Extensions and inversions on a Saturday morning

What: 90 minute Flow
When: Saturday at 10am
Where: Kula Toronto (304 Brunswick Avenue)
Who: Aaron Slade
Kula is a studio I like a lot and go to quite a bit. (I’d like to go more often, but unless I give up sleep, I don’t know how that’s going to happen.) This morning, I tackled an Aaron Slade flow class, because my pal JK has mentioned (on more than one occasion), it was a class that needed to be in my regular yoga rotation.

Now, I understand why.

 

We tried this pose today. I am confident my end result looked nothing like this.

 

This morning, yoga was all about the fundamentals: posture, aligning, muscle engagement, and understanding how this all comes together in each pose. It was a great re-affirmation of what yoga should be about and how your body should move in class.

It wasn’t easy. Thinking about the front of your shins, the backs of your thighs, your wrists, your heel, and balance and twist without falling over is a challenge. But it’s a different kind of challenge than most yoga classes. It really forces you to be in the here and now and think about why you are engaging this way with your body.

Aaron’s class was a learning experience, but it was also playful. We jumped up and down, tried hand-balance poses so far beyond anyone in the class that we were laughing at their mere mention. While the class as a whole wasn’t physically challenging, there were opportunities to push myself — sometimes to success (I held crow my longest ever!), others to disaster (I roll what where? Huh? Wait, falling down isn’t supposed to happen…)

After class, I wasn’t tired. Hell, I wasn’t even sweaty. But that’s okay. I left with a better understanding of my practice, and a greater appreciation for how different teachers offer me different things.

And isn’t that the whole point?

Take this class if: you want to get back to the basics. It will take your practice to the next level, I swear!

 

 

Foodie Friday: Isa Chandra’s Tofu Scramble

 

I love weekends, because weekends almost always mean my runs are followed by brunch. Yay brunch! There’s nothing more satisfying than digging into a delicious, hearty meal after a good workout.

But there’s the problem: there’s not a lot of brunch options I can or want to eat.

I find pancakes and waffles too heavy and sweet.

I don’t eat meat.

I almost never eat dairy or eggs.

I love fruit, but even the biggest bowl of fruit salad is not enough sustenance for BRUNCH. Brunch means business.

Which is why I think Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Vegan Brunch is the greatest cookbook ever written. I am not exaggerating. It is all healthy, vegan and delicious, and there’s a good mix of sweet and savory recipes. (I’m also a huge fan of her dessert books as well, but THOSE kinds of recipes don’t belong on a health and fitness blog! Or do they….?)

My go-to brunch recipe is Isa’s tofu scramble. It’s quick, easy and delicious. And, like Sarah Kramer’s chili, the “more the merrier” attitude towards veggies is highly encouraged!

 

The scrambled tofu is on the right. The salad was almost as delicious.

 


The recipe:

Ingredients:

Spice Blend:

  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp ground tumeric
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp water

Tofu:

  • 1 package extra firm tofu, crumbled
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • black pepper to taste

Veggies:
Whatever you have lying around. I’m a fan of shredded carrots, mushrooms, spinach, peppers, and onion. Broccoli works too.

Instructions:

1) Mix the spice blend together in a small cup. Set aside.

2) In a large pan, saute the garlic for about a minute.

3) Add the crumbled tofu (the pieces should be bite-size) and saute for about 10 minutes. You can add most veggies at this time, except spinach or carrots.

4) When the tofu is browning on one side, add the spice mix and any relevant veggies. Cook for five more minutes.

5) Serve to many compliments! Or don’t invite anyone over and enjoy it all yourself! I wouldn’t blame you.

 

 

Hey Fit Girl: I want to get fit on the Danforth

 

The other day, Two Fit Girls got their first piece of reader email from someone who was not our mom (hi mom!). A pal, who shall remain nameless so you will not get the opportunity to judge her lack of athletic prowess, sent me this note:

Hey fit girl!

Can you make any recommendations for where a totally(really)-unathletic-non-sports-playing girl could join some kind of unintimidating class, maybe spin, to attempt some kind of exercise?

I’ve briefly tried yoga, and was not very excited by it, and a gym membership is a commitment I am not ready for. Are there un-scary spin classes, preferably along the Danforth? I need motivation!

