A few of my Favourite Things

Last year around this time I picked up a book called the Tribe of Mentors by Timothy Ferris. The book is phenomenal, sharing a series of 100 interviews with high achievers (some known to me, some not). Each interviewee was asked the same questions, and a selection of answers from each person were published. One of the questions asked was “what purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)?” This question prompted me to think about my own answer to this question. Below I share some purchases that brought the most ease to my life and has had the biggest impact.

 
  • I mention this to many people, particularly as the days get shorter and darker. The Philips Sun Alarm Clock not only wakes you with a gentle increase of “daylight”, but the audio alarm also increases slowly as to not wake you with a startle. I found when using this for a period of time, my internal wake cycle adjusted and I found it easier to get out of bed even on those cold, dark mornings where it is much easier to stay cozy in bed.

 
rumina.jpg
  • Rumina Natural’s Totally Tallow. I am lucky enough to work with one of the brains behind the amazing Rumina line. One particular product produced is “Totally Tallow”, a clean multi-purpose moisturizer. I had heard great things about this product for months and it was only this past month I decided to give it a try and I quickly fell in love. The Fall and Winter months here in Calgary are very dry and I have struggled to find a product over the years that offers moisture without being waxy, greasy or too heavy. Warming the product in your hands allows it to apply smoothly and leaves skin feeling soft. It smells great too! *Apply discount code drkaren10 to receive 10% off your order!

 
podcast.jpg
  • Podcasts! I was trying to pick just one to put here but I couldn’t choose, so below I list my favourites at the moment. I started listening to podcasts 5 years ago when I had a long commute to work. I was tired of listening to the radio, and was lucky enough to come across “The School of Greatness”. From there I’ve listened to a variety of other uplifting podcasts offering perspective on everything from business, life, goals, relationships, health to finances. The best part? Its free. You can download them to your phone when in wifi so you can listen on-the-road and save on data. The information we feed ourselves is just as (if not more) important than the food we eat. Choose wisely, and expand what you know. Seeing the world through another point of view can be eye-opening and may just offer a simple solution to a problem you’ve been facing. Of course, sometimes I just crave entertainment and something less introspective and there are podcasts for that too! In addition to Lewis Howes’ podcast above, Some of my regularly played podcasts include: The Ed Mylett Show (growth, business, mindset), Oprah’s Masterclass (life, overcoming failure, growth), Heavyweight (life, regret, righting wrongs, undone and unsaid, revisiting the past, entertaining), Without Fail (life, reality, failure and success, entertaining).

 
H20-Audio-Waterproof-Headphones-and-Case.jpg
  • I used to run as an outlet. It was my activity of choice and it had few barriers to get out the door. All I needed was a pair of shoes. Over the years, my pull to run has been replaced with a desire to swim. Sometimes my motivation to get to the pool is the hot tub soak afterward, sometimes its the meditation that comes with the swim itself. other times though (and here comes an item that was worth every penny), it is a new playlist on my underwater mp3 player. There are far more sleek versions that I see out now, but I actually purchased this a few years ago and it has been great. It holds my ipod nano and slides onto my goggles strap without being overly bulky. Music has always been a staple in my life, and has the power to change your state in tremendous ways. If you swim and struggle to stay motivated or get bored with lanes, I encourage you to order some underwater tunes.

 
2019-Planner-Blk2.jpg
  • Through the years I have gone back and forth between digital and good old fashioned paper planning. I think I have found my happy medium, with keeping all things needing a reminder, or simple daily tasks I need to get done and can’t forget in my phone (i.e. bills, appointments, etc) and the big goals, and long-term to-do’s in a paper daytimer (i.e. work tasks, long term plans, etc). Last year I found the daytimer to rule all daytimers (for me anyway) and even better, it was made by a local Calgary company. I’m talking about Wrinkle and Crease and their yearly planner. With ample space for weekly planning, monthly snapshots and lots of space in the back for collecting ideas and jotting down info you want to keep nearby. I have yet to pick up my planner for 2019 yet, but I will be ASAP because I love love love this one!

 
  • Last and certainly not least, another Calgary-based company The Gut Lab and their superfood shakers! I have only tried a couple and am so pumped to try more of their product, but I was blown away by the flavour of the Super Q shaker. Plus I loved the name…super…Q? You know, because my last name starts with Q? Anyway, this one had an amazing BBQ flavour and paired perfectly over popcorn. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a popcorn nut, and after trying this product, this will be a new staple for me. Most importantly, their products contain “sustainably sourced natural ingredients, no sweeteners, preservatives, fillers or artificial flavours”. Cheers to that!

