Category: Health and Wellness

Class Review: KTX Fitness Cycling with Keith Thompson


If you’re active on social media, you probably might have come across this video of a hip-hop inspired cycling class:

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When I found out that KTX Fitness instructor Keith Thompson was going to be in Toronto, I jumped at the chance to sign up. Was it because I was an active spinner? No. Personally, I haven’t been on a bicycle in over a decade and I never even seen a spin bike up close. But I registered for the class because it looked fun.

Too often there is a monotony attributed to the gym scene. Even various fitness classes can become tedious with repetitive moves and the same drawn out down beat playing on the speaker.  When I saw the video of Keith’s cycle class, it looked like everyone was full of energy and his entertaining and positive attitude shown through (the twerking part in the above vid just sealed the deal for me). Here’s a video of him when he was on the Queen Latifa Show:

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The Cleveland, Ohio native led four classes this weekend and the guest instruction took place at the sleek Rocket Cycle spinning studio on St. Clair West, which opened a couple years ago. Rocket Cycle’s decor is very clean and modern The staff was very friendly. I loved the large lockers (no padlock needed), and the elegant-looking water station. Don’t have indoor cycling shoes? Rocket Cycle can lend you a pair for the class (though, I’m curing the guy who took the last size 10… I had to squeeze into a 9.5). Plus, they clean the whole studio between each class and provide a fresh towel on each bike. On the downside, Rocket Cycle is located right above World Class Bakery, so after burning which I think was 800 calories, I earned them back by buying a lemon shortbread cookie and a Nanaimo bar (you win some, you lose some).

Not used to the indoor cycling shoes, it took me a minute to figure out how to latch them on to the bike. When I realized I couldn’t dismount easily like if I were wearing regular runners on a bicycle, I worked up the nerve to innocently ask the nice lady beside me how to get off (excuse me for not wanting to break the shoes and use more force to dislodge them). Now that I knew how to make a quick escape and not be the sole person stuck to a bike in case the fire alarm went off, I was ready to warm up.

I made a few adjustments to the seat, but spinning seemed comfortable enough. Keith started the class with about 10 minutes of “warm-up”. I was cursing myself after the first 5 for actually signing up for this class, because my legs were already killing me.

Now I’m a pretty athletic woman. I’ve always been involved in sports and activities. But the older you get the more your body rejects the notion of you forcing itself to do work, rather than sit on your couch and eat a bowl of ice cream. So I haven’t been in my best shape, metabolism-wise, recently. So to go into this cold was an error on my part. But once I got into the music it actually became a lot easier. Keith also gave us lots of quick mini-water breaks while on our bikes, which was great (I think I downed almost a litre).

Keith’s playlist is awesome. A bunch of upbeat, hip hop tracks definitely make you forget that your muscles are tearing while riding a stationary bike and bouncing up and down. I personally enjoyed the R&B slow jams he played, during which I could catch my breath. There was enough body changing movements on the bike that allowed us to use more of our bodies and get a full workout. I was nervous at the fact that Keith was walking (I guess I should say dancing) up and down the aisle observing everyone’s spinning technique and positively motivating us. I surprised myself by actually keeping up with the majority of the exercises in the one-hour class that required us to stay up from the seat.

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It’s no surprise that KTX Fitness has become so popular. Keith Thompson’s passion and energy is contagious, and I can actually say that I would try the class again. The step classes he offers actually appeal to me as well, so I’ll be on the lookout for those if and when he comes back to Toronto, or if I even venture down to the Atlanta, Georgia area. KTX Fitness is highly recommended if you’re looking for a great workout that you will actually have fun doing.

Now I’m just waiting to see how sore my body will be tomorrow.

My Invisalign Journey is Finally Finished!


This morning I had my final appointment with my orthodontist, I am now Invisalign-free!

I started with Invisalign braces back in March 2012. After some refinements back in Spring (one of my teeth wasn’t turning as planned), and an extra two months of treatment, the books on my orthodontic treatment have been closed.

I had my attachments on my lower teeth removed at the end of June. The top attachments (or “buttons”) were removed today (including the extra one they had put in over the winter to get that stubborn tooth to rotate). I was given a set of retainers to wear full-time for the next few days, then nightly thereafter.

