Category Archives: Recommendation

Work out smarter, not harder

It’s been an awesome September being back teaching fitness and yoga classes at the Toronto Athletic Club and the Adelaide Club. I really missed teaching classes and it’s so wonderful to be back doing something I love to do. 21 years of being in fitness and I still love it!

From my perspective, leading a group class is delivering an experience in education, having studied physical education. At a cycle class, I’m teaching some exercise physiology while sweating it out with you to some awesome tunes. At yoga, we’re working on breathing, being mindful and attuning to our bodies while moving through postures. At a strength, weights or circuit style class, we are teaching 8 basic human movements: squat, lunge, hinge, plank, push, pull, rotation and reverse plank. Each instructor will have a creative way of putting you through these movements and combining them for varying amounts of effort.

We’re happy to welcome everyone to any class. At the strength, weights, or circuit classes, it is in your own best interest to gain the ability to squat, lunge, hinge, plank, push, pull, rotate and reverse plank, as it will optimize the benefit of the classes and prevent injury. If we see any difficulty in performing these basic movements, we do our best to help you learn them and when that is not possible in the class setting, we recommend that you work with a personal trainer for a few sessions. The purpose of working with a trainer is to learn these foundational movements correctly, so you develop more ideal movement patterns, which is to your benefit for improved posture, ease of movement, and improvement in body composition. Yes, you read that correctly- improvement in body composition. It was only when I doggedly persisted in improving my squat range of motion that I finally developed some abs. It took me 20 years to get an acceptable squat and it sure has been worthwhile!

Think of coming to a class as constantly practicing and improving your squat, lunge, hinge, plank, push, pull, rotation and reverse plank. That is our goal as instructors and trainers to help you work out smarter, not harder. You will naturally work harder with better form!

Why I got the SARS COV2 vaccine

I was offered an appointment for the SARS COV2 vaccine when I joined the team in March at the Adelaide Health Clinic. I have wanted to write this for some time and meditated on it until now. I know there was a level of frustration at the availability of the vaccines and I didn’t want to flaunt my privilege of receiving one earlier as a health professional. I also feel nervous about needles. I’ve become accustomed to acupuncture needles, but injections or drawing blood still has me squeamish. Without some help at the workplace, it is unlikely I would have been quick to get myself an appointment with a needle!

Like many people I was a bit cautious about the vaccines being developed and available in record time. We do not develop lasting immunity to coronaviruses, which is seen by repeat infections throughout the lifespan of the common cold. Covid 19 is as easily transmissible as a common cold with potential long term or lethal consequences where we don’t know who gets very sick, which makes a vaccine highly useful. Fortunately, I learned that these vaccines are do not offer sterilizing immunity the way the measles vaccine does, which allows us to not get measles. It seems a reasonably miraculous achievement to me, a vaccine that prevents severe illness. Here’s some further info on the immunity these vaccines offer: https://dalewharrison.substack.com/p/covid-vaccines-confer-no-sterilzing

We had a major family disagreement over the Christmas holidays when I did not press my mom to get the vaccine when she was hesitant and refusing. At the time, the vaccine was not yet available and if we weren’t going to be the first in line, I figured we could easily observe the many who wished to be first in line to get more comfortable. I didn’t know when I would get a vaccine, but had been weighing the pros and cons, coming to the decision that is was best to get the shot for the benefit of others and myself. I also felt it is my duty to do so as a health professional. I work with people and I need to take every step possible to prevent passing illness to people I interact with. Plus, I miss teaching cycle classes the most, which is a higher risk activity. See this study from Hawaii where we learn of how the illness is transmitted. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7009e1.htm Getting the vaccine is a personal choice and civic duty at the same time. It is ‘experimental’ and we live in a part of the world that has this privilege.

So what happened with the shots? I had the Pfizer vaccine first and I felt slightly woozy with slight fatigue for a day. My second shot was Moderna due to the supply being allocated for younger people and I chose to go ahead with it to comply with public health efforts. I was ill for a day with a mild fever, lightheadedness, no appetite, fatigue and transient aches- like an illness I have not experienced before, seemed like getting a controlled case of covid. At the time, I was sent some info that the mRna vaccines cause spike proteins to be stored in the uterus and ovaries, which I believe is misinformation after looking at the scientific source material. Here’s some explanation of the pathways: https://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline/archives/2021/01/21/mrna-vaccines-what-happens In short, the vaccine goes into your arm and circulation- through the lymph system into your armpit, then mainly liver and spleen and circulating throughout the body.

