Necks Do More Than You Think

Let me convince you to SEE the importance of a healthy neck.

As I understand more about the neck and the importance of its good function I believe I can convince you that some more attention, actually daily attention, to the neck is an excellent idea.


Of course one of the main purposes of the neck is to hold the head in position but remember your head holds the brain and many sensory structures such as the eyes and ears. Neck pain disrupts your senses. Forward head posture changes many things regarding our movement as sensory input shapes our motor system. Movement accuracy can be compromised if the sensory input is.


I’ve posted a blog on the neck in both 2016 and 2017, so having Jon McComb request the topic of necks for my next appearance on his radio show got me thinking as to the importance of repeating and explaining the message of the importance of “neck hygiene.”

Over half of us (54%) have experienced neck pain in the last 6 months. (Cote, P et al 2000)


The neck bones are technically called the cervical spine or cervical vertebrae. The C1-C7 references the order of the vertebrae from top to bottom. The movements of the head and neck have a complicated relationship with our body. There is often a strong connection between neck pain and dysfunction, and shoulder pain and dysfunction. Without going too far down this complicated path let me ask you this:


“If you were given a nice car in your teens and told it’s the only car you would ever have, what would you do with it?”
Answer: Take care of it I hope!
Do you think of your neck like this?


What does a healthy neck look and move like?


The movements of flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation of the cervical spine are dependent on many factors that can change within life: environment (posture, sitting, electronics), role models, (parents and siblings), age, injury, personality, sense of self, and stress.

I’ve enjoyed some sessions lately with local Feldenkrais practitioner Janet Willson of  Uplift Studio. Janet shares, “Most of us have the capacity as young people to move with ease (use ourselves globally), as one unit rather than a sum of parts. Over time, life (in our western world) acts upon us to increasingly limit our movements. We think of this as aging but a lot of this is unneccessary and can be regained. Her methods have taught me a lot about how my movement today is a reflection of so many factors in my life including stress. Slowing down and spending more time on self care is my big take-away. I feel it’s kinda like this happiness quote: It’s not easy to find happiness (or good movement) in ourselves and it is not possible to find it elsewhere. (Quote from Agnes Repplier)


You have to do the work


Neck pain or not, I think it’s important to realize that your neck needs work. Neglecting this part of your body will make it a lot harder to recover from any injury that you may sustain. My previous blogs are full of some great ideas for neck hygiene – that information has been out there for a few years so what you need to do is available to you.


Neck pain is complicated because….


One of my favorite sayings currently is, “It’s never one thing.”  This is very true when talking about the neck (cervical spine) because how it moves is related to so many issues. The condition and movement of the thoracic and lumbar areas of the spine, and the condition and function of all the muscles affecting them play a role.


There are degenerative forces to your neck that can aggravate it or make the injury/pain increase over time. Often its repeated exposure to lower forces, repetitive movements, aging, or static postures over time that lead to problems as the stress tolerance on your neck exceeds its capacity.


So you see it’s not just falls and accidents (high force exposure) that give you neck pain, but if you unfortunately add a sports injury or car accident onto an underlying degenerative neck and you may have yourself a BIG pain or problem in the neck. Dare I mention improper attention to neck posture and neck position when exercising here? This can be a big contributor to your neck issues.


“When looking to the right do we just move our neck or can we optimize our whole self to turn from the ground and feet up?” Who knows what is right or optimal? I suggest we don’t know, and we are not doing it right! ~ Sheila

It’s not just your cervical spine but also the muscles involved to support and stabilize the head that contribute to your neck health. Working to improve neck posture daily is needed to attenuate further changes and to minimize the overuse and overload of the stabilizing muscles.

In my experience many folks want to exercise but reach limitations with movement because their underlying accumulative neck issues have not been worked on and resolved to a point where exercise can be executed safely. An increase on the pain scale, or a headache that may not be directly attributed the exercise program, may in fact be a result of trying to add strength to a body that simply defaults to it’s weakest link during the movement. In an effort to improve fitness we see or feel a setback.

When programming for a client like this we have to modify their program to avoid any movements that would aggravate or flare their imbalance. Although this can be done, it creates a limiting factor in overall fitness results. Committing to the work that has to be done to make progress is where most folks slide. If a person is not prepared to devote the time needed to complete simple effective release and stretching work, no progress is made.


A little Anatomy

The primary neck active stabilizers of the neck that support it in all planes of movement are called the Deep Neck Flexors. (DNF) “The DNF are most active in the ‘chin tuck’ or cranio-cervical flexion, followed by cervical flexion, and cervical rotation. (-2) The activity of the DNF is decreased or delayed in people with neck pain and postural change, such as forward head posture.

“So if the head is in a forward head posture just think about how decreased your peripheral vision has become. This could present many problems when you think about it from a focus, balance, and safety perspective.” ~ Sheila

“The statistics on neck pain would be higher if we tracked low intensity or low disability pain”, states Dr. William J Hanney, Associate Professor at the University of Central Florida. He adds, “Exercise is a powerful tool in the treatment of neck pain.”

Over time the muscles involved around the neck atrophy (go to sleep) and get thick and fatty. This leads to decreased activity of the deep neck flexors, and an increased activity of the superficial neck muscles (accessory muscles). So some muscles get weak, thick and turn off, and others become over active trying to protect you from a catastrophic collapse!

While listening to his presentation last July at the (NSCA) National Strength and Conditioning Association’s National Conference I felt myself smiling inside because he said this: “Research is strong that exercise should be done for improvement and not avoided. Neck pain patients perceive their pain to be debilitating. Education is needed.” This is great news for me to share with everyone.


What to do?

Neck issues can be resolved with a concerted effort get on top of them. Develop a regular or daily routine I’ll call “Neck Hygiene”.

Addressing muscle length restrictions is the first priority. Release the tight areas in the muscles and fascia. This means rolling with a ball, stretching and actually moving your neck through joint (articular) rotations in a pain free range. Second in the order of improvement would be working to obtain some deep local stability of your neck. Getting those deep neck flexors working again. As mentioned above, neck issues often involve shoulder issues so obtaining control of the shoulder blades (axio-scapular) in different planes would be next.

Neck training has the potential to reduce neck pain and decrease the risk of further injury.  Seeking professionals to help you is crucial to your success. Don’t settle for a life with a pain in the neck. Enlisting professionals such as physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, osteopaths, and personal trainers would be money well spent to get your neck to where is should be.


It’s never one thing

Chronic neck pain can really impact one’s life on a lot of levels. Mostly I have talked about the anatomical side of things but know that neck issues can impact you on a psychological and social level as well. Addressing stress levels if applicable (who doesn’t?) is important as they can affect the disorder and potentially affect the recovery.


 In a nut shell

Maintain or regain range of motion with release work to the tight muscles. Stabilize your shoulder girdle and work on your strength. There is huge value in improving your neck posture. The computers and aging are not going away – your neck pain can though.

Continue to address your personal stress levels. Appreciate we all struggle in our human experience called life. Strength serves a purpose both inside and out.

Inform, Instruct, and Inspire @ it’s time! Fitness Results.








Written by: Sheila Hamilton. Research from Andrea Brennan Copyright Oct 2018


Sports Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation: David Joyce

Chapter 19 : The Athletic Neck p 246 (-1), 238 (-2),

My notes on neck pain from the NSCA National Conference : Indianapolis July 2018

Exercise Considerations for Individuals with Neck Pain : NSCA National Conference Presentation and slides from:  Dr. William J Hanney : Associate Professor University of Central Florida

The Science of the Somatosensory System: Slides from NSCA National Conference Presentation: Dr. Emily Splichal (-3)

Conversations with Janet Willson:

Movement System Impairment Syndromes of the Extremities, Cervical, and Thoracis Spine

Shirley Sahrmann and Associates Copyright 2011 Pages: 51-113

Health to Gift Yourself this Season for Your Neck!

Necks and Chins! How heavy is YOUR head?

(Erik E Swartz,* R. T Floyd,† and  Mike CendomaJ Athl Train. 2005 Jul-Sep; 40(3): 155–161. PMCID: PMC1250253PMID: 16284634 Cervical Spine Functional Anatomy and the Biomechanics of Injury Due to Compressive Loading)

Copyright: <a href=””>videodoctor / 123RF Stock Photo</a>


The “Science” of Healthy Protein Reviewed

Are you eating enough protein for your health goals?

