The Bump Method – exercise during pregnancy

There are few things that change a woman’s body more quickly or dramatically than pregnancy.  Hormonal and emotional changes aside (that’s a different article!); the physical growth of the baby has profound implications for the mother’s body.

The Bump Method is a Pilates based exercise program designed to safely and effectively train women both during and immediately after pregnancy.  Our Pilates focus is crucial in that it focuses on creating pelvic stability; pelvic floor connection and it addresses muscular imbalances. To understand just why a specific Pre and Post Natal Fitness program is necessary, here’s a short list of some of the muscular changes that often take place during pregnancy.

–       Hamstrings lengthen

–       Hip flexors (psoas) shorten

–       Pelvis shifts anteriorly (i.e. lower back curve gets larger)

–       Hormone relaxin creates joint hyper mobility

–       Shoulders protract and internally rotate

–       Arches of feet flatten (pronate)

–       Outer glutes weaken as pelvis widens

–       Pectoral muscles tighten

–       Pelvic floor drops

–       Maximum heart rate changes in 1st, 2nd and 3rd trimesters

Studies have proven that moderate exercise during pregnancy is beneficial for both mother and unborn baby. Training can mitigate some of the physical changes listed above, can decrease back pain and can assist in an easier delivery. Training during pregnancy will also facilitate an easier post-baby recovery!

After the baby arrives, women so often struggle to “get their body back”.  Pilates focused training is the key to a safe and swift recovery. One of the greatest physical challenges after giving birth is the rehabilitating of stretched and separated abdominal muscles.  If the abdominal wall separates more than 1.5 cm  (2 fingers), this is called diastasis recti.  The Bump Method technique teaches women to work their core muscles intrinsically, or in other words, from the inside out.  This methodology helps repair both diastasis and caesarean sections by essentially drawing the deep layer of abdominal muscles back together.

To all the mothers out there, here’s to you!

We will be hosting a Bump Method Pre and Post Natal instructional workshop on Sunday October 27  from 1 pm – 4 pm at RPM Total Fitness Studio in The Junction. 2968 Dundas St. W, Toronto, ON. Registration coming soon.

Contact to reserve your spot. 



Dudes in Pilates

First off, let’s agree that Pilates can benefit everyone: Young and old, triathletes and exercise virgins and of course, males and females. While we are known as a “Fitness Philosophy for Women”, men are most welcome (and sometimes taunted by their female counterparts) to join our Belle Method classes.

I admit that our purple and pink website isn’t exactly sending the message to men, “Hey dudes, grab your tights and register now ’cause this is for YOU!”  That said, it actually kinda is.

Full Disclosure: Any men reading this, know that we totally don’t think it’s weird if you come to class. The more the merrier, and frankly, you could use it. We actually like seeing you sweat profusely in plie and hip lifts cause it reminds us that this sh*t isn’t easy!” 

Below is an example of what we like to call the “Mr. T” syndrome. Some (read: many) guys tend to overwork their pecs and arms and underwork their lower body. This becomes VERY evident in class when we start doing plies, butt lifts and booty band work. Sure, guys don’t tend to care about the perkiness of their booty in jeans, but here’s why they (and all of us) should care:

1) Glutes are part of your core. Strong butt muscles stabilize your lumbo-pelvic region, prevent back pain and provide you with more power and control in movement.

2) Your legs contain the largest muscle groups in the human body. Fire up your legs are you’re spiking your metabolism, working on balance and stabilizing your knee joints.

3) Your quadriceps in particular are related to longevity. Ever see an older person not able to stand up out of a chair? Weak, atrophied quads are a big issue as we age and lose bone density.


So the moral of the story is: when it comes to training, go outside your social comfort zone. Try something new and remember to work those legs. (Running and biking doesn’t count FYI . You need sitting and standing type squats to work the right muscle fibres. Here’s why.)

This post was inspired by an amazing student who is the sole male at his company who takes our Core Fusion class. We run the classes every week in his company’s office after work and he captured the moment this past Tuesday. I’m happy to report that he’s far from a Mr. T!

Healthy Snacks for the Work Day

Keeping your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day is one of the most effective ways to keep your metabolism revved up, your weight in check and your body healthy.

For office workers, the dreaded hunger pangs that usually happen around 10 am and 4 pm can cause desperate runs to vending machines and drive-thru windows. We’ve all been there: That oh-my-god-I-could-eat-my-arm feeling takes over and you grab whatever’s in sight. Don’t let those conference room donuts put you on a sugar roller coaster.  With some simple planning ( and the use of the office fridge or small cooler bag), those Starbucks scones and vending machine candy bars will be WAY easier to resist.


Here are some energizing workday snacks that will keep your blood sugar levels steady. Your body will thank you!

1) Apples and Almond Butter: If you’re hungry, this little combo will satisfy with its mix of protein and fiber. Apples are also a rich source of flavonoids and polyphenols, both of which are powerful antioxidants. Choose a “raw” almond butter as roasted nuts are far more fattening ( the heat during roasting changes the properties of the nut’s fat content.)

2) Celery: Celery is a refreshing source of fiber, vitamin C and B-vitamins. It has a diuretic effect, due to its balance of the electrolytes potassium and sodium, which helps to flush out excess fluid from the body. Celery also has anti-inflammatory properties. Try it with hummus ( protein!) for a more substantial snack.

3) Avocado and Salmon salad:  This is a personal fave! Half an avocado contains 3.4 grams of fibre which slows the breakdown of carbohydrates in your body, helping you feel full for longer. Avocados also contain oleic acid – a fat that activates the part of your brain that signals satiety. Instead of mayo, use an avocado to mush up a can of wild caught boneless salmon. Put that in a tupperware and you won’t be hungry all day! Takes 2 minutes. Feel free to add salt, pepper and tomatoes for added flavour.

