New Year. New Fear. Get That Monkey Off Your Back!

The year is 2016. Or make that 2130. Or is it 4714? Whatever calendar you’re working from, be it Gregorian or Google, today is a brand new day.

firemonkey2February 8th also marks the start of the year of the Fire Monkey on the Chinese Calendar.  Fire monkey’s are known for being ambitious and adventurous. A fitting time to talk about facing fears, creating lasting change, and getting that proverbial monkey of limiting beliefs off your back.

posing_smilesFor inspiration, I turned to my fitness friend Amanda Kwan. In the five years I’ve known her, I have never seen her without a smile in her face. That tells me she has something important figured out! A YWCA danceFIT regular, and a sweaty superstar at the Scotiabank Dance Centre’s Friday Night Booty Call, she has been attending my classes since 2011.

Last year, for the first time, Amanda tried spinning, running and – the scariest for her- swimming! Here’s what she has to say about moving in new ways… and moving forward from old fears.

Q. Why did you decide to try something new? Why swimming?

I took up swimming because I wanted to conquer my fear of water.  I remember having a near-drowning incident when I was little.  Since then I was afraid of water – more accurately, afraid of putting my head under the water.  Ever since I started working out 5 years ago, I’ve build up confidence in myself, I understand my body more, and wanted a challenge. I knew it was time to face and overcome my fear.  This was one of the best and rewarding decisions I made in 2015.  I was even able to put my head under the water on my first lesson, with the encouragement and help of the coach, of course. I’m really proud of myself.

Q. What’s your philosophy when it comes to fitness?

My philosophy about fitness is – you don’t have to be the best in class, BUT you have to enjoy every minute of it.  You can’t jump as high as your classmate?  That’s OK!  Fitness is not a competition.  Every body is different.  Don’t feel pressure by others.  It’s all about feeling good about yourself.  Also, explore – even out of your comfort zone.  Trying all the different fitness programs last year made me realize how different workouts have different effects on my body.  Some may be painful and difficult at the beginning but over time your body will adjust.  This sense of accomplishment, knowing you’re improving every time, is simply irreplaceable.

Q. What is your advice on the how and why of facing ones fears?

Having fears is ok – it’s only human nature.  But don’t let fear be your obstacle.  Face it and conquer it.  And don’t be discouraged if you failed the first (few) times.  Have faith in yourself. If it’s still too much for you, then ask for help.  Just like my swimming lesson, I wanted to overcome my fear of water, and I know it’s too tough to do it on my own (I did try!), so I signed up for the swimming class.  My coach spent a lot of time explaining how the breathing works, even had to hold my hand when I put my head under the water the first time.  When I realized I just did something I haven’t been able to do in the past, that sense of achievement is overwhelming.


I get goosebumps every time I read what Amanda has to say.

The take-away for me is that she wasn’t focused so much on achieving a one-time thing, as in a winning a medal or beating a timer, she wanted to achieve growth within herself, and continue that growth. She also approaches obstacles, previous limits she’s set on herself, with a beautiful sense of self-compassion. Research shows those who practice self-compassion versus tough-love are more likely to achieve their goals and maintain their new lifestyle habits and ways.

You don’t need a new year to make a change. Every day is an opportunity to to start something new. A new attitude, a new activity, a new approach. When you feel stuck or scared… think of Amanda standing at the edge of the swimming pool, taking a deep breath, and jumping in for her swim!

A huge thank you to Amanda for being awesome, and for sharing her fitness philosophy. What are your goals for this brand new year? Do you have a motto that helps you face your fears? 

Healthy Habits… even on your Summer Holidays!

Satisfying slumbers in a big hotel bed, pulp fiction marathons paired with margaritas at the beach, decadent dinners followed by the must-try dessert. The stuff that lazy days of summer are made of and made for! Just don’t use it as an excuse to over-indulge and ignore your long-term health goals.

Summer holidays should be a time of relaxation and a break from your routine…. not a break from your good habits.

I can tell you how you easy it to travel with a resistance tube, use the hotel gym, or parkour on a park bench. It is easy. Well, except maybe for the parkour part. I’ve designed tons of power-packed portable travel routines for clients and there’s a wealth available online. The thing is you still have to actually do it, not just say you’re going to. For most people, finding the motivation to workout while on holidays is hard.

That being said… maybe it is easy for you. Are you that rare breed that wakes before the alarm and runs a daily 10K at dawn? Knows how to order salad in seven languages? Only stays at a hotel sporting a full fitness centre and pool? Gold star for you! For the rest of us that “forgot” to pack the fitbit… here are simple ways to stay on track while off your home’s buff and beaten one.

Commit to moving everyday. All you need is 30 minutes of moderate activity per day. This can even be broken into three 10 minute chunks. Reading ‘The Girl On The Train’ by the pool? Pop in for cooling laps or even lap the pool deck at every chapter cliffhanger!

Plan active activities. Hiking the volcano or eight hours in a kayak not your scene? Grab a local map and go exploring on foot! Visit sprawling sites like ornamental gardens. Opt for the bike tour over the air-conditioned van. Try a dance class before dinner!  If you build the activity into your entertainment you’re more likely to do it and enjoy it.

Stock up on healthy snacks. Find a farmer’s market or grocery store and load up on the good-for-you stuff. Drinking lots of water and eating small snacks throughout the day will make you less inclined to order fries with that shake… or make mountains out of all three main meals.

