Copyright © 2017 Alex Liska. All rights reserved.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Easy At-Home Situps in the Living Room (Abs/Core) - Abs/Core Exercise of the Week

Who says you NEED to be a gym-rat to develop a lean midsection? All you really need is the proper nutrition (a diet low in starchy carbs and refined sugars, high in protein and moderate in dietary fats) and a couch, perhaps a set of stairs, and motivation!!! I hope that this easy living-room workout can help spark your creativity when it comes to working out at home. When it comes to cardio, now that summer is just around the corner, why not go for a nice power-walk or light jog outdoors? BINGO, there's your cardio! :)

Place your feet underneath the couch for support and sit upright. Inhale as you lean back (make sure you are not arching your back when going back because you will place unnecessary strain on your lower back) and squeeze those abs! Sit back up and exhale slowly. Make sure you are breathing in a consistent and controlled manner. Squeeze those abs and make sure you don't shrug your shoulders. Look UP, not Down!
I would suggest performing 2-3 sets of 12-20 reps 2-4 times a week in conjunction with a clean diet (browse my previous articles for nutrition articles/tips and simple healthy recipes) and a few cardio sessions of at least 20 minutes each 3-4 times a week! I promise you will see a GREAT improvement in your midsection!

Have a Great Weekend & Stay Motivated!!!

Alex L. :)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Alex's Protein Bars (Low Carb/Low Fat Recipe)

-1 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
-4 Scoops Kaizen Whey Isolate (I used the chocolate flavour- they sell this protein powder at Costco and it's very cost effective and tastes great!)
-3/4 Cup ground Flaxseeds
-3 tbsp Quick Oats
-2 tsp Baking Powder (since there is no flour in this recipe i use more baking powder so the bars don't come out flat)
-1/4 tsp Sea Salt
-1 cup Splenda Sweetener & 5 Enveloppes of Stevia (I used PureVia)
-3/4 cup Shredded Unsweetened Coconut
-6 Egg-Whites
-1/2 Cup Coconut Oil
-1/2 cup Filtered Water
-1/2 cup Skim Milk
-1/2 cup Plain Fat-Free/Vanilla OR Coconut/Pineapple Flavored Source Yogurt (No Sugar Added)
-3/4 cup No-Sugar-Added Cranberries (the frozen kind usually don't have added sugar but the dried ones do!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a Large measuring cup or Medium sized bowl combine all the dry ingredients together (cocoa powder, baking powder, shredded coconut, oats, flaxseeds, splenda, sea salt & protein powder). Add egg-whites and begin to mix with a fork, add the coconut oil and continue to mix well, slowly add liquids (filtered water and skim milk). Make sure you have mixed all ingredients VERY WELL so that there are no lumps in the mixture. Add in yogurt and continue to mix & add in the Cranberries. Pour the mixture in 2 small-med. sized or 1 large pre-greased baking pan(s). I usually "grease" my pans with a very small amount of coconut oil OR olive oil so that my bars don't stick! Bake for 20-30 minutes or until you can easily place a toothpick through the bars and test that they are fully cooked!

Makes about 12 protein bars - Each contains roughly 16 grams of Protein, Under 5 grams of Fat/Carbs, High in Antioxidants, Flavonoids, Dietary Fiber, Medium Chain Triglycerides, Fatty Acids & Tastes Great:)
Makes for a quick and easy snack on your way to the gym, between meals or even as a light meal replacement!!!

Once the bars are ready you can slice them right through the middle and add 2 tbsp of LIGHT Frozen Whipping Cream in between them, top with Cinnamon and Stevia (PureVia tastes best because of its consistency) and make Mini Protein-Bar Ice-Cream Sandwiches :)
 ***NOTE*** 2 tbps of Light Frozen Whipping Cream have less than 25 calories, 1.5 grams of sugar and under 2.5 grams of fat so YOU DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING!!! =)


-Alex L. :)

Friday, April 16, 2010

Q&A with Gemma-Leigh: Personal Fitness Trainer and Proud Mom

Full Name: Gemma Leigh

Birthday: May 21 1966

Body stats: 5'6' 127lb

Gym: Urban Active Fitness, my living room, the park, my back porch....wherever I happen to be!

How did you initially get into fitness and what inspired you to pursue this lifestyle?
When I was very young - from age 8 until 14- I was totally into gymnastics. I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast! I would practice for hours each day. But then when puberty hit, I became more interested in boys than cartwheels, haha. However throughout my 20's I would occasionally do some aerobics classes and I took Dance class in college as an elective. I had always enjoyed how being strong and active made me feel both physically and mentally.

It wasnt until after I had my son that I really started to look at exercise and diet as a lifestyle and not a quick fix or temporary measure to look better.

When did you start training with weights and how long did it take for you to start seeing the results that motivated you to continue along this path?
I began to really include weights in my training program in January 2008. Now at first I had the common belief that most women do about weight training ; and thinking it would make me 'big and bulky' and what I wanted was feminine, curvy and strong. But then I would see the fitness models in the magazines swear that they lifted heavy... and they had a similar look to what I wanted, so I went for it. And after about three months of being consistent I started to see a lot of changes that cardio only wasnt giving me. Believe it or not, i used to have a back view that was full of cellulite and sagginess...and the midsection I used to have was nowhere near flat. When I saw that weight training, proper nutrition and the cardio was fixing this, it finally made everything click. I knew that you had to incorporate all 3 to be lean, tight and curvy.

Your before and after pictures speak for themselves! You have come a long way and inspired many people to pursue a healthier lifestyle! What advice would you have for women out there who have just had a baby and are looking to shed the post-pregnancy weight?
I would have to say that getting into shape after having a baby is probably one of the most challenging things you will ever attempt. And also know that with patience and consistency you will succeed. The stars in Hollywood make it seem like its normal to just pop out a baby and then be a size 2 a month later. I say that motherhood is stressful enough and your journey to being a fit mommy should be a happy one, not a burden. You dont have to always workout in a gym. I used to put my baby boy in a stroller and walk around the high school track. I also started to bring along a resistance tube with handles and stop every so often to do upper body work - bicep curls, tricep extensions, lateral raises, overhead press, rows for the back by wrapping the tube around the railing of the bleachers. If it's cold outside, you can walk in malls early in the mornings before it gets crowded. You just have to be creative with workouts when you are a new mom. I used to hold my son close to my chest when he was small and do squats! And of course you have to watch your nutrition. Dont starve...just eat clean foods.

What did you find was the hardest part about this all?
The hardest part was being physically tired while trying to get in shape. The first few months are the hardest because the baby is going to wake you up every few hours. If you are a breastfeeding mom as I was then YOU have to be the one to get up because Dad sure cannot take care of feedings! And then lets not forget those postpartum hormones that make you cry for no reason...or laugh for no reason! Getting into a schedule was the hard part. I would suggest new moms make plans for fitness before the baby ever arrives. Find someone to help you watch the baby when you need 45-60 minutes to yourself to workout. And surround yourself with supportive people.

Did you ever hit any plateaus or major hurdles along the way that made you almost feel like “giving up” and how did you overcome this?
Oh yes it happened a lot. Many times I would feel so tired I would wonder if it was even worth it. And as we all know, life isnt always smooth sailing - problems and conflicts arise daily. So what kept me going? The belief that I was worth it..that I deserved to be healthy and feel good about myself. I would remind myself 'how do you feel when you dont workout and pig out on pizza'? And I would ask...'is this how you want to feel?' The answer was always NO. I wanted to feel healthy and energetic; and eating crap and not exercising was not the way to get there. Always keeping my goal in mind helped a lot. Posting pics of my idol Jennifer Nicole Lee (famous fitness mommy) on my fridge helped too!

