Championship Warm-Up | The Checklist

Despite what your ninth grade gym teacher may have told you, standing for a couple of minutes in the squat rack hitting the old double pec stretch does not constitute a warm-up. 

Does it feel good? Probably. That doesn’t mean it’s a warm-up.

I’ve been talking about the need for a proper warm-up for what feels like an obsessively long time. That’s because people continue to neglect it at all levels, from amateur to professional. I’ve been on the sidelines to watch games and seen some sad attempts at warming up the body from players who are at the very top of their sport. The excuse that it takes too long is even more ludicrous at this level. As pro athletes, you have nothing else to do but train and play the game. Even as a weekend warrior, the few extra minutes you have to spend each day is a small trade-off to avoid weeks or even months of rehab following an injury that may have been preventable.  

In today’s post, we are going to talk about our five checkboxes for a championship level warm up and offer some insight into why they are so important. The tools you use to achieve these aspects are entirely up to you and will differ from coach to coach and athlete to athlete. The concepts are more important than the method.

PC : l_maharaj

Warm Up Check Boxes

Myofascial Release 

A fancy word for rollout and a valuable tool in a championship warm-up routine! We’ve spent significant time on the podcast discussing soft tissue injuries, tightness, and ways to alleviate those restrictions. If we think about our muscles in a very simplistic manner as elastics, we require a certain amount of unrestricted stretch out of them. The amount of stretch varies from person to person and sport to sport, but the presence of adhesions or ‘trigger-points’ within the muscle can limit movement, cause pain, or create an artificial weakness. This means that a muscle that has been trained and is strong is unable to perform. These trigger-points present for a variety of reasons, a hard training session, a long car ride, an awkward sleeping angle, regardless of the cause their presence can inhibit our training session and our ability to improve our movement patterns. Spending a section of our warm-up with a lacrosse ball or foam roller attacking some of these specific areas can release the tension, create fluidity up and down the kinetic chain, and decrease the likelihood of injury. 


The mobility section of our warm-up pairs perfectly with soft tissue release and can be completed multiple times a day in and out of the gym/training session. When we are born, our bodies possess the ability to move through the entire human range. As we grow, the world is continuously assaulting us and limiting our movement. Hours spent in the classroom, in vehicles, at a computer, or holding a phone will slowly degrade our movement ability until the idea of sitting comfortably in a deep squat seems impossible despite the countless children we see do it every day. To address these restrictions every warm-up should include a component of intentional mobility, aimed at improving individual areas of weakness as well as enhancing our workout. If the session will focus on overhead pressing, then it would be pertinent to time opening up for the thoracic spine and shoulder girdle to enhance pain-free movement. Our mobility component allows us to capitalize on the release of trigger points and helps to groove full ranges of motion heading into the workout. 

Trunk Activation – Spinal Protection 

Low back pain is a significant complaint in a large portion of the population; in fact, it is the number one complaint. The severity ranges from mild discomfort to debilitating pain, something we can empathize with after Sylvie spent nearly a month in bed with a near-surgical disc herniation. Fortunately, she used that pain as a motivator, and it forced us to develop a deeper understanding of the spine and the musculature that protects it. The spine is an area of general health, which is the goal of everyone that doesn’t play professional sports, which is unknowingly neglected, especially before strength training. Our spine is susceptible to injury when placed in positions of flexion and rotation without the proper muscular activation. These muscles don’t automatically turn on and do their job, and they often need a little additional coaxing. A concept that is doubly important if you have suffered a low back injury or deal with pain. The trunk is designed to rotate through our thoracic spine but remain stable through the lumbar spine. Detraining and reduced activation often cause us to reverse this pattern unintentionally. To help reinforce proper patterning, add in Side Planks, and Birddogs to your warm-ups. See Stuart Macgill’s work.  

Core Temperature Increase 

Raising core temperature is the aspect of warm-up that everyone understands, which does not mean that it’s any less critical, especially if you are heading out for a hard game. When we discuss raising core temperature, the number one rebuttal is a fear of fatiguing before the game or training session. We are not advocating for a 40-minute warm-up. The goal is enough movement to break a sweat and improve your oxygen uptake, resulting in improved performance when you start the session. Instead of struggling to start, your body will already be acclimated to the increased work rate and will not suffer from oxygen debt. It will also aid in accessing the elastic properties of our musculature and decrease the risk of strains or tears from cold and stiff muscles. Regardless of your athletic status, no one wants to spend time sidelined with torn muscles because of a lazy warm-up. 


