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Archive for the ‘Exercise’ Category

Run to the Hills

Posted on: June 19th, 2017 by Laurie Plouffe No Comments

Running in EdmontonHitting the trails/obstacle course racing or miles of pavement, Edmonton has many amazing places for runners to get their stride on. Here are a few tips to make sure your running is smooth and injury free.

Strength training.. yes we know…true seasoned runners like to run, and only run. But hitting the gym is an essential ingredient to prepping your body for the demands of running. Moving in different directions and with resistance helps develop muscles for running since running is quite repetitive on the same muscles. Try these moves for running strength – squat, lateral bear crawl, deadlift

Core– the core is the centre of our body, all movement stems from it. It is how we control the movement of our arms and legs. Since man started walking upright our brains have had a big job in keeping us there and preventing us from falling face first. If our brain doesn’t trust the function of our core (if the core isn’t activating in time to allow a stable base) the brain will call in other muscles to help keep us up…but it’s not their job to do that. This can lead to overuse of those muscles when we also demand that they help us run…they are overworked! They start to tell our body through pain and injury there is something going on. Some key core exercises are – deadbug, plank, superman,

Footstrike –heel strike vs. forefoot strike… This can be debated until the cows come home but it comes down to the design of the body, specifically the lower leg and foot. The muscles and the tendons (think bottom of foot and calf and achilles) are designed to store and release energy, like a spring. Use it best by landing on the mid to forefoot and springing your step (kind of how it feels to run uphill). This is most efficient for transferring energy, up to 40%! That means less work! Striding like this decreases the impact on the body by using the intrinsic shock absorbing power of the body. So basically less work (more efficient) and less jolt on the joints equals happy runners and happy bodies!

The Foam Roller: If my mom can use it, so can you

Posted on: March 7th, 2016 by Laurie Plouffe No Comments

Foam RollerAbout a year ago my mom, an active semi-retired grandma in her mid-60s was suffering from daily back pain which was preventing her from enjoying some of her hobbies and even making it difficult to complete chores and work around the yard. Living in a small rural community in northern Alberta with no direct access to physio my mom sought advice from my brother Arri and I, both of whom are physiotherapists.

Our advice was simple: “Mama, you gotta use your foam roller.”

Like many people, mom was skeptical. She had heard some myths about foam rollers that I would like to clear up.

MYTH: Foam rolling is just for athletes.

FACT: A foam roller can be used by almost everybody regardless of your fitness, age or body composition.

MYTH: Foam rolling is just for tight IT bands.

FACT: Using a foam roller can not only improve muscle mobility, it can help improve posture, core stability, joint stiffness and balance.

MYTH: Foam rolling MUST be painful in order to be effective.

FACT: Don’t get me wrong, rolling some areas can be downright nasty, but there are also a tonne of ways you can use a foam roller which are equally as effective and completely pain-free.

So with some encouragement from her sons, Mama McWatt began doing her 2 very simple foam roller exercises every day. In total the exercises would take her between 5-10 minutes. Today her back is completely pain-free, she has better posture, range of motion and balance. Most importantly, she is once again able to do all the hobbies that she enjoys.

For useful tips on how to use your foam roller and a chance to win a brand new foam roller of your own check out our Facebook page or Instagram account @propelsportsphysio . 

4 Ways to keep you steady on ice this winter!

Posted on: February 20th, 2016 by Moni Taron No Comments

lake-huron-554910_960_720-pixabayAlberta’s winters bring all kinds of weather. With all the melting and freezing, it can be treacherous to get outside. Rather than sit inside all winter, we can be proactive – A few simple exercises can decrease your risk of injury!

Whether you’re skating, skiing, snowboarding, running, or walking on an icy sidewalk, everyone can benefit from a few simple exercises that train balance and proprioception.

What’s the difference between balance and proprioception?
Balance is our ability to distribute weight in order to stay upright. Proprioception is, simply, the ability to know your body position without looking. It allows you to walk without looking at your feet by sending information to your brain, giving you a sense of the position of your limb in space.

Balance and proprioception walk hand in hand. Proprioception is essential in balance control. Ice and snow add a bit of extra challenge since the surfaces are always uneven and somewhat unpredictable. Our proprioceptors, especially the ones in our ankles and feet, have to constantly work to allow our body to adapt to the changing surface and stay steady.

So now the question is, how do we train for proprioception and balance?

We can start with a few basics. Everyone can benefit from balance training, and the good news is that you will notice improvements in no time, even with the most simple exercises. Keep in mind there are always ways to make them more challenging!

BEFORE YOU START: Take off your shoes and socks!

Your toes (especially the big toe) and the little muscles in your feet play a HUGE role in balance. If you are used to a rigid shoe, chances are if you take the shoe off, a) your balance is a lot worse, and b) the muscles in your feet are used to relying on stability from the shoe and are not doing their job very well. Let your toes move!

#1 – Single leg static balance

The most basic of balance exercises is still an important one to do. Start with 10-15 second holds on each leg, keeping your hips level and standing knee slightly bent. Increase the time until 1 minute feels easy. If you need extra challenge, close your eyes – taking away visual feedback really puts your proprioceptors to the test! Try it while you brush your teeth or wash dishes. Exercise doesn’t have to steal your free time!

#2 – Single leg Deadlift

Single Leg Deadlift - startSingle Leg Deadlift - end

Single leg balance is great, but it’s not often you are standing still while enjoying a winter sport! Start without weights, and add some in if you need more of a challenge. Balance on one leg, knee slightly bent, and slowly reach down to the floor, keeping your back straight. Reach your back leg out behind you at the same time. Start with 5-10 on each side and increase to 3 sets of 10.


#3 – Arch Lift

Arch Lift - startArch Lift - end

This tiny movement will help strengthen muscles that make up the arch of your foot. Keep the balls of your feet and your heel on the ground. Slowly push your toes into the ground so you create a larger space between your foot and the ground. It should feel like your toes are gripping the floor. Relax and repeat, holding 1-2 seconds each time. Repeat for 3 sets of 5-10. You can do this ANYWHERE, even moving your foot inside your shoes.

#4 – Toe Mobility (aka Toe Yoga)

Toe Yoga - startToe Yoga - endKeep your heels and the balls of your feet on the ground. Lift your big toes off the ground while your little toes stay down, then switch (big toes down, little toes up). Switch back and forth, 20-30 times. If you find this difficult, you’re not alone. Try using the other foot to hold down the big toe while you lift the other toes and vice versa. It takes a while for your brain to remember they can move separately! Once you master this, your toes can grip the ground better and improve balance.

You’re set with some basic exercises! Get outside and get active – no need to wait until summer!

Movement check-ups to PREVENT problems

Posted on: October 28th, 2015 by Laurie Plouffe No Comments

kettle-bellEvery aspect of your health is monitored to see signs of problems before you have symptoms; always looking for signs of heart disease or diabetes BEFORE they happen. Every aspect except your musculoskeletal self – your muscles and bones. We only pay attention to that area and seek professional help when we are having pain or problems moving.

What if we could have a peek to see if there is any part of your movement system that isn’t performing optimally, BEFORE you notice a problem? We could then implement some preventative measures to keep you going and offset the impact of an injury.

Like a car you put miles on your body with daily activities of living plus added sport or physical activity. Checking the system (your body) at regular intervals, like a tune up for a car, can help make sure that performance is optimal at all times. Especially at times you want to try something new. Maybe you want to try crossfit, running, snowboarding, spinning, HIIT classes or something else into your activities. Before you go ahead spending money on equipment and training we should make sure that body is capable of handling those demands without setting it up for injury.

A functional movement assessment can quickly show us how your body moves in sequence. Muscle activation and timing of movement sequence is important for efficient movement. If something in the pattern or timing is off compensation to get the movement done will happen.

Compensation with movement and muscles leads to overuse and pain, and decreased ability to be efficient because you are using muscles for jobs they aren’t equipped to do. This means not being as strong, fast or able as you should be. Some simple corrective “resets” or exercises given for those specific compensations done regularly could help improve the movement patterns. This leads to increased efficiency, thus more speed, strength and ability.

We all want to be faster, stronger and better at what we do. And we all hate being injured and taking time off from our activities. Being proactive with a movement checkup can ensure your body is always operating at its best.

5 Reasons Core Training Should Involve Your Butt

Posted on: September 18th, 2015 by Laurie Plouffe No Comments

When people think of their core they primarily think of their abs (Thank you Channing Tatum…), what most don’t realize is that their butt (glutes) also plays a critical role. Here are some reasons why activating your glutes is extremely important for functional strength, performance and injury prevention.

1. The glutes are part of your core group of muscles
The glutes play a huge role in core stability, as do other muscles in the mid section of your body such as the back, quads, hamstrings, obliques, and of course abdominals. The main function of these core muscles is to stabilize the body and make movement of the arms, legs and body more efficient. Training this area is crucial because all movement originates from our core.

2. The body has to provide stability to allow for mobility
The core muscles work together to stabilize the mid-section of the body and to allow for simultaneous movement in the arms and legs as well as the body. The goal is maximum stability and mobility so that energy can be transferred and utilized for the desired movement. When there is uncontrolled movement (or poor stability), valuable energy is lost and the activity becomes very inefficient while putting you at risk of injury. Whether your goal is kicking, running, jumping, skating, swinging or throwing, or any other functional movement, the goal is the same – to have sufficient core stability to allow our movements to be more powerful and efficient, and to ultimately improve performance.

3. If the glutes are weak, other muscles have to compensate for them
In addition to being one of the primary stabilizers of the pelvis, the glutes are a large producer of power in the lower body. Weak glutes are often a missing link in many functional movements which can lead to muscle imbalances. Essentially, if one muscle or muscle group is not fulfilling its role (weak or not working correctly), the body has to make up for this somewhere else. When other muscles, such as the back extensors or hamstrings, have to compensate for this, they become overworked causing fatigue. This often leads to poor performance and injury.

4. Quality of movement is always more important than quantity
Glute activity is strongest during high power activities such as sprinting and jumping, followed by running and climbing, and finally walking. However, if one muscle is not fulfilling its role, another will try to compensate and do the work for both of them. So, if you start with a high skill level or high resistance activity without activating the correct muscles, you are basically doing repetitions to strengthen muscles the wrong muscles. Try exercises which specifically activate the glute muscles, such as bridging and clamshells, to ensure you are activating your glutes before doing higher intensity activities (ie, jumping, sprinting). This movement prep can help reassure you are using your glutes when you train.

5. You don’t have to lift heavy to get strong glutes
The more you activate your glutes during daily activities the stronger the brain-muscle connection will become. This increased number of repetitions, or high volume training, can be very effective in building muscle size and endurance. It is also important to consider the effectiveness of the exercise, regardless of how much weight someone is using to complete a squat or deadlift, if the glutes are inactive, they are not getting stronger (the quads on the other hand, that’s a whole other story). If you’re unsure where to start with your glute or core training, consult with a physiotherapist. We’d love to help you build a better butt!

5 Reasons Why Everyone Should Squat

Posted on: August 18th, 2015 by Kayla Clarke No Comments

man-squat-clouds-src-unsplash“But isn’t squatting bad for me knees?! Don’t they damage the joint?!”

… Nope.

Surprise! In fact … squatting is a fundamental exercise that no matter what age, gender, or even fitness level – EVERYBODY should be doing.

