Category Archives: Vivian Law

Music Speaks

My interest in music developed from a young age. I enjoyed playing musical instruments and getting a Walkman with headphones was the coolest thing ever. I did have the sense from even that young age it was obnoxious to blare music in settings where it may disturb others. Speakers on the beach is not okay when others are within hearing range, especially with the vast amount of nonsense produced and consumed. Music has the capability to influence our mood and shapes perception of our surroundings. There’s music piped in at the grocery store!

I understand that Spotify playlists are popular and used by many. I stand for human curated music and I’m not a fan of algorithm driven music selection. Any music you hear at a class with me is specifically chosen by me on Apple Music (@vivian_law). I’m a music aficionado and I get inspiration from other humans, not algorithms. The autoplay feature on Spotify has yielded maybe one song out of a hundred that I enjoyed, so it is not a feature I appreciate at all- in fact it feels like force fed mediocrity. The Release Radar is something I give a listen and works a lot better for me than autoplay.

With exposure to more genres of music in my teenage years I found myself offended by vulgar lyrics. Friends who have known me since then were subjected to my pontification on ill effects of listening to such nonsense. I sounded like an old person back then and now that I am an older person, my sensibilities have not changed at all! No degrading lyrics are played at my cycling classes. We take requests and the policy is each rap song is matched with a country song.

Music is a form of subliminal messaging that we choose to expose ourselves to- so I recommend that we all be mindful to what messages we might receive in what we listen to and allow children to be exposed to.

The Good Gut

I listened to this podcast earlier this year and found the gut microbiome research presented to be very informative and read the book the Good Gut shortly after

https://hubermanlab.com/how-to-enhance-your-gut-microbiome-for-brain-and-overall-health/

https://sonnenburglab.stanford.edu/research.html

https://www.penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/317191/the-good-gut-by-justin-sonnenburg-and-erica-sonnenburg-phds/9780143108085

The Good Gut is a book I recommend to anyone interested in learning more about their digestive health. It is easy and enjoyable to read with doable, practical research based advice given by the scientists themselves. One of the recommendations is to eat fermented foods such as yogurt on a daily basis. There are various foods listed including sauerkraut, kefir and kombucha. I have been able to implement eating yogurt on a more regular basis. I started avoiding yogurt in the past decade or so, because the lower fat content and increased protein with ‘greek’ style yogurts was causing stomach upset. I tried coconut yogurt in earlier iterations and it was awful! I am pleased to report that coconut yogurt has improved immensely and I can recommend a few- Presidents Choice Organic Coconut Yogurt alternative and Riviera coconut milk vegan delight are a thinner texture yogurt and Simpla is a tasty, thick texture.

Digestive health is a daily maintenance project that you can monitor easily by observing what comes out the other end after eating and digestion. Choosing more vegetables and fruit, being conscious of eating enough fibre, being hydrated and having a bit of extra help with friendly bacteria in fermented foods goes a long way in improving and maintaining digestive health. Eating healthy food is one part and digesting, assimilating, and absorbing nutrients is the other part of the equation and having the right balance of friendly bacteria makes the process smoother from one end to the other.

Jacob’s Ladder, Versa Climber and Assault Bike

I have the pleasure of working at the Toronto Athletic Club and a few months ago, I came up with the idea to do a quick workout that wasn’t ordinary cardio. I went on the Jacob’s Ladder, Versa Climber and Assault bike for 5 minutes each. It was challenging, I was sweating, and it was a little bit fun! Fun to do three different whole body movements. Of course, an outdoor mission would be even better, but this is a good indoor alternative that doesn’t require travel. It is important to give our bodies different challenges and stimulus to stay fit for actual real life activities. The Jacob’s Ladder you can improve by going faster and increasing your reach. The versa climber you can increase your vertical reach and improve the coordination of your arms and legs. The Assault bike, you can improve your efficiency. The concept is simple- just try a different physical activity!

Canada Day

Summer is finally here in Toronto and nothing like Canada Day to show some gratitude for where we live and all the privileges we have. I’ll be making playlists with Canadian artists all week long in celebration. I’m certainly grateful that fitness is back in action having lived through 2 years of virtual shutdown. Having the option of virtual meetings is a real positive result of the past couple years. Real life meetings, human interaction is such a welcome return. July also marks my start date as a fitness professional, this year being 22 years of ‘service’ which I feel incredibly grateful for, as I love what I do has only grown in that time. Happy Canada Day!

Hour of Power- Stages Cycling

After a lot of consideration and talk, we completed the Hour of Power ride this evening at the Toronto Athletic Club. Our group had tested our functional threshold power (FTP) at a previous time and I had always wondered if that theoretical number translated to actual performance. When my FTP was calculated with a 20 min test, I felt very confident I could produce that power for an hour. When my FTP was calculated in February with an 8min test, I felt a lot less confident about my capabilities.

