Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Free Workouts, Posture, Wellness

Knee pain: It’s not complicated (usually)

After seeing an older woman in the clinic the other day a few weeks into her post-knee replacement rehabilitation- her daughter approached me stating she knew she was headed in the same direction as here mom (aka, was already having knee and hip pain in her life) and wanted to know if there was anything she could do to prevent the process.. or if it was just inherent that she too would eventually have to replace a joint or two.

If there is one thing I want to get across to people it’s that nothing to do with our health is guaranteed.

What I mean by that is.. just because you have a family history of something does not mean it can’t be prevented or course corrected. ESPECIALLY when it comes to our movement health!

When it comes to the knees.. generally the actual problem is coming from the hips and/or feet. I refer to the knee as a bridge joint. It is designed to improve efficiency of transit, absorb and transfer force. If the lines of force get messed with (aka you lack stability in the joints above and below), then the efficiency of that joint and it’s movement go right out the window. Stress builds up and that leads to warning signs (pain), inflammation, stiffening, and of course eventually degeneration of the structures within the joint. This can present via tendonopathies, osteoarthritis, runner’s knee/jumper’s knee (both tendonopathies), patellofemoral syndrome or patellar chondromalacia, and even increase your risk of ACL/MCL and meniscal injuries.

Barring external trauma (but yes postural dysfunction can even contribute to the risk of this), pain and issues in the knee generally are coming from above or below.

This is why I always recommend those passionate about running or other repetitive movement based activities get their gait screened by a professional. Catching dysfunction early and prescribing appropriate corrective movements is key in preventing problems down the chain.

Here are 4 “simple” exercises I prescribe routinely to clients experiencing knee/hip/back pain or rehabbing a joint replacement.

1. Clamshells.

You’ve probably seen these before. Designed to activate the lateral stabilizers in the hip, you should feel the burn on the top side of your hip as that is where the activation should come from. Laying on your side with knees bent to approx. 90deg, hips and ankles stacked- clamshell the knee open lifting from the hip. Do not let your hips fall backwards, they should remain stacked and level throughout the movement. Hold the clam at the top range of motion (wherever you can raise to without your hip sliding back!) for 10seconds, slowly return back to the start position.

Repeat 3 sets of 10-15 routinely in your day. The more you activate the muscles properly, the more the brain makes it automatic.

2. Gait Activation

Laying on your stomach, tuck your chin to lift your head (nose should remain pointed down to the ground!), and squeeze your butt cheeks together. Holding and maintaining this position, press opposite arm and leg to the ground while lifting the other opposite limbs off the floor. Hold for 4seconds, switch and repeat process.

This activates Deep postural muscles and connects the brain to a proper gait transfer pattern. It also cues butt activation and neck stabilizers.

Repeat 3-5round of 20 a day.

3. Single Leg Bridging

If you struggle with regular bridging, this is a advanced progression- so work towards it with holds before movements. Glute activation is key here!

Finding your bridge, lift one leg off the ground maintaining your glute activation. Lower the pelvis down half way and then push back up to full bridge on the one leg. Your hips should be the pivot point, not your low back! Core should remain strong, and glutes should be the main push to full hip extension. Drive up through the supporting heel to help engage the back half of the body/butt.

Repeat 6-10/leg for 3 – 5 rounds.

4. Side Bridges

Classic hip hinging activation exercise. All these movements also double as releases for the front of the hip (tight hip flexors anyone??).

On your side, supported by your elbow, shoulder, and core activation, pivoting from the knees- use glutes to actively push hips up and forward through a hinge motion. Hold at the top for 5-10seconds, then sit back and down through the hip hinge.

Common mistakes here: slouching into the shoulder (push UP through the ground/elbow and squeeze shoulder blades together), lack of core activation/bracing allowing for the spine to hinge instead of the hips (think of a squat motion at the hips!), lifting up THEN forwards.. try and make this simultaneous, as if your hips are moving up and down a ramp.

Repeat 6-12x for rounds of 3-5. Great used as a warm-up to other activities.