 

 

I’m primarily a runner, so I asked a few other fit girls for some advice, did some internet research and asked a lot of questions. I ended up with these three options for you:

 

1) Spinning at Energia (164 Danforth Avenue)

 

What I like about Energia is that they provide options, but it is based on core, classic fitness. If you’re looking for some cardio, there’s spinning or running. If you want to do some weight training that’s not at all intimidating, there’s kettlebell. And if you’re looking to wind down, there’s yoga. Classes are only 45 minutes, so if you’re finding it to be too much, you can find solace in the fact it will be over soon!

Introductory fees: $10 for your first class

 

2) Rock climbing at The Rock Oasis (388 Carlaw Avenue)

 

You are one lucky lady, because Toronto’s best rock climbing centre is now at your doorstep. Leslieville is a short run away (or walk or bus ride) from the Danforth and rock climbing is the kind of work out that kicks your ass — but you don’t realize it until you are home and you can’t lift your arm. The walls are scaled for level of difficulty, so there’s no need to be concerned about looking like an idiot or your first run being too tough. The Rock Oasis allows you to grow as your skills and interest do. I recommend you rope in a friend and take their intro lesson together. Rock climbing can get pricey for the casual participant, but it’s the perfect outing to shake up your regular fitness routine.

Introductory fees: $35 for the Learn to Climb package

 

3) Hip Hop Yoga or Zumba Bootcamp at EnergyXchange (698 Queen Street East)

 

If you’re concerned about your lack of coordination or athletic prowess shining through, take one of these classes. Everyone looks ridiculous, and that’s the point. It’s about loosening up, enjoying your body and having fun. EnergyXchange has tons of crazy classes, including Joga Blast, Gravity Turbo and Pilates: Hardcore, meaning no two workouts would be the same. These classes will let you let go of any concern about yoga being too zen or dance classes needing too much coordination.

Introductory fees: Their Around the Club 14 Day Pass is $20 for two weeks of unlimited classes.

 

Good luck! If you try any of these out, let me know. We could always use a guest fit girl post. 😉

 

Have a fit girl inquiry of your own? Email erin@twofitgirls.com.

 

 

Om Sweet Om: Detoxing at EnergyXchange

 

What: “Om Sweet Om” Detox Cocoa Sundays
When: Sunday @ 3pm
Where: EnergyXchange (698 Queen Street East)
Who: Shauna Ireland

 

I’ve been skeptical of EnergyXhange, despite being so close to my house, because I hate their website. The sound effects and flash animation drive me bananas. They just feel so over-the-top and unnecessary for a website that’s for a gym.

I finally caved on Sunday. After my epic running weekend, I wanted a class that was gentle and relaxing, and it looked like their 3pm “Detox” class would fit the bill. My initial thought? Detox = restorative. As in, lots of sleeping masquerading as exercise.

 

Soooo pretty!

 

It doesn’t. The class was 75 minutes of gentle, easy flowing. Lots of movement and breathing. It was a tad more intense than the yin and hatha classes I go to. Shauna, the teacher was professional and soothing, but she spent most of the class up front, demonstrating the poses. As someone who does a lot of stuff wrong (Of course I can touch my toes! You want me to put my leg there? Just watch me!), I found this a bit strange. It’s a fine way to lead a class, but it’s not for me. I like my teachers to get a little handsy.

 

Even their hallway is pretty.

 

The best part? Shauna gives you a little head massage at the end. Then feeds you chocolate. Any place that equates health with chocolate wins points with me.

EnergyXchange is stunning and their class schedule is extremely creative. I’m just disappointed I didn’t save my Passport for one of their “Joga” or “Gravity Turbo” classes instead. I can’t wait to look like an idiot during “Hip Hop Yoga.”

 

Take this class if: you’re an experienced yogi looking for something more low-key than your regular practice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spin + Yoga = Spynga

 

What: 60 minute spyngaFlow
When: Tuesday @ 6:15pm
Where: Spyna: the Yoga & Cycling Studio (1415 Bathurst Street)
Who: Joanna Rosenberg

 

What do you get when you combine spinning with a little yoga? You get Spynga of course.

 

This looks crazy, right? This is Spygna.This image is from Spynga's Facebook page.

 

Sypnga?! I know, this was my thought too just over a year ago when I was a Spynga virgin. I first heard about this “Spin-ga” from a colleague at work. She would rave to me about this amazing place that offered classes where you spin and do yoga. Spinning and Yoga… say whaaat?!? Was there even such a thing? Apparently so because not to long after this, I found myself making the treck to Bathurst and St. Clair to give Spynga a whirl. I don’t travel north of Bloor, it just doesn’t happen.

Now there is something you have to understand other than my ignorance of Spinning Yoga, at this point in the fitness regime I never spun in a real spinning class before. Ever. The thought of spinning scared me to death. Back while I was a GBC gym rat I loved the bike. It was a easy cardio workout out that wasn’t running. I liked being in control of my workout and avoiding a room full of hardcore bikers. But, what I didn’t like was my tendency not to crank up the resistance or increase my speed. That was until James came along. James was my video instructor on the new spinning bike George Brown brought to the fitness centre. James and I started dating instantly — yes I named the guy in the videos James. I would select the program and length of time I wanted and James would instruct me on what to do. It was perfect, now I could tell people I was a spinner and I had someone to push me when I wanted to slack off. Sadly, as most college relationships end, this did too — when I began to believe James was calling me by name, I needed to start seeing other people.

And so I agreed to this “Spinning Yoga” and gave Spynga a try. It was love at first sight! Not only was the class a bizarre combination that surprisingly meshed together perfectly, the act of spinning to the voice and command of a real instructor was amazing (sorry James).

So last Tuesday, a year later, I find myself traveling North of Bloor once again for one reason – to take my trusty ‘ol Passport to Prana to the tiny St. Clair studio to spin my little hear out once again, then flush it out with a solid yoga sequence. I felt strong on the bike and heck knowing it’s only 30 minutes till you hit the mat — you might as well go for it! 8 days into my 30 day challenge I was craving a “work out” the kind that yoga can’t satisfy me with. And seeing how there is a yoga component to class, it totally counted. It may also explain why on day 9 I hated my life, but that’s another story.

Our instructor for the 6:15pm 60 minute spygnaFlow was Joanna Rosenberg. And boy, did Joanna gave me the push I was looking for! Finishing the spinning component blaring Kelly Clarkson’s “My Life Would Suck Without You”, which I love for two reasons now 1) because of Glee and 2) it’s a kiss ass song to sprint to. Joanna, my life needed your class.

You can listen to Kelly belt it out below. You know you want to:

 

 

It still surprises how similar these teachings actually are.

 

Take this class if: you’re an experienced yogi looking to throw a curve ball in your practice. The yoga sequence is quick and light, but after a good spin this really tests your balance.

 

 

 

Monday Miles: Marathon Training Week #2

 

 

This week was an exhausting week, but a productive one. Working out this much means I’m tired and achy all the time — but I sleep great! Again, I moved the training plan around to fit my needs (Tuesday’s running-to-yoga plan was so good I might permanently switch Tuesday with Wednesday). Thanks to a bunch of snow Thursday night, my jumping rope and hill training plans didn’t quite work out. But there’s always this week, right?!

 

At the beginning of the week, I didn't even own this fancy contraption. Now, I know how to use it! Impressive, right?

 

Here’s how week 2 of my marathon training broke down:

Monday: 60 minutes Moksha Yoga

A morning workout? Check! A yoga class? Check! Having a yoga-obsessed sister is helpful, they can guilt you into waking up at 6am to stretch in a hot room.

Tuesday: 6.2km in 44:00 minutes; 60 minutes Kula yoga

Tuesday was a workout breakthrough. Running to yoga is my new favourite thing.

Wednesday: 9.4km in 1:11:30

This run was a bit of a slog. After three straight days of yoga, I felt stiff. But I powered through — need to keep those kms up!

Thursday: rest

This was not a planned rest day (Friday was), but after a tough work day and an exhausting run the night before, it made sense to flip Thursday and Friday.

Friday: 6.4km in 45:38

Friday finally brought us WINTER! Snow was everywhere. I went out and bought a pair of YakTrax after reading a positive review on Run with Jess. I totally count that as a workout in itself. Shopping is physically, mentally and financially exhauasting.

Saturday: 12.1k in 1:40:26

Not the fastest pace, but when you add -20 degree weather and an icy and snowy trail to the mix, I’m just proud we finished this one. My pal B. guided me on a loop through High Park, through the Junction and along the rail line. I love how running gets you out into new neighbourhoods — and makes you feel like a badass when passers-by look at you like you’re insane.

Sunday: 7.0k in 54:08; 75 minutes “detox” yoga

On Sunday, I was determined to hit the 40k total for the week — and try out my new pair of YakTrax. I accomplished both, and discovered my second new favorite thing of the week: winter trail running. In the afternoon, I hit up EnergyXchange for the first time on my Passport to Prana for a “detox” class. It was more intense than I was hoping, but let’s face it: I was hoping to lie down for an hour and call it “exercise.” Expect a full review in the next few days.

