How to Exercise in the Morning (And Like It)

Every so often, it will be 4:30 am on a Friday morning and I will be sitting in my car in the driveway debating on whether or not my spin class will miss me if I don’t show up.

Actually, it is most Friday mornings.

Because I fit training and fitness instruction around a full time job, I am often given the times that no other sane human would decide to be up, in exercise clothing and sans coffee. Somehow, life has thrown a schedule to me where sleeping in is 5:45 am on a week day and 6:30 am on a weekend. [My mother likes to cheerfully remind me that I will adapt perfectly to having an infant someday.]

kanye-smh-noI haven’t always loved mornings. And some days I still don’t. But I have found some clever little tricks to fool my body into thinking it is thrilled to be up in morning darkness until I get a surge of endorphins to carry me through the rest of the day.

1. Try to get to bed at a decent hour.


2. When that inevitably fails, make sure everything is 100% ready to go for the next morning before you go to bed. I have been known to sleep in my sports bra and padded shorts so I can literally roll out of bed, grab my clip ons and drive to the gym. If I am running a trail or two, I have the shoes by my bed and my garmin laid out so I can hit the road 5 minutes after waking if I want.

3. Invest in a coffee maker with a timer so you can wake up to the smell of fresh coffee. Coffee is one of the best legal ways to dope in sports and I take full advantage.

4. Have someone or something that holds you accountable.What keeps me going when I just want to stay at home and conveniently “forget” that I was supposed to be teaching a 6 am class is something that happened this winter:

It was weather like this:


Except add snow and ice, so not really like this but just as wretched

Roads and schools were closed. I had been in a car accident 2 weeks earlier and totalled my car. I inched to the gym, passing vehicles going 30 km an hour and arrived half way through the time my class should have started. I taught what I could and afterwards, a woman in the back came up to me and said, “I was awake listening to the storm last night and was wondering if I should come this morning or not. But then I remembered it was you teaching and I KNEW you would be there.”

So now I am plagued with the paranoia that they think a lot higher of me than they should considering I think about bailing on them almost every Friday.

But having a friend meet you (if you can find one as crazy as you are) or having a group waiting to be instructed is a safety net to make sure it HAPPENS.

5. Bribe yourself. Before you write me off, it is a sad reality that I can be convinced to get out of bed before a rooster just because there is Starbucks waiting for me at the end of my workout. Some call that a problem, I call it success.

But seriously. The real question is WHY should you exercise that early in the morning? Well, if you aren’t a morning person and have tons of time – don’t.


I am speaking to the many people who are here who I know are busy and if you are following a training plan for a marathon or have some goals you want to tackle head on, sometimes a morning workout is the best time of day as there is rarely a soul to bother you and it is amazingly quiet. (I sound quite introverted for an extrovert). But it is the one time of the day I claim as MINE. I don’t need to worry about answering my phone or email because everyone else is asleep.

Another benefit is you are up, moving, full of endorphins and then your workout is over for the day. Life can happen. You are more likely to be consistent with it if you have a routine going where no one can bother you.

A final word: Big breakfasts. Because you can.

If none of this has made any difference, watch this and feel epic about morning workouts.


Have a fabulous weekend. May it be full of endorphins.


The Return of the Coppi

kbell-setIt all started in 2011.

DSCN1109Jesse had come to visit me in England and we wanted to do something epic. So we bought some road bikes for a day and adventures ensured. 

Needless to say, when I returned, I bought a vintage Coppi which is an Italian bike with a European brake system. Love at first sight. I was hooked.

Ready to GO!

And I am still talking about the bike…

This past week, I finally invested in something that will be a game changer for my cycling.


Cycling shoes and clip on pedals for my bike.

If you follow me on Instagram, you saw I posted this yesterday:

Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 4.46.57 PMI took my bike to Ziggys in Kitchener and was beyond impressed with the service. I have tried a number of cycling shops in the region and this was by far the best experience I have had.

One of the employees set me up to check the alignment of my pedals and shoes and double checked that I was cycling with proper form and not incorrectly putting pressure on my soft tissue.

I have taken this bike to many places and I know it is a treasure. Most of them cast it aside because it is vintage, but the salesman asked me where I found a Coppi. I told him and he said that if it was the correct size, he would be offering to buy it. This bike is a gem and I am so excited to spend another season bombing around the back country roads in Perth County!