When you are ready to get the vaccine, I advise being as well rested, well slept and well rested as possible to give yourself a better response, as you are asking your immune system to do some work.

What is a Healthy Amount of Exercise?

This is a question that does not have an easy one size fits all answer. Regular exercise is necessary for health, as it maintains and improves our circulation and breathing while working our musculoskeletal system. All of our joints have an optimal range of motion and the body is very much use it or lose it in function.

Specific exercise was not necessary when we had to hunt and gather our own food. The work in chasing down an animal and gathering plants for food provided plenty of natural physical activity. We still have activities of daily living today, but that is dwindling with time spent sitting in front of a computer screen, the vast variety of prepared food and modern gadgets, as vacuuming can be done with an automated device!

I’ve been asked many times in my career how much do you exercise or you must work out every day? The answer is I make an effort to be active daily. Anywhere between 20-60 minutes of some form of physical activity daily, is my commitment. It could be a walk, weight training, yoga, running, tai chi/qi gong or a spin class. Personally, I like walking to a specific destination or walking to get food, so it is like working for the food at least a little. Find out what motivates you to take that walk, hit the weights or do a few yoga poses- making it easy for yourself to complete the task regularly will build the habit. The key is to complete any amount of activity regularly- 5-10 minutes is better than nothing. It’s important to see yourself as someone who exercises regularly to take care of themselves. For the purposes of health and longevity, light to moderate intensity exercise is enough, which is also the healthy living guidelines of traditional chinese medicine.

Of course, once we get into a regular habit of exercise and have some specific goals, it becomes possible to overdo things. Injuries or lingering pain are usually a sign of overdoing exercise in terms of your current capabilities. Pushing through is generally not a good plan, since it typically makes the injury worse. Speaking from experience, it is best to seek care sooner than later, before the injury worsens. Any activity that you are not accustomed to doing will require a bit of training. It may seem strange, but after a long period of inactivity, you will need a bit of time to adjust to even walking longer distances. The pandemic has likely left many of us myself included a bit less active and it will take some training to get back to our previous fitness levels.

In answer to the question of what is a healthy amount of exercise, I think it is safe to say some physical activity daily is ideal. The type and intensity of the activity is a different story. For health and longevity purposes, a mix of aerobic exercise, strength training and energy cultivating exercise like yoga or tai chi is ideal for optimal health and wellness.

Bay Street Shoulder

Over the years I’ve seen a few complaints of neck, shoulder and upper back discomfort. Through assessment of a person’s range of motion, a pattern appeared among accountants, lawyers, and finance professionals, many had an inability to bring their arm behind their back comfortably. I gathered the symptoms, made up a diagnosis and called it Bay Street shoulder. The purpose was to inject a little practical humour into coping with a condition that builds up over time due to posture. Being chained to a desk for an indeterminate amount of time starts to a change a person’s posture and breathing.

When we look at elderly people, many are more stooped, slower and possibly shuffle. Is that diminished posture a ‘natural’ occurrence of older age or is it habit? I would argue that habit plays a major role and there is much we can do to maintain our height and posture as we age. This requires being mindful of our daily habits and tasks then making appropriate adjustments.

A regular strength training program with a focus on the core and posture is required to stand tall for as long as possible. Regular posture breaks if you work at a desk is essential in addition to specific mobility exercises. A few easy ideas are included in the video:

Prehab for Running

By Vivian Law BPHE, Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture 

Spring is here so many of us are eager to enjoy the warmer weather and perhaps pick up running again. Running outdoors is an awesome activity that many enjoy, which also comes with an increasing incidence of injury as we age. I love running and received an injury before the age of 20, which limits my running to shorter distances. How do we minimize the risk of injury with running? Some will suggest not running at all, which is the case when a person’s body no longer allows the process with an injury. Another option is to run within your current limits and to run smarter. 

I have needed to rehabilitate myself from injury a few times and it is just fine to combine running and walking. In fact, I completed my first and only 10km race a couple years ago in under an hour by walking a minute every 10 minutes I ran. If you are new to running or starting up again, running 1 minute and walking 1 minute is a great place to start. It is better to run a little for a long time, meaning being able to run until older age than run a lot and break down. If it is not possible for you to run for long, consider running shorter distances faster, such as sprints. I’m a bit faster than a giant tortoise, but I practice running 100m, 200m and 400m sprints, with the 400m being my arch nemesis. An additional benefit of sprints is our fast twitch muscle fibres are lost first with aging, so doing some hard work such as sprints, helps us maintain our muscles and abilities longer.

Running is a complex biomechanical process that requires a significant amount of weight bearing load and shock absorption. As we age, our bodies ‘wear out’ in different spots and become more susceptible to injury due to the way our body is used. We can prevent and manage aches, pains and injuries by becoming more aware of how our body is being used and areas where we can improve our strength, stability and mobility. 

Here are some tips on how to better prepare yourself for your next run. You may be accustomed to just lacing up and going, however, should you have any potential injury sites or any concerns, you will benefit greatly from preparing yourself for the run, by doing some prehabilitation work that is specific to your needs. How do you know what prehab is needed? Working with a trainer, coach, or clinic professional such as yours truly, can help you better assess your situation and how you can improve. Here are some tips so you can get started on running smarter right away: 

-Be sure you have optimal range of motion in your toes, especially the big toe joint. Having your toes move easily improves the mechanics of your feet as shock absorbers 

-Work on the mobility of your ankles, especially in terms of dorsiflexion, so this typically means stretching your calves. There are very few people who are particularly mobile this way and mobility in the ankle joint does not naturally improve with age

-Assess and improve the mobility of your hips, especially in relation with being able to extend your hip backwards. Many of us are lacking in this range from our time sitting, so even a few standing hip extensions just before your run can help activate the muscles needed for improved hip extension. 

-Strengthen your core, which includes the hips. Core exercise is hugely beneficial to improving your posture and stability through your pelvis, which contributes to force being efficiently coordinated and distributed through your muscles and joints. 

-Improve your ability squat, so you are able to squat with your feet flat, keep a long spine and get your butt close to the ground. This is the basic test of mobility in the ankles, knees and hips- something that we can always work at improving. The more we can squat as smoothly as an Olympic weightlifter with no weight for us regular humans, the better our hips, knees and ankles are functioning.

-Work on your breathing. Being able to breathe through your nose most of the time, including while running is beneficial to your general health, as your nose filters and warms the air before it enters your lungs. Of course, once you reach a certain intensity, breathing through both the nose and mouth become a necessity. The goal is to breathe through your nose for as high an intensity as possible for you. Practicing a more ideal breathing pattern also helps your posture, which indirectly helps with the load bearing of running. Try this stretch on a regular basis before and/or after a run to encourage deep diaphragmatic breathing: http://www.vivianlaw.ca/relax-and-improve-your-posture/

There are 6 areas mentioned above to consider, so choose 1-3 areas where you know you could improve and pick a quick exercise to do before a run. It could be a bit of stretching, mobility work or a strength exercise. For example, I use a mini acu ball and roll through my feet, do calf raises and stretch my calves before I go for a run, as my ankles are a limiting factor for me. Every runner will have unique needs. If you could use some guidance, we are always here to support you at the Adelaide Health Clinic, 100 King St W, First Canadian Place, Toronto  

What to look for in a health and wellness professional

At this uncertain time in the world maintaining our health is more important than ever and in some ways it has become increasingly difficult to sort through the limitless amount of information coming through at our fingertips. One can use the internet to learn about almost any topic. When it comes to health, is internet research the best course of action? The short answer is no, it is not a good idea play Dr Google and become an overnight expert on your own condition. There is a lot of individuality in health and we all need guidance.

We all need good health and wellness professionals to help us take care of ourselves. Some of us are more privileged and can invest more in these services. In Canada, we have universal health care and it remains important to advocate for ourselves. We can better advocate for our own health and empower ourselves with knowledge by developing good relationships with health professionals.

Having been in the field of health and wellness for over 20 years, here are my recommendations on what to look for when you are seeking professional health related services:

Client/patient centred care: The professional prioritizes your needs and is dedicated to serving to your best interests. If a professional comes recommended by a friend, ask them about their experience with that professional. There are new professionals that are amazing right off the bat, so a long history in practice is not necessary. It is always about your comfort level with the professional.

Education: There are many forms of ‘alternative/natural’ health service offerings where the professional is trained with courses, certifications, degrees, diplomas and seminars of varying standards. More formal education for a professional in the field of health, shows a commitment to learning, which promotes improvement in practice. In an ideal world, we would have more integrated health care- a professional with education in science can help you receive the best of care in alternative health and conventional medicine. Most health services have a price range for that field, and generally speaking, the slightly higher investment in the more educated professional is an excellent value for the level of expertise they bring.

