How long will it take?

How long will it take?

How long will it take?

How long will it take…That is the question.

How long will it take to lose weight? To fit into my favourite pair of jeans?

How long will it take to build muscle? To get lean and ripped? To see a six pack?

How long will it take for my injury to heal? To get back to sports? To doing the things I love to do?

How long will it take to get fit? To get healthy? To have more energy and stamina?

While the end results of all of these questions may be a little different from each other, with some focusing on changing physiques, other dealing with injury rehabilitation and some primarily focused on general health and wellbeing, all of these questions are really asking one thing:

“How long will it take before I see changes?”

If we were to base our expectations on the headlines often seen on the covers of any of the health, fitness or fashion magazines that we’re constantly bombarded with, the answer lies somewhere between 10 days and 12 weeks.

We read about celebrities and their fad diets and intensive training regimens dropping 10 lbs in 10 days, or bulking up and adding massive slabs of muscles to their frames for their upcoming superhero roles in just 12 short weeks.

We see athletes with seemingly unsurmountable injuries return to play in what appears to be just mere weeks or months after major surgical repairs and broken bones.

And then we believe that’s what the norm is. We believe that those types of results are typical. That those types of results are the expectation.

We use those media published stories as the foundation of our own barometer of success.

Have I lost weight fast enough?

Have I put on muscle fast enough?

Have I come back to sport soon enough?

And then sadly, we are disappointed when our reality sets in and we haven’t achieved those lofty goals in the desired timeframe.

The scale has hardly budged. Our injury hasn’t healed.

So what’s missing?

Why didn’t our reality match the other reality?

Why weren’t we able to do what “they” did?

One thing: context.

For those actors and celebrities transforming their bodies, their work opportunities (and corresponding paycheques) often depend on their physical appearance. The roles they’re cast in may require a certain look or physique such as Christian Bale’s extreme and drastic transformations from The Machinist to The Dark Knight.

The same broad scenario applies to the high performance and professional athletes, whose finely-tuned bodies are the tools of their trade. The performance of their bodies dictates their salaries and endorsements. It has very real and tangible impacts on their livelihoods.

For them, they now have the drivers (both internal and external) to push them to allocate the resources (or find the resources) to achieve these targets.

They have teams of highly skilled and trained people at their disposal.

They can hire the elite physiotherapists, personal chefs, sports nutritionists, and specialized personal trainers to craft structured programs.  They have the time and resources to allocate to go to work – in this case, changing their bodies, building their bodies or healing them.

For them, their body is their job.

For those of us not in that context, we have matters that may take greater precedence. Like young kids or aging parents. Like our jobs and careers, the means by which we pay for life. Like our housework and chores. Our day to day tasks.

By the time these pressing daily items are dealt with, we often don’t have the eight or nine hours left in the day to sleep and recover. We don’t have the two, three or more hours a day to lift weights, do cardio or rehab. Our meals are often grabbed on the go, instead of being homemade, perfectly balanced, and fully nutritious.

Our context, when put in perspective against these media marketed norms, is very, very different.

So how long will it take?

As always, the honest answer is it depends.

It depends on our context.

It depends on what resources we can invest into our results – how much time, money, effort and energy we have to spare.

What we’re willing to sacrifice.

So while these media based standards of transformation and rehab seem unattainable, that’s not to say that we can’t make change happen. We can. Our bodies are capable of incredible feats, if given the opportunities and means.

We just have to figure out what we’re willing, and able, to put in.

From there, we can then figure out how long it will take.

And looking honestly at our context, it may just take longer.

But I just don’t have enough time for exercise

Time. There’s never enough time.

Sound familiar?

Any time the phrase “but I just don’t have enough time” escapes open lips, it’s often met with a round of heads nodding in agreement and a cacophony of “oh yes, me too” and “same here”.

It’s an epidemic. Or it would seem that way.

But is it really?

Is there really such a shortage of time that we can’t fit everything we need to get done in the time we have available? Do people really not have enough time in the week to accomplish what we want to get done?

Not enough time for exerciseLet’s look at exercise.

We know it’s good for us.

We’re well aware of the incredible physical and mental benefits that it offers. We know that almost every aspect of our lives improve when we get enough physical activity including general health, work performance, mood and learning to name a few.

And yet we know we often don’t get enough.

When life gets busy, when we’re stressed, when we’re tired, when we’re pretty much anything, it’s the first item that can be rescheduled, shuffled, delayed and abandoned because we just don’t have enough time for it.

But is it really a matter of having enough time? If our days were an hour or two longer, would that really suddenly allow us to get our exercise in? Would any portion of that extra hour or two be used to get our heart rates up and our muscles working?