 

My goals for this week? Simply to keep it up. Last week was a solid fitness effort and if I can keep that up until May, this marathon might not be so hard after all.

 

 

 

 

 

YaxTrax Attack!

Here’s a secret about Toronto: the winters are cold. And snowy. (I know, right? No one has ever told you that before.) This year, we’ve been really lucky, with little snow and mild weather. That changed this week, when temperatures dipped well below zero and Friday brought us our first substantial snowfall .

I don’t mind winter running, but, like many sane people, would like to avoid embarrassment — or worse, injury — by falling on the ice. So I was on the hunt for something that would make winter runs more interesting than out and backs on Queen Street.

Enter the YakTrax.

 

I put these....where?!

 

I discovered these snowshoe-like contraptions after reading a review on Run With Jess. After reading several more positive reviews online and finding out they were relatively cheap ($30 at Mountain Equipment Co-op), I decided to give them a go. I’ve spent $30 on stupider things in my life.

The YakTrax are basically a weird sandal that you slip over your shoe. The stainless steel coils act like spikes, cutting through ice and snow to give you a firm grip. I got a unisex medium (because I have GIANT lady feet) and they fit snugly, but weren’t difficult to get on. (I put them on wrong the first time. I figured that out quickly, thanks for the handy “toe” and “heel” labels!).

 


Success! Now to actually walk with these things...

Success! Now to actually walk with these things...

 

I decided to give them a try on a recovery run through the Don Valley Trail. It was snowy, icy and uneven — the perfect place for a test run.

 

Just like running on a treadmill, right?!

 

How’d they do? They passed with flying colours! I felt sure-footed and confident on ice and on packy snow. They weren’t bad on the parts of the trail that had been salted, either. They weren’t great in loose, powdery snow, but I have no plans to run frequently in that stuff. I just tried it for the sake of trying it today. Running was more difficult, thanks to the extra weight due to the YakTrax and the uneven terrain due to the ice, but not insurmountably so.

It was a challenge. I accepted. I won.

This photo is probably too cocky, isn't it?

I can’t wait to do it again.

 


 

The run:

7.0k @ 54:08
 

The route:

 

What I look for in a yoga class

My first-ever yoga class was during university. My body was stiff and sore from years of playing basketball and spending every moment in the gym or on the track dedicated to being a better basketball player. As the realization set in that I had no idea how to be fit for fit’s sake, I decided to start exploring my options. I wanted something relatively low-key that wouldn’t hurt my basketball training, but would be a nice complement to my practices.

So I took a yoga class. And hated it.

Eight years later, my attitude towards yoga has changed. I still struggle with the spiritual side of the practice and it still functions largely as a counter to my other athletic endeavors, but I am okay with that. It’s the role yoga has in my life. As I get older, that may change. And I’m okay with that too.

What surprises me the most about my practice are the things I’ve come to like in a class. If I had to describe my ideal yoga class eight years ago, it wouldn’t be the same class I would describe today. I used to think that a difficult, demanding class that left me gasping for air was the way to go. My, how that has changed.

 

Source: us.acidcow.com via Julie on Pinterest

 

One day….

 

Here are five things I look for in every yoga class:

1) The teacher’s personality is evident

I *never* thought I’d be this person. The person who chooses classes based on how much the teacher jokes around or embeds a soothing sense of calm into the class. But with so much the same every time in practice, the right teacher can really change the mood: calm it down, amp it up, make it serious, make it funny. The classes that involve a teacher simply leading you through the sequence does nothing for me. I can do that at home on my own mat. But a teacher I look forward to seeing? That tailors their classes around their strengths? That’ll get me to come back again and again and again…

2) The class is playful

Doing the same sequence of poses over and over again can get boring. While consistency is fine, I like a class that encourages you to try new poses, isn’t deeply embedded in spiritual rigidity, and is, in general, a good time. Working out doesn’t always have to be fun, but if I’m paying for it, I’d like it to be as fun as possible.

3) The class has some challenging elements, but isn’t a struggle from start to finish

I may be more laid back when it comes to my practice, but I’m still competitive. Even in the most beginner of classes, I expect the teacher to introduce at least one challenging moment. Being asked to attempt wheel, a backwards roll or crow for the first time is terrifying. But there’s nothing like the first time you pop up in the air or flip yourself over. That’s what yoga is about to me. Taking your abilities and your body to new places. And my classes need to encourage that.