Communication and relational skills: The professional is an excellent listener, is able to understand your needs and concerns AND educate you on best practices to improve your condition. You need to feel comfortable with the professional and how they relate with you. A sense of humour always helps!

Integrity: Does this professional practice what they preach and lead by example? Adhering to ethical standards shows integrity- how does the professional handle various situations and potential conflicts of interest?

Empowerment and motivation: A great health and wellness professional is able to educate and advise you so that you gain an understanding on how to improve your health and feel motivated to do so for your own well being. Having been in the field of fitness for so long, I have heard many times, a trainer needs to look the part. I have never fully embraced this concept, as health cannot be judged by appearances alone. While there may be some short term motivation in seeing an ideal you wish to become, remember that our bodies are always changing. Learning ways to manage your own well being at any stage in life are lasting life skills, while looking great for a few months (especially if it involves a diet) is quite transient.

These are guidelines I have used myself in choosing various health professionals to work with to my great satisfaction, as I have worked with some wonderful people. As you may know, I have been studying Traditional Chinese Medicine the past 4 years and have recently started practicing acupuncture. Choosing a professional to give you acupuncture needs further guidance-although it may be a bit biased coming from me, since I am very sensitive to and afraid of needles! Acupuncture is a form of therapy where needles are inserted into specific sites to elicit some form of change in the body. Yes, a needle (hopefully fine and gently inserted) goes into your body(!) To me, this is a big deal, so I have been very picky about allowing needles to be inserted into my body. I have experienced a few mishaps with being needled and it took some time along with great beneficial effects before I became a believer in acupuncture. I actually went from being quite skeptical of acupuncture to being a believer, which amazes me. Many classmates learning of my aversion to needles asked why are you even studying acupuncture? I was interested in traditional chinese medicine first and foremost, herbs were the priority and acupuncture was part of the program. A young lady who is also afraid of needles mentioned acupuncture was recommended for her and she decided she needed to seek out a practitioner that specialized in giving acupuncture, which is an excellent plan in general and especially if you are nervous. Quite a few licensed health professionals are free to give acupuncture after weekend courses for training. This goes back to my recommendation above for education. Someone who has studied acupuncture for 4 years is different than someone who studied for 3 weeks. Feel free to ask questions. Your body is being ‘punctured’, so feeling comfortable with a practitioner takes on even more importance. If you are at all nervous or afraid of needles, it is imperative that the practitioner is empathetic and helps you feel comfortable. If you get the feeling they don’t really care about your concerns- run fast!

At this time of high stress, we really need to take care of our physical, mental and emotional health. There is a health and wellness professional around you that can help you feel better.

Cheers to your journey towards making life good with maintaining your optimal health

https://www.mahayaforesthill.com/vivian-law/

Vivian Recommends September 2020

September marks the end of summer and the start of fall, a time of transition. In years past, I’ve seen people get more serious about their fitness at this time. Things seem different this year, so it is a good idea to work on the habit being active any time of the year. It’s not necessary to be serious, just get moving more regularly.

I’ve continued reading for fun and always for learning and last weekend I read an article where Warren Buffet highly endorses this habit as a way of going to bed smarter each day. Here are some books I recommend:

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline-a fantastic read that reminds me of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory set in a not so distant future, which seems quite plausible at this time. Many thanks to my friend K who gave me this book years ago

Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth-a serious and interesting book that gives insight on the assumptions made in the economic models that drive our society and self interest. We can all do our part to regenerate the earth and care for others.

Chaos Point 2012 and Beyond by Ernest Lazlo-this book was on my list for some time and the themes very much echoed those in Doughnut Economics in how we must consider our impact on the environment and our consciousness.

I’ve recommended the Centre of Humane Technology podcast and this month there was a film that featured Tristan Harris, which shows the impact of technology on our well being, the Social Dilemma is a must watch film:

https://www.netflix.com/title/81254224

Last week, a client recommended blue light glasses to use while on the computer. These glasses (available online and at Staples) have made such a difference in making computer work easier on my eyes. It’s kind of amazing to purchase a device that ‘protects’ me from technology, go figure.

Making Life Good Recommends August 2020

It has been lovely to enjoy the Canadian summer weather even although things are so different than summers past. Outdoor reading is best at this time.

Here are some books I enjoyed and recommend this month:

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan. Another fun and frivolous novel by the author of Crazy Rich Asians. Quite perfect escapism while travel is limited

Becoming Supernatural by Joe Dispenza. This book was a truly inspiring read that combines technical understanding of what happens during deep meditation and real life stories of healing. Great reminder to meditate and open your mind daily.

