Fitness and Health Podcasts To Inspire and Inform


I have to admit, I used to be a massive advocate and consumer of fitness and health podcasts. I loved Jillian Michaels and Janice's witty, smartass banter that covered types of plant based milks, the reasons particular exercises and routines paid dividends and mindset adjustments. As the length of episodes increased and it became more about Jillian's parenting, it became an exhausting test of patience. So, I took a lengthy break but I'm back listening to pods for inspiration and here's my  pick of what you should get your earbuds wrapped around.

My own Core Integrity podcast, featuring interviews with gut, mind, body and spirit role models and practitioners.

Hurdle, in which Emily Abbate chats with wellness entrepreneurs and leaders like the co-founder of Headspace.

YogaPeeps is a lifelong love affair. Though it's no longer producing new episodes, every single episode is eminently listenable and full of yoga wisdom from teachers who live, breathe and love the practice. Lara Hedin is a wonderful host.

TEDTalks Health gets across astonishing facts and information in bite-sized podcast episodes. This will make for excellent conversation starters if nothing else.

Nutrition Matters takes a no-bull approach to food and the mental, physical and spiritual approach to a nutritious life. Paige Smathers is a registered dietitian and nutritionist who interviews experts.

The Nutrition Diva's Quick and Dirty Tips For Eating Well and Feeling Fabulous

Oh I love this one so much and it's so short and easy to listen to. It really is a quick dive into a topic, ingredient or trend. Monica Reinagel is a joy to tune in to for advice, intelligence and simple, memorable tips.


Stress Hormones: How to combat belly fat, bloating and blemishes

stress hormones belly fat blemishes acne health
In over 10 years of teaching, I've been asked the same few questions repeatedly. Two of the most common are:

  • How do I fix blemishes/acne/dry skin?
  • How do I target excess belly weight?

Now, as we all should know, I don't buy into body hate and shaming and guilt. Women naturally have curves and a tendency to hold weight around the belly and hips because women are designed to create, house and nourish new human life within their bodies. That's pretty amazing. Whether you choose to have children or not, your body is engineered for it.

That said, there's a fine balance to find between functional and healthy amount of particular hormones and the sort of irregularity and imbalance that will lead to a cycle of nasty symptoms that indicate hormonal problems and that lead to MORE hormonal imbalances if not addressed through lifestyle.

The culprit - in all my discussions with medical and natural health practitioners, and in my personal experience - is the stress hormone, cortisol. An excess of cortisol leads to inflammation within the body, creating dramas with digestion, sleep, mood, acne and blemishes, insatiable appetite, cravings, bloating and weight gain particularly around the belly and hips.

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands (in the kidney area). It isn't all bad! Cortisol is produced to enable the body to handle and respond to danger. It is also heightened during exercise or at the beginning of the day to put the body into a more alert state.


Too much cortisol results in a number of symptoms, including weight gain around the face and abdomen, thin and easily broken skin, acne, bones more vulnerable to fracture and breaking, depressed mood, increased facial hair and irregular periods.

Some medications can mimic cortisol, including some asthma medication and topical steroid creams or steroidal drugs.

What can you do to prevent excessive cortisol and a crappy mood, bloated belly and tired, dull skin? Here's some simple steps. Take one at a time, or all at once:

  • Stop the extra long workouts. No wonder your body believes your under pressure and in need of hormones to cope with stress if you're forcing yourself through training regimes that run over 90 minutes
  • Cut the coffee. Sure, addictive, sure. But if you want to sleep and look 10 years younger, stop.
  • Eat wholefoods. Organic wherever possible, but maintain a diet where at least 80% of your food is a plant that you can recognise as exactly the same as it was on the tree or in the earth (powdered beetroot doesn't count)
  • Take high-quality supplements if your diet is restricted at all (vegan protein, omega 3 supplements, vitamin D if you don't get much sun, multivitamins)
  • Did I mention Omega 3 supplements?
  • Eat a high fibre diet to maintain good gut health
  • Take adaptogenic herbs: licorice root tea or medicinal mushrooms are easy to find at health food stores or online
  • Take 5 minutes every morning and/or evening to sit quietly, eyes closed and breathe fully into the belly then slowly out again. Set a phone timer if you need.
  • Get away from screens. Put the phone down.
  • Go to yoga - any type.
  • Do pilates
  • Dance
  • Laugh
  • Omega 3 supplements (seriously, though)
Image from Wholefood Merchants, Melbourne

New To Vegan Life: Meeting Nutritional Needs


vegan nutrition

Are you a Negan (New Vegan)? Welcome to the club.

I have been eating mostly plant-based meals for over a decade but it is a new choice to consume a purely vegan diet. I had been safe in my knowledge that chicken, fish and yoghurt were enabling me to earn top marks on my blood test results. B12? Iron? Calcium? Gold stars!

While it can take a little more planning and awareness around combining plant based foods to ensure you are meeting your nutritional needs for optimum health, once you understand which foods have the highest quality of calcium, B vitamins, magnesium, iron, zinc and protein, you can go wild with exploring flavours knowing that within each week, you're ticking all the boxes.
plant based cat woods

For me, I know the foods I really love and rely upon for essential nutrients, but I have a bad habit of not incorporating enough variety and adventure into my meals. I can get into a rut of the same thing daily for a week! That said, have you discovered purple sweet potato? If any food is worthy of a 12-step program, purple sweet potato is it.

Still. I digress.

Plant Based Meals For Inspiration and Convenience

To save myself from my own boring routines, I have ordered a Soulara delivery to get me through just over a week. I hugely recommend this meal delivery service to anyone and everyone, whether you're vegan or not. Having trialled a range of meal delivery services over the past few years, I can honestly say this is a no-fails option that is totally fresh, totally organic, and genuinely delicious. It doesn't feel like diet food and the serving sizes will genuinely satiate your appetite (not aeroplane-meal sized like some delivery services).
soulara meal delivery

The great benefit of a meal delivery service for me (and you!) is that I can explore a variety of vegan meals and get a true sense of what I really love so that I'm inspired to get into the kitchen and create meals based on those flavours and ingredients. When I go to Ubud, Bali, I eat purely plant based meals and mostly raw food too. It is energising, it connects me deeply to the earth and it feels good in my belly and my body. Soulara is the closest I've come to home-delivered plant based meals that transport me straight back to a table overlooking rice paddies and yoga studios. Check out their Instagram for food inspiration.
soulara plant based meals

Common Nutritional Deficiencies In A Vegan Diet

I recently went to the doctor for blood tests and under "Health Conditions" she listed "Vegan". I'm not sure this is typically considered an ailment! However, if you aren't doing your research and maintaining an eye on your calcium, iron and B12 levels, then you'll feel like being a vegan truly is an ailment. Apart from reading as much as you can and educating yourself, it's entirely worth making an appointment with a dietitian or nutritionist who has expertise in vegan or vegetarian diets. They can advise - based on your gender, age, height, weight, general health and level of activity - what your nutritional needs are and how to meet them.
vitamins vegan

The most common nutritional deficiency is B12 because this is purely available in animal based products (meat, seafood, dairy). The most reliable vegan source of B12 is nutritional yeast or fortified milks. Alternatively, a supplement is your best bet. But ignoring B12 is dangerous. B12 is linked to mood, the nervous system and also works co-operatively with B9 (folic acid) to enable optimal absorption of iron. Calcium is vital to healthy bones and muscles. Especially important for women. There are many fortified milks (almond, soy often have "Calcium Fortified" on the label where this is the case). There's no question you can meet your protein requirements easily with soy based proteins such as tofu and tempeh but spirulina, peas, hemp seeds, brown rice and quinoa, chickpeas and beans also provide rich sources of organic protein. Again though, see a dietitian for a personalised plan. Once you know how to meet the requirements of your body, you can confidently go it alone. It's definitely worth telling your GP you are vegan so that they can keep an eye on your blood test results (in the first year, worth doing this every few months).

