What the Heck is Heart Rate Variability??


There are so many things that you could track in the health and wellness industry. What’s the new superfood? What’s the best way to get abs fast? The best diets, and exercises to stay young, lean and fit. But how do you know when something is actually worth reading about? To be honest, I don’t know the answer to that. It definitely has a lot to do with what you’re interested in. For example, do you like to know about nutrition? Then you should read about the latest superfood and make up your own mind. All that being said, I’m sure all of us are interested in keeping ourselves in shape, otherwise you wouldn’t enjoy working out at 5VCF. While many of you may not be super interested in tracking anything to do with your workouts, there are certain things you can do to maximize your results in the gym, that don’t require food or workout logs. This post is going to highlight one thing in particular, clue the title of this post gave it away 🙂

I’m talking about heart rate variability (HRV). This is a test that is done to see how variable or changeable your heart rate and rhythm is. Why is this important? Well, the research shows that the more variable your heart is, the more adaptable you are to stress. When we are adaptable to stress we are less likely to break down and get sick or hurt ourselves doing something inane. Athletes are using this technology as a way to monitor whether they are over training. When their HRV decreases, it means that their body is becoming overwhelmed and needs rest and recovery. The cool thing is that it isn’t limited to and for elite level athletes. It’s something you and I can test. There are apps out there that you can use, coupled with a heart rate monitor that will test this for you. Talk about hacking your health. This goes far beyond listening to your body’s cues, you have tangible evidence of when your body needs a break. Pretty cool, huh?

I use this technology in my Chiropractic office because of the objective data it gives. The research also shows that a Chiropractic adjustment improves your HRV, making you more adaptable to your daily stressors. Before you go out and purchase your own system, I’m going to bring it to you! On Tuesday Nov 7th, I’ll be at the gym from 3:30pm onwards, and you’ll be able to test your HRV. Ideally, this will be before you workout. It takes about 3 mins for the actual scan and then we will go over the results, so let’s say a total of 6 mins. Not long in the scheme of things but it could completely change how you approach the upcoming workout. From today onwards there will be a sign-up sheet outside Ian’s office, so we can maximize your time. If you usually workout in the morning feel free to come by just to get scanned as see what your HRV is up to!

Dr. Liz Marshall – Chiropractor


Member Success Story – John Heaney

A big shout out to member John Heaney! John has been attending 5 Valleys for 2 years now and has seen steady improvements in his strength and fitness. He has been very consistent with his workouts during that time and recently decided it was time to step up his nutrition game as well.

Through his work he has a regular wellness check-up and his cholesterol levels were high enough that they were recommending he start taking statins to lower those levels. Not wanting to take medication the rest of his life John decided to hold off and see what he could do on his own.

Taking part in a 6 week Challenge at the gym John made some adjustments and was diligent with his nutrition. The results of his hard work speak for themselves. John dropped 17lbs!!, lost 3 inches around his waist, improved on his before and after fitness test, and at his most recent wellness check-up his cholesterol levels were back down in the normal range! He did all this while continuing to hit new strength PRs!

He didn’t stress out, count every single calorie, and only eat chicken and broccoli the whole time either. What he did do was:
-Cut out diet sodas
-Made a point to eat vegetables every day
-Lowered his carb intake by eating more protein and fat and getting his carbs from quality vegetable sources
-Allowed himself an indulgent “cheat” meal once per week so he didn’t like he was depriving himself

We all know combing solid nutrition with exercise plays a huge roll in feeling good, looking good and performing your best. It starts with identifying some habits that are holding you back and creating new habits that help you move forward.

Keep up the awesome work John!!

You Don’t Know, What You Don’t Know

Ever realized that you didn’t know something, that you didn’t even have knowledge of a certain fact, until you learnt it wasn’t even in your wheelhouse of knowledge? Yep, that was me the other week when I spent 4 days in Venice Beach, CA for a seminar. It got me thinking about the fear and hesitation we see in new clients coming into the gym. The unknown freaks them out. For those that take the step into the alien world that is a CrossFit gym, they realize that there isn’t anything to actually fear, just a whole lot of learning.