At my office, we are doing challenges for Earth Day and writing a blog post on them for our website. I have chosen the challenge of biking to work from home which is about 40 km one way. I will be sure to let you know how that one goes!

Speaking of which, this is my latest piece on my Green Athlete column for the Journal. Feel free to weigh in!

Have any of you bikers taken your bikes for a tune up now that the weather is (finally) nice?


The massage therapist who didn’t give a massage

One thing I am finding out about myself as I grow into my adult life is that I don’t trust my decisions enough.

I am still learning everything there is to know about me as an adult. I knew me pretty well as a teenager, but there is nothing like belly flopping into the real world to realize that you have some reconfiguring to do.

So as I continually reconfigure, I am learning to trust my gut on certain things. I generally am right and one of the beautiful things about being an early 20’s human being is that people generally expect you to be a bull in a the china shop of life and seem to give you a “get out of jail free” pass. The only question becomes where that invisible line is that demands that pass stop, but I do not want to over think it; it would be another post anyways.

All this to say, I trusted my gut today and it was awesome.

kbell-setI booked a massage for a great deal online and didn’t read it carefully and promptly forgot. I received a reminder email about my purchase and quickly booked as it expired next week.

In between shifts at work today, I drove 30 minutes only to arrive at an industrial area with no massage area in site. I called the company and was told that I was right by the location.

I located the place and walked in with the full intention of walking out hating everything except how yummy my IT bands felt after being stripped of tension and whatever else jams up my legs and causes me pain in racing season.

It even continued when I opened the door and saw a beautiful women in a Crossfitesque gym.
“How …trendy.” I thought.

It all changed when she started going over my training, my past injuries, and my racing season. She moved at my pace of appointment style: break neck speed. She knows all my past coaches and physiotherapists and she wasted no time in getting me on the table and began explaining all my injuries and stress points.

“I am a sports therapist first and a massage therapist second.” she said.

She took me on the floor and analyzed my gait, my squats and my running strides.

She then did one of the most surprising things of my massage appointment: she didn’t give me a massage. She gave me fascial stretch therapy.

What is Fascial Stretch Therapy? (source)

FST is a form of assisted stretching during which one person takes another through various stretch positions. But FST has some unique characteristics that distinguish it from other types of assisted stretching.

It is guided by ten principles:

1. Synchronize your breathing with your movement.
2. Tune your nervous system to current conditions.
3. Follow a logical anatomical order.
4. Make gains in your range of motion without pain.
5. Stretch the fascia not just the muscle.
6. Use multiple planes of movement.
7. Target the entire joint.
8. Use traction for maximal lengthening.
9. Facilitate body reflexes for optimal results.
10. Adjust your stretching to your present goals.
FST uses traction and a multi-planar stretching technique to increase a joint’s full range of motion and works in a deep to superficial muscles direction. Typical stretching does not follow this approach.

It is also very participant oriented. The participant needs to contract and relax a muscle as the therapist moves it through stretch positions. This uses the participant’s nervous to help improve the muscle response by manipulating the muscle stretch reflex.

FST follows a logical anatomical progression to work through the entire chain of muscles.

It looked something like this:

One important thing is that you must be comfortable with getting up close and personal with this type of treatment. The therapist uses their body weight to guide you through the stretches.

It was AWESOME. I immediately felt mobility return to some of my joints. My problem areas are my ankles (particularly my left side), my right IT band and my left shoulder.

The cutest thing in the world is that her and her husband own the company and they work together to get clients healthy together. They had a professional Ironman competitor who had completely mangled biomechanics and they had him riding with ease within three sessions.

I have begun a program to help prep me for my race season. Which is fabulous considering she told me that no one should be as tight as I am in off season and if I didn’t have muscle, I would be falling apart.


But I am going to be continuing with the fascial stretch therapy, having a true stride analysis done (they will be videoing me after 15 minutes of running and after 100 minutes of running and using that to correct my stride.) I am also working with the trainer to help condition me so I have corrected the things that are problem spots in my biomechanics.

You may be asking why? And that is an EXCELLENT question. I am NOT a professional athlete under any circumstances. I am at best a front of the middle pack runner. But the fact is, I want to be an (almost not mediocre) runner for the rest of my life. Which means I need to put in some of the preventative time now.

Also. My livelihood depends on me being able to move well and without injury or pain.