Here’s an interesting topic to discuss with Jon McComb this week on his radio show.  Thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts on protein in the hope that it will get you thinking about whether you are consuming enough to meet your goals. If you missed it you can listen here to our discussion.

The research on protein was one of the main takeaways I had from attending the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s National Conference this year in Indianapolis. When I speak on these topics I want to make sure I can tell you where I received the information.  There was a wealth of information presented this year and I believe it’s because the importance of protein intake is apparent to a broad range of people and their health outcomes.

Deciphering the research isn’t an easy task even for the reseachers! Reading through a study is just one thing. Not becoming one of the legion of armchair reseachers that pretend to know what the research means is important to me. I admit it’s confusing and even some of the presentations this year had conflicting advice. (Ex: Amount of protein recommended per day and amino acid supplements in particular) I suggest there are plenty of good reasons to look at your protein consumption. I met some of the researchers in person and had an opportunity to ask questions which now leads me to sharing this information with you.


“MUSCLES are TORN in the GYM, FED in the KITCHEN, and BUILT in BED.” – Brad Schoenfeld

What are proteins?

Proteins, along with carbohydrates and fats are one of the macronutrients that form the basis of our diet.

Proteins are organic molecules made up of amino acids. These amino acids are joined together by chemical bonds that create three-dimensional structures that are important to our body’s functioning. We generally think of amino acids as the building blocks of muscle, but they are responsible for many other functions in our body. We are constantly using proteins as our cells breakdown and rebuild and when we are lacking protein. Proteins are responsible for many things in our body such as: repairing damaged cells, creating red blood cells, and manufacturing antibodies and hormones.

There are two main categories of amino acids in the body that are classified as essential and non-essential. Essential are those that the body can’t manufacture, and thus we must consume in our diets, and non-essential are those that can be manufactured within our body.

You may have heard of the term complete and non-complete proteins. If a protein is complete it contains all of the essential amino acids required to build and repair protein tissues in the body. Meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, and fish are complete sources of protein because they contain all 9 essential amino acids. Soy, often in the form of tofu or soy milk, is a popular plant-based source of protein since it, like animal-based protein, contains all 9 essential amino acids.

Combining foods that are considered “incomplete” together to obtain a complete amino acid profile is often done, especially with plant based or vegetarian eaters. Combining rice and beans together would be an example of this as the amino acids missing from the beans are found in the rice.

Why do we need Protein?

There are a number of factors to consider when looking at the reasons you need protein and whether you should increase the amounts you are currently eating to meet your goals. Your age, general health, body composition, bone density, medical history, goals, activity level, and level of satisfaction/satiety are all important considerations in determining your needs.

Age: All ages need protein for growth and maintenance of muscle. Age related muscle loss is called Sarcopenia. We will all ultimately lose lean muscle mass with aging that starts in your 40’s. Eating adequate protein and adding resistance training to your routine will stimulate muscle growth and attenuate muscle loss.

General Health: Our bodies need protein and amino acids to produce important molecules in our body like enzymes, hormones, neurotransmitters, and antibodies. Without an adequate protein intake, our bodies can’t function at their best. Protein helps replace worn out cells, transports various substances throughout the body, and aids in growth and repair. We need protein for good immune function.

Body Composition: Having a good amount of lean muscle on your body is so important. A higher composition of muscle will help to decrease your body fat percentage.

Consuming protein can also increase levels of the hormone glucagon, and glucagon can help to control body fat. Glucagon is released when blood sugar levels drop causing the liver to break down stored glycogen for energy. Also, your body uses more energy to digest and assimilate the protein – which raises your resting metabolic rate.

Dr. Bill Campbell’s (University of South Florida) presentation at the NSCA Conference on The Science of Weight Loss highlighted a number of key principles regarding body composition:

Dr. Campbell points out the above principles may be things that you already know, but we now have scientific validation for them.  To much of our population weight loss is needed, and thinking of the loss coming from fat is important. Losing muscle as you lose weight is not a good thing so the numbers on the scale can fool you.

Bone Density: Osteopenia and Osteoporosis both mean a loss of bone density; of calcium and protein. “Dietary proteins represent key nutrients for bone health and thereby function in the prevention of osteoporosis.”  “Several studies point to a positive effect of high protein intake on bone mineral density, and there is concern that the current dietary protein recommended allowance (RDA), as set at 0.8 g/kg body weight/day, might be too low for the primary and secondary prevention of fragility fractures.” (-1) Having more muscle makes you stronger, which plays a role in preventing frailty and increasing bone density.

History: Taking a look at your history from a health and injury perspective might give you reasons to look at increasing your dietary protein. Do you have any chronic health conditions? Have you recovered well from your injuries? You need adequate nutrition to support your health and recovery.

Goals and activity levels: As individual as this is I can’t emphasize enough that in order to be the best version of ourselves we need to move well and move often. Your performance and aging goals will be better served when you address this aspect of your nutrition.

Satiety: Many folks report feeling more satisfied when on protein rich nutrition plans. Perhaps you have to try it to feel this for yourself, but anecdotally I can tell you there seems to be fewer highs and lows through the day of hunger, and of “blood sugar” lows.

How much protein do you need?

How much protein you need depends on a few factors including knowing how much you are currently eating and whether you are motivated to change that based on an analysis of your goals and needs.

Recommendations can be found that are based on your body weight in pounds or kilograms. Currently in the US the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) is .8mg per kg of body weight. There is currently legislation in place to double that, to 1.6 mg per kg of body weight. On the low end of these numbers you might find yourself within a range that prevents protein deficiency, but is not necessarily optimal.

The optimal recommendation falls within this range: 1.4 – 2.0 g per kg (or around 0.64-0.9 g per lb.) of body mass. Therefore a 150 lb. (68 kg) person would need about 95-135 grams of protein per day.

Dr Campbell’s thoughts from the above principles and lecture – if fat loss is the goal: “During energy restriction protein intake should not go lower than 1.5 grams per kg of body mass (0.7 g per lb. of body mass).”

Athletes, bodybuilders, and those wishing to gain muscle: 1 gram of protein per pound of mass, so 150 grams per day for a 150 lb. individual.

When do we need protein?

The timing of protein is another factor that has been highly researched. Is there a metabolic window that will get you more gains?  The “window of opportunity” is not as narrow as often believed. The level of importance with protein timing depends once again on your goals. A general fitness person with weight loss goals that trains non-fasted will likely not need to be concerned with timing. But if you have aggressive body composition goals and your training is more intense, then possibly you should be taking a closer look when you eat and supplement around your training schedule. Intense exercisers whose training sessions last more than 2 hours at a time definitely should consider timing as a very important aspect of their nutrition profile. (Adapted form Brad Schoenfeld’s presentation slide.)

Consuming your protein throughout the day is my advice on optimizing your response. So consider how much protein you are consuming with each meal once you determine your requirements. With each meal: 20-40 grams for females, 30-60 grams for males. It seems prudent to consume a high quality protein both pre and post exercise within about a 4-6 hour window of each depending on the meal size.(-2)

Great words from Precision Nutrition coach Ryan Andrews: “We need a small amount of protein to survive, but we need a lot more to thrive.”

How much protein is in the food you are eating?

Once you gain the knowledge around why you should be aware of your protein intake, it’s time to start looking at food sources to meet your requirements. Add up the grams of protein you are currently eating to see if you are consuming anything close to the recommended amount for your goals.

It’s good to remember that protein can be found in a variety of foods. Look at food labels for the grams per serving and start to keep a tally of your daily intake.

Both plant and animal protein sources have the potential to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Most animal based protein sources, including dairy, meat, and eggs are more digestible than plant proteins such as soy, wheat, rice, and potato.

Although I’m a big advocate of eating non-processed food I’ll make an exception when my daily requirements can’t be met, and use protein powders. There are many types of powders available these days including whey, hemp, soy, and pea. Finding one that agrees with your taste buds, budget, and digestion is the challenge. Making a small shake or simply mixing a scoop into food (like steel cut oats), or water is a quick method to boost your intake.

General rule of palm for serving size:  One palm for women, and  two palms for men.

Real food examples: Subject to serving size and brand. I suggest looking at labels to see what you are really eating!

Lean Ground Beef Hamburger: 19 g (100g serving)

One Hard-Boiled Egg, Large: 6 g

Cottage Cheese 2%: 12 g (100 g)

Chinook Salmon: 27 g (100 g serving)

Roasted Chicken Breast: 31 g (100 g serving)

Halibut: 28 g (100 g serving)

Ribeye Steak 24 g (100 g serving)

Ezekiel Bread: 8 grams protein per 2 slice serving

Rice And Beans: 7 grams per 1 cup serving

Hummus And Pita: 7 grams per 1 whole-wheat pita and 2 tablespoons of hummus

Peanut butter sandwich: 15 grams per 2-slice sandwich with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter

one cup cooked pinto beans = 15.4 grams protein
1/2 cup cooked spinach = 3 grams protein
one medium baked potato = 5 grams protein
one cup green peas = 8.5 grams protein
one cup cooked edamame = 18 grams protein
1/4 cup almonds = 6 grams protein

From the article, “12 Complete Vegetarian Proteins You Need To Know About” the contributing authors remind us that:

Every time legumes like beans, lentils, and peanuts are combined with grains like wheat, rice, and corn, a complete protein is born. Peanut butter on whole wheat is an easy snack that, while high in calories, provides a heaping dose of all the essential amino acids and plenty of healthy fats to boot.

Summary and recommendations:

  • For basic protein synthesis, you don’t need to consume more than 1.4 to 2.0 g per kg of body weight (around 0.64-0.9 g per lb of body weight) of protein per day. Consider a higher amount based on your goals. Try this amount out and monitor your response to the increase. Are you less hungry for example?
  • Consuming higher levels of protein (upwards of 1g per pound of your ideal body weight) may help you feel satisfied after eating as well as maintain a healthy body composition and good immune function.
  • Track your protein consumption as a starting point to considering a change.
  • You should consume some protein before and after training to ensure adequate recovery. Might as well maximize the muscular adaptations and facilitate repair. Provided you are eating a protein rich meal about 3-4 hours prior to a workout, no need to stress about slamming a protein shake immediately post-training.

Written by: Sheila Hamilton. Copyright September 2018. Contributing content and ideas: Andrea Brennan.

References: Nutrient timeing revisited: Is there a post exercise anabolic window?

  • Alan Albert Aragon
  • Brad Jon Schoenfeld
Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition201310:5… Protein Intake and bone health (-1)

The Science of Weight Loss – Dr. Bill Campbell : NSCA 2018 Conference notes and slides

David Ewart: PN -Precision Nutrition certified coach at it’s time! Fitness Results. Conversations and emails for content .  Infographic

Photo credit: yupiramos/123rfCopyright: <a href=””>yupiramos / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Copyright: <a href=””>margouillat / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

The effect of protein timing on muscle strength and hypertrophy: a meta-analysis

Brad Jon Schoenfeld,corresponding author1 Alan Albert Aragon,2 and James W Krieger3

NSCA National Conference Notes: Sheila Hamilton

Brad Schoenfeld Presentation and slides: Protein Needs, Nutrient Timing, and Recovery Considerations. (-2)


PREHAB: The Art of Building Resilience For a Healthier You

Myself and Andrea had the pleasure of attending Dr. Jacob Harden’s Prehab 101 and Movement Optimization course over the past weekend.

This course educates fitness professionals and healthcare practitioners on how to raise the ceiling of our body’s structural capacity to avoid injuries. It also looked at overcoming injury and how it affects our tolerance for movement. Dr. Harden spoke about physical stresses applied to the body and how incremental movement and loading is necessary for adaptation to take place. We had an amazing time learning new exercises for the core, shoulders, hips and everywhere else in between. We are excited to share this with the it’s time clients!

What is Prehab?

          Prehab is not injury prevention. It’s impossible to eradicate injuries completely because life it not predictable and some injuries are inevitable (e.g. running into a pothole and rolling an ankle). Instead, Prehab is building up our tissues capacity so that they’re more structurally durable. Over time, you will start to raise the ceiling of your body’s capacity, and as you do your body will be able to handle more and more stresses. The more you build your tissue’s capacity the more activities or weight you will be able to handle without injury. The big takeaway from this course was you must be functional and strong enough for YOUR life. If you want to hike the grouse grind, your knees and ankles must be strong enough to support your body up the 2,830 stairs.

Building Resilience

          The only way to raise your ceiling is to train! To build resilience in your muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones you need to apply an appropriate amount of physical stress that will trigger adaptation. This stress needs to be enough to stimulate adaptation but not too much that it surpasses your tissues stress capacity, causing injury. But how will you know if it’s enough stress? A good way to know you are triggering adaptation is to train near your stress tolerance level. This is your body’s alarm system, for example that feeling of soreness the next day is your body telling you that you are close to your stress tolerance. If the physical stress is not progressively increased, then you will only maintain your tissues current capacity. Additionally, if the stress applied is less than what you are used to, your tissues will become detrained, meaning they will start to lose strength and function. Your body isn’t going to keep strength and mobility in your joints and tissues if it’s not being used.

          The take home message here is that you need to train near your stress tolerance level to trigger adaptation, but not past your stress capacity level where you will get injured. The training must also be consistent to see any adaptation. Ultimately, clients who train three or more times per week will have better results. Those who training more than three times, vary the intensity of each day to stay within their limits, e.g two hard days, two medium days and one easy maintenance day.


Stress is Stress

          Everything puts stress on the body. For example, as I sit here and write this I am putting compressive stress on my low back and hips. Most of the time physical stress is unavoidable, from the time you get out of bed in the morning you are placing some amount of stress on the body. However, just because you cannot avoid these stresses it doesn’t mean you can’t manage them. I can manage the time that I spend sitting here or the posture that I am sitting in to minimize the stress on my back.

          Stress is stress, the body cannot tell the difference between life stresses (work, family, nutrition, sleep) and exercise/physical stress. You must listen to your body and account for these additional stressors when determining adequate recovery periods. Reduced sleep, work stress, and poor nutrition might leave your workouts feeling harder than normal but this is not a time to push your limits, it’s a time to regenerate! Use this opportunity to work on your technique, patterning, mobility, core, or motor control. On the other hand, if you feel great and have a hard workout where you are pushing your limits your body will need more time to recover. This is the most important time to have good nutrition and sleep habits. If you want to apply stress you must recover from that stress.

          Physical stress is a combination of a movement pattern and the amount of load placed on that pattern. For example, the movement pattern could be a squat, and the load would be your bodyweight or however much weight you are carrying. A squat with an inefficient pattern or heavier load both place more stress on the body, versus an efficient pattern and a lighter load.

          The energy we use must be appropriate for the task at hand, and use no more energy than necessary. This is called movement efficiency. As effort and load increase, your movement efficiency must increase as well to minimize the risk of injury. An example of this is picking something up from the floor. If I were simply picking up a pen off the ground, I have a wide variety of techniques (movement patterns) that I can use without being too cautious of how I do it (e.g. bending my spine). However, if it was a 300lb deadlift my options to lift without injury are much more limited to a very technical pattern (utilizing breathe and bracing of the spine with a hinge). Furthermore, if you have an injured back, your options for how you lift the pen are limited, you may have to treat it like a heavy deadlift, in order to protect from further injury. An important key here is to not villainize the pattern, it is also the load placed on that pattern that increases the stress placed on the body which can cause injury.  


What happens when I get hurt or am recovering from an injury?

          After an injury the body’s capacity for physical stress will decrease dramatically. This is when you need to take precautions and slowly build back up to your full strength with progressive loading. Once the pain is gone away we can’t expect our body to be able to handle the same stress that it could right before the injury. Therefore, training within your body’s current capacity is essential for not getting re-injured.


How can I put this into my current exercise routine?

  1.    Use an RPE scale

An RPE scale is defined as your rating of perceived exertion. It’s a way to determine how hard you feel like you are working. For example, on a scale of 1-10, 1 is lying in bed and 10 is running away from a bear. You can use this scale to manage the stress placed on your body. One day you could rate your 10kg TGU as being a 5/10 and another it could feel like 8/10. Listening to your body is key when training near your stress tolerance level to keep your body below its stress capacity to avoid injury or over training.

