpensive but versatile method of getting your vigorous exercises in. Again, focus on a circuit style workout consisting of things like air squats, pushups, situps, calf raises, dips or pullups and others and you will find yourself sweating buckets and getting your heart rate up nicely.

But always remember to scale your exercising accordingly. If you’re new to vigorous exercising, maybe talk to your doctor first and possibly start off slowly at either a more moderate pace or with less weight.

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The Fit Blog Tip #5

Don’t forget to warm up before your workout. But despite how many people perform their pre-workout warmups, don’t get right into stretching. Starting your workout off with stretches could cause pain and does nothing for flexibility.

Instead, start off by getting your heart rate up a bit and increasing your body temperature. One great warm up is to perform some air squats and situps. I also find that hitting the rowing machine right away is a great way to start.

Once your quick warm-up is completed, then feel free to get into some stretches.

Remember that it is important to do stretches. Do them… But make sure to stretch only after a real warm-up, half way through your workout or at the end of your workout.  Stretch “warm” rather than “cold”.

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Big Marathons are Big Business

This past weekend, Chicago was host to 36,000 runners for the annual Chicago marathon. 36,000 at $90 each is a lot of money. Big marathons are big business these days.

A good article from the Associated Press asks whether these big marathons are losing their charm and are just becoming money making machines. The numbers of people entering the races is growing at a nice steady rate and with the growth comes more cash and credit cards out of hiding.

Sure the money raised by the entrance fee goes towards the race cost and associated charity groups, but think about all the money that the race entrants and families bring with them for outside of the run.

The article discusses how more than half of the runners are from outside of town and as such, tourism takes a huge upswing during the race. From hotels to breakfast buffets, the city is packed like a pickle jar.

The article points out that beyond the money injected into the local economy, “marathoners also tend to have more spending power than average, and so are ideal targets for many companies’ goods and services, hawked at the fitness expos held near the marathon date.” Lots of money exchanges hands and no doubt organizers are looking for additional ways to exploit this for larger revenues.

It’s an interesting article and worth a read, especially as we get on our way into marathon and race season.

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The Kooza Experience – Cirque du Soleil

Last night my wife and I headed to Toronto to see the latest Cirque du Soleil act in town, Kooza. In short, it was absolutely brilliant.

Since this was my first Cirque experience, I honestly had no idea what to expect. Driving in to the parking lot to see the huge circus tent, in all its blue and yellow stripes was really quite neat. Once inside the tent, the seating was fairly squished, but at least that let everyone view the show from fairly close up.

Even before the show started, the audience was treated to entertainment as the characters ran around the tent, acting in various situations with or within the crowd. Once the lights dimmed and the show was underway, however, my jaw literally dropped and had to be picked up off the floor when the lights came back up at the end. It was that amazing.

The strength and talent that I witnessed last night was like none other that I have seen first person before. Handstands galore, flips, lifts, dexterity, amazing flexibility, strength and sheer commitment – the show had the whole package and then some.

The best part was no doubt the giant double pendulum thingy that circled around (vertically) essentially like a ride right out of the midway. It had two fearsome looking guys doing acrobatics within and on top of the two pendulum ends. The entire crowd gasped every time one of them would jump and fall down to land on the swinging pendulum end.

Cirq Pendulum

The contortionists were freaky, but despite their extreme limberness, they had a crazy strength. The seemingly youngest of the three of them made a one handed planche look easy. While in Toronto, the contortionists actually made a World Record for highest ever circus performance. Kind of a lame record, but here’s a vid of their routine (skip to about 2:35 into the vid). Freaky stuff – especially the part where the one girl’s legs walk around her upper body like a ghost in the Grudge.

Other highlights include the guy who did handstand presses while balancing on a skyscraper of chairs, the juggler, the unicycling waltz, among many others. A bonus was a great live music performance throughout the whole show.

Cirque du Soleil is definitely something that, should you have an opportunity to see, you shouldn’t miss out on.

For more on Cirque and, specifically Kooza, take a look at their site, here.

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What is Functional Fitness?

I’ve blogged about functional strength before and I took on the question of what fitness means in a previous article. Obviously, it’s quite a subjective subject – what is fitness or functional strength. For me, I like to take the approach that both fitness and functional strength are one and the same; that is, being highly physically able across a wide domain.

There’s a great article by Tyler Hass here about functional strength and it takes a similar approach to defining functional strength. A quick quote from the article about training:

“Look at Olympic lifters; these athletes are some of the strongest men in the world, with extremely high degrees of flexibility as well. My ideas on the nature of functional training are very different from the popular opinion. I prefer the Swiss Army knife approach to training. In my view, a person who trains outside of the box will be far more versatile than a person who trains in patterns and performs best inside of an artificial framework.”

Read the full article here.

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Jason Statham – Men's Health Guy

Jason Statham Men’s Health

The October Men’s Health guy is Jason Statham. If you don’t know the name, he’s the guy who stars in two great action movies, both called the Transporter (#1 and #2, anyway). His slickness is only second to his great action presence in the films – he has an air about him that says, “don’t mess with me”.Well, it turns out that you wouldn’t want to mess with him in real life either. You can read more about him, his workout and his eating plan here, at the Men’s Health website.

