Category Archives: Training Tips

Tips for creating a healthy, fit physique!

Health and Fitness for Creative People, the Ebook

I’m thrilled to present my new ebook to the world!

Health and Fitness for Creative People has been something I’ve wanted to put together for several years because I do believe that stronger in body is stronger in mind. Feeling better, being healthier is going to improve a person’s production, energy levels and their creative endeavours will benefit.

It took a lot longer to write than I had initially thought because there was just so much information I wanted to include. I’ve given presentations by the same name at conferences and never seem to have enough time to tell the participants everything I wanted to. With the ebook I got to include everything I wanted and it is packed full of what I believe to be valuable information for creative types looking to improve their level of health and fitness, their craft and their overall well being.

If you stumbled across this blog post and don’t know who I am, I competed in Fitness for 10 years, including 4 years in the IFBB Pros and have trained over 150 athletes to the stage, plus hundreds more individuals seeking better health. I have a black belt from Master Gee’s Black Belt Academy and am working my way toward my second degree black belt. I am a published author, blogger, speaker and avid crafter, always seeking to produce higher quality and quantity of my work. I have helped authors and artists reach their fitness goals and decided I wanted to help as many as I could.

It’s available on my site, you can view more information there. I also managed to get it up on and! Big shout out to Jill Flannagan for help in that new adventure. I might get some of my other manuals up there in the future.

Thanks to Diana Rowland for the great cover blurb, as well as to Howard Taylor and Chadwick Ginther for their kind words. Of course, I have to post their blurbs here to show them off. I’m also going to add to the end of this post a list of what you’ll find in the ebook. Meanwhile, if you have any questions about the ebook before you rush out and purchase it (I know you all want to!) feel free to email me at!


“Sandra Wickham’s counsel on health and fitness has been invaluable to me for the last five years. She’s an expert here, and she’s a class act besides. ”

—Howard Tayler, Writer and Illustrator



“I knew a lot of the information in HEALTH AND FITNESS FOR CREATIVE PEOPLE–most of us do–but I kept it compartmentalized in such a way so as not to do anything with that information. HEALTH AND FITNESS FOR CREATIVE PEOPLE kicked down those walls and delivers all you need to know to feel better and create more art in one well-researched volume. (And I’m not just saying this because Sandra has me in an armbar.) ”
—Chadwick Ginther, Author of Thunder Road



What you will find in this Ebook

  • This is a ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY-ONE PAGE manual, complete with everything you need to improve your health
  • Straight talk on why this is important for every creative person.
  • Help with finding your motivation to start and to continue improving your level of health and fitness.
  • Lots of geeky apps, suggestions and resources to satisfy your creative geek.
  • A section on proper posture for sitting or standing desks, including simple to do exercises to improve your overall posture!
  • Thorough information on cardiovascular and strength training so you know what to do and how to do it.
  • Helpful nutritional information covering everything from weight loss, to eating out and healthy snacking.
  • Also included are tips on getting enough sleep, and a section for those over 65.
  • Finally, a Now It’s Your Turn section including:A Quick Stretching Routine
    A Five Minute Creative Break (away from your desk)
    A Desk Break (you don’t even have to get up, but you’ll feel better!)
    Tips for Fitness and Health on a Budget
    A Sample Treadmill Workout (to shake things up a bit!)
    Tips on How to Avoid Overtraining
    Many Different Motivational Tools
    Inspiring Quotes of All Sorts to See You Through

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Train Smarter, Not Harder

My last two health ally posts have been about overtraining and periodization of your workouts to avoid overtraining. I thought I was going to leave it at that, but I still feel like I need to emphasize it one last time.

You are not a machine. We might feel like it sometimes in today’s demanding lifestyle. We’re juggling twenty things at once and moving almost nonstop just to keep up. We’re so used to pushing ourselves physically and mentally in a high speed world, we forget our body isn’t made of indestructible parts.

The best intentions can be waylaid by pushing to0 hard at the beginning.  Even veteran athletes who go beyond their limits can fall into this trap. Be easy on yourself. Start with baby steps, that is perfectly fine. Think of yourself as the tortoise, not the hare. Be realistic with your goals, give yourself the necessary time to get there.

Too many times I hear about people doing workouts that are eventually going to be damaging, especially in people new to a regular exercise program. They may not know it, they probably think they’re doing a good thing, but then they’re surprised when they start having joint problems, or they get sick or injured.

