5 Questions With: Ashley Brodeur of Feelosophy

IMG_0766

Feelosophy is no ordinary yoga class. I wouldn’t even call it a class, think more of an experience, a transcending and magical one if you ask me. Last week, I had the pleasure of spending my Monday night at Moment Meditation in downtown Vancouver for my first taste of Feelosophy; a restorative yoga, massage and music experience created by Ashley Brodeur. I sat down with her to chat about the philosophy behind Feelosophy and #allthefeels.

1) What inspired you to start Feelosophy?

It was really just a need that I noticed; people wanted to be touched more in yoga. Every time, I would touch someone in yoga, I would see it right away, that it was missing from people’s lives to connect more to themselves.

We did it as a trial run, with Anita, that runs Moment Meditation, who also used to own Social Yoga. We did it as a series and it sold out within a day so I asked Anita if it was cool if I just run with it and see what happens. Jian from Distrikt Movement gave me the name, we were just brainstorming together and he came up with this great name. I started off by offering two classes at Distrikt Movement once a month and then it evolved into retreats, corporate stuff and now I just want it to be really consistent for people, so that they can go online and register weekly. What we’ve been finding is that when you touch people, they are way more willing to open up afterwards. They will tend to linger after class longer, they’ll tend to share more of who they are. If you live alone and you’re not in a relationship, you don’t get a hug or a hand hold, I didn’t think people realized how much that was missing in their life. 

2) How would you describe the experience for someone who has never been?

I would say don’t expect to do much but you can expect to feel a lot. You are not moving very much so it can be for everybody. A lot of pregnant women will come to the class, a lot of men will come to the class because it is very accessible. We touch from a place that is very loving. We’re not trying to workout any kinks and it’s not a very intense massage, it’s more of a supportive touch. We’re not trying to adjust you or fix your pose. We then also combine music on top of that. 

3) Music is a really important part of the experience, how much has music affected your practice and why did you want to include that into Feelosophy?

I’m really inspired by how Jian and Ally from Distrikt Movement speak about music. It’s poetry and it can be really powerful and can give people a voice. I think sometimes in yoga, for me, the music can speak to people’s experience. It might not be what I’m saying because there are a lot of things that I haven’t gone through and so I cannot pretend to know about them. I have experienced pain but it’s my level of pain so I don’t speak to that in my yoga class, I only speak about what I know. So the music sometimes can speak to people in a different way. A lot of times songwriters have gone through certain things and transcend it through their lyrics and people can hear that. That can be really moving for people, when they hear a certain lyric in a song that I’ve chosen.

4) How has Vancouver and the people living in the city received what you do at Feelosophy?

Vancouver is the best place to try something new with yoga. It’s been a natural build, mostly through word of mouth and getting people to experience it and if they like it they can share it. I think people here are really receptive. Sometimes they don’t know they need it until they come in for the class. We got a lot of guys lately, who are brought in either by their girlfriends, wives or told by one of their guy friends to come and they tell us they had the best sleep after or that they didn’t know that yoga could be like that. There was a trend for a while where yoga teachers wouldn’t touch in yoga so I think it was definitely lacking. I think it’s giving an outlet for teachers who want to touch more. 

5) Where would you like to see Feelosophy be in 5 years from now?

For me, I want to use it more as a platform to speak about touch. When I was younger, in my early 20s, I was sexually assaulted and didn’t realize how much I didn’t want to be touched. I didn’t realize that that was such a big thing so re-introducing touch for me took a while. Right now, I’m in talks with Devon Brooks, she used to own Blo Blow Dry Bar and she is an advocate for that; trying to re-introduce touch for women who have also been affected by that. I would love to see classes running throughout Vancouver and even Canada. It would be awesome if other people would want to teach it. I could train them and they could offer it at their studios or get more people touching in that style of yoga. But for me personally, just using it as an intro for a bigger conversation around how important touch is, why we’re afraid to touch. Canadians are seen as being really friendly but we’re not a culture that touches. 

For more information on Feelosophy, go here. Feelosophy will be holding a special fundraising event in support of the Africa Yoga Project on March 4th in Vancouver, for more info or to sign up, go here.

Top 3 Spin Studios Vancouver – Spin Society

dav

This week, I share my final favorite spin studio in Vancouver. Spin Society opened up their first studio a few years ago on Granville St. in downtown. After a successful couple of years, they launched their second location just a few weeks ago. Everyone at the space is so incredibly welcoming and friendly and their master trainer Lucy is one of the most passionate instructors I’ve ever met. The studio’s founder Dominik Desbois shares the story behind Spin Society.

What inspired you to start Spin Society?

I am an engineer, my background is in bridge engineering. I went to McGill to get my engineering degree. I worked as an engineer for six years and was not satisfied with where my life was going. I stopped and thought about everything as a whole and thought that I needed to serve a bigger purpose. The whole computer 12-hours a day thing was not for me so I decided to go back to school. I went to do my MBA and it’s during that time that I met my wife, who’s a spin addict. She was spinning every single night and just couldn’t get enough of it. So I started researching the subject and thinking about what makes it addictive. At the end of the day, what makes it addictive is the people. You can throw a bunch of bikes in a room and play loud music, anybody can do that. You can throw money at it, build it but unless you have the right people, it won’t work. That’s the part that intrigued me. I’m a builder so how do I build a team that will give people that feeling of “I can’t get enough”, so that’s what drives what we do. From the very start of Spin Society was how do I put together people, because I definitely have my shortcomings when it comes to marketing, that I’m not good at, but I think I have an ability to get people together and work as a team. How do I assemble a team so that we can thrive as a business and I think that’s what we’ve done.

dav

What would you say separates you from other spin studios in the city?

It was tough because when I opened Spin Society, I thought I would be the only one because when I wrote my business plan and the financing and all that stuff, it was a few years before we opened our doors. And then we opened our doors and four other spin studios were popping up. I think through time, was has made us different is the wide-range of people that we can bring together. There’s a really cool feeling at Spin Society when somebody walks through the door, there’s an energy where they feel like they belong right away. We’re a no judgement, no ego zone, you work as hard as you want to and if it takes you a little longer to get to where you want to, it’s fine. At the end of the day, it’s almost like we’ve created a space that’s all about transformation and giving you the opportunity and permission to laugh, to cry, to yell to be angry. Our trainers are amazing, I couldn’t be prouder of our team. All of our instructors are phenomenal at what they do. They will break you down with music to a point where they can inject a lot of positivity. The whole team is super upbeat and positive. It’s a people business.

mde

What are some of the classes that people can take and what kind of experience can people get when they come to Spin Society?

We pride ourselves on the Spin Society method. We work really hard with all of our instructors and our master instructor Lucy. She spends countless hours making sure that everyone is consistent. We want people’s identities to shine but we want everybody to operate within a box that we’ve created, that is Spin Society. One of the big key things here is that no matter what class you take, you’ll get that consistency. The only thing that changes is the music. Besides the music, the very challenging workout, every instructor teaches the same way and uses the same language. You’ll get your ass kicked and if you’re into that, then you’ll get that no matter who you take on the schedule. And besides that, we have a really nice approach to customer service, where we really value the relationships we build. We try to get to know the people that come in by name. We like to cater to everything that you need to make this experience the best that we can.

hdr

Spin Society opened up a second location in North Vancouver. There seems to be a big demand for fitness studios out there, can you share your experience with opening up this second studio?

We just opened on December 12th, we really built a unique vibe and space and interior design there. There’s crazy demand on the north shore because people who are over there are just tired of that bridge. You want to be able to stay on the north shore and be able to go to the good restaurants and good fitness studios. There’s no real reason to come downtown anymore and there’s a very young crowd moving in. North Van’s ready for it but it’s going to take time to build. As much as I’d like to think that we’ve built something really cool here, the fitness names don’t quite creep all the way past the bridge yet so it’s just starting from the bottom. Building the classes and the community and letting people know that we’re there.

hdr

Where would you like to see Spin Society within the next five years?

I don’t like the franchise model for what I do because I’m really particular about what I wanna build and the energy in every studio so I’d like to keep control of that. But I would love to keep growing it as much as I can. I’m a builder so once I finished building the studio and it’s functioning, I want to be completely hands off and trust the people to just do a really good job and want to move onto the next build. I’m already looking at the third and negotiating the space for the third studio, so when that’s done I’ll probably move onto the fourth. I’ll stop when someone tells me to stop or when the market tells me to stop. 

For more information on Spin Society, go here.

5 Questions With: Craig Slagel of RunGo App

image1 (1)

I love combining technology with running. Over the past two years, running apps have been key in documenting my progress as a runner and also keeping tabs on the runs that I have done when I travel. I recently heard of the running app RunGo, which was developed by Vacouverite Craig Slagel. Since I’ve been spending time running around Vancouver, I thought it would be interesting to find out more about this local startup.

1) What is the inspiration behind the RunGo app?