4) Dried Figs: Dried figs are an amazing blood purifier and help dissolve mucus and toxins from our system. Make sure you choose brands that don’t add sugars or additives. Figs have a fairly high amount of sugar, so really limit portion size to only a few.

5) Raw Macadamia Nuts: These nuts areperfect to keep on hand in a ziplock your car, your purse and when travelling on planes ( don’t get me started on the evils of airline food!) Macadamia nuts in particular are high in palmitoleic acid, also known as omega- 7, a monounsaturated fatty acid that works to lower your cholesterol, reducing your risk of heart disease. Studies show that palmitoleic acid may also effect your body’s metabolism, curbing your appetite and helping you burn fat faster!

6) Hard Boiled Eggs: The verdict is out. While egg yolks are high in cholesterol, eating the yellow yolk actually increases HDL – the heart-protective, “good” cholesterol. In fact, eggs are considered the “gold standard” for protein quality because their amino acids are the most digestible to humans. However, even though egg yolks are a healthy food, they haven’t been cleared for unlimited consumption: Mayo Clinic recommends consuming no more than four eggs per week.

So what have we learned here? All of these snacks have an almost net zero effect on the body’s glycemic index ( except the dried figs, but we only need a few to get their blood purifying benefits). When choosing snacks, go for high protein and don’t be afraid of healthy fats – fats keep you fueled up and feeling full!

Leave the rice cakes at home (High carb and low fat is so 90’s people! We’ve come a long way since then). Here’s to your snacking success!

Exercise makes us happier

We sort of knew this to be true already, but it’s always good to have more proof!

For the past decade or so, scientists have explored how exercising can affect mood and boost brain function. Across all ages and fitness levels  (from mall walkers to triathletes) making time for exercise can be one of the most important things you do for your mental health. Here are a few reasons that joining a fitness class, popping in that “Sweatin’ to the Oldies” VHS tape (LOVE Richard Simmons…best Halloween costume ever, but I digress) or biking to work can lead to an overall happier and healthier life.


1. Reduce stress. One of the most common mental benefits of exercise is stress relief. Working up a sweat increases concentrations of norepinephrine, a chemical that can moderate the brain’s response to stress.

2. Endorphins. Exercise releases these hormones which create feelings of euphoria and contentment. Studies have shown that in some cases, exercise can be just as effective as antidepressant pills in treating depression.

3. Improve self-confidence. Working out will make bathing suit shopping WAY more fun. But in general, being physically fit can boost self-esteem and improve positive self-image. Regardless of weight, size, gender, or age, exercise can quickly elevate a person’s perception of his or her attractiveness ( they did a study on that too…obv.)

4. Stay sharp ( and toned).  Working out can help protect the brain against cognitive decline that usually begins after age 45. Exercising, especially between age 25 and 45, boosts the chemicals in the brain that support and prevent degeneration of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning.

5. Alleviate anxiety. Quick Q&A: Which is better at relieving anxiety — a glass of wine and the Bachelorette, or a 20-minute jog? (You already know the answer to this one…) The warm and fuzzy chemicals that are released during and after exercise can help people with anxiety calm down. Bad day? Go for a jog, and then watch The Bachelorette with a Pinot Noir. Win-Win!!

6. Be more productive. Research shows that workers who exercise on a regular basis are more energetic and productive than their sedentary peers. While busy schedules can make it tough to squeeze in a gym session in the middle of the day, some experts believe that noon is the ideal time for a workout due to the body’s circadian clock. Ask your boss about starting a lunch time “power hour” class in your boardroom (And if you’re the boss, email me –  the Belles will hook your team up!)

Now, if you really want to put a smile on your face before you go workout, check out this google image search of Richard Simmons. He’s a legend! Sweat it out guys…any way you like. It all counts!




Lessons from the MUD

So The Badass Belles did Tough Mudder again this past weekend, for the second time. First of all, I have to say that I LOVE our team. On the drive up to Mount St Louis Moonstone Ski resort at 6 am we were all wondering why the hell we had signed up for more mud, blisters, freezing water and calf cramps. We debated playing hookie and heading to one teammate’s nearby cottage for wine and board games instead…we stopped at Starbucks, discussed wedding dresses and generally avoided the conversation about the impending reality of running hills for 16 km through 20 obstacles of fire, mud and barbed wire while being soaking wet – in 4 C (39F) weather.

But, we did still did it. I have to say that had it not been for our team, none of us would have finished it. It was the COLDEST Mudder event in history ( as far as we know) and despite the hypothermia blankets that were passed out by event staff, we were basically icicles. One guy had a calf cramp so bad he had to be carried away in a stretcher.

So why did 5 women in their 30s sign up for such masochistic torture designed to train British Special Forces?? Well, for starters – we get to legitimately rock animal print leggings (Never underestimate the power of matching animal print and neon pink to rally a team!) But in all seriousness, here are some lessons learned from this year’s Tough Mudder.

1) Share the Burden: If you find yourself stuck in the mud, missing a shoe and about to have a mental fit, that’s when your team pulls you out and carries you forward. There’s something so powerful about being part of a team that has your back!

2) Find Good Cheerleaders: Rounding a corner and seeing a group of cheer leading spectators is awesome. It made us run a little faster and try a little harder.

3) Focus on moving forward: Don’t let slip-ups stop you from giving your all. Not all of us can do 30 feet of monkey bars without falling into ice water below. And that’s ok. Focus on the next challenge and don’t get hung up on perceived failures!