What I’m trying to say is, don’t do anything crazy! Check out my post about overtraining and then on periodization. Plan your workouts to be effective, but not damaging to your body. Talk to someone knowledgeable in health and fitness and ask them to review what you’re doing, to see if you’re pushing one muscle group, joint or your entire body too much. You’ll have more success over the long term with a slow and steady approach.

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Periodization Training

When planning your fitness program, it is a good idea to use the principle of periodization in order to make continuous forward improvement while avoiding burn out.

Periodization is a principle used in may sports. It involves planning your workout year into smaller segments to avoid overtraining while consistently making improvements.

Four to six weeks is about the right length of time for one program, but everyone is different and it really depends on the individual. My length of time is short, I can’t go more than four to five weeks of really intense training before I need a break. How did I learn that? By listening to my body over the years (and it took time!) and learning how much it could handle.

The length of time will also depend on how intense your workout weeks are. Easing into a program for a couple of weeks would allow you to go longer without needing a break. Don’t fall into the mindset that working out different body parts, or in different ways will give your body rest. When you workout, your entire neuromuscular system is affected every time, meaning it doesn’t matter if you’re training upper body one day and going for a bike ride the next, your entire body is affected and it needs breaks.

A week of active rest will gives your body time to recover, and helps you refresh mentally. Take it easy that week. If you’re lifting weights, lift at about 50% of what you normally do. If you’re swimming six days a week, back it off for two or three easy swims that week. Whatever your activity, you can apply the 50% per cent rule to give your body a rest, or take the entire week off.

After the rest week, ease back into your new program, steadily increasing the effort until you surpass the point you were at before you took the break. For a specific event, a running race, cycling race, physique competition, whatever it may be, work your way backwards from the date of the competition in blocks of weeks, figuring out where your rest weeks should fall so that you peak for the competition.

Using periodization will help avoid the stops and starts associated with overtraining and will have you progressing steadily to higher and higher levels of fitness.

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More is Not Always Better: How to Avoid Overtraining

The motto “More is not always better,” applies strongly to fitness training. Unfortunately, sometimes the more we push ourselves, the more we are at risk for overtraining.

There are several signs and symptoms of overtraining to be aware of. You may not experience all of these symptoms, but even a few is a good indication that it is time to take a rest day, review your workout plan and re-energize. You may experience any of the following: fatigue, frequent colds or sickness, injury, loss of appetite, insomnia or oversleeping, excessive muscle soreness, loss of interest in training, elevated resting heart rate.

The best cure is prevention, as they say, and there are many things that you can do to avoid overtraining. They are based on the fact that our bodies can only withstand so much training without getting some rest and recovery in return. If we want to be functioning in top form, we need to take some time and pay a little bit extra attention to our body’s recovery.

Ways to Avoid Overtraining

1)    Work at an Appropriate Level

If you’re new to working out or to a particular form of exercise, ease into it! The best intentions can lead to too much too soon and have you injured, tired and forced to quit because your body isn’t ready for it. Slow and steady wins the race.

2)   Get Adequate Rest

Your body recovers while it is resting, so it is vital that you get a good night’s sleep on a consistent basis. Set a bedtime for yourself and stick to it, getting your body used to falling asleep at an early time each night. If you need to, implement some techniques that will help you fall asleep. You can do relaxation exercises for your mind and body before going to bed, drink teas that help you sleep like chamomile, listen to relaxing music, or use some lavendar scented oils or candles. Don’t feel bad about taking naps, either! I use to get loss of productivity guilt when I took naps, but sometimes you need them!

3)   Keep a Journal

Writing down how you are feeling throughout your preparation will help you be aware of any symptoms that appear. If you are constantly writing in your journal that you feel tired or you feel as though a cold is coming on, you will recognize these things as signs you are overtrained. Many times we simply ignore the symptoms until they lead to devastating results such as a serious injury or negative changes in physique and performance. Be honest with yourself and be aware!

4)  Monitor your Resting Heart Rate

The best time to check your resting heart rate is first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. The first time you take it, the number is not that significant because we all have slightly different resting heart rates. It is the following heart rate checks that will let you know if something is wrong. If your resting heart rate rises significantly it is a sure sign that you are overtraining and need to ease up a little bit.