RunGo was inspired by Dynasty, my retired guide dog who I adopted in 2012 just after starting the company. As a runner and frequent traveler, I often had the issue not knowing where to run or getting lost when I tried to explore. When I adopted Dynasty, my friends joked I should use her to guide me and that sparked the idea of RunGo.

2) What separates this app from other running apps currently on the market?

RunGo works like other running apps but also offers voice guided turn-by-turn directions for your runs. With a library of over 50,000 routes worldwide, including running tours and runs curated by local running communities, RunGo is great for traveling and allows you to re-discover your own cities by trying different routes. RunGo also provides all the usual statistics such as distance, pace, calories burned and provides a logbook to store your results. The app navigates you offline, and only requires data or wifi when you add runs to your library. After that, you can use RunGo to guide you, without any data or wifi.

3) You had the opportunity to present your app on Dragon’s Den, why are shows like that and Shark Tank important for startups?

Apps can be very hard to market, especially since there are some really big players in the market who have very big budgets. As a startup we have limited resources and are constantly looking for creative ways to expose ourselves. Dragons’ Den has over 1 million views so being on the show can be a great way to promote your startup as long as you have a good idea and don’t embarrass yourself. It was also great for us as a company – as we prepped our pitch, we really went back to make sure we understood our business, brand, and numbers. It was a great experience and you can see our pitch on February 15th on CBC.

4) Where is your favourite place to run in the world and why?

That’s a tough one – I’ve run in so many amazing places around the world! I love trail running and we are lucky to have amazing trails in Vancouver, BC. But if I had to pick, I think my favourite place would be Marin headlands in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is where I started running so it feels like my running home. The Headlands Run that took you from Crissy Field, over the Golden Gate bridge and up into the Headlands onto a peak with a panoramic view (on a clear day) was probably my most memorable run when I lived in the city.

5) What would you like to accomplish with the app in the next five years?

There is so much I’d love to accomplish in the next five years on top of being one of the leading running apps by then. It’s often said that the best way to explore a city is by foot and our ultimate goal is to give as many runners worldwide as possible, the freedom and confidence to discover all the amazing running routes around them. I was in Dublin just over a year ago and was able to explore the city by running a different route every day. The feeling of completely immersing myself in the city was amazing as I explored routes created by a local running store. It was a completely different experience from when I used to travel for business years ago and was usually recommended to run up and down the river bank by the hotel.

For more information on the RunGo app, go here.

5 Questions With: Lorna Jane

lorna

Responsible for creating “Activewear” as we know it today, Australian designer and entrepreneur Lorna Jane has been creating inspiring gym wear for women since the late 80s. Today, she’s a force to be reckoned with in the industry. Having inspired countless women to start sweating and look great while doing so, she is someone to look up to for active and healthy living. Lorna Jane recently opened her first flagship store in Vancouver and I had the opportunity to chat with her about her brand as well as her plans for 2017.

1) What inspired you to start the Lorna Jane brand?

My inspiration was really quite simple, but I guess unusual for the time. I wanted to design activewear that would inspire women to workout. My thoughts were that if I could make my designs both fashionable and technically functional, that women would put them on in the morning and wear them all day so that when an opportunity presented itself for her to workout she was ready to go! I was working as a fitness instructor at the time and there was absolutely nothing available for women that was anywhere near feminine and fashionable. So when I started wearing my designs to the gym, the women in my classes wanted to place orders – and it grew from there. The demand was overwhelming and within a few weeks I decided to take the plunge, quit my day job and pursue designing activewear full time, and you know what? I haven’t looked back since.

2) What would you say is the biggest change in activewear since you started in the industry?

I started designing activewear before it was even a ‘category’ so I’ve always had a very strong vision for it to be something so much more than what you put on to work out!  To me, the fact that sport luxe is now such a huge global trend is true testament to just how strongly activewear complements the modern woman’s busy lifestyle – and believe me when I say this is just the beginning! I am often asked if I ever would have believed that activewear could be such a huge category and my answer is always – “you’re kidding right – I have been talking about this for 25 years!”

3) What separates Lorna Jane from other activewear brands? 

We were the first to coin the term ‘activewear’ and are the ultimate believers that wearing activewear can actually change your life! At Lorna Jane, everything we do as a brand is aimed at inspiring and empowering women with our activewear, our Active Living Philosophy and daily practice of Move Nourish Believe. We are an Authentic brand that has heart and is on a mission to empower and inspire women all over the world. We believe that activewear can’t change the world – but the women that wear it absolutely can!

4) What are some of your proudest achievements with the brand to date?

