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5 Ways to Stick to Your Goals When Eating Out

We’ve all been there. You’ve had a great week. Crushed all of your workouts. Meal prepped. Tracked your macros. Then the weekend rolls around. Or a birthday. Or an office party. Or the ice cream truck. Usually the choice seems to be either abstain or go all in. But what if you could stay on top of your goals and enjoy yourself at the same time?

Health and fitness goals should be thought of in a long-term, sustainable sense. If you are working out and eating healthy the majority of the time a few meals out should not deter your gains (or losses). Here are a few tips to help guide you next time you are out to dinner or in the mood to treat yourself:

#1) Plan Accordingly. If you know you are going to be in a situation where you can’t control the food being served be mindful of what you do with the remainder of your day: drink tons of water; reduce carb and sugar intake at all other meals; get a workout in; eat a snack BEFORE you go out (to prevent a starvation-induced binge scenario). I’d also suggest pre-booking a workout for the next morning. Not only will it guarantee that your next day starts on the right foot – it will also encourage you to go to bed at a reasonable time (i.e. less alcohol consumed / less chances of a late night snack / less calories ingested overall)

#2) Protein + Veg. A simple choice no matter where you are is to stick to protein and vegetables. You may not be in control of how the food is prepped or what types of oil things are cooked in but if you stick to a source of protein and fill up on veggies you are pretty much good to go. 

#3) Avoid Trigger Foods. For me it’s the bread basket. No chance am I having one “bite” of bread. And if I eat the bread I will probably also end up eating dessert. And I will DEFINITELY wake up the next day with a stomach ache. But if I can avoid the bread, odds are I will end up ordering something decently healthy as my main and ditch the dessert entirely. Whatever your trigger is: french fries, wine, carbs – avoid. 

#4) Pick Your Poison. As stated above: you don’t want to have the wine, the bread AND the dessert. But you also want to enjoy yourself. So pick one. Enjoy it. Move on.

#5) Leave the Guilt at the Door. Meals out should be enjoyed. You should never associate guilt with food. Trust that one meal will not derail a weeks worth of hard work. Make sure you SAVOUR every bite / sip / scoop and at your next meal get right back on track. Life is short. You can have your cake and your abs too.

Written By: Danielle Bossin Hardy 
Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Holistic Nutritionist 
Instagram: @deliciouslyfitdanielle

Available for appointments at Yorkville

Pain Science

Pain Science

Pain is not (always) a good predictor of injury or tissue damage.

Pain is our most important survival mechanism. It is obviously unpleasant but also lets us know if we are in danger. Without pain, we would probably live substantially shorter (though arguably more care-free) lives. However, when pain starts to last longer than we’d like and without a seemingly reasonable explanation, it can dramatically interfere with our lives; for some, it can mean permanent disability.

First, we need to clarify another important point about pain. Pain isn’t simple, it is a complex experience, it is a learned behavior, and does not always mean something is wrong at a tissue level. A lot of people would feel the term, ‘it’s all in your head’ to be a taboo and apathetic phrase, however it couldn’t be more true. The brain controls everything about your pain experience. It takes into account past experiences with pain, and your subconscious perception on how this current perceived threat may impact your life, along with many other variables to determine if you are in danger. If your brain believes you are in danger, it will relentlessly create the experience of pain.

One clue to help us understand that pain does not necessarily rely on tissue damage or injury, stems from amputees who experience phantom limb pain. These people feel pain in a place that no longer exists on their body. How else can we explain this except by understanding the brain’s role in interpreting and creating the experience of pain.

In those suffering from chronic pain, we see changes in the regions of the brain that represent the area of the body experiencing pain. The area of the brain actually becomes ‘smudged’, explaining how over time, it gets harder and harder to localize where the pain is coming from.

The pain cycle perpetuates as we continually believe we are in danger. As we start to worry about the pain, avoid movements that create the pain and start to avoid activities that bring on the pain, we essentially reactivate the alarm system that tells us we're in danger.

So what’s the take-home from all this? Pain is not simply a matter of, ‘I hurt myself, now I'm in pain.’ Pain is a complex experience that the brain orchestrates based on many factors and can be present with or without any actual harm. And just as a pain experience can be learned, it can be unlearned over time. Start to question your pain. Ask yourself, ‘am I in danger?’ One of the best ways to help answer that is to talk with a relevant health professional whom you trust.

To understand this further, 'Explain Pain' by Butler & Mosley is probably one of the most up-to-date and easy to understand explanations on this topic.

Written By: Dr. Ryan Albert, Chiropractor & Medical Acupuncture Practitioner
Instagram: @dr.ryanalbert

Available for appointments at our Richmond location

Barefoot Running

Origins of Barefoot Running

Barefoot running didn't really originate from anywhere in particular. It has been around for centuries, and is one of our original means of transportation. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors never had fresh Nikes to use when chasing animals for hunting or foraging through the forest! They had to rely on the strength and control of their own two feet to carry them across any type of terrain that they encountered. The advent of and widespread use of running shoes really began to take shape in the 1940s to 1960s as Adidas, Puma, and Nike took the running culture and made it their own. 
Aside from added protection and support, one of the main reasons for the invention of running shoes was to increase stride length. Naturally, when barefoot, we tend to run on our toes. Running shoes allow us to heel strike with every stride, providing the opportunity for a longer stride length and thus fewer times that our feet have to push off the ground during a race. The idea was that this would allow the runner to expend less energy during a race, since they are taking fewer strides.

Interestingly, the current research on both recreational and collegiate runners shows that there is not much of a difference in energy expenditure when running with running shoes and running barefoot. Some research has even indicated that barefoot running may require less energy in some situations, but I'll touch on this below. 

Try it yourself, next time you run, start off by running on your toes (even with your shoes on) and then switch to your normal running mechanics (which will most likely be heel striking in running shoes). See which one allows you to achieve a longer stride length more easily.

There are still some cultures in the world that rely solely on running barefoot. The Tarahumara, a group of indigenous people living in the mountains of Mexico, are widely considered some of the best long-distance runners in the world, competing in and winning some of the most grueling ultramarathons on the face of this earth, barefoot. Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall chronicles the Tarahumara and their ultramarathon successes, and is also one of the main reasons that sparked my interest to try barefoot running for myself. If any running junkies are looking for their next read, I would recommend Born to Run without a doubt.

Running footwear these days can be largely classified into three main categories; barefoot, minimalist, normal. Minimalist shoes are the in-between, where they offer very little heel lift and support compared to a normal running shoe, but still have a sole for you to run on. Studies have also shown that minimalist running shoes allow for very similar running mechanics as barefoot running, while still providing protection and some cushioning for your feet.
Benefits of Barefoot Running

  • Natural, free feeling. This may be a more personal opinion here, but I love the feeling of stepping out the door in the summer time with nothing but short shorts on (for those of you that know me, you know that short shorts are my norm) and going for a run.

  • Stride frequency is greater in barefoot running, and some research has shown that increasing stride frequency, and thus decreasing stride length leads to a reduction in running-induced knee pain.
  • A study on recreational distance runners found a greater running economy in those running barefoot when they were running at 85% of their VO2 max. This means that these athletes were using less energy when running barefoot, but only when they were running at a pretty fast pace.
  • Interestingly, some studies have also shown an increase in mental focus and brain stimulation extending beyond the runs themselves. The proposed relationship is due to the fact that when running barefoot, one must be more much more focused on the terrain that they are traversing, looking for potential hazards that can damage their unprotected feet.

Cons of Barefoot Running

  • Comfort level. For obvious reasons, running shoes may feel much more comfortable to run in compared to barefoot, especially depending on the surface that you are running on, and personal comfort can play an exceptional role in running performance.
  • Foot hazards, everywhere. As I mentioned above, you need to be even more focused on the task at hand when running barefoot, constantly scanning for any hazards on the ground that could cut or damage your feet. This is especially a greater danger in a city as populated as Toronto. By no means am I recommending going to run on the streets of Toronto barefoot. Consider trying out this running style on paved or dirt trails, where litter and foot traffic is greatly reduced.
  • Although barefoot running produces much lower impact on our bodies due to the shorter stride length, it comes with a trade off by increasing the stress on our ankle joints. This is due to the fact that we have now lost the ankle and foot support normally provided by our running shoes. 
That last point highlights how especially important it is to progressively and carefully transition to barefoot running, if it is something that you want to try.