The retainers closely resemble my regular Invisalign trays, but are a tad bit sturdier.

I am beyond happy with my smile now. It’s amazing the sense of confidence one has with a set of well-aligned pearly whites!

I killed two birds with one stone today and got my semi-annual cleaning done at my dentist later on in the day, so now my mouth is truly glowing!

Thanks to the staff at City Orthodontics for their friendly and professional work over the last 18-months. I was even given a mylar balloon with the word “Congrats” written on it (makes a wonderful conversation-starter on public transit… I should try that tactic in the future), as well as a cute water bottle (ironically, filled with candy).

So, what did I think about the Invisalign process? I think if you’re considering orthodontic treatment as an adult, if you have the extra cash (and if you’re responsible, because remembering to keep your trays in and proper hygiene are important), definitely go this route. Every time I told someone that I wore braces, they didn’t notice at all because Invisalign is so “invisible”.

Sure it was a bit of an inconvenience to have to remove them every time I would eat a meal (sometimes I kept them in if it was a light snack, but was careful to brush right after), and took a few days to get used to every couple of weeks when I would put in my new trays, but I wore them for at least 22 hours each day for the last year and a half and my smile has changed for the better.

Plus I’ll probably be still brushing my teeth four times a day.

Post-Invisalign smile and the "congrats" presents from my orthodontist!

Post-Invisalign smile and the “congrats” presents from my orthodontist!

Review: San Francisco International Bachata Festival


It’s been a few years since I started Latin dancing, my favourite of which is bachata. When there’s a bachata-themed event, I’m usually there, even if it’s a few thousand miles away in San Francisco.

So last month I waited for some airfare deals and flew down to California with one of my “salsa girlfriends”, and we attended the annual San Francisco International Bachata Festival at the Hyatt Regency from July 19-21. The brainchild of Rodney “Rodchata” Aquino, SFIBF was one of the (if not the) best Latin dance festival/congress I’ve ever been to.

Check in process was pretty straight-forward, and the staff and volunteers were pretty helpful. I purchased a nice pair of super-cute dance flats from one of the vendor booths (just when I thought I had enough shoes), and the festival sponsor Yerba Mate kept everyone hydrated with their energy-filled drinks.

Most of the workshops were great, with my favourites being those led by Troy and Jorjet (kizomba), Bryon and Sammantha (Dominican bachata footwork), and Jo and Kathy (bachata ladies styling) . I learned some really cool movements that I can add to my bachata shines. I also found a new passion for kizomba by taking Troy and Jorjet’s workshop. I just hate dancing closed position dances with sweaty guys, so learning the “community hold” made me appreciate the dance more.

Speaking of Troy and Jorjet, if anyone has seen them on YouTube or taken any of their workshops before, you know how their mannerisms are. Vince and Jo did a hilarious impersonation of them. Best of all, Troy and Jorjet were good sports about it, which just show how great professionals they are.

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Troy also recognized me from the “Bachata Basement” dance video I did with my friend, Renelle last year. Super-nice guy with such a positive personality. The dance DVD’s that he and his wife produce are so easy-to-follow that I had to pick up a couple more so that I can build on my bachata and learn some kizomba.

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The variety of amazing instructors and dancers who were in attendence had me in awe. My favourites (and mainly the sole reason why I wanted to attend) Troy Anthony and Jorjet Alcocer were there,  DJ Vince Torres & Jo Quiñonez had the crowd in stitches with their entertaining MC-ing during the performances, the ever-faboulous Zeke Fabulosa from Chicago, the beautiful Kathy Reyes, the world-renound brother-sister team of Junior and Emily Alabi, and so many more.

My favourite team though by far was the dancers from MG Dance Studio. If you want to see what hard work and dedication look like, while at the same time having fun, being positive and friendly, the young people in this group is the embodiment of it. Their routines are phenominal. I still can’t believe a few of them are only high school seniors.

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The performances and shows were excellent. Not too short and not to long. The dancers all seemed like they rehearsed well, with clean movements and great energy.

Social dancing Friday, Saturday and Sunday night were breaths of fresh air compared to social dancing here in Toronto. Don’t get me wrong, I love my city, but the “salsa scene” here seems to be a bit… cliquey (a post about this coming up soon). It was nice actually getting asked to dance by guys for once. All the dancers in attendance were super friendly, introduced themselves, and always up for a dance.

