Health and Fitness Q&A with Les

Hello to all the Grade 11 students who are participating in the Health for Life summer online course! I hope you are enjoying it and are making an effort to improve your current fitness level and are making better food choices.

To my blog readers, just to provide you some background on where this blog post is coming from, I was asked by a family friend who is a teacher for some help.  He works for the Upper Grand District School Board and he thought it would be great to have me on board to help him with a health and fitness course he was teaching online.  I designed a strength training program that they could do at home or in the gym  with beginner and advanced options.  I also provided a hand out for the students that outlined safe ways for teens to exercise (do’s and dont’s) and provided them with tips for getting more exercise.  One of their assignments was to come up for questions for me….here they are with answers from the ‘expert’

Thanks to the students for coming up with some excellent questions, this makes for a great blog post as  many of my clients ask the same questions!


Q1: Are there certain times of the day that are more effective for exercising (first thing in the morning, etc.)?

A: The best time of the day to exercise is whatever time of the day works best for YOU! Some people prefer to work out in the morning before they start their day as it is the only time of day they will have no excuse to miss it. Others like to go after work or school as they are not morning people.  You have to choose and decide what time of the day works best for you.

Q2: Is it true that it is healthy to go for a walk (5-15 minutes long) after a meal?

A: Sure! That’s a great idea! It will help you digest your food and it’s always a great idea to go for a daily walk, and the more often you walk (or exercise) the better!

Q3: Is it beneficial to set up a plan for certain focused workouts on different days of the week, instead of trying to cram a bit of everything into one day? ex. cardio training(or vigorous aerobic exercise); Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Muscle Strength workout; Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday

A: Yes! Splitting up your workouts in the best idea.  Your body needs time to recover in between workouts. The schedule you have is perfect! Another way to split up your workouts would be lilke this Monday Upper body strength Tuesday Lower body strength Wednesday Cardio Thursday Full body workout Friday RECOVER/REST Saturday/Sunday Cardio


Q4: My second is: “How is having a personal trainer different than googling ways to exercise or ways to stay fit?”

A: There are many benefits of having a personal trainer! I could talk forever about all the reasons you should work with a personal trainer but I’ll keep this answer brief! The number one reason why having a personal trainer is the best way to get in shape is the MOTIVATION they will provide as well as ACCOUNTABILITY.  Second, you will get a program that is designed with your goals, fitness level, health condition, injuries, and your needs in mind.  Third, when you workout with a personal trainer they will make sure you are doing the exercises safely and  correctly! A trainer will also track your progress and help keep you on track.  A good trainer will also come up with new routines so that you  never get bored or hit the dreaded plateau that comes from doing the same workouts day after day.  These are just a few of the benefits of having a personal trainer, I can think of many more!


Q5: If a teenager is trying to lose weight what is the healthiest way to do it and what would you recommend, at what point should a teenager want to lose weight? If teenagers are already fit and they’re are exercising everyday is it good or bad or neither for them to be losing weight?

A: The best way to do it is to set short term (weekly/daily) and long term goals (monthly/yearly) and write them down.  Then after you’ve come up with a few goals you can start to evaluate what you will need to do to get there (focus on improving your nutrition, add more activity into your day, sleep more, etc) and come up with a plan of action.  There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer to your questions as it depends what your starting point is or what your exercise history is.  It is never too early (or too  late) to work on improving your body composition.  But of course striving for long term results is best, avoid any all or nothing approaches to diet and exercise as this will set you up for failure.   



Q6: How did you get so many scholarship options? What did you do to get yourself out there?

A: I played for a club team that was highly respected and won many national championships.  We travelled to the USA to play in tournaments and our club team had a great reputation as my club had been in existence for over 20 years and many of our graduates had gone on to play volleyball on scholarship.  I was recruited by many US coaches when they watched me play at various tournaments in the USA.  So I guess you could say it was exposure to university coaches, hard work and determination to earn a scholarship, lots of sacrifice and my club coach who had lots of connections. There are many different ways people get athletic scholarships, I would love to help you further if you’re interested.


Q7: As teenagers we hear our parents tell us all the time not to do intense workouts because our bodies are still growing and we could hurt ourselves. At what level should we workout to maintain a fit, healthy body but not overdue it?

A: I can understand their concern but what about the downsides of being inactive?  That is more unhealthy than ‘pushing yourself’.  But yes you must not do too much too soon.  A healthy lifestlye and exercise habit doesn’t happen over night.  Some people try to do too much too soon, and approach fitness as an all or nothing type of thing.  Listen to your body! This is why it is so important to listen to your gym teacher, health teacher or personal trainer to learn the proper way to exercise, and how much (or little) you should be doing.  Yes our bodies are still growing but the sooner we get in the habit of exercising daily and eating healthy the easier it will become as we get older. Everyone’s level of fitness (and interest in fitness) is different so there is no ‘one size fits all’ answer for your question about what level should we train at.