Before the mud, sweat and tears!
Before the mud, sweat and tears! T-shirts read ” Don’t be Such a Mermaid” We don’t know what that means but it felt right! 

Dancing with Parkinsons Disease

Once a week, every Wednesday I get a reality check. It’s been happening for 5 years, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

See, 5 years ago I read an article in the Globe and Mail about a new dance class in Toronto for people with Parkinson’s Disease started by former National Ballerina Sarah Robichaud. On a whim, feeling incredibly inspired, I called her up.

The rest is history. I flew to Brooklyn, NY for training at the Mark Morris Dance Center, volunteered, observed, read everything I could on the disease and finally became a teacher for Dancing with Parkinson’s here in Toronto. I cried teaching my first dance class, watching our Parkinson’s students dance with such courage and joy in spite of the disease that is gradually taking over their bodies.

This is my weekly reality check. This puts it all into perspective. Their choice to face an insurmountable obstacle (read: degenerative, incurable disease) with such grace, courage and positivity is beyond humbling.

Dancing with Parkinson’s is a Toronto based charity that offers dance classes to those living with Parkinson’s. We aim to increase the accessibility of this revolutionary program to as many Parkinson’s sufferers as possible.

On May 30th, 2013 we are hosting our 5th annual gala fundraiser at the Capitol Event Theatre. Our featured performers include comedian Sean Cullen, Barenaked Lady Jim Creeggan, and CBC’s beloved host Andy Barrie. This night will be reminiscent of the dance hall days complete with an eighteen-piece swing band, a silent auction, and, of course, dancing by our PD students themselves! Get your tickets here!


Your support is crucial to the growth and sustainability of this program. You can show your support by buying a ticket to the event, making a monetary donation or by donating items to our auction. Your support will be gratefully acknowledged in all media leading up to and following the event.

See you on the dance floor!



You are enough

That’s really the most important thing to remember!

I read a wonderful piece the other day about a woman who felt deeply jealous because she constantly compared herself with her peers. One minute she’d be feeling great, making tons of progress when BAM – the news of someone else’s accomplishment or success would trigger the green monster of envy and negative self talk ” Why am I not that _____ ?” and “Why don’t I have _____” etc.

It’s something we have all done to sabotage our own success. Jealousy sets in, you start to feel like a failure and it’s not awesome! Studies have actually shown that social media only contributes to this phenomenon. Let’s face it – Facebook is everyone’s highlight reel. Most of those photos have been carefully selected. No one posts pics of sitting in traffic, cleaning the toilet or rolling out of bed with no make up on. You see someone’s artsy photo on Instagram of them sipping cocktails on a beach and think “Damn I need to get my shit together.”

Stop it!! STOP IT NOW!!!!

Did you get that? Seriously. Stop. Here are some strategies to keep the green monster at bay and shift your mindset to focus on your own talents, gifts and awesomeness. Put them on a sticky note by your computer (for when you’re checking that newsfeed!)

1) You are exactly where you need to be. This place you’re in offers special lessons you need to learn in order to grow.

2)  Toss aside the need to feel perfect. No one is. There…feel better?

3) Keep a journal and write down how you’re feeling. Find a friend you can trust and talk to them about it. You may be surprised how many people are feeling exactly the same thing!

4) Make your voice heard! When you feel valued and respected you will be less likely to compare yourself to others. You have unique gifts to offer, so let them shine!

5) Embrace your vulnerability. Tell yourself “I am not comparable”, “I am enough.” To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you into someone else is the most courageous thing you can do!

Finally, check out this amazing Ted Talk talk by Brene Brown, “The power of vulnerability.”

To your infinite success!!!






40-min March Break Workout

For those of you traveling to Florida or even at home with the kids this March Break (ie. out of your typical finess routine), have no fear! Here’s an easy, effective and intense workout you can do with no equipment! Classes are on hold for March Break and doing this workout will keep you feeling strong and ready to take on the Spring Session from April to June!

What you need:

Step 1: download the App Tabata-Timer   ( you can use a stop watch but this free app is easier!)


Step 2: Equipment: a mat and water

Step 3: Put your game face on!!


For those of you new to Tabata – I’ll explain… Tabata was created in Japan by Izumi Tabata. He conducted tests on two groups of athletes; comparing moderate intensity training with high intensity interval training. He found that the high intensity training (HIT) group got way better results. For you science geeks that means the HIT group experienced material changes not only in their aerobic but also their anaerobic systems (click here to learn 5 benefits of anaerobic training).

The Tabata Training Method is an advanced form of exercise and it requires you to be mentally strong. You work at 100% for 20 seconds, then rest 10 seconds. You do 8 intervals of 20 seconds which equals 4 minutes of sweat inducing, lactic acid building FUN! Use the free timer app above. Makes it easier!

Pilates devotees stay with don’t have to JUST do Tabata, we are still going to do hundreds and cat stretches..I promise. This will up the ante in fat burning and save you time! All that Pilates technique will be crucial for your form when doing plyometric style Tabata exercises. Make sure you warm up first!

Warm up (5 min) : 

1: cat stretch ( on all fours extending and flexing spine)

2:  opposite straight arm and leg lifts (aka bird dogs – 10 per side)

3:  downward dog stretch to high plank  ( 10 flows)

4:  plank hold front ( 20 s),  side plank right ( 20 s), plank hold front ( 20 s), side plank left ( 20 s), plank hold front (20 s)

TABATA TIME!! (4 minutes straight of each exercise – 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off!)