The last aspect of our warm-up checklist refers to the nervous system, not the musculature itself. The difference between great athletes and those that are just good lies within the nervous system, the ability to generate strength, change direction, and interpret a play comes from the mind first. Often – even at the highest level – warm-ups are slow and methodical, which is great up to a point. But, if we want to be truly ready for the demands of our training session, we need to dynamic and violent. Sprint, jump, throw are all examples of movements that ‘wake up’ our body and get it ready to perform. It prepares us for the speed of the game and the reactive nature of sport. 

Dinner Party | Why It’s Your Responsibility To Show Up With New Stories

“I don’t need new stories. I just get new friends” – M. Fryia

Last week we promised a theme for every month, well it’s the first Tuesday of the month and time for a new theme. The focus for the next 30 days is on Preparedness and we’ll be attacking it from all sides, starting as always with Mindset. 

As his strength coach, I’ve asked the very best hockey player in the world what hand he shoots. I’ve sent a resume after a Churchill-esque amount of wine full of more spelling errors than properly spelled words. I’ve showed up to fights without a jock – in case you aren’t well versed at combat arts it’s a pretty important piece if you’ve even thought about procreating one day in the future. 

See what I’m getting at? 

Despite living and working in professional sports, an area of the world that requires maximal preparation – think of a 4-year Olympic cycle, or the 12 weeks leading up to a boxing title fight – I was often unprepared. I believed the action to be unimportant, an ‘I’ll figure it out when I get there’ mindset combined with some leftover childhood, ‘it’s cool not to try’ attitude was likely the culprit, and as a result, I suffered. Did I fail in those endeavors? No, not usually but it took me a lot longer to get where I wanted to go. 

That all changed with dinner parties.

I alternate between excitement and anxiety every time I’m invited out for dinner with a group. I love the camaraderie that comes with long tables full of people who are well-fed with glasses of wine in hand but also shift uncomfortably in my seat thinking about what we, and I, will discuss. After all, it’s just a dinner, and you should show up and see where the conversations go. Well, kind of… If you attend a dinner party, even if it’s with only a couple of your oldest friends, and don’t bring new stories or interesting ideas you owe the host an apology and best offer to put on the next dinner to make up for the blunder. 

I realize that this sounds ridiculous. After all, I just told you that we were going to discuss the importance of being prepared, but I can’t think of a better and easier example than dinner parties. 

Every time you’re asked to attend a dinner, you are being invited to join in an experience. You are not being asked to sit and eat. You can do that by yourself at home in your underwear with a cell phone in one hand and two-day-old pizza in the other. No. You are being asked to share and engage. Someone offered to cook for you or take you out, and in exchange, you owe them a level of stimulation and intrigue. 

Know what interests them, do some research, and ask intelligent questions. If you don’t what their opinions are then ready your own and be ready to discuss them at length, free of malice. Have interesting personal stories to tell, combine them with things you’ve read, watched, or heard. 

It doesn’t mean that you have to dominate the room, but it does mean that when you’re called on, you can contribute in a meaningful way. You’re prepared for your dinner companions.

This exercise comes from a chef I spoke with, and I love it because it teaches you a few invaluable lessons. Firstly, it better to be prepared. Remember that famous quote that your coach would repeat ad-nauseam, or perhaps it was laminated on a poster in a classroom. 

“It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared” – Whitney M. Young Jr.

Whitney wasn’t wrong. Seizing opportunity is intoxicating; it breeds confidence both in yourself and in others and helps create more opportunities. It might be more pertinent to change the quote to “It pays to be prepared…” as many great careers have started with unexpected breaks followed up by exceptional performances. 

Eminem is arguably the greatest rapper of all time, a kid from Detroit he got his start when one of Jimmy Iovine’s interns saw him rap battle. He brings Jimmy a cassette, Jimmy shows it to Dr. Dre, and they fly Eminem out. On the first day, on the first beat, sitting in Dr. Dre’s basement, Eminem starts spitting out lyrics to “My Name is”, the first single from The Slim Shady LP which has sold over 18 million copies world wild. 

The tricky thing about exceptional performances is that they don’t come innately, we do not rise to the occasion but sink to the level of our preparation. Eminem – Marshall Mathers – had been cutting his teeth in every possible scenario leading up to the opportunity, from rap battles to empty shows, he was prepared for the moment and now lives the life he wishes because of it. 

