Tough Love

I’m here for some tough love today.

I work in a sports-based clinic, and while we are by no means an athletes-only environment, we do tend to attract an active population of patients. In fact, active-lifestyle patients are the reason I became a chiropractor in the first place. I had finished my Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Calgary and was unsure of my next steps- my boyfriend’s cousin was a chiropractor and needed front desk help, so I began working there and my path became clear. A year later, I packed up my worldly possessions, moved across the country to attend CMCC in Toronto, and (insert cliché here) the rest is history.  Fitness and health is what I’m all about; I don’t just talk the talk, I walk the walk, and being active is one of my core values. So perhaps it comes no surprise that I ended up working at a clinic that follows the same principles.

Let’s get back to the tough love part:

You cannot expect your body to be pain-free if you do not treat it well. Please read that again, and hear me out. If you sit at work all day and do not incorporate fitness into your life, there is only so much I can do for your back pain. If you carry extra weight and ignore your rehabilitation exercises, there is only so much I can do for your knee pain. If your workplace ergonomics are terrible and you work 60 hours per week, there is only so much I can do for your neck pain.

Listen, we’re in this together. In fact, I pride myself on getting people feeling better very quickly. I will do my part, but please, you have to do yours too.

Tough love can be confrontational and irritating and uncomfortable, so if you’re feeling that now, please accept my very-Canadian apology, and make a plan. Make a plan to take charge of your health. As we age, our healing rates slow down. Cell turnover drops and recovery slows.

Make a plan to move more, for movement is the fountain of youth.

It doesn’t have to be running or CrossFit or yoga (my personal favourites), but it has to raise your heart rate, stress your muscles, and put your joints in motion.

Short and sweet. Black and white. To the point.

Get moving.

Move image

5 x 800m

If you’ve been following my blog over the years, you will know that I’m a sports fan.  My husband is too, and he’s a high school Phys Ed teacher, so sport is as much a part of his life as it is mine.  My practice is by no means “athletes only,” but my patient population is definitely dominated by active people leading active lives.  In fact, it was the fitness/movement/sport side of chiropractic that initially drew me in and made me want to join this profession.  I was a newly-graduated University student with a Bachelor’s degree and cloudy vision of my future when I got a job at the front desk of a sports-based practice in Calgary and it suddenly all seemed so clear: this was my path.  

OK, the intro’s over, onto my story:

I did an interval workout this morning; five repeats of 800m.  With the Summer upon us, my kids and my husband are now home during the day, and as I pulled on my running clothes just after 7am, my five-year-old daughter asked to come along.  “Can I come too?” she said, “since you’re not going far?”  She’s getting heavy to push in the running stroller, and my runs these days tend to be long and hilly, so adding 50lbs of drag makes her running-buddy days few and far between.  I’ve written about her coming with me on runs before and about how many hundreds of miles I’ve put on my running stroller with my kids over the years.  “Sure,” I said, and she jumped up to put on some shorts and grab some snacks.  My eight-year-old son’s interest was piqued when I mentioned the race-against-the-clock aspect of interval training and he asked to come too, which he hasn’t done in a couple of years.  So out the door we went, armed with scooters and the stroller, snacks and smiles.  

We did loops of our neighborhood; I’ve got an 800m left-turn-only route that I envision as my own personal track just outside my front door.  My son and I both had watches, and we raced each other and timed ourselves, he on his scooter, me pushing his sister in the stroller.  She soon finished her snacks and wanted in on the action- so she jumped on her scooter and the three of us raced the loop again and again.  It was the best interval workout I’ve ever had, only because they were there too, testing their limits, pushing their bodies, learning their capabilities.  

The point?  Well, let’s get back to my sports-fan intro…..

My daughter is a sports fan too.  In fact, at five years old, she often wakes before the rest of us, and sleepily wanders into the living room to watch SportsCentre or BlueJays in 30 until we get up.  You may ask why I’m focusing this post on her in relation to sport.  Well, that’s an easy answer: because the world is already set up to make boys into athletes.  Now, I’m most certainly a feminist (or more accurately, an equalist), but I’m not burning my bra while I write this post, I’m simply stating a fact.  “I’m going to win the World Series when I grow up,” she says while we watch baseball, “I’m going to win the Stanley Cup,” she says while we watch hockey.  I smile, I encourage, I tell her she better give her mama front row seats.  

I don’t tell her that pro-sports are nearly exclusively male, that female athletes are often sexualized for their feminity or criticized for their masculinity, or that the two eight-year-old girls at my son’s baseball practice get lumped into “boys, let’s hustle.”  I think about aspirations of female athletes; College scholarships, Olympic Games, sponsorships.  I think about how Title IX started to change the culture of sport when I was growing up.  I think about how if I had to do life over again, I would be a sideline reporter and eat/sleep/breathe the ups and downs of sport even more than I do now.  I think about how I can foster her passions, teach her to think outside of gender boundaries, and to use fitness and sport as a way to gain health and friendships, mental clarity and strength, energy and joy.

And I think about how I can show her that running 800m laps on quiet suburban streets before 8am is not weird, it’s actually pretty damn fun.

And this is my passion, movement.

I attended a three-day seminar this weekend, taught by Dr. Craig Liebenson, a great thinker and leader in my profession.  It was entitled “Prague School to Athletic Development; Functional Assessment and Core Training.”  This is core rehabilitation at its finest.

But what really struck me about the course was the passion it brought about in me.  Not passion about core rehab necessarily (although I did learn a lot on that front and will certainly be bringing some new and refined tools to my practice life), but rather, passion about movement.  I believe in movement.  I believe so deeply, so rooted in my fundamental values and understanding and conviction, that we were made to move.

The first topic Dr. Liebenson spoke about was what he called an “Inactivity Crisis.”  Society is in the midst of an inactivity crisis, complete with sitting to commute, sitting at work, dropping physical activity levels, soaring obesity and heart disease and back pain.  “Use it or lose it,” he said, referring to our body’s movements, and my heart and my mind and every part of me was silently nodding, screaming, jumping “EXACTLY!”

I can’t state it more simply than that.  We need to move.  And this is my passion, movement.


I plan vacations around outdoor activities.  I find a gym in every city I visit.  I enter races and competitions because I like the challenge.  I would rather go for a walk than watch a movie.  My favourite girl’s nights involve a workout.  I chose to become a chiropractor because I wanted to work with athletes.  I believe so strongly in movement and fitness and physical activity that I’ve centered my whole life around it.  Movement is my common thread.

Kids who are more active get better grades.  Adults who are more active lower their risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.  Seniors who are more active have fewer falls, take fewer meds, and have a better quality of life.  Movement is a lifestyle, not 30-minutes three-time-a-week.  It’s more than that.  It’s a choice, a necessity, a responsibility.

I want my body to age well.  When my crow’s feet deepen and my skin sags, I want to be able to get myself up off the couch.  I want to be able to lift my own groceries and make my own meals and play with my grandchildren.  And while movement isn’t the be-all-end-all guarantee that I will get to do these things, it’s a step in the right direction.

So how can I end this post without sounding like I’m ranting?  Like I’m pointing a finger, being holier-than-thou, and standing on a soapbox?  Perhaps I can’t.  Perhaps I’ve already  made you uncomfortable, made you introspect, made you think.  If so, I’ve done my job.  I’ve always said that this blog comes from my genuine, heartfelt beliefs.  And I genuinely believe in movement.

“Just a few generations ago, physical activity was a constant part of daily life. Now we’ve done away with it so thoroughly, physical inactivity actually seems normal. The social and economic costs and consequences are unsustainable.”

The End.

But you should watch this video: