— Feature —

Fitness in the core: Coming out of hibernation

Avid exerciser or queen of the couch potatoes – spring is an opportunity to reach for new fitness goals, improve eating habits, and round out your overall physical and mental health.

Health is more than just being at a good weight and exercising regularly. Overall health means addressing mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Spring is the ideal time to make a fresh start and approach your health from a holistic point of view. Now that the harshness of Edmonton’s demonic winter is nearly past us (it is almost over, right? RIGHT?!), Edmontonians no longer have the same excuses we drag out every winter to avoid exercising, eating well, and getting enough fresh air and sunshine. Here’s how to improve your overall health this spring.

Find Your Exercise Groove

Sure, there are winter warriors who thrive by doing winter sports and actually look forward to the first snow. For those cold weather fitness fanatics, spring is the time to up your game and challenge your body with new and interesting workouts. Maybe you excel at running outside no matter how low the mercury drops, or perhaps you’ve learned to embrace the treadmill when it’s simply too cold out to function.

Kick it up a notch by cycling to work, or training for a marathon. Give Pilates or Spinning a try to challenge different muscles in your body. The point is to set new goals, and challenge yourself. Integration Pilates Studio (10565 114 Street) starts their spring session of courses in April.

It could be your first attempt at establishing a regular workout routine (or maybe it’s the eighth time – no judgement!). Spring represents an opportunity – you can leave the house again! – and a challenge. There will be nice days and there will be crappy days where you still feel housebound. Don’t let the weather be the barrier that stops you from getting your sweat on. Ideally, you’ll develop a routine that is flexible enough that it incorporates both indoor and outdoor activities. If your building has a gym – even a tiny one – use it! You’re already paying for it, and you don’t have to drive or go outside to get there. It’s literally the most low- maintenance workout you can do, except maybe some gentle stretching in your apartment.

If you don’t have access to a gym, sign up for classes at a studio. YEG Cycle offers daily 50-minute Spin classes taught by their team of “Motivators.” Orange Theory has multiple locations in the city and offers a workout that’s different every time, making it ideal for those who get bored easily. If you find yourself skipping workouts regularly, paying for a class or personal trainer in advance and scheduling those workouts can incentivize you to go even when you’d rather enjoy a Netflix marathon.

For social butterflies who like fresh air, try Coffee Outside, Edmonton’s outdoor coffee club. They meet every Friday between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. at Ezio Faraone Park, regardless of the weather (within reason – they’ve moved their meetings indoors occasionally when the temperature gets too close to minus 30. They’re not monsters). “We’ve been not just a community of cyclists but also people who enjoy each other’s company,” Dr. Darren Markland, the organizer of the weekly meet-up, says of the unique club. Follow @coffee_outside on Twitter for updates.

The City of Edmonton recently rolled out a new campaign called Live Active, meant to encourage citizens to learn about and use the city’s recreational facilities and numerous parks in all seasons. The new initiative launched Feb. 2 at Rundle Park, drawing hundreds of snowshoers, skaters, marshmallow roasters, and sledders. The City also created a list of 97 ways for people to be active year- round, and encourages participants to share on Twitter with the hashtag #LiveActiveYEG.

Quick Tip: Find an exercise mate. Hold each other accountable. Or post your fitness goals on your social media accounts and rely on community encouragement, or the opposite, to keep you motivated!

Stretching: Worth the time?

What the expert says: “There’s no real compelling research to show any benefit or detriment to stretching, regardless of before, after or at all in terms of health or performance. Some of the best ways to warm up prior to a workout would include doing big joint ranges of motion through compound movements such as lunges, long deep squats, push ups, and other types of active mobility that can have the benefits of moving the muscles, but also increasing the blood flow into them and make them contract to produce force for the more challenging exercises to come in the main workouts.” – Dean Somerset, CSCS, CEP, MES, Exercise Physiologist and Personal Trainer at Evolve Strength Downtown.

You Are What You Eat

Winter means we often don’t pay much attention to healthy foods. The pervasive cold doesn’t exactly spark a craving for greens, and finding fresh fruit at a decent price can be Mission Impossible. And the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas usually equals parties, drinking, deep-fried appetizers as well as sugary treats Mom only makes for the holidays.