 

There you have it! A snapshot to some of my favourite things that keep me moving, motivated and organized. Here’s to a strong end to 2018 and a fresh start to continue the momentum!

Your Heart and Vagus: 5 ways to tap into your inner calm

In Chiropractic College we were required to learn everything there is to know about the nervous system. Literally, every single nerve, where the nerve originated and branched to, what functions it affected and even the names of the grooves and spaces the nerve would pass over or through along its length. I had the most ridiculous ways of remembering everything from acronymns, to poems or phrases. "My heart is in Vagus" was one I remember most clearly...from someone who has never even been to Vegas. But it stuck, and it worked. The vagus nerve does in fact have parasympathetic input to the heart, however it affects many more functions in the body also. 

In our stressed out, maxxed out culture, understanding this nerve and how to stimulate it is a powerful tool that will have a ripple affect on your health. It demonstrates clearly how interconnected our anatomy and physiology is, but also provides further evidence of the sometimes ignored mind-body connection. 

 

Vagus Nerve 101:

  • The Vagus Nerve is Cranial Nerve 10 (of 12) and is the longest of all cranial nerves
  • Branching from the brainstem to the abdomen, it makes stops along the way to various other organs including the heart, lungs, esophagus & larynx (voice box)
  • Parasympathetic control (rest, digest and regeneration of body), this nerve slows the heart rate and signals stomach muscles to push food into the small intestine
  • Despite the many "output" functions this nerve has, it is believed that 80% of its fibers are "input", carrying info from Body to Brain
  • Overstimulation of Vagus nerve can lead to dizziness, light headedness and even fainting if blood vessels dilate with a decreased heart rate decreasing the ability to pump blood to the brain
  • The vagus nerve can be irritated by GI distress, hiatal hernias and (drum roll) poor posture and muscular imbalances (direct and indirect impact of Chiropractic care!)
  • In addition to the above, excessive alcohol, spicy food, stress, fatigue and anxiety can also irritate this nerve
vagus n notes.jpg

Strategies and Action Steps...

By now you likely have a hunch if 1 - your vagus nerve needs a little love and 2 - if your daily habits are supporting or inhibiting the nerve's influence. Here are 5 strategies that hopefully can become habits.

1. Wash your face with cold water. In fact, sudden exposure to cold can dial down our sympathetic system (fight/ flight/ freeze) and ramp up our parasympathetic system. Beyond washing your face with cold water, having a cold shower (or even ending your shower with a blast of cold) or using a cold pool (at least one gym in Calgary has one) on a regular basis can help!

2. Sing, chant or talk! No doubt the vagal connection to our voice box is a probable reason for this. Perhaps in your cold shower you can belt out a tune :). Although not for everyone, some yoga classes offer chanting (om chants have been shown to stimulate the vagus nerve) and singing also. This used to be super intimidating for me and not my jam, but the calming effect is undeniable. You literally feel your body vibrate. 

3. Move - specifically mild exercise, yoga and meditation. My initial introduction to yoga was more out of homesickness at the time, and although I've experienced various physical benefits, its the grounding and calming that keeps bringing me back to my mat. Mild exercise and yoga also help stimulate gut movement which supports the vagus' role in digestion also.

4. Deep and slow breathing. Breathing with your diaphragm (seeing belly and side expansion with inhales) at a slow rate of 5-6 breaths per minute is key. Equal time breathing in and out stimulates the vagus nerve and improves sensitivity of baroreceptors - sensors in the heart and neck that regulate blood pressure. Increased sensitivity of these receptors allows the vagus nerve to be stimulated sooner when blood pressure rises.

5. Nutrition. Not only WHAT we consume (including EPA and DHA found in fish oil, and probiotics) but WHEN we consume it. There is a growing volume of information related to intermittent fasting that shows an impact on heart rate variability, a common marker for vagal tone. 

I could go on with more strategies, but I'm not sure who stuck it out to even get to this point in the blog :). No surprise, the action steps suggested above are pretty much universal lifestyle hacks to support much more than just the vagus nerve. Everything is connected and as I've said before, if we truly want to improve the health of our communities, we must understand how the healthy body works and support it. 

 

Guest Blog: Combatting Scar Tissue w/ Lindsay Burns

I met Lindsay Burns in a Muscle Activation Technique seminar last year. We were table mates and it was there that I first heard of Endermologie. Her excitement and knowledge on the modality was evident immediately and I have since referred some patients to her. Endermologie, in the context she uses it, helps remove scar tissue which can be a big barrier for a lot of people in adapting and finding balance and ease. She approaches her clients with holistic goggles, recognizing the role of scar tissue as a stabilizer, and that once that is removed, a person must also have means to continue that stability through strengthening and muscle activation. 