5: Jump Squats: Jump straight up, landing in a squat. Tie a flex band around your thighs to increase the burn in your glutes here! Land softly keeping your knees behind toes.

1 min rest

6: Burpees: Jump straight up, landing in a squat, jump legs out into a plank, do push-up, jump leg back to squat, to jump straight up. Repeat this sequence in one continuous sequence. This move will increase your heart rate, while working your entire body.

1 min rest

7: Speed Skaters: Start in a small squat, jump sideways to the right landing on your right leg, then left, reverse direction by jumping to left with left leg. Keep alternating sideways jumps. Skaters work the glute meds, the supportive muscle on the outside of pelvis.

1 min rest

8: Obliques: (aka bicycle crunch) Lie on your back with hands behind your head. Lift head and rotate to bring rib to opposite hip, then switch sides. Continue alternating sides to work the abs, especially the obliques. Don’t rush – focus on lifting your chest more than rocking side to side.

1 min rest

9: Frog Jumps: Stand with legs wider than hip distance apart, hips rotated and knees turned out.  Inhale lower your tail bone towards the floor and touch finger tips to the floor, exhale to pop up ( like you are playing leap frog). Touch floor every time you land! *If you’ve had enough jumping you can modify to a plie and omit the jump. Focus on inner thighs and rotating from hips!

1 min rest

10: Mountain Climbers: Come to a high plank. Bring one leg up towards your chest similar to a sprinter’s start position. Keeping your hands on the ground, jump to switch your legs. Tip: Just quickly touch each toe down so you’re not resting by putting your whole foot down.

STRETCH ( hamstrings, hip flexors, medial glutes…at least 5 min)


That’s a 5 min warmup, 24 min of work, 5 min total of rest in between sets and 5 min of stretching. We call that “bang for your buck” when it comes to a shortage of both equipment and time.

To your success! Go for it and let us know how it goes 🙂

Balance is Bullshit

Originally published by The Belle Method in The Purple Fig


When I was starting my fitness company I was dating a guy who constantly said, “Babe, you need to find more balance.” It always drove me nuts.

(I now realize what the poor guy was trying to say, but it’s taken about 7 years.)

At the time I was apprenticing for my Pilates certification, teaching aerobics in every corner of the GTA, paying off school debt and rehearsing dance until 1 am with my performance troupe.  It didn’t leave much time for couch snuggling, movie watching or eating meals together at a table (protein bars on the 401 in my Jetta were more convenient.)

I tried to find “balance”, as it were, and oh the guilt! Needless to say, the relationship didn’t work out.  I resented having to find “balance” between love and work– it was more that I wanted to love my life. In my twenties, loving life meant devoting myself to creating a job I was passionate about, paying off my debt and spending nights rehearsing aerial dance tricks with an ensemble of crazy Cubans. No, seriously.

The concept of work-life balance is bullshit. First, it presumes that work is in opposition to life.  Work is a fundamental part of life and our identity. Who we are and what we do, often merge.

Second, the concept sets us up for terrible guilt.  When you’re at your son’s soccer game, you feel guilty that you’re not answering email.  When you’re at your office, you feel guilty that you’re not baking perfect cookies for your kid’s bake sale.  You can’t win. Should I feel guilty for training clients at 6:30 am every Saturday while my guy misses out on breakfast in bed? Short answer: no. I work these longer hours to take more vacation. This March we’re trekking through Asia for 3 weeks.

I used to feel guilty about the Saturday morning thing. I’d come home from work at 2 pm to see him watching football on the couch. Instead of my usual charming self, I’d get annoyed that he hadn’t gone grocery shopping, scrubbed the bathroom and detailed the car while I was working. Basically, I got bitchy (gasp!). Enter: the epiphany.  When I feel torn between two things (work and love), I feel guilty. The guilt leads to resentment. Then everything goes to shit.  I decided to stop trying to “balance” my Saturdays and banish the guilt. It’s amazing how much nicer weekends have been since then!

Sometimes we just need to do what serves us. That might look like getting a massage on Sunday afternoon instead of attending an acquaintance’s baby shower (online gift cards = best invention ever). Throw guilt to the curb and get yourself a facial while you’re at it!

Balance is bullshit when you expect everyday to look like 8 -10 hours at work, 8-hours of sleep, a session of sex, a clean house, a home-cooked family dinner and an hour of Yoga.  You can’t do everything, please everyone and stay a well-adjusted (read: sane) person. It’s okay to let the laundry pile up all weekend and drink an extra glass of merlot while watching reruns of True Blood. Oh, and let’s stop comparing ourselves to that mom who does school drop off in full makeup with a fresh manicure. She has 2 nannies and a night nurse mmkay?

My mother has a magnet on her fridge that really articulates this point beautifully.

“I can only please one person per day. Today isn’t your day. Tomorrow isn’t looking good either.”

So what? So you need to please yourself. Pleasing yourself starts with accepting yourself. I find the more accepting I am of myself, the more giving I am to others.

Remember, if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!

So the real trick is learning to be present in whatever you’re living. So when you’re working, work. And when you’re loving, love. And when you’re eating, eat.  Guilt is a useless emotion that we should banish! That is the only way out of conundrum, the bullshit of work-life balance.


Belle Breakfast Challenge!

It turns out your mom was right. Breakfast IS the most important meal of the day! (And if you never heard that, I’m telling you now. Read on, and get your blenders ready!) I’m a HUGE fan of shakes in the morning, and am excited to announce The Belle Breakfast Challenge! Post your favourite breakfast shake recipe along with a photo of your concoction on our facebook page and be entered to win a $150 Sport Chek gift card!