You may be asking who and where? I have some athlete readers and if you are local, check out KMTS Athletic. In particular, Karla McConnell.

All that to say. I have signed up for Tough Mudder in May.

Beyond excited.

And if you follow me on Instagram, you saw I started my long weekend with a wee bit of Hip Hop Pop Cardio at work.

Screen Shot 2013-03-29 at 12.30.01 AM

It was a sight to behold because not only am I a white girl, but I also am 100% Mennonite.


How did you kick start your Easter weekend?


Full of surprises and hurt


My fitness classes are important to me.

They should be fun. Full of surprises. And hurt. [Just a little.]

I spend a lot of time making sure that I have fresh content like Oil Riggers in Pilates, a new kettle bell sequence in my boot camp or add a bender ball to my glider class. But no other class gets more deep and devoted attention and care than my spin class. Why? Because I can play so many different types of music. Every week, my spin attendees throw out guesses as to what the theme is that week. (Yes, each class is themed.)

This week caused a bit of confusion.


Every Monday night is my theme unveiling night. This week, I was met with a quizzical look from a woman in the back. “Why do you have that thing on your head?”

Lady. Please. You have been to most of my classes. A better question is why WOULDN’T I have this thing on my head?

I kindly just replied: “Because. It is almost St Patricks Day.”

“No it’s not!” A member of the Waterloo Cycling Club piped up. “It is next week.”


Pretty sure it is Sunday, folks. But I left them with the promise that I would do the same class next week. I have never done a class repeat. It makes me a bit twitchy to be honest.

Regardless. I am your St Patty’s Pre-Party!


Best climbing song on this list goes to U2:

And most emotional song goes to Enya:

Why am I getting all emotional to Enya? Because I am leaving one of my jobs to take a management position in advertising and marketing with another company. Life is all about change, but I suck at it.


What is your favourite pump up song?


Fitness Friday: Going Against the Grain

I think about you.

I really do.

In my head, you are a much more demanding audience then you are in real life and I spend my driving time thinking of what I am going to say next, especially on weeks like this one when I am feeling uninspired.

Most weeks, I have it all planned out. I know exactly what is coming up and I am excited about everything. But this week has not been an exciting week. Heck, it hasn’t even been a good week. And it hasn’t been the type of week that you plan out. It has been more like type of week when you go to the dentist for a referral for wisdom teeth surgery and he charges you $100 to tell you there is a bigger, more expensive issue that needs to be takencareofRIGHTNOW. And then you can get your wisdom teeth out. Not that this happened to me or anything…

I hate not being in control. I find it so ironic that last Sunday, someone stuck a video camera in my face and asked what my greatest fear was [long story] and I confidently said “Being out of control.” And then I had one of the most out of control weeks I have had in a long time.


I was going to talk to you about something else today, but part of fitness is knowing when NOT to work out.


When to take a bit of time to dust off your grumpiness, your frustration, or your weariness.

I am not great at that. So what do I do when I feel out of control and as if no matter which direction I turn, I am running against the grain?

I call Jesse.


I call a friend who has the right answer for everything. [Even if she moved to Alberta on me..]

leanneI pray.

I do something I KNOW I can’t mess up that much and if I do, it doesn’t matter, like cooking or cleaning.

I do something that focuses on someone else – like volunteering or just going to work, even if it is with a little dark cloud over my head.

I hug my mom.

And sometimes, she will look at me and say “Jessica, if you were 4 years old, I would put you down for a nap”.

So I go and sleep for a while.

Come to me all who are weary, and I will give you rest. Matt 11:28

What do you do when life throws you a curveball?


Races in 2013

kbell-setIt’s the [almost] weekend!!!

I am planning to teach a few classes, go to the Total Women’s Show in Waterloo and meet up with some friends for dinner so a busy weekend per usual.

Back to fitness. Recently, I sat down to one of my favourite tasks of the year – plotting out my race calendar for the year. The annual Get Out There Magazine Race Guide had hit my desk so I poured over triathlons, marathons and fun runs until I came up with the best list EVER.

I try to keep it limited to only the very BEST and fill in extra races as they come.

This is what I am planning on doing in 2013:


Monday, May 20, 2013 – Run 4 km, Bike 30 km, Run 4 km 

If all goes well, this will be my very first duathlon. I teach quite a few spin classes a week and run regularly so this is the race for me! I am pushing back the beginning of my race season a little later than usual because of all the classes I am teaching and I want to be sure I am mentally and physically prepared.