Highlights of the article include how he approaches his workout and his diet. Jason does the bulk of his workout in a circuit style which resembles an extended crossfit session. He never repeats a workout and always pits himself against time. He says, “Every single thing we do is against the closk. That way you’ll always know how good you are and if you’re slacking off.”

His eating plan is basically your no bread, no booze, plain yogurt kind of thing but he writes everything he eats down on paper in order to make it difficult to “muck up” the diet.

Read the full article, here.

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Developing Flexibility

Flexibility Training

Flexibility is so important to fitness. Unfortunately not many people actually pay attention to it enough. I’m guilty as any at forgoing a daily stretch or not appropriately warming up with some stretches before a workout.

Increasing flexibility will not only help reduce injury when working out, as you get older it is important to maintain muscle suppleness in order to help avoid injury in every day activities from tying shoelaces to reaching for the seatbelt. But how does one increase their flexibility? Again, thanks to this wonderous technology called the Internet, a fantastic guide can be found here.

The tutorial is written by a guy named Jon Call, better known as Jujimufu. If you do a quick search on youtube, you will no doubt see countless videos of him. He practices tricking, or what he describes as “an aesthetic blend of flips, twists, and kicks”. It’s essentially gymnastics. His stretching tutorial is really detailed and full of great exercises.

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The Last One Standing

The Last One Standing

Tonight, The Last One Standing premiers on the Discovery Channel. As the title implies, the show, which seems rooted in the Survivor camp, has a survivor-esque premise. Unlike other reality shows like Survivor, however, the Last One Standing really means the last one standing.

The show, which takes place in all sorts of exotic locations, pits contestants against one another in a variety of competitions that require extreme levels of endurance or ability. Training alongside the indiginous people of the various remote parts of the World, three American and three British individuals take part in events from stick fighting and wrestling to log and canoe racing.

Each of the contestants excel individually in their own niche. The six athletes include Rajko, an all-rounder and former world record holder; Jason, the 2006 Florida State BMX Champion; Richard, who is an Oxford University sportsman (think cricket, rugby and croquet); Brad, a strongman; Mark, a British salsa dancer and kickboxer; and Corey, who is a hiker and endurance athlete.

The first episode which appears on the Discovery channel tonight at 9pm EST, starts in Brazil will determine which of the contestants excels most at the age old combat sport of wrestling.

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Staying Fit While On Business Trips

I recently had to make a 3 day trip down to Sunnyvale California for work. It was a pretty good trip, as far as business goes (although the weather was oddly cooler than here at home in Canada).

Heading out of town for any length of time breaks up the normal routine. Sleeping, eating and exercising are all completely disturbed by meetings, work and jet lag. But with some effort, the potential damage to these three essential pieces of the fitness pie can minimized.

As I’ve mentioned in many previous posts, sleep is very important, not only for staying healthy and keeping your brain active, but for building muscle and weight loss.

Flying outside of your timezone will modify your sleep cycles enough to totally cause a run down. I find that flying East and gaining time is the most difficult. Regardless, catching some Z’s on the plane will help. Especially if you’re flying an all nighter. But there’s nothing worse than trying to sleep on the plane.

Bring on the plane:

  • a neck support
  • some ear plugs
  • a blind fold

as soon as the first meal and movie is finished, plug your ears, support your neck, blind yourself and wrap up in a blanket. This will help get some necessary shut eye.

When you get to your hotel and your first night arrives, try to push yourself through to your normal sleep time. Otherwise, you might find yourself going to bed super early and waking up at 4am.

When it comes to eating while away, restaurants and fast food are unfortunately on the meal plan. But even when faced with double cheeseburgers and heaping piles of mashed potatoes, there are always ways of maintaining a healthy diet.

Always try to keep the Zone mentality in mind when getting a meal. Make sure to balance the protein to carb ratio, 30:40.

If you’re getting breakfast in the hotel restaurant, bacon, eggs and some fresh fruit would be ideal. Hold off on the potatoes and toast. Lunch or dinner requires something quick? Go ahead and burger it up, but skip the fries and toss the top of the bun. If a salad is offered as a side, always go that route instead of something fried.

Dinner portions at restaurants are generally huge (especially when paid for by the company) so know your limit. Just because there’s food on the plate doesn’t mean you need to eat it all. Try to skip out on the alcohol. It may be difficult, but at least stay away from the beer. Beer may taste great but we all know what it means to the bellies.

Working out, on the other hand, may be easier to accomplish during a business trip than while at home. The distractions of family life are not present and most hotels have at least some form of exercise room available.

Check when you arrive to see what time the hotel gym opens at. If you’re flying from New York to Santa Clara, you will probably be up before the sun rises so take advantage of the early morning and charge yourself up with a workout.

Most likely, however, the hotel’s exercise room will contain mostly treadmills and possibly one or two universal machines. You’ll be lucky if there are dumbbells or any other equipment. Make the most of what is available and improvise. Remember that no matter what kind of lack of equipment you’re faced with, you will always have pushups, situps, leg raises, squats and dips.

While away on business, you will be faced with all sorts of obstacles to your normal routine. The key is to try and keep up with your daily activity and manage to eat healthy.

Don’t give up and pretend that you will just continue with your routine when you get back. More likely than not it won’t happen. Once you get distracted from your workout schedule and eating plan, it is really difficult to get back on top of it.

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