Did you know there are Mermaid fitness classes in Toronto?

Aqua Mermaid Toronto – Review by resident Mommy Blogger – Shannon Fisher, And Now I’m A Mom

I’ve said many-a-time, to many-a-people, that if I could perform my day to day tasks while being in water, I would. And I meant it. So when I was offered the opportunity to try out a mermaid fitness class with Aqua Mermaid, there was absolutely no hesitation before saying yes, and then quietly humming the Little Mermaid song to myself. I was vaguely familiar with the concept of mermaid fitness, but I couldn’t have told you anything real about it, and I didn’t know something like this was possible here in Toronto, especially for newbies like me. I was super excited about fulfilling my lifelong dream of becoming a mermaid. 

I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of class size or structure, but when I packed my bathing suit and towel and headed out, it turns out I also didn’t know how much traffic I should have predicted. Refreshing my google maps every 5 seconds while my husband took as many side roads as possible, I started to panic that I was going to be late, and I wouldn’t get to wear my tail. I awkwardly changed into my bathing suit in the front seat of our SUV, and waved at a guy who couldn’t stop staring at me while I was changing into my top. Angry at myself for not leaving earlier, I called the number for AquaMermaid and asked how bad it would be if I arrived just at class start time, instead of the recommended 15 minutes early. I was happily reassured that it wasn’t an issue at all, and I breathed a sigh a relief knowing that I hadn’t messed everything up. (But this doesn’t mean you should also show up late- that 15minutes would be key with a larger class!)

We pulled up with two minutes to spare, and I rushed through the change-room, whipped off my clothes and headed out to the pool deck, expecting to see a full class of women waiting for me in their tails. Instead, there was simply the instructor, and two gentlemen happily chatting away holding onto what looked like flippers, but would unroll to reveal the tail. I was originally taken aback by the small size of the class, but it didn’t take long for me to appreciate the ability of the instructor to be able to keep the class personalized to our wishes and capabilities. I also loved the fact that is was men, and not just women who wanted to be mermaid for a day. One mentioned it was his goal to be like Zoolander, and he instantly got my respect. 

I got the fin on, and boy, was I excited! I stuck the fin in the water as I sat on the edge of the pool, and eagerly smiled at my husband as he snapped away with the camera, my daughter playing with a small floatie in her car-seat nearby. We then had to take the fins off again to learn some of the basic moves before adding the extra difficulty of essentially, having only one giant leg. Brianna, the instructor, made her fin-less dolphin kicking look graceful and flawless as she used her entire body to glide through the water, and when I tried, felt- and looked- more like a dolphin who had somehow made it’s way onto land and didn’t know what the hell to do. Luckily for me, there were only a couple of manoeuvres like this, because I sucked at them all and I just wanted my tail on. I got my wish and the three of us shimmied back into the long, glorious tails- mine pink, of course. Repeating those same initial manoeuvres but with the tail made a world of difference, and getting to glide so swiftly like that under water is something I have never experienced before, and I loved it. I felt like I just wanted to swim under water forever and never come up for air. If I had regular access to a pool, you better believe I’d be buying a tail. (You can actually own your own mermaid tail!) We were casually taught a few basic moves, like using our arms to propel us (which turns out to be a major arm workout), and swimming with our tail both face up, and face down, before moving onto some enjoyable (and instagram-worthy) tricks, like handstands and fin-high-fives. 

Everything was pretty relaxed, and the instructor just followed our lead to allow us to learn skills we wanted to, have fun, and have pictures taken all the way throughout. I felt like I was super unskilled, but afterwards in talking with Brianna I learned that many of the trial classes don’t attempt some of the stuff we did, or even venture out into the deep end- which we did almost right away. In my attempt to do a dive off the side into the water, I thought I would never even make it pulling myself out of the water, and flinging my body beached-whale-style up over the side. I made it though, it was amazing, and I’m sure it was super graceful. We ended our class with a group-choreographed synchronized routine that was completely random, but also awesome.  Once the class was done, I chatted with Brianna a bit to find out more about the classes they offer, and what they’re like. There are drop-in classes, for people like me who are new and looking for something cool to try, and there’s also packages for weekly classes, which are geared more towards the fitness aspect. AquaMermaid has been around since early 2015, combining the love of water, exercise, and all around fabulousness. The founder, Marielle Chartier Henault has done an incredible job of bringing forward this wonderful and unique option for a workout choice, and AquaMermaid is now offering classes not just in Toronto, but Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec, Edmonton, Chicago Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale and Phoenix. Classes are offered for kids and adults of any gender, and just about any age- as long as you can swim independently. But if you’re looking for a new way to spend some time on a Saturday, or are trying to add some flavour into your workout routines, I highly suggest giving these classes a try, no matter what your age or gender- as long as you can swim, you’re good.  Worst case scenario? You get some cool photos wearing a mermaid tail at the end of it, because let’s face it- if it’s not on Instagram, did it even happen? 

For more information and to sign up for classes, go to www.aquamermaid.com 

Guest Blog Post by: Elisabeth Parsons, Fit4You


 Man or woman, I am sure you agree.

  • Life begins and grows within our hipsWomens-hips-in_jeans
  • We allow music to be felt through us by dancing, swaying our hips
  • Our strength in physical movement originate here
  • Here we sit.  Here we stand
  • They propel us forward whether it be to run, jump or twirl
  • We feel pain here when things are not right
  • We feel pleasure when they are

As much as our brain is the head office of our nervous system therefore our command centre; I think of our hips as the head office of physical action.  Most movements originate here and therefore any dysfunction, even if not felt, can cause pain and discomfort in other parts of our body.  So why is the optimal function of this so important part of our body so often ignored?  Or even worse, mis-treated?

Unfortunately, the answer to this is usually due to lack of knowledge.  Most people don’t know what, or if anything, is required to maintain good function and health in our hips, pelvis, pelvic floor.

Woman In Back PainDysfunction, weakness and imbalances can cause such common problems such as back pain, constipation, urinary incontinence, pain during sex and so much more.  When you hear your friend, spouse or co-worker complain of a bad back you probably don’t think to yourself “his/her pelvic floor must be week”.  You might think, or even say; “you should work your core, I have heard that helps a bad back”.  But do you know what it means to work your core in a way that is beneficial for your back?  We have all heard by now that we should be “working our core”.  But what does that mean?  Crunches?  Sit-ups?  No!  These exercises can only make matters worse, or will create dysfunction where nothing was wrong to begin with.

Did you know that your pelvic floor is a part of your core?  Probably not.  Neither did I a few years ago.  But it is this lack of knowledge that has women complaining of urinary incontinence, constipation, back pain and more, just to be told by their doctors and friends that it is normal.  Apparently this is what happens when a woman has had children, or is approaching menopause… NOT IT IS NOT!!!

Core_4The muscles of the core

There is nothing normal about peeing when you sneeze, cough or exercise.  There is nothing normal or acceptable about having pain when you have sex with your partner.  It may be common, but it is not normal.  There is something that can be done.  And quite easily too.  First, I need for you to rethink this whole hip area a little.  Our pelvic floor is made up of a group of muscles, and like any muscles, they need to be exercised in order to work well.  But you can’t just go about this casually, it must be done in a way that will recruit all the muscles that work synergistically along side it.  Only then will you experience that your back pain goes away, hip pain becomes a thing of the past and you can sneeze without crossing your legs again.

I have been doing this work for a few years now and find it incredibly rewarding to help women reach an improved quality of life by eliminating many of these problems and thus making them feel they can swing their hips all the way to the gym, not worrying about peeing when they laugh at a joke and enjoying intimacy with their partner again.

Detoxing_happy_tummySelf-Care is Empowering

This past weekend I had, alongside my colleagues, the pleasure of running a course educating other health professionals on how they can help their clients and patients restore their core and pelvic function.  So much fun and so empowering not just for us, but for our clients.  This is why I love what I do.

