Wednesday, May 18, 2016

My Invictus Experience

As many of you know I was a coach for Team Canada in rowing and power-lifting for the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando Florida. This was a life changing experience for me, and I was truly inspired by the men and women I met. I made many new friends and hope to see them all again in Toronto in 2017!

600 athletes competed in 11 sports including rowing, power-lifting, wheelchair basketball, rugby, archery, track and field, swimming, wheelchair tennis, road cycling, sitting volleyball and the land rover drive challenge.

My adventure began about 8 months ago with a call form executive director of “Soldier On” Greg Lagace. He asked if I would be interested in helping out with the team. As an ex-national rower and trainer of a Paralympic power-lifter I had some experience in those sports.  I accepted the job on a volunteer basis.

I began by designing a rowing program to get the rowers (many of which had never rowed and especially not in a competition) some base cardio training. Moderate duration basic rows were used to develop base cardio and to increase capillaries attached to the muscle fibers.  For power-lifters, our power coach at TopShape Alex and I came up with a bench press program for them to follow. Their numbers immediately began to climb!

The row program then moved to lactic tolerance (anyone who has ever rowed competitively knows this is what it’s all about). All the athletes were monitored online until we would meet at our training camp! Weekly milestones were given and athlete feedback was crucial in making sure they were not over training.

In January we had the first of 2 training camps in Toronto and we did some testing to see where everyone was. All the rowers were doing very well and putting up decent numbers. The power-lifters were also doing well.

By our second camp in March the team had come together and all the numbers were very good! The biggest issue I had to deal with was many of the athletes were in multiple sports and were training for each so burnout and injuries were a huge factor! Most were managed very well.
Once we left for Orlando everyone was very confident that we would do well at the games and we did!

My crew won 8 rowing medals and 2 of 3 power-lifting medals! 29 athletes came home with 22 medals so needless to say Team Canada did us proud.  Although the premise of the games were not focused on medals but it was on individual achievement. These heroes give everyone around the world inspiration. 

The added bonus of 22 medals for Canada is a huge perk!
To Team Canada I am the most proud of had the opportunity to have met all of you, and I am a better person for it! 


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul. 
William Ernest Henley
Bring on Toronto 2017


Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Year’s Good Intentions

New Year’s Good Intentions

     Every year, many people with good intentions make a New Year’s resolution. For many it’s to get fit and start going to the gym. Three months is the average time most will stick to that promise! In fact while you are reading this article most people have already quit on this goal.

There are fundamental differences between people who go to the gym day after day, week after week and someone who goes for three months and quits.
When asked what is the most difficult thing about getting to the gym most said finding the time. Most people have time; they just can’t manage it properly. When we work on fitness plans for some of the country’s busiest executives, We first dissect their home time. Obviously, if you’re at work you can’t be working out. The same rule applies for sleeping. So we work 8hrs, we sleep 8hrs, that’s 16 hrs. This leaves you 9 hrs. Some people work more than 8 hours a day. Here is where good time management skills and priorities come into play. If you are not ready to make fitness one of your top priorities getting in shape will never happen.

If you go home after work, eat dinner and then sit on the couch watching TV for three hours before bed guess what? You will never get into shape. All you need is one hour out of your day three days a week. If over the course of a week, you work 40 hrs, sleep an average of 40 hrs, and all the other essentials take about 28 hrs, this is 108 hrs. One hundred and eight hours to wash, get dressed, eat, work and sleep everything else is a luxury. A week consists of 168 hours that leaves about 60 hours for non essential stuff. Of course there are other factors involved such as; different jobs take more of your spare time. We have a client that actually built a gym in his office building just for himself to get into shape. The idea is even if you end up with 15 hours left over you should still be able to set aside 3-5 for fitness that’s it.

Next, you need to make fitness a habit, get it into your schedule, and stick to it.
Plan your exercise as you plan your day. Try to add it in at the same time everyday. Eventually it becomes a normal part of your routine. Once it’s a habit if you miss a session you feel like your day is not complete. That is the feeling you need to develop in order to continue on the plan.

Choose realistic goals, this means that if you have never ran a marathon then don’t expect that by going to the gym two days week that in three months you’ll be running 10 km.
Be real; don’t set yourself up for failure. If you need to lose weight then choose a goal you can live with without changing your whole lifestyle. Desperate measures are for desperate people. If you need to lose 20 lbs; of fat or more than you realistically need to schedule 5-7 hours of activity per week. That includes all forms of exercise, not just gym training.