Winners will be announced Monday, February 11, 2013! 

For more inspiration on the importance of breakfast, read on!

Studies show that people who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight than regular breakfast eaters.
In fact, one study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that skipping breakfast isn’t just associated with being overweight, but with obesity. Got your attention? Here are 5 reasons to eat breakfast like a queen.

1. Eating breakfast helps you lose weight

Eating breakfast stimulates metabolism and signals the body to start using fuel, instead of hoarding fuel.  When you skip breakfast the body goes into lockdown mode burning far fewer calories. Kick start your metabolism each morning – your waistline will thank you.
2. Breakfast is your chance to get all your nutrients

A smoothie filled with flax seeds, banana, strawberries, spinach, hemp oil and protein? You could struggle to get all that omega 3, vitamin C, iron and potassium goodness in your body with lunch and dinner, or you could enjoy a tasty shake and be done with it by 8 am!

3. You’ll have more energy

Food is energy. Eat breakfast to take on the world! Coffee doesn’t count by the way.

4. You’re less likely to cheat on your diet

Spacing your calories throughout the day at regular intervals is better than going through a starve-binge routine each day. Don’t deprive yourself of breakfast – or other meals for that matter – or you may just find yourself losing control later in the day.

5. You’ll feel smarter

Eating breakfast provides an energy boost to the brain for mid-morning alertness and performance.

Remember, post your shake recipes on the facebook page for all the see. We are bound to get some delicious and nutritious ideas!

Cleansing in the Winter!

This article comes to us compliments of Belle Instructor and Naturopathic Doctor, Julia Segal!

Should you cleanse in the winter time?

As the cold weather outside encourages us to get cozy and stay in, winter is the time of year to work on the most internal aspects of our health (and recover from the holiday indulgences!) This is a time to nourish the deepest parts: our bones, kidneys & bladder and adrenal glands. It is as good a time as any for a cleanse. However, cleansing in the winter must look very different than it would in spring, summer or fall.

What is cleansing?

The body is constantly cleansing itself in order to stay alive and function optimally. Metabolic and environmental toxins are constantly being processed by the liver and released through our skin, our lungs, our bowels and our urine. Doing a cleanse supports this process by removing the foods that keep cells and organs under heavy burden, such as sugary and sweetened foods, refined carbohydrates, fried foods and modified fats from packaged food. Some may have additional food sensitivities which may change throughout our lives. It is important to be aware of any foods that challenge your health, and a cleanse can bring these to light. Removing such food burdens allows your body to “catch up” with its work-load and regain balance.

How can this process be supported in the winter?

A cleansing diet in the winter includes high water content foods such as soup broths and cooked vegetables of all colours especially dark green. Bean and vegetable soups, chicken broths and warming herbal teas like ginger, nettle, fennel seeds, licorice and cinnamon are helpful. On the other hand, raw fruits and vegetables and other cold foods should be eaten only in small amounts during this season. Salty foods are important at this time because the minerals provided by salt benefit the kidneys and adrenal glands. Miso, umesu, sea salt and seaweeds, as well as whole grains such as millet and barley are beneficial for their mineral content. If you have high blood pressure, use salt moderately. Consuming enough protein, through lean meats, fish, eggs and legumes is essential. Warming foods like ginger, pepper, cayenne and cloves are helpful for moving circulation. Naturopathic treatment will address individual health and in winter it may include adaptogenic herbs which tonify the adrenal glands and immune system.

Mapping your cleanse

Consult your Naturopathic Doctor to learn what the best cleanse plan and supplemental supports for your body might be this season. Make it simple and remember to focus on breath and sweat, two often neglected cleansing mechanisms. Just 5 minutes of deep belly breathing each day flushes toxins from the system, rejuvenates organs and tissues, and decreases stress and anxiety.

A sweaty workout three times per week releases a surprising amount of toxins. Dry sauna, especially infrared, also helps with detoxification and fat breakdown. A cleanse done right should have you feeling clear and energetic after a few days, while also teaching you much about your body. That awareness buys you years of better health!

By: Julia Segal, Naturopathic Doctor  and Belle Method Pilates Instructor

5 tips on keeping New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions. So many of us make them. From losing weight to eating better to saving more money…January is a time for renewal (and paying off that credit card!). Here are some easy and highly effective tips to help you reach your key goals in 2013 and evolve your life. Cheers to your success!

1) Tell lots of people about your goal! Studies show that when others know about our resolutions, we feel more compelled to keep them. Simply put, we don’t want to disappoint others (or look silly) so we are more likely to do what needs to be done in order to reach our goal. For example, in 2013 I’m learning how to do all my own taxes and accounting. Paperwork has always felt like heinous torture, but I am going to conquer it! Guess I better do it now that I’ve posted this proclamation on the internet…

2) Be specific. Resolutions like “I’m going to be healthier” or “I’m going to save a bunch of money” are great, but these ambiguous objectives are nearly impossible to stick to. On the other hand, “I’m going to put $100 dollars a month in my savings” give you direction and a reasonable time frame to achieve your resolution. The more details and parameters you have, the easier it will be to reach your goals. For example, in 2013 I am going to spend 1 hour every Sunday updating my excel spreadsheet with weekly receipts to better track expenses.

3) Put it on paper. Read it aloud. Write down your goal and put in a place you will see everyday. It could be on a post-it note on your bathroom mirror, kitchen fridge or computer monitor. Make it simple and tangible with only a few words. Here’s the trick: write as if you’ve already achieved your goal and read it aloud everyday.  One powerful example is the affirmation; “I am strong, vibrant and grateful for my good health.”  Your life at this present moment is a reflection of the words you’ve chosen to accept as the truth. When you realize that you are the creator of words you will regain power by speaking positive things into your own life. Sounds a bit nutso, but it definitely works. Try it.

