Today I was fortunate to be able to present to my fellow trainers, fitness instructors, lifeguards, and fitness coaches at the YWCA Health and Fitness Centre Vancouver on Kettlebell fundamentals.  It was a great day of learning for our annual continuing education conference.

Kettlebells are a great tool to get an efficient, metabolically challenging, functional exercise session done with minimal time, space, and equipment.  I also love training with KB’s for improving grip strength, strengthening posterior chain muscles, strengthening the stability of the core, and working in multiple planes of motion with various exercises.

I thought I would share with you the handouts I provided the participants today.  This information includes details on:

  •  Safety
  • Form and technique
  • Beginner and more advanced exercises
  • How to tell if Kettlebell training is for you


Here is the handout that details general information about the effectiveness of KB training, details on KB hand grips, and various exercises to consider. Here is a handout with some basic level KB exercises you can try including step by step details on form and technique:  KETTLEBELL TRAINING (1)

Here is a handout on safety considerations for specific KB exercises, and for general KB training:  KETTLEBELL SAFETY (2018) (1)

This handouts should give you a good basis on how to start some basic KB exercises with light weights, if you are interested!  Let me know if you have questions.

I also suggest a core and shoulder/posture endurance drill to try as a baseline for if you are ready for KB exercises like a swing:

  • How do we know if a person has a strong enough core for a dynamic motion like KB swing? Neutral spine test on floor with leg lowers.  Lay on your back with one hand under your lower back, put the other hand on your top 2 abs under your ribs.  Exhale forcefully so that your abs engage without crushing your bottom hand.  Your ribs should have drawn down.  If you can hold this breathing pattern with your knees in the air and leg lowering slowly one at a time for 60-90 seconds your core is strong and stable!
  • How do we know if a person has good postural awareness and shoulder stability? Hinged position, holding neutral spine, moving shoulders in T’s X 15, W’s X 15, Y’s X 15, I’s X 15.  If you lose your posture, your back hurt, or your shoulders are tired after 20 seconds you aren’t ready for overhead shoulder stabilizing exercises.


And remember:

  •  Start light
  • Always make eye contact with the bell


Daily routine for “Healthy Knees”. Perfect for runners, cyclists, and hikers!

  • Do you love to run, cycle, or hike, but often get sore knees afterwards?
  • Do you get pain when going up and down stairs in your knees?
  • Is it hard for you to get up and down from the floor because you feel too stiff, or your knees are hurting?
  • Do you find it hard to get into a deep squat position because your hips are too tight?

This is a perfect routine for you to do daily!

Today I bring you the exact stretching and rolling routine I do almost daily to promote healthy knees!  Tight quads and hips are my nemesis, and it means I work on these stretches daily, as well as before and after physical activity to prevent my knees from getting sore or swelling up.

The Routine

To Start:  Start out by giving some of your major muscle groups a nice roll out using yoga-tune-up-therapy-ball-plus-w-toteyour Yoga Tune up Ball.  Yoga Tune up Balls  are by far the one and only ball I recommend for effective self myofascial release.  The balls were designed for this purpose, unlike a tennis or lacrosse ball which were designed for sports!  The yoga balls are the perfect density to create a deep and effective release to the muscles, as well as they grip and move the skin around nicely, promoting further effects that you don’t get with a tennis ball.  If you need to buy a pair I recommend starting with the Therapy Ball Plus set in a tote:  Follow this LINK to order them from my referral site with Yoga Tune up.  The therapy ball plus set is the perfect size to get into both big and small muscle groups.  The alpha ball is the one you will see me using in the videos, as I prefer this one for use on my larger lower body muscle groups.  The smallest size yoga balls are good for release neck, chest, and upper back muscles, as well as feet.

  •  I know the Electra Health Floor on Burrard in Vancouver sells the smallest size, yet this is the only location I know in Vancouver that sells this specific brand.

