a peek inside the fishbowl

06 Sep, 2010

Q & A with mom and Ottawa fitness pro, Sarah Zahab

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Yaktivism

I’d like to introduce you to Sarah Zahab. Her passion for health and fitness is amazing and inspirational. I recently asked her if I could send along some questions for posting here at the Fishbowl and she kindly agreed AND she offered to give me some one-on-one help… something I am super excited about. Look for her at the Baby Boom Show on September 11 and 12 at the Nepean Sportsplex.

Please read on, because there may be a thing or two that surprises you.

Sarah, can you introduce yourself and give readers a bit of background about yourself?

Sarah-DVD-coverHi! I’m a Kinesiologist, Exercise Physiologist, Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor, former international fitness competitor and proud mom of two year old Rayne. I began dancing at the age of 3 and kept it up for 20 odd years. This led to my studies in Human Kinetics and competitive career in fitness. I have been working in the fitness industry for over 15 years. I have released a Prenatal and Postnatal Strength Workout DVD that helps moms and moms-to-be stay fit, strong, healthy, and functional.

It’s very hard to break bad habits and create good ones. What kind of advice would you give to women who are struggling to lose weight?

My advice would be to start slow and be consistent. Try to work on one or two mini goals each week. For example, one week try to increase your vegetable intake and the next week, add an extra cardio workout. It’s really difficult to do a complete 180-degree shift in lifestyle habits but small changes every week add up to big lifestyle changes in the long run. Find what motivates you and go with that. If a goal setting keeps you on track, pick a race, buy an outfit or set a specific date and check your progress every few weeks. If working out with people energizes you, sign up for a class, find a workout buddy or start your own exercise group. Everyone is different – try to tune into what works for you and what has (or hasn’t) in the past.

What words of advice do you have to new moms in terms of healthy eating?

Try to eat as close to nature as possible. If you can pick it, grow it, dig it, or kill it, it is most likely good for you. Try to avoid foods that contain ingredients you can’t pronounce. It really doesn’t take that much more time to prepare healthy foods. Wash and cut a bunch of veggies for the week, use your crock pot, freeze extra portions for those busy days. Kids can help with shopping, washing, preparing and it makes eating more fun. You can barbeque some chicken (or meat or fish), cook some rice and steam some broccoli in 20-30 minutes (probably the same amount of time it would take to order a pizza, pick it up and bring it back).

I’m dying to know what your food weaknesses are. Do you have any??

I must admit, I LOVE the gelato from Truffle Treasures. It’s amazing! Lemon is my fav and I do indulge in high quality chocolate or a home baked good once in a while. We eat clean mostly because I was brought up on clean foods, it’s good for you, I need to be energized, and I feel terrible when I eat otherwise. I encourage my clients to eat well 80% of the time and enjoy the other 20%. Sounds pretty reasonable, doesn’t it?

The twitterverse wants to know about muffin top. It’s clearly a big issue for many of us. What causes it, and is it possible to get rid of it?

Oooh, the muffin top! Ladies, we can blame our mothers and grandmothers for this one. Genetics will determine where your fat is stored and where it comes off first (or last!). We can’t spot reduce by doing special exercises but we can fight back with cardio, strength training and good nutrition. Aim to get a few cardio sessions in a week – brisk walking is great. Strength train once or twice a week – this will help boost metabolism, increase tone, improve posture, increase bone density and boost your mood and confidence. Strength training does not have to be done with weights or with machines. You can use your body, a band or an exercise ball. Most importantly, eat well. Roughly 60% (some will say even more) of changing your shape is achieved through diet alone. Start slow though, ease into things, be consistent and love your body!

What kinds of things would you recommend for moms who just can’t get to the gym?

There are so many options out there – a gym membership is not necessary. Walk or run outside, bike, skip, take the stairs, play a game of anything with the kids, every little bit helps. Videos are useful, pop them in and follow along. You don’t need fancy equipment or a gym to get a great workout: a few squats, push ups, planks, some back extensions and voila! Have your kids join in or have them watch you. What a wonderful gift you could give them – showing that you take care of your body and health and trust me, they will follow you. Most of my clients do not have gym memberships and actually work out at home.

Ok. Bare minimum exercise – if there was only ONE thing someone could do, what would it be in your view?

Good question! In my opinion, it would be the Kegel. Kegels are important during pregnancy to support the uterus but they also are involved in core stability and of course, bladder control. Imagine you’re stopping the flow of urine and hold for a few seconds (important note: not to be done while actually urinating as this can lead to infection). Kegel in the car, during commercials, before you sneeze, whenever you can think about it and the beautiful thing is, no one will ever know!

I’ve been participating in a Couch-to-5K learn-to-run program. Can you tell me why interval training works so well?

Congratulations! Interval training is effective at helping you transition into longer periods of running. It allows for important recovery periods and helps you to progress into steady state running. I think a lot of it is mental as well – if you can break it up into smaller increments, it’s less daunting and more of an achievable task.

