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Have yourself a healthy little Christmas

Four fit Winnipeggers reveal their favourite health-related gifts

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GIFT card? Done it. New sweater? Been there.

Instead of giving the same old, same old this holiday season, why not give the gift of fitness?

Need ideas?

I asked four fit Winnipeggers about the best health-related presents they’ve ever received (or given).

Here’s what they had to say:

Ryann Doucette, director and co-owner of Moksha Yoga Winnipeg and Moksha Yoga Minneapolis

The best health-related gift Ryann Doucette ever received? A Moksha yoga class that her boyfriend at the time, Phil (now her current business partner and ex-husband) arranged for her to attend while visiting him in Toronto. "This was nine or 10 years ago. We had a long-distance relationship," explains Doucette, who had always been interested in checking out the latest fitness trends happening in any big city she visited. Moksha — a type of yoga she wasn’t then familiar with—happened to be the buzz at the time.

"I had told him I wanted to try the hot yoga when I got down there but I didn’t expect that he would go out of his way to set up the classes, get the mat and everything," says Doucette, who was whisked her directly from the airport to the Moksha Yoga class, a type of hot yoga in which the classroom is heated to 40 C.

Years later, she and Phil opened two Moksha Yoga locations in Winnipeg and most recently, one in Minneapolis.

The best health-related gift Doucette ever gave? A do-it-yourself injury recovery program in video format. "My sister and I made it for our dad. He had a frozen shoulder," says Doucette, a former personal trainer. "He never used it. But I still think it’s one of the best gifts I gave anyone," says Doucette, giggling.

John Ford, Swamp Donkey Adventure Racing founder

After years of hiking the Mantario Trail every summer with his wife, the pair decided it was time to use their favourite outdoor chunk of wilderness in the winter. So they bought each other a new set of cross-country skis.

Known as the thrill-seeker who created the Dirty Donkey Mud Run, John Ford says it was the best Christmas gift they could have given each other.

"We’ve gone (to the Mantario Trail) anywhere from the beginning of January to the end of March. We’ve been out there in -35 degree weather," says Ford. "We usually spend a day or two out there and then ski back," says the full-time postal carrier.

For parents pondering what gifts to get their kids this holiday season, Ford recommends investing in items that get them active during the winter—gifts that you can use as a family. He says his 16-year-old son snowshoed with his parents last winter on the Mantario Trail, a rugged, 60-kilometre stretch located in Whiteshell Provincial Park.

"He had a blast. He was in there as young as eight years old," says Ford. "That’s why he loves doing it. He’s always grown up with it."

Dean Kriellaars, exercise physiologist, researcher and University of Manitoba associate professor

Dean Kriellaars used to hate the idea of tropical vacations; the idea of sitting on a beach all day didn’t appeal to the avid exerciser.

That was until a travelling companion convinced him his trip to Costa Rica didn’t have to be sedentary.

"The person said, ‘We’re going to fix that. We’re going to take scuba lessons together. And when you get there we’ll take surfing lessons,’" Kriellaars recalls.

Five years later, Kriellaars still uses the surf and scuba skills he learned, thanks to his companion’s encouragement.

"Now every single hot holiday is an active hot holiday."

Kriellaars’ tip about giving gifts of activity: "You have to have a chat with them about that. Just randomly giving them something they aren’t going to use isn’t a good idea."

Gina Sunderland, registered dietitian with CancerCare Manitoba

Freshly-cooked lentils, chickpeas and black beans are staples in Gina Sunderland’s household, thanks to one of the best gifts she’s ever received: an electric pressure cooker.

"It is phenomenal. My husband and I experiment with it and we do a lot of vegetarian dishes in it," says the healthy-eating advocate, who got the gift from an uncle a couple of years ago. "We can do our own homemade baked beans and tomato sauce chickpeas. We’ve had a lot of fun with it."

The beauty? She uses dried beans instead of canned beans now. And cooking time is only 30 minutes, compared with the overnight soaking plus two to three hours it takes to cook dried beans in a regular pot.

"Canned beans are great but they are often loaded with sodium. Beans are wonderful for your health, as far as the fibre and protein and all the nutrients, like iron and complex B vitamins. But it’s a cost savings too," says Sunderland, noting that her son calls her lentil soup "one of my favourite things."

"How many kids do you know who say that?"


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