Q8: With a busy schedule and not a lot of time to properly workout, what is another good way to stay fit without having to workout everyday?

A: Start small! So if you’re not currently working out at all aim for 3 short (20-30 minute) workouts per week.  Once that becomes easy, you can either extend your workouts (45-60 minutes now) or add another day.  You don’t have to exercise every single day to stay fit, the most important thing is that you try to move at least 3 days a week, eventually aiming for 5 days a week.  And if you’re really having a hard time finding time to workout, you may want to sit down and figure out what you’re spending so much time doing.  Maybe you could cut sometime out, or spend less time watching tv/checking facebook/etc and make an appointment with yourself/set time aside to exercise as often as you can!


Q9: My two questions for Leslie would be: What would be some recommendations you would give to help find motivation to get more physical activity as a teen? What would you recommend to eat before doing some of the exercises you suggested?

A: Check out this blog post

 Make friends with someone who loves to exercise and that you enjoy spending time with! Setting up an appointment with a friend (or personal trainer) to exercise will make you more likely to do it!  Or figure out what type of physical activity you enjoy doing the most and make sure to do that more often (going for walks, playing catch, riding a bike, playing a sport, doing an exercise class, etc)  If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing then you’ll be less likely to do it, right? And for recommendations on what to eat, aim to eat as much fresh REAL food you can! So when you’re in the grocery store with your parents (or when you go yourself) make sure you do the majority of your shopping on the outside of the grocery store.  Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, meats, nuts, whole grains and other unprocessed foods.  Before a workout, a light snack is best (nuts with piece of fruit, half a protein bar, a slice of toast with all natural peanut butter, greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit, are some examples!)


Q10: What type of vigorous aerobic exercises would you suggest during the winter time since a lot of them are outdoor activities that are enjoyable during the summer time?

A: There are lots! Downhill or cross country skiing, winter running is fun (bundle up and slow down so you don’t slip), snow shoeing, ice skating, sledding (sliding down is fun and then running back up the hill is a workout), or take your workout inside! Do an exercise DVD in your living room or join a gym!  There are so many cardio/aerobics classes to choose from!

Q11: What is the best meal to eat after a vigorous aerobic exercise such as soccer?

A: Hmmm well what do you like to eat? Eat that!  The benefit of the post workout meal is that your body needs to replenish what you burned off and it will absorb most of what you eat after your workout.  Preferably a balanced meal with a healthy portion/source of carbs (whole grain bread, pasta or rice, potatoes, fruit) and 1 serving of protein (chicken, beef, fish, pork, etc) and lots of veggies! Always remember you are what you eat, so if you choose junk food, take out or fast food you will not be getting any nutritional benefits from the over processed foods.  Choose fresh foods because you’re worth it and your body will thank you for it! If you’re really strapped for time and starving after your sport/game you can always grab a protein drink or protein bar after your workout to hold you over until you get home to have dinner later.


Q12: My first question for Leslie is, when I’m at the gym I do a mixture of cardio and weight training, but I’m never sure if I should be alternating or doing one first and the other after to get the best results?

A: Here is a blog post  I wrote that might help answer your question…

My advice would be to warm up with about 5-10 minutes of cardio, then do your weight training and if you want to do more cardio I would do it after your weights.  There is no right or wrong way/day/time to do cardio, as long as you do cardio 3-4 times a week for at least 30 minutes (on your day off from weights, after your weight workout, it doesn’t matter!)

Q13: My second question is sometimes I don’t have time to make it to the gym, so is a bike ride or walk sufficient exercise for the day if I’m trying to lose weight?

A: Yes of course! Doing physical activity of any kind is better than no workout! Always remember that exercise will help increase your fitness but eating right will help you to lose weight…


Q14: Is powerlifting okay in a gym setting, with the proper technique, while a teenagers muscles are still in the last stages of development?

A: Yes! Of course! But proper technique is so important as you don’t want to put yourself at risk for injury. Make sure you meet with a certified personal trainer or strength coach who will help make sure that you are using proper form for your major lifts (deadlifts, squats, bench press, pull ups, military press, etc)

Q15: Is using a protein supplement, because it seems to help me avoid soreness the day after a power lifting workout, okay – any special instructions?

A: Yes! A protein shake is great after a workout is one of the best time to get protein into the body so that the protein can be delivered to your muscles, to begin healing the “micro tears” (very small tears in the muscle tissue, caused by intense contraction of the muscle during workout) in the muscle. Regardless of your goals, protein should be regarded as a foundational nutrient of any nutrition program; it’s an essential ingredient for getting the best results (weight loss, muscle building, etc).  A basic rule of thumb is to consume 1 g of protein per pound of bodyweight but this can vary based on how phyiscally active you are and what your goals are.