Stepping out of your comfort zone is where growth happens as an athlete, but more importantly, as a human. The learning curve in the gym probably pales into significance when compared to other areas of your life. But it can serve as a stepping stone to being more brave and to take on new challenges. We need to work the bravery muscle, strengthen it, and train it so when the time comes to really go for what we want, there is no option but to do it.

What have you been meaning to try in the gym, but haven’t quite worked up the courage to do yet? Maybe it’s kicking up into a handstand. Or really dropping under the bar when snatching. Whatever it is, on the other side of fear, is a sense of accomplishment. Whether you achieved what you set out to do, the very act of pushing through the unknown and uncertainty is an accomplishment. This upcoming week, I encourage you to try something new. You never know, you might just surprise yourself.

Dr. Liz Marshall – Chiropractor


Member Highlight – Sara


Massive shout out to member Sara Markuson who took 2nd place in the MT Women’s Triathlon in Helena! A competitive triathlete when she came to 5 Valleys she had been forced to reduce her normal training due to some ongoing IT band problems. She has been working hard at the gym while being smart about her triathlon training so as not to overdo it. It looks like it is paying off!

Here is what she had to say:

“While you guys were crushing it at your hosted comp, I was competing in Helena. I just wanted to let you know that I believe the overall fitness I’ve gained from CrossFit assisted me in taking 2nd place overall at the MT Women’s Triathlon in Helena over the weekend. As you know, the issues I’ve had with my IT bands has limited my ability to train at the level of intensity I usually would. I wasn’t sure how my race would go because of the reduction in my regular training. I executed a solid race, and attribute much of my success this weekend to the strength gains I’ve made in the gym. You have a stellar team of coaches and I have learned an immense amount from my time at 5 Valleys.”

Way to go Sara!!!

We love hearing stories from members about how their training at 5 Valleys helps them outside the gym. If you are out there using your fitness let us know so we can share your story and inspire others to go get after it! Just email me at ian@5valleyscrossfit.com

Is Posture Actually All That?

Most people know the importance of posture. As kids we are told to stand up straight and to sit up in our chairs, and finally as adults we set up our workstations to be in the most ergonomic position to sit still for up to 8+ hours per day (obviously depending on our jobs). I also think that while most know that posture is important they may underestimate just how important it is to nearly every system in our body. As an athlete, your posture can make or break your success in the gym. Check out how below!

Your posture is the best external representation of how your nervous system is functioning. You live in your body 24/7, there are no lunch breaks, timeouts or holidays. It may sound obvious but poor posture in the gym can be the cause of injury and nobody likes or wants to be injured! Rounded shoulders, forward head posture and a tucked tailbone all indicate simultaneously muscles that are working too hard and other muscles that are switched off and not firing. This leads to compensation in other muscles that are not designed to take certain loads and subsequent injury. You always hear the coaches emphasizing good form, but great technique starts outside the gym. The key to this is great posture because it means our bones are aligned, your muscles, ligaments and tendons are working efficiently and they are as balanced as possible.

That dreaded poor posture not only wreaks havoc on increasing the risk of injury but it could actually be hindering your progress. Unfortunately, as we become more reliant and addicted to technology, we live our life in a forward head position with rounded shoulders. This body position is so prevalent that it has a name ‘text neck’. But how can it hinder your progress in the gym, I hear you ask? Well as your body adapts to this new way of living it impacts the way your internal organs function, especially your diaphragm. This muscle is pretty important when it comes to breathing. I don’t know about you but I do some pretty heavy breathing (gulping of air!) during a workout. If your diaphragm is unable to work to full capacity, you don’t take in enough oxygen, which then impacts the muscles as they become deprived and finally this leads to a smaller adaptation of the body for improved fitness. There are a whole host of other repercussions that occur when the diaphragm is hindered, but it would make for an essay rather than a blog post so I will refrain, but one of them is pelvic floor issues (you know the ones that nobody really likes to talk about).This ‘text neck’ posture can also effect other internal functions such as digestion, elimination, energy levels and mood.

So I would say that how you hold yourself has been taken to a whole new level of importance. As a Chiropractor I work with improving posture on a daily basis. Next week I will be available in the gym to check out your posture and discuss any other concerns you may have about your health. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday I will be there from 4:45pm to 6:45pm. You can have your posture photos taken and emailed to you and if needed we can create a plan to overcome any postural abnormalities you are having. This is free to all – including friends or family members that don’t workout at 5VCF. I hope you take advantage of me and I will see you next week!

Dr. Liz Marshall – Chiropractor


Could You Run 1 Mile Per Day?

Some of you may know but I spent every day last year running one mile per day. I can’t remember my motivation for setting this ginormous goal, but I did it. I have a couple of things that I learnt that I wanted to share with you, but before I do that let me give you some background. I’m not a runner. I have forced myself to run at times in my life but getting out the door and starting a run has always been the hardest part. Generally, once I get going I like being outside and moving, but I never liked that part so much that it would negate the negativity I felt about actually leaving the house. I have also run a couple of half marathons, so I obviously don’t have a burning hatred for running that many do. Running is just not something that I would pick as my exercise of choice.

That being said, last winter I decided to run one mile per day. I had no goals surrounding it other than to complete the run every day. And I did. Looking back it’s hard to imagine that I didn’t skip a day somewhere, but I am positive that for 366 days (it was a leap year last year) I ran at least one solitary mile. I ran in snow storms, rain, sunshine, on a treadmill, late at night and early in the morning. No matter what my circumstance that day whether I was traveling or had a full day of commitments I got my mile in. This was the first thing that I learned. Committing to yourself and your health practices doesn’t take much. This goal took up on average 10 minutes per day. Everyone has 10 minutes per day to spend on themselves. I don’t care if you have kids, travel for work, or work night shift. Making a healthier version of yourself is always possible. One mile recently stands out. I hadn’t planned my day very well and I got home from work after 7:30pm in the winter, so it was pitch black, oh and it was also about -6℉. I was tired and hungry, but I knew I had to run, so I did. Was it pleasant? Nope, not one bit. Was I glad that I went? Yep. I felt the day melt away and a sense of accomplishment. It was a pretty great way to end the day.

It’s funny how as adults we forget that what we repeatedly do we become better at. My running significantly improved. By significantly improved I mean that I got faster… way faster. Let me give you some context. I played Division 1 collegiate sports. My senior year before the season started we had to do a mile time trial. I can’t remember exactly what my time was but it was well over 8 minutes. I was a tennis player so obviously I wasn’t in training to run fast mile times, but it would be safe to assume that breaking an 8 minute pace should be a piece of cake. When I started running last year, I probably started out at an 11 minute pace, it was icy and cold and all I was trying to do was get the thing done. After about 3 months my pace improved to around 9 minutes, then 8 minutes. I could comfortably run an 8 minute mile with no warm-up and barely be out of breath. Then in July I decided to test my mile time. I ran a 6:19! Without any conscious training on my behalf I had improved my time by a crazy amount.

This lesson can be translated to anything we do in our life. If we set our mind to learning something new or committing to our health and really sticking to the plan, what can we achieve? The possibilities are endless. Too often, we give up when things get too hard or we set goals that we don’t go all in on and then wonder why we don’t achieve them. What if a baby that was learning to walk gave up after the first or second time they fell down? Creating change especially for ourselves is hard, but it is oh so worth it. In the end the biggest lesson I learnt was that consistent action towards any given task will give you results that you never thought possible. Also that 366 miles is the equivalent of running from Missoula to Boise, ID.

Dr. Liz Marshall – Chiropractor


Why A Plateau Could Be The Best Thing Yet

I am sure you have all heard of the dreaded plateau in regards to your fitness goals. In my mind it’s important to realize that although nobody wants to be stuck in a plateau it can actually be a good thing. A plateau happens when your body has conformed to the stimulus and there is no adaptation (or very little) left for growth. While I am going to talk about this in relation to your strength and conditioning in the gym, bear in mind that it can happen in any part of your life – relationships, careers/businesses, and spiritual growth.