Supplements

There's a good argument that you can meet your every nutritional need with wholefoods. But since the quality of food, soil and produce is not 100% reliable due to production and farming measures, it's absolutely worth investing in some supplements to ensure you're giving your body every opportunity to be well.
evening primrose oil

I am not a huge fan of turmeric as a flavouring so I'm very happy to take it in supplement form. My pick is Alitura Revitalize which contains ingredients based on Chinese Medicine, Western and Eastern Science. Turmeric, He Shou Wu (iron and zinc), chaga and reishi mushrooms (immune system and anti-ageing properties). I also take Evening Primrose Oil (Sports Research brand) which is rich in healthy fats for glowing skin and is also championed as support for women experiencing painful menstruation. Don't opt for any brand please - if you're going to spend on supplements, make sure you go with a high-quality product that's worth your dollars. I get my vitamins from Vibeality - the best spot to find Sports Research and Alitura brand in Oz. 
alitura


Raw & Organic Vegan Essentials

The raw deal ingredients

Long Jetty in New South Wales has a lot of healthy selling points - the divine yoga studio/cafe Modern Organic as well as the raw and organic food, home and lifestyle store The Raw Deal. Since I'm only in Long Jetty for short stints (unless someone wants to offer me a full time job teaching yoga, writing and blogging?) I do my shopping online. Whether it's bulk chickpeas and lentils or organic almonds and raw cashews, nut milk or superfoods in liquid and powder form, it's all super affordable and the best, freshest quality. Steve who runs things at The Raw Deal is a genuinely good, generous human with the pure desire to bring healthy, chemical free produce and products to his local community and to the wider Australian community via the website. There's a lot to be said for connecting with the people you shop with.
the raw deal natural foods



The Free Apps & Tools I Use

Free Apps For Content Makers

There is no debate over this. If you don't have a digital space where you communicate your work, your ideas, your services and how to get in contact with you, then you aren't being realistic about what it takes to run your own business. If you think you don't HAVE a business, then you're wrong. As long as you have knowledge, experience and something to express, teach or offer, then you have a business.

It took me much longer than I desired it to, but I finally organised my own website last year. My site CatWoods.me is home to information on Ballet Sculpt, my writing portfolio, my blog, my business as a content creator and my podcast. It also enables people to communicate directly with me and also links to my social media platforms. I designed it using Squarespace, which is super simple to use and enables you to embed existing content from blogs to podcasts, YouTube and so on. It makes the process of choosing a domain name and publishing your site simple for non tech people.

I use Canva to edit and create images for my website, social media, blog and and events. It is an easy-to-use layout with drag and drop function. Again, you don't need to be a whizz to choose a template then add your own elements. Canva has a new function in enabling video editing (great for Instagram short videos!).

I use Mailchimp to create email newsletters. Like Canva, this is a simple template-based site where you can choose how you want your end product to look and then take your own images and content (video, audio, text) and drop it in the right places. When you're done, you can track how people interact with it from how many people open it, to how many people click on the links and also, how many people unsubscribe! You can also choose whether to send the newsletter to a select group from your email contacts or to an entire list. You can have multiple lists. So perhaps, you have a list for the yoga participants who you want to update about your workshops for the month, and you also have a list of friends and family who you need to update about your travel plans.

I use Audacity and Voice Recorder to make my podcasts and my music comes from Creative Commons, where artists specify how they'd like their work to be credited when you use it and whether there are any limitations or restrictions around how their work is used (ie. only for personal use, or only for commercial use where they are openly credited).

I use Issuu to publish my work as PDFs that are readable online and this is also a great way to ensure your articles are stored somewhere beyond your hard drive.

Need a fancy new font and Helvetica just isn't rocking your boat any more? I go to DaFont. Icons are at DryIcons

When you need some creative inspiration or a tutorial, try Creative Bloq

If you would like me to set up your website for you, assisting with content creation, or even setting up your podcast or YouTube channel, let's talk. You can reach me via the form on my website.




Music For Yoga Practice

I am an unashamed lover of Om Aloha on Soundcloud. By the way, are you following me? Do It Now.
In the meantime, have a listen to Dances of Unity - sure, it's an  ideal soundtrack for practicing your headstand, but it also doubles nicely for writing articles (everyday), tuning out your co-workers (occasionally) or responding to emails (every hour!)

Ballet Sculpt 1 minute move

Can't make it to class? No worries. Do this pulse move for one minute minimum and ideally keep it going until you can't maintain technique. Squeeze your glutes. I mean it!