Q16: Hi Leslie!, I am a basketball player and for next years team I have to transition to the center position which means I need to be a lot bigger and stronger. Do you recommend bulking up and then leaning out or getting lean and then bulking up. I am just kind of confused on what is the best way of doing it .

A: Awesome to hear you are trying to improve yourself so you can be more competitive in a new position for your sport.  No matter what you do you, should do sport specific training.  Speed and agility drills, plyometrics (to increase your vertical) and to get stronger LIFT WEIGHTS!Eat lots of healthy carbs, fats and protein.  Look for a trainer in your area who trains basketball players or other athletes (a strength and conditioning coach) and they will be able to give you better guidance.  I don’t suggest bulking up as this will slow you down but you can gain lean mass by lifting weighs and eating right.

Q17: Hi Leslie!, I have been dealing with some serious ankle problems and I have tried about everything that physiotherapists and other people recommend but i still end up in the same position. I sprain my ankles very frequently and it restricts me to perform 100%. What exercises or activities do you recommend to strengthen ankle muscles?

A: Sounds like you need to work on your ankle stability, or perhaps you require better shoes or you might also have imbalances or flexibility issues in your hips/knees.  I need  more details about your injury and would have to see you in person in order to give you specific exercises to help your injury.  My best advice to you would be to visit an osteopath as they would be able to give you an accurate assessment and recommendations to help strengthen your ankles that will prevent further injury.


Q18: How tired should I be after each exercise/workout session?

A: You should feel like you worked out (break a sweat, increase your body temperature, raise your heart rate) but don’t go so hard that you can’t walk afterwards! It’s ok to have an intense workoout a couple times a week but you also want to be sure to listen to your body.  If you push yourself too hard, and too often this could lead to overtraining and perhaps injury.  On the other hand, if you just ‘go through the motions’ in your workout you won’t get  much out of it.  It takes practice but after exercise for awhile you’ll be able to gauge what level is right for you to work at in order to get a good workout! Everyones level of physical effort and fitness is different so try not to compare yourself to others!

Q19: Should I try to do vigorous aerobic exercises and muscle-strengthening exercises or is doing just vigorous aerobic exercises enough?

 A: A combination of both is best!


Q20: Hi Leslie, my name is Chris. I was wondering if you had any tips on healthy weight gain and muscle strengthening. Also, do you have any suggestions on the best daily vitamin for a teenager to use?

 A: I have many tips 🙂 A nutrition plan tailored to your needs and goals plus a specific training schedule and giving yourself a year to reach your goals would be best (I would be happy to help you with this!)  I could write an entire blog post to answer this question so feel free to email me directly if you would like more information as there is no simple answer or list I can provide you.  And there are many high quality vitamins and supplements out there (so many it can be overwhelming) but I brand that I use and trust is Progressive.


Q21: Do you know of any fun ways to exercise while involving a dog? I don’t mean just taking my dog for a walk, I mean interactive and mentally stimulating things to do together.

A: I don’t own a dog 😦 But check out this link for some exercises you can do with your pet…

 I know of a place in Ottawa that does fitness classes outdoors for people and their dogs, maybe you can find one of these classes in your town?

Q22: What do you think of the P90X workout program? From what I’ve heard it’s pretty intense, but also has results. What do you think?

A: It is a great workout, super challenging! If you can commit to following it for 90 days, go for it! The only problem with P90x or any home workout program/DVD is you’ll never know if you’re doing the exercises properly. But, regardless, if you follow it (and improve your eating habits) you’ll get results! No matter what workout program you choose, as long as you consistently follow it, you’ll reap the benefits! And make sure you don’t stop after 90 days…your fitness journey doesn’t stop after 3 months, you must find ways to stay motivated for the rest of your life!



Q23: Do you have any tips for someone who is trying to get fit who has a chronic illness? (Crohn’s disease) Also, do you have any advice for someone who has just started hill biking? (I live in Hockley Valley, no flat land whatsoever and lots of very steep hills)

A: Personally I do not have any expertise in this area but after doing a bit of research it seems like lifting weights and walking are the best options for someone with Crohn’s disease.  Here are some more tips that can help you live an active lifestyle…1. Minimize impact (low impact activities). 2. Go uphill (walk, don’t run and if using a treadmill, increase the incline) 3. Map out the restrooms. 4. Plan potty breaks. 5. Choose your sports wisely 6. Listen to your body 7. Keep your doctor in the loop.

To answer your second question, I am not a cyclist but I can tell you to not do too much too soon! Start with a shorter route with few hills and then add distance or more hills as you get in better shape.  Also try a spinning class a couple days a week to help condition your legs (and lungs).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: