Yearly Archives: 2010


A Year in Review: Top 10 in 2010

Today is the last day of the first decade of the 21st century.  How quickly 2010 has gone by!  Here are my top 10 events in 2010:

10. Departure and Arrival of Boones

Boone, aka Dan, moved out at the end of October this year.  Boone was his other first name.  Dan sort of came with the house when we bought it in October last year.  He moved up island for a bit when we first moved in, but came back in December 2009.  Dan was our first tenant and has been a great friend.  He also taught me how to play songs like Stairway to Heaven and Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You before he left.

Boone Barber moved in the suite in November shortly after Dan moved out.  Anya and I have been greatly enjoying Boone’s company.  We watch Modern Family when we have dinner together.  We had a few rocking house parties with friends this year.  I hope Boone stays longer so that we can have summer backyard parties next year!

9. Anya’s Trip to the East

Anya and I don’t live apart often.  The last time we lived apart from each other was when I was on my co-op term (four months) in Vancouver working for TK Shipping back in the Spring of 2006.  October this year, my mother-in-law, Lydia, planned to visit her family in Whitby, Ontario, and Anya really wanted to visit Liz in New York.  Anya decided to go on a week long trip visiting family in Ontario and then fly south to visit Liz.  I was going to tag along, but school got in the way.  I wouldn’t say it was a big adjustment for me to live alone, but I did have to get used to living by myself at first.  Cooking for one was difficult, so I ended up just having same dish for a couple of days in a row.  I think towards the end I just started ordering take-outs.  I did, however, enjoy the freedom of doing whatever I want after work.  I was being very sociable, hung out with friends, and went to Steve’s gig at Rehab.  After seeing all the pictures from Anya’s trip and hearing all the awesome places she visited, I really wanted to go on vacations more often.  Hopefully one day, I’ll be able to travel around the world with Anya.

8. Weddings

May 1 – My cousin Cheryl was married to her boyfriend in Changde City, Hunan Province, China.  Unfortunately, Anya and I weren’t able to attend their wedding.

May 8 – Seamus and Jana read their vows to each other at the Sleeping Dog Farm in Victoria, BC.  It was a beautiful wedding and a great day to spend in the sunshine for these two beautiful people.

July 10 – Mike and Tanya became husband and wife after a long term relationship.  Chris and I crashed their after party at the Four Points by Sheraton Victoria Gateway.  Oh the memories.

September 3 – Ehsan and his wife Sheiva got married in one of the gorgeous golf courses in North Vancouver.  Anya and I felt honored to be invited to their wedding, and the food was fantastic!

Oct 6 – My cousin Dong Dong and his fiance, Zhang Zhen, got married also in Hunan, China.  Another wonderful event Anya and I couldn’t go due to the distance.

Oct 9 – Ryan and Sara tied the knot and got married at the Malahat Mountain Inn in Victoria.  The couple were looking gorgeous as usual on their special day.  A bunch of us stayed in the crazy-looking motels across the highway so that we could all go for brunch in the morning.  Fun times!

7. Nathan on Blackwood

Nathan came back from South Korea in February and stayed with us in the basement for six months.  Anya had never had a roommate before, so this was an interesting experience for her.  Overall, we enjoyed Nathan’s stay, and things like sharing groceries and noise control worked out with appropriate compromises.  Like Lydia says, it’s difficult to live with someone when you just get married.  However, Nathan has been friends with Anya since high school, so it wasn’t too difficult to work things out.  Plus, if anyone can be Anya’s roommate, Nathan would be her top pick.

6. Baby

Anya was pregnant for three months this year from August to October, but before we could hear the heart beat, the baby had left us.  We kept this quiet since it was a touchy subject.  Anya was really sad when the doctor told her the news.  I might have shed some tears, but I had to be strong for her.  Late October this year was not a good time for us.  I was sad mostly because Anya was sad.  Had I heard the heart beat I might have been more attached to the baby, but at the same time, I had to fill my husband’s shoes and encourage Anya that things will work out in the near future.  To me, everything happens for a reason.  Since the miscarriage, I have asked God multiple times on what the reason was for this to happen to us.  I guess, when the time is right, we will eventually be parents.

5. Graduate School

I got accepted into the Masters of Health Informatics program at UVic in August.  I was ecstatic because I had wanted to start my graduate studies since last year.  I got my BSc in 2007, and I felt like the longer I waited, the less I wanted to be a student again.  Therefore I was really excited to start my research and become an expert in a specific field in health information.  I really enjoyed the first term from September to December.  Being a graduate student is very different from being an undergraduate student because studying now has a self-motivating purpose.  In undergraduate school, most of the learning I did was just to get good grades.  I’m hoping by the end of 2011, I will have a research topic narrowed down so that I can conduct my thorough research in 2012.  Just recently I found out that I got accepted into the the BC Provincial Pacific Leaders Scholarship Program.  It is my first scholarship I have ever got!  I was so excited because it’ll help us financially in a great deal.

4. One Year on Blackwood

October 30th, 2010 marks the one year anniversary of Anya and I owning our first home.  However, it was a very uneventful day.  We were supposed to go to Aunt Vanessa’s Dad’s funeral, but Anya wasn’t feeling very well so we decided to play it low key at home.  Although RBC owns most of our house, it feels great to be a home owner.  Paying the bills, cleaning the yard and running all kinds of chores around the house made me feel more like a grown-up after owning a property.

3. Vegas Trip

Nick, Rob, Victor and I spent four days from April 23 to 26 in Vegas.  It was the guys annual trip.  Since no one in the group was getting married this year, Nick decided to hit Vegas.  The three of us flew down, but Victor took a longer vacation and drove his Honda down and met up with us in Vegas.  It was my first trip to the U.S.A., and boy, was that ever an eye-opening experience!  There was so much entertainment in Vegas.  Beers were so cheap!  Food was so unhealthy!  No one recycles!  It wasn’t just a big city.  It was a big city which provides entertainment 24/7.  I think visiting Vegas once in a life time is good enough.  Not sure what benefits I would gain if I go there again.  I’m glad I went though; especially glad that I went with my gang.  It was a perfect guys trip.

2. Portland Trip

Jessa, Doug, Anya and I took a relaxing road trip down to Portland from July 16 to 20.  This American trip was very different from my trip to Vegas.  Oregon was a lot more beautiful and friendly than Vegas.  Portland reminded me a lot of an older Vancouver.  I was glad to see the city’s green initiatives, no sales tax(!) and numerous daily events happening in downtown Portland.  Their beerfest was definitely better than what we have in Victoria.  The trip out to the Multnomah Falls was one of the highlights of our trip.  We chatted, laughed and bonded in the long drive between Vancouver and Portland, which made the four of us closer with each other.  Both Jessa and Doug are wonderful people in our lives.

1. Chinese New Year in China

The biggest event to me in 2010 was the trip to China for Chinese New Year.  Peter, Lydia, Anya and I spent two weeks in China from February 4 to 19.  This was my first time spending Chinese New Year in China with my parents since I left China in 2000.  I wish I could have spent Chinese New Year in China every year in these ten years.  Time sure flies when you are having fun.  Being as organized as usual, my Dad made an itinerary for us and outlined all the places they would take us to and all the different styles of Chinese dishes we would have.  I freaking LOVE Chinese food.  The Rodenburghs are also big fans of Chinese food, so we would just stuff our faces with yummy food all the time.  This trip made me want to spend Chinese New Year in China every year.  Man, how I wish I could do that every year.

2010 was an eventful year for me.  A lot had happened in my life.  There were ups and downs, but mostly ups.  I feel like I’ve grown to be a man more and taken on more responsibilities in life.  2011 will be an exciting year also.  I fully look forward to the challenges and adventures 2011 has prepared for Anya and I.

Health Care Transformation in Canada

I just watched a video from Dr. Jeff Turnbull, the President of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) on the CMA website.  In this video, Dr. Turnbull explained that CMA is launching a web-driven national dialogue on transforming the country’s health care system.  Three questions were proposed to all Canadians:

1. The law underpinning our system – the Canada Health Act – dates back to the 1980s.  It covers only doctor and hospital care. Do you think it should be broadened to include things like pharmacare and long-term care?

2. It is important for citizens to feel they are receiving good value for their health care. What would you consider good value?

3. Patients and their families play an important part in their health care. What do you think Canadians’ responsibilities are, now and in the future, in regards to their health?

This is a great theoretical idea on taking the democratic and everybody’s-opinion-counts approach to resolving a multi-billion-dollar question.  Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI) has announced earlier this year that health spending in Canada was expected to hit $192 billion in this country.  Although other facts have suggested that Canadian health expenditure in 2010 has been the lowest in 13 years, how much more money do we need to pump into our health care system to satisfy this country’s unique health care needs such as aging population, chronic disease management, remote health care delivery, to name a few?  Not that I’m suggesting our health care system is hopeless.  I’m just worrying how effective this national dialogue will be, what the data collected from the dialogue can contribute to health policy planning, and how many of us really care about our health care system being as efficient as it can be.  Spreading the word helps I guess, eh?

If you are interested in participating in the dialogue and helping to improve the Canadian health care system, instructions can be found on the CMA website.

Smart cards, grad school and DoD (Doctor of the Day)

I had my presentation for one of my graduate classes this past Wednesday.  I went alright.  I think I got my point across.  I was pretty nervous during the beginning of the presentation.  A lot more relaxed once I really started to talk about the topic.  The topic was Disruptive Impacts of Smart Card Technology in Health Care.  I was planning on reading off my slides for my presentation.  The night before the presentation, I picked up my buddy, Chris, for our usual Tuesday basketball.  Chris teaches Astronomy classes at UVic, and I wanted to know how he handles teaching in front of a class.  Chris’s advice was that to talk about what you know about the topic rather than reading your slides to your audience.  Audience can read the slides later on their own if you made your point across.  Ain’t that the truth!  I took Chris’s advice and tried to make my point across in my presentation.  Smart cards will help us better manage our health information while keeping our health information safe if done properly.  It’s proven in many countries (i.e. France, Germany, Taiwan, and more) that smart card technology has a new-market disruptive impacts in health care delivery.  From a health care service provider point of view, smart cards help make patient information electronic, provide easier and more secure access to patient information and cut back paper and administrative costs in the delivery process (i.e. prescription and insurance claim forms).  As patients via smart cards, we can get educated on how to manage our health information better, receive health insurance reimbursement quicker and have fewer headaches on worrying about forgetting medical information when needed.

The first term of my graduate school adventure has been rewarding mentally and stressful physically.  I worked hard for my first assignment and realized when being interested and having curiosity on a particular subject helps learning.  Guests lectures on different professors’ research areas acted like a preview of what the school specializes in.  It was a great way for me to start thinking what I should focus on and define what particular field I want to research on.  I’m enjoying it so far.

I learned a new term from my supervisor at the MoHS this week.  The term is Doctor of the Day, or DoD.  A DoD provides the medical care required by orphaned patients including admissions to hospital and necessary physician care while in hospital.  Doctors of the Day can be any GPs and get compensated while providing available coverage for patients.  While there are no specified response times for DoD, physicians are expected to provide timely and appropriate care for patients.  Health authorities in British Columbia encourage and ensure physicians participating in a DoD program.  Physicians participating in the DoD program have obstrical privileges at the facilities where they provide services.  Here is a document came out in February 2003 to describe this program in BC.  Apparently, this Doctor of the Day concept is being implemented throughout the province right now, so we’ll see what kind of impacts it’ll have on our health care system soon.

Some definitions around innovation

Disruptive technology has been one of my main research areas for my first term of graduate school.  Disruptive innovation is an interesting and fairly new concept introduced by Dr. Clayton Christensen, a well-known MBA professor at the Harvard Business School.  In order to understand disruptive technology fully, I studied the categorization of a technology/innovation.  Here are some definitions I found from my research on innovation.

An innovation is either sustaining or disruptive to our society.  According to Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor in their book, The Innovator’s Solution, “a sustaining innovation targets demanding, high-end customers with better performance than what was previously available.  Some sustaining innovation are the incremental year-by-year improvements that all good companies grind out.  Other sustaining innovations are breakthrough, leapfrog-beyond-the-competition products.  It doesn’t matter how technologically difficult the innovation is, however: The established competitors almost always win the battles of sustaining technology.  Because this strategy entails making a better product that they can sell for higher profit margins to their best customers, the established competitors have powerful motivations to fight sustaining battles.  And they have the resources to win.”  Within sustaining innovation, there are revolutionary and evolutionary innovations.  A revolutionary innovation creates a new market that by allowing customers to solve a problem in a radically new way, while an evolutionary innovation improves a product in an existing market in ways that customers are expecting. Automobiles were a type of revolutionary innovation in the transportation industry improving the traditional horse carriage or rail road types of transporting methods.  When fuel-injected engines came out, it created an evolutionary effect in the automobile industry.  A fuel injection system increases engine fuel efficiency and produces more power than a carbureted engine, therefore, it is an evolutionary innovation.

“Disruptive innovations, in contrast, don’t attempt to bring better products to established customers in existing markets.  Rather, they disrupt and redefine that trajectory by introducing products and services that are not as good as currently available products.  But disruptive technologies offer other benefits – typically, they are simpler, more convenient, and less expensive products that appeal to new or less-demanding customers.” (The Innovator’s Solution, p. 34, 2003)  Disruptive technology can hurt successful, well managed companies that are responsive to their customers and have excellent research and development.  Within disruptive innovation, Dr. Christensen distinguishes between low-end disruption, which targets customers who do not need the full performance valued by customers at the high end of the market, and new-market disruption, which targets customers who have needs that previously unserved by existing incumbents.  Some of the low-end disruption examples include downloadable digital media disrupts the CD and DVD market, digital cameras disrupt the film-based cameras, and plastic products disrupt the metal, wood and glass wares.  The Linux OS is the perfect example as a new-market disruptive innovation.  When the Linux OS was first introduced in 1991, it was inferior in performance to other server operating systems like Unix and Windows NT.  However, it was inexpensive compared to other server operating systems.  After years of improvements, Linux is now installed in 87.8% of the worlds 500 fastest supercomputers.

In health care, there are many disruptive technologies such as smart cards, RFID, remote monitoring, wearable computing, personal health records, genomics, bio sensing, bio informatics, etc.  My current research is on the disruptive impacts of smart card technology in health care.  Knowing the types of innovations after the previous discussion I now appreciate the fact that smart card technology should be categorized as a new-market disruption in health care.  Understanding and distinguishing the difference between various types of innovations is critical for my research.

* Christensen, Clayton M., Raynor, Michael E. (2003). The Innovator’s Solution.

First Day of School

I had my first day of graduate class today.  It was a health informatics graduate seminar.  The topic of the class is the impact of emerging and disruptive technologies in health care delivery.  There were 11 students in the class.  We watched a couple of videos on telecommunication services in the 1960s and Microsoft’s vision on future health care.  Dr. Roudsari introduced the concept of disruptive technology.  Then we had round table discussions on the issues around the emerging technologies and the impact these technologies are making in health care such as patient privacy and confidentiality, staff training, PACS (Picture Archiving and Communication System), socio-economic status, budgets, etc.  The two-hour class felt like 20 minutes went by without me even noticing it.  I guess graduate school is different from undergraduate school after all.  I felt great.  I loved it!