Being prepared also drives you to learn. If every time you show up to dinner, you commit to bringing something new, you have to do the learning new stuff part beforehand. This cycle is addicting. The more you learn, the more people enjoy being around you and speaking with you. That reinforces confidence and improves the likelihood that you will continue learning and growing. How we conduct ourselves in one area of our life carries over to all others. Preparation, like everything else, is about repetitions and like all things that require repetition it’s monotonous and I (we) often don’t enjoy doing it. So, change the game. We make it about dinner and others, and that action of bringing new stories to the dinner party can begin to alter and improve your life. 

If you want to learn how to be prepared, and in the process improve yourself start showing up to dinner parties with stories worth telling.

Training with Intention | Strategies for Getting the Most Out of Your Workouts

If you’ll excuse the bad pun our intention for this year is to highlight a theme at the start of every month and bring you content across all of our areas of expertise – training, nutrition, mindset – during the following weeks. It was only fitting that the first month – although there is only a week remaining – start off with a post about Intention. 

We have spoken previously on goal setting and how to be intentional with your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals so we’ll skip that aspect for now and cycle back later in the year when it’s time for a reminder. Instead, we’re going to focus on training with intention, what that means and why you might be cheating yourself out of the results that you deserve. 

Intention refers to a mental state that is concerned with carrying out a plan or goal. It seems silly to even discuss it, if we are headed to training it means we already intend to improve our health both physically and mentally. That may be true at a very baseline level but unless we’re holding ourself accountable, on every repetition, every day, we’re leaving something on the table. 

Being intentional with our training starts well before we ever get into the gym, studio, lace-up our running shoes or clip into our pedals. What we do from a lifestyle and nutrition perspective sets the tone for our training session. Did I go to bed early? Did I eat properly? Have I drank enough water yet today? Is my mind in the right place? All these factors influence the quality of the training session and have nothing to do with the session itself.

Assuming that we have checked off those boxes and put ourselves in a position to succeed the next aspect of intention involves our mindset for the day. I should start every training session with a specific goal in mind and continually check back in throughout the session to keep myself accountable. If I’m working towards a half marathon a great goal for the day would be stride-length and ground contact. Perhaps, I’ve been working with a coach and he’s noticed that I have a  tendency to over-stride which breaks my rhythm, causes me to decelerate, and is costing me energy. I set that intention and check back in every 5 minutes throughout the run to ensure that I’m remaining strict with my technique and re-wiring the proper movement pattern. If I lose concentration and revert to my old stride I’ll catch it again within 5 minutes and make the correction. 

This may seem excessive so perhaps I’ll frame it in a slightly different way. You need fitness, there is no debate to be had. The alternative to fitness is an accelerated march towards death. This means that every day, week, month, and year you are going to have to dedicate time towards staying alive, and hopefully thriving. If you have to commit a lifetime to fitness why not put the extra effort in and excel at your chosen activity. Plus, have you ever noticed how a great training session carries over to the other aspects of your life? You often feel calmer, better-equipped to deal with adversity and in an improved mood. Exercise does a plethora of wonderful things for our body, most noticeably the release of Endorphins – biochemical hormones – that are responsible for a decrease in pain perception and the upswing in mood following a workout. It seems worthwhile to invest a little extra time in effort into something that has such great carryover to your day-to-day. 

Although these are all examples of ways to implement intention into your training, the real focus of today is going to be on the time spent in the weight room and a few different ways that you can help keep yourself accountable. This refers to the workout on the whole but also each individual rep and set. 

This process starts with a proper warm-up. 

Of all the aspects of training that get overlooked none more so than warm up. The excuses fly fast and loose whenever it’s brought up. It takes too long and I don’t have much time. I don’t want to burn out before my workout. It doesn’t work for me. These are all the usual comments surrounding warm-up and why people choose to avoid it. Although nervous systems and levels of sympathetic (freeze/flight response) arousal are different for everyone, raising core temperature and potentiating (awakening) the body is valuable irrelevant of the population. It decreases the risk of injury and improves the rate at which muscles fire. Being intentional starts with holding yourself accountable in your warm-up. We want to check off a few major boxes. This could take anywhere from 5 – 25 minutes depending on our level of focus and personal physical feedback system. 