  1.    Plan your recovery time

Plan recovery time into your schedule based on other stressors that might happen that week. If you have a big project due at work this week, you know you won’t be getting as much sleep and you won’t have time to cook yourself a nutritious lunch for the next day, therefore you should take that into account with your training and recovery time. Recovery is vital for your fitness progress as the body can only make adaptations at rest. Strategies include staggering your workouts in terms of difficulty. Add in a mobility and core day in between your strength workouts for relaxation and stress reduction.

  1.    Heal from injuries then progressively reload

While you are recovering from an injury the first step is to remove aggravating factors. Then you need to modify your activity so it doesn’t include those aggravating factors. Additionally, maintain your fitness levels throughout the rest of your body. Gradually reload the injured tissue so as it heals it becomes stronger, until you get to the point that it is stronger than before you hurt it.


Written by Jessica Pastro and Andrea Brennan, Kinesiologists and Strength Coaches at it’s time! Fitness Results


Content based off of course Prehab 101, by Dr. Jacob Harden

Drink More Water!

Stay Hydrated This Summer!

As you are well aware, summer is officially here and it’s looking to be a warm one!  

One of the ways you can maximize your fun is by staying hydrated. This may sound silly but dehydration can lead to fatigue, headaches, increased body temperature and cramps!

Generally, most of us do not drink enough water to begin with. When you combine this with summer temperatures reaching into the high 20s, and increased sweating, we really start to put pressure on the body. Drinking sufficient levels of water and replacing lost electrolytes* is integral to overall health! And no, beer and wine do not count as hydration!

(*Electrolytes are minerals dissolved in body fluids. This includes sodium, potassium, phosphate, calcium and magnesium. These ions are essential to normal function.)

Why is water so important to our bodies?

Water is what our bodies are made of! We are anywhere from 45-60% water depending on your body type (1). We use water as a means transport, a place where chemical reactions can take place, to filter toxins, it also lubricates joints and provides padding. We simply cannot survive without water!

With exercise and movement, our body temperature rises due to increased metabolic processes. Water is essential for temperature regulation and assisting with cellular activity during physical exercise. If that was not enough motivation, research has proven that drinking more water can help with weight loss! Water makes you feel fuller, and may also increase metabolism (2).

What is dehydration?

Simply put, dehydration occurs when the output of fluids is greater than the input.

How can we get dehydrated?

As well as not drinking enough, we can also increase our demand for fluids by increasing our activity. While we think of exercise or getting sweaty, anything physical such as gardening, walking or just heat exposure can promote dehydration. Certain medications, illness and fever can also leave you in demand of fluids!

Children and the elderly are more at risk dehydration and should be monitored appropriately. Children who play outdoor sports should drink plenty of fluids and be given “shade breaks” to allow their body temperature to decrease.

What are some sign and symptoms of dehydration?

If you are feeling thirsty or your mouth is dry, chances are you may already be dehydrated.

What do I need to look for? Some signs you should pay attention to are:

  • Fatigue
  • Mental fog
  • Headaches
  • Increased body temperature
  • Dry skin
  • Cramps

In cases of severe dehydration, vomiting, vision problems, and even loss of consciousness can occur. If you are unsure, one particularly accurate assessment of your fluid levels is checking the colour of your pee! Your urine should ideally be clear to light yellow. As you lose fluids, it becomes more concentrated and changes to dark yellow or brownish colour.

Even as little as losing 1% body weight of fluids can impact on your endurance and strength performance (1). If you are training competitively or even just for fun, even this slight change can affect your ability to reach your goal!


Drinking water before, during and after exercise can help maintain appropriate levels of hydration. Coffees, teas and BCAAs can go towards fluid intake.  

How much water should I drink?

Precision Nutrition recommend 11 cups of water for females and 16 cups for males. Although there is no precise guidelines as everyone’s requirements are different based on activity, size, climate etc.

Can I drink too much?

Yes it is possible to drink too much water but the quantities would have to be substantial. Over hydration or hyponatremia can dilute our electrolytes to dangerously low levels. This generally occurs by drinking a vast amount of water in a short amount of time, leaving the kidneys unable to clear the excess fluids.

Tips on avoiding dehydration

Make it a habit!

Most people don’t drink enough water during the day because they simply don’t think about it!

  • Set reminders. There are now apps available that will help get you track your water intake and set goals.
  • Have a glass of water first thing in the morning to replace fluids lost at night and one before bed.
  • Invest in a water bottle that you take with you on the go or have on your desk.
  • Take regular water breaks in work and during exercise (in between sets)

Monitor your hydration status!

Check your pee and drink water accordingly.

Make it palatable!

Add some lemon, lime, mint or berries to your water to add some flavour.


Drink plenty of water before physical activities that may leave you sweaty rather than replacing fluids once they’re lost.

Drink more when exercising or sweating

Don’t wait until your thirsty, it may be too late!

  • Add 2-4 cups of extra water on days that you exercise
  • For every pound of sweat, you should replace with 2 cups of fluids (1)

Replacing electrolytes

With extremely strenuous activities or activities lasting +60 mins, water may not be enough to replace lost electrolytes. You may consider a sports drink, gels or dissolvable tablets. If you prefer a healthier option, homemade sports drinks are easier than you think and taste just as good. (



Copyright: <a href=’’>olgachirkova / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

What the Duck?!

The it's time! Miracle Ducklings!

On May 13th, 2018 – Mother’s Day – it’s time! Fitness Results welcomed a generation of mallard ducklings into the world. How and why, you ask, would a small local gym choose to become “mother” to wild ducklings? Read on to find out…

In early April, staff and clients noticed a female duck hanging around the green patch outside the gym doors. Within a few days we were surprised to discover that our duck had made a nest and laid eggs! To choose such a location she must have been a fitness enthusiast like ourselves. Our clients became enamoured with this duck and her eggs, bringing her food and checking on her before their sessions. She became part of the fitness family!

Unfortunately, on the morning of May 8th, tragedy struck. During her routine “duck check”, strength coach Briana Kelly came upon a terrible scene. Our mother duck had met a tragic fate and so had her nest. Upon further investigation, we discovered 4 eggs had survived the ordeal – but what were we to do? Calls to several wildlife help lines told us there was nothing they could do, as no one was able to take our eggs. We didn’t know how long they had been exposed, so the chance of survival was slim! A huge decision had to be made.

Being in the business of health and wellbeing, we decided to try our best to save the ducks. We brought the eggs into the gym and put them in a makeshift nest with a heated blanket for warmth. Admittedly a few of the staff, including owner Sheila Hamilton and Operations Manager Dave Ewart, were feeling doubtful about this endeavour but went along with having the eggs join the weekly staff meeting.

Not knowing a whole lot about fostering duck eggs besides their needing warmth, the it’s time! team took to the internet and other resources to figure out what to do to help these motherless eggs. It turned out looking after eggs was no small task. They required a cosy protective environment at a balmy heat of 37 degrees. They also had to be turned every 5 hours!! Just in case the eggs came in the middle of the night, Briana and trainer Christina Carrick took turns bringing the eggs home.

Initially we were unsure whether the eggs were alive, but we discovered a technique known as “candling” (where you illuminate the egg with a flashlight to see inside). We not only determined that our ducklings were alive and kicking but that the eggs were 23 days old, meaning that they had another week or so before they hatched. We used this process to check on them twice a day.

It wasn’t just the staff at the gym that became invested in saving these poor ducklings but also our clients. Long time it’s time! client and animal lover Joyce was instrumental in researching the best home for our babies. Other clients brought their children in to see the eggs. They became the stars of the gym, distracting everyone from their exercise routines!

Over the next few days, we watched our eggs closely for any signs of hatching. Five days after we found them we noticed cracks on one of the eggs. Putting the egg to your ear you could hear movement and peeping! How exciting! The other eggs followed suit and over the next 36 hours they painstakingly pecked their way out of their eggs.

