Tagged: running

Does Your Back Hurt? Part One.

I’ve been in the physical fitness industry for over fifteen years and dealing with injuries and special conditions for most of that time.  I’ve dealt with some of the most extreme cases you can think of and wanted to put together some comprehensive answers for people who need help figuring out how to help themselves with injuries.

Over the years the case I see most often is lower back pain.  This can manifest itself in various different ways for different people.  The typical stages of this type of injury are:

  • General stiffness, usually upon waking up where it feels like you need to move around a bit in order to get blood moving again. This might also happen during the day at work or after driving in your car for a period of time.  I call this Stage 1.  Think of this as a check engine light coming on in your car.
  • Constant stiffness and losing the ability to move quickly without a sudden jolt of pain. Often this is the stage where people start to seek help from some form of practitioner.  There may be occasional sciatic pain down one leg or positions that cause discomfort, especially lying down.  Sleeping may be difficult some nights.  This is Stage 2.  This is where you really need to start paying attention, although you really should have at Stage 1.
  • Pain when moving. Typically this is sciatic referral pain (ie numbness or tingling down one leg or both) or sometimes SI Joint pain (beside the tailbone near the pelvis) and the whole joint area in the hip and lower back is stiff and sore constantly.  Sometimes this can mean a disc herniation or bulge or an SI Joint displacement.  This is Stage 3 and can render you unable to move properly at all, sit for periods of time and you will be in pain and likely have to resort to pain drugs to function.


This article is a series for letting you know why this pain happens, what you can do about it yourself without having to spend tons of money on physiotherapy, and how to prevent it in the future.

So to begin with, why does this pain happen?

Pain is a signal from your body telling you that something is either out of place or unable to support what it needs to.  I wrote a previous article about pain and your body here if you would like to read about the concept of pain as a signal.

We spend hours each day in positions where our spine has to bend in ways that it is unsupported and doesn’t like to sit for periods of time.  The most typical place for this is work – sitting in a desk chair hunched over a computer.  As you sit forward, your lower spine and pelvis rotate and flex into the opposite position that they should be.


Basically when you’re standing your lower back has a curve (like it is supposed to), and when you sit it doesn’t – which puts pressure on and between the discs.  It also means that some muscles have to work more to maintain the position and get tired, while others don’t do much work at all.  Imagine at work you had two employees who did all the work, and two who showed up but never did anything.  The two who did all the work would eventually get either burned out or pissed off.  Muscles like to work together.

Stiffness is your body’s way of saying either “I don’t want to move” or “I can’t move well” – either way it isn’t a good thing.  This can be muscular and can also be fascial restriction as well.  It is a good idea to address both because without a very experienced imagining tech you’re not going to know for sure which one is the problem, and it is easy to address both issues.

What eventually happens when your joints and muscles tire and your fascia doesn’t allow movement is pain.  Remember always that this is a warning signal and therefore should be looked at when it happens, not ignored like many of us tend to do.

So if I am starting to get these warning signs and have entered Stage 1 of the process, what should I do?

Awareness here is key.  There are multiple avenues for relief at this stage, which is a good thing.  In my next blog post I’m going to outline the best stretches and movements that you can use in order to bring relief to this area but for now let’s work on the immediate things.

However, in the meantime what you can do immediately is assess your position when doing things like sitting, moving around and even simply relaxing on the couch.  Are you in a compromised spinal position?  This means that something is usually twisted, flexed or positioned in a way that isn’t optimally aligned and eventually will cause a problem.

Example: recently I worked with an anesthesiologist who stood on the same side of his patients and bent and rotated to do his job – every day for hours.  He didn’t realize that his spine was literally starting to twist into a new position.  Bringing awareness to this and asking him to simply move to the other side of the table half the time brought him instant relief.


Dan couldn’t get out of bed without pain and within weeks could support his five year old on his bent back.

If you are a desk worker this can be as simple as moving your work station to a better position.  It can also mean getting up frequently throughout the day and getting out of a bad position.  I tell my clients to set a timer and stand up ideally at least every 30 minutes, and more often if they can.  Walk in a circle or visit a colleague, do a lap around the floor or whatever you can do for a minute or two.

