February 10, 2017

We already know that sprinting is a time-efficient way to improve cardiorespiratory fitness.

We know that because most studies on sprinting are are done in a lab with equipment. A new study at McMaster University in Hamilton investigated whether brief, intense, stair-climbing would be just as efficient. (Note that intense means either taking the stairs quickly or two-at-a-time and pumping with your arms.)

The study, published in the ACSM’s Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, studied 31 previously sedentary women. After three rounds of continuously ascending stairs for 20 seconds, the women’s heart rates were similar to that after performing 20-second cycling sprints.

The takeaway?

As annoying as it may be, doctors are fitness professionals are still going to tell you to take the stairs. Now we know that those 20-second bouts of intense stair-climbing throughout your day will have the same effect as actually sprinting on a spin bike.

February 9, 2017

Andrea is well-known in her community, and a role model to the hundreds of clients within her studio’s circle. She was one of the first women to teach me that ‘keepin’ it real’ is the best way to be an example as a fitness professional. I hope you will agree, both her commitment to her self-care and wellness, and her honesty about the struggle, are inspiring.

Andrea Ferguson, Life Designs Fitness Studio

Andrea Ferguson

Children: two, ages 12 and 8

Marital Status: Married

Occupation: Life Coach, nutritionist, Personal Trainer and Owner of Life Designs Fitness Studio

What are some healthy habits of which you are proud?


“Most recently, I am trying to come from a place of balance and mindful restoration,” Andrea says. She says the first step was recognizing the value of mindfulness and spirituality in her life. “Recognizing how when I don’t have it, I get headache, and tension. I don’t manage stress well unless I have it.”


“I fit in exercise, but I’m not exercising as much right now. I’m really enjoying having more mindful restoration,” Andrea says. She has “given herself permission” to be less physically active – a big step for a fitness professional! “I have had to almost do a transition and lean into that, but I would like to add a little bit more activity now.”


“I eat well. I eat mindfully and enjoy everything in moderation. I am not super strict. I have days where I am not strict at all and let it all go out the window and I am totally OK with that,” Andrea says. In fact, she says that is actually the habit of which she is most proud. “What I do or don’t do with my fitness or my food is not a reflection of my value as a human being.”

Andrea Ferguson and her family

What do your kids think of those habits?

“My kids think I’m healthy,” Andrea laughs. “They are hilarious when they describe me: ‘What is mom’s favourite food?’ ‘Vegetables.’ They know that I’m conscious about it, but I frickin’ love cupcakes. They know that about me and see that I’m about balance, too.

“They bug me a little bit about my mindset stuff. They joke about the stuff I share about spirituality because that’s new for me but I’m O.K. with that.”

Do you have a habit of which you are not proud?

1. “Coffee and Sugar  would be my go-tos if I was stressed. I really love coffee. I could easily drink it more than I should. I will crave those things. I have times in my life when I am eating too much sugar.

2. “The busier I get through stages of life, sometimes the structure of my meals goes out the window and I will eat out too much.”

What does your workout schedule look like?

Personal training sessions twice a week for 60 minutes each – Andrea’s trainer, Teresa Bayne, incorporates both cardio and strength through a full-body workout. “Sometimes I will participate in my own fitness class that I teach, depending on how I feel,” Andrea says. She admits that fitness is her weak point right now, but she is totally O.K. with it: “It was my strength for many years…I am shifting the angle of why I am doing it,” Andrea says. “You always have to connect to the reason why you are doing it…I am like everybody else. I can get disconnected from my ‘why.’ My ‘why’ has to come intrinsically, it can’t be external pressure or reasons.”

Yin Yoga class every Saturday morning for 75 minutes


“I try to meditate, even if it’s for five minutes, most days of the week and then usually one day on the weekend,” Andrea says. “For at least a couple of hours, I will read and practice mindset stuff. If I’ve got stuff that’s not working, I recognize that how I perceive it and how I view it will determine how I move through it. I often have a book that I have on the go that will be relevant with what is going on in my life at that point in time.”

How do you ensure that all of that stuff happens?

Andrea says she has to schedule her workouts and “have people who hold me accountable.”