Maybe it was just the break I had from the office.  It must, definitely, be the break from the office.  I don’t think I took any breaks from 1:30 to 6 this afternoon.  I’m totally snowed under with the amount of work in the office.  I have work piled up to October already.  Every body is back to work in September, and every body wants data.  From today onward for the rest of the year, I will be working until 6PM every work day to make up the hours loss for me to go to class on Wednesdays.  I’m completely not looking forward to riding home in the dark, cold and wet November nights.  Hell, for the next two years, I might not even have a life.  My director came by my desk around clock-out time and yelled, “GO HOME! GET A LIFE!  Oh wait, you are a student now. You don’t have a life.”  Something tells me that I’m in a love and hate relationship with graduate school.

I gave up tutoring.  I feel sad about it.  I secretly miss it, sometimes.  Every Monday night around 7 o’clock, I think of the two-hours I would have spent with my students, my two almost younger sisters.  I’ve been around Gen and Giselle ever since when they were 8 and 6 years old.  Part of me thinks that I failed at teaching them Cantonese because after all these years of tutoring, they are still not fluent in Cantonese.  Part of me just thinks that I’m being too hard on myself and the girls.  Learning a foreign language once a week is difficult.  I almost teared in our last class last month reviewing the things we learned all these years.  Seeing them speaking the language made me feel proud.

Lindsay just emailed me with a new client today.  I have no idea how I’m going to juggle work, grad school and personal training in the next couple of years.  I know I’ll go through it.  I always go through it.

Inpatient VS Outpatient

I was in a meeting yesterday, and the terms, inpatients and outpatients, were referred to numerous times.  Going back and forth with these terms, I ended up coming out of the meeting a bit confused on their definitions.  I thought I had these terms figured out pretty damn clear!  Therefore, I decided to look them up and distinguish them once and for all.  Here is what I found.


  • Inpatient is a patient whose care requires a stay in a hospital.
  • Inpatient care is care given to a patient admitted to a hospital, extended care facility, nursing home or other facility.  Long term care is the range of services typically provided at skilled nursing, intermediate care, personal care or eldercare facilities.
  • Inpatient hospitalization makes sense for major diagnostic, surgical or therapeutic services, where the patient’s condition or response to medication must be closely monitored.  In the case of mental health treatment, a hospital stay may make sense if the person is suicidal or self-destructive or poses a threat to others.  In the case of chemical dependency or alcohol treatment, a hospital stay may be needed during the detoxification stage to monitor symptoms during withdrawal.  Inpatient hospitalization also allows a combination of individual care, group therapy, community meetings and activities.
  • The term inpatient dates back to at least 1760.


  • Outpatient is a patient receiving his/her care usually not in a hospital setting, but in places like a doctor’s office, clinic, or day surgery centre.  When an outpatient is admitted to a hospital, this patient does not require an overnight stay.
  • Outpatient treatment in a doctor’s office or clinic, often supplemented by medications administered at home, remains the norm for most routine care.  Thanks to advances in treatments and technology, many tests and surgical procedures formerly conducted in the hospital can be done in an office setting.  Outpatient care also provides the norm for most mental health and chemical dependency treatment.
  • Outpatient surgery eliminates inpatient hospital admission, reduces the amount of medication prescribed, and uses the physician’s time more efficiently.  More procedures are now being performed in a surgeon’s office, termed office-based surgery, rather than in a hospital-based operating room.  Outpatient surgery is suited best for healthy people undergoing minor or intermediate procedures (limited urologic, ophthalmologic, or ear, nose, and throat procedures and procedures involving the extremities).
  • The term outpatient dates back at least to 1715.  Outpatient care today is also called ambulatory care.

Alternative terminology

Due to concerns such as dignity, human rights and political correctness, the term “patient” is not always used to refer to a person receiving health care.  Other terms that are sometimes used include health consumer, health care consumer or client.  These may be used by governmental agencies, insurance companies, patient groups, or health care facilities.  Individuals who use or have used psychiatric services may alternatively refer to themselves as consumers, users, or survivors.

In nursing homes and assisted living facilities, the term resident is generally used in lieu of patient, but it is not uncommon for staff members at such a facility to use the term patient in reference to residents.  Similarly, those receiving home health care are called clients.

Reference: Wikipedia and Google

Stairway to eating well, One day at a time.

Day 1: Balance your meal by following the Healthy Plate: fill 1/2 of your plate veggies, 1/4 protein and 1/4 grains.

Day 2: At snack time, try to have foods from at least 2 of the 4 food groups.

Day 3: Be sensible about how much you eat and how often!

Day 4: Try a new whole grain: whole wheat pasta, couscous, or brown rice to increase the intake of fiber in your diet.

Day 5: Avoid trans fats by reading the Nutrition Facts table and choosing foods with low or no trans fat.

Day 6: Make extra food batches and freeze it, in order to reduce cooking time, and decrease the reliability on fast foods during busy times.

Day 7: Include your family, especially children, in food preparation and clean-up; it’s an active lesson about cooperation and responsibility.

Day 8: Make ahead muffins and breakfast cookies or try a quick smoothie if you struggle to find time for breakfast.

Day 9: Judge the juice.  Only reach for fruit juices that are labeled 100% fruit juice to minimize the intake of sugar.

Day 10: Try to incorporate more fish in your diet.  Tool: Canada’s Food Guide recommends 2-3 servings of fish a week!

Day 11: Practice mindful eating.  Eat slowly to savor your food.  It takes 20 minutes for your brain to receive signals of satiety.

Day 12: Buy and support local producers by shopping at farmer’s markets.

Day 13: Take the HALT challenge when you think about eating: Hunger, Anger, Lonely, or Tired.  If Hunger is not the reason, food is not the solution.

Day 14: Take the Eat Together Challenge.  If you don’t routinely have meals with family, try to bring everyone together as often as possible.

Day 15: Add a special flavor to your recipes without adding fat or salt using dried herbs, spices, garlic, ginger and even lemon juice.

Day 16: Make a veggie pita pizza: whole wheat pita, variety of veggies, and mozzarella cheese.  You can even freeze it for later!

Day 17: Control your food portions by leaving the serving bowls in the kitchen during a meal: Out of sight, Out of mind!

Day 18: Reduce intake of saturated fats by choosing lean cuts of meat.  Search for the words: loin, skinless, round, extra-lean, and lean.

Day 19: Follow the 80/20 rule: eat healthy nutritiously 80% of the time, and indulge in your favorite snack 20% of the time.

Day 20: Take the variety challenge to explore different ingredients and maximize your nutrient intake.  Tool: Dietitians of Canada Simply Great Food cookbook.

Day 21: Get your family to help organize the kitchen, meals, recipes and even the grocery shopping list.

Day 22: Discover “Let’s Make a Meal” at

Day 23: Make it your own!  Adapt different recipes and make them your own.  A personal touch makes your meals more enviable.

Day 24: Reduce sugar in any recipe by 1/3 without affecting the end product.

Day 25: Stock up on season specials!  Watch out for discounts and sales on foods, and buy in big batches to cook and store.

Day 26: Scramble up some eggs + chopped veggies + cheese to serve on a whole grain bun and a glass of milk, on lazy or busy nights.

Day 27: Bake with healthier fats.  Instead of butter or margarine, use canola oil; and use 75% as much.

Day 28: Keep your food safe.  Use a thermometer to ensure food is prepared at optimal temperature.

Day 29: Reduce the sodium in your diet, but cutting down on processed foods, and preparing healthy, tasty meals at home.

Day 30: Grow your own veggies and fruits.  If no space, seek sharing backyards or join a community garden.

Day 31: Shop wisely!  Avoid grocery shopping on an empty stomach to make healthier choices.