5)   Plan your Workouts Carefully

Trying to fit in cardiovascular training and strength training can overwhelm your body. Try to space out your sessions to give your body time to recover and always take at least one full day of rest a week!

6)   Take a 50% Week *

It is nearly impossible to work our bodies intensely for long periods of time without negative side effects. Taking a 50% week means cutting your weights down to 50% of what you would normally do, and taking it easy on the cardio and routine. This is better than taking a full rest week, but it will still give your body a bit of a rest. When you are excited and motivated for your fitness journey, the last thing that you want to do is stop training. On the other hand, if you end up overtraining, your body may force you to take time off or even keep you from workout out at all.

7)  Drink tons of water!

Not only a great way to burn fat, improve your skin, and keep energized, water is necessary for all of your bodies functions, including recovering from workouts. It is important to drink as much as possible, especially when you are training hard, sweating a great deal, or training in the hot weather. Set a goal and keep track of how much you drink in a day to make sure that you are getting enough.

8)  Take an anti-oxidant and other supportive supplements

Toxins are created in our bodies as a by-product from working out. Taking antioxidants such as vitamin c, alpah lipoic acid, grape seed, or grapefruit seed extract can help combat these unwanted toxins. Taking a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement will help your body stay healthy and functioning properly. Other supplements such as glutamine can be taken regularly after workouts and at night before bed to help the body recover from the stress of training.

9)  Recovery Aids

Anything that helps you relax and stimulates circulation will help your body recover. If you have access to a hot tub, steam room or sauna, use them at every opportunity. If you don’t have access to any of these facilities, simply soaking in a bath with Epsom salts or other rejuvenating oils, salts etc will be helpful. Another great recovery technique is the “hot/cold” shower. Although not always the most fun, it’s a great way to boost your circulation and you body’s recovery powers. After a few minutes of hot shower water, turn it to cold (as cold as you can stand) for a few minutes, return to hot and repeat. It is extremely invigorating! Another great treatment for hard working muscles is massage. While professional massages will provide you with the most effective results, even an amateur massage helps circulation and helps stimulate recovery.

You know your body better than anyone else, so watch for signs and symptoms of overtraining. If your body is telling you it’s time to ease up a little, you better listen or it will use harsher means of telling you in the form of sickness and injury. Be aware how your body is feeling throughout your training so that nothing holds you back from reaching your goals!

*I will be following up this post with one on Periodization, how to plan out your workouts to be the safest and most effective for your body


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Before and After Ads Have Always Pissed Me Off

Whenever I see those Before and After ads for the latest and greatest supplement, my eyes roll and I want to scream at people not to fall for it. I always think, sure, take a bodybuilder (or fitness/fitness/bikini competitor) when they’re off season, bloated, have them wear completely unflattering clothing under bad lighting,  then retake a picture when they’ve been dieting and training, wearing a flattering outfit with a tan, make up, hair done and of course they’re going to look better! I guarantee you it’s NOT from the supplement being advertised. It makes me Hulk angry, because no one but the Hulk transforms that fast!

Andrew Dixon took that a step further, and in a blog post he called “Seduced by the Illusion,” he decided to see if he could do instant before and after shots. From his blog, “I decided to take my own transformation photos to see what was possible with just a few easy tweaks. About 6 months ago I was around 185lbs and about 16% body fat. I was feeling particularly bloated on the day, so I asked my girlfriend to take a before shot. I then shaved my head, face and chest and prepared for the after shot, which was about an hour after I took the before shot. I did a few pushups and chin-ups, tweaked my bedroom lighting, sucked in , tightened my abs and BOOM! We got our after shot.”

Andrew says, “There is no doubt that we live in a world of manipulation, false promises and exaggerated claims. This is especially true in the fitness industry. I’ve been a personal trainer for over 11 years, and clients and friends are always telling me about the next amazing diet or exercise program.  Like Insanity or P90X hold the secrets to fat loss.” I could quote his whole blog, it’s fantastic, reflects my thoughts and anyone working on transforming their physique should definitely go and take a look at it here. 

But wait, you say, you have before and after pictures of your clients on your website! Yes, I do, but those are competitors. We show their stage after photos (not on the beach or in their own house) to show that they have done ALL the intense work required by a competitor (proper nutrition, cardio, strength training) over a long period of time (at least 16 -20 weeks, some an entire year!) to get to the point they’re at, including a fabulous stage suit, hair, make up and FAKE stage tan! They trained and dieted to extreme measures to be competitive. It wasn’t a quick fix, there was no miracle pill.  No illusions, just hard work.