On Mother’s Day, we welcomed 3 out of the 4 ducklings into the world. Healthy, fluffy, happy ducklings! First was Bill, then came KettleBill and finally BarBill. The final egg took his/her time to hatch and arrived Monday afternoon. We named him DumbBill, because he needed a little extra time than his brothers and sisters – and he liked to keep pushing his head back into the eggshell! With all the Bills happy and healthy it was time to bring them to their new home, although saying goodbye proved harder than we thought. Trainer Andrea Brennan was brought to tears by final farewell.

The it’s time! Bills were received by the Wildlife Rescue Association of BC on Monday May 14th, courtesy of our client Ian, who became the delivery man for our precious cargo. Our ducks were not alone as they arrived with 7 other orphaned ducklings that day. The volunteers there were thrilled to meet our ducklings and commended us on how well they looked. Unfortunately, at this time of year, farms and rescue organizations are inundated with ducklings and other young birds in need of care. The Wildlife Rescue, where our gym ducks will make their new lives, relies on volunteers and donations.

It costs $250 per animal to rescue. We want to give our ducks and others like them the best possible chance to lead long healthy lives, that way they can come back to visit us at the gym!!  As a result we are encouraging donations to Wildlife Rescue (  We will also be selling our new Duck T-shirts that were designed by client Grainne to support this cause! Our goal is to raise $1,000. Please contact for further details.

We want to share this story with as many people as possible with the hopes of inspiring people to take care of our wildlife. Do not be afraid to take action because the results can be tremendously rewarding!

Sam Smith of media relations with the Wildlife Rescue Association of B.C. states, “The chicks would not have had a chance without your intervention. They are now in the hands of experts that will ensure they have no imprint from humans before their release.”

Special thanks to Grainne Downey a Vancouver-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator for our T-shirt design.

Follow our hashtag #bestduckingym on Facebook and Instagram to stay up to date with our progress!

Written by: Andrea Brennan with input from the whole nest!

Hinge with your Hips and You’ll Never Look Back!

The Functional Value of the Hip Hinge

“Lift with your knees!”

The phrase said time and time again in high school gym class, the physical workplace, or heavy lifting workshops.

“Bend and lift using your knees and you won’t hurt your back!”

But men and women in the workplace DO hurt their backs. Homeowners in the garden hurt their backs. People unloading a full dishwasher in the kitchen hurt their backs. Even when they lift with their knees.

How should we be lifting? Is there a better way?

There is some truth to the idea of lifting with your knees and legs; however, there’s definitely more to it. Biomechanically, our hip and butt muscles, or glutes, are much stronger than the quads. If we can modify our bending or lifting movement to recruit our glutes, we’ll protect our backs, save our spines, and increase our bending and lifting longevity.

Let’s modify the instructions: “Lift with your hips!”


The Hip Hinge


The Hip Hinge is a functional pattern we use with our clients to recruit the glutes for bending and lifting safely. The spine and pelvis remain neutral and safe during this movement, reducing strain on the back muscles. Back muscles are used for stability when the spine is neutral, but should not be relied upon for bending down or straightening up. In these instances, when the back muscles are used instead of the hips, huge compressive forces are placed on the spinal discs, and unhappy compressed discs can lead to incredible pain, numbness, and debilitation.


This is a natural movement we tend to move away from as we age. Check out the three year old picking up his toy box at the top of this page: no one taught him to lift, but we can see a perfect hip hinge!


How do we hinge?

  • Stand tall and hold a dowel or broomstick to your back, ensuring it contacts three points: back of the head, mid back, and tailbone. Place your shins against a stool or coffee table to prevent your knees from bending forward.
  • Maintaining your three points of contact, send your hips back to create a “hinge” motion. Keep your knees wide. Do not hinge/bend so far you round in the back and lose your contact with the dowel.
  • Pause at the bottom of your hinge.
  • To stand, push your feet into the floor and contract your glute (butt) muscles until your hips are straight.
  • Inhale as you hinge back, exhale as you stand.


The hip hinge is the base needed for many strength movements in the gym, but more importantly, for many functional movements in life. See some examples to follow:


In the gym:

  • Deadlift
  • Kettlebell swing
  • Glute bridge
  • Single leg RDL


At home:

  • Unloading the dishwasher
  • Lifting the kids
  • Reaching for laundry in the washer
  • Bending to tie your shoes
  • Picking the dog toys up off the floor
  • Pulling weeds
  • Replacing the bag in the kitchen garbage


Back pain and injuries often seem as if they stem from that “critical moment”. However, that moment you bent down to pick up the pen was just the final straw – it takes months and years of poor movement quality and bad habits to get to a point where the back is that fragile.

Let’s master the hip hinge and significantly reduce the risk of injury in our lives. Back pain isn’t normal. Spread the word in your family and workplace – teach those around you that the knees aren’t made to lift, but the hips are!

If you need help with your movement or existing back pain, reach out to us at it’s time! Fitness Results for guidance and supervision as you perfect your hip hinge.


Written by Briana Kelly, Kinesiologist and Strength Coach at it’s time! Fitness Results

Health to Gift Yourself This Season – Wrists and Hands!

Gifts for your wrists and hands

As wonderful as it is to give to others if you do not give health to yourself first you will not have the ability to give a lot to others.

There are so many levels to having optimum health and fitness and unless we breakdown your specific goals and make a plan we run the risk of simply not taking the right steps to achieve them.

Although with the best of intentions many folks skip right to activities like running, skiing, golfing and tennis because they are so enjoyable. Often, they lack the foundational movement skills that would decrease the risk of injury and improve the quality of the experience on many levels during and after with improved recovery.

Wrists and Hands

Did you know a handshake is a better predictor of premature death than traditional blood-pressure testing? According to a study published in the Lancet, a weak handshake can signal an increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. Further implications of grip strength include protection from old-age disability, better overall strength in other muscle groups, and prediction of mortality, disability, disease complications, and increased length of hospital stay. In order to produce adequate grip strength, you must present good wrist, forearm, hand, and finger health!

Each of the wrists and hands is a complex structure. The wrist joint is comprised of the two forearm bones, 8 carpal (wrist) bones, and the proximal ends of 5 metacarpal (hand) bones. The articulations between these many bones allow for range of motion in 3 planes (flexion/extension, pronation/supination, and lateral flexion/extension), and the joint is stabilized by an intricate system of ligaments. Optimal wrist function allows for load bearing and load suspension as well as full range of motion with control.

One hand contains 5 metacarpal (hand) bones and 14 phalanges (finger bones). These create very fragile joints that are controlled by intrinsic muscles (with the muscle belly in the hand) or extrinsic muscles (with the muscle belly in the forearm with tendons extending into the hand). 3 nerves control the innervation of these hand and wrist muscles. The hand sits at the terminus of the arm – it’s so important that the sole function of the shoulder and arm complex is to control the position of the hand!

The dexterity humans possess in their hands and fingers allows us to complete complex tasks such as pinching between thumbs and fingers, gripping, and isolating single finger movements. This intricate motor control sets us apart from other animals.

Beyond the internal anatomical structures, it’s also important to consider the superficial features of the hands including skin and nails. The skin that covers the back of the hand (dorsal) is very different from the skin that covers the palm. Dorsal skin is thinner and more pliable, attached to the hand loosely through blood vessels. The palmar skin is much thicker and is tightly connected to the underlying fascia to increase stability and gripping ability. The nails located at the end of each finger are intimately connected to the most distal (farthest) phalanges (finger bones). They offer protection for these bones as well as contribute to finger dexterity.

Humans are extremely dependent on hand and wrist function. If you’ve ever lost the ability to fully use one (or both) for a short time, you notice very quickly how many actions are affected! Things as simple as brushing your teeth, stirring a pot on the stove, or getting up from the ground all become more difficult. Take the time to work on your wrist and hand strength and mobility and you will reap the benefits.


Visual Inspection:  How do they look?

  • Are your hands flat and relaxed when on the floor or wall or do some of the fingers bend?
  • Are your nails or the skin on your hands cracked and dry?
  • Do your joints in your fingers look swollen or enlarged?
  • Is there any discoloration to indicate poor circulation or skin dysfunction?


Movement Inspection: How do they move?

  • Can you make a tight fist with all your fingers and thumb?
  • Can you touch and pinch your thumb to each of your fingers?
  • Can you rotate your wrist in all directions and spread your fingers?
  • Can you isolate single finger movements? ie. peace sign or ‘Spock’ sign


Sensory Inspection: How do they feel?

  • Any numbness in fingers or thumb?
  • Do your fingers feel cold? hot?
  • Can you feel smooth, gliding movements with finger flexion and extension?
  • Any cracking or popping?

Gifts for Your Wrists and Hands!

#1 Roll with ball

Place a small ball (smooth or spiky) on a table and roll throughout your entire palm. Explore the different digits and areas of your palm. Try rolling the back of the forearm too, on the table or against a wall.


#2 Wrist flexion and extension stretch

Use your opposite hand to stretch your wrist into flexion (towards the palm) and extension (towards the back of the hand). Hold for at least 30 seconds.


#3 Wrist lateral and medial flexion stretch

Use your opposite hand to explore lateral movements, bending the wrist towards the thumb and then the pinky.


#4 Finger stretches

Isolate your fingers from the wrist and explore the range of motion. Stretch all the fingers together in flexion and extension, then isolate each finger.


#5 Elastic band stretch

Place an elastic band around your thumb and all your fingers. Gently pull the band apart to work your hand extensors. This reverses the ‘gripping’ flexion motion.


#6 Grip work

As noted above, grip strength is a strong predictor of overall health. Work on your grip strength by holding a kettlebell or other object at your side, tightly squeezing a ball, or hanging from a bar. Grip is a highly neural-demanding function, and is affected by fatigue and dehydration. Consider testing grip strength and its implications. A grip dynamometer can be used to provide an objective analysis. Some athletes test daily.


#7 Hand and nail care

Massage your fingers and hands together every day with lotion. Keep your nails trimmed and healthy. Take care of any cuts, dry spots, warts or eczema.

#8 Gentle loading into wrists progressing to full weight bearing in plank and/or push up

A healthy wrist joint should allow you to load it with your body weight. Start in an incline position with your hands against the wall or a counter. Progress towards the ground until you can hold an all fours position, and eventually a plank or pushup.

#9 Arm bars

Arm bars are one of the best gifts you can give your wrists and shoulders! An arm bar isometrically loads the shoulder and wrist joints, requiring strength and stability of all the smaller muscles. The kettlebell should rest gently on the back of your wrist, and your wrist position should be straight. Slight movements of the arm are natural but the load should be comfortable to control.

  • Roll to your back and press the kettlebell up over your chest with a straight wrist.
  • Extend the opposite arm and leg onto the ground.
  • Roll away from the arm with the kettlebell, allowing it to rotate until it sits directly above your shoulder. A bent knee can support you on the ground.
  • Pack the shoulder away from your ear and let the load sink into your shoulder socket.
  • Hold for 6-8 breaths then reverse and repeat on the other side.


#10 Farmer’s Carry

The farmer’s carry relies on grip strength and core stability. Hold equal kettlebells or weights in each hand. Stand tall and go for a slow, controlled walk. Weight should help set your shoulders in a neutral position at your sides and wrists should be straight. Only walk as far as you can control with strong neutral posture and confident grip.


#11 Desk ergonomics

Desk, chair, and keyboard height contribute to wrist function. Make sure your neck and shoulders can remain relaxed (the desk surface is not too high) and that you can provide adequate support for the heels of your hands. Your hands should not rest in too much extension.



Give your wrists and hands some of these gifts this season. You may just live a little longer!

Written by: Briana Kelly and Sheila Hamilton December 2017

Click here to listen to Sheila discuss this topic with Jon McComb on the “Fitness Segment,” which airs live every Thursday at 9:05 am CKNW 980am radio.


Put some grip in your shake!

Copyright: <a href=’’>3dagentur / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Dynamic Aging – Katy Bowman Copyright 2017 p. 146,

Easy Strength – Dan John and Pavel copyright 2011 P. 228, 229


Health to Gift Yourself this Season for Your Neck!

12 gifts to give your neck!

As wonderful as it is to give to others if you do not give health to yourself first you will not have the ability to give a lot to others.

There are so many levels to having optimum health and fitness and unless we breakdown your specific goals and make a plan we run the risk of simply not taking the right steps to achieve them.

Although with the best of intentions many folks skip right to activities like running, skiing, golfing and tennis because they are so enjoyable. Often, they lack the foundational movement skills that would decrease the risk of injury and improve the quality of the experience on many levels during and after with improved recovery.

All About Necks

The neck can tell us a lot about our body and lifestyle. Injuries, car accidents, stress, poor posture and breathing, poor movement quality, and time spent sitting can all contribute to a tight neck.  A strong and mobile neck is often reflective of good life balance of movement and health.

The main function of the neck is to support the skull and the organ the skull protects: the brain. The brain and spinal cord make up the Central Nervous System, the mission control center of our body. Our spinal cord travels through the neck and houses all the sensory pathways to and from the rest of the body and the brain. Abnormal head position (even slightly askew) due to neck imbalances or history of injury can affect how your visual and proprioceptive sensory receptors perceive the world and how your brain responds as a result.

The part of the vertebral column that forms the neck is called the cervical spine. There are 7 small cervical vertebrae and they are made to accommodate movement in all directions, but are very fragile. The neck also forms a pathway that accommodates other body systems. The carotid artery carries oxygenated blood to the head and brain, the trachea allows air to flow to and from our lungs, and the esophagus forms an entry to the digestive system. All these structures require protection from a well-functioning neck.

The head is heavy! The average human adult’s head weighs about 1/7th of their total weight, but the force required to keep it upright increases significantly the farther forward the head is postured (i.e., flexing down to look at your phone) [1]. Therefore, musculature of the neck is strong; the major muscles run mostly vertically from the clavicle or scapula (collar and shoulder bones) to the skull and jaw, while smaller stabilizers also exist that originate from each vertebra. The taller our neck and head posture, the more efficiently and effectively these muscles will perform their desired functions.

Good thing there are lots of things we can do to optimize the function of our neck…

Visual Inspection:  How does it look?

  • Does your head sit in a neutral position? Is it set forward, tilted, or rotated to one side?
  • Are the shoulders pulled up towards the neck and ears?
  • Are the neck veins distended and bulging?
  • When you breathe in do your shoulders hike towards your ears?


Movement Inspection: How does it move?

  • Can you touch chin to chest, or chin to collarbone? Can you get your forehead parallel to the roof?
  • Can you freely look left and right to look behind you?
  • Can you laterally tilt your head – ear to shoulder 30′?
  • Any cracks or pops?

Sensory Inspection: How does it feel?

  • Do you have pain at rest or with movement?
  • Do you have tingling or numbness in your arms or shoulders?
  • Does it feel achy in the morning or at the end of the day?

12 Gifts for Your Neck

# 1 Give it a Break! Advice from Dr. Olson….

“As many patients take winter holidays to relax and get some warmth and sunshine, they could also give their necks a holiday too. Take a break and limit your cellphone to taking pictures and essential calls only. Stop texting and checking emails every 5 minutes! Same advice for your computer. Take a break from technology and give your neck a holiday. It gets really tired and stressed from looking down all day long. Pretend it’s the 70s when people could only get in touch with you by mail or a land line. If you weren’t home – you missed the call – and the sun still rose the next day. ”

# 2 Ball to traps and shoulder rotator (supraspinatus), or roller stick to shoulders

Stand against a wall with a ball at your tense muscle region

  • TRAPS: Back of the shoulder blade.
  • SUPRASPINATUS: Top of the shoulder, slightly behind the bony protrusions. Option 1 – angle body into the doorway, Option 2 – lean into ball on wall.




# 3 Controlled articular rotations of the neck

Standing tall, allow your head to rotate within a comfortable range of motion, 3 full circles in each direction. Do not work through pain.





# 4 Neck checks seated or standing with a dowel

Seated: Place hands on a bench to stay tall and keep shoulders from elevating. Explore range of motion: flex/extend, rotate, tilt side/side.

Standing: Hold dowel behind body, palms forward to keep shoulders from elevating. Maintain rib-hip connection. Explore movement in all directions.









# 5 Isometric retractions with a band or headrest in a car.

Place hands or band on back of head. Apply light resistance and gently draw head back, creating a double chin. Stay tall and hold for several breaths.

