February 19, 2015

babymassRemember when we talked about cuddling? The importance of touch extends much farther than our adult lives. Babies not only benefit from touch, they flourish under it.

Now most people can’t let babies go when they are around, constantly wanting to hold them or passing them to someone else to hold, but rarely does the new baby get put down. We know how that great feeling benefits us, but what about baby?

There are many studies that can be looked at for this discussion, but Tiffany Field has done increasing work with pre-mature infants. It is through her research that she has concluded that premmies who received touch massage for 15 minutes, three times a day for a period of 10 days were released from the NICU faster than those who didn’t.

Things of note in her research: the group who got massaged gained almost 50% more weight per day(!), were more alert and active, and scored better on the Brazelton scale (which tested for habitutaion, orientation, motor and range of state behaviours).

Looking at the changes provoked in these pre-mature babies is a great example of what I was talking about last week. It really shows how much change can actually happen when touch is applied. We often don’t see the changes in our lives from an Oxytocin release, but the changes in the life of a baby is very clearly shown with this research. Again, for those of you who didn’t read last week’s blog, Oxytocin is released when we have contact with another person. It can reduce our pain, reduce social anxiety, it also helps reduce both depression and stress (amongst other things).

I think it’s fascinating that touch can do so much for such a little person! Having that bond between caregiver and child is so huge in this world and this paper is just one example that proves it. I believe that it conclusively shows how important nurturing touch is to a person and how it can improve our quality of life. A premmie adding 50% more weight per day is proof of this. A healthy baby means Mom and Dad can take the newborn home sooner, and isn’t that what everyone wants in the end anyway?


Melissa Beals is an RMT with Whole Therapy. Melissa works extensively with athletes of all levels with a goal in mind to increase their athletic performance through education and understanding of their bodies. See more about Melissa here.



February 13, 2015

chewing3The blog Indelicate Flower: A collaborative blog between three fitness gals originally had it’s home here.  It is a blog about fitness and health, and three womens’ journey to the competition stage.  We decided to make IF’s new home here on the Whole Therapy site, where it would reach even more people.  We hope you like it!

I just had the most satisfying meal of my life.  I’m aboard the Carnival cruise ship Ecstasy, and it’s not the quality of the food that made the meal amazing, nor was it the service, although both of those surpassed my expectations.  No, it was the simplest thing that led me to be so gratified.

You’re going to laugh:  I chewed my food.

Here’s how this started: The other day, at home, after the little one was asleep, I made my usual egg and mushroom scramble with salsa, and sat down at the kitchen table to eat.  Husband Jamie joined me, and watched with an astonished look on his face as I began to eat.

What? I was a little annoyed.  Did I have food on my shirt or something?

Do you realize what you’re doing? He asked, looking at me incredulously.

Obviously not, I said, very self-conscious now, wondering what the hell I was doing wrong.

He then proceeded to tell me that every single bite of egg I had taken during that meal (and I would estimate there were at least twenty or more bites), I had not chewed more than one or two times before swallowing.  Seriously?

I was about to protest, when I realized he was right.  Holy crap, I thought.  That explains a lot.  I often have stomach aches after eating. I often feel like I could go on eating another whole meal after the first is gone.  I bolt my food, partly because of my busy schedule (my massage clients are 15 minutes apart, often leaving me with 5 minutes to get my food eaten), partly because that’s just the way I’ve always done it.

I felt ashamed.  Here I am, working to do a fitness show, working to set a good example for would-be fit people everywhere, and I can’t even eat properly?  I wondered, does this affect the digestion of my food (or lack thereof)?  Most likely. Does this affect the enjoyment I have of food?  Most definitely.

Right then, I vowed that the next meal I ate would be much more satisfying.  And I got my chance tonight, during the three lazy courses the cruise ship offered.

I buttered my bread and took small bites, putting the roll down in between.

I sliced off small pieces of chicken and ate them with vegetables, savouring the flavours, the texture.

And I took savouring bites of the chocolate dessert I decided on, marveling at the smoothness of the chocolate, the bitterness of the aftertaste, and the hint of sweetness left behind.  Chocolate has always been good, but this?

I’ve entered a whole new world.

I’m fascinated by the possibilities that this discovery has opened for me.  Could I overcome some of my food issues by paying more attention, enjoying each bite more, and putting my fork down between bites?  It seems a very likely possibility, and one I am willing to explore.

I’ll keep you posted.

Chew on, friends.


Jen Wright is an RMT and the owner of Whole Therapy. She is an avid gym-goer and loves to lift heavy stuff.  She sees clients of all ages and stages, especially those who are engaged in bettering themselves.  She believes that pain-free is possible.  For more about Jen, click here.


February 12, 2015

Let’s hug it out

I assume that we have all heard about this new fan-dangled cuddling service, right? Ok, if you haven’t here’s the scoop: you pay someone to crawl up next to you for an hour and cuddle. Sounds simple right?