1. Squats do NOT do damage to the structures in your knees
When a squat is performed with proper technique * (see bottom of article), it does not “wear away” the cartilage or meniscus. In fact, performing squats helps to encourage natural movement, and has even been shown to INCREASE the integrity of the ligaments and joint lining. Think of it as keeping the tires on your bike oiled. You wouldn’t hop on a bike that has been locked away all winter and zoom right off

2. They help strengthen MULTIPLE muscles
Your glutes, quads, hamstrings, abdominals and low back muscles will thank you for doing squats. You want to get stronger? Do a squat. You want fantastic trunk control? Do a squat. You want awesome quads? Do a squat.
The beauty of this, is that a squat is an amazing bang-for-your-buck exercise that can be performed virtually EVERYwhere –  from the gym using barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells; or at home with your body weight, bands, even bottles of water!

3. They actually DECREASE knee pain
Recent research shows that incorporating squats into a regular exercise regime helped to decrease chronic inflammation that occurs with osetoarthritic knees. Not only that, but the participants in the study reported less perceived pain, and were even able to walk faster

4. They enhance movement AND athletic performance
Multiple research studies have shown that when athletes of a wide range of sports incorporated squats into their training programs, they improved upon their sprint time, strength /  weight lifted, and their vertical jump. This is mainly due to the nature of the exercise targeting multiple muscle groups, and the ability to constantly progress and vary the exercise

5. We were BORN to squat!
Every time you sit down on a chair, or the toilet, or bend down to get something off the floor – guess what you’re doing? A squat! There is a reason why our hips, knees, and ankles are all joints that have a large range of motion

Now … Go Squat!

*If you want to make sure you are using good technique, or if you DO have any knee pain or complications – make sure to get it checked out by a physiotherapist

6 Easy Tips For Successful Cycling

Posted on: July 23rd, 2015 by Laurie Plouffe No Comments

Edmonton’s river valley and surrounding areas are perfect for mountain biking. Of course, you wouldn’t attack the single track with a flat tire, bent rim, or a squeaky drivetrain, but what about your body? These 6 tips will help ensure your body’s muscles function just as well as your bike does, and will go a long way to help keep you biking at your best.

Tip 1: Get your butt in gear
If you want to attack hills, make sure your hamstrings and glutes have the strength to get to the top. Bar squats, walking lunges, and single leg squats are excellent exercise that can help strengthen those key muscles that power you up the hill.

Tip 2: Save your knees please
Nothing can ruin a day of riding quicker than knee pain. Oftentimes this is due to adaptive shortening of the muscles on the front of your thighs (quadriceps and hip flexors), which puts too much stress on your kneecap. Combat this by using a foam roller to roll out your quads Thirty passes back and forth over these muscles can go a long way in lengthening these tissues. If you don’t have a foam roller, a standing 30-second quad stretch (pull your heel towards your butt) should do

Tip 3: Keep your back on track
Aggressive downhill/aero riding positions where your back is forward flexed for prolonged periods can place sensitive structures in your spine under a lot of stress (intervertebral discs, back muscles etc.). Help keep your back happy by taking periodic breaks by moving into an upright riding position, or stepping off your bike and walking around while you refuel. The cobra position (lay on your stomach, keep your pelvis on the ground while lifting your upper body away from the ground with your arms) is also a good way to give your back a break from the prolonged flexed postures of biking

Tip 4: Calves for the paths
Biking, especially uphill, demands a lot from your calf muscles. Keep your calves strong by incorporating straight and bent knee calf raises into your workout routine. Don’t forget to stretch out your calves too! Stand on a step with your knees straight, and slowly lower your heels to below the level of the step until you feel a stretch in your calves. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds. Additionally, stretch your calves with a bent knee. Assume a semi-lunge position and slowly drive the knee of your front leg straight over your toes while keeping the heel of your forward leg on the ground until you feel a stretch at the back of your calf. Again, hold 30 seconds per leg.