On a scale of 1-10, how important would you say following a sound Nutrition program is, when trying to shed post-pregnancy weight or trying to reduce excess body-fat overall?
In the beginning I would say you need to be 90% on track as far as sticking to a healthy nutrition plan. This is so that you can break any sugar/carb addictions you have. I used to have Coke(not diet either) and reese cups every day before I started to watch my nutrition better. So I had to just stay away from any of that until my craving for it went away. Later, after proper nutrition is a habit, its okay to have a cheat meal every now and then. But I still try to stick with healthy foods at least 80% of the time. So I rate nutrition as an 8-9 on a scale of 10. Without it, you wont see results.

Do you find sometimes, that the company you keep may get in the way of your training and dieting routine? And if this is not the case for you, can you see how being around people that don’t care about their Health and Fitness levels may affect someone that is trying to shape-up and live a healthier life?
Oh yeah! The people you are around - friends, family and co-workers - they definitely try to influence you. I can't tell you how many times co-workers used to try to get me to go out to lunch for Mexican food instead of to the on site company gym. You just have to learn how to stand up for yourself and what you want. It never bothered me to say no; but then again I do my own thing and always have, so the peer pressure didnt bother me. Some people feel pressured to conform to make others happy. You have to do what makes YOU happy and stop feeling guilty about it. I have had family say that I exercise too much, and that I must be addicted...I always reply back with 'how many hours of television do you watch each night?" most times they watch 2-3 hours. Well my time in the gym is 1.5 hours max...usually this proves my point. ..just because I choose a different activity for my free time doesnt make it 'wrong' or an 'addiction'. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. You make the choice how to spend those hours - on the couch or in the gym.

Have you thought of competing in any fitness, figure, bikini, or bodybuilding shows? I mean, I can think of thousands of women that, if they had your physique would jump up at the opportunity to show-case it onstage and perhaps even get into fitness modeling.
I would love to do NPC bikini. It is just that where I live, there arent many local competitions around here. Also, it can get expensive to compete!

How old is your son now and do you plan on introducing him to weight-training and sound nutrition when he gets older?
My baby is now 7 years old:) He is a very active child and loves to be outdoors running, bicycling , playing basketball etc. He does not need any encouragement to be active. He flexes his 'muscles' for me! He sees his mom emulate their parents. As far as sound nutrition, last year in February 09, we had a big scare. I took him to the pediatrician because he was thirsty nonstop and not feeling well - looking dazed all the time. Turns out he has type 1 diabetes. They admitted him immediately to the childrens hospital due to his sugar count was over 600mg - at that level you risk organ failure and diabetic coma. His disease is genetic. It happened practically overnight - that gene flips 'ON' and within days you are full blown diabetic needing insulin injections. SO, that being said, he has to follow sound nutrition or else it is dangerous to his health. He understands this and wont touch a cookie!

Is nutrition something that you think is important for kids to learn about at a young age or do you believe in the “let kids be kids, let them eat all the junk they want, they won’t be able to do it when they’re older…” mentality?
I think children in modern society definitely need to learn from a young age what is healthy to eat and what is not. A bunch of daily foods from boxes, plastic pouches, and drive thru windows are not going to be healthy. Children will grow up being accustomed to what they are fed from a young age. If they are given convenience foods, then this is what they develop a taste for and they will continue these choices into adulthood. Bad nutrition over a lifetime will wreck havoc on the body and result in high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, depression, weight problems and heart disease. If they are given healthy home cooked meals made with fresh ingredients, then this is what they will grow to love and choose for themselves. Parents need to not let commercialism and marketing take over their childs diet. This is why so many kids are obese now.