Transitioning to Barefoot Running

Just like any new training program, you don’t want to jump into it cold turkey, without first priming and progressively adapting your body to the new stresses that it will soon be enduring. Our feet are used to being in shoes for the majority of our lives, and thus, the multitude of small foot muscles that are designed to support our foot are not developed enough to immediately begin working properly as we take away the support of our beloved running shoes. In Born to Run, the author Christopher McDougall gave a great analogy to help me further understand this point…
“Shoes are like casts for our feet. When you wear a cast on your leg for example, those leg muscles don’t get used for a while and undergo atrophy (become weaker/smaller). The same thing happens to our foot muscles. We do not need them when we have shoes on, because the shoes are doing the job to support our feet, so those muscles get weaker and smaller and aren’t cut out to support our bodyweight during a long-distance barefoot run, where our feet are constantly pounding into the surface in which we are running.”
This analogy brings me to my first main point for the transition to barefoot running…intrinsic foot strengthening exercises. The exercises below are designed to strengthen those small muscles that we will need to support us during barefoot runs as well as to reteach us to control the movement and stability of our feet and ankles. This is by no means an exhaustive list of possible exercises but are some of the more important ones that I have found through my research and trial and error on myself. The video links that I have added are explained very well and can help to clarify each of the below exercises.
  • Foot Doming 
    • Purpose: to strengthen the muscles that support our medial arch 
    • Avoid curling your toes when performing this exercise
    • Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 15-20 reps, holding each rep for 3-5 seconds.

  • Toe Curls
    • Purpose: strengthening the individual muscles that control the movement of our toes
    • Put a towel under the tips of your toes and work to curl that inwards towards your heel
    • Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 15-20 reps, holding each rep for 3-5 seconds.

  • Heel Raises (AKA Calf Raises)
    • Purpose: to strengthen the muscles surrounding the ankle joint, readying it for the added stress of running barefoot.
    • Once comfortable with this, switch to doing the heel raises one leg at a time.
    • Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 15-20 reps, holding each rep for 3-5 seconds.

  • Box Jumps/Drop Jumps
    • Purpose: to ready your feet and ankles for the impact of barefoot running, since there will be no shoes to absorb any of the force during the runs. Even though the impact of barefoot running is less than that of running with shoes, your feet are still not used to absorbing much impact, since the rubber soles of our shoes always do that job for us.
    • Start with a low box and increase the height of the box as you get more comfortable with the movement and impact.
    • Sets and Reps: 2 sets of 15 jumps.
Video Link:
I would begin performing those exercises for at least 2-3 weeks while still running in normal running shoes. It may be smart to then transition to running in a minimalist running shoe, while still performing the above exercises, before finally kicking off the shoes and hitting your first barefoot run. When you finally get to barefoot running, progression is still key. Don’t go crush a 10k for your first run. Start with 1km barefoot, then finish your run with shoes. Slowly work your distance up with each passing week. The key here, as mentioned above, is slow stepwise progression.

My Thoughts
As for which type of running you should do, there isn’t one type that is inherently better than the other. There are risks and rewards that come with each type of running, and it ultimately comes down to personal preference for which type of running you want to try. I am a very adventurous person, and I love being my own guinea pig when it comes to fitness related goals and techniques, hence why I became very keen to try barefoot running after reading Christopher McDougall’s book. Unfortunately, in Canada we only have a few short months to enjoy this new form of running, before the toes begin to freeze and the ground becomes even harder and more unforgiving. 
If transitioned to carefully and properly, barefoot running can be an exciting way to change up your training routine. Not to mention, strengthening your intrinsic foot muscles goes a lot further than just making you a stronger barefoot runner. Stronger arches, less incidence of plantar fasciitis and increased control and awareness of our feet are just some of the other benefits that can come from adding controlled movement into our feet and ankles outside of the confines of shoes.

Written By: Brad McGarr, Strength/ Conditioning Specialist
Instagram: @bradmcgarr

Available for appointments at our Yorkville location

Build that Base!

Build that Base!

With so many exercises out there... where do I start?

I’ve heard this question time and time again, so let’s nip that in the bud.

Here are some fundamental compound movements you should include in your exercise regimes to build a stronger and sexier you:

Exercise #1: Squats
Squats are a lower body push-focused movement that will build overall strength. This movement focuses on the legs and core, and can produce huge benefits when including a weighted load. Strengthening your legs also improves the development of healthy hormones, which then help by promoting strength gains and weight loss!

Exercise #2: Deadlifts
Deadlifts are a lower body pull-focused movement that targets the body as a whole! The focus on this movement primarily targets the butt, core, back and legs. You'll get the most benefit from this movement if you learn to do it correctly, so be sure to record yourself and learn the proper technique. Be safe when working on that peach emoji!!