You would also do well to add in some foot exercises! @thefootcollective on instagram is one of my fav resources- but you can also refer to our existing post about old person feet here!

Struggling to figure these out? We offer complimentary movement assessments and consults to new clients. Prevention and rehab programs for all sorts of clients are available. Have questions? Leave a comment or find us directly at katmahtraining@gmail.com. We’re always happy to help you get your movement right!

Have fun kids!

Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Conditioning, Equestrian, Free Workouts, Motor Learning, strength training, Weight Loss, Wellness

At your age…

Here’s a fun tidbit I hear OFTEN second hand from clients after their friends/family/peers find out what their training and therapy plans consist of…

“At your age, should you really be lifting weights?”

“Isn’t weight training dangerous for your joints? Does that really help you feel better?”

“Aren’t you worried about getting injured again?”

“I heard that weight training is bad for you- doesn’t it cause arthritis”

First off.. I’m honestly not sure where people are finding that last bit of information from, at this point in our history. Secondly I’m also endlessly grateful that I’ve stopped frequently hearing that weight training will make women bulky- at last that myth has been put out of it’s misery. Third off- weight training is highly effective for arthritis rehabilitation and management- WHEN IT IS DONE CORRECTLY. The only time it’s going to cause arthritis is if you don’t do it in good form. This is why having the guidance of a trained professional is imperative when starting any new program. At the very least get a movement assessment and see where you need to work!

Would I tell someone of ANY age to just go and start lifting weights (no matter how much)? NOPE.

Do I prescribe and coach programs for ALL ages (yes, all the way up to 90-somethings- seriously) that involve various amounts of loaded movements, functional movements, dynamic movements, and stability training? You bet I do!

Here’s the neat things about the body.. it works on an adaptation based system. Which means- invariably- to IMPROVE our systems we have to STRESS our systems.

Here’s the feedback I get from my dedicated clients:

“I don’t wake up at 3am anymore with back pain”

“I sleep through the night and don’t wake up stiff in the mornings anymore”

“I don’t get tired during the day”

“My joints aren’t bugging me as much since I started training”

“I’m making healthier choices elsewhere in my life since starting this training routine.”

“I FEEL GOOD”

When we apply GOOD, healthy stress to our system- things change for the better. We also develop a higher tolerance for negative stressors, which means we function just overall more kick ass.

It no longer new information that the mind and the body are one coordinating unit.

Exercise, movement- of any kind- is the BEST and most EFFECTIVE medicine. The stats support it. Check these out.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, if we were to decrease the number of inactive Canadians by even 10%, we’d see a 30% reduction in all-cause mortality and major savings in health care. It is in fact estimated that more than $2.4 billion, or 3.7 per cent of all healthcare costs, were attributed to the direct cost of treating illness and disease due to physical inactivity1. The financial impact of poor health amounts to a loss of more than $4.3 billion to the Canadian economy, and the negative repercussions of inactivity cost the healthcare system $89 billion per year in Canada2. According to several studies, properly structured and supported exercise program, designed and delivered by a kinesiologist can, among other benefits:

  • Reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease by 40%;
  • Reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes by 50% and be twice as effective as standard insulin in treating the condition;
  • Help the function of muscles for people affected by Parkinson’s disease and Multiple Sclerosis;
  • Decrease depression as effectively as pharmacological or behavioural therapy;5
  • Reduce the risk of stroke by 27%;
  • Reduce the risk of colon cancer by 60%;
  • Reduce mortality and risk of recurrent cancer by 50%;

(Based on year 2009. Jansen et al., 2012 2 Based on year 2013. 3 Cardiorespiratory fitness is an independent predictor of hypertension incidence among initially normotensive healthy women.
Barlow CE et al. Am J Epidemiol 2006; 163:142-50. 4 Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin. DPP Research Group. New England Journal of Medicine 2002; 346:393-403. 5 Exercise treatment for depression: efficacy and dose response.
Dunn A et al. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2005. 6 Physical activity and colon cancer: confounding or interaction? Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:
June 2002 – Volume 34 – Issue 6 – pp 913-919)

Weight training- when done intelligently for each individual- is just as effective as other types of exercise in improving health. It has it’s own set of extra benefits and of course risk factors. Just like that Tylenol you like to pop for your back pain.

