Repairing the Boat to Keep More Treasure: Cash

Kids Bailing Water from a DinglyJune 5th, 2013 was a dark day and stormy day because unforseen waves crashed upon our deck. We were told to vacate our current premises. This news came without a warning shot over our bow, but it struck us right in our hull and threatened to sink my business. Also, six months earlier I used all cash reserves to close a second location that just wasn’t developing as planned. It took a lot of courage, self-reflection and discussions with friends, mentors and family to discover that I really didn’t want to abandon ship.

For various reasons including my only employee leaving the initial blow was 40% of revenue! Without cash I was taking on water fast and was having a great deal of difficulty making payments to our accounts payable. My only option was to stay strong in mind and keep renegotiating with my vendors by letting them know our challenges and that I knew it would turn around.They understood and were patient because they also respected my integrity.

Thankfully, we were able to quickly find an independent fitness studio to operate out of. The studio owner also showed me a 900 square foot open clinic space in the same building which I could lease for the treatment room and business growth. After a few tense weeks I was able navigate through the murky waters of the district’s business licence rules to land my own clinic space. Finally my own island! A month of zipping upstairs to renovate between clients and weekends labouring my private oasis was open to clients on August 1st, 2013.

There were times when my faith wavered, but I knew that my business was one worth keeping and rebuilding. I also knew I had most of the necessary skills to repair the ship. The skill missing to keep more of my treasure was cash management. After reading several books on cash flow management I stumbled across Cash Flow Management Mojo by Sandra Simmons.

Most of the information I found on cash flow management didn’t really explain how to build in cash reserves for growth, taxes and emergencies while others were too complicated or did not link budgets with sales goals while Sandra’s software and book do. Tired of bailing out water with a small bucket I started to attend a bi-weekly business mindset group where we set three levels of two-week heart centred profit goals – achievable, stretch and outrageous.

Learning cash flow management is much like learning a trade. With some trepidation and optimism I signed up for the cash flow management mojo software online. Many fitness and rehabilitation entrepreneurs are excellent practitioners but like myself also lack some key business skills. It took me six years to figure out how to manage with cash.

Who knows better how to manage cash than Warren Buffet? He buys businesses with cash on hand and believes that the majority of growth should be cash-based. Warren Buffet is also keen and trimming any excess costs. I took a look at our expenses to trim so of the fat. Something to do every 3-6 months so that costs don’t get go overboard. In two weeks our vendors were current a month before my goal. Two weeks later the cash was available to invest in an iPad, a tool to enhance our services that I had been eyeing since 2010!

Sleeping on a log

Each week ends with allocating cash to pay bills and for savings followed by the setting of income goals for the following week. The rest of the week my mind is solely focused on providing oustading service to our clients. Ah, now I can rest my weary head knowing that the ship is repaired and my island is safe.

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How to Create a Healthy Workplace for Introverts and Extroverts

Stressed WomanSometimes there is so much noise around me that I feel like pulling out  my hair! There is on going trend towards an open office concept that is supposed to promote creativity and collaboration. Companies are tearing down their dingy old cubicles in favour of wide open spaces.  Is this really the right way to go? Have we gone too far from cubicles to the other extreme? Is this even healthy? A 2008 review suggests perhaps not.

A 2008 review article published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Health Management found that 90% of studies looking at open-plan offices linked them to health problems such as stress and high blood pressure. – Oommen, V et. al,

I am an introvert who lives in an extrovert world. Quiet space to actually get work done and think clearly without being infected by interuptitis or loud obnoxious people with headphones blaring or who are nearly yelling at each other when they are actually sitting next to each other is precious. The introvert’s need for quiet space is not considered in the push towards open offices.

The first office Lifemoves was in was about five feet wide and twelve feet long without windows- not exactly inspiring.  We have now grown into a space with eight large windows and plenty of sunshine during the day.  Workplace wellness is very important to me. My current dilemma is how to create a successful multidisciplinary clinic in less than 900 square feet that caters to introverts and extroverts while maximizing its financial capacity.