We have all been (or are currently) at the start of our CrossFit journey and everyday in the gym brings about a new PR. It’s exciting and leaves you wanting more! No matter if you have previously in the gym, starting CrossFit with a consistent effort will start to yield gains in both strength and fitness on what seems to be an exponential level. You feel unstoppable and invincible. If you started with a few (or many) pounds to lose, weight starts to melt off and you’re feeling incredible. Then without any warning… you hit a wall, a plateau that stalls your progress. It can be very defeating and cause a lack of motivation to keep working hard towards your goals. This is completely counterintuitive but many people at this stage let the defeatist attitude and decrease motivation win, and their consistency wanes or they stop completely. What does this leave us with? Regression and a feeling of frustration.

Woah, nothing about that is a good thing. Lucky there is always another side to the story and here is why a plateau could be the best thing yet. When you stop progressing it is a wake up call to you (and your coach) that something needs to be changed. When you first started CrossFit, it was new not only to your mind but your body. The stimulus was completely different to what you had been doing whether that was running, lifting traditionally, or nothing. This plateau you are in means that your body is working as it should. We are always striving for homeostasis otherwise known as balance. Homeostasis isn’t where gains are made. It’s when we are out of balance, stretching outside our comfort zone, that we see the greatest changes. If your goal is to lose weight then being consistently in a hypocaloric state will help you get there. If your goal is to increase cardiovascular fitness then pushing into a feeling of uncomfortableness will help get you there. Whatever your goal, achievement will occur at the outer edges of our comfort zones.

If you’re plateauing in a gym where you have no control over the programming what can you do? Well first of all be clear on your goal. Do you want to gain strength or increase fitness? Are you looking to lose weight or gain muscle? If your goals a predominantly strength based increasing your weights is the obvious answer. But, you can also increase the weight used for the conditioning portion. You may have to check your ego at the door, because you will be going slower than usual. The inverse can be used if an increase in fitness is the goal, lighter weight means you can move faster and subsequently get your heart rate higher for a more sustained period of time. Secondly, we can look at your nutrition. Is the food you are consuming supporting these goals? And lastly is the training frequency congruent with everything else going on in your life? It’s really hard to get the most out of your body when you’re not sleeping, work stress is overwhelming and you’re fighting with your significant other. Sometimes the best thing to do, is to do less. This may sound counterintuitive but high intensity exercise is stressful on the body, and when it’s being added onto uncontrolled high stress situations it will do more harm than good.

Plateau’s can be a good thing. They bring awareness for change, whether that be ramping up or down in weights, speed, intensity or frequency. If you feel like you’re stuck in a plateau and need help, don’t hesitate to ask for it. I’m pretty sure all the coaches have been there at some point and can get you out of the rut that you’re currently in. Because the alternative will definitely not get you to any of your goals.

”When you hit a plateau you have to be willing to get a little bit worse before you get massively better.” ~Tony Robbins

Dr. Liz Marshall – Chiropractor


Immature Squat

Some of you may know that Ian, Keane and I spent a recent weekend doing the level 1 CrossFit trainer certification. Every 5 years trainers have to take the weekend long course again to refresh and keep the certification current. Throughout the weekend we look in depth at CrossFit’s nine foundational movements. They are grouped into 3 series: Squat – front squat – overhead squat; strict press – push press – push jerk; and deadlift – sumo deadlift high pull – medicine ball clean. With each exercise the CrossFit trainers go in depth into how to perform each of the movements and also some common faults that coaches may see.

Today I want to tell you about my immature squat. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that it is immature. Ever since the my first Level 1 certification when I was called out in my group and had to show them how immature it was, I knew that the same thing was coming at this cert. What I do know is that in the last 5 years it has improved and matured but not so much that it has gotten out of the immature stage. I was thinking that it was probably an adolescent now, until I realized that teens in general are quite immature so maybe it is more like a new college graduate ready to tackle the responsibilities of adulthood but still likes to party when they are struggling to make rent.