Tip 5: Cross train for your chain
To become a better cyclist, you obviously need to bike, but you can cross train as well. Studies have shown there is a cross training effect that occurs between running and biking. So, if you don’t feel like clipping into your pedals for a ride, consider going for a jog or run. You’ll work a lot of the same muscles you use for biking without having to worry about cleaning the chain marks off your right calf.

Tip 6: Listen to your body; if you break it, let us help you fix it
If something is wrong with your bike, it will let you know. Your body is no different. If you begin to experience pain during your ride, or in the hour(s) following your ride, it is usually indicative of tissue overload and possible injury. In this case don’t hesitate to come in and see the physiotherapists at Propel Sports Physio to assess your injury. We’re just as crazy about mountain biking as you are (really), and want to keep you performing your best.

Post Partum Body and Exercise

Posted on: October 16th, 2012 by Laurie Plouffe No Comments

Whether you had a vaginal or a caesarean delivery, your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles have been stretched and possibly damaged.  It is important to get these muscles working properly again.  Many women are concerned about losing weight gained during pregnancy and flattening their stomachs, but it is important to get into a safe exercise routine as some types of exercise can cause back pain, create difficulty controlling urine or stool or cause dropping of the uterus, bladder or rectum.

What are safe exercises to perform post partum?

1. Pelvic Floor Muscle Strengthening (Kegels)

Breathe in and as you breathe out, imagine closing the openings in your pelvic floor, then lifting the pelvic floor up towards the center of your body.  Relax the pelvic floor muscles and imagine your sitz bones (the 2 bony prominences that you feel in your bum when sitting) spreading apart to help with relaxation of the muscles.

You may begin this exercise right away post partum, but only perform this exercise if you can do so without pain.  If you have pain, listen to your body as your body is healing and wait to do the exercise until you can perform it without pain.

Begin with 10 reps, 3 times/day.  Once that is easy, begin increasing the hold time of each rep. Goal is 10 sec. hold.

2. Deep Abdominal Muscle (Transversus Abdominus) Strengthening

Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Place your hands gently over your lower abdomen.  Breathe in  and as you breathe out, slowly and gently pull your abdomen away from your hands, towards your spine.  You should feel a light tension under your hands if you are recruiting the correct muscle.  If you feel a bulge outwards into your hands, you are working the wrong muscle, so relax and begin again.  Once you have the correct muscle working, hold the tension in the muscle and continue breathing for 2 more breaths in and out.

You may begin this exercise right away post partum, but only perform this exercise if you can do so without pain.  If you have pain, listen to your body as your body is healing and wait to do the exercise until you can perform it without pain.

Begin with 10 reps, 2 times/day.  Once this is easy, increase the hold time of each rep.

3. Walking

For cardiovascular exercise, walking is a good choice for the first eight weeks after delivery.  Make sure you have good posture while walking.   Pointing your chest forward will help you maintain good posture.

See a physical therapist if you are unsure about performing the exercises correctly.

What exercises should be avoided post partum?

Any version of sit-ups, crunches or pelvic tilts.  It is important to train your deep abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles post-partum to regain your core stability.  Sit-ups, crunches and pelvic tilts work the outer layer abdominal muscles and these muscles are not responsible for your core stability.  Also, if you have a separation down the middle of your outer layer abdominal muscle (called diastasis recti), exercising the outer layer muscle can worsen the separation.

When is it safe to increase my activity level?

Once you are 8 weeks post partum, you may begin gradually increasing your activity level and returning to other classes/activities if

  • you are pain free (including back, abdomen, pelvis and hips)
  • you are not experiencing leakage of urine or feces
  • you do not feel heaviness, pressure or bulging in your vagina or pelvis
  • you do not  have a bulge in the center of their abdomen while performing exercises or sitting up in bed.

If you are experiencing any of the above issues, see a pelvic health physical therapist prior to beginning an exercise routine.

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