Right now, I am alone and I love it. However, growing my business means sharing the space with more professionals and clients in the space when I might be trying to do administrative duties or just need a space to be quiet.  It is also imperative to develop a space where extroverted people feel comfortable as well.

Office layout shouldn’t be a compromise between private and public space, but one which offers both things to its employees whenever they need them.  – Alexi Marmot via BBC News

A recent BBC News article describing the development of office architecture over the last 100 years eludes the need for flexible spaces which gives people the ability to be an organic spaces where they can be alone or in groups as needed.  One solution to some of the distractions is broadcasting pink noise, which makes human voices less discernible.

First it is important to study the needs of the organization and how work gets done (ergonomics). One solution for small spaces is to set-up hubs for various activities as well a culture of deliberate times for collaboration or conversation and times for quiet.

Remember introverts are often their most creative and productive when they are alone.

It is very easy to be sitting next to someone, have an idea or agenda item pop-up in our head and then have the need to ask the person next to us. This adds to their stress by interrupting their workflow (do interrupt them if there is a fire or danger to their life).

 Try

 the Getting Things Done methodology of adding them to the agenda for that person then addressing it in your next scheduled meeting.

 Another idea is to use a red light green light system. Turn off all technology interruptions and place a red card in a visible place during times when you don’t want to be disturbed. Turn everything back on and use a green card when you are open to a conversation.  To block unwanted noise use noise cancelling headphones or add pink noise to make the voices others less discernible.

This idea came from a Canadian company with a new technology [wish I could remember the name, if you find it let me know] which places all calls and email alerts on hold with a bright red light; turn the system off and the light turns green.

Resources

  1. Buelow, Beth The Introvert Entrepreneur (thank you)
  2. Kramer, William. The Pleasures and Perils of an Open-plan Office. BBC World News Services, March 27, 2013.
  3. Oommen, Vinesh Should Health Service Managers Embrace Open Plan Work Environments? A ReviewAsia Pacific Journal of Health Management3(2), pp. 37-43, 2008

Discovering Cool New Technology: Coverting from HTML to WordPress

Computers from the 80sBeing exposed to computer technology at a very young age helps me comprehend what is possible as I put together a new website together for Lifemoves® in WordPress. The first computer I received as gift was an Apple II (I think).  My father owned his own software development company and I began to program at  during a summer a camp around the age of seven (?).  One of my summer jobs in the the late 1990’s was working for him coding in Visual Basic and developing MS Access Databases.

A personal summer project for me  in 1996 was coding a website in HTML that was unexpectedly noticed by employment recruiters in Kitchener, Ontario. I declined their offer for a job in IT to finish my Human Kinetics degree. Wow, that was one decision that if made differently would have drastically altered my life!

While CSS and Javascript have drastically changed the website development landscape, WordPress makes it a lot easier to manage content and for non techies to put together something decent. Unless there is need or desire to create detailed customizations there is not a lot of need to know these computer languages because there are many paid and free plugins that take care of this need.

Lifemoves.ca screen shot

Lifemoves.ca Home Page Style Sheet 2008

In 2008, I paid a lot of money for a great website that has since outlived its purpose. Quotes to convert it to WordPress so that it is also mobile friendly and easily updatable from $2,000 – $5,000. Cash I just don`t have for now. Instead of waiting months to save up for this project, I thought about doing it myself.

With limited funding, some previous website, coding and graphic design experience I decided to dive head first into WordPress.   Choosing a new host who makes it easy to ask for help as well as install WordPress on to my domain was first step. New site is being developed on a sub-folder of my domain and then it will be moved to the top level when complete. Self-hosting enables the owner to gain access to a lot more plugins as well as the files needed to code.

After consulting with a couple of graphic designers and someone in my target market I chose a paid theme with a number of different shortcodes (quick easy functions to do cool things) and page templates.  The plugins and widgets add even more tools to add individual flare,

Yes, it is going to take me longer to flip my site over to WordPress than if I hired someone, but during this time I will have learned a lot (with the help of Google and those who have traveled this path before me) and be able to customize more quickly on fly down the road.  It also keeps my long-term costs down because I have easy and quick control over my website to keep it freshly pressed.

All the final touches or anything that is stumping me to figure out will be handed over to the graphic and web developers. In less than a week the new site is almost complete; even my web and graphic designers like the changes to the theme.

It is really cool to see it take shape page by page, feature by feature. It feels much like the summer I assisted with framing the basement of a family. Stay tuned for the launch!

Read my first WordPress post: Trying this WordPress Thing

What is your experience with website development? Leave it to the pros or try it yourself?

Using Coaches as Guides To Achieve Greater Success

3 Hikers In SnowHave you ever found yourself stuck and not sure how to improve your business? Have you thought about getting help from a business coach?  Coaches are guides who’s outside perspectives help those they assist reach their goals and improve their skills. In essence they are facilitators. Coaches have been an important part of my life in athletics, business and life.  The first coaches I can remember were the parents, including my dad of Jackrabbits. Jackrabbits is a cross-country skiing program for kids aged 3 – 12 years old.

For those unfamiliar with Jackrabbits it is a program similar to scouts and girl guides, but on skis that takes place in the winter.  We even had badges for accomplishing different skills and milestones; mine are still tucked in a box for safe keeping.   Since then I have had many coaches for different purposes and at various stages of athletic and business development.

A fire lit inside of me in 2007 that was so strong that I knew it was time to make the transition from employee to business owner. Unsure of where to start I enlisted the help of two coaches.  With one we were focused on developing the business strategy and figuring out how to manage the re-branding of a sole proprietorship to a new corporation and the switch from employee to entrepreneur. The other guided me through the business plan creation and successful negotiations with the gym owners.

It was with their help that I navigated my way from working for a major private fitness gym as a Personal Trainer, to owning an independent business that operated as a strategic alliance within the same gym in less than five months.

Coaches provide a non-partisan sounding board for ideas,  help elucidate resolutions to problems, celebrate successes and keep you on track.  There is no doubt in my mind the start of Lifemoves was accelerated because the coaches provided the pilot light with their of years of business knowledge that perhaps, without coaching I would have found on my own but over a much longer period of time.

While competing in biathlon the importance  of having a diverse number of coaches became very important.  When I attended a Junior Canadian national biathlon summer camp the coaches there were able to pick-up things I needed to work on that my local coaches didn’t see. This was because they had their unique perspectives and knowledge base.

Over the years I have had a few more business coaches all with different areas of specialty, such as financial management or purpose and vision.  Each coach was sought to help find a solution to a major stumbling block in my business.

If private coaching seems difficult to afford try starting with group coaching or think of coaching as an investment for greater future earnings. Next week I will be attending a business coaching group for the first time with many other entrepreneurs.  This excites me because I will be with a group of like minded individuals all interested in accelerating their business and learning from each other as well as the coach.

What are your thoughts on business coaching? How have they helped you?

Overcoming a Fear of Financial Numbers

Fear of Equations

How many small business owners know their craft (in my case Kinesiology), but have challenges with finances? Looking back it has been nearly 20 years since I first developed a fear of numbers. The words “don’t take math again” have been etched into my memory since they were spoken by my grade 10 math teacher.   Perhaps this new fear of numbers why I initially stared a degree in English and History?  It was near the end of my first year of university that I discovered that I really wanted a degree in Kinesiology. The irony is that a Kinesiology degree has numerous courses that have numbers and computations as part of their curriculum.

Now as a business owner it is even more critical to be competent at understanding my financial numbers as well various key statistics that drive my business forward. This fear of numbers has previously prevented me from feeling confident enough to develop cash flow projections and budgets.    I would much rather write, go play outside. update my website, go to the movies than sit down and complete cash flow projections however, I know they are important pieces to being profitable and running and an agile business.

What I think was missing from my financial education was how to properly manage cash-flow. One effective way to overcome a fear is to dive deeper into by seeking more knowledge and combining it with practical application. I found a couple of books that helped (see below) and started to in grain some weekly habits.

In addition have been working on  switching the “I am not good with numbers” thought to something more positive such as “I am in the process of being competent at understanding and creating cash flow projections“.

A business exists to make money, no shame in that. For me I enjoy the independence, but I also want the business to support my lifestyle and family.  There a few habits I am in the process of implementing to help my business thrive and strength my financial numerical literacy:

  • Balance books weekly
  • Complete weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly cash-flow projections
  • Added line items in the projections to pay off debt, pay taxes and pay myself
  • Use the projections to what cash as to be on hand to make appropriate payments and know what sales have to be.
  • Use the projections versus actual to make strategic adjustments, increase sales or decrease expenses
  • Keeping all my receipts organized with Neat instead of in a shoe box!

It isn’t easy in the beginning, however the more frequently that these items are completed I gain more confidence in my financial management skills. This process also keeps me focused on creating a bright future instead of the berating myself for what has already happened.

Educational Resources

  1. Unleash Your Cash Flow Mojo: A Business Owners Guide to Predicting, Planning and Controlling Your Company’s Cash Flow – Sandra Simmons
  2. Managing Cash Flow: An Operational Focus – Rob Reider & Peter B. Heyler

How to Evaluate and Add Value to Your Service Offerings

Chalk Board EvaluationShifting Lifemoves from a  large gym in 2011 that had a lot of sales team support to a few different smaller independent studios and now finally having my own clinic space has forced me to re-evaluate my marketing strategies as Lifemoves is rebuilt towards being a leader in the health and rehabilitation field.

The new space I have is 900 square feet and I am using half of it on a regular basis. Since, my company has been built with kinesiology as the primary services offered I am also looking to add various complimentary services such as physiotherapy and message therapy.  Even under the umbrella of kinesiology we offer various programs which to an average consumer  can be confusing.

I have often felt like Kinesiologists are in between Personal Fitness Trainers and Physiotherapists in terms of our skill set, but also how to describe our profession and sell our services. Nearly 10 years of direct involvement in a gym has kept me selling my services on a per session basis with discounts based on number of pre-paid sessions.

We can sometimes get caught up in doing things just because that is the way it has always been.   Online advertisers can be aggressive with pursuing the upgraded listing.  If you don’t have a marketing plan these sales calls can push people into doing things that take them off their original path.

Perhaps there is another way? Here are some of my thoughts:

  • Simplify Services Offers – get clear on what you do. Can you pare down your programs then become excellent on providing the ones that are making you the most profits?
  • Add Value – is there a way to add value to the programs? Educational products or tools enhance results and build relationships.
  • Create Specific Programs – instead of selling per session basis, create a program with additional service, products etc that are designed for your clients
  • Evaluate Your Website Lifemoves Health and Rehabilitation is so 2008; it will be getting a complete overhaul. When was the last time you delved deep into your website using Google Keywords or Google Analytics? Is what you offer clear on your website? Are there pages that drive clients  a way or that are no longer useful? Is it mobile friendly?
  • Create Tactical Partnerships – are there people or companies in your network who have similar practice philosophies, share client demographics and offer complementary services? Maybe, just maybe there is a program that can combine both organizations’ expertise (start with one first).

Create a yearly marketing plan based on an analysis of where your top clients are coming from as well as solid analysis of online marketing.  I started to take a look into this recently and made some interesting discoveries, such as my home page being very unclear about what we offer and the long-tail keywords that competitors websites are using.

What will you be doing differently in the next few months?

How to Rewire Your Brain from Being Angry to Celebrating Success

Rewiring the Brain

Flickr www3Billard

In June 2013 I was suddenly faced with moving my business.  Being asked to leave our previous location unexpectedly was shocking,disruptive and nearly devastating. The move meant a significant loss of revenue,  loss of my employee and a loss of marketing inertia.

There were parts of me that were extremely angry and stunned while other parts of me went into immediate action mode. Although it only took a couple of weeks to find a new location my anger towards this situation and the person who initiated the move stayed with me until last week.

While I knew this anger was not healthy or useful I wasn’t certain of how to switch my thoughts. Initially I explored counseling, but thought I would try to research techniques on rewiring my brain to achieve more resiliency and less anger.

For my birthday last month I received a gift card to a bookstore. That same day I found, purchased and read “Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being” by Linda Graham.

Bouncing Back CoverThe detailed neuroscience with practical meditation mantras was what I needed. Our brains are plastic. We can switch the negative rewiring by replacing those thoughts by positive ones. When I feel anger towards this situation I send a positive out to the universe and acknowledge the pattern that makes me angry. It has taken a few weeks for this to stop feeling forced, but now those wishes are more natural and genuine.

Last weekend helped me discover that I don’t celebrate enough. My current clinical space came about because Lifemoves needed a new home.  Now every time I unlock the door I celebrate and welcome myself home. Celebrating each small success by replacing negative thoughts with positive reframes has drastically reduced my anxiety while improving my happiness. I am also very grateful for the opportunity such a previously negative situation presented.

How are you going change your thoughts? How are you going to express gratitude and celebrate your successes today?

Rediscovering My Story

Prairie Grain Elevators

As a birthday gift my mother sent me a photo of grandfather (her father) along with a few of his personal effects (he passed away in 1998), which included a resume of his medical education and publications.  He lived to be just over 90 years old, so how could two pages tell his story? He grew in Weyburn, Saskatchewan not far from Regina where I spent my FORMative years.

He and I went to many garage sales, he inspired me to become a health care professional and helped form my desire to learn photography (I wish I had learned more from him about film photography). There is a photo of him at my age; we look a lot a like, but I also have my paternal grandfather’s chin, who I never met..

My 40s are approaching, so I thought it was time to review the first nearly four decades.  We tie our identities to many things including what happened in our past, our occupations and our families. While our pasts have shaped us to become who we are today, they don’t have to shape tomorrow.  Each decision we made has had an effect on our lives; that decision could have been simply turning left instead of right a few years ago while walking to the grocer.

It took me many years to be able to comfortably, authentically and confidently share that depression and suicide attempts were part of my life.  The bullying that lead to these is no longer the story I tell, but I realize those years deeply affected my initial level of trust I hold towards people and how I handle particular situations.

Writing out my story from my birth in London, Ontario in 1976 to two wonderful parents, who have been married for nearly 50 years to today when I myself have been married for one and half years was quite a journey of discovery.

Those years after moving to Vancouver were quite traumatic, however I no longer have the emotions attached to high school bullying.  I jettisoned many of the self-defeating beliefs when I attended Unleash the Power Within with Tony Robbins.

What I also discovered is that I really didn’t celebrate that much. Each event I wrote down initially with very little emotion and often skipped over some major accomplishments and awards.  When I went back to fill in the blanks I started to feel very proud of what I have accomplished.

There are also some very pivotal moments in my  life that changed my direction completely.  One was deciding to come back to Vancouver after my undergraduate degree to attend UBC for non-degree related upper-level courses.  During this time I broke up with my fiancée and met Dr. Christensen, who has a spinal cord injury.  He was my first personal training client. Our six months together propelled the focus of my life’s work on providing those with disabilities, medical conditions and injuries with the opportunities, knowledge and facilities to stay active for life. It also inspired my vision for my own facility – which is almost crystal clear.

Being fired from my first job in fitness was devastating. However, one week later I was hired to as Personal Trainer at Fitness World within two days of handing in my resume.  During my eight years with them I blossomed into one of the top in the company for Personal Training sales, met my very dear friends and best woman at my wedding, met my lovely wife and I started Lifemoves as a strategic alliance with them.

Growing up in the Prairies really does define my character and pride. There is a very good poem by David Bouchard:

On the prairies I learned to embrace the snow and winter. I learned to cross-country ski, a sport I will be enjoying my entire life. My first twelve years also gave me a couple of pseudo elder brothers – the Jensens.  The two boys, Erik and Olaf were both older than me, but we did a lot together including learning to ski in Jackrabbits, playing with legos, hiking the Rockies and many Christmas dinners.  Being the youngest, of course I ended up with the hand-me-downs; a good thing in the end.

My time in Saskatchewan changed my blood colour to Rider Green.  Brock and I would get free tickets from Safeway to the kids’ end-zone area and then sneak into the main stadium claiming we had to call home (the only pay-phones in the place were in the concourse). One of my fondest memories is of attending a touch football camp at Taylor Field (now Mosaic stadium). We were mentored by some of my heroes. I still have the t-shirt, but it is a tight fit and my wife won’t let me wear it.

Growing up with my parents – no choice there, love them to bits shaped my values and the type of marriage I sought. I can not count a single divorce in my extended family, nor that of my wife’s.  My mother is doting and very caring, while my dad has is own unique way of showing is  devotion to my well-being.. He challenges me to always be better than I am by being very direct.

While I was younger both parents came on the family hikes and cross-country ski trips, but once I started to carry a pack, which was initially just my sleeping back the adventures became more just myself and my dad.

My mother was very happy being a wonderful children’s librarian who knew that if she climbed the library ladder who role would shift a way from the children. She had a knack for finding the oddest things. She would help me with my school projects. While my dad built a software company out of his home. He sold the software in the 80s and we moved – with great protest on my behalf to Vancouver in 1988.

It is his tenacity, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit is why I now own my own business. Being entrepreneur has tremendous challenges at times, but also many amazing rewards. The thought of working for someone else makes me shudder. My summer of kayaking and flexible hours working a training log software helped to understand that coding and software development is something I too enjoy.

Now, there are many similar products, but he was ahead of his time – nearly 20 years, but lacked the resources to make it big.  This makes me think, how can I gather the resources to go after my big audacious idea that I came up with in 2000?

Even with the thunderstorms and heavy rain in the winter, I am still very gratefully for the first year of kicking and screaming twenty-five years ago.  Vancouver is a wonderful place to live. Although I wish have traveled to Europe and USA, I will always come back home to Vancouver.  The day my parents permanently move back to Vancouver I will be jumping up and down with great glee and joy.

Moving to Vancouver has led to many adventures and accomplishments.  It was in Vancouver I started to pursue my dream of learning to fly by joining the air cadets. That same year I tried Biathlon. The shooting added a layer of complexity and joy to cross-country skiing. Sign-me up!

A couple of years ago my dad revealed that he become a coach to help me become a better athlete. Last year he was named Biathlon Coach of the Year for Canada.  It was a BC Winter Games where I came home with several gold medals and one silver in Biathlon – I was grinning ear to ear!  Without Biathlon I would have never realized my own Olympic dreams. He was instrumental in the Vancouver 2010 bid; he and I both had volunteer roles at the Biathlon venue in 2010 and on the field of play.

He was on the range while I my role was an Anti-Doping chaperone. What better vantage point than to be in the tick of things with the athletes spectators and the media? Wow. We were even able to watch the  Women’s Biathlon before our own events.

One thing that has become crystal clear during the last four months is that there are things that might set you back, some times in a very traumatic and dramatic way, but they are meant to propel you to even greater things.  For me, having to move my business suddenly to June made momentarily question my purpose, however it introduced me to someone who then connected me with my own clinic space.  My business now has a stable foundation to growth.

The process of exploring my own story is helping me understand that I don’t celebrate my accomplishments as much as I need to.  Also, that there have been certain things in my life that have shaped my beliefs about finances and money. Thought patterns that I am in the process of changing dramatically.

Try writing out your own story. What do you discover? Find a quiet space, grab some tissue and water, now start writing.

Trying this WordPress Thing

Paper Desk Choas

It was back in 2008 when I had my website overhauled by a professional organization. Since then it has become increasingly more difficult to change the information and design. Their suggestion was that they build an integrated website on  WordPress that can also be viewable via mobile devices.

Today I completed the my first attempt at a mobile website – see it at http://m.lifemoves.ca I am not certain why I have been so scared of WordPress or doing this website thing on my own.  Back in 1995 I created a website via HTML that garnered a phone call from a headhunting company that for a company that wanted my skills.  My whole life has been surround by software development. So, I kinda of get the gist of how it should work.

My first step is to see if I can convert the old Red Dragon Entrepreneur from Blogger

Wish me luck at sorting out this mess! Time to get my websites out of what seems like the dark ages.

Learning How to Run Again with Neurokinetic Therapy

Part of my professional development  is attending several continuing education sessions each year. Both the National Strength and Conditioning Association’s  (NSCA) Provincial Clinic and Neurokinetic Therapy (NKT) Level 1 were recently held in Metro Vancouver.  My mind tends to run into overdrive after these workshops trying to figure out how to improve my client’s performance as well as my own.

In the last the 30 years I have participated in several sports including biathlon and cross country skiing, which I excelled at.  I have also completed a couple of half-marathons, one full-marathon and three distance mountain running courses. During that time I had a few injuries and previous to that two fairly serious surgeries; most recently an odd ankle left sprain. At the NKT Level 1 course I discovered how these injuries affect how I move as well as how my body has probably compensated all these years. Having other practitioners do a full-body muscle testing and resetting using Neurokinetic Therapy lead to several revelations.

Injury and Surgery History

  • 1976 and  ~1980 right abdominal surgery
  • ~1982  head injury – not sure about concussion
  • 1990 – 1999 right patella femoral syndrome
  • 1992  – right tibial fracture from cross country skiing
  • 1998 – right hamstring strain
  • 2002 – possible concussion
  • 2005 – right hip pain prevented me from running for several months
  • 2012 – left inversion ankle sprain, minor mva as driver, left dorsi flexion sprain

Neurokinetic Therapy Discoveries

  • 10 different muscles compensating for left psoas (important  for creating stability during walking and running; attached to the diaphragm which is used for stability and breathing)
  • weak distal fibers of left and right hamstrings
  • left and right quadratus lumborum inhibited – right was due to scars (important for side to side stability during single leg stance)
  • right psoas inhibited by right quadratus lumborum which tilted my right pelvis forward
  • right tibia lateral rotation – foot turned out due to facilitated lateral gastrocs (calf) and inhibited medial hamstrings
  • obturators facilitated (creating a hip jam) and inhibiting rectus femoris (quadriceps that crosses the hip and knee)
  • occipitals facilitated and inhibiting deep neck flexors
  • pectoralis minor both sides – doing a lot of work, including preventing same side rotation (spring energy storage and release during running)

The nice thing is that the human brain and nervous system are very plastic, which means they can change and mold easily to new inputs. These systems change faster than ligament, muscle and tendon, however propioceptive nerves run through all of the above including scars.

Our bodies adapt to get the job done. The motor control center governs how we move. Trauma to the body such as surgeries and injuries change our movement patterns on subtle levels that to most people are imperceptible unless we are highly in tune.