There have honestly been so many, from winning Fashion awards, Marketing awards, Retail awards opening stores around the world and even meeting Oprah. But one of the moments that will stick with me forever was as far back as 1993, we had just l opened our first retail store in Australia and my husband Bill was working in store that day, while I stayed at home to design and sew the next range. I remember Bill walking through the front door long before closing time and I panicked, asking him “what was he doing? Who is looking after the store?” and he just smiled and said to me “Lorna, we’ve sold everything”.  And we actually HAD… a woman from Malaysia had walked in to the store and taken every single thing! That was a real turning point for us and when we realised this crazy idea of ‘activewear’ was so much bigger than we ever could have imagined.

5) Can you talk us through some of the new collections you’re releasing in 2017?

2017 is an exciting year for activewear. At Lorna Jane we have a big focus on Women’s Technical Fashion and are asking women to re-think their Active wardrobe this year more than any other! We deliver 70 to 100 new Lorna Jane pieces every month, and this month (Feb) we have a huge focus on ACTIVE CORE STABILITY our trademarked technology that will seriously change the way you see yourself in tights. They come in a variety of shapes and colours (so there’s something for everyone) but believe me when I say – they are seriously life changing. They’re the most flattering tights you’ll ever own because they shape and support your curves like nothing else in the marketplace. But they’re also really functional and the perfect workout essential.  

To find out more about Lorna Jane and her active living brand, go here.

5 Questions With: Anita Cheung of Moment Meditation

hdr

Meditation has become an important part of my life these past couple of months. If you’ve been following this website, you may have seen some of my previous posts on leading a more mindful life. I was thrilled to find out that Vancouver has a great new space called Moment Meditation, located right in downtown. I wanted to find out more about this meditation oasis so I sat down with one of Moment’s co-founders Anita Cheung this week. I hope our conversation will inspire you to check them out!

1) What was the inspiration behind this space?

There are three founders, Evian, Hiroko and myselF. We all found meditation through various points in our life but we found each other in a really interesting way. Moment the brand, the concept as it is, is a drop-in meditation studio, which was technically started almost two and a half years ago. I had this crazy idea to open a drop-in meditation studio as a pop-up for a week back in 2014. This was in Chinatown, it was a street front retail space that I took over for a week and ran it like I do Moment. You could come in and do audio-guided meditations, there were group classes and at night we had speaker events and mindful dinners. That was completely self-funded. I felt so compelled to do it because meditation had a really huge impact on me, it helped me come out of depression. It was one of the long-lasting tools that really stuck. I am very passionate about it and wanted to share it with the world.

But at the time, I didn’t think there was a living to be had from meditation, it didn’t feel right. I focused on my other projects and left Moment as it was. Not this past December but the one before, it crept up again and I had this desire to create a mobile meditation space. The opportunity came up for a one-day pop-up because a friend had a trailer I could borrow. That got a little bit of press because it was right around Christmas and everyone is stressed out during that time but now they had an oasis right in downtown Vancouver to take a moment. The next day Evian called me, I didn’t know him but we started talking and he said I have this idea and you’re doing it, can we partner? So we met and chatted a little bit and the next time I met him, he was with Hiroko and they had already been talking about. It was serendipitous because they were talking about it and the next day Evian saw it in the newspaper. Our original intention and still our intention now is to create a mobile fleet of meditation spaces. Our intention is to have one in Chicago, LA, London and here. We opened this space as a pilot for our project. We got the keys to this place in September, now just hired a bunch of teachers and now it’s out in the world. 

2) What are some of the services and classes that people can come and take at Moment right now?

Right now we have a class schedule that is similar to a fitness studio; early morning, after work and a few in mid-day. They are 45 minute classes except for lunch, who are only 30 mins. All of our classes are structured around different parts of the brain that are trained or activated when you meditate. Hiroko’s background is in content development, she’s a psychologist expert in all-things brain. She has created the program around Calm, Focus and Happiness, because those are three distinct parts of the brain. So people can choose those three classes or they can choose a Moment Signature class. We’re looking to roll out a couple of other fun features like virtual classes, so projecting some big players in meditation from LA, New York, onto our screens and have people come in. We have a couple of big players locally that are going to be leading some of the classes here.

Other things that people can do, is just book in, kind of like car2go, you can book 5, 10, 30 mins of quiet time at the studio. 