Stay focused. Write your goals down, and place them in spots where you can see them often. Everyone has a calendar at work or at home write a step by step day by day plan out on it. Write down things like, down two pounds, 10 more to go.
Have an end date in mind. It should look something like this, end goal date June 1st 2016 goal down 4 inches up 4 pounds of muscle and drop 4% body fat.
Track your goals every week this will help you stay focused and keep your program on track.

Get the help of an expert. Many people fail to adhere to a program due to boredom. This is often due to two major factors. One, lack of knowledge is a major problem. If you’re just guessing at what it is you should be doing then it will take forever to attain a goal. People who exercise for months without attaining a goal will often quit, they have no motivation to continue because they see no change. Fitness Consultants make it their business to know what you need. This will make your efforts more efficient and changes will occur much faster. If you see changes you will be more incline to sticking with your routine.

Second, lack of variety, remember the old adage variety is the spice of life. Nothing could be truer when it comes to exercise. The average person picks about 10 exercises they like and never deviates form them. The body adapts to this training regime in about four weeks. Once this happens the stimulus is no longer creating a positive adaptation. You’re just going through the motions.

Finally, have fun make fitness enjoyable find things you like to do. If a client of mine says to me during their initial consultation they hate to bike, then putting them on the bike for 40 minutes a day would not be conducive to having them stick to their program. If you like being outdoors then go exercise outdoors. If you like to walk then add walking to your program. If you’re competitive then put small challenges or milestones to hit within your training. Examples would be lifting 5 pounds more every workout, doing 10 pushups more every morning. Compete with a friend or training partner challenge each other.

Above all be patient Rome was not built in a day. Changes will happen in time.
It took however many years to get deconditioned you won’t reverse it overnight.
Keep focused and stay motivated and it will all pay off in the end.

Until next time Stay fit and be strong.
TopShape visit our website at

Friday, February 13, 2015

Why Should You Use DIM!

Are you middle aged or older?  Female or male, with a bit too much body fat? Are you a male who enjoys beer and would like to get rid of that gut? Are you a female that has been exercising hard but those stubborn areas are still there!? Then maybe DIM is for you.

DIM, short for Diindolymethane is natural supplement we prescribe and sell here at TopShape, that has produced amazing results when combined with our exercise programs. The simple reason is that most people today are not exercising regularly enough. Even if they are, sometimes they are frustrated because unbeknownst to them they are estrogen dominant. DIM is a breast and prostate cancer fighter that protects women and men by acting as an estrogen inhibitor.

Research shows that DIM supports healthy ratios of certain estrogens that play a role in cancer risk. DIM is also an aromatase inhibitor making it beneficial to men also. It blocks the conversion of testosterone to estrogen which is associated with an  increase cancer risk and leads to fat storage.

“Estrogen dominance occurs when you have too much estrogen in the body or an imbalance between estrogen and other hormones. Estrogen dominance is a much greater problem than most people realize: It negatively affects men, women, and children, and it could be that one thing that is keeping you from losing weight or getting all that you could out or your workouts!” Charles Poliquin

I know what you're saying, Estrogen is a good thing! It is, at the right time when we need it. The problem is, when it's in over production mode because your body is in a state of hormone imbalance, then it can play havoc. Because of the high levels of environmental chemical estrogens (xenoestrogens), we are all exposed to everyday, estrogen dominance is playing a key role in making us hormonally imbalanced and fat.

In women, androgens are produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands, and fat cells. Androgens are necessary for estrogen synthesis, and play a key role in the prevention of bone loss. They also regulate body function before, during and after menopause.

Women produce estrogen in 3 ways:
 Estrone  commonly referred to as (E1) ,usually a lesser estrogen produced by the adrenal glands. This estrogen becomes most abundant post menopause. The second, and most commonly thought of is, Estradiol (E2). This is produced by the ovaries and is usually meant when someone is talking about estrogen in women. The third is Estriol (E3), produced by the fat cells. This is the most plentiful of estrogens but is also the weakest. It is the interrelationship of these hormones and their dominance during different times in a woman's life which needs to be understood.

 During different times in our lives, in both men and women the symbiotic relationship of estrogen and testosterone with the bodies other hormones can get radical. In relation to gaining lean muscle and burning fat, having this harmonious relation is key. When one pro-hormone system becomes imbalanced it's not long before it drags  a couple of more systems with it.  For example, when your fat cell estorgen (e3) becomes too dominant it interferes with the other estrogens such as adrenal estrogen (e1) which is closely regulated by ovary estrogen (e2) and stresses the adrenal glands which produce cortisol. This hormone becomes too unregulated and a high cortisol environment is introduced in the body. Access weight gain can result because over time you don't feel energized because insulin is the next hormone system disrupted. All the while you are trying to get into shape and become healthier, but what is aerobic and anaerobic exercise? Stress to the body...and your body can't regulate stress properly at the moment.

