Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Difference a Year Makes

Last summer I did a show called "I Know it's Today" which was all about boys, dating, relationships and everything that's happened since that time I was engaged. At the time of the show, I had no idea that my life was about to change substantially in all sorts of ways, both personally and professionally.

Now, I've had my share of massive changes over the last five years from leaving jobs (to go to other jobs, attend nutrition school or due to changes in the job itself), starting new jobs, finding a balance of where performing fit into my life, dating people and figuring out what I was looking for in a partner, trying out new things and figuring out what I wanted to be doing with my life. But last year was different.

A year ago I was working in a job that I was quickly beginning to realize wasn't a good fit for me while commuting to Mississauga (1.5 hours each way) 5 days a week. It started to take a toll on my mental health and I was not a happy person. While this was all happening, I was building a new relationship with someone,who (thankfully) was patient, helpful and loving while I was trying to manage a whole lot of stress and some big decisions. I was just about to audition for a show that would go up in January, but had to turn down some other auditions because they didn't fit into my life.

On December 30, 2013, I made some huge changes and almost a year later, my life couldn't be more different.

Right now I'm busy rehearsing for two shows, auditioning more regularly, working at a part time job 10 minutes from my house and doing other work that has flexible timing and location. I have time for the things that are important in my life and have cultivated a great deal of balance. I continue to build an incredible relationship with a partner who remains patient, helpful and loving. Thankfully, I'm now in a place where I feel that I can contribute equally to our growth and love. I have time to work out and nourish my body and spend time with the amazing people in my life.

It's truly amazing the difference a year can make, and next Friday at 9pm I'm going to be sharing more about the things I've experienced and the changes I've made in my show, The Difference a Year Makes (or How to Quit Your Job, Fall in Love and Live the Life of Your Dreams) at the Flying Beaver Pubaret.

Ashley Gibson cabaret Toronto

Withe the help of mega talented Music Director, Giustin MacLean, I'll be singing songs and telling stories about the crazy year that I've had, how I decided to make those big changes and everything that has happened as a result!

Tickets are available for $15 in advance or $20 at the door either online or at the Pubaret. I would love to see you there so you can help me celebrate the difference a year can really make!

If you were doing a show about how YOUR life has changed over the last year, what song(s) would be required on the set list?

Friday, October 10, 2014

8 Tips for Enjoying a Healthier Thanksgiving

I can hardly believe that it's already October. The air is getting crisper and the sun is going down a whole lot earlier. The leaves are beginning to turn and I'm craving everything pumpkin! I busted out my legwarmers yesterday and have embraced the fact that I can no longer get away with just a jean jacket outside.

It is Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend and I'm looking forward to spending some time with Corbin and his family on Monday. It can also be overwhelming to navigate a big meal with family when you're trying to embrace a healthier lifestyle. I've been doing some brainstorming and enlisted the help of some friends on Facebook and Twitter, and came up with the following list of tips to enjoy a healthier Thanksgiving meal.

How to enjoy a healthier Thanksgiving

  1. Make great food choices leading up to the meal. Have a stellar breakfast and lunch or snack so you're not ravenous when you sit down for dinner. It will help you make better choices during the meal and ensure that you're eating to nourish yourself and enjoy the food, and not eating because you are starving!

  2. Take the time to do a workout during the day on your own or take advantage of the gorgeous fall weather and take a nice walk or run. Getting some activity in will feel awesome and give your day some balance and 'you' time (which is especially helpful if you're having a lot of family time!)

  3. If you're the one making the meal or can influence the chef, ensure that there are some awesome, healthy options included. Ditch the butter and cream. Have a selection of beautiful veggies, make a delicious fall-inspired soup or try some healthier alternatives to classic dishes like cauliflower mashmushroom miso gravy, lentil loaf, a great shepherd's pie or vegan pumpkin pie. There are endless possibilities to what your meal could look like and it's a wonderful time to try something new, perhaps creating a new tradition.

  4. When you're filling up your plate, make half of it veggies! You'll get a lovely assortment of goodness, while being able to feel great about your meal and still leaving room for more indulgent choices.

  5. Be sure to enjoy your favourite parts of the meal. If you love stuffing, have stuffing! If you're a pie person, enjoy some pie! Practice moderation and work on enjoying your food rather than feeling guilty.

  6. Skip the things that don't excite you and since you're an independent person, you don't have to eat certain foods just to be polite. Aunt Ida will forgive you. I promise.

  7. Remember that it's not the last supper. For real. It's seriously just another meal and you don't need to eat everything in sight, just because it's there! If you celebrate Christmas, you're going to be seeing all of those foods in a month and a half anyway. There's also nothing stopping you from making/having pumpkin pie or stuffing on a non-holiday. Just sayin'.