One guy came up and asked me to dance salsa, but admitted that he dances a little of a “different style”. Honestly, this was music to my ears, because ever since I stopped taking Latin dance classes, I seemed to dance in my own style (which happens to be more Cuban-based) which is not the norm here in the Toronto salsa scene. So when he smiled as he saw how I was following to match his own similar style, it was one of my best salsa dances ever (he also was a great bachata dancer as well)!

I also signed up for the competition that SFIBF was hosting at this year’s event. Although a tad disorganized (call-times were changed and they even forgot to mention my name), it was a great experience for me. Personally, I thought there would be a lot more competitors, but for the two categories I entered–the solo and the Jack & Jill–I was up against some seasoned veterans.

Although I didn’t come home with the big trophy, I was honoured to get the chance to compete with some talented dancers and experienced professionals. I surprised myself by getting up on that stage (probably because it was in a city where no one knew my name), I managed to throw together a routine that garnered a lot of praise from other dancers and even one of the coaches from another team (thank you so much for the kind words Wayne Melton!). I felt so blessed that I got the chance to do this, and I’m going to keep on dancing to improve my skill while having fun doing it.

Will I be back in San Fran for next year’s festival? Based on what I experienced this year, then for sure. Well, unless airfare prices skyrocket… it’s a looooong way to San Francisco from the T Dot!


Review: The O-Course


I can’t recall a time when every muscle in my body has been this sore.

Yesterday morning I (willingly) participated in what had probably been the most mentally and physically challenging events of my life thus far: Fit Factory’s O Course. Tony Austin, a former U.S. marine drill instructor, and Ivan Ho are co-founders of this military-style obstacle course which is based on marine corps fitness training.

I first heard of Fit Factory Fitness last year from a friend who takes their boot-camp classes. A few months ago I saw a Groupon for The O Course so I decided that since I was on track for my new fitness regimen I purchased one. I don’t think I would’ve gotten the motivation to actually go if another friend hadn’t have told me that they were planning on going this summer. After some schedule adjustments we were set for August 10th.

Usuallly, The O Course takes place at The Docks in Toronto. This past Saturday organizers debuted with their new location: Wild Water Kingdom. I was actually kind of excited when I heard of this location change. I haven’t been to Wild Water Kingdom since I was living in Rexdale as a kid (although I knew I wasn’t going to be sliding down water-slides again until I checked off that Learn-How-To-Swim box on my bucket list) .

We got there just after 9am, plenty of time before the scheduled 10am start. New to the O Course this time around was the Kids O Course where a couple dozens children aged 5 to 14 jumped, climbed, ran and crawled through a similarly-designed obstacle course. The kids went first and the rest of us adults cheered them on as they completed different challenges, so we didn’t get our start until closer to 11am.

The Warm-Up

Whoever calls what we did a warm-up, has got to be some sort of cyborg. Apparently we lucked out: Tony A cut down our warm up to 20 mintutes instead of the usual 40-ish, because our post-warm-up run was longer than norm (10.2K) and we started a bit late (I’m not complaining).

We started off with warm up along the shore of Clairville Reservoire. After getting over the initial shock of how muddy the area was and how long it took me to do my pre-vacation hair earlier this week, I filled in lines with the rest of the “troops”. Megaphone in hand, Tony A led us through our warm-up, drill seargeant-style, with volunteers walking through the lines shouting words of “encouragement”. If people were slacking we were told to go “into the mud” to continue (I almost lost my shoe, because it was so thick and deep). We went though various sets of push-ups, sit-ups, chest-presses and squats, the marjority of which were done with a 4lb block of wood (called a “rifle”) in our hands.

The troops heading for their 10K run right after the warm-up.

The troops heading for their 10K run right after the warm-up. [Image from The O Course]

The Course (So it begins…)

Did I mention we also had to run 10K with this rifle? Well, we did. It actually wasn’t that bad. I managed to carry the rifle through the entire run without having to switch hands or rest it on my shoulders (must be all that practice I do carrying shopping bags on a daily basis). I did notice this one girl running the course rifle-less. When I glanced beside her a guy (most likely her boyfriend) carrying hers as well as his as they were jogging up the trail (talk about a princess… he carried both of them on the way back as well).