Exercise #3:  Push-Ups
Push ups are an upper body push-focused movement that includes muscles like the chest, triceps, and core. This movement is a great indicator of one's overall upper body strength. Having strong pecs, core and chiseled arms should surely be near the top of your fitness needs.

Exercise #4:  Pull-Ups / Rowing
Pull-ups are an upper body pull-focused movement that includes your back, biceps and core. Everyone should work towards pull-ups, as it is the best indicator of overall upper body strength. To work your way up to pull-ups, start by rowing with your body weight, then progress from there. One of the best parts on the body is your back, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean everyone else shouldn’t have the chance to appreciate it!

Every one of these previously stated movements is a compound movement. Compound movements are ones that include multiple muscle groups at once, which maximize your work efficiency. In plain English, you get the most benefits by focusing on compound movements. Take your time, focus on form, and get results.

Happy Training!

Written By: Steven Bole, Strength and Conditioning Specialist
Instagram: @iamstevenbole
Available for appointments at our Yorkville location

Bulletproofing for Runners

Bulletproofing for Runners

As the weather becomes warmer and we start to come out of our winter hibernation, the number of runners hitting the pavement is going to substantially increase. A new outdoor running season may mean breaking in some new gear, setting sights on new PBs and, most importantly, making sure you stay healthy throughout the season. 
This article is for the novice, amateur and experienced runner, so sit back and dive in to learn how to keep yourselves strong and resilient throughout the running season!

Injury Mechanisms
According to the literature, the largest predictor of an injury is a rapid increase in loading over a short period of time.The literature also proposes that 60-80% of injuries are a result of training error, meaning that training load is responsible for causing injury. Interestingly, there is a lack of conclusive evidence in the literature linking running mechanics to injury. Many alterations in mechanics may actually be due to an injury itself, and it’s hard to conclude what came first; the injury or the change in mechanics. Classic chicken and the egg scenario.

Wait…am I saying that the way you train actually can influence your risk of injury? You would think this would be a very common thought, but it is often forgotten that training is a stress on the body that needs to be carefully monitored. Stress is needed to create change but we need an optimal amount to do so; not too little and not too much. We need to find the sweet spot and continue to discover where that sweet spot is as we get bigger, stronger and faster. We will take a closer look at using training variables to mitigate injury risk later on in this article

Load vs. Capacity
Tissue capacity is dependant on multiple factors, including tissue strengthmovement control (i.e., body awareness), mobility (active control of your range of motion) and history of previous injury. It is also influenced by some lesser known factors, including: 
  1. Non-musculoskeletal intrinsic risk profile
    • Diet, age, BMI, genetics, medications (corticosteroids, anticonvulsants), hormonal changes (around menopause), and metabolic issues
  2. Brain and central nervous system changes
    • Central sensitization and response to exercise
  3. Psychosocial factors (the perception of pain)
    • Stress, mood, fears, beliefs, motivation, and rehab behaviours
Training load can be broken down into 3 main subcategories that we can alter:
  1. Volume: How much (i.e., number of kilometres/miles in a given week)
  2. Frequency: How often (i.e., how many times a week you are running)
  3. Intensity: How hard (i.e., amount of effort of each run)
These are not the only training variables, but these are the ones that we can most easily record and modify to help avoid increasing the risk of injury throughout the running season.

Once a tissue has become injured, it inherently has a decreased ability to handle load, altering the capacity of the tissue. This means that there needs to be a gradual re-introduction of load to the tissue during the rehab process. 
Have you ever taken a week or two off of training due to an injury and then gone back at the same training load only to find that the nagging pain or discomfort came back relatively quickly? That’s because the tissue didn’t have a chance to adapt with an appropriate loading strategy. “Zero to one hundred real quick” is only okay as a lyric in a Drake song, not when it comes to rehab and training. 

Injury Prevention 
Injury prevention during a busy running season can be done by managing training load, while at the same time working to increase the tissue’s ability to manage load with strength training. The literature has recently proposed that one of the best ways to manage training load is to compare acute workload to chronic workload. 

Acute/chronic workload is a measurable indicator that compares the training load over the previous 4 weeks to the current week. By using rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of each run and multiplying it by the duration of each run, we are able to create an arbitrary unit that can be used to measure workload ratios. Rate of perceived exertion is a number out of 10 that is personally associated with the difficulty of that specific training bout.