You may need help. DIM for women and men over 40 maybe that long awaited answer. I use DIM with many clients. With a balance of a good strength training program, good fats such as omega 3s and coconut oil, as well as enough vitamin D3 and protein intake, I have witnessed some amazing results.

Doctors at UC Berkeley gave a mere 108 mg (it should have been 200 mg) of DIM to postmenopausal women in a double blind study. Their estrogen metabolism was improved dramatically in only 30 days. 
Now studies in men are ongoing but showing good results for prostate prevention. This only makes sense. Men today are showing far more estrogen dominance then their fathers or grandfathers did at their age. High estrogen and low test are becoming an epidemic, but this is another article.

Your takeaway from this article is to see a professional such as myself for a fitness evaluation, including a hormone test  to see if DIM is for you. Also, women over 40 should be lifting weights with the goal to build muscle mass.

Mike Hayden

Friday, April 11, 2014

Benefits of Regular Exercise for Kidney Dialysis Paitents and Other Chronic Disease Populations: Our Ongoing Study and Observations

Imagine if fitness could mean the difference between keeping your job or going back to work!  Imagine if fitness gave you the ability to play with your grandchildren or it may just mean the ability to live in your own home.

Two days a week at McNabb Park Community Centre in Ottawa, TopShape Fitness with the support of the Alive to Strive Kidney Fitness Project,  provides a 1 hour group exercise class for those suffering from chronic kidney disease. This project started in the summer of 2013 and continues to improve the lives of those who are lucky enough to know about it.  Please help spread the word.

Why does simple exercise mean so much to these individuals?
  • More energy
  • stronger muscles and bones
  • control blood pressure
  • fight depression
  • reduce the risk of heart disease and insulin control, to name just a few.....
A study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephorology, 2004; studied 11 patients exercises in a group class 2x week for 1 hour. The results show a "significant" improvement in reducing arterial stiffness and insulin resistance. These are two independent risk factors for cardiac mortality rates in this population.

Shana Boland is an Alive to Strive participant working with a personal trainer here at TopShape Fitness Studio.  She is an example of someone who was not well enough to even start the group exercise class. She definitely wasn't able to join a regular gym in town nor would her doctor okay her for regular exercise or class at a gym. Where does someone with a chronic condition turn? "I couldn't walk without a walker or cane. Then I was on the verge of not being able to walk across the room without severe pain. I couldn't go by myself without assistance or walker in my own home.  I was losing my independence. I was frustrated and gave-up and didn't know where to turn", says Boland.
"Then I learned about the Alive to Strive Fitness Project. When I started exercising I couldn't walk on a treadmill for 1 minute. After exercising for just 1 month, my endurance, balance and energy has improved. My sleep has improved! I can walk outside, down the block to the corner and back. I can walk on the treadmill for 10 minutes or even more. It's amazing! It has changed my life!"

Each exercise session includes strength, cardiovascular and a flexibility component.
 Strength is the key to endurance.  Having more energy throughout the day is one of the first goals class members listed. This is one reason why a class such as "Alive to Strive" can produce such dramatic results.  In the class we use weights, dyna-bands, body weight exercises and stability balls.
Cardiovascular exercise can help cut down or cut out blood pressure medications. cardiovascular exercise in conjunction with strength training can reduce body fat, control cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart problems.
Flexibility : By making muscles stronger  and joints more flexible, it becomes easier to reach, bend do other daily activities. This training leads to a better sense of balance and coordination.
The biggest benefit in having a class like this is the expertise. Having instructors and trainers who are familiar with yours' and other chronic conditions is essential in protecting the individual and helping them get the most out of each workout.

Many kidney patients feel washed out and exhausted without doing anything at all.  Striking the proper balance of intensity and duration of movement is essential for boosting immune function and not fatiguing or causing adrenal stress.  This is why joining a regular exercise class at your local gym may not be the best idea.  TopShape has worked and researched for 20 years to understand the proper balance between type of exercise, time of exercise and intensity of movement.  This results in reduced weakness, reduced fat stores, and an increase in heart and lung efficiency and an increase in coordination of movement.

Can I even exercise?  This the first question that most dialysis patients ask when informed about this program. If you are healthy except for kidney failure, you can exercise. The real question should be: what if I don't exercise. It will most certainly lead to secondary disabilities requiring a cane or wheelchair to get around.