My mother seems to think my ovaries are going to drop out of my gut and that I’m going to destroy my knees. [HI MOM.] Can you give us your two cents on this? Do you think the benefits of running outweigh the negatives? And is running something anyone can do?

Too funny! I do honestly feel that running is not for everyone. The best cardio exercise is the one you are actually going to do. If you don’t enjoy running, feel pain or discomfort then it’s not the activity for you. However, if you enjoy running, go for it! Running is a great cardiovascular exercise, is weight bearing on the joints (good for those bones), gets you outside (read: Vitamin D), can be meditative and is a fantastic calorie burn. If you experience knee pain, I would recommend seeing your health professional. Often times it’s an easy fix with a few strengthening exercises.

Can you talk more about the personal training services you offer? What should a person expect if they hired you as a personal trainer?

I offer one-on-one, online and group personal training. I begin with a full musculoskeletal assessment to help determine if you have any imbalances, weakness or tight areas. Based on the assessment and on your personal goals, I would design a program that you could do at home or at the gym. My style is very functional, effective and fun. Many of the exercises I prescribe use your own body, dumbbells or a ball. I design workouts that fit and work with your schedules – if you feel you can put aside 30 minutes, once a week, we’ll work with that and go from there. Support, resources, an effective workout, encouragement, positivity, professionalism and of course results is what a new client can expect from me.

Where can we find you if we want help?

I’ll be at the Baby Boom Show (September 11 & 12) at the Nepean Sportsplex in booth #59. Admission is free and there are going to be amazing vendors on site. I’ll be selling my Prenatal and Postnatal Strength Workout DVDs – Fishbowl readers come by and receive 2 DVDs for $25 (a $50 value). [Just mention you read this post!] I can be reached by email: sarah@sarahzahab.ca, or phone (613) 792-3949 and my website is www.sarahzahab.ca.

Thank you Sarah!

9 Responses to "Q & A with mom and Ottawa fitness pro, Sarah Zahab"

1 | Amy

September 6th, 2010 at 10:47 pm


ooooh I wish I’d read this a week ago:( Really enjoy the info. Thanks!

2 | bushidoka

September 7th, 2010 at 9:16 am


I read this and on the one hand think “nothing new here that I have not read a million times elsewhere”, and on the other hand I think “nothing new here that I have not read a million times elsewhere”. The first one is with a slight negative interpretation, and the second one a positive one :-) Positive because really, there are no “secret recipes” to health and fitness. It is extremely well understood these days, and if anyone is telling you anything different from the above, then it is probably some crazy new money-making scheme of questionable merit.

Well done!

3 | andrea

September 7th, 2010 at 1:02 pm


You are right bushidoka – there is nothing really new here for you or for me at all (although I was surprised at her recommendation about kegels) as well as a handful of other people reading this BUT the truth is that the vast majority of people out there still don’t get it.

I don’t think this is “extremely well understood” at all. If it was well understood, obesity rates wouldn’t be what they are today.

4 | andrea

September 7th, 2010 at 1:03 pm


Also worth discussing: are not-so-healthy people intimidated and/or annoyed with healthy people? And why?

5 | May May

September 7th, 2010 at 11:34 pm


I really love to read articles that help moms take charge of their fitness. I’ve found that interval training has really helped me out and I’ve been using this new product called 20 Second Fitness – http://20second.com that cuts my workout times down to 8-12 minutes a day. Has anyone else tried it?

6 | bushidoka

September 8th, 2010 at 10:00 am


I guess by “well understood” I did not mean “by everyone”. Just basically that you’ll hear essentially the same advice from anyone worth listening to. You are right that there are an awful lot of people out there who just don’t get it yet. I think largely people want a “quick fix” and just do not want to hear that being fit takes some work. But it is sort of chicken and egg because most of the fitness advertising that people are bombarded with, is of the “quick fix” nature.

7 | Know More Do More: two minutes for me >> a peek inside the fishbowl

November 19th, 2010 at 10:34 am


[…] because I’ve been to see Sarah Zahab and it’s part of a fitness regimen that I’m supposed to be doing and not actually […]

8 | Beginning of day two means breakfast >> a peek inside the fishbowl

January 4th, 2011 at 10:14 am


[…] fitness program that was designed for me by Sarah Zahab (a great lady who I once wrote about here) and I haven’t been doing it. I have fallen off the fitness wagon BIG TIME and I need to find […]

9 | An update on the 100 Club >> a peek inside the fishbowl

November 13th, 2011 at 11:57 am


[…] 2) Those teeny little exercises left me out of breath at first but they after a few days they got easier. And once I’m doing those exericises I tend to throw in a few extras: more jumping jacks and pushups, a plank, some stretches, and an arm/leg raising move that was shown to me awhile back by fitness trainer Sarah Zahab (I wrote about her here). […]

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The Obligatory Blurb

My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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