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New Year, New You: The 2017 Gym Resolutions you REALLY Need

 

Julie Ardron,
PT Resident
MScPT, BSc (Hons.)

 

New Year’s is a time where gyms and fitness centers everywhere experience a sudden surge of people trying to get fit and be their best selves. All too often, however, January at the gym quickly evolves from going ham to tearing hamstrings, or giving up altogether by the time February rolls around.

But why?

There are a number of reasons why our resolutions quickly fall flat at the gym. Most of the time, though, it’s the actual goal we set that is the problem. “Getting strong” or “getting a beach body” will only take you so far; without a plan and a set of specific goals to get you there, you’re not only potentially setting yourself up for failure, but you’re also increasing your chances of sustaining an injury.

So, if you’re hoping to make long-term fitness goals in 2017, here are 3 Resolutions you really need:

 

1. Resolve to build a solid foundation, starting with the core

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Just as you wouldn’t build a house on quicksand, you shouldn’t start working out using heavy weights or high intensity until you’ve established a solid foundation at the core and spine.

Now, I’m not talking about doing hundreds of sit-ups or crunches. The “core” I’m talking about here is your DEEP core, including your transversus abdominis, multifidus, and pelvic floor muscles. Though not to be confused with Harry Potter spells, these muscles really are magic in keeping the spine stable with everyday activities and play a key role in minimizing low back pain and strain.

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A physiotherapist can effectively guide you through specific exercises to help activate these deep core muscles and build the foundation on which to build your 2017 fitness goals!

 

2. Resolve to improve your posture

Look familiar?

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“Text neck” is a very real phenomenon that is causing upper back pain and long-term postural changes everywhere. This, in addition to the standard 9-to-5 desk job followed by long winter nights of watching Netflix in bed, is wreaking havoc on necks everywhere.

So do you REALLY think starting a fitness routine to build strength on top of a painful, poorly-positioned spine is going to be effective? Not likely.

Similar to core stability, working on your posture should be a priority in setting yourself up for success in improving your fitness, whether you’re a gym novice or total pro. Making small changes throughout the day and completing simple exercises can make a BIG difference in your posture, including:

  • Taking a quick standing break for every 20-30 minutes of sitting at work (or better yet, using a standing desk to minimize sitting time!)
  • Holding your phone at eye level as often as possible
  • Cueing yourself to practice good posture (e.g. every time you see the colour red)

 

3. Resolve to pace yourself and be SMART about your progress!

Now that you’ve worked on building your solid foundation, you’re hoping to set up a regular workout routine. This is one of the most common challenges for new gym-goers, and one of the key components that can lead to potential injury as many people tend to “overdo” their strength and cardio training initially.

So how much is too much? Too little? Just enough?

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Start off by determining your baseline. Be honest with yourself, and be patient! Everybody has a different starting point, so don’t be discouraged with yourself if you’re starting off lower than you’d hoped! Some helpful questions to ask yourself when working out for the first time include:

  • How much weight can I lift so that I only start to have significant fatigue by the end of my final set?
  • On a scale from 0 to 10, how fatigued / exhausted am I feeling after ____ minutes/repetitions/laps?
    • Moderate-vigorous intensity is around 5-6/10.. you wouldn’t want to go too far past this during a regular workout!
  • Am I able to maintain a light conversation while performing this activity, or am I gasping for air?

Once you’ve set a baseline for yourself (e.g. able to run 10 minutes without becoming short of breath), work on smaller, incremental goals rather than progressing quickly. Using the 10% rule to progress your intensity (repetitions, weight, distance, etc.) each week will result in more significant, SAFE fitness gains than pushing yourself too quickly. Remember, the goal is LONG-TERM change that you can feel good about!

With these resolutions in mind, you’ll be well on your way to setting yourself up for meaningful change and good habits that will carry you well beyond 2017 and into a lifelong journey of being your strongest, healthiest self.

 

Happy New Year,

From the Lakeside Physio & Massage Team!

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LakesideBlogKnuckles

You Asked: Is Cracking Your Knuckles Bad?