“That’s why I do personal training – it helps me stay accountable,” she says. “There are a lot of things competing for my energy and time so the schedule is critical to making it happen. And I meditate because I love it. I take such comfort in meditation. If I’m able, I get the kids off to school, come home and have 5-20 minutes where I try to meditate once everybody’s out of the house. It might be before bed if I’ve got a moment.”

How do you make time?

“I have made it a top priority. I have to say ‘no’ to some things. I used to over-schedule myself and say ‘yes’ to everything. I really value having nothing to do on the weekend, almost to the point where I don’t want to do anything on the weekends. Some days I spend the entire day in my pyjamas and I don’t feel guilty about it!”

Do you have a support system?

Andrea Ferguson and her kids

Andrea says she has a “really good partnership” with her husband, Cory. “But we had to work on that. It didn’t just happen,” she says. “There have been times of resentment and things not being balanced and things feeling crazy and chaotic. One day I just asked him to play to our strengths. My husband is amazing with routine and structure and time management, which is great for the kids’ stuff. I have different strengths, so we have a very atypical relationship. He does all the cooking and laundry right now. He’s happy and content doing all that stuff, whereas I am in the main provider role right now. We both need to be on the same page with that. When he’s working more, we reverse and don’t worry about what society’s expectations would be or what I should or shouldn’t be doing. I have been caught in that before.” She says she has judged herself “for not excelling at some of the things that I perceive a ‘good mom’ would do. I used to try to do it all. I loved having a career and a business. At one point in time, I thought that meant I had to do it all. That led me to be freakin’ exhausted, saying ‘yes’ to everything and saying ‘no’ to nothing.”

Is there anyone in your life who is not supportive of your health goals?

“That battle is with myself. It’s always the battle of my own expectations – the balance between good mom, good business owner, good partner, and then trying to fit in Me.”

Top 6 Healthy Habits in Order of Priority:

  1. Mindfulness/Spiritual Practice (Without it, the rest of it is harder to manage.)
  2. Relationships
  3. Sleep
  4. Nutrition
  5. Fitness
  6. Body Care (chiropractor and osteopath)

Do you ever feel judged for making any of those things a priority?

“I really set up a support network and have people in my life who believe in me and support me, so I don’t feel judged. I am more likely to judge myself.”

In what area of your life do you struggle or feel like you sometimes drop the ball?

“When I am feeling overwhelmed or stressed, the value comes down to the mindful restoration piece, so I will prioritize that over the fitness piece. It’s always a fine balance between what is truly right for me.  Sometimes I drop the ball on the fitness piece, but that hasn’t always been the case. When there is a load of pressure, I often slip into wanting to get the tasks off my plate so I can easily slip into work and let go of the fitness and nutrition. But I know that if I make fitness a priority, I can manage all the tasks better, so I try to manage the number of tasks that I have. But sometimes you can’t.: Sometimes it’s January in the fitness industry.”

February 2, 2017

Andrea MacDonald

Age: 43

Children: 2, ages 8 and 9

Marital Status: Married

Occupation: Family Law Paralegal

Greatest Health-Related Accomplishment:

Changing my diet to include raw fruits and veggies every day and sticking to it!

Greatest fitness-related accomplishment:

Completing Mudderella. I had a narrowing in my throat, so it was very challenging, but I did it! I have since had throat surgery so I can breathe better and want to do a tougher race.

What are some healthy habits you are proud of having?

“I do not schedule events or activities at the same time as my favourite exercise classes unless absolutely necessary!”

I make well-rounded, healthy meals for my family, and if I’m too busy to make a healthy dinner due to activities, work etc., I make every effort to make dinner the day before or make freezer meals to thaw and serve with fresh vegetables.

I also take at least 15-30 minutes every day to sit down and have a cup of tea and read. This usually takes place after the kids are in bed, but sometimes when they’re doing homework or other activities.

What do your kids think of those habits?

There are times when I need to bring the boys to the fitness studio with me for a class because of my husband’s work schedule – they rarely complain. It’s an open dialogue about supporting each other to stay healthy and fit.  They play sports and have Fitness Friday at school and I have the studio and outside activities with them.

I have one son who is a picky eater, and another son who is an adventurous eater. They have started making comments to me about foods they notice other kids at school eating that are processed foods, so they are understanding more about nutrition as they get older.