Health Council of Canada applauds B.C. plans for primary health care reform

The Health Council of Canada applauds the British Columbia Ministry of Health Services and the B.C. Medical Association on their June 24, 2010 announcement of $137 million toward integrated primary and community care that will connect every resident with a family doctor by 2015, starting with the province’s most vulnerable citizens – high needs patients, frail seniors and patients with chronic diseases.  Reporting nationally, the Health Council has made the case based on research evidence and frontline experience, for many of the types of reform B.C. will put into action. In Beyond the Basics (2010), the Health Council shows that for Canadians with chronic conditions – one of the priority patient groups for B.C. – having a regular doctor does not guarantee the safest or most supportive medical care. Rather, doctors need also to provide the basic elements of good primary care, two of which are knowing their patient’s history and helping to co-ordinate other aspects of patients’ care.  “Co-ordination is key, and this is where collaborative health care teams also have a critical role to play,” said John G. Abbott, CEO of the Health Council of Canada. Like the proposed B.C. initiative, the Health Council’s report, Teams in Action (2009), finds clear advantages in the shift to team-based care, suggesting this should be the standard of care in particular for the growing number of Canadians with chronic conditions.   In Helping Patients Help Themselves (2010), some obvious gaps to be filled in order to better manage complex chronic care patients include asking patients about their goals for their own care and referring them to community services that might help them reach those goals. B.C. is ready to close such gaps through enhanced care planning. “The B.C. announcement talks about ‘an individualized and co-ordinated personal medical health-care plan linking together various health professionals to provide better quality care,” said John G. Abbott. “These are the types of approaches that our work supports,” he added.

The above article is taken from the CNW Group:

Will I get a better workout if I hire a personal trainer?

My co-worker, Karthik Narayan, sent me a link to this article from The Globe and Mail.  It’s a great article, and I’m not only supporting it because it talked highly about personal trainers.  I would recommend anyone to setup appointments with trainers from their own gyms.  Some trainers will give you a workout routine based on your goals, and some of them will look at you performing a few exercises and give you feedback on how to improve techniques.  Take advantages of your gym and see a trainer.  Personally, I ask for advice from my trainer friends all the time.  Sometimes, we just don’t see what we are doing wrong, and having that professional opinion makes a huge difference.

Here is the article from The Globe and Mail:


The question

Will I get a better workout if I hire a personal trainer?

The answer

In a famous study at Ball State University in Indiana, researchers put two groups of 10 men through identical 12-week strength-training programs. The groups were evenly matched when they started, and they did the same combination of exercises, the same number of times, with the same amount of rest.

At the end of the experiment, one group had gained 32 per cent more upper-body strength and 47 per cent more lower-body strength than the other. No performance-enhancing pills were involved – the only difference was that the more successful group had a personal trainer watching over their workouts.

There are between 10,000 and 15,000 personal trainers in Canada, according to Can-Fit-Pro, an organization of fitness professionals that certifies 8,000 of them. Others are certified by groups such as the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology and the U.S. National Strength and Conditioning Association.

A good trainer will help you assess your fitness goals, design a safe and effective program to meet those goals and motivate you to put in the necessary work.

 But, as the Ball State study shows, there are other, less obvious ingredients that successful trainers provide – and a series of recent studies offer some hints about how we can tap into these benefits.

The crucial difference between the training of the two groups at Ball State was very simple: By the halfway point of the program, the supervised group was choosing to lift heavier weights. Since both groups started with the same motivation level, it was likely the trainer’s presence leading that group to set more ambitious targets.

Other studies have consistently found that, left to their own devices, novice weightlifters tend to work out with weights that are less than 50 per cent of their one-repetition maximum, which is too low to stimulate significant gains in strength and muscle size.

Even more experienced strength trainers often fall into this trap, according to a 2008 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Researchers at the College of New Jersey found that women used to training alone chose on average to use just 42 per cent of their one-rep max for a 10-repetition set. In contrast, women who had experience with trainers chose weights averaging 51 per cent of their one-rep max.

“Many times, there is initial fear,” says Nicholas Ratamess, the study’s lead author. “We also found that some women who did not have a personal trainer underestimated their own abilities because they did not routinely push themselves too far.”

The latest attempt to address this question comes from researchers at the University of Brasilia in Brazil. They compared two groups of 100 volunteers who undertook a 12-week strength-training program, supervised either by one trainer for every five athletes, or one trainer for every 25 athletes.