Warm Up Check List 

  • Mobilize Stiff Joints / Areas 
  • Dynamically Stretch Muscles
  • Raise Core Temperature – Tacky Skin 
  • Increase O2 Saturation – Breathing Heavier 
  • Improve Mental Alertness 

Lifting with Intent

At this point in the training session, we’ve checked all the boxes. Slept well the night before, drank enough water, ate nutritionally dense food, and warmed up properly. It’s time to pick up heavy stuff and put it down but how we do that matters! When we discuss lifting with intent it means recruiting maximally for every repetition. This is especially important in the maintenance of power. As we age our ability to generate force at a rapid rate declines, this quality of muscular function is responsible for many of our basic life movements and must be trained. A bit of science to help explain. 

That looks complicated but the takeaway for today’s article is that power requires us to move a Load with High Velocity which both requires and is a great way to teach training with Intent! This does not automatically imply a heavy load so please don’t worry about attempting to set Olympic records. All training is based on a Strength / Speed Continuum and power falls on that continuum, from light implement power such as Medicine Ball throws and slams to heavy implement Olympic Lifts and weighted jumps. What is important when discussing power is that every rep is performed maximally. We throw the ball as hard as possible, pull or push the bar with maximum effort and apply as much force as possible.   

The same concept is applied when we shift further up or down the continuum. Even when lifting heavy – near maximal loads- it’s important that we try to move the bar fast as possible even if the load itself restricts us. When world-class powerlifters pull 800-pound deadlifts they are trying to accelerate the bar, it looks slow and labored but the intention is to rip it off the ground. 

Why is this so important? 

From a sports perspective, there are very few sports in the world in which Strength is valued more heavily than Power. In fact, most sports never see maximal strength output or approach maximal speed, it’s the nature of reactive sports. This is why power becomes so critical, we need to be able to turn off and on as quickly as possible to win the moment or exchange. Winning the battle for a loose ball, puck, or fumble can mean the difference between winning and losing a game or drastically changing a career. 

The sport of life is no different, actions like rising from a chair, climbing stairs, throwing or kicking the ball with your kids all require power. A recent study out of Clinimex in Rio De Janerio Brazil has shown that power is related to all-cause co-morbidity, meaning the less Power you have the more likely you are to die. So if we want to live longer we have to move weights quickly and that requires Intent!

We wanted to offer a few quick suggestions for being more intentional with your workouts and that involves incorporating more power-based exercises and tracking them. Sprint more, jump more, throw more, and be more violent with the bar.  

Sprint More. Time It. 

Sprinting is an amazing way to improve your power and Type II fast-twitch fibers. It also decreases cortisol, increases testosterone, and improves insulin sensitivity. Adding a stopwatch will push you to work hard and run faster in hopes of beating the previous best time.

Throw and Jump. Record the Distance. 

Medicine balls are a great way to improve your power and be more intentional with your workouts but if you don’t have one a tire or rock will do just fine, ask the highland game competitors. Sticking with primitive contests jump more, try and jump higher or further and record the distances. After a few workouts, you’ll have a baseline and know when you aren’t exerting maximally or if the body is tired and needs a rest.  

Be Violent with the Bar

Our last suggestion for training with more intention deserves its own explanation so please tune in next week for a breakdown on Velocity Based Training (VBT) and what that could mean for your training or coaching. For this week, think about moving the weights quickly – still with perfect form – especially on the concentric – lifting motion – on the exercise. A quick and dirty way to incorporate VBT into your workouts is by timing your sets. Aim to complete the set as fast as possible and record the time. If you begin to see a drop off in time you’ll know that your body has fatigued and it’s time to move on to a new exercise. 

Be Intentional with your training and what you put in your ears! Tune back in tomorrow for a new podcast with a special Toronto based guest.

How A Back Injury Ruined Breakfast

Sorry, we will be closed for the day for an unexpected health problem (resting sore lower back) we will open back up tomorrow 

—Mad Dog

I realize that you are probably wondering who exactly this Mad Dog is because they sound an awful lot like a pirate, and you can’t imagine a situation where a pirate ship would hold off looting a merchant vessel because of a sore lower back, they did battle high seas and scurvy after all. Plus, it is about 300 years too late for maritime pillaging.