# 6 Start thinking of your neck as an important piece of your movement health.

I think of the neck as a mini spine that moves similarly to the spine itself. Flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation are all components of the cervical spine and the spine below it. Don’t ignore movement impairments and hope they will just go away!

Seek out professionals such a physiotherapist and chiropractors to improve your neck mobility. Don’t wait or only go for acute pain! Consider regular visits to address your issues, get better range, and enjoy the benefits of such!



 # 7 Deep flexion with soft ball at wall

Place soft ball between forehead and wall. Gently press into ball and tuck chin to throat. Release and repeat as tolerated. This movement helps strengthen the deep neck flexors, muscles which will help prevent head forward posture.

# 8 Mindful postural assessment – All Fours Neutral Back with dowel

Perfect posture is critical for good neck health. A good safe way to assess is to use a dowel on your back while on your hands and knees. The dowel should touch the back of your head, between your shoulder blades, and your tailbone. The shoulders should not be shrugged and there should be a small curve in the low back. Breathe deeply and become comfortable in this position – the dowel trick also translates to standing, kneeling, or hinging posture.


 # 9 Four Way Scapular Movement

From standing or in all fours position with a neutral back, draw the shoulder blades together and spread them apart without shrugging or bending the elbows, or involving your spine. When the scapulae are locked and tight, the mobility of the neck is also restricted. You might find this hard to do at first but with practice you can achieve some good gliding of your shoulder blades in all directions.




# 10 McGill Curl Up

Lie on back with one knee bent and hands behind head. Find rib-hip connection and allow back of head and heel to lift 1 inch. Keep your tongue on roof of mouth to activate deep neck flexors. Hold for 1-3 breaths, repeating several times per side.



# 11 Look at Your Sleeping Position

Physical therapist Dr. Quinn Henock reminds us in his article “Sleeping Positions: A discussion of Pros and Cons,” that you’re a bad sleeping position is better than no sleep at all. That said it “It takes weeks for soft tissue to become adaptively shortened to a position,” so the months and years of improper positioning and pillows can take their toll. Ensure you have your neck in as close to a neutral position as you can while falling asleep or repositioning yourself through the night.



#12 Try this position for relaxing, meditating, and breathing.




Give your neck some of these gifts this season. I know they are going to love them!
Next week: Gifts for your back.

Written by: Sheila Hamilton January 2017

Click here to listen to Sheila discuss this topic with Jon McComb on the “Fitness Segment,” which airs live every Thursday at 9:05 am CKNW 980am radio.

Health to Gift Yourself this Season for Your Hips!

12 Gifts for your hips!

As wonderful as it is to give to others if you do not give health to yourself first you will not have the ability to give a lot to others.

There are so many levels to having optimum health and fitness and unless we breakdown your specific goals and make a plan we run the risk of simply not taking the right steps to achieve them.

Many individuals want to do more than they are physically capable of doing with safe, confident movement. Although with the best of intentions many folks skip right to activities like running, skiing, golfing and tennis because they are so enjoyable. Often, they lack the foundational movement skills that would decrease the risk of injury and improve the quality of the experience on many levels during and after with improved recovery.


During my discussion last week with Jon McComb about knees I hinted about the hips playing a key role in movement. We can joke about the hips, gluts, tush, and rear but it’s no joke if you don’t have one that works! It’s also important to take a look at the front of the hip as often tightness or weakness in this area can contribute to movement issues.

Adequate hip strength and mobility are crucial for positive hip health! Each hip is a ball and socket joint, meaning it is capable of movement in 360 degrees. However, this freedom of mobility leaves lots of room for error including muscular imbalances, mobility issues, and age-related degeneration. The good news – quality foundational movement can correct and prevent most of these issues, as well as reduce the impact and pain associated with existing problems.

Anatomy bit: The term ‘hip’ refers to a large anatomical region encompassing the pelvis, sacrum, and femur bones as well as muscles groups like the glutes and piriformis (butt), psoas (hip flexor), and adductors (groin). Functions of the hip contribute to walking and running, squatting, hinging, and maintaining alignment of the low back, knees, and lower extremities.

Visual Inspection:  How do they look?

  • Are you hips level as in up and down, or is one rotated forward or back?
  • Do you have a defined butt muscle or a flat butt?

Movement Inspection: How do they move?

  • Can you hinge, and squat using your hips and not your back?
  • Can you walk, run, and do all the activities you would like to enjoy?

Sensory Inspection: How do they feel?

  • Do you have pain at rest and/or with movement?
  • Do you have tingling or pain that radiates down your leg or up into your back?
  • Do your hips feel strong and do they stabilize you? (Think balance.)

12 Gifts for Your Hips

#1 Foam Roller or Ball to Glutes, Quads and Hip Flexors

For myofascial release and tissue maintenance, use a small ball at the wall for glute release or a foam roller for glutes, quads, and hip flexors.

#2 Controlled Articular Rotations of the Hip Joint

From standing, or from all fours on the ground, carefully move your leg in circles through the hip joint. The movement should be comfortable – explore your hip range of motion but do not move though pain. Popping or clicking is okay as long as it is not accompanied by discomfort!

We need to attack hip mobility from all angles…

#3 90/90 Stretch

The beauty of this stretch is that it allows for both internal and external rotation at the hip joint. Keep a tall, neutral back and lead forward with your belly button.

#4 Frog and Adductor rocks

The frog allows us to mobilize hip flexion and groin flexibility with a neutral back, ultimately patterning the squat. In the all fours position, spread knees wider than hips.  Keeping back set in neutral, hinge hips back towards butt.

Similar to the frog, take one leg wide.  If less mobile, keep the foot/leg behind the hip.

#5 Pigeon

The pigeon stretches the hip in external rotation, targeting the glutes and piriformis. Cross one leg across your body with a bent knee. Maintain a neutral back and sit back into the hip.

#6 Cross Body Hip

Hook a strap around your foot. Lying on your back adjust the tension in the strap so you have full extension of your knee. (No bend in it.) Gently move foot across body until a gentle hip stretch is felt. Hold 1-5 minutes to get tissue change!

#7 Half Kneeling Stretch

This stretch targets the hip flexors, the muscles that cross the hip joint anteriorly (front). These are the muscles that can get extremely tight and weak when sitting in a desk, driving, or Netflix-ing!

  • Place on knee on the ground, adding a pad under the knee if necessary
  • Tuck the hip under on the ‘down knee’ side, as if you’re bringing your belt buckle towards your belly button.
  • Hold for 60 seconds, or add small pulses forward and back
  • Do not allow the front of your core to open up

#8 Half Kneeling Inline Balance

Balance is a great way to integrate the different segments of your lower body and core. It also challenges your brain! Adjust your Half Kneeling Hip Flexor stretch until your feet are in-line, and hold for up to 60 seconds. If you require more of a challenge, close your eyes.


Now let’s build some strength…

#9 Glute Bridges

Bridges are a great exercise to strengthen and build your butt!

  • Lie on your back with knees bent, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Set your rib-hip connection by connecting chin, ribs and hips to the floor. (Only a small low back curve.)
  • Push your heels into the floor and engage (squeeze) your glute muscles and lift your hips off the floor creating a straight line from shoulders to hips to knees.
  • Hold for 2 seconds and lower your back down to the floor while keeping your core muscles engaged. The torso should move as a solid unit.

Too easy? Look to progressing gluts with hip dominant exercises like deadlifts, and kettlebell swings.

#10 Clamshells

Clamshells are small movements that do wonders for your hips. Place a light band around your legs, just above your knees. Lie on your side with your belly button pointing slightly to floor. Stack your knees and feet and then rotate knee to roof from the hip. Do not let the hip or back roll back as you lift the knee. Perform these until you feel warmth and work in your glute. Match the number on your other side.

#11 Band Walks

Place a band above your knees. Keeping feet hip with apart and as straight as possible step to the left and right, then forward and back. Ensure you keep a neutral back and feel the work coming form the hips! If you feel this in your knees then your set up needs adjusting.

#12 Cross Crawl March

Standing tall bring your opposite knee and hand together for a cross tap. Slowly control this motion left and right keeping good posture and balance. Repeat 10 each side depending on ability and pace.


Give your hips some of these gifts this season. I know they are going to love them!
Next week: Gifts for your shoulders.