Lastly, one of the most important benefits of exercise for dialysis patients is the efficiency of dialysis.  If your body could help remove toxins without dialysis, then sessions could be easier, faster and less frequent in some cases. A study by Alberta Health Services in 2010, showed patients with kidney failure removed significantly more waste and toxins from their blood when pedaling a stationary bike.  Regular exercise showed an increased removal of 'Urea'.  Dr. Davina Tai said, "It's very exciting. Urea removal is related to the clearance of other toxins and we know this is associated with better survival and decreased morbidity (disease) in hemodialysis  patients".

The new session for the alive to strive class begins May 6th. Our goal is to add more classes in the future as the word gets out and the number of participants demand it.

Also, TopShape is proud to sponsor the 5K wheelchair portion of the the Alive to Strive 2014 charity race on Sunday, April 27th at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility.  Please show up and lend your support for this great cause. We guarantee great weather.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

How to keep your New Years resolution!

Recording goals in a fitness diary, reflecting on the successes and failures and being held to account by others are some of the key strategies that have been found to maximize the achievement of goals to get fit.

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These findings will be presented January 8, 2014, to the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society's Division of Occupational Psychology in Brighton by Dr Cheryl Travers, Dr Ray Randall and Dr Harry Hogarth from Loughborough University.

Dr Travers and her colleagues asked 60 students to complete questionnaires about their chosen fitness goals as well as keep a diary about their reflections on the ingredients that would help them reach the goals, which were analyzed.

The results show that successfully reaching the goal was more likely if a few key habits were present. Firstly, if the student reflected back on their diary of attempts, identifying what worked and what did not in their techniques.

Secondly, if the person was held accountable and had feedback through a support group, an expert, friends or family. Thirdly, if progress was recorded through the diary and the student reflected on strategies that worked previously. Lastly, if mini-goals were created that lead up to the larger goal.

The act of looking back at the fitness diaries lead students to consider their attempts in different ways and gave them a motivational boost in self-esteem and self-confidence. Dr Travers suggests that the benefits of fitness goals go beyond physical fitness and can enhance our psychological fitness by building skills necessary in the workplace, such as self-organization, self-insight and discipline.

Get expert help! Rome wasn't built in a day, having someone to take the guess work out of the routine will help you see results faster and help with adherence to your program!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

8 Foods Even The Experts Won’t Eat.

8 Foods Even The Experts Won’t Eat.

Clean eating means choosing fruits, vegetables, and meats that are raised, grown, and sold with minimal processing. Often they’re organic, and rarely (if ever) should they contain additives. But in some cases, the methods of today’s food producers are neither clean nor sustainable. The result is damage to our health, the environment, or both. So we decided to take a fresh look at food through the eyes of the people who spend their lives uncovering what’s safe–or not–to eat. We asked them a simple question: “What foods do you avoid?”

 Their answers don’t necessarily make up a “banned foods” list. But reaching for the suggested alternatives might bring you better health–and peace of mind.

1. The Endocrinologist Won’t Eat: Canned Tomatoes Fredrick Vom Saal, is an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A. The problem: The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, acidity (a prominent characteristic of tomatoes) causes BPA to leach into your food. Studies show that the BPA in most people’s body exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals. “You can get 50 mcg of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that’s a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young,” says vom Saal. “I won’t go near canned tomatoes.” The solution: Choose tomatoes in glass bottles (which do not need resin linings), such as the brands Bionaturae and Coluccio. You can also get several types in Tetra Pak boxes, like Trader Joe’s and Pomi. Exposure to BPA Causes Permanent Damage In OffSpring

 2. The Farmer Won’t Eat: Corn-Fed Beef Joel Salatin is co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of half a dozen books on sustainable farming. The problem: Cattle evolved to eat grass, not grains. But farmers today feed their animals corn and soybeans, which fatten up the animals faster for slaughter. But more money for cattle farmers (and lower prices at the grocery store) means a lot less nutrition for us. A recent comprehensive study conducted by the USDA and researchers from Clemson University found that compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium; lower in inflammatory omega-6s; and lower in saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease. “We need to respect the fact that cows are herbivores, and that does not mean feeding them corn and chicken manure,” says Salatin. The solution: Buy grass-fed beef, which can be found at specialty grocers, farmers’ markets, and nationally at Whole Foods. It’s usually labeled because it demands a premium, but if you don’t see it, ask your butcher.

