How Regular Exercise and Yoga Help Me Conquer Negative Thought Patterns

woman doing yoga

By Jessica Desgagnes

Buddha said: “Life is suffering”. Not misery.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I had convinced myself that I didn’t have to work at something to grow beyond whatever a 9-5 shift – or 19:00-2:00 – was bringing to my life, but it was apparent when I looked around me that I had.

I do, however, remember the day I decided to try something that I had dismissed.

An acquaintance had posted on social media that she was looking for a gym partner to join her for partner personal training at a fitness studio that offered small group training and for whatever reason, I decided to give it a shot. Did I believe I could do “it”? Nope. I was merely open to the possibility. I maintain the choice to show up is the hardest part, and continues to be, because the mind has the capacity to crush us more than any barbell can.

“I can’t do a push-up” – honestly though, I hadn’t the strength to do one, not even from my knees – reframed, became: “I can do a push-up with my hands on the wall.”

Maybe it was easier in the short term to feed that negative energy because it was what I knew. I’d been unwittingly doing it for years. The “I can’ts” are just one example of myriad voices I battle in my head. Not-so-breaking-news: I’m not so unique that I don’t share the same thoughts loads of people around me do. The difference is acknowledging the negative thoughts and choosing to challenge them.

Making regular exercise part of my lifestyle is a tool that translates to battling negative thoughts in other areas of my life as well. It’s as if that extra push to get just one more squat in when I think that I have nothing else left in me and the instant “kick” that comes with surprising myself builds strength of body and mind.

I combat negative thoughts via my yoga practice as well. Perhaps in part because my work is physically demanding, I find myself gravitating toward Yin yoga in particular; it is quite literally the match to my yang. It’s how I give myself time for introspection. I am increasingly learning to respond to situations rather than react, or lash out, if you will.

When I give in to negative thought patterns – and I must emphasize give in -, I increasingly hinder my potential; I cage myself. When I choose to challenge my fears (which are often a product of low self-esteem) with each seemingly miniscule personal milestone my confidence grows. When my mind and body are healthier, I can better serve myself, my inner circle, and my community at large. Neuroplasticity is real: build your mind, create your life.

I would love to read your stories on the MoFitness community Facebook page! We can all afford to learn from each other.

Fitness Basics: Discover Your Gym!

Recently I took on the challenge of creating workshops for people who walk into a gym and just don’t know where to start.  The machines can be intimidating, confusing and potentially harmful if you don’t know what you’re doing. Effective, safe training requires knowledge of how to properly sit on a machine, how to position yourself, and important reminders to not do certain things in order to avoid injuries.  

As a Personal Trainer, of course I will recommend you hire a trainer to reach your fitness goals, but I see poor form in the gym all the time, even with people who look like they were born in the gym.  

My wife and I gave a workshop at The Brix apartment building to help their residents get to know a few machines in their gym, the feedback we received was consistently the same; that they just never felt comfortable in the gym, that they only knew how to use a few things and would get bored easily.  We were so happy to be able to elevate their fitness experience in their home gym and look forward to continuing to increase their fitness knowledge.  We were excited to be able to motivate them to use their gym.

YouTube videos can only take you so far, they won’t look at your form and tell you specifically what you are doing incorrectly, what you can do better and what you may want to focus on or be wary of for your specific situation.  We taught these 10 participants how to safely use the Lat Pull Down, how to use the Rowing Machine successfully, how to squat and press like a beast, as well as 4 different ways to do push-ups.   From their in the sessions to come, we will continue to give them the basics while adding on different movements to keep things interesting.

We followed up the workshop with a mini-bootcamp to make sure everyone left with an endorphin high, eager to get back at it!

Meeting neighbours and forming a community

Here are the photos from the first workshop, contact us if you’d like to provide this service to your residents or employees!

Preparation and Motivation

There are so many obstacles to getting to the gym, often they have to do with feeling ill-prepared for the class, or for the day to day things you need to get done.  Most of the time our own mind is our biggest enemy when it comes to making time for fitness; we can find a million excuses not to work out and that break in your resolve to get fit is what you need to condition yourself to overcome.  As a father of a 4 month old, with both my wife and I working; it is really easy to say, I’m too busy, I have errands, I need to wash diapers, I’m exhausted; sometimes those are very valid reasons and I do skip the workout but the best way to avoid these conflicts is to be organized. I wanted to share with you a few tips to help you get prepared for a successful and healthy week!  The following tips are from my personal life, what my wife and I do to make sure we both get in enough exercise throughout the week.

Meal Prep: Planning out your week’s meals means that you know exactly what you need to buy at the grocery store for the whole week thus eliminating multiple runs to the store.  You can chop and freeze your veggies ahead of time, prepare smoothie jars, prepack a few days of lunches, etc…weeks that we don’t meal plan are always way more hectic and I found that we don’t eat as healthy either.

Shakshuka!

Pack your bag :  Pack your bag the night before, that way it doesn’t feel as daunting or rushed when the time comes to go to your class. 

Don’t sit down :  Some days you can’t imagine leaving your sofa after you get home from work, the best way to overcome this mental obstacle is to power through and just do housework until you have to leave for class.  Clean the house, cook dinner…doesn’t matter what as long as you stay active.  Another way to motivate yourself for an evening class is to put your workout clothes on as soon as you get home.  

Drink a coffee/tea : My wife is a teacher and she says that at least once a week after lunch, she often feels like she knows she wants to skip the gym after work because she feels too tired.  On those days she will drink an afternoon coffee or green tea so that she has the energy to get to the gym.  

Drink water :  It’s a really good idea to hydrate through out the day.  When you don’t drink enough water, your body can feel sluggish, drinking enough water can keep you energized throughout the day and make sure you are properly hydrated for a sweaty workout.

Eat Properly :  Make sure you eat enough throughout the day to keep your body happy but don’t eat so much that you need a nap after lunch.

The 2 Hour Rule : Do not eat anything heavy within 2 hours of going to exercise…It’s best not to eat anything at all within that 2-hour period but sometimes with our chaotic life we can’t always plan things out so neatly. If you are STARVING then have something small and easy to digest like a banana, a handful of nuts, a piece of cheese. 

Get Enough Sleep : I know this is a tough one but getting 7 good hours of sleep consistently, lays the foundation for a successful day.  You’ll have enough mental and physical energy to accomplish what you need to do!

As with any good habit you want to adopt, consistency and frequency is key.  Prioritizing your health might feel like you have to sacrifice down time, or social time, but after a while it won’t feel like a sacrifice at all and you’ll find yourself looking forward to that endorphin rush.  Tell your friends you’ll meet them after your workout and they’ll admire you for your resolve and lament their inability to get to the gym.  On the days that it’s toughest to get to the gym, those are the workouts that will make you feel the best because not only will you have those happy exercise endorphins rushing through you but you’ll also have the knowledge that you put mind over matter and really earned an evening on the couch!

Moses

Family Fitness NDG

Starting June 4thI will be running a twice weekly (Tuesday and Sunday) fitness class in NDG Park (Girouard/Sherbrooke) near Vendome Metro. I call it Family Fitness because I am encouraging families to get outside to be active together, however, the classes are for everyone.  There are so many obstacles to people who are trying to start or maintain an active lifestyle, so with Mo Fitness, I am removing those barriers by offering fun, accessible, family friendly and affordable fitness classes.  Parents are hard pressed to leave their kids at the end of a long work day or even on the weekends to exercise so I want to encourage you to bring your children, your partners, your families, and your friends! I also understand that committing to a monthly gym membership or paying the drop in rates at many gyms is not realistic for many people, especially families, that is why we created a reasonable price structure depending on your level of commitment and what you can afford; our prices are pretty unbeatable, especially if you bring someone along!

Below I have answered a few common questions but if you have additional questions or concerns, please feel free to email me: mofitnessmtl@gmail.com

How can you work out with children around?

If your children are old enough they can work out with you or go play in the park-even making new friends with the other kids in attendance.  The workout will mainly be done in tandem which means you will be paired up with someone, one person will work and one person will do active rest that way someone can always keep an eye on the children.  My daughter is 4 months old so she will be hanging out in her car seat or on the mat, you can always do a few squats with your baby!  My wife takes our baby to exercise classes with her and sometimes she has to finish early because our daughter starts to get upset but my wife says that even if she only gets to do 20 minutes; it’s still 20 minutes more than she would have done had she stayed home!  You may be worried that your baby won’t even last 20 minutes and while that may be true for some, you may be surprised at how the music and movement keep your little one stimulated, especially outside with so many things to see! 

The main rule for bringing children to the class is that they are your responsibility.  You must make sure your child understands that they should not run around inside the exercise zone as they may cause injury to themselves or someone else. Bring a few toys to keep them entertained and make a space for them that they should stay in or stay next to you at all times.

What type of exercise class is it?  What is the structure of the class?