For a small number of people, perhaps. But for a vast majority, it’s not really about time, it’s about priorities.

Exercise is just not important enough because if it were, it would get done.

This is not to say that spending an hour in the gym with a half hour commute each way is going to be feasible for everyone, nor should it be.

But this is to say that many people just don’t place exercise high enough of the priorities list to have it reschedule, shuffle, delay or abandon another activity such as watching a movie on Netflix or perusing Facebook.

Let’s talk a little about priorities.

What are yours?

We may have a list of priorities in our minds, but our actual priorities may be very different in real life.

How can you find out?

Here’s a quick and easy way to get a rough estimate of your actual vs imagined priorities.

Take a piece of paper (or use your smartphone) and note down how you’ve spent your last week. Mark down how many hours you’ve spent doing various things from work, to exercise, to meal prep, to Facebook, to sleep, to Netflix or TV, to reading, to child minding etc.

Be brutally honest otherwise you’re only lying to yourself. As a side note, memory recall is quite fallible, so these won’t be extremely accurate for most people, but will give you a general idea. If you want a more accurate measure, keep a notebook and a timer with you and start clocking.

Tally up all the hours under the various headings. Divide each by 168 for the total hours available per week, multiply by 100 and voila, you have your weekly priorities in percentage form.

e.g. If I sleep 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, that gives me 56 hours per week. Divide 56 by 168 = 0.333 multiplied by 100 = 33.3%

Now that you have that information available, you can decide if there are any changes you need (or want) to make.

And if their costs are worth it.

Do the work.

It’s not good enough to just show up.

You have to do the work.

Yes, we all think we do the work.

We often do enough to get by or satisfy our belief of what’s work.

Or we do what’s comfortable, what we’ve always done.

But when it comes to fitness and health, there are so many forces pulling us in so many directions that we aren’t always truly doing the work we need to be doing.

This is not meant as a personal attack.

But if you want to start seeing results*, the first item on the agenda has to be taking stock of where you’re actually starting from, doing a current audit of sorts.

When you go to the gym, how hard are you working? How efficient are you? Do you take your mobile device and check Facebook every few minutes? Do your water breaks seem to stretch out into happy hour territory? Does the intensity of your exercise actually leave you feeling like you’ve put everything you had at that time into it or could you go for round two without even breaking a sweat?

In most cases, we find short cuts. We find the easy outs.

We find any number of ways where we can make the work easier. Longer rests. Lighter weights. Slower pace. Lower difficulty setting. And so on.

This is human nature (at least for the vast majority of us) – we seek the path of least resistance.

When it comes to health and fitness, that’s not always the best course of action.

To teach the body to adapt to higher levels of fitness, we need to put it in higher levels of challenge and stress, beyond what we’re comfortable with, with enough consistency over a long enough period of time.

Being at the gym for an hour will not suddenly confer improved performance, decreased body fat or improved cardiovascular fitness or stamina.

Unfortunately, the feeling many people get from just showing up translates into the feeling that the work was done. This is almost like a mental check mark. And what do we do when we’ve crossed something off our to-do list is we often congratulate ourselves for the job well done and take a break in celebration.

Now, being at the gym and busting your butt for an hour, pushing yourself, putting it out there in a progressive manner, that, when repeated over time, will confer physiological changes. That will be the stimulus your body needs to change and adapt. That’s how fitness is earned and physiques are crafted.

Basically, showing up is not the same as showing up and doing the work.

So if you’ve been working on your health and fitness and haven’t been seeing the results you want, it may be time to sit down and do an honest, objective audit of the actual work you’re doing.

And keep in mind that to earn the results, we have to do the work.

*The work audit should also take into account the “work” you’ve been doing with your nutrition. Exercise without appropriate nutrition will not yield optimal results.

Paying the Piper: What cost are you willing to pay?

Everything has its price, and nothing may be obtained without paying this price – Napoleon Hill

Ain’t that the truth.

The same can be said of injury rehabilitation or fitness results or even just  basic good health.

Everything has a cost.

Be it invested time. Be it traded opportunity. Be it precious beads of sweat. Or even cold, hard cash.

There is always some form of transaction taking place. Some form of exchange.

With someone else, or even with yourself.

You will never get something for nothing.

Now that that’s out of the way, the better question to ask is whether you’re willing to pay that price.

Are you willing to invest?

Are you willing to put in the time?

Are you willing to give something up, sacrifice something that you currently have for something else that you could have?

Are you willing to put money down, to pay for coaching, equipment or experience?

It’s OK if you’re not. Not everyone is ready to take that leap yet. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But if you’re willing to take that big first step, if you’re willing to overcome the tremendous inertia of the status quo, just remember, it doesn’t have to be all out. You don’t have to go all in.