Stand Out of Our Light by James Williams. Great quick read that shows us some ways technology affects our attention and our lives along with some philosophy

In relation to technology I have enjoyed many episodes of this podcast, this is of particular interest since I do not appreciate the auto recommendations on you tube or spotify. This podcast explains what is behind the autoplay:

https://www.humanetech.com/podcast/4-down-the-rabbit-hole-by-design

Being in the field of natural health, I have observed some a disturbing trend of adamant misinformation along with a lack of critical thinking. I’ve been following the Conspirituality podcast and it brings great discussion:

Making Life Good Recommends July 2020

This month marks 20 years of being a fitness trainer for me. With a worldwide pandemic, life certainly is very different, which requires adaptation and at the same time maintaining our health and fitness is more important than ever. Traditional chinese medicine acupuncture will soon be an additional service I offer. Fitness remains my first love and I very much hope to get back to teaching classes again soon.

It has been my habit to read every book that inspires me or comes highly recommended for many years now. I started keeping track of what I read over a decade ago when a friend asked how many books I read in a year. My answer was 20 and when I actually checked to be sure I was telling the truth…it was the truth and the number of books has only increased over the years. What is measured, improves-

Here are my book recommendations for this month:

Atomic Habits by James Clear-great book that breaks down how we can make effective small changes that add up to be consistent new habits that vastly improve our live.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg-I cannot recommend Atomic Habits without also recommending this book, as it was also an excellent perhaps slightly more entertaining book. I very much appreciated learning about the ways our habits are shaped without our knowing.

The Death of Expertise by Tom Nichols-this book came to by attention based on this clip: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/problem-thinking-know-experts In this current environment of rampant misinformation, I found this book to be helpful in comprehending how we came to this sad state of affairs. I laughed a few times and also realized the gravity of having large groups of people be led by their feelings and bypassing any form of reasoning. One of the recommendations Tom Nichols had for having a more functional democracy is for the American population to be more engaged in civics and understand their political system. Interestingly, just before finishing the book, I learned of A Starting Point platform which Captain America (Chris Evans) launched for the purpose of educating and engaging more of the population https://www.astartingpoint.com

Being in the field of health and fitness, it has been so disheartening to find so much misinformation being shared on social media. This podcast was incredibly informative in understanding the forces behind the phenomenon: https://rebelwisdom.podbean.com/e/can-truth-survive-big-tech-tristan-harris/

This TED talk is shorter: https://www.ted.com/talks/tristan_harris_how_a_handful_of_tech_companies_control_billions_of_minds_every_day?language=en

So we really must be mindful of where we place our attention, plus sanity doesn’t sell

Vivian Recommends June 2020

This has been a challenging time, as gyms are still closed and I have been unable to engage with my pretend cult of fitness, a joke I like to tell at my classes. I thought about writing a rant or at least a strong statement for what I stand for and then realized I have had this blog for 8 years. I have held myself to the standard of speaking lasting truths and share positive energy, so this body of work can grow…I better stick with that and here are some recommendations I have:

I read a few books this month and I highly recommend:

Defending Jacob by William Landay. I watched the Apple Tv show of the same name first and found the emotional story along with the character’s perception of reality to be very engaging. Both the book and the show are great.

Evolve Your Brain by Joe Dispenza. This is a fantastic book that goes into the neuroscience of how emotions are held in the body and how we can rewire our minds to build a better version of ourselves.

Deep and Simple by Bo Lozoff. This is a book that Mr Rogers bought many copies of to give away and he lived by the principle himself in his shows of delivering a message that was deep and simple. Great book on important philosophies to adopt in life

These articles:

It has been my experience lately and it has also been building up in the past few years that it has become more challenging to have a civil discussion, where both sides are actually heard. It seems more and more people are experts of their own right with no education in addition to feeling entitled to impose their opinions.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/problem-thinking-know-experts

Looking deeper into the Buddhist philosophy I came across this article:

It’s a long one and such a great reminder in what a mindfulness practice actually involves.

Here is a hilarious album by Chromeo, a Canadian band my brother and I discovered at a Canadian music week many years ago. The name Quarantine Casanova says it all and my fave track is Roni’s Got me Stressed Out:

This meditation I have managed to do a few times this month and have found it to be so helpful, building on the practice of the concepts Joe Dispenza teaches:

https://podcasts.apple.com/nz/podcast/dr-joe-dispenza-guided-space-meditation/id955266444?i=1000335916470

Hope you find these recommendations helpful in making life good-