One Small Question

It only takes one inquiring mind to pose an interesting question. With that, a world of possibility opens up to anyone willing to seek the answer.

For Tessa Gallinger, CSI Calgary Strength and Conditioning Coach, the question was simply, can high-velocity training cause muscle adaption in individuals with cerebral palsy (CP)?

More specifically, Gallinger, who works with para-swimming, para-cycling, para-triathlon, goalball and the University of Calgary Dinos Swim Team, wanted to know if high-velocity training would cause an increase in muscle length, in this case one of the calf muscles.

The reasoning was, if increased muscle length occurs, which should happen with high-velocity training, then the muscle can shorten faster, leading to increased power output and improved performance. That improved performance is the end goal for researchers like Gallinger. “We need to understand how the training we are implementing impacts athlete performance,” she says.

Gallinger’s research question was new to the world of CP and muscle adaptation. “Previous research has shown that strength training is beneficial for improving gait and functional walking performance for people with CP,” explains Gallinger, who specializes in adaptive strength. “But there is none that investigates whether high-velocity training has any impact.” She adds that much of the research in this field is done in a clinical setting, and not in the high-performance sport realm.

And so began Gallinger’s master’s thesis. She took eight young, recreationally active adults with CP through ten weeks of high-velocity training (for example sprinting, agility training, medicine ball throws) and utilized ultrasound imaging to measure changes in muscle length.

The preliminary findings indicated that muscle length can increase with this type of training in individuals with CP. In some subjects there was no change in muscle length, however in those individuals Gallinger saw an optimal shift in the force-length relationship, indicating an increase in sarcomeres in series - the fundamental unit of muscle structure.

It’s a small answer to a small question, but most importantly it leads to further, bigger questions that need answers too. Does the change in muscle length lead to increased power output? Is there any functional change or impact to performance from high-velocity training for individuals with CP?

Gallinger won an award for her research, of which she presented a portion at the 2018 Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP ) conference in October. The award, the CSEP Certified Member Presentation Award, recognizes outstanding research or work conducted by a certified member of CSEP. She was also invited to present her research findings at the Alberta Children’s Hospital to the Neuromotor Impairment Round in September this year.

The recognition is nice but for Gallinger the ‘big picture’ outcome was something a little less tangible. “The biggest thing for me and the clinicians was seeing that people with CP could do this type of training,” says Gallinger. “And they really enjoyed it!”

In a world where inclusion is a challenge, Gallinger says many of the study participants were ostracized from gym class as youngsters. The result of exclusion is less opportunity to learn and grow and less opportunity for others to understand CP and how capable those who live with it really are. Someday, with the world’s Gallingers answering more interesting questions, there could be improved inclusion, integration and understanding for individuals with CP. The ripples that travel beyond the original research are cause for great optimism.

Inch by inch, research, like that done by Gallinger and her colleagues, helps us acknowledge the desire within all of us to continually strive to be better, no matter our circumstance.

Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
Photo by: Dave Holland @csicalgaryphoto

Aspiring Coaches raise their game

No matter where a coach is along in their career, the Advanced Coaching Diploma (ACD) is the right destination for further professional development. Whether at a high-performing club, Canada Games or National Team level, the ACD offers a coach-driven, expert-led, peer-enriched and mentor-supported coach education program.

As a result, the ACD is comprised of a broad cross-section of coaches at various stages of development, from club to national team, and everything in between. That diversity, in both focus and competence, is one of the things that sets the ACD apart and provides each cohort with a rich and comprehensive learning experience.

“The idea is to make the content relevant for each coaching context,” explains Jason Sjostrom, CSI Calgary Director of Coaching. “If the ACD reaches a coach at the right stage of their development, whether that be a Canada Games level coach or a National Team coach, then we are the right destination for that coach.”

Shayne Hutchins, CSI Calgary ParaMedical Lead and ACD Facilitator, has been teaching Injury Prevention and Risk Management for the ACD for two years. This particular module is focused on teaching a system to enable coaches to work closely with the paramedical and strength and conditioning teams to engineer healthy athletes capable of withstanding the demands of their sport.

“What we often see, at any level, is that injury happens when the athlete can’t respond to the load of the program,” says Hutchins. “To correct the training error, there needs to be a change in exercise and or the addition of therapy to the program.” The goal is to provide the coaches with the tools and best practices necessary to prevent and manage injuries with the Integrated Support Team (IST) by their side.

Hutchins says that no matter what level the coaches are at, this particular approach is a novel one. He teaches the same methodology to everyone so that the principles of the system can be implemented by any coach. It’s particularly beneficial when coaches within the NextGen development pathway learn how to prevent and manage injuries, because their athletes will arrive at the national team with a good foundation for long-term health.

The result of this kind of teaching is that it provides the coach context referred to by Sjostrom – every coach can take what they’ve learned and apply it to their particular situation and then come back to share the outcome with their classmates. Says Sjostrom, “We support everyone’s individual development and collectively that enriches the learning experience.”

Registration for the Advanced Coaching Diploma is now open. Successful candidates will be chosen in January 2019, and the program begins in April 2019. This competency-based adult learning experience is offered both in person and online through the CSI Calgary. The ACD program is available across the COPSI Network in both French and English.

For more information and to apply, click here

Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
Photo by: Dave Holland @csicalgaryphoto

Coaching, Coaching Association of Canada, National Coaching Program, Advanced Coaching Diploma, Jason Sjostrom, Shayne Hutchins

Lowell Taylor: Embracing New Challenges

Lowell Taylor’s preparation for the 2015 Paralympian Search event in Calgary was less than ideal. He had just spent a week in Disneyland with his family and woken up at 4am to travel home and directly to the event, where he arrived late and tired.

But Taylor’s participation was highly anticipated and throughout the testing, he could see some eyeballs pop around him as his scores ticked steadily upwards. The para-cyclist handily met the performance standards and eventually qualified for the Next Gen para-cycling program, which opened his eyes to the possibility of competing at the Paralympics in Tokyo in 2020.

Being late and tired were tiny obstacles compared to what Taylor has overcome in his 36 years. He was born with Retinitis Pigmentosis, a genetic eye disorder that causes a gradual loss of vision (he is now legally blind) and at age three he was run over by a car, which resulted in long-term bowel issues.

“I was the fat, blind, lonely, stinky kid,” jokes Taylor. It’s funny to say, but the truth, at a young age, hurt. He was bullied and unhappy. At the time, his disabilities prevented him from participating in sport and he felt lost throughout his youth and early adulthood.

After graduating from university, he had what he says was a quarter-life crisis. “My license was taken away, my girlfriend and I broke up, and my career plans were a mess,” he recalls. When he moved back in with his parents he hit rock bottom.

Thankfully for Taylor, the only place to go from rock bottom was up, and in the fall of 2004, he made a simple commitment to himself – he would only watch TV if he was sitting on a bike. He watched a lot of TV, and that simple goal changed everything.

The following spring Taylor started running and racing in able-bodied triathlons and enjoyed some early success. Then he reunited with his girlfriend, Julie, and they married in 2007. He also went back to school to become a psychologist and he and Julie started a family. Even though it took some time for Taylor to turn his life around, he emerged with a vibrant, positive attitude that now fuels everything he does.

With a new career and a young family, Taylor’s time for riding faded. But when everything was back on track he felt the itch to get back on his bike.

Taylor’s vision had deteriorated to the point where he needed a pilot. That is when he discovered parasport, and from then on, the sky was the limit. “Sport captured my heart,” he says. “It gave me a channel.”

After a series of events, some impressive and promising results, and connecting with coaches in the parasport system, that channel eventually led to Paralympian Search, an athlete identification event designed to test participant aptitudes to excel in various Paralympic sports and potentially represent Canada at future Paralympic Games.

At the one-day event, each participant goes through a set of basic anthropometric, physiological and optional sport-specific tests conducted by national team coaches and other sport science and sport medicine experts. The event is open to all athletes ages 14 and up with a physical or visual disability.