Although there may be many benefits to cuddling with someone (see part 2 next week), having a cuddle session with an unknown individual (clearly) has its deterrents. Everybody wants someone to love them, to be around when they need a shoulder to lean or cry on, or to just hold them when things are going down the toilet. But what if that person you are leaning on is a stranger? Do you react the same way as you would if you were snuggled close to someone you trust?

Well, let’s take a look at the brain for a quick second. What happens when you are embraced by another human being? When we experience touch, a hormone called Oxytocin is released which our bodies and brains looove. Oxytocin has many benefits: it gives us feelings of love, reduces pain, reduces social anxiety, reduces depression and can even reduce stress. All great things. 

So really, it sounds like a good cuddle with someone would be beneficial. But it’s not just full-body contact that releases Oxytocin; it can be released when you give someone a handshake, a hug, or from a touch on the arm.

Not surprisingly, being massaged releases that feel-good hormone too. So really, why choose massage over cuddling if they both release Oxytocin? While cuddling can make you feel good, I believe that massage can make you feel even better. As Massage Therapists, we help to release the tense muscles which are causing you pain; less pain equates to less stress. While massage can’t eliminate all of your stress, it can play a big role in helping you create balance in your life.

Now we think back to a previous question I posed: would you react the same way with a stranger as you would if you were snuggled close to someone you trust? Although I have no evidence of this, I truly believe that if you trust someone, you let down your barriers and let them in. This allows for a more positive flow of energy and thus a greater release of Oxytocin. So cuddling up with someone you love or getting a massage by someone you trust would be of greater benefit than cuddling up with a stranger.

Bottom line: hugs get the good hormones flowing.  Massages do even more so.  Both are excellent feel-good options.  Which one do you choose?



Melissa Beals is an RMT with Whole Therapy. Melissa works extensively with athletes of all levels with a goal in mind to increase their athletic performance through education and understanding of their bodies. See more about Melissa here.


February 5, 2015

Ladies ladies ladies! Let’s talk about bras and how they support us, or don’t.  They are meant to aid a beautiful part of our body!  However, I have been seeing a running theme in my practice lately and even out and about on the street.  Ladies, why are you wearing ill-fitting bras with absolutely no support?

I hear all the excuses…”oh this is just my lazy day”, or “this is my bad bra”, or “my other one is in the laundry”, or “I just came from a work out”…again, all the excuses! Bras that you bought 10 years ago, throw them out! Even ones you bought 2 years ago, look at them closely! Does the elastic still support you the same way? Does the cup?  Have you washed them…and dried them?  How many do you have in a rotation?

Why do I bring up this subject? We can’t take our breasts off like we can our bras.  We need to support them!  We honour our bodies with exercise and nutrition, so why do our breasts hang low and depressed!? If you have not been fitted, go get fitted!  If you continue to wear the ill fitting bras, the drag will exacerbate poor posture, which can put aberrant stresses on your neck, shoulders and back. Poor posture can also impair breathing capabilities.

There are some wonderful places here in Ottawa that are both fabulous and more importantly educated on proper fitting.  Check out Brachic (www.brachicbras.com), and Mariannes  (www.mariannesboutique.ca) for more information on how to get your fitting underway.

Whether you’ve just had a baby, have goals to get back to a certain size, or are in the process of losing weight, have ongoing neck and shoulder pain, or headaches…whatever the reason, if you have never been sized by a professional, set up an appointment and go.  If you were sized 5 years ago, 2 years ago, go again.  I promise you, the relief of a proper fitting bra is worth it! And the satisfaction of looking good is even better! No more excuses!


Tara Hagan-Fields is an RMT with Whole Therapy.  Tara is a Women’s Health Specialist and Myofascial Release Therapist.  She focuses on the body as a whole and teaches you to do the same.  More about Tara here


January 29, 2015

Women can’t do pull ups? I call shenanigans.

“Why women can’t do pull ups.” This was the title of an article written in the New York Times. Since it made headlines two years ago it has been the topic of numerous articles by many different newspapers – all with slight variations of course, but the premise in each was the same: women are incapable of doing pull ups.  According to leading researcher Paul Vanderburgh that is. As you can imagine, there has been some backlash of this article and I am thus throwing my hat into the ring, so to speak.

After reading an article in the Globe and Mail which was based on the original in the NYT, I was outraged that they would put this as headlining news, for all women to see, to justify that it’s ok that you can’t do a pull up because we aren’t meant to. It’s ok if you can’t do a pull up, you don’t need justification for this, yes men and women are built differently, yes some women who train can do pull ups, yes some women cannot, it is a fact of life. But to say that women in general can’t do pull ups? That’s just an excuse to not try.