The results, which will appear later this year in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, display a familiar pattern. The highly supervised group improved their bench press by 16 per cent, while the less supervised group chose lighter weights and improved by only 10 per cent.

In one sense, this is yet another argument for getting a personal trainer if you can afford one. But the differences here are more subtle, since both groups had access to a trainer who could provide guidance on proper form and choosing appropriate weights. Instead, motivation and the willingness to tackle ambitious goals seem to be the differentiating factors.

As Dr. Ratamess points out, these are the kinds of benefits that an enthusiastic training partner can also provide. For less experienced exercisers, the educational role of the personal trainer takes on greater importance, he says. But beyond that, simply having someone there watching you – whether it’s a personal trainer or a workout partner – seems to confer an additional benefit.

Certainly, he says, “both have advantages compared to training independently.”


I looked up Alex Hutchinson, who published his response to the question.  Alex is a Toronto-based journalist, and he writes for The Globe and Mail, Canadian Running, Runner’s World, and The Walrus.  He seems like a creditable guy, and these are his websites:

Meetings, Bloody Meetings

I was chatting with my director, Dave Brar, about Toastmasters and how they run meetings in a very efficient way.  Dave asked me to watch this film called, Meetings, Bloody Meetings by John Cleese and Robert Hardy.  I looked it up at my work library and found the film.  This 34-minute film was made in 1976 and received a lot of positive feedback from when it first came out to this day.  The script was written by John Cleese and Antony Jay, so you know the content of the film is exceptional.  Although it was considered as a classic John Cleese film, the acting and fashion are a bit out dated in my opinion.  Having said that, I do not deny the excellence of this film and would recommend it to anyone who’s looking to improve their meeting organization skills.  Here are the facts from the film:

  • Survey of 1,000 top executives revealed that approximately 1/3 of time spent in meetings was a waste.
  • On average, higher levels of management spent 17 hours per week in meetings.
  • Bad habits can spread from upper management down.
  • Running meetings can be taught properly.

While admitting these facts can be seen in many organizations, I’m more interested in the five key points in running a productive meeting this film has to offer.  The following five points are taken out from the film:

1. Plan the Meeting

  • Ask what the meeting was supposed to achieve?
  • What would have happened if there was no meeting?
  • Make sure you know what the meeting is about.

2. Inform

  • Ensure that others know what the meeting is about.

              * What is being discussed?

              * Why is it being discussed?

              * What is to be achieved by the discussion?

              * Who is necessary for the discussion to be effective?

  • Make an agenda.
  • Agenda is not just headings but a briefing to define the purpose of each point.

3. Prepare

  • Get items on agenda in their proper order

             * Look for connections between various items and arrange them appropriately

  • Give only time that is due to each subject

             * Do not waste time on unnecessary points

4. Structure and Control

  • Guide discussions to serve a purpose
  • Keep discussions on topic
  • Structure the discussion in the proper order:

             * State the proposition – what is to be discussed

             * Evidence – what are the various sides of the issue and what are the facts that affect them

             * Arguments – what does the evidence mean

             * Conclusion – make the final case for the various sides

             * Action – make a final decision on the issue

5. Summarize and Record

  • Ensure that everyone in the meeting understands the decisions.
  • Record the discussion and the decisions so they can reference them in the future.
  • Record the person responsible for the actions in each decision made.

In my experience, most Ministry internal meetings are less formal, and the main goals are either getting some things done to move the project forward or project updates.  Weekly and monthly meetings are more for the latter purpose, and most people don’t like them because they are time wasters.  However, if you are interested in what other teams are doing, these are good meetings to attend.  It’s only when we have meetings with health authorities, other ministry staff or external researchers, the meetings become very formal.  Not staying on topics and meetings go way overtime are the main problems I have seen so far.  Other than that, most formal meetings I’ve been to are conducted in a constructive and effective way.

Apparently, there is another film, also by John Cleese and Antony Jay, called More Bloody Meetings. I’ll be checking that out in the near future.

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