The overarching goal of the search process is to facilitate both athlete transfer and identification. Transfer helps to find athletes in one sport that may excel in other sports and identification serves to increase the number of athletes in the system at all levels of performance.

When Taylor wowed the crowd in 2015, it set him on course to eventually take a leave of absence from his job, open his own private practice, start a business with his wife Julie and train full-time for cycling, and even a stint on The Amazing Race with Julie. It’s a busy life for a young father and husband, but Taylor says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

Taylor speaks highly of the Paralympian Search process and credits it with providing him with an opportunity that, just a short time ago, he didn’t even know existed.

“I’m so glad that I went [to Paralympian Search]. Doors opened up for me,” he says. And he recognizes that his disability has become a way for him to fulfill a new purpose. “I don’t have a lot of sight,” says Taylor. “But now I have a vision.”

Paralympian Search in Calgary will be held in partnership between CSI Calgary and the Canadian Paralympic Committee at WinSport on November 24.

For more information or to register, please visit

Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover

WinSport, Paralympic Athlete, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Para-Cycling

2018 SPIN Summit

Once again CSI Calgary is sending a strong contingent to the upcoming SPort INnovation (SPIN) Summit, hosted every year by Own the Podium (OTP) in a different Canadian city, this year in Montreal.

The SPIN Summit is Canada's leading-edge symposium for professional development and networking in the areas of applied sport science, sports medicine, and innovation. This annual conference combines experts from around the globe to build knowledge and tools, for future Olympic and Paralympic sport success through technological and scientific research.

The energetic, cutting edge conference will include one full day of applied workshops at the Institut National du Sport du Québec, providing hands-on performance enhancement opportunities in their facility. Building off these workshops, the second day will be dedicated to plenary sessions, alongside a variety of poster displays, culminating into the Dr. Gord Sleivert Young Investigator Awards.

Dr. Erik Groves, Research and Innovation Lead at CSI Calgary, says that the conference provides an opportunity for Canada’s best and brightest to collectively advance the sport science that supports Canada’s top athletes. “SPIN brings together Canadian experts who all work in amateur sport across the country,” says Groves. “It’s a chance to network, share, learn and foster relationships within the sport community.”

CSI Calgary is well represented at this year’s conference, with the presentation of findings from numerous, ongoing research projects. CSI Calgary staff will present findings in the areas of concussion, ACL reconstruction and return to sport protocols in alpine skiing, among others.

Nathaniel Morris, a graduate student at the University of Calgary and research intern at CSI Calgary, is short-listed as one of the finalists for the Dr. Gord Sleivert Young Investigator’s Awards. The awards are presented each year to the top three graduate students whose research addresses an athlete performance gap relevant to high performance sport.

Morris’ research is focused on recovery from ACL reconstruction surgery, specifically looking at the size of the hamstring muscle (which is used to reconstruct the ACL of the injured knee) post-surgery, relative to the healthy leg. The goal is to understand the impact that the size of this muscle has on the recovery period, and to provide a more objective measurement of the recovery process.

Groves, and colleague Graeme Challis, Exercise Specialist at CSI Calgary, are presenting their research on the communication of complex training and monitoring information to coaches. “It’s a pretty complicated environment,” explains Groves. “We’re looking at how to simplify the communication of this information without ignoring its inherent complexity.”

Andrew Smit, a graduate student and CSI Calgary research intern, will be presenting his research focused on the differences in physiological determinants of successful and unsuccessful athletes in long track speed skating. The goal of Smit’s research is to help Speed Skating Canada develop a better understanding of the athlete development pathway by using more objective steps in identifying what factors lead to success.

All of these projects represent CSI Calgary’s ongoing efforts to improve athlete performance through applied research and innovation. The 13th annual SPIN Summit will be held October 31st to November 2nd, 2018 in Montreal, Quebec.

Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
Photo by: Dave Holland @csicalgaryphoto

Sport Science Solutions, Research and Innovation, Sport Technogy, Sport Medicine, Paralympic Athlete, SPIN, Erik Groves, Olympic Athletes, Andrew Smit, Nate Morris

Lappage is Back

Danielle Lappage has endured a lot of heartache throughout her long wrestling career. Just after the 2014 World Championships, where she placed eighth, Lappage tore the ACL in her right knee, leading to reconstructive surgery and a long recovery. And then, just minutes before her opening match at the 2016 Olympics in Rio di Janiero, she ruptured a hamstring and had to withdraw.

In 2014 it seemed that Lappage was destined for greatness. That year, the 2010 World Junior Champion also won the national championships, World University Championships, Commonwealth Games and Austrian Ladies Open. Coming back from the ACL was a monumental accomplishment, but to have her dreams dashed by a freak injury in Rio was a lot to bear.

“I felt like I was living in a nightmare,” recalls Lappage, now 28. “I didn’t deal with it right away, it was a long coping process.” The rarity of her injury made the prognosis and long-term outcome unclear, and Lappage didn’t know what to do. A combination of coaching at Simon Fraser University and starting law school in at the University of Calgary in 2017 helped her navigate her recovery and the road back to competition, something she wasn’t sure would ever happen.

Now, against the odds, Lappage is preparing for the upcoming World Championships in Budapest, Hungary, alongside Olympic Champion and CSI Calgary athlete, Erica Wiebe. Of her recovery and ability to compete again at the highest level, Lappage is incredibly grateful. “I’m just super thankful,” she says. “This is my third life in this sport and I’m very thankful for that. Lots of people don’t make it back.”

Lappage has emerged from her setbacks with a few scars, but also a higher level of maturity and wisdom that she didn’t have earlier in her career.

In a sport where being the right weight at the right time is critical, Lappage acknowledges that as a young wrestler she didn’t approach the task of ‘cutting weight’ the best way. Making a weight class is often addressed through a strategy of drastic dehydration prior to the weigh-in procedure for a competition, something that can impact performance, especially now that it occurs one to two hours before a match instead of the day before.

“I was never taught a healthy way to cut weight,” she says. “It would have been better to learn that earlier.” Now as a more mature athlete, Lappage is conscientious about nutrition and takes a healthier approach to cutting weight, thanks to working with CSI Calgary Performance Dietician, Kelly Drager. “As I got older and more mature I was not willing to do that to myself,” she says.

Drager has worked with Lappage and the senior women’s team for four years. At first, she took an observational approach to learn how the athletes felt about nutrition and worked to develop the rapport and trust required for them to buy-in to what she wanted to do.

One thing Drager worked on was simply trying to change the language – for example using the term ‘making weight’ instead of ‘cutting weight’ – and taking a more positive approach to the unique challenges that this aspect of the sport entails.

Once Drager had built a relationship with Lappage, they worked to devise a plan to establish optimal nutrition, both for day-to-day and competition preparation. Now, to make weight, Lappage follows an acute plan that manipulates variables that won’t impact performance or long-term health.

“The goal is to ensure optimal performance in the timeframe we have,” explains Drager. “We don’t want drastic fluctuations in things we can’t replenish fast enough, like hydration and muscle glycogen.”

Lappage says the new approach has made a big difference. “Kelly made me look at it more critically,” she explains. Now the task of ‘making weight’ has stretched out to several days and Lappage says she doesn’t notice the difference anymore. “I actually feel better.”

Despite her long career, this will only be Lappage’s second World Championships. Maybe now, given everything she has been through, she is destined to finally have her moment.

“I’m optimistic and excited,” she says. “It’s an amazing opportunity to go, but I also want to win and that’s a new feeling for me. I can’t wait to go!”

Canadian Sport Institute Calgary: @csicalgary
Written by Kristina Groves: @kngrover
Photo by: Wrestling Canada

Integrated Support Team, Wrestling Canada, Nutrition, Kelly Drager

Copyright © 2013 Canadian Sport Institute Calgary | All Rights Reserved | Photo Credit : Dave Holland