Silver Linings for Colder Days

Photo by NitroCephal/iStock / Getty Images

It seems like overnight the seasons change. The mornings are crisper, the air is dryer and the days are shorter. As the seasons shift, so do our activities. Perhaps we continue some of the same but move indoors, or just start layering up. Or, for those snow bunnies out there, once the white stuff falls we have an entirely new wonderland we can play in.  Preparing our body for these seasonal changes can be important to avoid injury, and to keep our immune system strong. If you're like me, it also can be challenging to stay as motivated with our activities when our animal instincts may be to cozy up on the couch to eat and hibernate!

As with any goal, planning ahead and setting some intentions can go a long way. Having measureable goals and timelines, enlisting a team of supporters and accountability-keepers to pull you out of a rut are all helpful in keeping on track, particularly on those days that are especially cold and gloomy.  Know that every single day we make a healthy choice, contributes to a healthier foundation. It is much easier to build on a strong foundation than to continue playing "catch-up", especially when it pertains to health.


Fall Fitness

I can't say enough about the importance of getting outside and being active for both physical and mental health! This weekend I had the privilege of participating in the MEC Fall Century Ride. A windy, but gorgeous 60 km leaving from Turner Valley, Alberta. It was challenging, but with encouragement from friends, and focus on my inner dialogue, I completed it in one piece. This may be the last thing you would be interested in doing on a beautiful Sunday, but there are some common themes I can share that may help in finding your inner drive to get moving. Here are some ideas to incorporate more activity into your week:
- Find something you LOVE to do! In summer I bike, swim, run, lift weights and hike. In winter I spin, swim, snowboard, snowshoe and lift weights...this keeps me conditioned year-round and changing my activities through the year adds variety and helps me cope with the changing seasons. Having a variety of activities also keeps me doing SOMETHING if I am not in the mood to do what I otherwise planned to.
- Sign-up for an event to train for! If this is out of your comfort zone, start with volunteering. You can get to know other participants, how the event works and most likely see how much you belong! Everyone, at some point has taken on the challenge of their first 'race'. I am always inspired by the people I see and meet at races and events! To be truthful, I didn't train for this weekend's ride. And I felt it. But I showed up, complained a little, and was so glad that I did it!
- Plan weekly meetups with friends, neighbours or coworkers. Having someone else you are accountable to can be a nice "push", especially as the days get shorter and colder.
- Meetup groups can be a great way to meet new people and try new sports or activities you otherwise may not have tried. The University, Mountain Equipment Coop, Running Room, Lululemon, among others, have various programs to participate in, some of which are complimentary!
Being active on a daily basis, is our primal nature. Building and maintaining strength with functional movements, flexibility, ease in motion, endurance and stamina, are all vital to living a long, healthy life.

Move it or Lose it

My initial draw to studying Chiropractic was the fact that it involved human anatomy/ physiology and offered a wholistic perspective of the interconnectedness of the body and its functions. The nervous system being the body's internal communicator, receiver and interpreter of information needed to stay alive, is tuned into everything occuring in the body- from changes in pH balance to the  position of our L4 vertebra. In regards to body movement, an aligned properly moving body requires minimal attention from the nervous system. If areas of the body are not moving properly, either due to restriction and limited motion or moving too much due to laxity, the nervous system senses this and initiates a response to help counter and restore balance.
With proper biomechanics and adequate alignment, reflexes to maintain and restore balance can occur without a hiccup. When bones in the body (spine or extremities) are out of alignment, or not moving properly due to chronic restriction or hypermobility, the nervous system senses this and creates a response to achieve balance of the whole.
In terms of movement, the body is organized in a reciprocal pattern of mobility- joints that are designed for maximum movement, and stability- joints that move but overall are not meant to move beyond a certain range. This alternating nature in the body allows for healthy, efficient motion. If the body consisted of only highly mobile joints, it would take a lot more effort to move around. The surrounding muscles would be required to become the anchor for each movement and every joint would absorb the momentum created by the movement, thus reducing the leverage to propel forward. On the other hand, if the joints in the body were all created for stability and minimal motion, movement would be extremely restricted. Long strides required for many sports would be virtually impossibly, changing the performance potential of athletes as we know it. The body would be unable to absorb the momentum being created or the force entering the skeletal structure with each impact, putting a tremendous amount of force on each joint involved.
To maintain and optimize body function, we must first understand body design. There are a number of reasons why an otherwise mobile joint becomes restricted. Repetitive posture or biomechanics such as sitting long hours or poor running technique can create hip restriction over time. On the other hand, trauma, weakness of the surrounding musculature or repetitive demand on an otherwise stable joint, can lead to laxity of the surrounding tissues may contribute to instability.
The dynamic nature of the body is fascinating in that pain or disfunction of a joint never occurs in isolation. If a joint is not functioning according to the design of nature, the surrounding areas of the body will adapt to maintain balance. This is important to remember in considering the source of a problem. In the process of addressing restricted hips for example, consideration must also be made for the knee, pelvis, etc. to ensure longterm resolution, and minimize compensatory adaptations.
So often, the source of a problem is not where pain initially surfaces. Understanding the dynamic nature of the body is helpful not only in the rehabilitation of dysfunction, but also in the maintainence of optimal, efficient movement and injury prevention. As a rule, the body is designed to move. So move. Strive for balance right to left, front to back, as well as balance of strength and flexibility. The body will adapt to injury as much as it will adapt to healthy behaviours.