Describe a typical day in the life of Gemma-Leigh; what is your schedule like and where does training fit in?
Typical day for me...I usually wake up pretty early and have my coffee asap. In ten minutes I feel human again lol. A few times a week, right after my coffee I take my jump rope outside and get a quick 20 minute cardio session in. The sun is just coming up, its peaceful outside, and the brief exercise puts me in a good mood. I then wake up my son for school and take him. Then its off to the gym to train clients. Or I also train private clients in their home. Some have gyms and for others I take some of my equipment to them. I usually never train at the exact same time each day. I fit it in when I have time. I also participate a lot when training others! At night is homework, reading books to my son, laundry, preparing food for the next day...typical mommy things. And I try to sleep at least 8 hours a night.

Would you mind sharing a sample meal plan with us? What would you eat on a normal weekday?
Breakfast is either oatmeal and a few egg whites...or an omelette with two whites and 1 whole egg, spinach and mushrooms. Sometimes I have Ezekiel sprouted grain toast and natural PB. Next meal is something like greek yogurt with blackberries, or low fat string cheese and small apple. I usually keep hard boiled eggs around and eat the whites if Im hungry between meals.I like cottage cheese as a snack too. Lunch and dinner are usually lean protein and veggies. I have been making this salad lately of baby spinach, low fat feta cheese, yellow bell pepper, sliced cherry tomatoes, diced cucumbers, a few kalamata olives, fresh basil and then balsamic vinagrette dressing. I just love it! Lots of times I add some grilled chicken strips to the salad.

Do you have any cheat days and if so how often? What is your favorite cheat food?
My cheat foods are dark chocolate, peanut butter wine! Not saying I overdo any of these. But I have them a few times a week in moderation. I usually get those small single glass size bottles of red wine so that Im not opening a full bottle that will just sit there and go bad.

What do you enjoy doing most when you are not training clients or working out?
After a long day of work and training, I love nothing more than spending time with the two loves of my life - my son and my boyfriend. I also like to read and watch movies, shopping on ebay(shhh) or hang out with friends.

Lastly, what words of advice do you have to our readers when they are feeling like all odds are against them, “everything they are doing is just NOT working” and they are about to give up on working out and eating healthy?
Consult with others who have been in your place before. Or even just read online about others who have won the weight loss battle...theres tons of inspiring stories out there. Or find an inspirational person that you admire and find out how they transformed. For me, Alex is one of my 'idols'!! She is one of my daily doesnt have an ending point and we all need constant motivation to keep improving. Discipline can be learned. Support from others is just the best thing!
And realize the odds are not against you...its your way of thinking that is against you. We all have it within ourselves to be our best. Don't feel selfish about wanting to invest time into yourself. If you are happy with yourself, then you can spread that happiness to others. If you have setbacks...realize that it happens to everyone and its normal. Get back on track right away and do not dwell on the past mistakes. No matter what your starting point, a healthy body and positive outlook can be yours!! Go for it!

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions, I am sure they will inspire MANY people out there!!!
And I am honored to be interviewed by you. I think you are an amazing person, a positive influence, and a gift to all who know you.

Checkout Gemma Leigh's Bodyspace Profile and Stay Tuned to her Progress:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Liver the Super-Food Article (Plus Calf's Liver with Caramelized Onions & Mixed Veggies RECIPE)

By: Alex Liska
Liver is a very often overlooked food that is not being given enough credit these days. With the amount of stress our bodies go through daily, both mentally and physically; having a food that is so exceptionally nutrient-dense is key to re-instating good health. Liver contains a large quantity of bio available vitamins and nutrients that help replenish our bodies and keep us energized. The recipe I am posting today utilizes Calf Liver- a food that is an excellent source of vitamin B12, vitamin A, copper, folate, riboflavin, and selenium; also a very good source of zinc, vitamin C, niacin, phosphorous and PROTEIN ; it ALSO contains vitamin B6, B5 and IRON. This can be considered a SUPER-FOOD to those that suffer from anemia and also for women due to loss of blood during menstruation. Vitamin B12 is responsible for aiding production of red blood cells therefore having a weekly dosage of liver could REALLY help anemia-sufferers and women!
Keep in mind also that DIRECTLY consuming these bio available vitamins through liver is MUCH MORE EFFECTIVE than popping multi-vitamins and B-Complex 'Pills' ... Pills are man-made and haven't been around for long enough to prove how truly effective they really are... I don't take pills, I rather rely on my consumption of Whole Foods, this is also less strenuous on your own liver which has to break down the capsule form pills being taken. Because liver is slightly higher in saturated fats and cholesterol (the kind that is good for the brain), I wouldn't suggest eating it every single day but once a week is definitely recommended. Remember that liver is Very High in Protein so it fits into any good bodybuilding diet. I prefer this dish over steak when I am considering a higher-fat meal since I feel so much more energized after eating it :)

