Free Workouts, health, nutrition, Self-Development, Weight Loss, Wellness

5 Simple Health Hacks for 2018

Resolutions are overrated. Building habits and setting smart goals are what its really all about.

Sorry if I’m killing your #newyearnewme vibes. The truth is that resolutions made this time of year are generally not accomplished by 80% of us lowly humans.

The problem with habits is that they take time and effort, and that is something us humans don’t naturally drift to. Setting a fiery resolution as of Jan 1, 2018 does not come close to guarantee that you wont’ be saying the same thing next year at this time. Health is an ongoing series of habits and decisions you make EVERY SINGLE DAY. And every day is a new adventure, so the decisions will change DAILY. The best solution is forming a solid line up of habits to help you along the decision making trail.

One of the biggest barriers clients tell me about is not having enough time to include new healthy habits into their life, or being too busy to commit to a coaching schedule, complete daily tasks to support their long term health, or to take time for themselves. A lot of this involves choosing to remove the inconvenience of health from our lives (and ironically thereby making health more convenient– making it the obvious choice).

We’ll talk more about sustainable habit practices soon. In this post I am going to outline 5 SIMPLE things you can add to your day to day routine that don’t require more then 5min.

1. Get Down (on the ground)

The simple act of spending time on the ground, and getting back up again is an amazingly simple way to get the whole body moving. Most of us spend the majority of our days in a seated position. It’s well known by now that our conventional chair based positions are absolute crap for our bodies. Evolutionarily we were designed to spend majority of our time in transit (walking, crouching, etc), or in ground based positions (deep squats, kneeling positions, cross legged or other variations of sitting on the ground.).

We have seen a slow creep of convenient ways to bring different positions back into our lives- from ball chairs to standing desks, however, the majority of us still plunk down and stay for way too long.

So here’s the deal. Take a minute, get off your duff, and get on the ground. Sit however is comfortable, kneel, or even lay down and do some rolling around. Then… get up!

That’s it.

Do that 20-50times a day for the best results. Start with what you can handle, and build from there.

If you have joint pain or other health conditions preventing you from doing this simple movement, you need to get yourself to a practitioner who knows what’s up and deal with that. Or, comment/email us with questions and we can send you some personalized advice.

Consults are always free at IM, and having someone chat with you about where you’re at and how to get you where you want to go is never a poor investment.

One of the best tests of longevity is this simple (and yes, it should be SIMPLE), act of moving your body weight from the ground level to a up right position unassisted. No matter what your age or ability, I am confident you can get there with the right tools- and that you’ll feel much healthier for this addition to your day.

2. Hydrate

Okay, seriously, let’s talk about this.

Majority of people are not drinking nearly enough water. Especially those of us who live in the sub zero temperatures on this planet.

I can tell the minute I look at someone, and work on their tissues, what their hydration is like.

Why is hydrating so important? Well why is gas and oil necessary for your car?

Water does many things for our body. Our brain function relies on proper hydration and will use majority of what we get into ourselves immediately just for baseline functioning. All our tissues all the way down to a cell level require water to be healthy. If our cells aren’t healthy, our tissues don’t function at their full levels, and we pay the toll. Joint stiffness, muscle soreness, fatigue, headaches, bloating, water retention, arthritis, sleep issues, low mood quality, you name it I can probably relate it back to your poor hydration habits.

For those of you with existing health conditions or looking to lose weight. This should be of extra importance for you!

How much do you need to drink? You should have a water bottle with you throughout your day, and be taking sips routinely. Generally, I would say 2-3L/day for a healthy adult is adequate. Bet thats a lot more then you’re currently drinking!

For those of you raising protest about more frequent trips to the bathroom, your kidneys thank you in advance. This won’t be a long term inconvenience, but like anything allow for an adjustment period. Try adding herb or fruit (lemon is popular!) infusions! Tea counts as intake as well, but coffee and other sugary drinks not so much.

Want to make this easy? Get yourself a water bottle you’ll love to carry around with you, and keep it full! Just the simple act of having it near you through your day will remind you to take sips from it.

3. The 80% Rule

Coming off of the holiday season and rolling into our new diet plans is always easy when we start… but forming the right habits now will make that February crash and burn easier to prevent.

When it comes to nutrition, there are a lot of things I could throw at you in terms of the latest trends in dieting and why they are probably bulls*** and why you should stick to whole foods and a variable diet full of the things we all know that are good for us… but instead I’m going to leave you with the simplest guideline.

Eat SLOWLY and MINDFULLY, and stop putting things in your mouth when you feel 80% full.