4) Recruit a Teammate. Having a group, partner, friend, or professional to encourage you can be invaluable. Find a friend with a similar resolution or ask a family member to keep you accountable. If your husband knows your goal is to shed 10 lbs by March he can support you by not leaving junk food around the house for you to eat in a weak moment! You can also seek professional help, whether that’s a personal trainer to help you meet your fitness goals or a personal coach. For example, a friend of mine is currently studying to be an accountant and we’re setting up monthly meetings starting in January to keep me organized and on track with paperwork!

5) Forgive yourself. Changing behavior is not easy, so don’t allow a one-day sugar binge leave you feeling demoralized and hopeless. If you get derailed, reframe it as a learning experience and get right back on track.  Many people fall into the trap of believing that if they stumble, they should give up. The truth is you don’t have to wait for next year or for some magic moment. Instead, realize that slipping is part of the process and get back to your affirmations and goals!


Young Heroes

Look up the word “Inspiration in the thesaurus and you will find the following: “motivation”, “stimulation”, “encouragement” and “muse”.  All strong words, all perfectly descriptive of the 95 young adults I recently had the privilege of teaching. They truly are an inspiration. These courageous young people between the ages of 19 – 35 have all been diagnosed with cancer (they call it the “C-Word”), some currently in treatment and others years in remission. They came from across Canada to spend a weekend in Toronto at the Young Adult Cancer Conference, or YACC, for 3 days of education, fitness and friendship.

I had the distinct honour of teaching the group two early morning Yoga-Lates classes at their hotel conference centre. To say it was a humbling experience is a grand understatement at best. This class wasn’t just different because everyone had cancer – this class felt different.  It wasn’t until later that I fully grasped why. It hit me.

That class felt different because of the palpable energy in the room.  These young people were all there in support of each other. They were there out of courage, love and hope. There was no ego, no one trying to outshine another – only a true desire for growth and healing.

We cannot always control what happens to us in this life, but we can always control our reaction. We have a choice even at the worst of times. The young people at YACC all shared something in common besides their cancer diagnoses – everyone one of them chose courage, hope and authenticity.  It is for this reason that I call them heroes.  Imagine if every one of us did the same? They are an inspiration for us all.

Side note: The YACC fitness classes would not have been possible without the generous support of Sport Chek who donated all the brand new yoga mats for the survivors. Thank you for supporting such a noble cause and making a difference!

Happiness Quiz

What I’m about to write is heresy to gym goers, and many might ask, “Why on earth would she share this information on her fitness company’s website!?” I share this simply because it is by far the most compelling research on living a healthy and happy life. And you Belles deserve to know! (Spoiler alert: it does NOT prescribe exercise in the way we think of it!) This TEDMED talk from National Geographic writer and founder of Blue Zones, Dan Buettner, is 16 minutes but worth the time. Watch it!

Here’s my Cole’s Notes version of this talk:

1) “Make the active option the easy option” – Research shows us that 90% of people with gym memberships drop out after 3 years. Walk more (get a dog!), cultivate a garden, watch less TV, bike to work, socialize with a large network and spend more time outside. Create a life where natural movement happens everyday.

2) “Eat mostly plants, seeds, legumes” –  Meat is ok. Tofu is better. Before you dismiss the research, know they also strongly endorse wine consumption (got your attention again?!) Also, plate your food in the kitchen vs family style at the table.  Stop eating when you’re 80% full to give your brain time to register that hunger has been satisfied.

3) Know why you get up in the morning ( in one phrase) Have a strong sense of purpose, a close circle of friends who are active, healthy and happy and take at least one day a week to downshift. Take this free Blue Zones True Happiness QUIZ to get personalized recommendations on bringing more happiness into your life!

By the way, I did the quiz and turns out they were pretty accurate!  I need to get a dog, sleep in more, drink more wine and plan a monthly girls spa weekend (well, they didn’t say it like that, but that’s my take home!) What’s yours? 🙂


Your better starts here

Right after the”Arctic Enema” obstacle, a pool of ice water, mud and barb wire!

What inspires you to strive for more? Picture feeling strong, fast, agile and full of energy. Imagine what you’re doing.

This August, The Bad Ass Belles ran a 4 hour military style obstacle course called Tough Mudder (woah was tough, and yes, hella muddy). Over 16,000 participants descended upon Mount St. Louis Moonstone ski resort just north of Toronto for a weekend of camaraderie, ridiculous costumes and intense personal challenge.

It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t easy at all! But, it was so very worth it. There were moments all of us felt like quitting, but we cheered, supported and encouraged each other onwards. The energy was contagious! Perfect strangers helped lift each other over 20 foot walls, pull fellow Mudders through dark tunnels, navigate electric shocks and literally push each other up black diamond ski hills. We were all a bit delirious by the end!

Picture a 16,000 + person team all supporting each other in achieving their personal best. It was not a race, it was a challenge.  It was a testament to the power of intention, of determination and of the human spirit! Together, we can accomplish more than we ever imagined possible.

The Belles are here to help you pursue your better – whether you’re wearing zebra print tights, yoga pants, or a power suit. Life is going to get muddy, and we’re here to pull you through!

PS. This video really pumped me up for training! Check it out..



Push Ups: The true story

Push Ups are in virtually every fitness class out there! Yogi’s call them “chaturanga”, Bootcampers often combine them with burpees and Pilates enthusiasts do highly choreographed versions of the exercise from a standing roll down position.

So what? So my friends, call the exercise what you like but make sure the form is correct!  Incorrect push up form can compress the lumbar spine, torque the elbows and wreak havoc on your rotator cuffs. Here’s a video that shows how to do it right ( Nikki starts with what NOT to do, and Riikka corrects.)

Here are the top 3 things to be mindful of during push ups ( drum roll please….)

1) Keep your abs TIGHT! You’re not breakdancing, so don’t do “the worm”. You want go up and down stiff as a board.

2) NEVER lower your shoulders below your elbows. You internally rotate the humerus          (upper arm bone), create neck tension and strain the ball and socket joint.

3) MODIFY! Drop to your knees if you’re getting tired. Don’t sacrifice form to stay in high plank.

Here’s to learning to love this full body exercise! Now drop down and give me 20!! 🙂

Belle Launch Party!

As some of you know, we have recently gone through a big re-brand, and are SO excited to be celebrating the launch of The Belle Method – a Fitness Philosophy for Women!

Join us Wednesday August 22, 2012 for a cocktail party at The Spoke Club, 600 King St West, 4th floor from 6 pm – 10 pm.


Cash bar, hor d’oeuvres, live DJ, onsite mani’s from 1 BodyBar and lots of raffle prizes from our amazing health and beauty partners! From nutrition and naturopathic treatments to image consulting services, Pilates/Yoga clothing and Spa gift cards! Raffle tickets are free with the donation of a gently used or new women’s clothing item ( on a hanger) for New Circles: a free clothing bank for low income people in Toronto.

Please RSVP by email to: with your name + guest as the Spoke Club is a private club and we are creating a guest list for entrance.

See you there!

The Belle Philosophy

A Fitness Philosophy for Women: THE BELLE METHOD

After over a decade in the fitness industry, experience with countless female clients has led me to believe in a philosophy that’s proven effective time and again.  Despite all of our unique differences, this method holds true across the board.  Years of experience have demonstrated that fitness success (and life success for that matter!) depends greatly on the following points. These points are an acronym that makes up The Belle Method, a Fitness Philosophy for Women.

B– Be True to Yourself – Make time for yourself.  Take care of yourself. We all have the same 24 hours each day.  Only you can carve out the time you deserve.  Practice saying ‘no’ when it doesn’t serve you and schedule workout time in your calendar.  Ask for help when you need it and remember every positive change happens with self-love!  You deserve health, happiness and a body you love. Go get it girl!

E – Elevate your Awareness – Mediate on what you really really want. Is there room in your life to welcome all the amazing gifts waiting for you, just around the corner? What is going well in your life? What would you like to change? Self-reflect on goals and write them down. Put that piece of paper in a place you will see everyday.

L– Learn to get Results – Recruit the help of experts who will tailor a workout and nutrition program to your goals and lifestyle. Learn how to eat healthy on the run. Learn to improve your technique to accelerate progress.  A good instructor corrects form, adjusts posture and offers modifications so you can workout hard, but safely.

L – Live the Challenge – Get a coach you respect and trust. Make a commitment to taking daily action steps to your goal. Look at your goals everyday.  Designate a “go-to” person to call who will act as your personal cheerleader when you’re feeling off.  Give yourself benchmarks (like those jeans from college) to measure success and progress; this will keep you motivated and inspired!

E – Evolve your Life – Health, happiness and confidence are all within your reach. If you follow these steps you will feel a difference in your mind and body. Everything starts with loving yourself enough to make a change, then setting your goals, committing to daily action, surrounding yourself with positive people and asking for support.  Here’s to your evolution. Here’s to your success!

The Belle Method is all about women helping other women feel strong and beautiful inside and out. You can do it. See you in class!

Pilates for Prostate Health

We know studies show exercise helps cancer recovery and prevention by improving insulin resistance, reducing inflammation, boosting immune system function, and lowering hormones.

Exercise is good! But how do you decide which type is best for you? Those concerned with prostrate health may want to consider adding Pilates into their daily physical activity.

Pilates is an exercise method with its roots in physical therapy. Practiced for decades by professional athletes, gymnasts and dancers, Pilates develops strength, balance and coordination, while the use of breath allows for better oxygen flow, releasing tension and promoting relaxation. It emphasizes balanced development of the body, targeting the deep muscles of the abdomen and pelvic floor (aka ‘the core’). The pelvic floor muscles are the foundation for the core of the body. They stabilize the pelvis and support the organs of the lower abdominal cavity, like the bladder, prostrate and uterus. The pelvic floor muscles, along with the deep muscles of the back and abdomen, form the group of muscles we work when developing core strength in Pilates.

Prostate cancer is one of the problems many men face as they get older. It is believed that the deterioration of the pelvic floor muscles is the major factor contributing to prostate cancer. Furthermore, prostrate surgery has common side-effects of urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Pelvic floor exercises are strongly recommended for men both before and following a prostatectomy, a recommendation confirmed by worldwide experts at the International Consultation on Incontinence in July 2008.

Pilates teaches you how to engage those deep pelvic floor muscles that are so important for prostrate health. By practicing Pilates, the risk of prostate cancer may be reduced, and the chances for a full post surgery recovery can be greatly improved.

Here is a photo of Joseph Pilates himself, the creator of it all!

The Benefits of Coaching

Lately I have been hearing some pretty inspirational women ( read: Oprah) taut the benefits of hiring a coach for their business and personal life. I decided to dig deeper and find out exactly why a person should pay to have someone give them regular pep talks (hey, that’s what gf’s are for right?)