Calf's Liver with Caramelized Onions & Mixed Veggies
-6 Large Strips of Calf Liver (I used grass-fed organic calf liver)
-1/2 Medium Onion- sliced thin
-3 Cloves of Garlic- chopped
-3 tbsp Soya Sauce
-1 tbsp Olive Oil
-1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
-1/4 tsp Paprika
-1/4 tsp Black Pepper
-1/2 envelope Splenda or Pure-Via (Stevia)
-1 Bag 'Europe's Best' Frozen Mixed Veggies (I used the kind called "Nature's Balance" which has more Greens in it)
-1/4 tsp Sea Salt

In a large heated frying pan, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil until slightly caramelized (use med-high heat setting for this), then place the strips of liver, try to keep them separate so they don't stick and can equally absorb all the onion flavor. Add the soya sauce, sprinkle the garlic powder, paprika and black pepper as well as the splenda/stevia to the liver and turn down the heat a bit. Let the liver strips cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side, flip them once or twice. Cover the frying pan and let it finish cooking (can take a few minutes). Now, remove the liver strips and place 3 on each plate. 
You can now place the frozen veggies in the frying pan and cook them (they will have a nice flavor from the liver/onions you just cooked). Saute the veggies, you can add 2tsp of fresh butter or olive oil to them and sprinkle salt on top. Cover the veggies and let them cook. Serve them along-side the liver strips. This makes 2 servings. Enjoy!!!! :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Advanced Core Exercise- Pike & Knee-Tuck Combo on Stability/Bosu Ball- Abs/Core Exercise of the Week

Happy Friday Everyone! Here is an advanced Core exercise that is done using a BOSU Ball (Upside-down) and a Stability Ball. This exercise targets the CORE Area (Lower Abs, Inner Abdominal Muscles, Upper Abs, Lower Back) as well as the Upper Body (Strength). It requires both Upper Body and Good Core Strength. I suggest having someone there to spot you the first time you try it out!


Begin by placing both hands on the sides of the BOSU Ball (Hold on to the black handles) then slowly place one toe on the stability ball behind. Now keeping your core area contracted slowly lift your other foot (keep your hips elevated) onto the stability ball and perform the pike movement. Remember that controlled breathing and intense focus are key to performing this move. I finished it off with some single legged lower ab knee tucks at the end. You can try this too! Again, make sure you have a spotter when trying this for the first few times!! :)


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Using Sick-Days to Re-Energize and Motivate you Rather Than Wear you Down!