Start in plié position, heels raised and pressed together.Squeeze your butt cheeks together, get down, P U L S E.Step forward, pulse. Step to starting position, pulse.Step to 2nd, pulse.Step back, pulse.Keep going.Keep going.Keep...on...pulsing.



Burn at the Barre (or Chair, or Kitchen Bench...)

I'm often asked what resources I recommend for my barre, pilates and yoga participants when they're on extended holidays, travelling or just working irregular hours that mean a consistent class attendance just isn't gonna happen. Without fail, I always recommend Sadie Lincoln from barre3 and the divine, funny, challenging and inspiring Tracey Mallett who posts regular pilates and barre videos that enable you to workout at home.

You don't need a barre - the back of your chair will do the trick. Try this one. If these attitude "in-out-tap" moves don't give you the burn, I will fall onto my barre-toned bum in amazement.


Instructing Versus Teaching: Delivering Lessons That Last Beyond Class

In over 12 years of group fitness training and personal training, I have come to recognise the vital role an instructor can play in delivering lessons that go beyond the hour you spend with students. It is the difference between instructing while holding attention for a single class, and delivering knowledge that lasts a lifetime.
A teacher has many opportunities throughout class, and via social media, newsletters, online videos and digital channels, where they can sow a seed of curiosity, build a relationship with students and instil appreciation for our bodies. Instructors can also play a part in cultivating mental strength and resilience, the ability to take ownership of our fitness, and our cognitive processes around movement, mobility and endurance.

After two recent classes, the highly skilled and highly respected teachers admitted to me that they worried they may have spoken too much or used anatomical terms or energetic cues that might be “too much” for participants. In fact, I have learned that many – perhaps all – students attend group fitness classes because they ARE curious about their own bodies, they ARE passionate about movement and fitness; they want to know more. People don’t necessarily need to understand the myofascial system or the insertion and origin of muscles to fully appreciate when you tell them to work the full range of a muscle or give a cue regarding physical or energetic systems of the body (ie: in yoga, relating the breath or areas of the body to their spiritual or traditionally held beliefs around where emotions are held or the spiritual aspects of breath relating to movement).

Spark curiosity.

Sow a seed that enables the curious students to consider. Don’t be afraid to share what you know and to do so confidently and invite interest.
There will always be instructors who have 10 years more experience than you. There will always be instructors who are labelled “Master” instructors in what they do, but that doesn’t mean your experience and knowledge and particular approach is not relevant, meaningful and impactful. When you enter the room as an instructor, you are charged with the responsibility and credibility to teach what you believe is right and valid. Just as in any discipline from quantum physics to medicine to sculpture, there are constant discoveries and developments so it is only natural that there are differences between teachers as to approach and ideas.  As long as you can explain the what, how and why, you are doing your job.
fitness instruction inspiration

What: The movement, sequence or pose (ie. Wide squat)
How: The cues, alignment and technique (ie. Stand with heels outside hips, sit weight back and down with knees wide)
Why: The purpose and benefit of the move (ie. To work the glutes, postural chain of muscles, engage strong thighs and challenge core strength and raise the heart rate)
Think about your role as a value proposition. There are thousands of instructors who could teach under the same label (yoga, pilates, BodyPump, step, etc) but what experiences have you had, and what particular strengths and interests can you share and communicate with your class? Have you rehabilititated your body after an injury? Have you found a particular cue or mental focus during exercise really invigorates and motivates your own activity? Share that. Students want to connect with you. Let them!

Think of different classes as being like different languages. While each language, from Japanese to Inuit, has its own rhythm, sound, cadence and calibre there are universal laws of communication. Listen to the people you’re speaking to, measure your expression and delivery for your audience, consider what your body language says just as much as what you’re saying, and pay attention to the timing, volume and message of your words and actions.

Find the right balance though and take into consideration the different venues and classes you take. There is definitely no place for “over-sharing” or giving lectures as if it’s an Anatomy 101 class, unless of course you are taking a specific workshop or advanced class that is prepared and open to this sort of teaching. Consider context and circumstances, always.
There is a balance to be found between giving the standard instructions (timing, direction, alignment) and then building the blocks that really deepen the effectiveness of your teaching and the actual structure and sequence of your class.