What is an immature squat I hear you ask? Well, to make it easy to understand I have added some pictures! See above photo (note the difference between Ian’s torso position and mine). But to explain, it is when the person squatting can hit all the key points of performance i.e weight in the heels, neutral spine, knees tracking over toes and goes below parallel like a champ, but to do this they are unable to keep an upright torso. This poses problems especially when cleaning or snatching as it puts the bar in a position that is not as stable or as safe (especially in the snatch). After reading that description and seeing the pictures below, maybe you can recognize your own immaturity. Or have noticed that other people in the gym are struggling to overcome theirs.

No-one wants to stay immature forever (or maybe you do and that’s fine too), so my recommendation is that try therapy. Squat therapy that is. This involves standing in front of a wall with your hands raised and placing a raised wall ball under your butt and squatting as long as you can while under control. While not everyone in the gym needs therapy, for those of you that do, feel free to hit me up and we can do it together! With a little time, practice and hard work our squats can mature together and we can reap the benefits! Oh and Keane also has an immature squat so make sure he is also doing his squat therapy.

Just as a FYI, Ian’s squat is much much more mature than mine but for the most part this is the only time he can claim maturity over me (except for age of course!)

Squat Therapy


Dr. Liz Marshall – Chiropractor


BIRTHFIT Missoula!

I am so excited to announce the beginning of BIRTHFIT Missoula!

BIRTHFIT is a movement. It’s about expecting and postpartum moms taking charge of their bodies and their decisions, and supporting one another’s journeys—together and apart.

Pregnancy and postpartum is a confusing time in a woman’s (and man’s) life. There is so much information out there that is not only confusing, but contradictory. Is it safe for a woman to lift weights during her pregnancy? I know everyone at 5 Valleys would say yes, because they watched Coach Mandee breeze through her pregnancy with Sage. But, is this approach for everyone? Maybe not. BIRTHFIT Missoula is designed to cut through the B.S and help the expectant and postpartum mama make the best decisions for her family.

On April 4th, I will be starting the first postpartum series. This is 4 weeks and 8 classes in the gym to help recover, restore and replenish. It is about bringing women who are going through similar things together and giving them a safe place to connect. It is about helping them take care of themselves so they can take care of their family.

Please help spread the word! The postpartum period can be a confusing time with many not knowing what they can and can’t do or what they should be doing.

Classes will run 10-11am Mondays and Wednesdays. The cost is $99 if registered and paid before March 23rd, after this date the price increases to $149.
Dr. Liz Marshall – Chiropractor


What’s your “Why?”

Everyone works out for their own reasons. Everyone has their own “why”. My why is because moving my body and nourishing my soul through movement is one of my top values. Using CrossFit as a vessel for this movement, stems from my highly competitive nature and it also stimulates the mind as I am striving to improve each and every day. There is no monotonous running or spinning, no staring in the mirror at my biceps, and definitely no feeling alone at the gym. While each of these things are not in and of themselves bad, they are just not stimulating to me.

If you don’t have a “why”, I challenge you to search your spirit for one. This is the reason that you keep coming back for more. It is the reason that you can push your body through the pain you feel during tough workouts and it is the reason that you won’t give up when trying to learn a new skill. Your “why” will probably change over your lifetime. As a young’un I worked out because I was a competitive tennis player and winning matches was what everything was centered around. As I transitioned out of tennis and into other endeavours, I now want to be able to seamlessly transition into any outdoor endeavour that is thrown my way. Be it trail running, snowboarding, XC skiing, hiking. I want to know that my body has my back and I can have wild and exciting adventures no matter where I am.

I would love for you to share your why. You may feel silly to share but we are each on our own journey, and I just shared mine! If your why is short and sweet or long and winded, it is yours and yours alone. The more you own it, the more it will drive you to reach the goals your have set.

Leave your why in the comments below!

Dr. Liz Marshall – Chiropractor