Next- It’s time to roll 🙂 

To start the stretching and rolling routine, I prefer to start with the fascia release, to get my body ready for a good stretch.

I like to apply a 7/10 pressure onto each muscle, this way I am not at risk of damaging anything, but I know I am applying enough pressure to actually create a change in the fascia tissue.

Quad Rolling:

Video Link: Watch the video, then read the text, then try the rolling.

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When we refer to the ‘quad’ we are talking about the Vastus Laterialis (blue), Rectus Femoris (yellow), Vastus Medialis (red), and the Vastus Intermedius (not shown as it is deep to the other muscles).  quadrices  The various techniques I show in the video are much more effective then simply rolling up and down along the muscle (which is done most traditionally in gyms), and will ensure we loosen up all aspects, and all muscles, of the quadriceps.

Start with:

  1.  Putting the ball up near the top of the Vastus Lateralis (close to the hip, and more towards the outside of the leg) and allowing your full body weight to sink down and over the ball (it’s not moving though).  Try to let all the tension leave your leg.  Take 5 deep breaths here.  Slowly choose about 8-10 different spots along the width and length of the leg to relax and breathe into.  By choosing 8 spots you should hit up the full length of the Rectus Femoris, Vastus Lateralis, and Vastus Medialis.
  2. Next, drag the ball side to side along the quad muscle, and slowly make your way up and down the leg.  The slower you move the better.  Try and stay relaxed (which can be hard when the you can feel the ball travelling across your leg muscles, and sometimes they feel like tight ropes!).
  3. Next, drag the ball up and down the length of the quad muscle.  Start with the outside of the leg (Vastus Lateralis) and slowly go all the way from the hip to the knee.  Do the same for the inside (Rectus Femoris) and the middle (Vastus Medialis).  You will see me propping myself up on my other side on a bent knee, this is taking some of the pressure off the rolling leg.

After about 5-10 minutes on each leg your legs should feel wonderful!

Glute Rolling:

Video Link:  Watch the video, then read the text, then try the rolling exercises.

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  1. gluteuscls Start by rolling the ball around in circles around the Gluteus Maximus  X 10 rolls
  2. Next, spend some time rolling into the side glute muscles (Piriformis and Glute Minimus)- if these are too tight you can do this up against a wall.
    side hip.jpg
  3. Finally, lay on your side and roll side to side over your side hip.  Remember- stay off the bone!  You will be rolling just below your hip bone, and will be hitting the Glute Medius, the top part of your IT band, and as you come into the front you will start to hit your Tensor Fascia Latae.




Calf Rolling

As you can see below, there are MANY muscles the make up the lower leg.  The primary muscles we will aim to target are the Gastrocnemius (middle photo, they have cut off the muscle, but just have shown where the muscle atttaches), as well as the Soleus, which is deep to the Gastroc.  The Gastrocnemius is your main calf muscle that is visible from the back of the leg.  We will also be working on the front of the lower leg, and the main muscle we will be releasing is the Tibialis Anterior.calves.jpg

Video Link:  You might want to watch the video first, then read the text, then come back again to the video and try it yourself

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 10.40.56 AM.png


  1. First ensure that the lower leg you are rolling is placed fully on the floor in a perpendicular position to your body (the knee should not be lifted off), as shown in the video.  The inside of your lower leg is the part of your leg facing up, and the part we will dig into first.
  2. Then begin to draw the ball up and down along the line where your shin bone meets the muscle, you are working on the medial aspect of your Solues here.  You will know you have hit the right spot because you will feel it!
  3. Also spend some time in the ‘meaty’ part of the muscle belly, near the top of the lower leg.  This is part of your gastroc.  You see me doing this in the video after rolling up and down along the shin bone.
  4. Then, Drag the ball all the way down close to the ankle, and spend some time digging around down here, close to the achilles.
  5. Finally- you can come up onto all fours and drag the ball along your Tibialis Anterior and Peroneous muscles, by dragging the ball along the lateral aspect of your shin bone.  I spend a lot of time here in the video, especially up close to the knee as this is a tender spot for me!