My friend was out of my view half-way though the run (even though she thought I’d finish before she did), so I was technically on my own the majority of the course. As long as I wasn’t last, I was okay (though at one point I almost got lost at a fork in the road and waited a few minutes for the runner behind me to ask for directions). The run was challenging, but doable. I did speed-walk instead of jog the majority of the way on the return trip, but I knew I could’ve moved at a faster pace if I put my mind to it.

A concentrated glare of determination: "I will not get my hair messed up... oh, yeah, and finish this obstacle course".

A concentrated glare of determination: “I will not get my hair messed up… oh, yeah, and finish this obstacle course”. [image from The O Course]

After the run, we were instructed to do 50 sit-ups with the rifles on our chest and feet in the water. I did these pretty quickly (compared with most exercises, sit ups are actually somewhat enjoable for me to do). Once complete we had to head back to the reservoir where we started our warm-up. The mud was so thick, getting back there was a struggle. I was tempted to take off my shoes as some participants did, but was afraid of what was lurking under there.

But wait! There’s more!

When we got back, we had to do four separate strength training exercises: carrying a pail of mud/water across the reservoire, a heavy ammo box with a partner, drag a cement cinder-block, and finally crawl through the water with a backpack filled with mud. The last one kind of freaked me out, so I double checked with the volunteer that I would’n’t be submerged above my neck while doing that activity (yes, I made it through with every hair in place). I wasn’t impressed with the fact that the water was filled with creepy, crawly things (I even saw a frog).

From there it was a quick sprint towards the final obstacles, the first of which was a giant pyramid of dirt and mud that looked like something that sick triceratops pooped out in Jurassic Park. When the volunteer that was manning the mound told us we had to sniper crawl up it, I thought “no way”. But I did it, even though I had to cheat a little and use my knees a couple of times (it was slippery). But when he said I had to sniper crawl down I nearly thought I was on some sort of hidden camera game show. That hill was steep, but I took a deep breath and went for it. It was kind of fun actually, and I still didn’t mess up my hair!

I couldn’t climb up the tall, wooden pyramid wall with the rope, it was way too slippery with mud, so I did the penalty of 25 burpees (my least favourite workout). At another challenge, two girls and I (who were at the same pace with me) worked together to give each other approved “boosts” over the wooden beams so we could make it through. As high of a jumper I am, this seemed to be a difficult one for the ladies (I thought I ruptured an ovary on my first solo attempt).

The only other obstacle that I though were a disadvantage to women because of height/build was the third-last trial: approximately 10, one-foot long, suspended pieces of rope that we were instructed to manouver ourselves through. With training I could probably do these a lot easier, but I think because the rope was covered in duct tape, and muddy from the dozens of participants who went through the course minutes earlier, it was really difficult to grip on to. Penalty burpees it was.

The monkey bars were pretty high as well, and assume a lot of women and/or shorter-statured men opted-out of this one. I was encouraged by the volunteer that I “look like” I could do it (damn these Serena Williams-esque arms), so I attempted it, but got to about three bars when my left hand slipped and I fell awkwardly on my right hand. I was really worried about re-injuring my wrist since I sprained it in basketball last year. Luckily I didn’t fall on it too bad, and the volunteer who was supervising that challenge gave me the option of just doing 25 sit ups and bowing out of doing the final obstacle: the rings. I was so close to finishing that I wasn’t about to let a little pain slow me down. With some encouragement from my friend who had finished the course 20 minutes earlier (and snapping photos of me while I silently cursed her), I stretched out my wrist and went for the rings. What do you know I made it through all 10 in one shot (grunting with each one, no doubt)!

My final time was 2:19. Obviously, I didn’t make the top 20 females, but I attempted each and every challenge and completed The O Course from start to finish. I am so proud of myself, and being the type of person to always want to challenge myself and try something new, I know that if I run The O Course again I’ll be a bit more mentally and physically prepared to do it even faster.