Armed with some very well selected tunes, we did a 15 min warmup and hit varying intervals of 95-100%, 100-105% set to the selected songs. I backed off and took a few ‘breaks’ of less than 1min here and there. Turns out I was able to complete the 60min with an average power that was 3 watts below my FTP, so that was a wonderful surprise! Our field test was a success. The ‘theoretical’ maximum power that you can ride for an hour, is a REAL thing provided that you actually push yourself during the test!

Circumstances don’t make a man, they reveal him

Circumstances don’t make a man, they reveal him. This is a quote from a Wayne Dyer that came to mind this week when discussing how to handle difficult times in life. It’s easy to make plans to guard ourselves against failure and heartbreak, but it doesn’t serve your highest good in the long term, as that strategy limits your growth and opportunities. Taking the attitude that you are being ‘tested’ by your circumstances allows more growth, learning and character building.

Dwayne the Rock Johnson also has a similar quote: When life puts you in touchy situations don’t say ‘why me’ just say ‘try me’

I laughed out loud when I saw the quote, as it takes a playful and tough attitude towards coping with situations. When we are tested we need to be better by taking the life lesson as an opportunity to learn, grow and improve.

New Year Check In

It’s Chinese New Year, more appropriately named Lunar New Year. We celebrate in our family, although not to the same extent that is celebrated in Hong Kong. With another ‘new year’ so soon after January 1, I find it is a good opportunity to check in goals for the year. A friend asked if I had any resolutions and my response was I make goals at the start of the year, preferably on a beach. It was great to receive the feedback that I am someone who accomplishes what I set out to do which got me to consider how achieving goals works for me.

More than any other practice, I believe being true to my word is of utmost importance. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say is the foundation of being able to achieve any goal. The question becomes how do you create the achievable goals? If you have not read Atomic Habits by James Clear, I highly recommend the book. One of his key points is tying your goals to your identity, which I completely agree with to my point of being true to my word is embedded in my identity. I will also add for any goal the question of what kind of person do you want to be can be layered in to help clarify the goal. For example, for the goal of being fit, it requires time and effort with exercise and food choices, however, if you like to eat pizza and booze up regularly, you are unlikely to be ready for a fitness competition. You can try your best to have it all, but most of the time you need to prioritize what is most important to you. I make it my business to be fit, and I like pizza, booze and sweets, so I accept not being all that lean and identify with being a person who enjoys food. Unreasonable expectations derail goals, as it creates disappointment and you need to feel like you CAN and WILL do it to achieve goals.

One month into the year you can take stock of how things have gone so far and see what needs improvement and adjustment. Goals can always be adjusted. Being a flexible and adaptable person makes it easier to achieve goals. There’s a lot of ‘experts’ touting magical ‘routines’ that supercharge a person to be productive and I disagree. It is not the routine, it is the commitment and holding yourself accountable to working on what you need to do. Missteps and failures happen, so you need the flexibility to get back on track. Breaking down goals into smaller, more manageable chunks is helpful. Big goals are like a test of endurance and focus, so it pays to give yourself markers along the way. Wherever you are, clarify, adjust and keep going- yes you can, yes you will!

Numbness, pain or tingling- try acupuncture ASAP

As I go further with Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture practice, I learn more and more about the benefits. Once a person starts to feel a difference, the most common question is- How does this work? This is a question that is both easy and difficult to answer at the same time. Acupuncture affects the nervous system. The needles stimulate the nervous system and from there a variety of responses can occur- the release of neurotransmitters with cascading effects on the digestive system and hormones, changes in the level of stimulus in muscle (activation or inhibition), and improving nerve signals (activation or inhibition), as a few examples. Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture serves to support the body and maintain optimal health through acupuncture points that bring balance to the function of the organs and the body as a whole.

Whenever you have a health condition, it is best to address it sooner than later. In the case of neurological symptoms like numbness, pain, paralysis or tingling, acupuncture as soon as possible is especially helpful. In the event of any of these symptoms, there is some level of impediment to the nerve signals- acupuncture can help resolve the issue of impediment by providing stimulus for the nerve to improve function. Neurons may degenerate and creating new signals with existing nerve tissue is always possible.

What can cause neurological symptoms like numbness, pain, paralysis or tingling? Injury- acute or chronic, infection can cause Bell’s Palsy (facial paralysis), transient ischemic attack or stroke, diseases that cause nerve degeneration such as multiple sclerosis, and neuropathy as a result of other conditions. No matter the cause of the neurological symptoms, Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture is a complementary therapy that is ideally applied as soon as possible.

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.