Now onto the Stretches!

#1:  This is my number one stretch for getting the major hip flexors & Rectus Femoris on one leg, while stretching out the glutes of the other leg.  I am using my couch to do the stretch today, but I often use the bench at the gym.

quad and glute stretch

Start by setting up with one knee on a soft surface, and bring your other leg up onto the couch.

quad and glute stretch 2

This is what that stretch looks like from the top.

Next, to make the stretch deeper:

#1:  Reach back and grab the ankle of your back leg.

#2:  Gently squeeze your glutes and press them forward towards the couch.


The final stretch is the #1 stretch I recommend, especially for runners!:  

A stretch for the outside hip/IT band/outer hamstring and lateral aspect of the lower leg.

First- watch the video, then read the text, then try it:

Video link:

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 10.45.02 AM.png


  1.  Start with your leg straight up in the air, slight bend in your knee.  Use any strap you have handy to hold your leg up there.
  2. After about 10 deep breaths here start to draw your leg across your body.  It should only move a few inches, and your hip bones should stay evenly weighted on the floor.  10 breaths here.
  3. Next- Drop that leg all the way across your body, trying to keep it as straight as you can, and open your other arm into a torso twist.
  4. This is a major stretch for me, and super effective!


In Conclusion:

  1.  Do these as a warm up and cool down after your running, cycling, and hiking to prevent hip and knee issues.
  2.  Do these daily to work on your hip mobility to prevent knee, and lower back problems.
  3.  Ensure you are breathing and relaxing into each stretch and rolling position.
  4. Most of all- Enjoy!  I hope it all feels great afterwards.




  •  Katherine



Workout: Legs, Core, Triceps, Back, Abs, and Hip symmetry!

Hey Gang,

Wanted to share with you one of my workouts from last week.  The exercises are low impact, but can be very challenging when done properly.  I did each exercise in a Tabata format, which means I did 20 seconds of hard work, followed by 10 seconds rest, and repeated that 8 times for each exercise.  This means I got a good workout in all in under 20 minutes!  I promise, even though it’s short- you will feel a burn!

The purpose of my workout was to really focus on alignment of my spine, as well as engaging my inner thighs in my motions to square and strengthen my hips in alignment.  As someone who has always liked to squat a heavy weight, I had slowly developed some imbalances in strength in my hips.  Heavy squatting is often done with a knee and toe turn out, which works more your outer hips.  Slowly over time my inner thighs started to become quite weak, which was showing up as knee issues during running and hiking.

If you want a whole body, low impact, medium intensity routine to add to your week, give this one a try:

Exercise #1:  Hamstring curls.

These aren’t your typical hamstring curls!  To start, place a yoga block between your knees.  Your job will be to squeeze that block together to activate your inner thighs and abdominals to a greater degree, and stabilize your pelvis during the motion.  Once the inner thighs are active, press the hips up in the air using the glutes.  With the glutes in the air, extend your legs out and then pull them back under your body using your hamstrings (backs of your legs).  Ensure your core is absolutely braced the whole time.

Hamstring Curls Video Link

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Exercise #2:  Lat pull down with leg lowers. 

This one will work your core, as well as your back muscles (lats).  You will need to have a space where you can hook a band up behind your head, to use as resistance for the muscles.  Once you are set up on the mat, like I am in the photo below, you are going to lift your knees up into a 90 degree position.  Then, exhale and strongly engage your core, followed by a straight arm lat pull down combined with dropping one leg to the floor (takes a bit of coordination!).  Some things that often go wrong in this exercise and cause pain:  allowing your ribs to ‘pop’, allowing your core to disengage so that your lower back is doing all the work.  Go really slow with this one, use your breathing and core engagement to make it effective and challenging.

Lat pull Down/Leg Lower Video LinkScreen Shot 2017-06-12 at 11.16.29 AM.png

Exercise #3:  Tricep pull down with ab/inner thigh squeeze.