There is no one way to utilize the benefits of movement. Some people to pick things up and put them down.. others like to yoga.. some like to do step classes, and others just like to go for regular walks and stretch. IT’S ALL GOOD.

The biggest emphasis I am trying to make is that adding weight to your routine when you’re doing it correctly for YOUR SYSTEM (this is where the help of a trained professional often comes in), you’re looking at more resilience throughout your body and mind.

Don’t knock it til you try it 😉

(With the correct prescription and educated advice, of course!)

Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Conditioning, Equestrian, Motor Learning, Posture, Weight Loss, Wellness

If it ain’t broke.. The right way to move

Is there a correct way to move?

This is a question that has plagued therapists, trainers, and clients since the age of time.

Actually.. probably not that long.

The evolution of health and movement is one to be admired- in that, we’ve gone from quadruped beings, to walking, running, bipedal masterpieces, to what we are now.

We’re at an interesting point in movement science. We’ve somewhat regressed in our movement ability. While yes, we are still bipedal, upright beings- we no longer spend much of our time moving around in a variety of ways.

Now we move from point a-b-c-d in condensed timeframes, spending majority of our time between 3 positions (or variations of..): standing, seated, and laying down.

The author of Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari, points out that the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions not only may have ended our movement ability, but also may have birthed the beginnings of the various chronic illnesses and pain that affects us today.

Modern Day practitioners have been preaching alignment for decades already, and certainly our posture and ability to move has a huge impact on our overall wellbeing.. but is there such a thing as the “perfect” posture or alignment? Is there one optimal way to move?

The truth is yes, but also.. no.

There is certainly a most efficient way to move- in that, we will put minimal stressors on our structure and expend the least amount of energy to create that movement. There is a general textbook answer to this optimal alignment.

As an aside- it’s common to hear practitioners saying that one of your legs is longer then the other, or your pelvis is out of alignment.. when often the truth is some asymmetries are NORMAL to a certain degree.

We all have one shoulder that will be slightly depressed based on our hand dominance. We all have slight differences in how our rib cage sits, because of our anatomy (the left side has less lung in it to account for the heart- causing a shift between left and right), and where the rib cage goes the hips follow. Our body works in a chain like system- one link compensates for the next.. and while many compensations cause other problems, not all asymmetries are bad or abnormal. This will also change based on the mental health and perception an individual holds on pain, stress, and their systemic health. The debates on these fuel many research articles and books already. Stay tuned for more discussion on those topics and how movement relates to them.

When it really comes down to it, our movement is as unique as we are- and what is the best way to move for one person may not always mirror the best way to move for another person. We’re designed to be adaptable beings, and our postures should be just as adaptable.

Wait.. haven’t you been preaching posture and biomechanics your whole career?

Yes.. and while there may be differences across our spectrum of movement- majority of us inherit similar postural dysfunctions.. it’s very rare to find someone who moves well, even though there is no set checklist for what exactly moving well means.

Moving poorly in relation to your body can create a vicious cycle of degeneration, causing pain, causing less movement, causing more negative health outcomes. You can get enough movement, but if you don’t move well- you can actually do harm to your body which results in less movement.

For that reason *usually the first step with clients is to assess and correct how they move. From there we build a foundation of efficient movement, and build their movement habits on top of that foundation.

While I can’t say there is one right way to move, I can say that it is very rare to find someone with obviously inefficient movement without some sort of history of pain. The thing about pain is that it may not even present as physical pain.. it may be present in the form of gastrointestinal issues, or undue mental states. Our structure represents our internal framework too- and that can be a chicken or the egg scenario.