The third pillar is our measurability of meditation. Hiroko spent her life doing this kind of work on a one-on-one level with her patients at her clinic practice. What we’ve created is this space and the technology that allows people to measure how they are meditating and how it’s working for them. What we call the MQ, it’s like an IQ but “Mindfulness Quotient“, is basically your ability to respond to stress. It looks at your brainwave activity, breath rate and heart rate, muscle tension and puts you through this little stress test and then shows you how well you can focus and how well you can bounce back from being in a stressful environment. What science has told us is that if you meditate, you can do that much more quickly, you’re more flexible, you’re more resilient. So people can really see the numbers behind, if I meditate for a month, come back at the end of the meditation and see what your score is and how it has changed. 

3) What are the tools that people can use when they come in for individual meditation?

We have audio-guided meditations, there are five to choose from right now. We are looking to change it up so that there’s a menu and every month there’s a special. This month we have Casey-Jo from The Peak, she has an amazing voice and she’s recorded something for us. Next month, we are doing a spoken-word meditation. We will constantly cycle things in and out. We’ll record some of our teachers as well but we’re hoping to expand to even more people. 

4) For people that are new to meditation, what would you recommend as a good introduction for them?

I would recommend a group class because there’s strength in numbers. Our classes are fun. They’re 45 mins long but you’re not meditating for 45 mins. There’s a portion at the beginning that’s either just writing or drawing, a quiet moment that just gets you out of your work mode and into this contemplative mode. There’s a lot of chatting, you get to meet some great people that are like-minded and in the same boat. It’s all guided, so 10 mins of guided meditation, we come back up, we have a chat and ask questions. So then we’ll dive into a second meditation 10 mins max and have a quick chat afterwards and then you’re done. 

5) Do you find that the city of Vancouver is a city that is open to this kind of space?

I think that the city is getting there and that there’s a lot of education that is still to be had, which surprised us. It’s a fun surprise because we get to educate people on what it means to be meditating and how different it is from yoga, how it stands alone from yoga. The time is right, the tide is changing, people are open to it. If we would have done it two years ago, it wouldn’t have gone as well. People are curious now. There’s still that bit of fear but we’re noticing that people are interested and craving it almost. 

dav

For more information on Moment Meditation, go here.

5 Questions With: Smash + Tess

379smashtess

The mother and daughter best-friend trio hailing from Vancouver that make up Smash + Tess, are all about sharing their passion for dreamwear. They founded their business together in early 2016 and have as a mission to make women feel confident and beautiful at all times, from the boardroom to the bedroom. The trio uses ethically sourced and quality fabrics to design and produce their line in North America. Get inspired by this mother-daughter team by finding out more about them below!

1) What made you want to start Smash + Tess?

We wanted to fill the hole that we believe exists in sleep and loungewear. After years of trying to find the perfect sleep/loungewear, we decided it was time to just go for it and do it ourselves! Smash + Tess began with a serious love of all things cozy and fashionable, became a reality in Fashion college, and has been bringing dreamwear to Canada and the US since our launch in April of 2016.

2) Where do you draw inspiration for your designs?

From so many places!  We are native Vancouverites that love our city! It is so beautiful and we have a killer studio with high ceilings, in the creative area of Mount Pleasant to be inspired by! Just walking down the street and seeing huge murals of incredible art, and courageous street style makes us excited about creating. The rain (which I do love by the way) is the perfect catalyst for creating cozy! The three of us have long had a dream of creating “dreamwear” that can easily transition from bed to the street, that you can answer the door in and not be embarrassed, that doesn’t sacrifice beauty for comfort. So we’ve drawn on years of trying out different loungewear, and not being entirely satisfied. 

3) What is the best part of working as a mom-daughter bestie team?

We all bring something different and exciting to the table! It’s incredibly special. A true dream realized. Mama T is a fantastic decision maker. She absolutely trusts her gut and isn’t afraid to pull the proverbial trigger. Mercedes is incredibly detail-oriented and isn’t afraid to roll her sleeves up and get the job done. I would say that they likely admire and appreciate my vision and passion for communicating what we are all about!

4) How has a city like Vancouver helped your brand? Is there a lot of support in the city for small businesses?

We feel so blessed to be in such a supportive and amazing network of strong female entrepreneurs. We have been so pleasantly surprised at the collaborative spirit in our city. We continue to enjoy meeting and working with other boss babes from our hometown!

5) Where would you like to see the line in 5 years from now?

In five years from now, we would love to have grown exponentially. We so believe in our mission, and hope to have ladies far and wide rocking some Smash + Tess. We hope to continue to evolve and offer fun and exciting alternatives to male-inspired PJs and yoga wear.

For more info on Smash + Tess, go here.