  8. Make it less about the food and more about giving thanks. Focus on the things in your life that you are grateful for and the time you get to spend with your family and friends. 
I feel thankful for so many things in my life right now: my incredible relationship, my wonderful friends & familia, my health and the opportunity to do so many things that I love! Life is pretty sweet and I'm looking forward to having some time to reflect on all of that this weekend. 

I hope these tips are helpful for you this weekend (and give my American friends a head start on their plans in November!) Have a wonderful Thanksgiving everyone xo

What are you thankful for?
What is your favourite tip for enjoying a healthier Thanksgiving? 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Insanity - My Final Results

A little over two months ago I started on a mission: I was determined to finish the Insanity workout program for the first time.

Ashley Gibson - photo by Corbin Smith

I had received the program more than a year and a half ago and started it at least 3 times, never getting past week 3 (of 9 weeks). Even when I said that this time I was going to complete it, I still had my doubts based on my past results and the fact that I was committing to a HUGE change for 63 days. I wanted to stick to my word, but in the back of my brain was that nasty voice telling me that I was going to fail, again.

As with any change, in the beginning I was super keen and motivated. I was committed to the program and engaged in my online accountability group. The momentum started to build as soon as I started seeing changes in my body, both in photos and in real life. I grabbed a hold of that momentum and kept going!!!

Working out 6 days a week took INTENSE determination. Prior to starting I had been doing yoga once or twice a week, walking and riding my bicycle - this is NOT the same as ANY workout with Shaun T!! I needed to be intentional with planning my workouts in order to be consistent and focused. I brought my DVDs back and forth to Corbin's house whenever I stayed with him and even took them up to his parents' house when we up there for a few days.

In case you were wondering, the workouts never became EASY (especially after I started month 2 - can I remind you all of the crying incident where I almost quit?? There was another big workout cry last week and it wasn't pretty). But I started to feel stronger and more capable as I kept moving forward. I was able to get through half of the warm up without stopping and then three quarters of it. As time went on, I saw great progress in my Fit Tests and found myself struggling less with form and focused on 'digging deeper'.

In sticking with the program I was reminded that I can accomplish great things when I am laser-focused and wholeheartedly committed, which was really motivating! It wasn't easy, but I had some great help and encouragement along the way from Corbin, my friends, my incredible Coach, Marissa, my accountability groups and all sorts of wonderfully supportive people online. I am so grateful for everyone's support!

I rediscovered how awesome it feels to be working out on a regular basis and seeing changes in my body. Doing my workouts became a great source of 'me' time and the progress I made motivated me in other aspects of my life. I feel stronger, fitter and really happy. I did have an old ankle injury flare up a bit, but modified when I needed to and took care of myself by wrapping it, getting acupuncture/massage and keeping the jumping to a minimum (and squatting instead!)

After completing 63 days of Insanity I saw the following progress:
  • Improved my Fit Test results across the board, in some cases even doubling the number of reps I could do
  • Increased my endurance and could do MORE for longer periods of time
  • I lost inches all over my body including 2 from my chest, 3.5 from my waist, 2.5 from my hips, 1 from each arm and 2.5 from each leg
  • I lost 10 pounds
  • Gained muscle in all sorts of places (I'm sorry to all of my friends who had to deal with me shouting "Look, I have a shoulder!!!" randomly over the last few weeks)
Insanity results Ashley Gibson

Insanity results Ashley Gibson

Insanity results Ashley Gibson

I grew to ADORE Shaun T and I'm certainly going to miss him now that we're done (this round). I'm going to be spending some quality time with Chalene Johnson doing PiYo for the next 2 months and maybe when Insanity: MAX:30 comes out, Shaun T and I may have a reunion. In the meantime, I'll be thankful that the jumping will be kept to a minimum for now. I knew that the program was going to change my body, but I couldn't have imagined all of this, nor how it would impact the rest of my life! 

Completing the program and connecting with Marissa brought the chance to become a Coach myself and help others to reach their goals. In September I took the plunge and became a Coach and this month I have 3 Challengers doing an online support group alongside me. I've missed helping people since leaving Weight Watchers and I feel blessed to be putting myself into the service of others and helping them to reach their goals!!

If you're sitting there reading this and thinking "I could never do Insanity", trust me when I say that you absolutely could. With the right attitude, determination, willingness to try and great support system, you could totally do it and see awesome results, leaving a whole lot of sweat (and maybe some tears) behind you. Or if Insanity wasn't up your alley to begin with, you could start with something else and work your way there. But I know you could get there and make incredible changes in your life. It's about deciding that you want to make a change and acting on it. 

I say this as someone who didn't believe I could do it either. It's you vs. yourself and I'm a big believer in dreaming big. It feels incredible when the hard work pays off and you do more than you even realized you could. 

"She turned her can'ts into cans and her dreams into plans"

Photo by Corbin Smith
 If you'd like to tackle Insanity or are just ready to make some sort of change in your life, I'd love to help you do that as your Coach and with the support of an amazing online accountability group. Send me an email or connect with me on Facebook and tell me a bit about yourself and your goals and let's make it happen!!

Big thanks to Corbin Smith for all the images, sweet .GIF and neverending encouragement & support

Friday, October 3, 2014

Cauliflower Pizza

The internet has gone nutty over the cauliflower pizza phenomenon. I'll admit that I was skeptical thinking, "How can cauliflower mush even pretend to taste like pizza crust?" anytime I saw another cauliflower pizza crust pop up on Pinterest.

Oh friends, I have crossed over to the dark side and it's DELICIOUS over here.

Not only is this cauliflower pizza crust super tasty, it's also really easy to make. We've already made it a second time and I think it will be a staple for dinners with us.

Cauliflower Pizza Crust 
(Gluten free)

Half a small head of cauliflower
1/2 cup shredded goat cheddar (or cheese of your choice)
1 egg
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Add roughly chopped cauliflower to food processor and blitz until all cauliflower is in rice-like bits. Cook / steam for 5-8 minutes.

In a medium bowl, add 1 1/4 cup cauliflower bits, egg, cheese, nutritional yeast, spices and garlic. Mix until well combined.

Prep a cookie sheet with parchment paper and a bit of oil. Place your "dough" on the sheet and pat to form an equally distributed oval, that isn't super thin.

Bake crust for about 15-20 mins until golden and edges are starting to crisp up.

Once the crust has cooked, top your pizza with your favourite things! We used tomato sauce, sautéed bell peppers and mushrooms, red onion, sundried tomatoes and a bit more of the goat cheddar.

 Place topped pizza under broiler until cheese has melted. Remove from broiler and serve.

After you've made the recipe once or twice, feel free to play around with the cooking time and toppings. The second time around, Corbin left the crust in the oven for a bit longer (closer to 18-20 minutes) and it was awesome.

Are you interested in more yummy, healthy recipes like this one? From October 20-24 I'm going to be running a clean eating group through Facebook with lots of recipes, tips and tricks for healthy, delicious, clean eats. If you'd like to be included in the group, send me an email or connect with me on Facebook

Friday, September 26, 2014

Do's and Don'ts for Working Out at Home

Before doing Insanity, I had never really consistently worked out at home.

I've dabbled with other DVDs, but for the most part I've done them on a fairly casual schedule or stuck with them for a couple of weeks and then put them on the shelf to collect dust. I think that was one of the scariest things about committing to Insanity this time around, was giving my word that I was going to continue the program for 9 consecutive weeks. I'm nearing the completion of Insanity and getting ready to dive into PiYo when I'm done. I'm committed to creating a healthier lifestyle with my workouts and love how I feel as a result.
Beachbody PiYo workout

Now that I'm in the home stretch, I've learned a thing or two about doing consistent workouts at home, and I thought I would share some Do's and Don'ts

Do choose a workout that's right for you

Choosing a workout that is right for you based on your goals, likes, preferences and tastes is going to be key to your consistency and progress. Think about your goals - are you doing this to lose weight, build muscle, tone or just get healthier? Is following a fitness regime new for you or are you a seasoned veteran? Are you a cardio junkie or do you prefer to take things at a bit of a slower pace? All of these factors can you help determine the right workout for you, which will help you to be consistent and get great results

Don't be a hero

Don't choose a program just because it seems like everyone else is doing it. If something is too extreme or not your kinda pace, it's unlikely that you'll want to stick to it. I'm all for pushing boundaries, but be honest with yourself. You could also start with one thing and build up to another more intense program down the road! The idea is that you're working towards creating a healthy lifestyle change, so there will be time to build things up as you go!

Do set a time to workout

Treat your workout like an item on your agenda or a class that you're heading to. Choose a time in your day that works for you and remember that it doesn't need to be exactly the same time every day. You just need to make sure it's at a time that works, feels good for you and that you show up! My schedule changes from day to day, so my workout time changes. Sometimes I do it in the morning before days I start work or rehearsal early, other times I do it later in the day after getting things done. It all depends on you and your schedule.