Many movement based practitioners will offer within their consult with you a movement screen. If you’re looking for an assist with your health, this is one of the things you should look to your professional to do. Cookie-cutter exercise programs, apps, and group fitness classes are convenient and cost effective- but the grain of salt there is if you get injured or develop pain because you’re movement wasn’t properly screened before starting a program- they cost you more in the long term.

We routinely see clients at their wits end come into our care. They’ve tried everything and nothing works- they are even hesitant to try anything else. They can’t move enough because of pain, or- they’ve never been taught healthy habits around their lifestyle (including movement and nutritional practices). This is what plagues our healthcare system today, and the message I keep putting out there to clients and peers is that none of this is a difficult fix- it just requires a shift from expecting a quick, cheap fix, to some quality time spent investing in our own health and getting educated guidance.

If you have questions about your movement today- send us an email and we’d be happy to help. Consults are always free.

Athletic Therapy, Chronic Pain, Wellness

5 Reasons Why Integrative Movement is Different

1. Accessibility

We pride ourselves in providing a simple, affordable solution to health and lifestyle services. We also offer services out of four satellite locations covering South Winnipeg, the Pembina Valley, Charleswood, and Selkirk region. All our locations are partnerships with other likeminded health facilities. From full functioning gyms to yoga studios – we do the groundwork to develop a health focused community feel wherever we go.

2. Investment

How many of us have bought into a health program, rehab, or gym membership only to under utilize it and later feel like we’ve just wasted the money? Our job is to support you in whatever your health goals require. Whether it’s developing healthy habits in the gym or at home, recovering from an injury, or pushing yourself to a new level of health and fitness, we work hard to provide highly skilled and knowledgable support. As a bonus, new members at our Selkirk and Charleswood locations automatically get 6 weeks of coaching alongside their memberships. No longer will you be stuck not knowing what to do with your gym membership! Your health is an investment, and we believe that navigating those investments is best with accessible, individualized support.

3. Individuality

It’s all about YOU- At IM we are different then your average rehabilitation facility or personal training sales pitch. We take the time to figure out what makes you tick. From consult to regular sessions, you can expect to spend 45min-1hr with us in either dedicated one on one therapy, consult, or training sessions or in a small group of likeminded individuals working at a common goal. Keeping things personal allows us to make sure you’re getting all the resources YOU need to reach your full health potential.

4. Diverse Experience

We are a team of Kinesiologists and Athletic Therapists with years of education and a growing experience base. Each of us enters our practice with our own personalities, history, and interests. For that reason, we pride ourselves in working as a team to meet our clients where they are at- and when appropriate work as a team with other professionals you deem valuable to your healthcare team.

5. We get it.

Life happens. Injuries are tough. Pain messes with our heads. Taking the steps towards lifestyle change seems impossible some days. We have been there, and we understand. Even on the days where you think it’s never going to change, the pain will never leave, or you’ll never get your old energy back.. we’ve got you. We won’t give up even when you don’t know where you stand. As the therapists and coaches we are, we hold out hope even when all hope seems lost. We’re all in the same boat, us humans, and we approach your care on your side every single day.

Want to learn more about how we can fit seamlessly into your journey towards optimal movement and health? Book your FREE consult here or drop by any of our locations to learn more. Looking forward to meeting you!

Athletic Therapy, Chronic Pain, Wellness

5 Reasons Why Integrative Movement is Different

1. Accessibility

We pride ourselves in providing a simple, affordable solution to health and lifestyle services. We also offer services out of four satellite locations covering South Winnipeg, the Pembina Valley, Charleswood, and Selkirk region. All our locations are partnerships with other likeminded health facilities. From full functioning gyms to yoga studios – we do the groundwork to develop a health focused community feel wherever we go. We also offer online services and training for those at a distance or on a budget! 

2. Investment

How many of us have bought into a health program, rehab, or gym membership only to under utilize it and later feel like we’ve just wasted the money? Our job is to support you in whatever your health goals require. Whether it’s developing healthy habits in the gym or at home, recovering from an injury, or pushing yourself to a new level of health and fitness, we work hard to provide highly skilled and knowledgable support. As a bonus, new members at our Selkirk and Charleswood locations automatically get 6 weeks of coaching alongside their memberships. No longer will you be stuck not knowing what to do with your gym membership! Your health is an investment, and we believe that navigating those investments is best with accessible, individualized support.