5 Questions With: Larisa Yurkiw

Team Larisa

From Canadian World Cup alpine ski racer to motivator and public speaker, Larisa Yurkiw is a force to be reckoned with. The 28-year-old athlete from Ontario has accomplished a lot in her lifetime already, from partaking in the 2014 Sochi Olympics to also being on four World Cup podiums. She recently announced her retirement from professional skiing after her most successful year of competition. I had the chance to chat with her about her career thus far and also what’s next for her.

1) What first got you interested in downhill skiing and when did you realize that this was something you could pursue more seriously?

I have two older brothers I chased around the ski hill from a young age.  The norm gets thrown out the window  so I was fairly fearless.  I did my first race was I was 4 and the passion grew with the intensity.
 

2) 2016 has been a great competing year for you but you recently announced your retirement after 10 years in the competitive circuit. Why was this the right time for you to hang up your skis?

Health has the final say.  I had my 5th knee surgery in May and I felt it was a decision between racing 20 more international races or skiing with my kids one day.  I was becoming more successful and finished my career ranked 3rd in the world so I no longer had unfinished business.  It was that hunger that drove me for so long so I knew it was time to find the same drive in a different direction.

3) How has the transition from athlete to being an entrepreneur been going? What are some of your career goals moving forward?

I love this new life.  I have found a career that gives me a bit of an adrenaline rush still, motivational speaking, and I continue to find challenges for myself.  I took time off initially but realized quickly that I’m meant to have both a structure and a serious set of goals.
 

4) Can you talk to us about Team Larisa and if you will be continuing to pursue this in the future?

Team Larisa was the name of my team.  I was skiing for Canada independently but, by the end, the Team was made up of thousands of Canadians and Europeans, both skiers and non-skiers.  I will continue to promote bravery and share the power of vulnerability and resilience with the story of Team Larisa wherever I can.  It became so much more than ski racing for me so if I can use it as a vehicle to help young and old alike to just get a bit more comfortable with being uncomfortable, then Team Larisa has successfully lived on.
 
5) What is the best advice you’ve ever been given and how has it helped you as an athlete and in life today? 

Advice came from so many but most consistently, to keep on keeping on.  The setbacks were the most consistent event throughout my journey so learning to fight on and get creative with my resilience allowed me to ultimately be world class in my sport.  Without a constant fight and high self-belief, the very first obstacle would’ve bounced me in a completely different direction.  “They tried to bury us.  They didn’t know we were seeds.”  Mexican Proverb.

5 Questions With: Sarah Phelps

IMG_6667

Growing up, I spent a lot of time watching my grandma paint. I was always fascinated by the different techniques she used, the vibrant colours, etc. So much so that she eventually offered to teach me and for me to take painting lessons. Though I’m not particularly gifted as an artist, I have always liked drawing, painting and expressing myself in a variety of creative ways. It’s inspiring to hear about women like Toronto’s Sarah Phelps, who have pursued their dreams of being an artist. I’m thrilled that she took time away from her paint brushes to answer a few of my questions in my latest 5 Questions With below.

1) What first got you interested in art?

I’ve been an artist my entire life. When I was younger, I focused on drawing portraits and had very little interest in painting. It wasn’t until about 6 years ago that I tried my hand in abstract painting, and haven’t looked back! 

 

2) Why did you want to pursue abstract vs. other forms of art?

Abstract painting gives me the freedom of expression, to use my emotion and just go with the flow. When I create, I have no plan in place, and rarely know what the painting will look like in the end. The less I think about the outcome, the better the painting turns out! 

 

3) What are some of the main messages you try to convey through your artwork?

My paintings have good energy and positive vibes. I want my pieces to inspire others and bring them pure happiness, joy, and inspiration. When I look at my own paintings, I always feel something (as opposed to seeing something). It is up to the viewer to determine the story behind the painting, and what it means to them.

 

4) What is it like to be an artist in a place like Toronto? Is there a supportive art scene here?

I believe that it isn’t the place that determines your success, it’s your motivation, drive, and perseverance. The Toronto art scene is decent and becoming more supportive. That said, it’s important to put yourself out there to get noticed, go after the opportunities that you desire, and to continuously network and connect with people worldwide if you want to move forward with your art career. I sell my art to people all across the board, from Toronto to Vancouver, Italy, Bermuda, Switzerland, Indiana, etc, so it’s not all about where you are located. 

 

5) Where would you like to see your artwork take you one day?

Although I am currently successful in my art career, I want to push the boundaries, travel, and I’m determined to make it big as a well known artist! I have a plan in place and executing it as we speak!  

5 Questions With: Jenny of Small But Mighty Fitness

Jenny079

I first met Jenny almost two years ago when I signed up for one of my first ever NTC classes in Toronto. From the very beginning, I was drawn to her infectious smile and personality and great coaching. Jenny’s knowledge and passion for fitness really stood out and made working out fun and a great learning experience. Not too long ago, she launched her own website, brand and fitness classes called Small But Mighty Fitness. It comes as no surprise that she has already been incredibly successful with her new endeavour. I’m excited to have her chat about this new project and the Toronto fitness community on today’s 5 Questions With.

1) What inspired you to start Small But Mighty Fitness?

When I dove into the Toronto fitness scene a number of years ago, I noticed I didn’t really ‘fit’ any of the pre-existing moulds that existed for trainers: I didn’t believe in yelling at or berating my clients (military bootcamp style) for motivation during workouts, I didn’t believe in ‘acting out’ all of the exercises in front of my classes from start to finish as if I was a participant, and I didn’t believe in small muscle group exercises with light weights for a ‘toning’ effect as the best way for women to train. Basically, it seemed to me that many gyms, studios and training professionals were offering Torontonians workouts, rather than training sessions. Whats the difference? A workout is non-specific; it might make you sweat and ‘feel the burn’ but it doesn’t take your unique goals and needs into consideration.There of course is nothing inherently wrong with a general workout, but one could engage in one of these so called general workouts every single day, and never reach their fitness goal due to a lack of specificity of programming. Training on the other hand, by its very name implies working for a purpose; engaging in specific exercises and drills in order to meet your goals and fulfill your needs. There is clarity of purpose and a mindset of striving to achieve something…. whether that is a change in body composition, a double bodyweight back squat, a first pull up, or rehabilitation of an injury depends on the person. 

Another trend I noticed when I started working in the health and fitness industry was that many of the women I first encountered weren’t aware of the many many ways to achieve and define ‘fit-ness’. Many women asked me how often I trained; very few asked me how. There was an assumption among many of those first ladies that I worked with that cardio machines and light dumbbells were the avenues they had to peruse if they wanted to be fit (which was often correlated with being skinny). 

Small but Mighty Fitness was born out of a desire to offer women more. A broader definition of fitness and a wider array of methods (which by the way were also safe, efficient and evidence-based) to achieve it. Most importantly, I was inspired to start Small but Mighty Fitness because I wanted to EMPOWER women to take their health and fitness into their own hands, armed with up-to-date and accurate information, an arsenal of training methods to choose from, and mechanics that would help them to optimize their training and avoid injury.

2) What kinds of classes and services do you offer to the fitness community in Toronto?

For Individuals:

In-Home or Gym-Based Personal Training Services

  • Personal training sessions come in a variety of packages, all of which include an initial consultation leading to the development of a personalized goal-directed training program.
  • Body composition analysis (skinfolds and circumference measurements)
  • Online programming. 

For Communities and Groups:

Yoga classes: Sunday mornings from 10-11 am out of Hook Up Muay Thai

  • Open men and women of all levels. 

Build and Burn: M/W/F 6-7 am at The Underground Dance Centre

  • The Build and Burn Program is focused on empowering women to forge a health and fitness focused Habitus through bodyweight training, community support, and healthy eating habits! It is the perfect program for all those ladies working in the corporate jungle downtown, and is designed so participants can Get Up. Get Moving. Get Nourished and Get to Work!
  • New in August Build and Burners will be able to opt into a breakfast meal plan to be delivered to the studio at the end of class each morning, with each meal designed specifically to aid in recovery from the workout of the day!  
  • The August cycle begins on Wed Aug. 3rd and we still have a few open spots! Grab yours here!

Build Your Own Group:  Clients can put together a small group of friends to be trained at a park, in their backyard or at a local gym.

3) What separates your classes from others in the city?

Programming: I often say that anyone can draft a workout that will destroy all the participants in the class, but few can create session that strategically offers just the right amount of demand to help clients soar toward their goals. Coming from a very strong academic background, my class programming is always evidence-based and relies heavily on functional compound movements that will give participants a lot of ‘bang for their buck’ in addition to being transferable into daily life and sports!

Knowledge Bombs: As I mentioned earlier, one of my main goals is to empower my clients and participants to take their health and fitness into their own hands. Also as a consequence of my academic background, I tend to drop little (sometimes medium sized) packets of knowledge during my classes: whether its the name and function of a muscle, explaining training principles or defining something like ‘fascia’, I always leave my people with something they can take away and incorporate in their health and fitness repertoire!