During the last two weeks my only training has been specific self-myofascial releases and immediate strengthening exercises related to retraining my body to use specific muscles as they should be along with relatively easy 30 min runs at zero percent grade on a treadmill.

Missing the opening of the Grouse Grind a week ago because I was out of town made me very eager to try the Grouse Grind on Friday.

Learning to Run By Feeling

Although the motor control center is adaptable it needs a lot of  repeated input to create ingrain a pattern so that it feels normal and become subconscious. Have you watched a child learn to walk? How many trials does it take? Do you still think before you start to walk? The pattern is now subconscious.

Focus was placed mainly on my right side because it seemed to have the most challenges. By opening up the joint capsule  I feel  there is significantly more mobility in my hips than before.   At the NSCA clinic Dr. Mike Young, CSCS, PhD, Fitness Coach of the MLS Vancouver Whitecaps delineated that speed and power is a function of intramuscular co-ordination while Dr. Keith Loshe of UBC pointed out that for learning to happen performance will initially decrease.

Each spring I look forward to trail running on the North Shore and challenging myself with the Grouse Grind – nature’s stair climber of 2.9 km with 2800 feet elevation gain. Average time to complete is  an hour and half and recommendation is two hours for a very novice hiker; my best last year was 35:32 minutes.

 Learning how to move my body differently meant I anticipated an initial decrease in performance even though the Grouse Grind and I have met 150 times due to reduced intramuscular co-ordination. The first few steps were a bit hesitant because I wasn’t sure how to  move my new body uphill fast.

The terrain starts out on a gradual incline during which it is possible to jog or run, however it quickly becomes steeper with larger steps and rocky terrain to overcome. Movement should feel light, effortless and joyful; this how my hips now feel. I could easily bound up a two to three stairs at a time, however my cardiovascular system just wasn’t able to keep-up.

As the climb continued I was concerned about more extreme ranges of dorsiflexion and how my left ankle would hold up.  It wasn’t until after the 3/4 mark that I dropped my heel and felt a bit of twinge. The only thing to do is continue on and make sure to always keep on the balls of my feet. There were two other times when I went into full dorsiflexion; one of those times  took my breath away – ouch!

Near the top my left ankle felt like it could go into spasm if I went any faster. Calf spasms are very painful and debilitating, something I really didn’t want. The opening Grind of the season is always completed by feel and meant to set a baseline for the rest of the season, so time was not a factor, only feeling.

Cresting the top my lungs were burning and left calf and ankle were aching. For those unfamiliar the Grind participants can purchase a Grind Timer card to swipe at the top of the bottom to record their times. The clock stopped at 45:24 with an average heart rate of 179 bpm.

Lessons From the First Grind

This was a good season opening time for me which I am happy with.  There were several key learning opportunities for me:

  1. Left calf and ankle to need more mobility and conditioning
  2. Need greater lateral stability
  3. Need to improve power-endurance at anaerobic threshold

For learning to occur a skill has to be repeated fairly soon after. The second Grind two days later was a little different. I incorporated more lateral line stability by releasing upper upper trapezius, scalenes and sternocleidomastoid (side of the neck to shoulder responsible for left to right rotation) and doing some side-bends to strength quadratus lumborum for side to side stability. Just before starting the Grind I released my left lower leg to reduce the chances of a cramp and provide me with more dorsiflexion capability.

There were no problems with dorsiflexion on the way up, though I was still cautious and aware of making sure to step properly. During the last quarter there was slight feeling of possible left calfcramping. During the way up I even tried to keep my heart rate down, but it did creep up to 184 bmp to pass the long-weekend.

With a time of 43:53 I am definitely on track to my goal of a sub 35 min this year. However, I am still trying to figure out why my left calf is taking most of the load. Perhaps it is weakness in the hamstrings?

Now it is time to add more specific strength training two days a week to support my efforts on the Grind. I am even considering  entering Seek Peak trail run again – 16 km from Ambleside Beach up to the top of Grouse Mountain.

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