I figured if I had never heard of this technique, many others probably were also in the dark, so I asked Lindsay to share more about what she does... For further information, to meet Lindsay or to schedule a consultation with her, her contact is at the end of the article. Of course you can also contact me directly and I'll be happy to connect you. 

What is Endermologie? This is a question I get asked all the time and honestly I feel like it’s the best - kept secret around.

An Endermologie machine is 100% natural and non invasive. It breaks down scar tissue, increases blood circulation and boosts the Lymphatic System. And that just scratches the surface of what it can do.

Does this sound too good to be true? You aren’t alone in thinking that. Wonder why you’ve never heard of this before? You aren’t alone in that either. The European designed machine has moved away from it’s original use in North America and is being used mostly for cosmetic purposes but luckily, I spent time in the US observing, learning and training on how the machine can be used for more restorative, recovery and mobility purposes.       

I see the results and changes on a daily basis. I often hear, “I’ve been like this for twenty plus years. I’ve tried everything and it just stays the same”. I completely understand the helplessness that an injury past or present can make you feel. I’ve been there myself. Recently, one of my new and very active clients came in unable to completely extend her leg. After multiple knee surgeries and a lot of scar tissue built up she often experienced residual pain and constant aching. After trying a variety of things with little to no improvement my client was referred to me. Not knowing what to expect she booked her first appointment and was surprised when she could feel a difference almost immediately. After a handful of treatments this client has a greater range of motion. The dull aching is less, if at all, and her knee feels better then it has in years.

Knees, hips, tennis elbow, shin splints, neck, shoulder and back pain can all be treated with Endermologie plus much, much more. Recovery after surgery can also be expedited once you have the okay from your Physician to aid in regaining mobility.  

Endermologie works great on its own while complimenting other modalities as well. I like to think of it as a tool used to clear a roadblock. It increases blood circulation by 400%, which promotes healing and is able to get deeper then deep tissue massage.

The founding principles of Endermologie were to break down scar tissue, reduce inflammation and increase mobility. The bottom line is, it works. My clients are pleased with their results and how quickly they’re able to resume their everyday and active lifestyles.

I would love for you to come and check it out!

Lindsay Burns practices out of Lasya Healing Alternative Wellness Centre in Calgary, Alberta. For further info check out her website at www.endotechnique.com or find her on instagram @endotechnique!

3 Favourite Home Care Tools

My plan for regular blog posts has clearly not panned out...yet! A lot is brewing though and I will be touching on topics in my blog that I will now be elaborating on in video for those needing more clarity!

The first videos I will be releasing shortly (find them here!) will be highlighting some of my favourite tools for body maintenance. I like these because the props do not take up a lot of space (for the most part), are not crazy expensive, there are a variety of ways to use each tool and they are effective! 

Below are my list of my three favourite homecare tools:

1. A rolling ball. These come in a variety of forms but you want one about the size of an orange with a little bit of "give". The one in the pic was purchased at fitterfirst here in Calgary and has some grip to it. It is designed for rolling, but you can use lacrosse balls or in some cases a quality tennis ball may work. This ball can be used to address muscular trigger points or to help resolve adhesions in connective tissue. 

2. A yoga strap. I prefer a long one (9' minimum) to allow for greater diversity in stretches. If you are a yogi, the strap can be an amazing prop in different postures to add stability or to enable you to find a more aligned and at times deeper expression or a pose without putting you at risk. For general body maintenance, the strap can be a helpful tool to stretch hamstrings, shoulders and to help reset posture.

3. A yoga bolster. If you have ever been to a restorative yoga class, you are likely already in love with this prop! This prop is great for supported stretches, allowing for long, gentle holds. I often recommend it for chest stretches/ opening and to help take pressure off of the upper back curve. It is also great for added support below your knees when laying on your back, or just below your hip crease when laying on your stomach. 

Stay tuned for specific strategies you can use with each of these props to support your body, reduce pain and ensure you can keep participating in the activities you love!

Lessons from Triathlon Training

As the weather starts to chill I find myself daydreaming back to the summer. Ours was a rainy one, but there was one day in particular that will forever be etched in my mind. Perhaps more importantly what that day represented to me. 

I have had a long time goal of completing an Olympic triathlon. This seemed out of reach a mere 4 years ago, having been involved with running events my entire life, but only getting into cycling and swimming as an adult. My first taste of the sport was when I entered the Banff Sprint Triathlon in 2012. I was untrained (active through summer but nothing structured) and despite the water being brutally cold it was fun and the most beautiful race I've been involved in. If you asked me that day if I imagined doing an Olympic triathlon, I would have said it would be a stretch. I couldn't get through a bike ride without a fall at the time and swimming in a lake was the most daunting thing imagineable. I tabled the thought but there was always a nudge to one day attempt it. 

Fast forward four years, to a time where I was redirecting my focus to myself. I decided that I needed to commit to a race to make it a real goal, and to enlist the expertise of someone to give me some structured training. I wanted to see what I was "capable" of if I actually trained with someone who knew what they were doing.

You know you're in your zone when even the hard is fun. Training was just that. Tough physically at times, mentally at other times. But it was fun and I loved every minute of it. I found a discipline to stay on track and make training my non-negotiable commitment like I never knew was possible. It became very clear who had my back in supporting me along the journey as well, from the occasional inquiries into how I was doing, understanding when I had to leave events early because I had an early training session the next day, or the post-race texts and calls that meant more than anyone can know. 

As with other events where I've had to "dig deep", I always find some golden nugget life lessons, or sometimes just observations in the thick of the tough of it, that ultimately translate to my everyday life. 

One of the lessons I was reminded of was the concept of letting go. I've encountered this a number of times in life, when I've held so tightly to an idea, person or goal that I could not fathom why it eluded me. In the context of triathlon training, it was letting go of what I thought my gains were supposed to look like. Two months into training, I was frustrated to the point that I almost backed out of the race. I was about 6 weeks from the goal but wasn't seeing any apparent improvement despite training intensely 6 days a week. Luckily, my trainer heard my desperation and insisted we meet for a coffee. In this conversation, she shared not her wins but her struggles. It helped. It made me realize that me keeping my agreement with myself and allowing myself to see it through was the progress I needed and that everyone goes through the mud...thats how we learn. My frustrations stemmed from the fact that my 10 km times weren't better, in fact they were worse, and although I was increasing the weight I was lifting, I didn't feel I LOOKED any stronger or "better". I assumed gains would be in trimming the extra insulation and being faster in the pool, on my bike and in my shoes. This wasn't happening. I stuck it out, completed the race in the end and even then had a slower run and a mediocre swim (I did however kick as$$ on the bike). When I reflected back though, I realized I did indeed have gains and improvements with training, they just looked different than I assumed they would. I wasn't looking for them so I didnt see them. In fact, the gains I did experience were probably the most valuable.

For one, my recovery post-race was virtually nothing. Most races I would be stiff for a day or two, my biggest race, the Chicago marathon, I couldn't walk upstairs for three days. If you asked me the day after the Olympic tri this summer though? I felt 100%. My improved recovery told me that my body was less damaged in that race, I had less healing to do and that I could probably even push myself harder next time.

The second win, was my self talk. I won't lie, in most races there are moments (sometimes many) where the voice in my head is an a$$hole. I question who I think I am to be attempting that race, or compare myself to the other seemingly more qualified participants. I tell myself to just give up and save face (although I never listen to that one). This was the first race EVER I have been in that I was my biggest cheerleader. I had compassion for myself like I've never experienced. I trusted myself when I needed to walk during the run due to the massive blister on my arch. I believed I could and I did. It was progress. 

I can see now that the mental shifts that took place throughout the training were more valuable than the tweeks to my swim technique or the volume of lunges I could do. I realized that my goal was to "see what I'm capable of" with training, but the truth was, I was always capable, the bar just moved depending on how much I put in.  Outcomes may vary, but doing my best always looks the same and it starts between my ears. 

Although I had goal times for the race, my true intention was to have fun. I set this intention firmly long before the start of the race and it helped from easing pre-race jitters, to laughing it off when someone pointed out my wetsuit was on backwards (really. I wasn't even mortified although I probably should have been haha...instead I was so grateful for the woman who pointed it out before the plunge into the lake). I was chatting with another woman before the race who was also doing her first Olympic distance,  and her biggest fear was coming in last. I was almost last in the swim and minutes away from the disqualification time. I didn't expect to be, but I didn't drown or panic (so thats a win), I just took it one stroke at a time and giggled during the swim at how special I must be to have my own "personal" SUP paddleboarder and kayaker to escort me in. Even an intense thunder and lightening storm on my bike didn't phase me, in fact I was grateful to have the rain to cool me off and I saw it as Mother Nature's way of giving me a kick in the a$$ to pick up the pace. The rain and the pain came and went, as it always does, and I was proud for how I "showed up" and my event times meant far less knowing I had fun. 

You hear the common themes often among authors, podcasts and gurus...the power of thought and intention. We learn through living and being active observers and participants in our own lives, taking accountability for our role. The progress is there, it just may not look as you initially imagined.