You would, of course, be right, I didn’t read this note off of a yellow stained piece of parchment that I pulled out of an old green bottle, and Mad Dog is not the Great Lakes most infamous pirate. Mad Dos is a local breakfast spot, and that note was posted on the door yesterday morning while I was searching ravenously for bacon and eggs.

I was hungry and devastated. An injury had ruined breakfast.

Injuries are nothing to joke about, STATCAN took a closer look at injuries across all ages, and the results are enlightening. Over 15% of the population experienced an injury that restricted them from daily functioning, that is a 2 percent increase from the study a decade before, and I would guess, and this is my own opinion only, that that rate has increased since the results in 2011 to match our levels of sedentariness. We move so little that when we do move, it’s dangerous. Even jobs that require physical activity are repetitive and not necessarily beneficial to overall health.

Running a kitchen is demanding work, the constant bending, lifting and twisting that goes on can undoubtedly take a toll on your spine health, and it’s easy to see how you might need an extra day off. One day off may not seem like a huge deal, one day, but if it happens once a month that’s almost 500 hours of lost work in a year. And it very easily could happen as the statistics above indicate. The Mad Dog cafe is an owner-operator business, if Johnson – the man behind the brand – can’t make it into work the ship doesn’t move, and they lose the opportunity to generate income for the day in a highly competitive Toronto market. What if one of the people who tried to come in that day was a new customer? Referred by a friend and excited to try out a new brunch spot. When they see the sign, they are disappointed and with no previous exposure to the brand have no interest in returning. If it had been open; however, they may have loved it, told their friends and came back once a week creating another source of recurring income for the business.

Even if you aren’t personally the business, you don’t want to take a sick day or lose a day of pay because of an injury. The only people who should be missing work for injuries are professional athletes. When you are injured, it’s pretty tricky to be effective. Your mind is distracted by the pain, every adjustment in your chair hurts, and every time you stand up to stretch it feels infinitely worse, making you wish that you had stayed home.

It could be even worse. Perhaps you had a big weekend planned at the cottage, waterskiing with friends, a couple of beer on the dock, and a family style dinner to cap off the night. Instead, you are stuck at home, popping Tylenol and trying to find a position that doesn’t make you scream into your pillow.

We often create separate buckets in our minds for fitness and work. One is the weekly pick up basketball game, the other how we pay rent and eat. Unfortunately, they are forever linked. Our overall quality of life will always be predicated on how well we can move, which will, in turn, impact how we feel. Our bodies are not designed to remain stagnate, much less injured, and the consequence of not moving is significant both physically and mentally.

If you are reading this article chances are that you have had some injury that has nagged you at home and work and if I were to attempt to define a method for avoiding every injury, this would be a never-ending article. So instead I’ve included a few basic guidelines.

I’m not advocating you start an eight-day a week Olympic training regime but decreasing the likelihood of injury and improving the overall quality of your life is fucking important. Don’t worry about crushing yourself in the gym every single session or setting a new land speed record on your morning run day after day after day. The goal of training should be to leave the session feeling better than when you started, if not immediately for sure within a couple of days.

Aim to include each of the four categories below into your training week to stay injury free, and performing at your peak.

Resistance Training (Pick Things / Your Body Up and Down)
Recovery (Yoga / Stretching)
Conditioning (Alternating between Fast and Slow)

Some weeks may feature more of one than the other, and that’s fine. Don’t feel the need to follow everything to the letter, what matters most is that you are moving more often than not, in a variety of ways that build your resilience to injury.

A Letter To Mom|Happy Mother’s Day


I have struggled to start this letter, after all, how can I possibly convey my love and appreciation into a few paragraphs? I’m not nearly skilled enough as a writer to do justice to all you have done for me in such a short space. I would need encyclopedic-length books to tell it all.

Or, perhaps, just a few short words would be best? Thank You. Thank you for everything you did and will continue to do.

Thank you for bringing us up in a home full of love. For early morning hockey games and summertime camping trips, for family dinners and popcorn fuelled movie nights. For emergency room hospital visits and pancakes for breakfast after a night out. Thank you for all the little moments, the ones that probably seemed inconsequential at the time but are burned into my memory now. For the warm hug after time apart and the tearful goodbye even when you know that we’ll see each other in a few days.

You always make time to listen and do your best to support regardless of how you may personally feel. In a world full of outrage and malice your kindness and love is a rare gift that we have been lucky enough to receive. So, for fear of saying too much, while not saying nearly enough.

Thank you, Mom.

I Love You.