Don't fly by the seat of your pants

If you don't make your workout a priority in your day, it's not going to happen. If you wait until the very end of your day and realize you still have a workout to do, you're NOT going to want to do it. TRUST ME. And then that's an extra thing to fight in order to get it done. If the end of your day is the only time you can complete it I totally get it, but make sure you're being intentional with your workouts.

Do listen to your body

Sometimes you're going to need to modify a workout to accommodate your fitness level, body or any injuries you may have and that's totally cool! Always monitor yourself to ensure you're following the correct form and listen to what the instructor is saying about how to accomplish that. Your muscles are going to be sore and that's totally normal. If it's joint or bone pain, adjust your form and be sure to see a doctor or physio if you do injure yourself.

Don't listen to your brain

Your brain is going to be the first to tell you that you can't do it, that you should give up and just quit. Put that voice on ignore, my friends. You are capable of SO MUCH. And that nasty, negative self talk has got to go. Push yourself (while still listening to your body, of course) and be amazed at all that you will be able to accomplish if you put your mind to it. This is coming from the gal who started Insanity at least 3 times before and never got past week 3. I told myself I didn't have time, couldn't do it, it was too hard, blah, blah, blah. This time around I've proved those nasty demons wrong and have some incredible results to show for it. You CAN do this. I know you can.

Do take care of your body

Creating a healthy lifestyle change isn't just about exercising or eating right. It's about looking at the full picture. Once you bring regular exercise into the mix, it's time to assess everything else. Are you eating well and fueling your body? Are you drinking enough water? Are you getting enough sleep? All of these factors will contribute to your success and ensure that you're taking the best care of your body.

Don't take extreme measures

While you may be keen to make fantastic progress, undereating isn't going to help you reach your goals. Neither is working out way above and beyond what your program calls for. Same goes for not getting enough sleep or drinking enough water. Not only could any of these scenarios be detrimental to your success, but they could also be the thing that gets you off the wagon when you feel deprived or frustrated. Balance is key to consistency. Trust in the program and your eating plan. The progress will come.

Do find ways to be accountable

Working out at home means it's all on you to schedule in the workout and actually do it. There's no class attendance to check in with or personal trainer to see for an appointment. It's all you! So it's important to find ways to hold yourself accountable, whether that be through a friend who is also working out, connecting with a Coach, being a part of an online community or even talking to your bestie or partner about your goals and action steps. Having someone to hold you to your commitment will definitely help you to stick with it.

Don't go at it alone

While you may be doing your workouts by yourself, you don't need to do this on your own. And through personal experience and the journeys of others around me, I've seen what a difference having support around you can make. You don't need to go broadcasting to the world that you're starting something new or that you're working on creating a healthier lifestyle, but by letting even one person into your journey you're not only gaining a cheerleader to help you stay accountable, you may inspire someone else to make some healthy changes in their life. And that's HUGE.

Do track your progress

The first thing I'm going to say about tracking your progress is to ditch the scale. Or at least put it away for awhile. Weight loss can be a great measure of success (especially when you have a lot of weight to lose), but it's certainly not the only one and in my opinion, it's often not the best one. It can be so easy to become obsessed with a NUMBER.  You're a human and so much more than what the scale says! So weigh yourself at the beginning and maybe a couple times on your journey, but leave it in the closet the rest of the time. Start by taking a before picture and measurements when you start and take new ones every 2 weeks so you can see your body changing. Then measure your progress based on those measurements, clothing sizes, your energy level, how long you're able to go in your workout before taking a break, your mood, how you FEEL or whatever metrics are most motivating for you. Set mini goals for yourself and track them as you go. This is YOUR journey and you get to choose how to watch it unfold.

Don't give up when things get tough

It's so easy to get caught up with instant gratification and want to give up on reaching our goals when we're not seeing IMMEDIATE results. Or when we listen to our brains and allow that negative self talk to creep in and convince us that we're not capable. When the scale isn't moving. When something feels too difficult. When we don't feel like we're making progress. When you cry because something is so overwhelming. Is it going to be easy? No. Is it going to be worth it? Yes. There are going to be times on this journey when you want to give up, but if you stick with it, you're going to feel incredible. And the magic happens when we step out of our comfort zone. Having some mini goals and ways to measure your progress will help. So find a way to push through, persevere and keep going. It WILL be worth it.

I am so proud to be nearing the end of my Insanity journey (9 more days!!) and feel confident that this list helped me to stick with it, persevere and reach my goals. I'm so excited for what comes next: PiYo, helping to lead my own Support & Accountability group as a Coach and continuing to feel amazing, healthy and strong!! If joining an online Support & Accountability group sounds like something you'd be interested in, please connect with me and we can talk about your goals!

For those of you who do work out at home / independently, did I miss anything? What helps you to be successful and accountable?