I invite you to learn more about this and my RestoreYourCore Program, and please pass on to any women in your life who you think may benefit (everyone I would think)

I wish you the happiest and healthiest of days 🙂 xo


elisabeth

ELISABETH PARSONS is a pro fitness trainer, nutritional counsellor, and lifestyle coach to women. She is a mother of 4 very active boys, and enjoys sharing her life experience and knowledge about adding vitality to your life through healthy, active living.


First, let me say; I remember when I was pregnant, becoming mentally exhausted (and slightly scared) from all the well meaning, but unsolicited, and often unwanted, advice I received. Unfortunately, most of the advice given is scary, negative, old-fashioned and “I know best” kind of advice. I can honestly not remember one person who simply told me how much fun this was going to be. Or, how delivering a baby doesn’t necessarily turn you into a shrieking, husband-hating monster. Everyone is always so happy for you, yet, they can’t come up with one positive thing to say.So, here is what I will want to say (if she asks…) to my future daughter-in-laws about how to survive, enjoy and graduate from motherhood (not that we ever stop being moms)

1.  Nourish yourself spiritually, emotionally and physically. You are about to become a mother, don’t lose yourself

While you are trying to become pregnant or are pregnant, pay attention to the little things that nourish you as a woman, a person and a friend and wife. What are the things that make you smile; make you feel happy and fulfilled? Is it time alone with

Practicing Self-Care helps you take care of you.
Practicing Self-Care helps you take care of you.

your spouse and/or friends? Is alone time important to you? Reading? Pick at least one of these and make time for it once the baby has arrived. You can do this AND be a wonderful, committed mother.

Prioritize your health. Learn what you need to about preparing for, pregnancy and recovering post partum. Find and see your local Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist. Learn about the inside of your body and pelvic floor. Do your Kegels and bind your belly immediately post partum.

2.  Treasure the moments

If you already have kids I am sure you have already heard advice like “don’t rush through it”, “enjoy, they grow so fast”. I heard it so many times, but still would think: “I wish he would walk soon”, “If only he could talk and tell me what he wants”

My oldest and I
My oldest and I

I can tell you as someone who has 4 grown children and just moved one of my youngest out – They are right! Enjoy the small moments and the wonder. I know it gets crazy at times with these little, not always cooperating, but adorable people. I now spend a fair bit of time reminiscing and enjoying those memories in my mind. You see, I listened to that advice, but not well enough. I really tried to still my day and sit down with my boys and just enjoy the story they were telling, the cuddle or simply watching them do their thing quietly, but I worried about my house-work too. Now that they are older I still look for any opportunity to sit down and enjoy time with my boys.

3.  Parent in a way that feels right for you and your partner.

I figured out early on that I really only wanted to ask for and listen to advice from certain friends/family members, namely, those with similar parenting beliefs and philosophies. So, I rarely give advice, unless asked. And I never asked for advice except from those specific moms. That way you are not getting judged simply for asking and you don’t have to listen to advice you have no intention of following. Except for from your mother and mother-in-law of course, because they will give you advice whether you want it or not. Just listen, smile and nod…and then erase from your memory so it doesn’t sneak up on you in a weak moment 😉

4.  Prioritize your marriage/relationship

Your marriage comes first! You got together and had a family for a reason, now you owe it not only to yourselves, but to yourP1000127 children to make this work. I am divorced, and I can honestly say, there is no hockey game or practice, ballet recital, or homework assignment that is more important than that. Parenting and maintaining your relationship are two equally important entities. Obviously you will meet your children’s basic needs of life and much more. Make it just as important to do something for your relationship with your spouse every day. It can be really small like sitting down for 5 minutes together – alone and just being together; a kiss and a hug at the end of every day; a sweet text to say you are thinking of each other. And yes, schedule date nights – often, even if that simply means going to bed early and not watching television… 😉

5.  Be a mother, not a friend to your children

I too often hear mothers brag about how they are “best friends” with their daughter. It is great if you are close and share and talk to each other openly, but your daughter is not your bff, nor are you hers. Being a mother is a true privilege and pleasure and a very unique place in life. You are a confidant, advisor and the one who loves them without condition or limitation. With you they are completely safe. Safe to be wrong, inconsiderate, apologetic, remorseful, wonderful, funny, goofy and so much more. There is a life long bond between a mother and child that doesn’t need the tag of “best friends” to have meaning. Because when we try to be best friends we try not to displease. We don’t say things that might upset or anger them, and thus we stop parenting. It is our job as parents to say the things they don’t want to hear when they need to hear it. It is their friends’ job to cheer them up when you do. My boys don’t think of me as their best friend. I am their mother. I am always there for them and they know that. I am their first call when they need something, or want to share an experience. I feel so lucky to be that. I know one day their wives will take that place, but I also know they will still call me and check in, because that’s what we do.

Walking behind them I could actually see their little toddler self.  I am so proud of the young men they have become.
Walking behind them I could actually see their little toddler self. I am so proud of the young men they have become.

Oh dear, this ended up being a little longer than I intended it to be, but thank you for sticking with me to the end. I would love to hear from you! What is the one thing you will tell a young mom one day?

With love, Elisabeth


elisabethELISABETH PARSONS is a pro fitness trainer, nutritional counsellor, and lifestyle coach to women. She is a mother of 4 very active boys, and enjoys sharing her life experience and knowledge about adding vitality to your life through healthy, active living.

Guest blog post contributed by Brittany Logsdon, Trunk To Tail, Music & Yoga for Children

imageChildren’s lives are busy and often stressful. Yoga adapted for children, provides children with space and time where they can focusing on their bodies and minds without distraction.

Emotional benefits of children’s yoga include:
1. Relaxation and Stress Relief
Breathing exercises help children calm their bodies and minds, making bedtime and quiet time easier and more enjoyable. I use artificial flowers sprayed with essential oils, as a fun and calming breathing exercise. Parents have used this technique at home to help soothe their child during turbulent times. Children are able to reach into their yoga toolbox and use their knowledge to calm their bodies and minds, even in stressful situations.

2. Increased Self-awareness and Esteem
Mastering a balance pose or being able to fully relax during savasana can greatly improve a child’s mood, confidence and awareness of their body and mind. Yoga is non-competitive and practiced in a supportive environment. Children learn and grow at their own pace helping them feel comfortable and confident. Children are able to support each other in poses and help each other balance and deepen a stretch, working together and enjoying the poses.
3. Increased Focus and Attention
Relaxation, mindfulness and yoga poses help children develop focus and attention. Balancing poses require attention and focus to keep from falling over! Children love balancing poses. When they are finally able to balance without falling over, they are so proud and excited! Other yoga poses also require a great deal of focus, such as challenging backbends and inversion poses. Without a great deal of focus, these poses would be almost impossible to conquer!

imageChildren’s yoga classes are in Cabbagetown at 555 Parliament Street with Brittany. Please visit Brittany’s website at www.trunktotail.org or call 416-629-9878

Guest Blog Post By Nikki Bergen, creator of The Belle Method: A Fitness Philosophy for Women

UntitledWe know that exercising during pregnancy is good for both mom and baby – from boosting your energy and sleeping better, to reducing the risk of gestational diabetes and joint pain. Still, the current pregnancy exercise guidelines are vague at best. “Warm up, keep your heart rate under 140 BPM, stay off your back, avoid dangerous sports and stay hydrated” pretty much sums it up.

I remember taking my first pre and postnatal certification course years ago, and the guidelines were just as generic.  I was disappointed as a fitness professional, especially one yet to have kids. There had to be more guidance.  Pregnant women in gyms were uncertain as to what was safe that they often quit working out all together.  Those who did persevere with their regular classes often received no direction other than “take it easy” while trying to self-modify the group exercises.  

So naturally I nerded out and learned everything possible about pre and postnatal fitness.  From interviewing PhD’s in women’s health and becoming a Labour Doula, to taking three different courses on diastasis recti, aka ‘mummy tummy’; the separated connective tissue that leaves many postpartum moms with flabby bellies and a compromised core.

The search for a better pregnancy workout led me to discover pelvic floor physiotherapy.  It turns out that a functional pelvic floor is pretty much the most important thing ever.  Want to prevent pregnancy back pain and reduce your risk of mummy tummy? Want your body to bounce back after you deliver your baby? Want to avoid organ prolapse and incontinence? It comes down to keeping your pelvic floor – the base of your torso and centre of your stability – strong.  It comes down to your “kegels,” and whether you’re doing them right (hint: most aren’t).

Here’s how pregnancy and the pelvic floor works: picture a bowling ball (your baby) bouncing on a trampoline (your pelvic floor). As the ball gets bigger and heavier, your trampoline needs to keep up with demands. We need to ensure the trampoline is strong enough (not too taut, not too lax) to support things properly.  Unfortunately, telling women to do their kegels just doesn’t cut it.  These exercises were originally created and taught by Dr. Arnold Kegel in the 1940s during gynecological exams. Most women today are merely guessing whether they’re doing kegels correctly, and many are forgetting to release. They’re just “holding their pee.” (Picture someone with very tense, elevated shoulders holding heavy weights over their head at the gym for minutes on end. Bad idea. Tension gets worse. Tension dysfunction  weakness.)

Pregnancy exercise must include instruction on proper pelvic floor engagement and postural alignment, coupled with key strengthening and stretching exercises to assist women through pregnancy, labour/delivery and postpartum recovery. Here’s the breakdown:

First Trimester: 1 – 13 weeks 

Issues: Your body is building the placenta and hormone levels are doubling each day. Mood swings and fatigue are common. Blood pressure is lower than usual due to vasodilation from the new hormone relaxin, which can lead to increased heart rate and dizziness on exertion.

Goal: Connect with your deepest layer of abdominals (the transversus abdominis) before this muscle stretches out from the growing baby in the 2nd trimester. Learn how to breathe using your diaphragm to help manage hormonal related dizziness and nausea.

Second Trimester: 14 – 26 weeks 

Issues: Your hormone levels have stabilized now that the placenta is built.  Blood pressure has normalized and energy levels have improved so this is the best time for introducing more intensity to workouts. The growing baby has started to stretch the transversus muscle so it may feel more challenging to connect with the deep layer of abdominals.

Goal: Add new dynamic movements to build on the diaphragmatic breathing learned in Trimester 1. Focus on preventing postural changes as the belly grows. Strengthen pelvic floor and outer hips for balance and stability, and stretch shortening muscles to maintain alignment.

Third Trimester: 27 – 40 weeks 

Issues:  In this final stage of pregnancy, your body is coping with the greatest amount of intra-abdominal pressure from the large baby. The strain on the abdominal wall and pelvic floor is significant.  Postural compensations due to this increased load can create discomfort and fatigue.

Goal: Practice releasing the pelvic floor (no more kegel lifting) in preparation for delivery. Prevent mummy tummy or diastasis recti (overstretched abdominal tissue) by avoiding front loaded positions like plank or quadruped to minimize forward pressure on the abdominal wall.  Focus on both stretching and strengthening to manage discomfort in this final stage of pregnancy.

[Here’s an explanation of mummy tummy with Dr. Sinead Dufour]

All pregnant women will benefit from following these trimester specific guidelines, regardless of their prior fitness level. Each trimester of pregnancy presents different challenges and calls for a different workout focus.

Make it a priority to take care of yourself. Try coming from a place of self-kindness. Too often the message we internalize around pregnancy is one of self-criticism and competition to “get your body back fast.” This mindset leads to negative self-talk and frantic stroller baby bootcamp injuries.  We either give up with a defeatist attitude and do nothing, or punish our bodies back into our skinny jeans.  Either way, our body suffers.

Let’s find some middle ground and work not only on that pelvic floor abdominal connection, but on that positive mind body one too.

Check out the Bump Method four-part video exercise series designed for each trimester of pregnancy, including the 4th trimester “restore your core” program to repair diastasis recti aka “mummy tummy.”

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