Calculating training load for a single run would be as follows: 
8.0 RPE x 20 minutes = 160 arbitrary units (this is your training load)

Calculating the acute to chronic workload ratio would be as follows:
160 (average of the previous weeks training load) / 150 (average training load over previous 4 weeks)
= 1.07 (acute:chronic workload ratio)

An increased risk of injury is associated with an acute:chonic workload of greater than 1.25 (with a significant increase in risk of injury when the ratio is greater than 1.5). The proposed “sweet spot” for training is between 0.8 to 1.25.

Strength Training
Strength training has been shown to improve running economy and decrease the risk of injury. There is strong evidence that strength training is the only way to expose tissues to the stress that is necessary for positive adaptation - which in this case is an increased capacity of the tissues. A high intensity approach of using 70% of 1RM (1 rep max) is more effective than a low intensity approach, however there need to be a gradual increase to that amount of weight. The main focus of strength training for runners should be on lower body muscular strength and muscular endurance, upper body posterior chain muscular endurance, and core muscular endurance

Points to Remember:
•  Load > tissue capacity = tissue injury
•  Most common cause of injury in runners is due to training error (rapid increase in load over a short period of time)
•  Modifiable training factors are volume (how much), frequency (how often), and intensity (how hard)
•  Once a tissue is injured, it inherently has less ability to handle load
•  To avoid injury in runners, care should be taken to monitor load management and to participate in strength training
•  Use the acute:chronic workload ratio to avoid overtraining

If you have any questions about running training and how to make sure you are mitigating injury, come on in to Catalyst Health and one of our knowledgeable practitioners would be happy to help!

Written By: Dr. Dhanbir (Danny) Dulay, D.C., B.Sc. (Kin), CSCS
Medical Acupuncture Practitioner 
Functional Range Release Practitioner
Strength and Conditioning Specialist
Instagram: @dulaydc
Available for appointments at our Richmond location Monday - Friday

Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions Past January!

Keeping Your New Year's Resolutions Past January!

Congratulations! You have just completed the first month of your New Year’s Resolutions. Now that January is over, how do you maintain your success moving forward? How do you hold yourself accountable for you goals? 
Continue reading for tips on how to turn your resolutions into habits!

Tip #1: Practice!
On average, it takes 66 days to form a habit. That’s TWO months of incorporating your resolution into your daily routine to make it into a habit.
Think of the things you do every morning after waking up. For example: You wash your face, make coffee, brush your teeth, then head out for the day. These things have become so engrained in your daily routine that you don’t even have to consciously think of doing them. What is it that made these tasks into unconscious habits? PRACTICE!
At the beginning of your journey, you’ll have to consciously make an effort to act in line with your resolutions, but after a few months, these behaviours will become second nature.
If you feel like giving up, keep pushing through - you’re on the right track to success!

Tip #2: Recognize your Progress
No matter how big or small your goals are, it’s important to recognize the steps you’ve taken to achieve them.
Try writing down small steps that you can take every day to achieve your ultimate goal. Whether it’s going to bed earlier at night, getting off one subway stop earlier so you can walk a few extra blocks, or packing a healthy lunch at work one day, every step is progress in the right direction. Documenting smaller goals towards your ultimate target is a great way to recognize your progress! Recognize when you’ve taken steps towards your goal, and celebrate these accomplishments!

Tip #3:  Accountability
Writing down your goals is a great way to hold yourself accountable. Try this trick: Take a piece of paper and write down each of your goals, then write when you want to reach them by. Tape this piece of paper somewhere you’ll see them every day. Frequently re-reading your goals will provide you with a reminder of what you're aspiring to do, and motivate you to continue! The more you read your goals and tell yourself that you will succeed, the more likely this will become!
Another way to hold yourself accountable is by telling a friend or family member about your goals. You can even commit to a goal with a friend! Working towards goals with another person can increase your motivation to achieve them, and it's a fun way to to so!

Tip #4:  Support
Talking to family and friends about your goals is not only great for accountability, but it also provides an avenue for support. On the road to success, there are always barriers and hurdles to overcome, so a strong support system can ease this process. Depending on your goal, joining a support group can also be a great help!

Be kind to yourself if you hit a roadblock, or if things aren’t going as quickly as you’d hoped. Achieving goals is a process, and overcoming barriers is part of the journey!

Written by: Niko Mullings, Strength and Conditioning Specialist 
Instagram: @nikomullings

Available for Appointments at our Yorkville location Sunday - Wednesday