Winter fitness and exercise tips

Sarah Zehab poses for a photograph inside her gym. She’s holding a weight.
Sarah Zahab is a registered Kinesiologist and co-founder of Westboro’s Continuum Fitness. Supplied photo

By Zenith Wolfe

Registered Kinesiologist Sarah Zahab is getting Westboro residents moving again.

Zahab opened Continuum Fitness in 2011 to provide one-on-one fitness coaching services with an emphasis on improving movement quality in active individuals. They have grown to add Athletic Therapy, Registered Massage Therapy and Registered Physical Therapy.

The Kitchissippi Times sat down with Zahab to talk about why exercise is important and how to stay fit in the new year.

KT: Tell us about your fitness journey and how it led you to found Continuum Fitness.

SZ: I was always an active child, and it transitioned to being active in my university years. I danced competitively when I was young, and after I stopped dancing, I was looking for other opportunities to become active. I came across fitness competitions and decided to compete.

But mostly, I really enjoyed my studies in human kinetics and kinesiology. I started working, during university, in a gym setting. A number of years into [the job], it felt like a seamless transition to open up Continuum Fitness with my husband, who was a strength and conditioning coach.

We co-founded [the gym] to help our local community and offer services from educated and experienced practitioners. Westboro is home for us, so it was very important that we provided services here.

KT: What kind of feedback do you hear from the community members you train with?

SZ: We have a number of success stories. We work with a lot of people who have discomforts or limitations: maybe they’re not able run or walk with out knee pain or back pain. With our multi-disciplinary approach, we’re able to help people move optimally and exercise safely.

KT: How does it make you feel to see those success stories come to fruition in your own gym?

SZ: There is nothing more gratifying than hearing someone say “I’m able to run again when I was told I could never run” and getting them back to the activities they enjoy.

KT: Why is exercise so important?

SZ: The Canadian guidelines recommend that we should be obtaining 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week – plus two strength sessions – for overall health. What’s really important to understand is that these recommendations are for optimal health, not aesthetic purposes.

It’s to improve our cardiovascular health, our muscular systems, our lymphatic systems. It’s to help us do the things we want to do without injury. [It’s] for our mental health.

KT: It’s the time of year where people are struggling with the winter blues, cold and windy weather, and the return to work. How can people stay fit given all these factors?

SZ: Starting small and remaining consistent is really important. For many people, walking is very accessible. You might not be able to walk as far or as long because it’s cold, but you can still go for a walk. We’re very fortunate in the Westboro community to have Kichi Sibi trail to walk and ski.

Doing indoor workouts, following a class virtually, and discovering the activities that bring you joy [can also help].

KT: People are also starting to act on their New Years resolutions. What advice do you have for someone who has set a fitness resolution for themselves?

SZ: If you are going to set a resolution, I would suggest that it is SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Ensure that you’re doing an activity you could see yourself doing for the rest of your life.

And start out slow. In my 22 years of doing kinesiology, the people who have been the most successful are those who have started off slow and who progressed slowly, but remained consistent. I can’t emphasize consistency enough.

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