Wine, Chocolate & High Heels

I recently had someone ask me if their backpain was related to the fact that they wore high heels the day before. My answer? Maybe...hard to say. It is not a secret that high heels can put added stress to the low back, ankles and feet. The lifting of our heel changes our centre of gravity and our body shifts to accomodate. We can not avoid stress entirely, nor do we necessarily want to, the bigger question is our body adapting appropriately to the stress.
It may be worth clarifying that there are multiple categories of stress where these ideas can be applied. High heels refer to more of a physical stress, however chemical stress (i.e. alcohol, sugar, etc.) and mental/ emotional stress (i.e. new job, lay-off, wedding, divorce) also apply. A healthy body is able to adapt to, what should be, a temporary stress.
Problems surface when the stress is no longer temporary. If a woman only ever wore high heels, eventually the body would adapt differently and problems may surface. Shortened achilles (the tendon at the back of the ankle), extra pressure on the lower spine leading to back pain, or even changes to the forefoot to accomodate the regular weight load distributed. In moderation however, the body has a chance to "bounce back" more easily so permanent changes don't take place. Even with moderation, ensuring a counter-action to help mitigate the stress produced on the body can provide further benefit, such as stretching the ankle/ calf after wearing heels.
In the response to the initial question, I equated high heels with chocolate and red wine (hard to tell what my vices are haha). Once in awhile, a glass of red, a little chocolate, is not a big deal and should not derail your health. If they became two main food groups however, you most definitely would note some negative repercussions.
When healthy, the 80/20 rule is a fair approach. If 80% of the time the best choices are made...eating the quality and quantity of food that is appropriate and necessary, participating in a well-rounded activity schedule (and as it relates to the above scenario, avoiding undue stress to our physical body), and maintaining an appropriate level of mental stress, then if in the other 20% of the time we choose to indulge, we really should be able to adapt and continue moving forward in a healthy way.
Be honest with the choices you are making 80% of the time. Journal if necessary to stay accountable and see where you may struggle the most, and acknowledge yourself for where you are living a life that will lead you to the outcomes you desire. Being healthy is about choice, not restriction or deprivation.


Golf Stretches

Preparing your body for activity, whether yardwork, pick-up football or a round of golf, is important for optimizing mobility and reducing strain on the spine, muscles and connective tissues. Most current research indicates that dynamic stretching (stretching with motion) has been shown to be most effective prior to an event, with static stretching (stretch and hold) beneficial post-event. Keep in mind, that different activities produce different demands on the body. Below are some stretches specific for golfers to help maintain a healthy body and a healthy game!
Golf Stretches
Four Easy Stretches for Golfers

1. Hip Flexor Lunge
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Step one foot forward into a lunge position. Keep your body upright and back straight. Bend both knees so that you feel the stretch. Do not let your forward knee pass over the ankle of your front foot. Use a golf club to keep your balance. Hold 15 seconds. Repeat twice on each side.

2. Seated Twist
Sit on a bench or golf cart with your knees together and feet flat, pointing forward. Reach across the front of your body and grasp the back of the bench or cart. You should experience a stretch in your spinal muscles. Hold 15 seconds. Repeat twice on each side.

3. Seated Forward Bend
Sit on a bench or golf cart, knees bent and feet flat. Place one ankle onto your opposite knee, and relax this leg so that your knee falls out to the side. Slowly bend forward, keeping your back straight. You may gently pull on your bent knee to generate a deeper stretch. You should feel a stretch in your buttock area. Hold 15 seconds. Repeat twice on each side.

4. Side Bending Stretch
Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Hold the golf club above your head with your arms straight. Slowly bend to one side, without rotating, until you feel a stretch along the side of your back. Hold 15 seconds. Repeat twice on each side.