Sleep in or take naps. Getting adequate rest improves your mood, increases your energy, and contributes to glowing skin. Guess what? So does getting some action while you’re at it! Research has also linked sex with lowered blood pressure and a lower risk of heart disease. Although how many calories sex actually burns is up for debate. Incentive to remember the fitbit and do the research for yourself!

Appreciate every moment. You are on holidays after all! Don’t deny yourself the the experiences you desire, just be savvy about what you savour. In my classes we talk about about the IT-ness of fitness. It’s the same concept. In fact, the origin of the word holiday is holy day. Treat it as such when you treat yourself!

The Top 7 signs you have a danceFIT addiction.

It started innocently enough. You kept hearing about how danceFIT was so much FUN and such a GREAT WORKOUT for your body and brain. You regularly saw people at your gym post-class glowing with sweat and smiles. They all seemed so friendly. One day the instructor catches your eye, does a little shimmy, and says “You should join us for a class!” So you do. It seemed harmless enough.

However there are hidden dangers that nobody warns you about. The truth is – danceFIT is highly addictive! Here are the top seven signs you- or someone you know- has a danceFIT addiction.

  1. You start dancing in public. Elevators, grocery aisles, the coffee shop. Not only do you bust out booty moves, you’re not even be embarrassed by it.
  2. Your social calendar is full. Invites to post-class dinners, theme parties, weekend hikes, even the occasional movie musical… forcing you to find time for new friends and new experiences.
  3. You need a new wardrobe. Along with the slimming sweat-fest calorie burn, dance workouts improve postural awareness and have you standing taller. Your clothes from the slouching days just don’t fit the same.
  4. Your new wardrobe consists largely of lycra. You might also start wearing leg warmers and look for any excuse you can to wear a tutu.
  5. You stop demanding perfection. Zig when everyone else zagged? In a choreography-based class it is common to miss a move. Nobody cares, including you. This relaxed temperament begins to seep into your non-dancefloor life as well.
  6. You use the word shimmy at least once a day.You have different shimmy style’s depending on the music and your mood. In extreme cases, the shimmy is used a greeting to fellow classmates.
  7. You are sexy and you know it. This may be the most addictive part of danceFIT. Studies are unclear as to the exact cause of the sexified self… whether it’s the boosted serotonin levels, or the increase in life energy, or the sculpted plie booty, or the improvements in cardio, core strength, flexibility and coordination. However ALL danceFIT addicts report feelings of loving their bodies more!

Does this sound familiar? Are you a danceFIT addict? Do you know of other tell-tale signs of a danceFIT addiction that are missing from this list?


  1. Be nice to the newbies. Remember your first time in the weightroom or trying a danceFIT class? It takes courage to join (or re-join) a fitness club. Support in the form of a smile can make a big difference!
  2. Clean the equipment after you use it. Every club has spray bottles and/or antiseptic wipes. Use them… every time you use a mat or a machine.
  3. Follow the rules. Is there a time limit using the treadmill? A rule about cell phones? Being a renegade at the gym isn’t cool – it’s disruptive. Be respectful and do your part to help keep things running smooth.
  4. Try a new class. Changing things up, or adding a little extra, is a great way to motivate yourself and dodge the dreaded fitness plateau. (Pssst… you’ll also be less likely to resent it when someone stands in “your spot” during “your class”.)
  5. Exercise patience. The hard-working folks at reception are doing their best juggling routine, the changerooms are packed, the spin class is full. You’re here to exercise, right? Here’s your chance to exercise patience.
  6. Be organized. It’s the busiest month of the year … not just at the gym! Build a little extra time into your schedule in anticipation of slower starts. If you end up early you can use that time to wish your gym-pals happy new year!
  7. Make a cool new soundtrack. In my opinion, everything is more fun when you’re grooving to new music! My current faves are Madonna’s “Living for Love” and AronChupa’s “I’m an Albatraoz”.
  8. Hydrate, get adequate rest, eat more leafy greens. OK, this may not seem gym specific however it will help! A healthier you = a happier you.
  9. GO TO THE GYM IN JANUARY. This one is key! The only way to make the most of your time is to actually show up! #2015WorthIT

Ok folks, those are my top suggestions for enjoying the gym in January. What are your January-gym survival tips?

A MeRihRih Christmas… it’s ON!

‘Tis the season for our annual holiday danceFIT class. A chance to celebrate our fitness, friendships, and love of fierce females! This year we are doing things a little bit different!  Join us at the YWCA Thur Dec 18th 6:15pm for

A MeRihRih Christmas- The Divas Deck The Halls

Rihanna, Mariah, Beyonce… even Babs! Plus, some dF classics and holiday hahas. Everyone welcome. Come dressed to sweat and sparkle!

Special thanks to Pam for the idea! I ♥ you! – Joh


love IT

Outdated fad you say? Flashdance phenomenon? Or how about phenomenal piece of functional fashion? That’s right… no trend to offend… I just love IT!

Seriously. Who knew (not me) that a pair of cheap H&M legwarmers could make a girl so happy? Or keep her so warm as she navigates a west coast winter in 3/4 lulus and pink-accent running shoes. They are on and off in a Jennifer Beals flash and replace my need to wear an extra pair of pants.

The other really cool thing I’ve found from wearing legwarmers? The conversation! I have heard from all kinds of people- friends and strangers- about their originals from the 80s. I wonder if mine will last that long?