This is where you develop your teaching beyond the a) What; and
b) How;
to explain the essential Why.

Why does a particular pose or sequence work? Which muscles are being activated and what role do they play both in the class and then in life? Why does it matter to have strong glutes?
Armature Pilates owner, Pilates teacher trainer and herself an instructor, Stephanie Glickman identifies an “ability to keep a large and diverse group  moving and in good form with attentive and individual correction” as a skill key to memorable and inspiring instructors.
“It’s important that an instructor is able to give constructive feedback and cueing because they have a good eye, not just saying “good work” all the time...but giving corrections that the client wouldn’t get elsewhere,” she elaborates.

The key to having a good eye can come back to having a strong commitment to your job but also, importantly, your own personal practice and experience.
Good instructors “have their own solid personal practice and commitment to what they are teaching; they truly know and understand the work in their bodies themselves,” Glickman says.

She nominates the following qualities as those that make a teacher stand out from the rest:
  • relates to clients personally - knows everyone's names, asks how they are, remembers their "issues" and injuries and is attentive to them; goes up to clients they don't know and talks to them, finds out about who they are and what they need
  • technically clear and accurate cueing, not too complex to be confusing but still challenging exercises
  • considered pace and control of exercises throughout class
  • programming that considers participants' weaknesses, make them do things they need but may not like
  • a mix of giving the clients what they need and what they want
  • making clients feel good about themselves and excited to come back to class
  • friendly, nice, humble, not rude, pretentious or precious

Glickman also emphasises the importance of knowing your own strengths and interests so that you can master what you’re especially good at rather than trying to cover all the bases or mimic other instructors. Her essential lessons for instructors seeking to elevate their “instructor” role to “Teacher” as follows:
  • Find your own "thing"/style/way of teaching and just stick to that and keep improving on that; don't be pressured to follow fads or trends
  • err on the side of solid basics rather than high complexity and try to extract the best from your clients without over cueing or correcting them or making them feel overwhelmed
  • have your "set" things that you know work that you can always draw on and then add to that more creative  or different things
  • have some jokes up your sleeve
  • don't wear low waist leggings and demonstrate cat stretch - embarrassing wardrobe malfunction!




Yoga Emojis Made In Melbourne

That's right! When you can't say it in words and only a downward dog followed by a trikonasana and crow will fully express your intentions, the only answer is a full library of yoga emojis.
There's over 400 icons to choose from, handily sorted into categories with both English and Sanksrit names. You just copy and paste the icons into your texts and voila! Yog-emotions all laid out for friends and family to acknowledge and appreciate.
For teachers, the great benefit of Yogoji is being able to grab icons for each pose and create sequences with a tap-and-go approach. Rather than draw funny sketches or write lengthy lists, plan your class with easy icons. Genius!
Made by a yogi in Melbourne, the fabulous Heidi Ireland. After a back injury in 2011, Heidi discovered the restorative and uplifting life of yoga - starting with a hip hop yoga habit! She then completed her Yoga Teacher Training and made the segue from marketing and strategy towards yoga instruction and lifestyle.
Yogoji is the ideal result of a yogi teacher awareness with digital marketing and media appreciation. Fun and useful for teachers, and enormous fun for yoga students, the mildly curious and the casual "whenever I can find the time" yoga participant!
RELEASE DATE:  09 August 2016
PLATFORM:  iOS9+ iPhone 5 and above
PRICE:  AUD $2.99 /  USD $1.99 / GBP £1.49 

Get it here.


Bring Sally Up Challenge

Core Integrity With Cat Bring Sally Up
I discovered this on YouTube, the place of many fitness discoveries!

What is the Bring Sally Up Challenge?

Press play. Get up, get down and keep it going for the Whole. Track.

Some are going to squat, some will do push ups, some will lunge (good lord...) and WE are going to plie in second for...the...
Whole.
Track.

Here is Suzanne Bowen doing it. I recommend practicing because we'll be doing this in Ballet Sculpt for the next week. See you there.

Is there a particular reason I need to post this? No. Just a whole lot of extremely attractive Euro guys doing push ups for the Bring Sally Up Challenge. Consider it motivation!