 

Source: self.com via Lisa on Pinterest

 

This I can do. For about 3 seconds.

4) The class is hot, but not too hot

I want to earn my sweat. I’m not the best with temperature changes in general. Plus, any room that’s designed to make me sweat simply by being in it freaks me out. This is why Bikram terrifies me. But a little heat to warm the body up is good.

5) The class isn’t too big

Before, the thought of teacher attention freaked me out. It meant I was doing something wrong. (Blame years of team sports.) I now realize, that the teacher is there to guide you to a better practice. I have the tendency to push myself beyond where my body wants to go. Teachers correct this. They can ground me and bring me back to the present.

I also find that with smaller classes, the above elements come into play more frequently. There’s more freedom to personalize the classes and play within the structure of a flow sequence.

 

That’s it. If I have these things (or even 3 or 4 of these things) I am a happy yogi.

 

What about you? What do you look for in a great yoga class?

 

 

 

 

Foodie Friday: Sarah’s Delicious (Vegan) Chili

My favourite way to prepare food for work is to make a giant batch of something — soup in the winter, salad in the summer — and feast on it for days. My palate gets bored easily when food requires effort (I can eat bagels three times a day for weeks on end, but risotto? Forget it after two meals), so I try to make multiple recipes a week and mix them up. It’s more fresh and more fun that way.

This week’s recipe? Sarah Kramer‘s AMAZING vegan chili! I love Sarah and her three cookbooks — How it All Vegan, The Garden of Vegan, and La Dolce Vegan. They are must haves for every vegan or anyone who wants to try a vegan meal once in a while.

Simple, practical, approachable and fun is Sarah’s style. I like it.

 

There are A LOT of mushrooms in this chili. Good thing I like mushrooms!

 

I make this chili whenever I want to have a hearty go-to meal. It’s especially great right now during marathon training. I always add more beans than Sarah suggests and will add any and every vegetable I have in the fridge. It makes it new every time!

 


The recipe:

 

Ingredients:

    • 1 chopped onion
    • 2 (or 3 or 4) chopped carrots
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 cans kidney beans
    • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
    • 6 oz. tomatoe paste
    • 1 can chickpeas
    • 8-12 mushrooms chopped
    • 1 12 oz. can of corn
    • 2 tbsp chili powder
    • 1 tbsp black pepper
    • 2 tbsp curry paste
    • 2 cups vegetable stock or water
    • Any other veggies you want! (I like peppers!)

 

Instructions:

In a pot, sauté carrots and onions for 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer on medium-low heat for 40-60 minutes. Easy!

 

 

 

Yoga Heaven has expanded, Hallelujah!

Being the yoga junkie I am there is no better deal out there – that I can think of anyway, better than the Passport to Prana. Yoga is an expensive hobby, as most hobbies are. But, if you’re like me and commit to doing yoga at least three times a week (and that’s usually the minimum) classes add up and fast.

 

All these yogis are in heaven. Just like me. (Thanks 889 Yonge for the pic!)

 

So when a friend told me about the Passport I was instantly sold. For those not familiar with it I’m telling you now go treat yourself and buy one. It’ll be the best 30 bucks you can spend. I promise. And now the Passport is good for an entire year (even more reason to get one!). This magical card offers one drop in class/studio/year. I told you it’s amazing. It’s great for yoga newbies, for those who can’t afford to do yoga any other way, or for those still in search of their perfect yoga sanctuary– which is also a great spot you can try on the passport.

Now, I have to take a moment to reflect on my first visit to 889 Yonge. I still often dream about it. My “yin yoga partner in crime” and I made a pack the summer of 2010 to try all the yin classes possible on our passports. It was love at first sight when we walked into 889 – Yoga Heaven dawn its name. I remember the white, glowing walls, the soothing music, and the free lockers and towels were to die for. So when I found out a second Yoga Heaven now exists, I am have shed a tear. This tiny, little studio, quaintly tucked away on the 3rd floor, instantly teleports you out of the Thompson Hotel and off the busy strip of King West. When you’re felt wanting to curl up on a cloud and float away – that’s a serious yoga buzz.

The practice room overlooks the roof top patio, which can make for awesome outdoor summer classes. At least I hope that’s the plan. If not, it needs to be.