Here is a great exercise to strengthen the back of your arms, while at the same time working your inner thigh and abs.  Laying on your back, using the same band set up as the exercise above, and bring your knees up to the same 90 degree position.  This time, hold a block between your knees.  Your job is going to be squeezing that block together the whole time (which also nicely activates your core).  Keeping your elbows pinned on the floor, slowly squeeze your arms into a straight position.  Make sure to lock your wrists out!  Keep those abs tight, as always.

Tricep pull down with Abs/inner thighsScreen Shot 2017-06-12 at 11.22.16 AM.png

Exercise #4:  Side Plank with added stability requirement.

Here is a challenging side plank variation (not for beginners).  If you are new to side planks, you can try just holding a side plank from your knees/toes, or moving your top leg with your bottom knee bent.

The reason why I love this exercise:  It requires you to brace strongly with your core (to protect your back, and work core stability), while you breathe and move your leg back and forth (mimicking more of a functional movement exercise).

Give it a try!

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 11.28.04 AM.png

Side Plank with Stability component video

Exercise #5:  One leg Squat

One leg squats are extremely hard, and require a tremendous amount of flexibility, mobility, and strength.  In this example I am strengthening the ‘squarenesss’ of my hips in this position and movement.  I am using a bar as gentle support to help me out of the bottom of my squat, but most of all I am really squeezing against the yoga block with my inner thighs to stabilize my pelvis, and activate my core.  My goal is one day to do a pistol squat!  A beginner friendly version would be to do a one leg glute lift, like I showed on the previous workout blog, which you can find HERE.

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One leg squat Video link

So have fun with it!  Let me know how you do, if you need modifications, and if you find it fun 🙂

And remember- consistency is better than intensity, better to do a small workout every day then just a few intense ones each week.

Today’s Workout: inner thigh, spine, butt, shoulders.

This workout today is all about neglected muscles!  In our ‘typical’ workout programs that we often get trapped in doing in the gym we tend to focus on exercises like squatting, lunging, push up variations, pull down motions, and the like.  These are all great exercises, but it’s also good to have a ton of variety in the movements you perform, that way you avoid creating imbalances in your body!  At the same time, each of our bodies have muscles and movements that we are a bit weaker in.  For me, my inner thighs, my straight arm shoulder strength, and my one leg glute strength are areas I am working on.

I wanted to share my workout with you today for a few reasons;

  •  Give you some ideas to add variety to your gym routine.
  • Explain why these exercises are so great.
  • Get you thinking about all the ways in which we should challenge our body to move, to keep it working optimally!
  • You can get done this workout in less than 25 minutes with rest breaks!

So here it is:

  1.  First step- set your tabata timer (I use a free one from my app store) for 45 seconds of work, 15 seconds rest X 7 rounds.  After you perform all 7 exercises, grab a sip of water and restart your timer to go again.
  2. Set up your BOSU, 2 yoga blocks, 1 light KB, and one pilates ring.  You only have 15 seconds to change exercises, so you want these items close.
  3. Start your timer- and get to work!

Here is your first exercise:

  1.  Inner thigh squeeze and one “lift” of the chest to the ceiling.

For this one- just place the pilates ring between your inner thighs.  Use your inner thighs and abdominals to ‘crush’ the ring a.k.a squeeze your knees together then keep the legs squeezing as you ‘levitate’ your chest up towards the ceiling.  For each squeeze of the thighs you do one lift of the chest.  Note:  This is not a sit up type motion.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 11.43.51 AM

Here is a full video:

2.  Superman Varieties

These versions of your typical superman exercises are much harder then they look!  They require incredible straight arm strength, and inner thigh strength, as well as just like any superman exercise it is a great workout for the muscles down your spine.