Written by: Sheila Hamilton December 2017

Click here to listen to Sheila discuss this topic with Jon McComb on the “Fitness Segment,” which airs live every Thursday at 9:05 am CKNW 980am radio.


Copyright: <a href=’’>3dagentur / 123RF Stock Photo</a>



Health to Gift Yourself This Season for Your Knees

12 Gifts to Give to Your Knees

As wonderful as it is to give to others if you do not give health to yourself first you will not have the ability to give a lot to others.

There are so many levels to having optimum health and fitness and unless we breakdown your specific goals and make a plan we run the risk of simply not taking the right steps to achieve them.

Many individuals want to do more than they are physically capable of doing with safe, confident movement. A few weeks ago Brianna Kelly, Strength Coach at t’s time! Fitness Results addressed how to start the season “fit to ski.” If you are a skier and missed this segment I suggest you take a read. I especially liked the warm-up she created that you can do with your boots on and poles in hand!

Although with the best of intentions many folks skip right to activities like skiing, running, golfing and tennis because they are so enjoyable. Often, they lack the foundational movement skills that would decrease the risk of injury and improve the quality of the experience on many levels during and after with improved recovery.

In his e-book Fitness coach, writer, and pod-caster Scott Iradella reminds us that if we “move better, and then move stronger, everything else will follow. Iradella states that many people skip the foundations to chase the aesthetic goals. I add in here “sports” goals as well. Whether your sport is for pleasure and recreational purposes, or competitive in nature it’s the love of the sport that drives the activity, not necessarily the quality of the movement!

In her book “Move Your DNA, Restore Your Natural Health Through Natural Movement,” one of my favorite authors Katy Bowman writes that movement is not as optimal as we have led ourselves to believe if you are indeed thinking that fitness and sports will get you there. Bowman writes extensively on letting go of the notion that movement is exercise. To move your health forward she encourages us to rearrange the relationship between movement and exercise and incorporate movement skills 24/7, and then add exercise (and sport) once the foundation is set.

With Scott Iradella’s permission this graphic gives a nice visual for you to think about. He writes, “No matter what your goals are (look better, feel better, or perform better) – we must work to improve our strength.” Building Strength on a poor foundation is asking for trouble so today we will start by looking at the feet as the foundation of movement when upright.

Anatomy bit: The knee is a complex hinge joint and one of the most stressed joints in the body. It is vital for weight bearing and movement, and vulnerable to injury. It consists of bones, meniscus, ligaments, and tendons.

“I feel it in my knee(s),” I hear this too often. ~Sheila

Imbalances, Lack of strength, Overuse, Injury, Age.  Pick one, pick all? Lots can go wrong here.

In my experience, the knee is often where people feel discomfort and pain, and hear snaps and clicks. If you have suffered a knee injury (of which there are many) you might be surprised to learn that it could have been prevented if you had better quality foundational movement with more strength built on top. (See above diagram)

If you’re looking to blame the knees because of poor movement and exercise quality you have to look at much more than the knee itself. Improving the knee pain is one thing but correcting the underlying problem that got you there in the first place will involve assessing the mobility, strength, and mechanics of everything above and below the knees. This may be a matter of trial and error, working with movements to improve the quality and re-train a healthier pattern.

With a lack of high-quality foundational movement, we set ourselves up for injury, especially of we add overuse to this with a lot of running for example. (Or any sport.) In her book, Alignment Matters, author Katy Bowman reports on the results of MRI’s of 236 adults ages 45 – 55. It showed that those in the high activity group (Large quantities of movement, high impact or repetitive motion) had knee damage three times more severe than the couch potatoes! Excessive mileage and impact forces from overuse are contributing to the increasing levels of osteoarthritis, knee surgeries, and knee replacements. Do not read this as an excuse to stay on the Lazy – Boy, but as one of the many reasons why training smart is so important.

As we age we often have a change in gait parameters such as stride time and length, swing time and stride width. Typically with age we lose strength unless we take it upon ourselves to resistance train. And on top of that sometimes we resistance train without proper knowledge of our own bodies nuances, and proper exercise technique.

It’s the imbalances, incorrect and non-symmetrical wearing patterns occurring for various reasons that lead to injury. The research has shown us that the muscles acting on the knee are strongly correlated with gait performance. Increasing your strength of movements around the knee such as knee flexion and extension, hip flexion and extension, and core strength will improve gait characteristics and therefore improve the loads on the knee.

I love the simplicity of the article by Erica Suter, a soccer and strength coach from Baltimore, “5 Reasons You Have Bad Knees,” because despite the frankness it holds a lot of truths in my opinion! Her #1 reason you have bad knees is: Your butt isn’t big enough. That said, one of the gifts you can give yourself is a bigger butt then right?

So perhaps the visual inspection should include your butt (professional term glutes!) but I’m saving that for next week’s blog!

Knee Inspections

Visual Inspection:  How do they look?

Do they turn in or out, do they look the same left to right?

Movement Inspection: How do they move?

  • Can you move up and down from the floor?
  • Can you flex your knee (heel to butt) and extend your knee so your leg is straight?
  • Can you kneel without pain?
  • Can you move your kneecaps or do they feel stuck?

Sensory Inspection: How do they feel? What do you hear?

  • Do you have pain, clicking, grinding, in one or both knees?
  • Do your knees ever get swollen?

12 Gifts for Your Knees

Wherever your knees are at today you can start giving them some love with these gifts. Undo some of the damage they have received over the years from poor posture, strength, sports, injuries, and neglect!

#1 Stop thinking about it being just your knees….

…and start thinking about it being about your overall fitness. Look above and below the sight of pain for your problem.

An imbalance or movement impingement with your hips, ankles or feet may affect your knees! If you want to continue to run and ski or return to an activity you enjoy look to improve your overall fitness by working on your foundation.

#2 Release the muscles around the knee and stretch your quads.

#3 Practice full knee extension from a lying position.

Get rid of the bend in the back of the knee, even if this means not getting your leg up so far.

#4 Feel your kneecaps and help them move.

Move them in a circle and around in a clock pattern – both directions.

#5 Start your glute strengthening program with this gold standard exercise.

Bridges are a great exercise to strengthen and build your butt!

  • Lie on your back with knees bent, feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Set your rib-hip connection by connecting chin, ribs and hips to the floor. (Only a small low back curve.)
  • Push your heels into the floor and engage (squeeze) your glute muscles and lift your hips off the floor creating a straight line from shoulders to hips to knees.
  • Hold for 2 seconds and lower your back down to the floor while keeping your core muscles engaged. The torso should move as a solid unit.

Too easy? Look to progressing gluts with hip dominant exercises like deadlifts, and kettlebell swings.

#6 Do some single leg and balance work

#7 Correct knee hyperextension.

Soften those knees!

#8 Walk forward, backward and left and right.

Use a band to increase the resistance if appropriate for your fitness level.

#9 Don’t go looking for pain but go looking for help.

If squats bother you then don’t squat.  If kneeling hurts then don’t kneel.

But don’t use this as an excuse not to exercise! Seek out professionals to guide you through the needed steps that you need to improve.

#10 Consider giving your knees a break.

Use alternative methods of getting movement like biking, swimming, and upper body training until your knees improve.

Med ball slams, ropes, kettlebell swings. Telling a runner not to run is not an easy thing to do!

#11 Ensure your bodyweight is in check.

Excess weight is not helping a lot of things but if you have knee pain and are more than 20 pounds overweight then I would bet than losing weight will reduce your pain.

#12 Hold yourself accountable to a program so you have a roadmap to your success.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. If you really want this knee problem to go away then you must have a plan! Quality movements with safe appropriate loads and progressions are what you want your training plan to consist of. Listening to your body and modifying your program appropriately are key to improvements here.

Give your knees some of these gifts this season and see where they can take you next year!
Next week: Gifts for your hips.

Written by: Sheila Hamilton December 2017

Click here to listen to Sheila discuss this topic with Jon McComb on the “Fitness Segment,” which airs live every Thursday at 9:05 am CKNW 980am radio.


5 Reasons You Have Bad Knees

Bad knees? What Did They do?

Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through natural Movement Katy Bowman copyright 2017 P. 112

Copyright: <a href=’’>3dagentur / 123RF Stock Photo</a>