Here’s what I came back with; the 5 most common answers to why you should consider investing in a coach.

  1. Seeing your Blind Spots

    We often don’t see ourselves the way other’s do. We can have blind spots about the way we come across socially, the limiting beliefs we operate on, the real consequences of certain behaviors, etc.

    Since you can’t change or take into consideration what you don’t see, blind spots typically keep you stuck and thwart your progress. The best way to see your blind spots is none other than customized, individual coaching.

  2. Taking Massive Action

    Fundamentally, changing any area of your life is at most 10% theory and at least 90% practice. You won’t see real results unless you commit to taking the insights you get and the ideas you discover and acting on them

    A good coach will help you get motivated, trust your power to change, get you out of your comfort zone and get you to do considerably more than you would on your own.

  3. Keeping you on Track

    A coach works with you to set specific and attainable goals within a particular time frame. They will keep you “on track” by taking encouraging daily action and remaining focused and committed. Even the most successful and strong-minded people can easily get distracted and they frequently procrastinate if they just rely on willpower. The good news is that you don’t need to rely on willpower alone. You have a coach to help!

In sum, here’s the 411 on coaching benefits!

  • Gain clarity about your goals
  • Improve decision making ability
  • Grow at warp speed
  • Improve time-management skills
  • Sustain focus on your top priorities

Networking Dos and Don’ts

Networking is a must for any businesswoman. We know this.  It is practically gospel. For an entrepreneur, expanding your social circle is a surefire way to increase the scope of your brand awareness, increase sales of products and services, and grow your business. Or is it?

It is, if you’re networking the right way.

Here are some basic dos and don’ts for the next time you’re organizing those new business cards from that networking cocktail soiree.

Do: Send a follow up email within 48 hours of meeting for the first time.  Offer to help your new contact in some way directly, or by connecting them to someone who can help them. Too often people only reach out when they need something. Be the exception. Focus on them. You’ll be more memorable and create a positive rapport immediately.

Don’t: Leave the new contact’s card in your wallet for 3 weeks, and then send them an email asking for a favour.

Do: Establish whether they use social networking sites for business before sending a Facebook friend request. Always include a message with your friend request, reminding the person who you are, where you met and why you’d like to connect.

Don’t: Send a friend request then write on their wall, “Hey grrrrl – hot pics! I want your life. Call me let’s talk business.  Muuah!”  Too much, too soon, too desperate.

Do:  Invite your new contacts to join your mailing list. Send them a personal email, explain your services, and sign up for their lists if they have one.  Create reciprocity.

Don’t: Start blasting your new contacts your unsolicited blog, monthly newsletter, or daily tidbit of wisdom. There’s no faster way to be relegated to the annoying, wish-I-never-met-her category.

Entrepreneurs understand that the most powerful form of advertising is word of mouth. You’re only as good as your reputation. Here’s to making that a positive one. Here’s to your success!

Walk Your Talk

Have you ever had a hairdresser with bad hair? A fitness trainer who’s out of shape? Chances are high that it left you questioning the quality of their services. Now, they may have been wonderful in their field; however, that’s beside the point. The issue is that they created doubt in your mind based on the discrepancy between their talk and their walk.

It all comes down to authenticity my friends. Your clients want to know and see that you mean what you say. What better way to show them than by living your values day in and out.

Too often entrepreneurs become so engrossed in their daily business activities; deadlines, meetings, servicing clients, etc. that they become a walking paradox. The stressed out Yoga teacher, the disorganized accountant, the fast-food eating nutritionist, the muu-muu wearing stylist (ok maybe that’s going too far, but you get the point): all these are examples of business owners who have lost touch with their core values. It can also be a sign that these entrepreneurs are suffering from burnout.

Chances are your decision to become an entrepreneur was fuelled by a passion. It’s that same passion that will carry you through the inevitable obstacles you’ll face in business. That passion is a key ingredient to your success and longevity. Here’s the key advice (drum roll please): Make time for your passion. Do not get so wrapped up in the day-to-day administration that you neglect to feed your fire. Remember why you chose this life. You will not only feel better for it, but you will instill greater confidence in your clients and customers.

Winning entrepreneurs are leaders. Leaders practice what they preach. They walk their talk, and the best leaders don’t just walk it, they strut it.

Finding your Passion – The Shortcut

Consult any life coach, take a zen retreat or flip pages of any personal growth book and the topic of “finding your passion” will inevitably surface. There’s a widespread idea that living your fullest, happiest life is absolutely possible, it just involves a few key steps (here follows the abbr. reader’s digest version)

START: current life dissatisfaction→ need for soul searching ( enter coaches, retreats, self help aisle)→ reflection→ ‘eureka moment’ →decision to follow passion → massive life/job/relationship changes→ happiness and abundance.

For someone at square number 1 in the above flow chart, the road to happiness and abundance can seem rocky to say the least. So many times I hear clients and friends lament, “How am I supposed to find my ‘passion’?” What if I don’t have a passion? What does finding your passion even mean?”

Well friends, I’d like to save you some angst. A wise man once gave me this advice; “Honey, the only way you’re gonna stumble on anything is to keep taking steps forwards.” That’s it you say? That’s it.

Keep trying new things. Take that random course. Surround yourself with positive people who push you forwards with their energy. Say buh-bye to Debbie Downer! Notice how certain activities make you feel. What sparks your creativity? What would you do for free? What do you like talking about? What activities make you stop watching the clock?

Then start doing it. And if you get a little freaked out, keep doing it! Nothing worth doing ever came easy. The good news is there’s a whole community of courageous women out there who believe in you, your dreams and want to help make it all happen.