Get the DISTRACTIONS (aka, your phone) away from your eating area, and enjoy what you’re eating. Finding 80% full for most of us is pretty difficult at first, but having minimal distractions and eating slower will help the process. 80% full to me feels.. satisfied. Not hungry, not stuffed. Not empty, but not bloated or brimming. Pay attention to what your literal gut is telling you, and then LISTEN TO IT.

Doing this now while you’re high on resolution plans will make the habit before you hit the Valentine’s day chocolate sales . Trust me.

Feel like you need a little more help building your nutrition habits? Check out our membership page or book a consult to learn more about our coaching programs. (The consult is free 😉 )

4. Learn How to Breathe

We posted on our instagram a few days ago about the Alligator Breathing exercise. If you missed it, find it here and the video here!

We’ve talked about breathing before. The mechanics of it are something a lot of us get wrong a lot of the time, and switching back to diaphragm breathing or alligator style breathing not only benefits the rest of our movement, but also our nervous system and therefore our entire being.

No matter where you’re at, a high performance athlete, runner, weekend warrior with aches and pains, office worker, retiree, everyday human with average health, working on getting yourself to a healthier place, or still stuck where you are, changing your breathing can literally change your life. From mood improvement, sleep enhancement, pain reliever, stress reliever, and focus enhancer- this could be your first step towards something better.

Was that cheesy? #sorrynotsorry

As an added bonus it ties into our next step…

5. Take Five

I don’t care who you are you have time to take 5minutes for yourself.

This isn’t about making sure you hit the gym everyday, or only eat the perfect meals, or even about adding a dedicated meditation practice to your day.

I want you to take 5 minutes to do whatever the heck you want to do.

Some suggestions I could make would be:

  • spending 5 minutes practicing your breathing
  • going for a stroll outside your office (even better, in the actual outdoors)
  • taking 5minutes to get up and down off the floor, or do any other combination of movements that you want to do– check our instagram for ideas here!!!
  • 5min letting your mind clear while sipping your favourite drink (OR THAT WATER YOU SHOULD BE DRINKING ANYWAY)
  • Writing out your intentions for the day, week, month and the goals that will help those intentions come to fruition.
  • 5 technology free moments to meditate on all the things your grateful for today (write these down for added benefit!)

You get the point. The minutes are yours, use them wisely and in a forward thinking way with your health goals in mind.

Those are all simple things right? How many of you will actually add them in? I’m curious!

As I mentioned above, consults with IM coaches and therapists are always free. Our drive is to help you with your drive towards health. Whatever level you are at. Click here to book your consult with us. We’ll even include some goal setting tricks to get you started!

Let’s make 2018 all it can be!

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, 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, Equestrian, Motor Learning, Posture, Uncategorized

Fix It Friday’s: How Stable Are You? 

No, I’m not talking about how much time you spend in the barn, or how you handle stress…. I’m strictly asking about your physical stability. 

There’s a few tests I do for this when assessing a new client, one of which I’m going to share with you today. I truly believe that education is the key to getting every client and athlete to their next level, whatever their goals may be. So sit tight, and get ready to test your core ability in a few simple steps! 

I write lots about the core. The core is basically the area between the base of your skull/and chin to your hips. Common misconception is that it’s your abdominals, but it is so much more! 

The core is important for everything we do. In various athletic endeavours it does one of two main jobs- either stabilizes our trunk so our limbs can move in the most efficient manner and we can balance appropriately (riders, this is you), or it can be used to create power through torque and momentum (think a kicker, pitcher, sprinter, etc). I won’t get too much into the physics of this, but the basics is it helps centre us, allows for the best possible movement, and/or transmits force through the body for power. It literally plays a part in everything we do, and if it’s not used correctly you start to see breakdowns elsewhere or within the core area itself (back pain, hip dysfunction (leading to knee pain), shoulder pain and neck pain). 

I haven’t done the math, but if I could take a guess I would say about 80%-90% of the people I see have some level core dysfunction. That aligns pretty well with the infamous stay that 88% of equestrians have low back pain. It’s all starting to make sense, isn’t it? 

So… How do you know if you need to get better at your core? Well I’ll show you. All you need is a mirror, or an observer. 

We’re going to use one of my favourite exercises as a movement screen (which it actually is..surprise!). 


The Bird-Dog is an excellent way to assess your core body when it comes to stabilization. 

Starting on all fours, with a mirror at your side or your trusted observer watching you, lift and extend OPPOSITE limbs as shown above. Make sure your back is straight and knees are directly under hips with hands under shoulders. Try to form 90deg angles with the ground! 

Here’s what you’re looking for: 

– any unevenness or lift in the hips. 

– any shift in weight bearing forwards or backwards or sideways- or if you try to move your back stance knee inwards (that’s cheating!). 

– any sag in the low back or arch in the upper back. 

– any unbalance, increased shakiness, or falling over (yes it happens!). 

As a clinician I score this movement out of 3. To get a 3/3 technically you should be able to lift and extend SAME SIDE arm and leg, with no deviations in posture. I have yet to find a perfect score. The opposite version shown above is technically an alternate test. So a perfect score here means you have no deviations in stability or form, with no pain. Any PAIN in this test auto drops you to a 0-1/3. Anything less then a perfect score means you have work to do. And believe me, even the fittest and brightest athletes often get surprised with this. Fitness level does not necessarily mean you move well! 

What did you see? Let me know in the comments or email me at katmahtraining@gmail.com 

Interested in building that core ability? Check out these posts on my favourite core exercises: 

Core Concepts

Proper Activation You’re Doing It Wrong

Stay tuned for more Fix It Fridays! 

Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Conditioning, Motor Learning, Posture

The exercise that is slowly hurting you..

We’ve all done them (or been forced to do them) somewhere along the line. Whether it was during fitness testing in phys ed class, by a trainer, in a bootcamp or from a coercive magazine article. What nobody told us was that this exercise might actually be harming you and putting you at risk for back problems.

What exercise am I talking about? The infamous sit-up.

Let’s be clear- I’m not talking about a crunch. A crunch and a sit-up are very different when it comes to the specifics. The sit-up I’m talking about is either the kind where you’re knees are bent and you’re curling up towards your knees with your arms behind your back- or your legs are straight and you are bending your torso to get up from the ground- sometimes with your feet locked in or stood on by a gym teacher, trainer, or gym buddy.

We’re told that these are the path to our glorious 6-pack. Magazines, fitness groupies, and any “professional” that doesn’t have a year or two of education shout this “fact” (myth) from the rooftops of gyms all over the world. But, it is just that.. a myth.

The first reason this exercise WILL NOT grant your wish of an Arnold worthy torso: Sit-Ups don’t actually work the core or abs.

WHAT! I know. Shocking.

Sit-ups, especially the kind where you lock your feet in and have straight legs, actually work the hip flexors. When you think about it- this makes sense. All you’re doing is bending at your hips…

Even the sit-ups where you have your knees bent only work the core for a very short range of motion.. after that, it’s back to the hips. You know that aformentioned crunch exercise? Where all you do is lift your chest and shoulders up and then come back down the the ground? That’s the range of your abdominal muscles (specifically the rectus abdominus group- the muscle you see glistening in the form of a 6-pack on all sports illustrated models). Past that little raise off the ground- it’s your hip flexors doing the work.

core

Second reason sit-ups won’t give you abs- there is no such thing as toning one part of your body. Getting that 6-pack look comes down to many factors, and certainly strong core muscles is one. The truth is, we all have abs- some more visable then others. Aesthetically, it comes down to your percentage of body fat, water retention, and lastly muscle mass (and even genetics) as to how obvious or view-able that 6-pack is. The HEALTHY body fat percentage for females is no lower then 18%. Guys can get down to 12% in a healthy scenario. When you see models or athletes with that 6-pack look- especially in a photo-shoot scenario- there’s a lot of other factors going on. Diet, for one. Photo-shopping for second. Notoriously fitness models dehydrate themselves and eat a very strict diet leading up to competitions or shoots- for that added lean, muscled look. They do not upkeep that standard for a long period, if they are healthy. It is for aesthetics ONLY.

I’m a huge advocate for core training and strength- but you will never find me pushing my clients to get a 6-pack. They already have one. We all do.

Now, why and how are sit-ups actually harming us?

Because they combine excessive hip flexor work with a curve through the spine.. they have two big risk factors. The hip flexors, specifically the psoas major, attach onto the lumbar spine. If they are tight- they can pull on that spine creating a shearing force in the discs and vertebrae. This causes degeneration over time and puts you at risk for injury and chronic pain. Secondly- if the spine is consistently curved, not only is there already a shearing force in the spinal column, discs are being compressed which can lead to degeneration as well. Add this to hip flexors pulling from the other side- you get a recipe for bad things.

If you already have a history of low back injury or pain- sit ups are probably not something you want to play around with. If you’re healthy and no known issue- doing sit-ups may not kill you, but they’re definitely not doing what you think they’re doing.. and there is better ways to get actual core benefit.

Because the rectus abdominus only has that small range of motion, doing crunches- or specifically the McGill Curl-Up exercise are much better ways to work your abs if that’s your goal. Your abs and spine will thank you for this!

So next time you hear someone preaching about how great sit-ups are.. autocorrect in your head that they are really talking about your hip-flexors, not your abs, and that nobody really needs tighter hip flexors! Especially us equestrians. Our hips are usually tight enough as it is. Train smart!

Biomechanics, Chronic Pain, Equestrian, Free Workouts, Motor Learning, Posture

The One- Say Happy Valentine’s Day to Your Body.

Who says V-Day has to be about your significant other? Make it about you! You only get one body. What are you doing to appreciate it?

Before you hunker down for your chocolate binge and netflix (it’s allowed, I’ll be doing it too), make sure you do a little something for your one and only body. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing, our body appreciates the simple things. Movement. Total body movement. We don’t move much anymore. A great quote from Katy Bowman’s book Alignment Matters sums this fact up:

“Our culture’s use of chairs and toilets, our beliefs in what our posture means to others, and even our clothing (rigid shoes, narrow skirts for women, etc) have all resulted in self-induced joint rigidity. All the movements you have never done are movements that would have toned muscle, kept connective tissues moist and supple, and kept blood oxygen flowing evenly to all areas of the body. Instead, we have huge chunks of unused muscles, bones scraping together at the joints and increasing friction (causing osteoarthritis), and we are constantly medicating to make living possible in our physical agony.”

Scary, right? But there’s a silver lining- all of that is COMPLETELY CHANGEABLE. All you have to do is wrap your head around moving more. Change that little voice that says “we’re tired today, it’s okay to just sit here and relax” and reframe it into “I’m going to go for a nice relaxing walk after each meal, to clear my head and move my body”. I guarantee you’ll feel much better!

How many people do you know who use restrictions in their body as an excuse? I’ve even had people tell me their trainers avoid their areas of pain in their programs, simply because that area causes them restrictions. That’s a sure way to cause long term issues, in my mind. For example. You don’t do squats, lunges, or high impact cardio because your knees hurt. So, instead of figuring out WHY your knees hurt (probably and issue in your hips and core, and/or your posture, gait, and lifestyle habits).. you just avoid them completely. Long term effect? Decreased bone density, higher risk of osteoarthritis, muscle imbalances, decreased movement ability- chronic pain.. So while it’s great you’re working with a trainer, it might not do you much in the long term. If you have a restriction- or a bad attitude- there is a way to correct them and move on. Don’t get stuck with what you have!

Sitting for long periods is bad. So is over exercising or staying in any one position for a long period. It’s all about constant change. We’ll all have to sit for long periods here and there.. it’s the nature of the world we live in.. but we can adjust how we’re sitting so we’re not always stuck in one spot. Take stretch breaks, get up every 20-30min and go for a walk around wherever, don’t sit cross-legged all the time. Change it up.. constantly!

So, in the light of that lecture.. here’s one of my favourite strength exercises for the WHOLE BODY. And guess what, it doesn’t require any equipment except for you and the floor/ground. It also requires little time, and little space. Feel your excuses narrowing? Good.

All you need is a floor, with enough clear space that you could lie on your back and not hit anything, and a can-do attitude. If you have a can’t-do attitude, I’m not sure why you’re reading this post- go be unhealthy somewhere else and come back when you’re ready to adjust your lifestyle.

This exercise involves moving your own body-weight and doing the most functional of tasks: lowering yourself to the ground, and then lifting yourself back up. This is a task that everyone, no matter your size or age, should be able to do. It’s imperative to our health. I know 90yr olds that can still do this. You have no excuses to let this ability falter!

So. Get to the point. I know.

I commonly call this the “inchworm” exercise, but I’ll let you create your own name for it if you want.

It’s pretty simple, really. Start by standing up (in a good posture, I hope), then bend over from the hips, and knees, touching your hands to the ground. From here, walk your hands out until you’re in a plank position (you can drop to your knees here if needed), and then lower yourself to the ground (preferably in a push-up style and not a face plant style). Here, take a second and do a back extension or a cobra pose, just cause it feels nice. Then lower yourself back to the ground, push-up back into your plank and reverse the whole process… walking yourself back up to standing. Here’s a super accurate stick-figure drawing:

I know. I’m the next Van Gogh.
Repeat this anywhere from 5-10 times and you’ve got yourself a total body workout with no huge time commitment and no equipment necessary. When you’re ready for an extra challenge.. start on one leg and keep one leg elevated through the entire movement! Or start adding more push-ups.

You can do this anywhere! The office, the kitchen, the living room, your mom’s house, in front of the couch, in the gym, outside, at the barn… ANYWHERE! So.. do it. If you have a good reason not to, please share in the comments below 😉