3. Individuality

It’s all about YOU- At IM we are different then your average rehabilitation facility or personal training sales pitch. We take the time to figure out what makes you tick. From consult to regular sessions, you can expect to spend 45min-1hr with us in either dedicated one on one therapy, consult, or training sessions or in a small group of likeminded individuals working at a common goal. Keeping things personal allows us to make sure you’re getting all the resources YOU need to reach your full health potential.

4. Diverse Experience

We are a team of Kinesiologists and Athletic Therapists with years of education and a growing experience base. Each of us enters our practice with our own personalities, history, and interests. For that reason, we pride ourselves in working as a team to meet our clients where they are at- and when appropriate work as a team with other professionals you deem valuable to your healthcare team.

5. We get it.

Life happens. Injuries are tough. Pain messes with our heads. Taking the steps towards lifestyle change seems impossible some days. We have been there, and we understand. Even on the days where you think it’s never going to change, the pain will never leave, or you’ll never get your old energy back.. we’ve got you. We won’t give up even when you don’t know where you stand. As the therapists and coaches we are, we hold out hope even when all hope seems lost. We’re all in the same boat, us humans, and we approach your care on your side every single day.

Want to learn more about how we can fit seamlessly into your journey towards optimal movement and health? Book your FREE consult here or drop by any of our locations to learn more. Looking forward to meeting you!

Athletic Therapy, Chronic Pain, Conditioning, nutrition, Weight Loss, Wellness

Baby Steps

Health shifts are HARD.

I often warn clients that it’s going to seem like the tiniest baby steps forward, and progress won’t always be blatantly obvious.. until it is.

I’ve had the perfect example of one of those “until it is” situations the last little bit. A long time training client decided to join me in using ProCoach, a new nutrition and habit coaching software that allows me to get at some of the whys of why progress requires daily change.

This client works hard in every workout, and admittedly needed to make some other health shifts to really get the progress in their health they were looking for.

We’d already used the power of exercise to help them lose some weight, and decrease the medications they were on due to a chronic health condition. They were now ready to add in some dedicated nutrition and lifestyle change.

It’s be 10weeks on this new program. This program requires them to think daily and reflect on their habits, choices, and diet. They started asking questions about what they were eating and how their choices every day could be affecting their progress and health. They got daily workouts and maintained their 2x/week sessions in the gym with their trainer.

They started the new program hesitant, but determined. Knowing they wanted to make change. They committed to doing the work- and that, my friends, is the hardest part of change.

Small baby steps, every day, every week. In their first 2 weeks they dropped 5lbs.

By 6 weeks they had dropped inches off their body composition and another 5lbs.

Now at 10weeks? They’ve dropped even more inches and are down a total of 16lbs. They’re feeling and looking different… better different.

This is a year long course/program for the client… I can’t wait to see what happens in the next 10 weeks!

All these growing improvements and positive changes for a workout and 5min a day of reflection, and small habitual diet and lifestyle change.

Seems like nothing- but it takes huge mental effort to make that commitment.

Daily effort. It’s not as easy as a miracle pill to manage symptoms. Even if that pill has negative side effects.

The rewards though of that daily effort to shift? Much, much greater- and- the only side effect is improved health and happiness!

headstand

Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Motor Learning, Self-Development, Wellness

The Golden Rule

I have this rule when I train clients- which many of them are bittersweet about.

"If it's easy then you're probably not doing it correctly"

This is in respect to their position and mechanics during different exercises.

This isn't meant as a "no pain no gain" type rule- but more of a "you're body likes to cheat so if it feels easy, you probably aren't in the right position".

Our form is our function. Yes, efficiency is something we all desire- including our brain- but efficiency out of laziness (on the nervous system's part) only leads to injury and illness down the road.