First, a quick anatomy lesson: Many of your joints—including those that allow your fingers to beckon or point—feature small pockets or gaps that are filled with synovial fluid. Like axle grease, this fluid allows the bones that commingle in your joints to glide close to one another without grating, explains Dr. Pedro Beredjiklian, chief of hand and wrist surgery at Philadelphia’s Rothman Institute.

When you pull, twist or otherwise “crack” a joint, you’re expanding the volume of space between your bones, Beredjiklian says. That volume expansion creates negative pressure, which sucks the synovial fluid into the newly created space. This sudden inflow of fluid is the popping you feel and hear when you crack a knuckle, he adds.

The more you crack your joint, the more you stretch and loosen both its capsule and the surrounding ligaments. And the looser those components become, the more easily your joint will pop, Beredjiklian says.

So is this bad for your joints? Almost certainly not, he assures. Multiple studies have looked into the prevalence of “crackers” among large groups of osteoarthritis patients. They found no evidence that finger pullers and poppers are more likely to suffer from arthritis than those who don’t crack their knuckles. One devoted researcher—a man who habitually cracked the joints on his left hand—actually studied himself. After roughly six decades of lopsided joint popping, this case study of one showed no increased presence of arthritis in his left hand as opposed to his right.

“Finger cracking is so common you would expect to see a lot of causal reports if it was harmful,” Beredjiklian says. “But you don’t. So I think it’s unlikely cracking joints in hands leads to arthritis.”

While one 1990 study linked long-term joint popping to hand swelling and lower grip strength, there isn’t any more research to back up that finding. On the other hand (pun intended), at least one study concluded that knuckle cracking offers those who do it a sense of almost therapeutic “release.”

Poppers, you can ignore your fusty aunt or cranky coworker when they try to scare you with talk of debilitating cracking-related ailments.

Just one note of caution: Tendons catching on irregular bone or joint formations can also explain some clicking or popping sounds, especially in places like your neck, Beredjiklian says. Whether this can cause harm will depend on the person and his or her anatomy. But if a weird sound emanates from your shoulder or knee when you flex it a certain way, you may want to avoid angering that area with deliberate cracking.

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What Texting Does to the Spine

Sixty pounds is roughly the weight of four adult-sized bowling balls. Or six plastic grocery bags worth of food. Or an 8-year-old.

It is also, according to a new calculation published in the journal Surgical Technology International, the amount of force exerted on the head of an adult human who is looking down at her phone.

Kenneth Hansraj, a New York back surgeon, found this figure using a computer model of a human spine. An average human head weighs about 10 to 12 pounds, and tilting it down to check Facebook, send a text, or to Google the weight of an a human head increases the gravitational pull on said cranium.

“As the head tilts forward the forces seen by the neck surges to 27 pounds at 15 degrees, 40 pounds at 30 degrees, 49 pounds at 45 degrees and 60 pounds at 60 degrees,” Hansraj writes in the paper.

According to Nielsen, Americans spend about an hour on their smartphones each day. Unless you train yourself to stare straight ahead into your iPhone screen, you could be continually stressing your spine. “These stresses,” Hansraj writes, “may lead to early wear, tear, degeneration, and possibly surgeries.”

Of course, physical therapists have been howling about the scourge of “Text Neck” for years. But it’s certainly eyebrow-raising to learn that looking at Twitter in the supermarket checkout line is the equivalent of giving an aardvark a piggy-back ride.

Time to get Google Glass? Until, that is, scientists find that the device is crushing the nose-bridges of America.

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Big Hair, Don’t Care, Show a Child You’ll Be There!

For years my hair has been a part of my identity.  It has been an extension of myself and I love it.  I have decided to cut and donate it to a child in need because I truly understand how important hair can be to someone. Growing up I was diagnosed with alopecia. I started losing my hair and at one point had a bald spot at the front of my head.  I used to comb over my hair in high school so no one would notice. It was a horrible experience and I remember asking my mother, “do I have cancer? Why am I losing my hair?”. Thankfully, my hair grew back and the bald spots are not as apparent anymore.  However, this is not the case for all of us. Some lose their hair because of alopecia, others because of horrible burns and even more as they fight a battle against cancer. I am cutting off a part of my identity so that I may help a child have an identity of their own.

I’ve got Big Hair! Help me show a child that we care.

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