I feel as though the original journalist did no research into the actual research! It appears as though she had an interview with Paul, but it’s hard to think that someone of his caliber would make a generalized statement like that. So to learn more, I read his research paper (Egads! People do that now?!).

What I found was pretty simple stuff. They had a base of 20 women, all college aged, never been in collegiate athletics and their activity levels ranged from sedentary to active. All this seems pretty standard, yes? In the end, one girl had to drop out of the program so we are left with 19 women. Over a course of 3 months, training three times a week in which they had to complete 33 out of 36 training days these women ran (1-1.5 miles), did squats, bench press, hammer curls, ab work and the all important pull up trainer! I mean really – of course you want to use a pull up trainer if you are training to do pull ups. Paul even stated in his paper that they considered using lat pull down exercises, but they didn’t make sense to the program.

So, of the 19 women, 2 could do at least one pull up to begin with (yay!), and by the end 4 more could do a pull up. So that means on testing day, 6 of the 19 did at least one pull up. Note that these are dead hang pull ups – there is no sway to their bodies while doing it and certainly no kipping (not saying these are wrong but they didn’t fit into the scope of the test). Mr. Vanderburgh also noted that during training, there was an additional 2 women who did at least one pull up. That means 8 women in total! That’s double the number the original journalist claimed. Also, if you wanted to know, one of the girls did 11 by the end (she started with 2).

I love Paul right now, I do, because although statistically he can’t count the two women who didn’t get the pull ups on test day, but did during training, he gave them props for being able to do it. He also knows that those two  were probably over trained for the time of testing. Which is great to note because not everyone trains the same way and some people get over trained faster than others, and some it takes longer, anyway you get the idea…He also stated that several of the women came as close as 7-10 cm away from the bar – they were so close! And was confident they would have been able to complete a pull up if there was more time.

There you have it, 8 of 19 women completed at least one dead hang pull up over a 12 week training program (I think that’s pretty darn good!). If you don’t train for something, how can you expect to achieve it? It may take you longer to get someplace than it does for your friend, but do you give up? No. You keep fighting for it because you want it, because you deserve it. If you don’t think you can do a pull up – try training specifically for it, that is your main focus, do the exercises that are going to directly affect you getting there.

If you would like to read the original article from the NYT magazine, click here.

Flanagan S, Vanderburgh P, Borchers S, Kohstall C. Training college age women to perform the pull-up exercise. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport. 74(1):52-59. 2003.

Melissa Beals is an RMT with Whole Therapy.  Melissa works extensively with athletes of all levels with a goal in mind to increase their athletic performance through education and understanding of their bodies.  More about Melissa here.

January 26, 2015

I’ve been making my living putting my hands on people for nearly a decade now.  Hundreds of bodies have been on my table, living and breathing.  Wanting pain relief and to relax, wanting comfort and care.  My hands have lain on all of them, kneaded, pressed, squeezed.  Coaxed the trigger points out.  Invoked relaxation and some happy sighs, and occasionally a snore or two.

I love the human body, not just because of its fascinating quirks and exquisite structure, but because no two bodies are ever the same under my hands.  And because, even though just about all my clients would vehemently deny it, I think all of their bodies are perfect.

Yes, yours too.  Your body is perfect.  Trust me, I’ve lain hands on many a naked back, calf, arm, neck.  Bodies of all ages and stages, from a day old to a hundred years old.  They’re all beautiful.  Perfect.

Bodies of all shapes, sizes and ages have been on my table.  I think they're all beautiful.

Bodies of all shapes, sizes and ages have been on my table. I think they’re all beautiful.

Those freckles on your back are a pattern all unto your own.  That scar, even though it’s a reminder of pain that once was, is a testament now to the strength that you had.  It’s beautiful.  Those spider veins?  Yes, I can see them, and the wrinkles too, but please don’t be self-conscious.  They’re part of the puzzle that makes you, you.  They’re there because you’ve lived and smiled and had babies and walked miles.

Air-brushed “perfection”, or society’s view of beauty, is so boring.  The asymmetrical lines of a face (from a broken nose, perhaps), the slope of a back (even one with hair on it), the softness of a stomach (that’s held a baby or two), that’s beauty.  There’s no scope for real life in air-brushed-ness.  There’s no reality, no question marks.  It’s so boring.  Lifeless.

I’m lucky.  I get to see and feel all of this life, this perfection, on a regular basis.  My hope is that when you read this you’ll take a step toward realizing how perfect your body is, too.  And in recognizing that, please know that that doesn’t mean loving yourself unconditionally all the time, or embracing each and every quirk your body has.  I don’t know many people who can actually do that all the time.  Even I, with my realistic sense of things, don’t have that ability.