I talk a lot about form, motor control, and movement patterning with my clients because, frankly, them knowing how to move and having an internal guideline of the correct way to move means that they will have long-term health success.

What is health success?

That may mean something different to each individual. To me it means having the ability to resist major health issue and injury (baring uncontrollable trauma), and the ability to maintain regular, healthy movement.

To not wake up full of aches and pains, and go to bed feeling the same.

To not worry about falling, throwing your back out, or degenerative osteoarthritis.

To know that if you do catch a cold or flu, your system is primed to recover. And that if you do experience a physical mishap/injury- you know what to do to get back on track.

I strive to create independence in my clients- not dependence. Them knowing that "oh, this feels like it isn't working the right things" feeling means that they will either ask a question to find out, or self- analyze and adjust the exercise appropriately. It means that they are thinking and investing constantly in their health and wellbeing. That means I've done my job.

Our bodies will always move us. By nature, they're always moving in some capacity. Whether they move us correctly depends on our awareness, and to build that awareness is what my purpose as a movement professional is. Certainly, clients remain on as clients because they find value in training with a professional consistently- and I myself hire another trainer to do just that for me- but by teaching a client how to move and how to understand their movement through building their internal awareness- they will be healthier in every aspect of their lives.

As the famous Grey Cook says, "move WELL, and move often".

Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Conditioning, Equestrian, Motor Learning, Posture, Wellness

Inhale | Exhale 

It’s all going to be okay… Assuming you’re breathing right! 
Just kidding.. It’ll be okay regardless. However, the way we breathe dramatically influences our total body function and health. Breathing improperly will not only cause stiffness in the upper back, shoulders, hips, and neck, it can also decrease energy levels. The most common manifestation I see of poor breathing mechanics is neck pain and headaches. Most of us like to breathe with the muscles in the upper part of our chest and neck (instead of our diaphragm). This is especially true for those of us who experience increased levels of stress- as emotions will change how we breathe as well. Since most of us now live in a society that breeds high stress and emotion a lot of the time, it’s not surprising the most of us have forgotten how to breathe. 
If we experience stiffening in our ribcage, we will by nature also experience a tightening in our neck and hips. Where the ribs go, the hips go.. And vice versa. So now we have stiff ribs, hips, and a neck that is poorly set up to absorb the force of our heavy heads bouncing around. 
Try this. Lay on your back with your feet resting on a stool or chair (knees and hips should be approx at 90deg). Place your hands on either side of your rib cage. Take a deep breath in, and out. Did you feel your lower rib cage expand to the sides (into your hands)? No? You’re probably breathing into your upper chest and neck, then. One more time, do the same thing but move one hand to the tissue just above your collarbone. Did you feel that tissue expand with your inhale? Then you’re definitely doing it wrong. Take your hands back to your side rib cage. Now apply light pressure on either side (press in with hands) and take an inhale, focusing on pushing your hands out. Repeat this at least 10 deep breaths, also making sure to exhale entirely each time. Welcome to the wonderful world of diaphragm breathing! 
Practicing that movement multiple times a day is the first step in getting your breathing back on track. You should notice a marked difference in how your neck and upper back feel, maybe even improved energy levels and mood! Make sure when you do take time to practice this you don’t have other distractions. It takes a lot of focus to get this right! 

Athletic Therapy, Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Conditioning, Equestrian, Motor Learning, Posture, Wellness

Do you have old person feet? 

Yes- I do actually ask my clients this question… and no I am not implying that all seniors have crazy feet. 

What do I mean by old person feet? 


I mean curled up, cramped, toes and likely sore feet, poor balance, and dysfunctional arches. Did you know a healthy foot has spaces between the toes??? 

If you looked at your toes and saw any of that… there’s something up! 