3. The Toxicologist Won’t Eat: Microwave Popcorn Olga Naidenko, is a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group. The problem: Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans, according to a recent study from UCLA. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize–and migrate into your popcorn. “They stay in your body for years and accumulate there,” says Naidenko, which is why researchers worry that levels in humans could approach the amounts causing cancers in laboratory animals. DuPont and other manufacturers have promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan, but millions of bags of popcorn will be sold between now and then. The solution: Pop organic kernels the old-fashioned way: in a skillet. For flavorings, you can add real butter or dried seasonings, such as dillweed, vegetable flakes, or soup mix. Make it organic and use coconut oil. If You’re Still Eating Microwave Popcorn, You’re Not Fully Grasping The Health Consequences

4. The Farm Director Won’t Eat: Nonorganic Potatoes Jeffrey Moyer is the chair of the National Organic Standards Board. The problem: Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes–the nation’s most popular vegetable–they’re treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they’re dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting. “Try this experiment: Buy a conventional potato in a store, and try to get it to sprout. It won’t,” says Moyer, who is also farm director of the Rodale Institute (also owned by Rodale Inc., the publisher of Prevention).

“I’ve talked with potato growers who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals.” The solution: Buy organic potatoes. Washing isn’t good enough if you’re trying to remove chemicals that have been absorbed into the flesh. Budget tip: Organic potatoes are only $1 to $2 a pound, slightly more expensive than conventional spuds.

5. The Fisheries Expert Won’t Eat: Farmed Salmon Dr. David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany, published a major study in the journal Science on contamination in fish. The problem: Nature didn’t intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT. According to Carpenter, the most contaminated fish come from Northern Europe, which can be found on American menus. “You could eat one of these salmon dinners every 5 months without increasing your risk of cancer,” says Carpenter, whose 2004 fish contamination study got broad media attention. “It’s that bad.” Preliminary science has also linked DDT to diabetes and obesity, but some nutritionists believe the benefits of omega-3s outweigh the risks. There is also concern about the high level of antibiotics and pesticides used to treat these fish. When you eat farmed salmon, you get dosed with the same drugs and chemicals. The solution: Switch to wild-caught Alaska salmon. If the package says fresh Atlantic, it’s farmed. There are no commercial fisheries left for wild Atlantic salmon. Farmed Fish vs. Wild Fish: How Healthy Is The Fish At Your Favorite Grocery?

6. The Cancer Researcher Won’t Drink: Milk Produced With Artificial Hormones Rick North is project director of the Campaign for Safe Food at the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and former CEO of the Oregon division of the American Cancer Society. The problem: Milk producers treat their dairy cattle with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST, as it is also known) to boost milk production. But rBGH also increases udder infections and even pus in the milk. It also leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor in milk. In people, high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers. “When the government approved rBGH, it was thought that IGF-1 from milk would be broken down in the human digestive tract,” says North. “There’s not 100 percent proof that this is increasing cancer in humans,” admits North. “However, it’s banned in most industrialized countries.” The solution: Buy raw milk or check labels for rBGH-free, rBST-free, produced without artificial hormones, or organic milk. These phrases indicate rBGH-free products. Why Do Humans Still Drink Milk?

7. The Biotech Specialist Who Won’t Eat Convenional Soy: GMO Unfermented Soy Michael Harris is biotech specialist who has directed several projects within the biotech sector including those for genetically engineered food. He has been a consultant, manager and director for companies such as Xenon Pharmaceuticals and Genon Corporation. The problem: Genetically engineered food is a cause of great concern due to the manipulation of DNA and genetic code including transfers from one species to another. Fermented Soy Is The Only Soy Food Fit for Human Consumption and since almost 90% of soy in the world is genetically modified, if you are not ensuring sources are organic, long-term health problems are inevitable, especially since soy has been found to affect hormonal balance and even cause cancer. The solution: Check labels to ensure soy is Non-GMO or organic and never consume unfermented sources. If possible contact the company to find out exactly where the Non-GMO soy was obtained.

 8. The Organic-Foods Expert Won’t Eat: Conventional Apples Mark Kastel, a former executive for agribusiness, is codirector of the Cornucopia Institute, a farm-policy research group that supports organic foods. The problem: If fall fruits held a “most doused in pesticides contest,” apples would win. Why? They are individually grafted (descended from a single tree) so that each variety maintains its distinctive flavor. As such, apples don’t develop resistance to pests and are sprayed frequently. The industry maintains that these residues are not harmful. But Kastel counters that it’s just common sense to minimize exposure by avoiding the most doused produce, like apples. “Farm workers have higher rates of many cancers,” he says. And increasing numbers of studies are starting to link a higher body burden of pesticides (from all sources) with Parkinson’s disease.