Instead, try and accept that your body is perfectly yours.  It’s what you have.  And it’s beautiful.  Maybe there are things you would change about it.  That’s ok – that makes you human.  So strive for change if you want to, but in the meantime, accept your body’s current perfection.  Treat it well.  Feed it well.  Care for it to foster its continued perfection.  You might be surprised how it responds.

Because it’s only in loving ourselves that we can change for the better.   Hating our bodies doesn’t foster positive change, just as eternal pessimism doesn’t foster happiness.  We have to let go and love for our body to love us back.

And trust me, that body of yours?  It’s worth loving.  It’s perfect.

Jen Wright, RMT

January 22, 2015

Have you ever wondered when massage should fit into your training or workout schedule? Or thought “Naw, I don’t need a massage, I have my trusty foam roller, tennis ball, lacrosse ball, etc…?” Well, here are some things to consider.

1. Yes, you should incorporate massage into your workout regime. WHY you ask? When you are on my table, you have a better chance of relaxing into a deep tissue massage than if you are trying to accomplish the same pressure with your foam roller. When you use massage tools, you are inevitably using other muscles to get pressure or to get that stretch. This leads to a less effective self-treatment – you can’t relax into it.

2. WHEN? Non training days are usually the best way to go on this one. That way your muscles have time to regroup, recover, and regain some of their natural tension before you hit your next big workout. If you can’t make it in on a non-training day, next best bet is to see us AFTER you work out. Working out after your massage can lead to injury (mostly) due to a lack of tension in the muscles (We won’t go into sports massage here – that’s a whole other basket of tricks).

3. BUT I HAVE MY OWN MASSAGE TOOLS….. – Sure, a LAX ball or a foam roller is great, but can it tell you when your hip is off? Or when the tension in your muscle is a result of an imbalance? If I had talking massage tools, that would be a money maker! Oh wait….I do, my hands. My hands tell me when your muscles are tight, or when they find that pesky trigger point, or they tell me that your hip is rotated which is making your back tight and tightening up your hip flexors…..you get it?

There are SO MANY other reasons to get a massage, and to incorporate massage into your routine, but these are just a few.

Melissa Beals is an RMT with Whole Therapy. Melissa works extensively with athletes of all levels with a goal in mind to increase their athletic performance through education and understanding of their bodies. See more about Melissa here.



January 8, 2015

Do you ever just sit back at the end of the day to reflect, or sit back and enjoy life? Me either. But over the Christmas holidays I had some time to do just that, and the relaxation I felt from it made me wonder why I didn’t take time out more often.

Crashing at the end of the day sounds like a wonderful thing doesn’t it? Well, it’s funny to me. We are so distracted during the day, whether it be due to our jobs or our own choosing. By the time we get home, all we want to do at night is sit in front of the tv…or the phone…or the computer; but isn’t that just what we did all day at work?

We busy our bodies all day with doing things – work, working out, taking care of the kids, cooking, cleaning. BUT I feel like we busy our minds so much more. Taking time out do “do nothing” has become taking time out to play on the phone or check FaceBook.

In other words, taking time out has become plugging back in, for we are looking for something to constantly entertain our minds, something quick and easy.

I never really noticed just how much I was addicted to being distracted by things until I took time off work at Christmas. I wanted to read. That was my goal – I wanted to finish my book.

Well, guess what? I only got a chance to read on my last day off. Was this because of my own choosing? Yes, most undoubtedly. Even as I was reading on that last day I realized that all I wanted to do was be entertained by something else. Even though I loved the book I was reading, I wanted to go on Facebook, watch YouTube videos, check my email, I wanted to be distracted, entertained.

So how can we remedy this need for constant distraction?

My suggestion is that we all narrow our lens, and begin by looking at our own bodies.

We get so caught up in what we have created in our lives, that we don’t take time for ourselves and we don’t learn about what our bodies are saying. Sure, we notice the aches and pains we have, but they have become our normal. Pain is not normal; it’s our bodies telling us that something is wrong. But we ignore it because we have too many other things fighting for control of our minds.

The busier our lives, the more time we need to take to unplug. And it needs to be a conscious decision, because distraction is everywhere: even at the gym (an excellent place to unplug) you go on a treadmill and there’s a TV in front of you, or you check your phone between sets. You go from working in front of a computer all day to sitting in front of a TV at night. Where, in all this time, do you unplug?

Unplugging is awesome. Let me tell you. Taking an hour where you aren’t being put in front of a screen is an amazing thing. Your brain starts working differently. You start decompressing. You reflect on your day and work out issues you have been dealing with.

So… what better way than to unplug and get your back to doing something for your body, than taking an hour for a massage? It’s an hour that is all about you and your needs. Where our attention is focused on you. How often does that happen?

Trust me, unplug, your body will thank you for it.


Melissa Beals is an RMT with Whole Therapy. Melissa works extensively with athletes of all levels with a goal in mind to increase their athletic performance through education and understanding of their bodies. See more about Melissa here.