You know that stat where we’re told that seniors have higher incidences of falls due to a decrease in balance as we age? Well it’s true, but not because that’s “just getting old”… because generally as we age we lower our levels of activity for reasons anywhere from “I ache” to “I’m old I don’t feel like moving anymore” to “I’m scared of falling”. All these things are counterintuitive. If we maintain our movement, we maintain our balance, confidence, and health! Old person feet aka what you see above occur because the muscles in our feet get shut off, for one reason or another (blame the shoes..not the skeleton…), and over time just get used to that position. A entirely dysfunctional position. This also will cause stiffening in the ankle which limits the flexion we have in walking- that plus the cramped up toes means more chance of catching your toes/foot on a crack, stair, carpet, or patch of ice… increasing your chance of a fall. This stiffening also increases chance of stress fractures in the foot and many conditions all the way up the chain, as high as the neck! 

And you know what? A LOT of young people have old person feet… 

Why?

1. Our shoes

You know that fad that swept across the running and exercise world not too long ago claiming minimalist shoes and barefoot running were the thing to do? Well, they weren’t entirely wrong. Regular footwear, orthotics, and workout shoes with all that support are really not doing us any favours. Not only do they cramp our toes, they also provide a great environment for ZERO foot activity. And what happens when a muscle group isn’t used? Well, it gets shut off entirely. Why is that no good? See foot above, and feel the effects of plantars fasciitis, morton’s neuroma, fallen arches, bunions, metatarsalgia, etc etc. 

2. Our habits

So your knee hurts, your back hurts, your hip hurts, your neck hurts… common practice? Treat the area that hurts and correct the core, hips, and general posture. Not some common practice? Check the foot posture and build upwards from there. Yes- I said it- dysfunctional feet create dysfunction all the way up the chain! We also love taking every suggestion whole heartedly… you have flat feet because your mom and mom’s mom had flat feet? Well, you’re doomed! Into orthotics you must go.. because surely there isn’t ANY way to retrain the arches of the foot (which, by the way are made of entirely changeable tissues such as muscle.. which is under YOUR control……). Did that sound ridiculous? Thought so. Orthotics and shoes… not great for functional feet! Our posture is a learned habit, usually from our family as we’re learning how to move.. so yes, it makes sense that you pick up what your closest peers are putting down when it comes to foot posture and gait and mannerisms… but that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to the same health fate. 

3. Our society

You’re likely reading this thinking.. well what does she want me to do.. go barefoot all the time? That’s preposterous! 

We’ve created a stigma around our feet. Is not hygienic not to wear shoes, it’s not healthy, it’s ugly.. our feet aren’t pretty, etc. Okay fine, so don’t go barefoot to the grocery sore (although, in New Zealand I’ve experienced many a kiwi who does and did!), or in public places.. but when you’re at home, how about not wearing your indoor shoes… or at the gym, wear your socks only and tread in a more natural state.. work those feet out too. Yes, your feet will likely complain a bit- just as your abs and legs do that first week in the gym after New Years.. give them some time to progress into their new working life, and I guarantee you’ll notice benefits. 

Now you’re thinking- okay but how do I actually fix my flat feet, or bunions, or cramped old person feet? 

Well, I’ll tell you! 

FIrst thing, follow steps above to getting out of your shoes any chance you get.. secondly, add in these exercises! 

1. Ankling: keep your toes and heels on the ground, and practice lifting that arch up, holding, and then letting it fall back down. Notice the difference? Notice your hips have to work a little too and your whole leg changes position? Gooooood. 


2. Ankle sweeps and toe crunches

Band isn’t necessary but an extra progression if you have one around! First sweep the foot away and up, working those outside ankle muscles.:. Then do some toe curls.. crunch the toes up using those arch muscles- don’t lift toes or heel off the ground! A good external cue for this is to lay a towel flat and use the toes to bunch it up. You should feel your arch working! Sets of 10 please! 

Other things you should be doing outside of all these tips is as much balance work as you can.. out of shoes of course! Focus on keeping when weigjt between the front and back of your foot, and that position you found in the ankling exercise. 

Have fun kids! 

Athletic Therapy, Chronic Pain, Equestrian, Posture, Weight Loss, Wellness

On Expectations

“When will I be better?” 