Some tips for newbies from a newbie on The O Course:

  • Get plenty of sleep the night before: I don’t know why I felt obligated to watch my pre-recorded episode of The Young and the Restless and various Shark Week docks until 3am the night before, but I should’ve hit the hay a lot earlier.
  • Eat a decent breakfast: I thought my banana smoothie and a Power Bar would’ve sufficed, but I was feeling hungry and nauseous minutes after the course. Have something filled with good carbs, and make sure you drink your water.
  • Make sure you’re at least semi-active: Although their official site says that The O Course is for all fitness levels, if you’re a permanent couch potato I reccommend you build your way up to The O Course by doing some regular form of physical activity leading up to it. I’m pretty active: I participate in team sports such as basketball and volleyball once a week, walk regularly, and do my 20-minutes of DVD cardio workouts at least four times a week. Since I got back from vacation a couple weeks ago, I’ve been a bit lazy though, so I was definitely not prepared as I could’ve been.
  • Wear clothes you’ll be willing to part with: You’ll get muddy. Really muddy. And bring a towel and change of clothing. This past Saturday’s O Course was touted as “Toughest and muddiest O Course of all time” by organizers. I’m still wringing out muddy water from the clothes I was wearing.
  • Make sure you take the day off: I had a get-together to attend at a friends house at 3pm that same day. By the time I hosed off after the course, got home, properly showered, rinsed out my muddy clothes, made a salad to bring along to the party it was 5pm. Plus I was utterly exhausted. You definitely need the afternoon to rest after this grueling workout.

The O Course definitely gave me some confidence. Even though my muscles are aching and I wish there was extra coconut water for us stragglers at the end of the race, I’m glad I participated in this event (and that my hair was mud-free).

Here’s a video of  the latest O Course (I’ll replace when the August 10th version is posted to their channel):

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Thank You Telehealth Ontario


So as is the case when I usually sign up to play a new organized sport for the season, I get injured in the face. A few years ago it was an elbow to the mouth as a girl was going up for a rebound, last summer it was a fist to the nose as a girl was running towards home plate and I was waiting for the throw (why she didn’t use the safety bag is beyond me, and most recently it came full circle and I sustained ANOTHER elbow to the mouth in basketball defending a layup.

I should really start wearing a football helmet when I play any organized sport.

Anyways, I went down immediately on Wednesday night, but my primary concern was my braces. I really shouldn’t be playing with my Invisaligns in, but I didn’t think that I would get hit in the head again (I mean, what are the odds). Almost immediately after impact my upper lip started swelling and ballooned to double the size (I would post pics, but it’s gross). Taking out my top Invisalign I examined it and let out a sigh of relief that it wasn’t cracked (I really didn’t feel like forking over $250 for a new tray).

Then I rinsed out my mouth and made sure I wasn’t missing any teeth. Some slight bleeding along the gum-line of one tooth, but other than that the skin wasn’t broken on my lip (I’m pretty sure my braces acted kind of like a mouth guard in that sense).

After I got an apology from my perpetrator, I got a ride home from one of my team mates. Luckly I had some Ibuprofen on me, so I took two. I also had a ziploc bag handy and filled it with snow to ice down my lip on the way home, and iced it a bit more before bed.

It wasn’t until the morning when I saw that the swelling was still prominent that I called up Telehealth Ontario. I never called them before, but after remember seeing some commercials and some stuff on the government website, I decided that some help from a nurse practioner was needed.

The call went so smoothly. I was only on hold for about 40 seconds after the initial operator picked up, before a nurse took my call. After answering a few questions about myself and my injury she was able to give me some great advice on a remedy, and told me that it would be approximately 2-3 days for the swelling to go completely down, and to watch out for signs of infection if the swelling increased at all over 2 days. Also noted that I should rinse with some salt water, stay away from any spicy or hot foods while my lip was swollen.

Took the day off work obviously (as tempted as I was to tell my students that the reason for my busted lip was that I got in a bar fight), and continued to ice it (Freezies helped and were oh, so tasty) and take a couple Advil every 4 hours.

The swelling did go down a lot and as of 36 hours later I was able to back to work without looking like I was it a UFC fight.

So, thank you Teleheath Ontario for your super-friendly, quick and helpful assistance.

Telehealth Ontario offers free access to a Registered Nurse 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can be reached at 1-866-797-0000.