By: Alex Liska
I decided to post this after having overcome a TERRIBLE flu during this past Easter weekend, that had me clinged to my bed all Sunday and Monday long!
So, here's the story... On Friday, all the gyms in Kingston, ON were closed; at least, the two Goodlife Fitness locations that I have a membership for were closed, or closed so early that i couldn't make it for my daily routine. I had already taken Thursday off so I felt guilty about resting at home on Friday and eating Easter eggs LOL so I decided to go for a run outside since the weather was so nice. Since it was so sunny out, after an hour of jogging/power-walking I got REALLY thirsty so I stopped by a Tim Horton's and asked for a glass of water. I felt kind of dizzy as i was running back home so i figured it was a combination of dehydration and too much sun... So, I ended my cardio session after 90 minutes. The next day I had a mild headache but just ignored it, and went to the gym and did my Saturday leg workout and cardio. That afternoon at church my stomach felt a bit weak and I couldn't figure out if I was hungry or nauseous. After the service I headed back home and had a light meal and then went to bed.
On Sunday morning I woke up tired, drained, dizzy, nauseous, had cramps and a light fever. I skipped the gym and decided this would be my "rest day" since I trained the day before and did cardio on Friday. Sunday night had to have been the worst night for me EVER... i was nauseous and vomiting all night long and didn't sleep at all. Easter Monday was a VERY depressing day for me. I was tied to my bed all day long laying next to a big sliver bowl :( Since I had been laying down the whole time my body was rested but I couldn't actually get up and do anything because of the nausea, this meant i was FORCED to take ANOTHER REST DAY, and this time outdoor cardio was not an option... So if you add it all up that's Thursday, Sunday and now Monday... For some reason taking all these days off made me feel guilty and like I would start losing some of the results I had worked SO hard for :(
Luckily though, I listened to my body and rested, drank tons of lemon water. I was unable to eat at first because I kept feeling nauseous but eventually I was able to eat some mixed veggies and a bit of oven-roasted ham. The salt in the ham actually made me feel better since I badly needed electrolytes after vomiting straight for almost a whole night.
At this point I just accepted that I was going to take a rest day whether I liked the idea or NOT so I decided to make the best of it. I managed to do a few things around the house, while taking occasional "sitting on the couch so I won't throw up" breaks. I managed to call a few family members to say Happy Easter...and I tried to look at it from a stand point of "I have worked way too hard for my body and been eating clean for way too long and going to the gym religiously, so I REALLY DON'T THINK IT'LL VANISH OVERNIGHT" ... I mean, when I've gained weight in the past I didn't gain it overnight, I gained it over time...
What I learned from all this was that HARD WORK AND DISCIPLINE DO PAY OFF!!! I went back to the gym yesterday with more energy than ever, after having rested for soooooooooooo long (in bed) and my mind was also more clear than it was before. I was focused and was able to have a GREAT workout. I even recorded a short video clip while at the gym :) My eating patterns are back to normal and I have not gained any weight from lounging around and RESTING for 2 days. I weighed myself this morning and was pleasantly surprised, I went from 136lbs (last time i checked) to 133lb now which brings me closer to my ultimate goal of 125-128lbs.
At this point I am unsure of what triggered this stomach flu; running outside in the blazing sun for 90 minutes (I doubt that's it), the filthy tap water from Tim Hortons (that's what I think it is) or just a travelling flu bug (maybe...) Nevertheless I don't really care, I'm glad I am better and was able to overcome this situation and I know now for the next time I get sick (hopefully not anytime soon) to TAKE THE DAY(S) OFF!!

Here is the REMEDY that I used, it helped me feel a LOT better, all while not adding to my caloric intake:
-1.5 cups Filtered Water (you can have this beverage HOT or COLD)
-4 tbsp Lemon Juice concentrate or 1/3 cup Freshly-Squeezed Lemon Juice
-3-4 Enveloppes Stevia (I used PureVia) or you can use Splenda
-1/4 tsp Sea Salt (this adds the necessary electrolytes back into your body after vomiting)
***4-5 ice-cubes (If you're having this drink COLD)

Mix the ingredients together WELL (I shook them up in an empty Powerade Bottle). I would suggest having the HOT version of this if you are going to sleep right away and having the COLD one if you're up and are craving a cold drink. The salt REALLY helps a lot! Electrolytes are SO important when trying to recuperate from nausea/vomiting and even for staying hydrated.

I hope this article helps those of you that have a hard time taking time off from the gym and anyone out there that is recovering from an injury and has had to take time off unwillingly!

-Alex L. :)