Ever thought of participating in a multi-sport event?

The Vancouver Triathlon is Monday, September 4th, and this week I had a special guest contributing to the blog content and joining me on the Jon McComb show live. Listen here if you missed it. Tune in every Thursday at 9:05 am (CKNW Radio 980 am  – Listen in on your phone: radioplayer is the app you need.)

Ryan Hill is a registered physiotherapist and athlete who is the director of the Allan McGavin Sports Medicine Clinic in North Vancouver. He is a trusted colleague of mine and I’m happy to have him share some of his knowledge nuggets with us. A few weeks ago Simi Sara asked me to explain what “dry needling” was and I responded by saying, “Let me get a physiotherapist to explain that as it’s not in my scope of practice!”

Ryan has done some dry needling on me in the past and he also is participating this weekend in the Vancouver Triathlon so I thought this was a great time to have his input on the fitness segment. He has participated in 6 olympic distance Triathlons, 4 half distance Triathlons, and 2 Ironmans. Wow! Check out his picture below from 2013!

RYAN HILL 2013 Ironman Canada (in Whistler, BC) His best finish!!




Vancouver Triathlon: Swim, Bike, and Run

So if you like multi tasking perhaps you might like to try a multi-sport event. I have to admit I have not tried one mostly because I fear the open swim might be the end of me. Not to mention the crowds, and last but not least the technical skill needed for not just one but three disciplines. Like the cartoon above I can think of many multiple things that I would rather be doing than an Olympic distance event!

After interviewing Ryan and hearing about the benefits and challenges of not only the event itself but the training involved I have to admit that I’m intrigued. “Never say never,” I say. Because I’m all about moving your body as much as possible doing something you enjoy then I encourage you to take a look at participating in a multi-sport event. You just might see me in a few years!

What are the Challenges and Benefits of training for a triathlon?

Hill cites time management as the number one challenge. Some schedule modifications for not just you but your significant others may be needed! Also, the aerobic capacity is different for each event so they are trained differently thus requiring a tight schedule to get it all in and be prepared for race day. You may have varied levels of fitness and skill in each discipline. Balancing your training and seeking out skilled coaches is important to improve performance and prevent repetitive strain injuries from developing. The cross training aspect is also a benefit as you as less likely to develop injuries from over doing just one sport when you are training for three different ones!

Tips from this Pro if you are Participating in a Triathlon:

Hill states that organization is the key for a successful event. Ensure you have all your gear and your hydration/nutrition requirements ready. You will be given a spot in the transition area where you can keep your stuff and this is where you go between disciplines to change.

First timers need to work on staying calm and relaxed so you can enjoy the event you have trained for.

Have you changed your nutrition for your upcoming Triathlon Ryan?

Hill admits to having consumed a lot more calories to keep up with the demands of his training. As his energy output has increased he has increased his energy input! Extra whole grains, including some bread he made himself as well as adhering to a more plant based nutrition plan lately, has covered off his energy needs adequately.

What do you see from a physiotherapist’s perspective from multi-sport athletes?

Ryan explains to me that because of the three disciplines in Triathlon he sometimes sees injuries developing because of training on pre-existing history that hasn’t been fully addressed. Also, training errors, such as over training and imbalanced programming can play a role in what is happening in the body and its underlying biomechanics.

Swimming often reveals shoulder pathology where cycling holds a myriad of potential dysfunctions in the upper back and neck, as well the hips and knees.  He suggests “Staying on top of issues as they arise and having the patience to dial back your training plan and intensity if needed. Here’s a good spot for me to plug a movement assessment and have a professional train you, and/or make and teach you a personalized training program. Healthy movement is essential for life and investing in it for yourself is an awesome long term goal!

Dry Needling Revealed: Finally….

IMS: Intra Muscular Stimulation or dry needling

“It’s a tool that physiotherapists use where they insert a sterile needle into a knot in over-worked or over-activated muscles”, states Hill. Some people say no to this part of treatment, some get addicted to it (5% he suggests), and others endure it to get the results they desire!

Taken from the UBC Gunn IMS website:

It was developed by Dr. Chan Gunn while he was a physician at the Worker’s Compensation Board of British Columbia in the 70’s, where he investigated the large number of mysteriously stubborn cases after frustration with the ineffective modalities at his disposal. The treatment, which utilizes acupuncture needles because they are the thinnest implements available that are designed to penetrate deep within muscle tissue, specifically targets injured muscles that have contracted and become shortened from distress.

The treatment involves dry needling of affected areas of the body without injecting any substance. The needle sites can be at the epicenter of taut, tender muscle bands, or they can be near the spine where the nerve root may have become irritated and supersensitive. Penetration of a normal muscle is painless; however, a shortened, supersensitive muscle will ‘grasp’ the needle in what can be described as a cramping sensation. The result is threefold. One, a stretch receptor in the muscle is stimulated, producing a reflex relaxation (lengthening). Two, the needle also causes a small injury that draws blood to the area, initiating the natural healing process. Three, the treatment creates an electrical potential in the muscle to make the nerve function normally again. The needle used in IMS, by stimulating muscle spindles, essentially becomes a specific and unique tool for the diagnosis of Neuropathic Muscle Pain.

Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) is treatment of myofascial pain syndromes (chronic pain conditions that occur in the musculoskeletal system when there is no obvious sign of injury or inflammation).

The goal of treatment is to release muscle shortening, which can be pressing on and irritating a nerve. Supersensitive areas can be desensitized, and the persistent pull of shortened muscles can be released. IMS is very effective for releasing shortened muscles under contracture, thereby causing mechanical pain from muscle pull. IMS, in effect, treats the underlying neuropathic condition that causes the pain.

As mentioned above I have been treated with IMS and had significant results after a few treatments. I can say it feels weird – not painful but twitchy and uncomfortable. I would do it again if I found myself in need, but I know Ryan would join me in saying “Do your daily body maintenance!!!” Moving well sometimes needs a little extra boost, and that’s what a physiotherapist can help you with. Whether it’s after an injury, aging, or posture related, I suggest you seek help for your movement impairments so nothing stands between you and your fitness results!

You can do it and you should! Wishing you a great event Ryan Hill!



Written by: Sheila Hamilton August 2017


Meat, Muscles, and Drex….The son of a butcher.

Interview with Ryan Hill: Thanks for your time Ryan!

Registered Physiotherapist, Sport Physiotherapist Candidate, FMS Certified

Clinic Director
12-1225 East Keith Rd, North Vancouver, BC, V7J 1J3
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