Atmosphere: Outside of special circumstances like S.E.A.L camp, I’ve never really understood creating a punitive or negative atmosphere during a training session or fitness class. By taking time out of your schedule to train, you’re doing something good for your body and mind, and that is something clients should feel GREAT about! My cueing is positive and focused, I strive to create an atmosphere that is inclusive, encouraging and that empowers my clients to leave it all out of the floor (or field). I tell jokes, sometimes I sing songs, there are often dance parties, and there are always high fives, slaps on the back, smiles and call outs on a job well done! 

4) How important is the community aspect in fitness, especially amongst women?

When it comes to fitness and training, community is unbelievably important; everything from the layout of the physical training space to the energy in the room can impact every single participant in a class. I’ve noticed over the last several years that many women attend their ‘first class’ with a friend, and I think that is because starting a new training program or taking a new class can be daunting. What I was absolutely astounded by over the last few years was how quickly movement turns a group of individuals into a community, which then takes on a life all of its own. Girls who started out attending N+TC once a week now have iMessage and Facebook groups with all of their workout besties and are training together 4 or 5 times a week: helping each other through the tough parts of training sessions, encouraging each other to take on new goals, and of course re-fuelling together post-workout. In the context of fitness and training, community has the power to make every athlete feel included, supported, capable, and accountable, and being a part of a strong fitness community cranks up enjoyment of the session beyond measure. 

5) What is your ultimate goal with Small but Mighty Fitness?

My ultimate career goal is three-fold: (1) To continue working with Nike to offer phenomenal experiences to our athletes, (2) to open my own Sports Medicine Clinic and (3) To be the strength and conditioning coach and Chiropractor for a professional or national-level women’s gymnastics or hockey team. Small but Mighty Fitness is an integral part of this plan, and my goal is to grow it to represent the Training and Rehabilitation ‘department’ of my sports medicine clinic. I’m particularly interested in working with young female athletes to help build sound movement and training practices in order to avoid injury and optimize their sport performance in a way that won’t jeopardize their future health. 

Check Train with Small But Mighty Page to get all the most up-to-date information on each of the services Jenny offers.

5 Questions With: Julie Clark of Province Apothecary

Credit jenna marie wakani

Photo credit: Marie Wakani

I love learning from other women. Julie Clark, the founder of the Toronto brand Province Apothecary is someone who shares her green beauty and wellness knowledge via her amazing line of organic and natural skincare products. She recently opened up a new shop in the Little Portugal neighborhood of Toronto, where her clients will now be able to access her entire line of vegan and cruelty free products. She shares with us today her inspiration behind her line and her summer go-tos!

1) Where does your passion for green beauty originate from?

I have suffered from eczema for my entire life, i was sick and tired of using terrible products for my skin that in the end never healed it0 just made it worse. I thought there must be something better out there and so i started this skincare journey and started learning about the power or pure organic plant ingredients.

2) Why did you want to start Province Apothecary?

It started it for self healing reasons- to help my eczema that I had had for 28 years. I have accomplished my goal and now am able to heal my skin with our organic plant based products. I also now much more about skin then I ever expected and I love sharing this knowledge with our clients and customers on a daily basis. I had no idea how to treat my skin before I started on this journey and I had so much to learn!

3) What would you say separates your line from others?

The fact that I am an aromatherapist and holistic aesthetician. I see clients on a daily basis and give them amazing, relaxing, custom organic facials! I love connecting with them and truly understanding their needs and their skins needs. It so amazing to help them find the right routine for them and see their skin improve + glow after only a few weeks!

4) What are some of the benefits of using handmade & organic beauty products vs. general drugstore products or bigger brands?

They are better for your whole body and the whole plant! You also get more powerful products that are made with pure, organic plant ingredients- not petroleum by-products and commercial grade ingredients. 

5) What are your top 3 product recommendation for the summer?

I’m currently in PEI and can not live without:
Our rescue balm- I use it 10 times a day to keep my hands hydrated (this is where I have eczema) – every time I wash my hands I apply it. Also, it’s the best lip balm!
Our eczema balm- I am extremely sensitive to the sun and get heat rashes constantly. Every night I will apply the eczema  balm to any sun rash and wake up with normal, healthy skin!
Our toner- It’s hot here and one of my favourite things to do is keep the toner in the fridge and spritz myself whenever I’m in the kitchen- or need a cool down. Rosewater is so rich in phytonutrients and it is one of the most cooling hydrosols.