June 8 – Rattlesnake Point – 12 KM trail race

I admit it. Trail running has my heart. I have done a 5 peaks race before and I absolutely LOVED it. Trail running and it starts off with Kicking Horse Coffee.. Obvious choice.

This is a perfect time for a dig for my beloved environmentalist, trail running wonder of a friend who is always up for an adventure.


Leanne: the blonde beauty in the centre

Leanne and I met in a geography class in university and I received one of my instant girl crushes.

I only have three – you know who you are!!!

Continuing down this rambling path, I will occasionally announce to Jesse that “I am in LOVE!” and he will look levelly at me and ask “Ok. Who is she?”

I love my girl friends and could not live without them.

I digress.

Leanne and I are planning to do the Meet Your Maker 50 Miler in Alberta in 2014. It is my next foray into the magical and almost untouched world of ultra running for me and I. cannot. wait.


Me running it in 2010

I have done this one before. (If you follow the link, for some reason NONE of my pictures work anymore: sorry) I absolutely love it. They have pacing “fairies” instead of rabbits, it is by the beaches in Toronto and they have the best medals at the end. Cannot wait.

SCOTIABANK MARATHON – October 20, 2013 – 42.2 KM

Although I have ran a 30 km before and an ultramarathon, I have never actually ran a marathon distance. I am SO excited for this one and I am leading a number of running clinics in the area to train others for races so I figured I would build milage on top and shoot for a marathon! I did a lot of research and settled on this marathon as it received raving reviews at almost every site I was on. I cannot WAIT!

That’s it!

Now go enjoy your weekend!

What races are you doing this year?

If you aren’t a racer, do you get girl crushes? My celebrity girl crush is totally Blake Lively…


Interview with Kathryn Bertine

We literally are all the way back to Friday again.

I could not be happier. This week has been utter and complete madness for me. I will not lament but rather focus on awesomer things.

kbell-setSo a while back, I gave away a book. Yes, I am STILL on about Kathryn Bertine. The woman is a legend.

Kathryn BertineIf I can have half of the drive or resilience this woman has in her baby finger, I will be a super star.

Regardless, I have been sporadically sharing this link, which is a environmentally bent interview with her that I did a while back. What I didn’t share is that I have a more “Laces And Lattesque” version of the interview. I may do this forever: go into interesting interviews with about 10 more questions than necessary and hound innocent people about their favourite post workout meals, deodorants, [anything really] as long as I think I can throw it up on this space. (Which sadly, is almost anything…)

Anyways. Here are the bonus interview questions:

JK: You talk about your early morning training schedule in your book. Any tips for those of us who find it hard to get out of bed at 5 AM to hit the road?

KB: Well, I am currently in the biking offseason, but I find that if you have a specific goal in sight, then it all comes together. If you are lacking the motivation to train, you need to ask yourself why? It can often be burnout for an endurance athlete because it is always go-go-go. A suggestion to find motivation in training is to throw in a mid-season race so you have something to work towards. Another big motivator is to train with a friend; it is hard to skip a workout when you know someone is waiting for you.

JK: Since you are in your off-season right now, what are your favourite cross training exercises?

KB: I go back to my triathlon roots! Normally I ride twice a week, I swim twice a week and I am going to have to use the word “jog” twice a week.

JK: I’ve seen your times, it is definitely running.

KB: Ha! No really, I just do short stuff, like 25 minute jogs, an hour swim and not counting laps and bikram yoga once a week. I do something 6 days a week because there is a difference between resting and getting completely out of shape. Oh! And I love hiking!

JK: What about strength training?

I lift twice a week and I have a trainer in Tuscan helps me with strength training specific to cycling. He targets muscles that are neglected on a bike. Your back muscles are strong, but your chest and shoulders don’t necessarily counterbalance so you can get some pretty funky posture going on and imbalances. It is really fun for me!

Side note: Add her to twitter: @KathrynBertine because her trainer’s name is Jesus so she has tweets like this:

Screen shot 2013-01-31 at 8.05.29 PM

JK: With all the training you do, how do you keep a balance between your personal life and training life.