“Why haven’t I made any progress?” 

“What can I do to speed this process up?” 

Part of my job as a clinician and a trainer/health coach is to help my client’s set reasonable expectations. However, I struggle sometimes with answering the “how long” and “why me” questions. Honestly, there isn’t always a clear answer. 

Yes, there is the textbook answers like.. a sprain, depending on severity will take anywhere from 2-6 weeks to heal, a fracture will take 6-12 weeks, a surgery incision will take 6-8weeks to heal, nerve damage can take years, and a muscle strain will take 4-6weeks. But, from real life experience, these are pretty darn generic time frames. 

Those time frames don’t cover things like non-specific back pain, tendinitis, chronic pain conditions, or how long it should take to improve other health factors like stress, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, etc etc. 

Those textbook phrases also don’t take into consideration life in the real world. A world that is chaotic, full of surprises, strapped into a never ending roller coaster that we aren’t usually in full control of. 

With all that considered, answering the how long, what if, when can I interrogation gets a little trickier from my end. I want my clients and patients to be set up for success, not frustration. Giving a general time frame can be helpful in setting goals, but not so helpful if the personality type takes it and sets it on a pedestal. 

When it comes to personal training, the golden standard in expectations is that in 4 weeks you personally should start feeling different in your clothes, in your mood and energy, and in other little things day to day. By 6 weeks you should visibly see yourself in a different light, maybe a different pant size, or catching yourself in the mirror and noticing small changes, and within 8 weeks you should notice other people noticing. This is what they taught us in school, anyway. That time frame generally does ring true, but at the same time that is a true fact when conditions are perfect. I always recommend being on a regular, guided program for at least 3 months to get a true sense of if a program is working or not. 

When it comes to rehabilitation and pain relief, honestly- anything those. I’ve had the most textbook cases throw surprises and end up taking much longer then expected to clear up or improve- and I”ve also had very complex cases surprise me with almost miraculous improvements in a short time frame. Pain in itself is a very complex thing, and factors in pieces from every other part of our life. 

So. What do I say when I have someone needing a time frame? I always phrase it with a “there is no guarantee of anything, but optimistically I am hoping for…. *insert pre-formed time frame based on the case, goals, and needs”. So really, I am saying I’m not sure but let’s see what happens. 

As a practitioner and a trainer, I want to see my clients having some sort of reaction to whatever I”m implementing into their program. Whether that’s small and steady improvements, the body throwing new curve balls as a reaction to a change in routine, one injury going away to reveal a bigger underlying problem, body changes, mood changes, energy changes, etc etc. Any change is often a sign of progress. That’s the other reason I don’t love the idea of setting a golden standard time frame for anything- one thing improved or modified often reveals something else under the surface. Many of the cases I take are cases that have levels of complexity hidden. 

My expectations change every time I see a patient week to week or session to session. Your progress from session to session is always occurring, if it wasn’t.. if there wasn’t some sort of change.. I would know I’m on the wrong track. Then it’s up to me to change my plan, or refer to you to a better resource or do more research for you. I want my client’s to expect that they are going to get somewhere, and they are going to reach their goals. I hesitate on asking them to form set timelines- as in my experience it only leads to negative stressors down the road. Setting reachable goals is of course paradigm in all health endeavours, and I strive to motivate each client in whatever way works for them- but reachable goals is also a very adaptable term. Our bodies generally tell us when we’re on the right track, or if we’re just beating a dead horse. Sometimes the horse slows down because it’s being pushed too hard, or concentrated on too much It’s my job to keep that horse alive, paced appropriately and encourage it forward. 

All this being said, you as a client/patient have a reasonable right to question any practitioner on exactly these things. How long do you expect to have me in care? How often will I need to come? How often will I need to come that often? I don’t feel like I”m making any progress, why? I know when my patients ask these types of questions that they are just looking for their own way to make sense of the process, and I respect that. If a practioner doesn’t take kindly to these questions, they might not be the right person to get you where you need to go- horse intact.