What I would suggest is that 45 seconds will be quite a long time to hold this position, especially for a beginner.  In the video below I show you 3 different versions of this exercise.  I would suggest that for each round you do through your circuit do 1 of the varieties I have shown.  If you can’t last 45 seconds, no problem, take small rests and then jump back into it!

For the first version I am squeezing my straight arms against the side of the block, while at the same time I am trying to shrug my shoulders gently away from my ears and lift my chest and arms off the floor.  Second version the block is between my knees and I am squeezing the block as I lift my legs only.  Third version both arms and legs are squeezing and lifting.  Keep your neck in a straight line.

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 11.53.42 AM

Here is the full video:

3.  Straight arm overhead kettlebell carries.

Many of us (including me) are lacking really good shoulder stability strength.  We are so used to working our back arms and shoulders from a bent elbow position, that often we are missing out on what we want to strengthen the most- our shoulder stability, aka the shoulder’s ability to stay in a strong position as our arm perform’s movement.

To work on this you could try one arm overhead kettlebell (or dumbbell carries).  For this- just set the bell up overhead on one side and then try to work your arm nice and straight, while at the same time trying not to lean or let your shoulder work up towards the ear (you can see me working on all of this in the video).

One side for 45 seconds, then switch arms.

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Full video here:

4.  One Leg Glute Lifts

One of the most underused (and in most need of use) muscles on our body is our glutes.  We need strong glutes for back health, for athletic power, for locomotion, and so many more purposes!  I love this one leg glute exercise because it can really help to deal with asymmetries in hip strength.  I like to put my hands on my hips and really feel if I am trying to rotate my hips or hike on hip up too high towards my ear in relation to the other hip.  Try not to push all the way up to the top, I find going about 3/4 of the way up really gets a good burn for the glutes!  Do one side for 45 seconds, then switch!  Make sure you squeeze your butt!

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 12.12.19 PM

Full video here:

And you are done!  After you perform each of the exercises on both sides it should have taken you 7 minutes X 3 rounds= about 25 minutes with a little rest in between each round.

I hope you got some good ideas from the exercises.  Keep finding ways to work on your weaknesses, and add variety to your movement and you will continue to get fitter, healthier and stronger!

Breaking down research- How does lifting weights help weight loss?

On Sunday I attended a full day conference put on by Can Fit Pro.  Each year I always come away with so many new tips, tricks, ideas, motivation, as well as new research to put into action.

One of the sessions I attended was by one of my favourite researchers, Dr. Len Kravitz.  He has a way of making science interesting, fun, and applicable!

Today I chose to share one of the articles he used in his session on THE EFFECT OF STRENGTH TRAINING IN WEIGHT LOSS.

Here is the article information:   Avila et al. (2010). Effect of moderate intensity resistance training during weight loss on body composition and physical performance in overweight adults. Euro J Appl Phys 109, 517-525.  To view the article copy and paste the title into

As Dr. Kravitz broke down the article for us, it became more and more clear that strength training is essential and needed for weight loss.

–>  There were  27 male and female subjects (BMI=32kg/m2 ): 67 yr

~  This tell us that the group was an older population, highlighting the fact that resistance training was important for an older population!

–>  Previously sedentary people were included.

–>  It was a 10-week study of two groups.   One group followed the DASH diet only; the 2nd group followed the dash diet and did resistance training.

–>  The researchers measured weight loss, body composition, and muscle

–>  All subjects were on individualized diet (10% caloric restrict) based on estimated metabolic rate

–>  The weight lifting group did 40  minutes of resistance training on 3 non consecutive days.  Their program consisted of 6 upper and lower body exercises including a warm up set. They did 8-12 reps per set, and 4 rounds of each exercise.

–>  The Results?  The  DASH group lost 2% of their body weight at the end of the 10 week study; the diet only group also lost .2 % body fat and 2.7 % muscle.

–>  The group who followed the DASH diet and did resistance training lost 3.6 % of their body weight, 11.2 % body fat, and gained 1.3 % muscle.

What can we take away from this study?

