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Trainer: Any exercise can improve health

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Fitness trainer Tania Kowalski working out (Photo by Akil Simmons)

Tania Kowalski was a chunky kid who never exercised.

She’s changed a lot since then.

At 40, the self-proclaimed ‘health fanatic’ is a personal trainer whose sculpted body fits the bill.

Her husband Nathan writes a regular financial column for The Royal Gazette. She shares her expertise through her blog, www.health-fanatic.com, and a 12-week fitness programme.

In a recent blog post you talk about being addicted to exercise. Are you?

Exercise can be like anything, you can go to the extreme. When it becomes all-consuming and you can’t miss a session and you can’t let go of it, then it is an addiction. You build anxiety within yourself because you are so worried about doing your workout or doing this or that.

How much is too much?

Exercise should leave you feeling energised and not depleted. It should allow you to get stress out rather than create more. When I was originally trying to get pregnant I realised my body was quite stressed. I was doing too much and worried about too much. Trying to conceive on top of that can become all-consuming. Basically, I was doing everything to the detriment of where I was trying to go. I cut a bit of exercise out of my schedule and started focusing on healing modalities like yoga. I became pregnant, and had my daughter Kennedy [who is now seven]. There were some hormonal things behind that as well. My second child, MacKenzie, [who is four], came easily.

How has having children impacted your work?

I knew I couldn’t make a career out of personal training hour to hour because I didn’t have the time to do that and be a mother. I created 12-Week Health Transformation to allow me to do what I love. It is wonderful to love what you do, but it can be all-consuming too.

And you weren’t very fit as a child?

I grew up in Canada. When I was a kid I was chubby and I wasn’t happy with where I was at. As I got older I started to realise that I needed to stop blaming genetics, there were changes I could make. Until you try to make a change you can’t experience anything different. I started working out and I consistently did a half an hour every day. It wasn’t anything very tough, just moving. I started to get stronger and stronger and feel better and better. That motivated me to keep going. I am now a personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. I am also certified in personal training and health coaching through Precision Nutrition in Toronto.

What does your 12-Week Health Transformation consist of?

We do accountability tracking and goal-setting. Clients train with me a couple of times a week. We do a grocery store tour. I have a nutrition plan. Fitness and nutrition are my passion, but I find it very satisfying to see my clients achieve results.

What if you want to get fit, but you really don’t like exercise?

You have to find something you like. Some people love yoga, while some people just like getting out and having a walk, maybe while talking with a friend. Some people love going to the gym and lifting weights. I honestly believe it is not about forcing yourself to do something you really don’t like doing. Don’t be attached to the end result. Just enjoy the ride. Any kind of exercise is going to improve your health.

What about new moms who would like to get fit again?

When my oldest child was born, she was a fussy baby. She didn’t want to nap and she cried all the time. I would put her in the baby sling and go walking. Otherwise, I was going to tear my hair out sitting in the house trying to get her to go to sleep. The minute I got her moving she was out like a light. Sometimes my goal for the day would just be walking to the store. If I was stuck in the house with her then I would climb stairs or do push-ups.

How do I get my children interested in exercise?

You need to make it fun. I have done children’s fitness and exercise programmes for charities. I find that if you play a game like freeze dance, where the kids freeze when the music stops, they love that.

For my kids, they would jump on the trampoline all day. If we go out there with them they are so excited. It is family time. You could have a family soccer game or go for a walk together. It doesn’t have to be a forced activity.

Do many people drop out of the 12-Week Health Transformation programme?

In every programme I have a couple that won’t make it through. I think it is because they won’t make it a priority to reach their goals. I have tried to drag people back in, but you have to be ready to do it.

What is the first step in terms of making a change, generally?

The number one thing I would tell all people is to ditch drinks other than water. Juice can be just as bad as sugary soft drinks. People go crazy with juicing but you are getting so much fruit in one glass. In abundance, fruit is laden with sugar. Just get out and walk. Get your heart pumping.

Learn more at www.health-fanatic.com or search for Health Fanatic on Facebook.

Fitness trainer Tania Kowalski (Photo by Akil Simmons)