I will usually start the class by leading an aerobic cardio warm up which can include anything from jumping jacks, cardio boxing, butt kicks and high knees but could also include skipping rope, light jogging, or walking.  If you have any injuries, we can accommodate you, for example; my wife can’t run on uneven ground because of an ankle injury so instead she runs stairs or skips rope. After the warm up we will move into a circuit and/or HIIT style workout which will combine strength, mobility, and endurance.  Finally, we will end the class by stretching out all the muscles we worked.  If you are feeling especially tight in a specific area, then you could ask for a special stretch to work out the tightness. 

What if I am really out of shape, have mobility issues, have never exercised before, am nervous to try the class, etc….?

The purpose of this class is to get outside and be active with your family, friends, and meet people in the neighbourhood.  This class is excellent for beginners as you will be able to work out at your level and we will make sure that you see how many exercises can be modified to suit your level.  For example; there are many ways to do a push up and even if you re the only person doing a beginner push up-no one is judging you, we all had to start somewhere.  

If you are nervous about the class then please send me an email/message and I can talk you through any of your reservations, you could also come a bit early to get oriented with the space and equipment while I set up!  

If you have mobility issues, then please let me know at the beginning of class or if you are uncomfortable with an exercise than you can ask me for a modification or different exercise to do.  Don’t be afraid to change an exercise for yourself if you know you can’t do something.  Let’s say you can’t do Russian twists, then try another core exercise like simple crunches or ask me for an idea!

What do I need to wear/bring?

You need to be in active wear, t shirt and shorts, leggings and a tank top, jogging pants and a long sleeve shirt, you don’t have to wear expensive exercise clothing; just as long as you can move comfortably in your clothes.  I will recommend that you wear proper trainers-especially if you are a beginner- if you are accustomed to training barefoot then you’re welcome to but keep in mind that we will be training outside in a public park.  Bring your own mat or towel to do ground work (crunches, etc…) bring a hand towel to wipe sweat out of your face, and bring a water bottle so you don’t get dehydrated.  If you have children with you then bring water, snacks, toys, etc for your children.  We will have some equipment but if you like a certain weight, have your own boxing gloves, or like to use yoga blocks, straps, etc then feel free to bring those along!

In Case of Rain:

We will still work out in the rain as long as it’s not really heavy rain.  Usually heavy rain doesn’t last long so we may simply seek shelter and restart once it finishes.

Stay up to date with announcements on our facebook group: Family Fit NDG.

When we make something a priority, it becomes easier to include in our life!  Hope to see you all soon!

Let’s Get Started!

I would just like to take the opportunity to tell you a little bit more about myself, my background, what brings me to Montreal, and what I can offer to the community.

First of all, I love fitness, leading an active lifestyle makes me the happy and well rounded individual that I have grown to be over the years. I believe that you can achieve your goals through natural means, without harmful substances; I will never advise anyone to take supplements, but I will help you build muscle or slim down through a sustainable and meaningful nutrition and training program. My goal is not to train you forever but to teach you to become a fitness lover and to have the knowledge and confidence to continue the journey on your own.

Originally I am from Mwanza, Tanzania, a beautiful city on Lake Victoria, where I grew up picking fresh mangoes from trees and climbing the massive boulders around the lake shore. Due to my aptitude for fitness and friendly nature, I got my first job as a trainer in Mwanza at a small local gym. After some time, I moved to Morogoro and worked for the first fitness club in that city before moving to Dar Es Salaam, the capital city of Tanzania, to work in a high-end fitness club in the city centre. I was eventually recruited to work for the United Arab Emirates military on a base near Dubai, where I helped create a fitness program for soldiers and other personnel on site. After that I went to work for Etihad Airway’s ‘Fit to Fly’ program, where I trained pilots and cabin crew and developed a fitness program for their staff. Since then I have been working as a freelance trainer and fitness instructor in Abu Dhabi, UAE. I enjoy freelance work because it allows me the flexibility I need to work with clients on an individual level. I can train people at their home, in their gyms, at work, or in the park. I aim to build positive, strong, and long-lasting relationships with my clients.

I recently relocated to Montreal with my wife, who works as a teacher. While it was very difficult to say goodbye to my clients in Abu Dhabi, some of whom I had been training for years; I am excited to meet new clients in Montreal and get to know this beautiful city. Since I just moved here, my French is very limited but I am working on it and I intend to learn as much as I can, but for now I can train clients in the following languages: English, Swahili, Sukuma, and basic Arabic.

I love to train outdoors, the air is better for you to breathe deeply, and when you are cold you are more likely to work out faster to stay warm, as well as cold weather can help you burn more calories. I have never experienced winter before so I will have to adjust to the temperature but my Canadian wife assures me that people still workout in minus degree temperatures, even in the snow!

Please feel free to email, call, or WhatsApp me for more information about training with me!