My youngest has started coming to sit and read when he sees me doing it. He told me he saw me snuggled in a blanket by the fireplace reading a book and he thought that looked like a great idea!

Do you have a habit of which you are not proud?

It is a constant struggle to curb my love of sugar! I love pastries, chocolate and lattes. Sweets are my vice, but I have learned not to deny myself 100 per cent, because then I binge. I let myself have treats. I don’t go crazy with quantity and can easily be satisfied with a small treat.

What does your workout schedule look like?

Andrea working out in the dark, early hours, with her workout buddy, Sharon.

I exercise at Life Designs Fitness Studio for Women. I workout Mondays for one hour in a DualFit session with our trainer, Lynn, and a partner. I also do a Coredio class every Saturday for 45 minutes. In between those two classes I fit in two more classes at times that my children’s activities schedule permits. Generally Wednesday mornings and one evening for 45 minutes each. I find 6 a.m. classes the most convenient and usually go straight to work from a class (Hello, dry shampoo!).  I’m always happy I went, as I feel invigorated after exercising!

DualFit is a favourite because it is very challenging working with a personal trainer. Corediofit is also a favourite because it works my core and involves cardio. I have an issue with my hip and having a strong core has alleviated those issues greatly.

How do you make it happen?

I make the boys’ lunches the night before my 6 a.m. class so I do not have to do anything the morning of the class. I have everything ready: my workout wear, my work clothes for the next day, my water bottle right on the counter and my purse packed and ready to go. It’s very streamlined, so I can get up, get dressed and get out the door. For evening classes, I make supper the night before. After work the day of a workout, I just have to cook a vegetable and then pack it all into Tupperware containers for the boys to eat when I’m at the studio, or sometimes we have time to eat before we go, but I have to have everything ready to simply re-heat.

Every Sunday, I spend two to four hours prepping meals. I make three-days-worth of oats for myself and pack them with little baggies of nuts and dried fruit so I can heat it up after my workout. I also cut up fruits and veggies for the boys’ lunches so they just need to be put into individual containers. I make a meal plan and shop for it and prepare as much as I can in advance so that we do not sacrifice eating well.

How do you make time?

I plan around class times. 6 a.m. classes are the easiest as they do not interfere with the boys’ schedules or my husband’s schedule. I’m at work or back home before anyone is awake!

“I never plan anything for the times when my two favourite classes are taking place.”

I just don’t feel good, physically or mentally when I miss my favourite classes.

Andrea MacDonald and her family

Top 6 Healthy Habits in Order of Priority:

1. Relationships

2. Sleep

3. Fitness

4. Nutrition

5. Me-Time: This includes time in nature; walks, hiking, etc.

6. Chiropractics & Massage Therapy

Do you ever feel judged for making any of those things a priority?

I would say the only time I felt judged was when I told some friends I was going to a women’s retreat. They were very shocked that I would spend the money on myself.

In what area of your life do you struggle or feel like you sometimes drop the ball?

I struggle with sleep. It can be the only quiet time in my life, so I can sometimes stay awake too late and then I am tired the next day.

I also drop the ball on my own nutrition from time to time (see comments re: sugar).  I don’t always make myself as great a lunch as I make my children and that can lead to eating on the run, which is almost always unhealthy and not good on the budget.

Is there anyone in your life who is not supportive of your health goals?

I wouldn’t say anyone is unsupportive, but sometimes I get the feeling that people don’t always understand when I say I can’t make it somewhere at a certain time because of my exercise schedule.

Andrea and Kerry MacDonald

Do you have a support system?

My husband is very supportive of my health goals. He supports my schedule as much as his schedule allows, and encourages me to go to women’s retreats and events, as he understands this is much needed me-time.

“Saturdays until 12 p.m. are me-time.”

I do Corediofit 8:15-9 a.m. and then have a break (I usually go for a latte and read my book) and then I have Yin yoga 10:30-11:45 a.m. My husband is completely supportive of this and takes care of the boys and whatever else needs to be done during that time. My boys are supportive as well as they understand the importance of fitness. They come to the studio when they have to come with me and they don’t complain at all. My youngest sometimes joins in (on the sidelines). My trainers are also extremely supportive!