When standing, figure out if you’re always putting weight on one leg.  Public transit riding is terrible for this.  So is standing for long periods of time cooking, or doing any other type of work where you stand for periods of time.  This shift onto one side creates a slight tilt in the pelvis and more load onto one hip, resulting in fatigue on one side.  If you are, simply focus on shifting onto the other side once in a while.

If you’re driving long distances and have back pain when driving, try reclining your seat a bit more to open up your hip angle and decrease your lumbar spine flexion.  It’s not a solution, but it can help with symptoms.

If necessary, even keep a log, writing down when you feel stiff.  Is it after every day at work?  Is it when you wake up or lie down?  Is it after you have done three hours of gardening (which is probably normal)?  Again, the awareness is important, especially if you want to figure out the source of the issue.

I’m always telling my clients to be more proactive and invest in their bodies.  It really doesn’t take that much to be aware of when and why things are happening.

If you are already in Stage 2 or 3 then you need help.  Go ahead and invest your time and consult a competent physiotherapist (sports therapists are generally best), chiropractor (ideally not a back cracker but a good ART specialist) or a good rehabilitative strength trainer (with credentials and education) like myself.  Almost every day I help people reduce and eliminate back pain in a short period of time with simple solutions that you can perform on yourself with minimal time investment.  However, you need to do the first steps first.

In my next article I’ll discuss the mechanics of back pain and your “core” and some simple movements and solutions to help you if you’re still experiencing problems.  Feel free to like this article, subscribe to my site on the main page and follow me at @paradigmottawa on Twitter or Paradigm Personal Training on Facebook.  And, of course if you have any questions I’m only an email away at paradigmfitnessottawa@gmail.com.  See you next time!

What Did You Accomplish This Year?

A pretty simple concept post this week for my readers.  Often when I’m dealing with clients I find one of the most important things for them is to get them to think long term, ie set annual goals and stick to them consistently throughout a calendar year.

We also tend to not give ourselves enough credit.  It’s so easy to think of what you haven’t got versus what you have.  If you’re healthier, fitter and most important happier at the end of the year, you’ve really won most of the battle.

So if you’re reading this post, I want you to think back to January of 2015.  You can even check your social media to see where you were at (one of the perks of it).  People today simply don’t think long term and then don’t give themselves proper credit for things they have actually accomplished.  One of my main goals in life (and hopefully yours too) is to always be pushing forward and trying to improve personally and professionally.

Here’s some examples from my own list, and I’ll also share some accomplishments I feel I had with some of my clients without naming any names.

  • Managed to correct a woman’s misdiagnosed tennis elbow in about thirty minutes applying common sense.
  • Allowed a client to bike in the mountains, which was a huge life goal for her after years of chronic pain and immobility.
  • Allowed a woman who had chronic fibromyalgia to experience pain free days for the first time in eight years.
  • Was able to successfully rehabilitate a tibial plateau fracture to the point where the client can now run, jump and play sports (something she was told she shouldn’t do ever again).
  • Took a running client to a 13 minute marathon personal best.
  • Dealt with a couple of very rare conditions (I won’t get into details here) but they have really allowed me to increase my level of care and knowledge.
  • Have managed to get several people into the best shape of their lives at a fairly advanced age and dealing with chronic hip, back and neck issues.

On a personal level:

  • Welcomed my second daughter into the world who is a busy little bug and now that she can move around gets into anything and everything. She’s going to be an athlete for sure.
  • Began working on my first course and book, to be fleshed out and hopefully presented for the first time in 2016.
  • My band has taken off and I’m much more comfortable behind the microphone by far – check out getoffmylawn.rocks if you want to check us out or book a show.
  • Currently symptom free from my previous heart condition and hoping that remains the same.
  • I weigh exactly the same as I did twenty years ago.


So when you look back on your year, give yourself a pat on the back for what you have accomplished, no matter how small and insignificant it might seem.  Then sit down and put together some goals for next year.

Think back on what you have done to mold the future and what you want to be.  The best way to do this is to set some really high standards and do your best to meet them.  Even if you don’t, by the time the end of next year rolls around you might be really surprised at what you have done versus what you haven’t.

If you want to share any of your upcoming goals, I’d love to hear what they are!  Feel free to spread this around on social media and maybe we can start a trend of goal planning.  Until 2016, I am so grateful for all of my loyal readers, friends and clients and next year will just bring bigger and better things!

How to Keep Resolutioners in the Gym

I know this might be a bit early, but in three weeks it is 2016 and a whole new set of people will be undertaking new fitness goals.  The first thing I need to mention is that in the fitness world there tends to be a lot of elitism, and I’ve already seen the “resolutionist” memes going around Facebook.  The fact we even have a nickname for new exercisers says it all.

With society the way it is and a massive obesity epidemic, we should all play our own part in not only helping these people get into fitness, but keeping them around as long as possible.  See – you’ve already swallowed the pill of fitness, but you are in the vast minority.  Over half the population doesn’t exercise at all, and only about 10% regularly (meaning 3x a week and sustained for over six months) because it just isn’t on their radar and never has been.  But something is going to drive them into a gym (besides marketing hype) very soon.  And for some reason many of them stop after a few weeks.

I want to keep them there.  I want to have thousands of people NOT stop working out after six weeks and get healthier.  Then hopefully some of those people can inspire others to get started, and snowball effect takes place and boom, no more obesity.  Pipe dream?  Maybe.  But we can all do our part to help keep as many around as possible.

So here’s a list of ways as “fitness people” we can all help make sure that whomever you know who is getting started stays at it long term and gets to the state that you’re in:  loving exercise and feeling a ton better.



Your friend/co-worker/spouse knows you’re a fitness person.  It’s probably obvious when you talk about what you did on the weekend or take off your jacket.  Our instinct as soon as someone outside of our world wants to jump in is to tell them what worked for us, which simply may not be what would motivate or work for that person.  Don’t tell them to start running five times a week for weight loss, or start deadlifting like you do.  They are likely getting it from multiple sources and it can be not only confusing but overwhelming.  People don’t change overnight.

The simplest thing is to say “awesome news!” and if they ask questions tell them what worked for you, but also let them know what you went through in order to arrive at that conclusion.  Hopefully they will figure out something for themselves.  If they went to the gym that morning, give them a high five and leave it at that.  Let them know that it took you as a fitness person a long time to get to where you’re at and if they want to get support, you’re there but don’t overdo it.

And please don’t suddenly become a personal trainer and offer to work out with them and show them everything you do.  Swallow your pride and tell them if they need it to hire a professional.  You probably did too.


Typically the first few weeks as a new exerciser is confusing and tough.  It is a new thing to fit into your schedule, you have no idea what you’re doing and are nervous every time you step into a facility.  As a method of support, ask them where they want to be at the end of the YEAR.  Not next month.  Again, I’m trying to reinforce the long term aspect of this for sustainability.

Another way to motivate them might be “you know, I signed up for a Spartan Race in June – you should think about it” or “Hey, I’m thinking about doing the Army ½ marathon in September so I started training for the 10k in May”.  Let them know how long it takes to achieve things.  By next Christmas, where do they want to be?  With any luck it will trigger the need to sustain what they are doing.


We all have one.  Maybe you have a trainer you really like and have gotten great results from.  Maybe you get amazing recipes from a web site you love.  Maybe you subscribe to a message board you got a lot of support from.  Maybe they could sub in on your winter ultimate team and see how much fun group sports can be.  Introduce them to someone they see you talking to at the gym.

One of the hardest things any person can do is walk into a gym for the first time, and if they approach you and just need a friendly face, don’t get upset that they interrupted your third set of squats.  Take a longer rest break and chat for a bit, even if you’re there to work hard.  It won’t kill you or your gains.


Some people just aren’t gym people, and that’s fine.  The world of health literally has unlimited options.  I have a client whose husband is a World Champion in Skijoring, which is like sled dogging on a bicycle and sounds totally awesome (and I had never heard of it).  Whether it’s pole dancing, skating, weightlifting or aquafit, the fact that people are moving at all is really great.

So maybe your person seems to feel like the gym isn’t for them.  You probably have a friend who does something else cool that you can tell them about.  Even as kids we all either played individual or team sports and that rarely changes as an adult.  Ultimate Frisbee might not work, but then racquet sports might.  Plus the challenge of learning something new is always fun.


This final one is for all of the people who complain about the “clutter” in the gym in January.  Instead of thinking that “these people” are doing something wrong, change your attitude.  Smile at them.  Offer to let them work in on whatever you are using.  If you see someone looking lost offer to help them.  Be nice.  Once, you were probably that person (I know I was).

Remember, these people are probably watching everything you are doing because you’re the fitness person and they want to get there.  Being nice to newcomers can go a long way in getting them to stick around and feel like part of a community.  CrossFit boxes are fantastic at this because they are usually totally inclusionary and that’s how they retain people.  And those people make progress, at least far more than they would on the couch at home.

Sometimes a simple “hey, are you new here” and an offer to help can go a long way.  Be nice.


If you liked this, please share it around and take it to heart.  I’m not just writing this for fitness people, by the way.  If you are thinking about stepping into a gym for the first time, please don’t be intimidated.  There is a world of options out there and a lot of really good people and support for you.

My other advice is also don’t wait until January and just get started now, but that’s a whole other article.

Feel free to follow, share and like this and until next time make sure if you see someone in January you help them out!

The One Key to Results

Having been in this training profession for almost fifteen years, I’ve dealt with hundreds of people and helped them get healthier, stronger and feeling better about themselves.  I’ve helped people lose 100 pounds, complete Ironman triathlons, recover from what they thought were permanent physical conditions, and given people the chance to live longer.  It’s a pretty awesome job.

I get the question all of the time – what’s the big answer?  What’s the key to getting through my barriers, getting the body I want or achieving that big goal I have?  My first answer is usually that goals should never really end.  You achieve one thing and then you keep moving forward towards something else.

Lost the weight you wanted?  Great!  Now, work on using your new body towards something cool like climbing a mountain or taking up a sport.

Completed that race?  Great!  When’s the next one.  Do you want to go longer, be faster or simply perform better overall?

Got through an injury?  Great!  Now, can you get better than you were before and make sure that injury never happens again?

But what is the big answer to all of these things?  It’s actually one really simple word that when applied can actually guarantee that you will achieve what you want.  I’m going to share this powerful word with you in the hopes that it will sink in and resonate and drive you today and tomorrow and from now on towards your goals.  And it’s so simple.

Ready?  You sure?

Here it is:



This one little concept is what has created most of the success in the world.  Thomas Edison when he was inventing the lightbulb (okay, he didn’t invent it but he did develop the first commercially useful one) supposedly made 9,999 mistakes.  And he kept going.  Athletes at a high level train for YEARS – daily – in order to achieve a high level at anything.  Business people who are at the top of the game didn’t get there overnight or by fluke.  They have many, many years of 7 days weeks, no holidays and sacrificing to make sure they get to where they want to be.

Most of us simply aren’t willing to do this.  We want the easy way, we want it fast and convenient like everything in society has programmed us to be.  We want to microwave, not slow cook.  We want to get liposuction, not eat right and exercise.  We want that text message or email response right away.

One act at a time, one simple little thing at a time – done consistently – ensures that you are always moving forward and inevitably one day you will get to where you want to be.  Every workout, every time you cook a healthy meal or don’t eat something you used to, every time you set the alarm early you’re moving forward.  And if you stay consistent and just don’t stop then you’re definitely going to get there.  It’s really that simple.

Success doesn’t come overnight.  It never has and it never will unless you believe in winning the lottery.  Those people who are where you want to be got there through hard work and consistency, every time.  Nobody was born with a perfect body, nobody was born with a million dollar business.  Athletes train since they are children and never take years off.

A pretty simple concept, right?  The hard part is applying it.  So if you’re working towards something you really, really want (and that has to be the case otherwise you simple aren’t going to get there) just stay consistent.  Whatever that means to you.  For some of my clients it is once a week, for some it is several times – but they are consistent about it.

So start with the one simple step.  A daily act or one small step every day no matter how small as long as it is consistent is moving you forward.  And just keep doing it.

I hope this helped you.  Feel free to share, like and tweet me out if you enjoy what I share with you and as always, if you have any questions or comments just share away.  I look forward to helping you!