National Level Fitness Competitor Antonia Before Competition Training and After On Stage

Which is the point of Andrew’s blog. Wisely he tells us, “Forget about the quick transformations and focus on a life of healthy eating, well managed stress levels, quality sleep and plenty of movement.”

I concur. It’s not a race. Don’t believe the hype.  Focus on making lifestyle changes that will help you reach your goals of living a healthier lifestyle.


Filed under Diet, fitness, Health, Health Ally, Nutrition, Nutrition Tips, Pro Tips, Training Tips

Health Tips I Learned from my Cats

1. Sleep whenever you can.

It’s always a good idea to get enough sleep, but often we don’t get the sleep we need at night. If you don’t, well then if the opportunity presents itself, take a nap! I used to feel guilty about taking naps, like I was being lazy and/or not being productive. Turns out, I feel better and get more done when I can fit in a power nap.


2. After sleeping or sitting, always stretch.

You’ve all seen this, when cats get up, they have to stretch (usually at least twice) before they do anything else. Stretching is great for our bodies, to get out the kinks, get circulation back and to have our bodies functioning better. What if you were to do a nice big full body stretch every time you got up from your computer? You’d feel more cat-like and agile, I’ll bet.


3. Don’t eat too much or too fast.

If you do, you’ll upset your tummy. (and if you’re a cat, your quickly eaten dinner may end up on the floor) Sound advice, right? I think too often we forget that, though. Take your time, enjoy your food, and you’re less likely to overeat.


4. Bathe regularly and with great intent.

I mean it! Obviously good hygiene is important, but so is relaxing your body and brain. Relax, have a bath or a shower, or if you’re lucky to have access to one, enjoy a soak in a hot tub. Or just relax with your favourite downtime activity.


5. Run around like crazy at least once a day, just for fun.

Whether you pretend you’re chasing someone or being chased, it doesn’t matter. Get up, move around, have some fun. (ie, move your body!)


6. Don’t take life too seriously.

Last, but not least, enjoy life and don’t take it, or yourself too seriously. Your mental and physical health will improve greatly.


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Don’t Believe the Hype

You can’t surf the net without being bombarded by ads for food that fight fat, the ultimate diet or quick fix workout program.

Writers need to be wary of agents who approach them and say if the author pays them x amount of dollars, the agent will get them published and make them famous. The same thing applies to anyone trying to take your money in exchange for a shortcut to health and fitness results. These people are salespeople whose sole aim is to take your money. I think because it’s the health and fitness industry, people believe what they see. How could anyone possibly steer someone wrong about their health? Sorry, but there are cut throats in the fitness industry too.

I’m a big fan of Pinterest, but I sometimes cringe when I see a quick fix workout pasted on a picture of a super fit model. First, behind those quick fix workouts are links to sites either selling something or getting paid to advertise something. Second, those models in the Pinterest photos did NOT get their physiques by following the 10 minute workout that’s posted along with their photo. I’m not saying that the workouts aren’t valuable, any time you’re getting up and moving, it’s a good thing, but it’s also false advertising. What’s the harm in that? This is what happens. Someone with the best intention does the 10 minute workout diligently for a month, maybe more. They being to get discouraged because they’re not looking like the model in the picture they’ve been staring at every time they workout and inevitably they end up quitting.pinterestworkout


There is no magic pill, there is no magic food, there is no magic workout. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Consumer beware, as they say. Remember the health and fitness industry is a business, like any other and their goal is to make money. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, people who are passionate about health and fitness and who want to help people. Helping people live healthy lifestyles are what they do for a living (says the personal trainer) but those people will tell it to you like it is. They won’t try and sell you a pill or a quick fix. They’ll tell you the same thing I am. It takes time. It takes dedication and even sacrifices to get true lasting results.

Save your money, go out and do a physical activity you enjoy and eat a sensible diet. Or, do some research and find someone who will give it to you straight up and won’t try to sell you a quick fix. Instead, they’ll give you an opportunity to make permanent changes toward a healthier lifestyle.

*originally published in my Fitness Nerd column at THE FUNCTIONAL NERDS.


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