#1:  People who went on a calorie restricted healthy diet lost 2 % of their body weight in a 10 week study.  We can therefore conclude that if you eat less than you need you will lose weight!  It’s a scientific equation.  (Keep in mind the average age of people was 67, harder to lose weight as you age).  *  Please also note that 2 % is a small number.  With diet changes only a 200 pound person would lose 4 pounds.  Weight loss done in a healthy way is slow and long term.  Stay focussed on the habit changes.

#2:  If you only follow a strict diet to lose weight you will not lose as much weight overall at the end of the diet, you will not lose very much body fat, and you will lose a lot of muscle.

#3:  If you diet and work out with weights 3 times a week for 40 minutes you will lose almost double the amount of weight, 11 % more body fat, and gain some muscle.  Muscle is good for a million different reasons, and you especially want it as you are aging to maintain balance, independence, appearance, and health/vitality. 

There you have it folks, weight training is essential for preventing falls, preventing injury, maintaining functional independence, and maintaining our muscle mass, and now we see that it will double our weight loss, help us to lose fat, and give us some healthy and appealing muscle.  Don’t fight the science.  We know that if you eat less then you need you will lose weight, and we also know that the more you move, and the more strength training you do as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle you will lose more weight and fat.


On a final note- I will be travelling across New Zealand for the next 4 weeks!  Yahoo!  It will be such an awesome adventure and I am very much looking forward to it.  I will most likely send out a few blogs while I am gone, but maybe not 😛  I am mostly looking to really enjoy my time away.  If you want to follow my adventure be sure to add me to twitter, instagram, or facebook.

Fantastic Spine/Lower back Strengthener

Hey All!

Sorry about not bringing you some advice last week, I am currently attending the University of British Columbia and doing my Masters of Rehabilitation Science and last week we had a very large assignment due.  I had less time to blog to you all then normal!

To make up for it, I’ve got a great one for you this week.  A month or two back I attended a personal training meeting where I work, at the YWCA in Vancouver and we were shown this fantastic video to strengthen your body in a neutral spine.  The short video is both an incredible stretch and an incredible subtle workout for all of your muscles that hold us up into proper posture.

I guarantee you are going to do this one and think two things:

  1.  Wow!  That was amazing.
  2. How on earth did those small simple movements feel so hard !?

I love this sequence so much because it really teaches people what a neutral spine is.  90 % of my day is correcting people’s spine positions that have become rounded and tucked under from sitting all day. Take a look at the photos below.  See how in the far left photo my waistband is sitting in a nice horizontal line (representing a neutral balanced pelvis)  In the photos on the right my waist band is tipping forward in the top photo and tipping back in the bottom photo, both of these positions represent non neutral spines and are associated with various muscle and movement dysfunctions.

This video is going to give you a clearer idea of where you are at in terms of building your neutral spine.

Give it a try, and post here to let me know how it goes.

I hope the guys from foundation training don’t mind me sharing their video.  You can find more of their resources here:

Prehabbing & Rehabbing the Knee

I have a soft spot for knees, because for the past 10 years I’ve been struggling to get my right knee in the game!  Every time I really get into running it starts to give me a lot of trouble.  My knee injury stems from the fact that my feet and calves are weak and dysfunctional, as well as some of the small muscles in my hip are weak.  Having knee problems is super common, and most of the time (unless you were tackled in a football game) the problem stems from chronic misuse of your movement and body.

Today’s video series are 4 examples of great exercises for the hips, butt, and core that will help to strengthen muscles that are very weak for people, especially people who have a nagging aching pain in the knees.

Remember, not all exercises are good for everyone, and these exercises might not target your specific knee issue.  Also remember that for everyone it is good to strengthen the hips, butt and core muscles, so knee injury or not- give them a try!


Introduction video:

Side stepping for hip strength:

Bridge kick outs for hip/core strength :

Glute kick backs for hip/core strength:

Glute lifts for glute strength :

Let me know how they go!