But spring – oh, spring! Spring offers a rebirth of better eating habits. But remember, what works for someone else might not work for you. And, let’s be honest – the easier something is, the more likely we all are to do it. If, like many people, you find yourself struggling to put in the work required for healthy eating, you do have options. Like to cook but don’t have time to shop or prep? Or maybe you’re just bored with all of your usual meal staples. Sign up for a meal plan service, which takes most of the work out of eating well. MealPro is an Edmonton- based meal delivery company that allows you to customize your menu. These vacuum-sealed meals take the guesswork out of portion sizes and calorie counting. Easy As Pie is another company that delivers ready-made meals in Edmonton.

If you want to do the cooking yourself but find yourself short on time for shopping (or maybe your fruit and veggie supply keeps spoiling before you can eat them), try The Organic Box, an Edmonton owned and operated company that works with local producers to deliver boxes of fresh goodies. And, their catalogue lists where each item comes from, so you can make conscious decisions as a consumer. Another time-saving method is ordering your groceries online and having them delivered or picking them up at the store. Save-On Foods, Real Canadian Superstore, Loblaws, Spud.ca, and EdmontonGrocer.com all offer online shopping. If you prefer to pick out your potatoes and peaches in person, shop at Edmonton’s Downtown Farmers’ Market, now indoors year- round, for the freshest available fruits, vegetables, and locally-sourced goodies.

Quick Tip: Need some nutritional guidance? Book an appointment with a nutritionist or ask your doctor to refer you to your Primary Care Network. The Edmonton Oliver PCN provides free, personal nutrition counselling, plus group classes for those who could use some extra support for their weight management. (11910 111 Avenue)

April is the Cruelest Month

Our own mental health is often the first thing we throw under the bus when we get busy, or life gets stressful. But it’s an important piece of the overall health puzzle. Now, don’t automatically assume that once winter starts to crawl back into the hell-hole from whence it came, that your mood will automatically lighten. Poet T.S. Elliot once called April “the cruelest month,” because the blooming flowers and lighter days can provide a stark contrast to your actual mood.

There are various ways to keep your mental and spiritual health game on point. Just like physical fitness and healthy eating, the path towards success relies on you finding what works for you. For some, self-care means face masks and bubble baths. For others, it’s taking time for hobbies, like reading, making art, or baking. If you find yourself struggling with anxiety, depression, or simply want to talk to someone about how you feel, counselling is an option, no matter your income bracket. Edmonton Oliver Primary Care Networks offers mental health courses and workshops if you feel comfortable in a group setting. Edmonton’s Momentum Walk-in Clinic provides solution-focused counselling on a sliding-fee scale – plus, you can see someone without a long wait period. The Boyle-McCauley Health Centre has two registered provisional Psychologists on their psychological team, which provides “therapeutic support for individuals and families with multiple systemic barriers to accessing mental health services,” according to their website.

Chances are, you’ve already heard of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which focuses on changing thinking patterns. But do you know about Dialectical Behavourial Therapy? It’s a type of therapy that focuses on problem- solving and acceptance-based strategies. Redtree Psychology, located in Grandin, offers both CBT and DBT, along with many other types of therapy.

Quick Tip: Ninety minutes in a sensory deprivation tank can make a world of difference to your stress levels. You are literally forced to unplug. It’s also a good way to relax tight muscles and improve sleep. Try Modern Gravity Float Studio (10945 120 Street).

Does where you live have an impact on your overall health?

What the expert says: “We are unlikely to be successful in our quest to be healthy and fit individually if we go it alone in an unsupportive environment. We need to make collective efforts as a society to make our community environments healthier and supportive of our individual health efforts. For example, can we walk, bike and take transit regularly to get to places? Is healthy food nearby, available and affordable? Are we surrounded by less unhealthy food? Can we be less sedentary in our buildings because the stairs are available, easy to find, safe and pleasant to use? Do we have office furniture like standing desks that helps us be less sedentary throughout the day? Do our restaurants give us information like calories on menus so we can make healthier food choices since many people now eat out often?

Besides intentions to change our individual behaviours, citizens need to let our decision-makers and policy makers know they want – and expect – healthier amenities in their neighbourhoods; they need to let developers know they want healthier buildings and residential developments when they are looking for places to buy or rent; they need to let the restaurants and stores they spend money at know they want healthier food options. There are things that can be done to make our daycares and schools healthier for our kids. But these things won’t happen unless we know what’s worked in other places and then make it known that we want and expect these things too in our own communities.” – Dr. Karen Lee, MD MHSc FRCPC, Associate Professor, Division of Preventive Medicine, Dept of Medicine, University of Alberta, and author of Fit Cities. www.drkarenlee.com