KB: This is an important one. When you are balanced, you do your best! This has been a journey for me. I feel most balanced when my writing and cycling career are in sync but in freelance, that can be tough. I have been married for a few years to my husband, an amateur cyclist and he has been very supportive in the moral aspect of the sport because he realizes I won’t be able to do this forever. If you have someone in your life who provides you with emotional support and truly mean it, that is a huge factor in going out and facing your training head on.

What music to do workout to?

KB: I actually don’t train outdoors with music because I like to day dream and I need to keep my wits about me otherwise two or three of my senses are missing! Also, as a writer, I use my riding time to think in that capacity. However, if I am on an indoor trainer (which doesn’t happen all that often), I need music! I love The Killers, LMFAO, anything that has a good rhythm. O! And the new Rolling Stones album!

So. If you want to learn even more about Kathryn, head on over to my work blog to read more of the interview and enter to win her book. Because the giveaway ends today.

AGAGCOVERjpeg1That’s all I have for today. I am headed off to enjoy the Guelph Organic Conference and celebrate my baby sister’s baptism this weekend. I will see you all on Monday!

Who is your favourite athlete?


Fitness Friday: the only place you can look normal with neon padded shorts

Hey everyone. It’s the almost WEEKEND!

Fridays are always very full for me. I get up at 4 am and teach two classes before heading into the office. I don’t mind the early wake up, because my first class of the day is spin, which leads me to the blog theme today…


Teaching spin is my absolute favourite class. I think it is a natural progression because I love running and spinning and probably the closest to it that I teach. It also is the only class I teach that is a co-ed group, which is fun because it brings a different dynamic to the group. Men, by and large, are not afraid of belting out the chorus to the “Eye of the Tiger” while doing a hill climb, which helps any new class members to relax into the rhythm on the song and stop glancing nervously around the room.

I love that I can wear a microphone. Most of my other classes, I am left yelling to the back of the room.

I have the most fun with the music of this class. Rhythm is so important when cycling and I spend a few hours every weekend plotting out my next playlist. What rhythm works best for a sprint vs a hill climb? I also run each playlist by Jesse – not to see if he likes it, but to talk through the class before I do it. Any given Sunday, you will see me blasting a tinny version of “I Get Knocked Down” and announcing when each jump is while Jesse looks on, mildly interested. Each week is a different theme, I have done 90’s playlists, hill climb playlists, songs that get stuck in your head playlists (they hate me after that one..) etc.

It is the only place you can look normal walking in with neon padded shorts on. I have nothing more to expand on that one. Other than the fact that I have a few that are just so bad…in a good way.

For those of you who are non-gym goers, spinning is a stationary bike, group full of expectant people, and a fierce instructor. You go through a series of hills, sprints and jumps. You can alter your position whether you are standing or seated and the intensity with the resistance dial. It is easy to pick up, fun to do and brings a feeling of camaraderie to the group. Reasons why it is good for you is it allows you to breathe deeply, stretch your shoulders that are hunched all day long, sweat out toxins and develop muscular and cardiovascular strength. Don’t like your first one? Don’t despair – find another instructor, buy some padded shorts and bring a towel.

A Class with me

Old advert...I don't teach Thursday nights anymore.

Old advert…I don’t teach Thursday nights anymore.

To give you an idea of what a normal class looks for me, this was my playlist for the past week:

Screen shot 2013-01-20 at 3.56.57 PM

And yes, the theme of the week is Jock Rock. To celebrate the Leaf’s semi-triumphant return even though I never watch hockey and don’t really care…

Here is what we are doing:

1. Warm up
2. Stretches and warm up
3. Increase rhythm and work alternating legs
4. Climb
5. Sprint
6. Active Recovery
7. Run (standing up on the bike)
8. Tabata Sprints (20 s on, 10 s off)
9. Run/Hover at chorus
10. Active recovery
11. Jumps. I split them into teams and make them compete.
12. seated verse, standing chorus
13. Rolling Hills Climb (2 steps forward, one step back)
14. Active Recovery
15. Pyramid Climb
16. Fast, light spinning and stretches
17. Stretches off bike.

And that’s a wrap. :)

Want to go to a spin class? Here is something to read before you go: 9 ways to maximize your ride. 

Have a wonderful weekend! I am doing lots of prep for my sister’s wedding. We have her bridal shower this evening, a bridal show tomorrow and a dinner party on Sunday. See you all on Monday!

Spin Class. Love or hate?