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Author and TV host Bal Arneson reaches for new fitness heights

Bel Arneson, TV chef and author and rock climber seen here at the Cliffhanger in Coquitlam Febuary 7, 2011.


Tibbi village in India's Punjab state frowned upon workouts for women, so Bal Arneson, author of Bal's Quick and Healthy Indian and host of Food Network's Spice Goddess, climbed mango trees for exercise. When Ms. Arneson, now 36 and based in Vancouver, came to Canada in 1992, she brought that delicious piquant attitude, reaching for new fitness heights.

My goal

"To continue weekly hikes and rock climbing with my kids, a daughter age 17 and son age seven."

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My workout

"Because [my rock climbing]s indoors, I can't go higher than the ceiling. I go twice a week, once for an hour and a half. I want to master my league climb course so I can go outdoors. Indoors the rocks are man-made and you just clip in. But outdoors, to do natural rock climbing, there aren't any clips attached, so you need upper-body strength to hold the rope by yourself and make your own rock point with a hammer and nail.

"Hiking is on weekends or evenings. I come out of my backyard, turn right and there's the mountain. There are different trails for more intense workouts. To make it challenging, I take a backpack and put some weight in it."

My lifestyle

With a teaching degree from the University of British Columbia and a master's degree from Simon Fraser, Ms. Arneson works part-time as a teacher. As well, "I travel to New York because I am a judge for Iron Chef America and I'm doing a book tour."

In terms of healthy eating, "For breakfast I have a vegetable roti made with whole wheat flour with mashed boiled lentils and steamed spinach and broccoli put into the dough. Lunch is a hummus wrap with mango chutney. Meat is a rare treat for dinner. I make kidney bean curry or yam stew or a chickpea dish with quinoa or brown rice."

My motivation

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"Living in a village for 18 years, we had nothing electronic. Everything was done by hand, so physical activities were routine. [There was]not even a concept of pressing a button and things happening for you. So I brought that same village approach here."

My anthem

" Hey, Shona from the Bollywood movie Ta Ra Rum Pum."

My challenge

"To find time for me and for pillow fights with my son, and shut down my business brain to sit with my teenage daughter and listen to teenage drama."

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The critique

Jason Giosa, a fitness trainer and owner of The Training Pad in Toronto, helps women maximize workout results and offers two ideas.

Hike smarter

Ms. Arneson needs to get more out of her sustained cardio with small blocks of high-intense intervals, which systematically cause her heart to stress and recover. This is better conditioning for her heart as she hikes.

"Bal could repeat this program 10 times: one minute light jog followed by an all-out sprint for 30 seconds and a recovery jog for one minute; then she can continue her walk for 40 minutes."

Climb stronger

Because women have higher levels of estrogen than testosterone, they have to fight muscle loss, so Mr. Giosa advises Ms. Arneson to start building muscles she will need for future challenging outdoor rock climbs.

"Bal should target rock-climbing muscle groups with wide lat pull-downs, cable rows, wrist curls, core work, biceps curls, and deadlifts, which work her entire back as well as hamstring and glutes - her support system for climbing and getting stronger, over all."

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