Moving forward towards your goals is still moving forward, even if it’s not at mach speed. And moving forward means you’re not sliding back or even standing still.

Small progress is still progress. Small change is still change. And that’s a powerful thing.

If you’ve got back pain or you’re just plain out of shape, doing just a few appropriate exercises daily is a good start. You don’t have to start with heavy lifting for an hour or two every day at the gym. But you will have to find movement or activity that you enjoy, that you can sustain, that pulls you. And do it consistently over time.

That is the cost. That is the investment.

If you’re looking to lose some excess weight, shifting your eating towards more veggies and fruits instead of processed pre-packaged snacks is a good start. You don’t have to jump on any complicated or restrictive paleo or low carb or low fat diet. You don’t have to “diet” at all, but you will have to generally consume less. And do it consistently over time.

That is the cost. That is the investment.

Remember, life doesn’t always require a lump sum transaction.

It’s often full of payment plans. Most of which can work in your favour.

The quick fix myth

The quick fix.

The magic bullet.

The < insert whatever-you’re-trying-to-shortcut > hack.

Sure these can exist. And at times these may be exactly what you need.

They may even do the job you need them to do.

In that moment.

But these results are almost never lasting, specifically when it comes to your health, well-being and fitness.

If you’re looking to drop 10 lbs, sure you can starve and dehydrate yourself, and achieve that end result in just a few short days.

While likely effective, is it safe? Is it healthy? What cost are you willing to pay?

And what happens to your body when you ingest that first glorious meal after the self-imposed drought and famine?

Undoubtedly, you’re weight will rebound very quickly. Your body may even compensate and add more to the mix.

You could potentially be worse off than when you started…the unfortunate start to the all-too-common yo-yo cycle with much bigger emotional ramifications than even physical ones.

How about the injury quick fix?

What if you’re trying to deal with low back pain, or some other injury?

Well, you could pop all the pain pills and use all the icy-hot patches and supportive braces you want, to give yourself temporary, symptomatic relief.

But do any those quick-fixes above address any of the possible underlying pain or injury mechanisms, of which there are many?

Do they take into consideration any of the myriad biopsychosocial inputs that make you a whole person? The different stressors in your life? Your habitual postures or positions? Your emotional states or beliefs? Your physical status?

Or do they address any of the long term habits and behaviors that would allow you to maintain your results, that would allow you to break the repeating cycle of boom and bust?

In my view, the answer is a resounding no.

I’m not suggesting that quick-fixes be abandoned.

In many cases they serve a useful purpose to initiate forward progress, to overcome inertia, and to get the ball rolling.

But they shouldn’t be considered the best course, or a lasting solution. They should be quickly replaced by consistent positive habits and behaviors (mental, physical and emotional) that will build a solid foundation.

This often takes effort. And time. And consistency of that effort over time.

But this often leads to long-term success.

Optimal health. Ultimate performance.


Running sucks.

OK, so that’s not entirely true but it caught your attention didn’t it?

While traditional long-duration, steady-state cardiovascular exercise such as running confers numerous health benefits, for most people it’s also a very inefficient (and potentially risky) way of losing excess body fat and getting in shape.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with running. In fact, there’s nothing inherently wrong with any form of exercise that makes people get up and move.

We encourage this! We applaud this! Movement is good.

We want people to move more and sit less.

We even called this out on a previous post about the most dangerous thing you do all day.

However, on the wrong feet and by the wrong person, running can put certain individuals at increased risk of repetitive strain and overuse injuries such as shin splints, plantar fasciitis or the oft-lamented IT-band syndrome. In our experience, many novice runners unfortunately haven’t prepared their bodies for the rigors of this type of exercise, and we regularly see the painful fallout at our clinic.

For this reason, we strongly believe in getting fit to run, not running to get fit.

Now if you LOVE running for hours on end, and you’ve trained your body to an appropriate base-level of fitness that can tolerate the constant pounding, then by all means, go out and run to your heart’s content.

You’ve earned it.

But if you HATE running, it bores you, and the only reason you’re doing it is because you heard that it’s was the best way of dropping extra pounds and improving your fitness, please keep reading.

What we’re about to tell you may just save you a few extra hours a week and help you drop a few extra pounds in the process (assuming that you’ve taken care of your nutrition!).

Results in less time, isn’t that what we all want?

Enter High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Q. What is HIIT?

A. As the name suggests, HIIT is the term given to a form of cardiovascular system training where bouts (intervals) of very high intensity exercise are interspersed with periods of recovery. In true HIIT, the work segments should be completed near or at maximal intensity whereas the recovery bouts involve complete rest or are done at a much lower intensity.

Q. How does HIIT work?

A.  Without getting too deep into the still controversial physiology behind HIIT, suffice to say that after the interval session is complete, this leads to an increase in a physiological event called Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) when compared to stead-state cardio. In EPOC, our bodies undergo numerous physiological processes designed to return us to the pre-exercise resting state. This process of returning to baseline requires energy, which is furnished by the body from its energy stores.

Q. How do I do a HIIT session?

A. There are many methods of completing a HIIT session, using various modalities (bike, swim, run, rower etc). The only limitation is your imagination! HIIT can be performed with a work to rest ratio of anywhere from 2:1 (e.g. Tabatas: 20 seconds ultra-intense activity:10 seconds rest) to 1:4 or greater and can be repeated for any number of cycles (typically 4-10) lasting for a total session timeline typically between 10-20 minutes.

The following is an example of a HIIT session that we’ve used with clients in the past, repeated 2-3 times a week:

  1. Warm up (5 minutes)
  2. 30 second all-out bike sprint
  3. 120 seconds slow recovery pedaling
  4. Repeat the cycle of 30 s: 120 s a total of four times (10 minutes)
  5. Warm down (5 minutes)

Q. Why would I want to do HIIT instead of steady-state cardio exercise such as running?

A. If you love running and have the time for it, keep running. However, as noted earlier, if you don’t enjoy it and could get similar or better results in less time, why would you do it?

  • Minimum time investment: HIIT requires only a fraction of the time investment when compared to steady-state cardio but can often confer similar or better results for fat loss and conditioning (important note: HIIT is only one component of a well-rounded training and nutrition program).
  • Decreased repetitive strain/overuse injury risk: The duration of HIIT sessions is only between 10-20 minutes, the repetitive stresses faced by the body when compared to an hour or more of running are far less. Think about it this way, in an hour long run, you are taking thousands of steps, each having it’s own impact through your body. In 10 minutes, the odds are that you’re not even coming close to the number of impacts.
  • Avoid boredom: Many people get bored with hour long steady-state cardio sessions. The fast-paced, short duration set up of HIIT is often fun and engaging. And we all know if we enjoy something, we’re more likely to stick with it.

Q. This seems too good to be true. What’s the catch?

A. Yup, there’s always a catch. You don’t ever get something for nothing and the same holds true for HIIT.

  • To get the true benefit of HIIT, the high intensity bouts have to be very high intensity. Real high intensity intervals hurt. They’re incredibly hard. They might make you feel like you are going to vomit. Your muscles will be extremely sore. And that’s why most people don’t do true intervals. They are uncomfortable. Incredibly so.
  • HIIT may also put you at risk for injury. This of course depends on your starting fitness level and the type of training you’re doing (e.g. sprinting is higher risk than stationary bike) but is still a consideration when deciding whether HIIT is for you.
  • Due to the intense nature, correctly performed HIIT should not be performed daily but 2-3 days per week at most.

In summary:

The two most important pieces of advice regarding  any form of exercise, including steady-state cardio and HIIT are:

  1. Build up your fitness level gradually and progressively (e.g. if you’ve been a regular on your couch, don’t go all out into HIIT or even jogging, start gently and let your body adapt).
  2. Pick an activity that you enjoy and will actually do on a regular and consistent basis. If you love to run, go and run. If you love dancing, go out dancing. If you prefer something more intense and are crunched for time, consider interval training. Each has its benefits and risks. Find something that suits your lifestyle and do it.

Yours in movement,

Team Primal



Congratulate yourself, you’ve earned it!

"Strive for progress, not perfection" - Unknown


When it comes to physical therapy, injury rehabilitation, general health, or sports performance, we often take the route of focusing on the end-result rather than the process that’s required to get there. We often overlook the hard-earned intermediate steps we’ve accomplished that have enabled us to move forward, the little victories.

How many people do you know who’ve lost a few inches with their new healthy habits in just a few short weeks but haven’t dropped to their “ideal” target weight just yet and are frustrated with the results?

Or people who have started a health or fitness program after a completely sedentary lifestyle but are discouraged by what they believe to be agonizingly “slow” progress?

Or people who have made significant postural corrections, range of motion improvements and substantial increases in strength during their post-surgical recovery but haven’t quite achieved their pre-injury level of function in the “standard” 12 week time-frame?

How many of the above have celebrated their little victories? Oftentimes, too few.

How many of these people have been so focused on the end result that they’ve let their acknowledgement of their progress pass them by? Oftentimes, too many.

And it’s time to change that!

If we’re always looking for the “perfect” end-results: the perfect body, the perfect fitness level, the perfect recovery, we’ll miss out on all the progress we’ve made…

So take a moment and appreciate all that you’ve already accomplished. You’ve earned it.

Team Primal