Monthly Archives: April 2015

April 30, 2015

How Pilates Helped My Sister Heal

Three years ago, my sister, Vanessa, had back surgery. As the daughter of a physical therapist and nurse, and the sister of a chiropractor and a registered dietician, the thought of having back surgery at age 32 was seemingly impossible. My sisters and I were all athletes and Vanessa was by far the strongest. However, a bad waterskiing fall coupled with two years of a work schedule that required business attire (i.e., heels), weeks of travel by air, train, and car, and a workout routine that was determined by convenience and consisting mostly of running, resulted in a herniated disc with nerve pain that was unbearable.

Vanessa was fortunate in her care. She had a wonderful chiropractor in New York who led her to a good neurosurgeon. A successful surgery was followed by 6 weeks of twice-daily physical therapy with our father.  To complement her home therapy program, Vanessa searched out a local Pilates studio. She began with one-on-one sessions at three times a week with a skilled instructor. The improvement was remarkable and life changing.

A complete workout program incorporates three key areas: flexibility, stability, and strength. As individuals, our movement and function is dependent on these three aspects. We often think of each element independently of the others. We “do cardio” followed by some “core strengthening” followed by some “stretching” and call it a day at the gym. Perhaps there is a yoga class thrown in once a week for good measure. In real life, however, our bodies naturally and instinctively combine flexibility, strength, and stability: we coordinate them together to move as a whole. In order to train for “real life,” we need to train our body to seamlessly adapt to the environment around us. Ultimately, we exercise to improve our quality of life. It follows, then, that we should train to mirror our daily requirements.

A Pilates instructor’s training is thorough and detailed, and a quality instructor is key to any instructional program. The reformer equipment used in Pilates actually acts as a second trainer. The reformer allows you to understand the way your body is supposed to move, bringing an awareness to your movements that is often overlooked in traditional programs. Being able to activate your core muscles is important. Being able to train your core to work in conjunction with your hips, shoulders, legs, and arms addresses a real life need. This is the value of Pilates training.

Think for a moment about your workout routine. What aspects of flexibility, strength, and stability do you incorporate? What do you want to accomplish with all your hard work? Chances are, you are focusing on building the parts of your movements. You are lifting weights for strength, stretching to improve flexibility, and performing some core work for stability. The benefit of Pilates is in building on the work that you have already done, while teaching your body to function as a whole, rather than as a sum of parts. This is the heart of Pilates training.

This winter, Vanessa was walking to her car and slipped on the ice. As she fell, she felt her core engage to protect her. The months of Pilates training was validated in that one instant. Her body has been trained to react in a coordinated manner, combining her strength, stability, and flexibility. The fall left her bruised, but she had trained her body for real life, and she was otherwise uninjured.

To learn more about how you can minimize your risk of injury, visit

April 23, 2015

Can injuries really be fixed? 4 steps to a better understanding.

The other day, I started thinking about this concept of “fixing” ourselves. It seems sometimes that injuries and pain are something we see as a part of us that is “broken” that can therefore be “fixed.”

“Can you fix this?” A patient will ask.

“Absolutely,” I’ll say. I mean this from the bottom of my heart and with the sole purpose to help this person get out of pain. But if I’m really honest, it actually isn’t fair to say because it’s not my body to heal, and there isn’t anything to fix. I also think that this concept of “fixing” what is “broken” is, well, a little harsh.

In reality, our lives and our bodies are both about management and we all have something we are managing. Our relationship with our body is the same as any other relationship. It takes focused attention and an ability to not only listen, but to understand what our body is telling us that it needs. We often think of our body as something outside of ourselves but in reality, it IS us. This shift in perspective is powerful and is step one in learning how to love your body in a way that you love other people: with respect, understanding, and kindness.

If you want to learn how to better treat your injuries, it starts with respecting and understanding your body for what it is. It’s you.

Here’s the short list:

1.  Take a breath and refocus.  Look at your injury and really begin to understand it. You may need to seek out medical care and the important aspects in any musculoskeletal evaluation are palliative and provocative factors.

  1. What makes the pain better?
  2. What makes the pain worse?
  3. What can you do and what do you need to avoid?

By taking a deeper look you will begin to listen to your body, and by talking with a health care professional, you’ll be able to understand what the symptoms mean. Education is empowering and you’ll find that you are able to make better decisions about your body and your health

2.  Be kind to your body. This may take a few different forms.

  1. Seek help and advice when needed. Call your doctor, physical therapist, chiropractor or other trusted health care provider.
  2. Rest and heal if it is necessary. Resting is taking off the load by temporarily removing the aggravating activity from your life. Healing is a much more complex concept and includes proper nutrition, treatment (home or professional), exercises, and rest.

3.  Don’t be a jerk to your body.

  1. Don’t “push through” the injury. You’re probably not a professional athlete and the cost/benefit analysis of causing more harm by constantly re-injuring yourself will not include a multimillion-dollar contract. Don’t do it.
  2. Do something, not nothing. The opposite of pounding on an injury can be just as costly. Seek help if you don’t improve with some time off as it may be something more serious.
  3. Use medication as it is intended. A physician or pharmacist, even if it is over-the-counter, should always approve regular use of medication for an extended period of time.

Read, listen, learn, question. There is some great information out there and some really bad information out there. Your responsibility is to question it all. My goal with PreTrain is to provide an open environment where the information is conservative when necessary and a little more assertive when appropriate.   Ultimately, your body is only going to be as strong, stable, and flexible as you allow it to be.

overuse injuries, foam rolling, post partum, women's health

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April 16, 2015

How to pick the right foam roller for you.

foam rolling, overuse injuries, injury prevention, women's health, post partum, incontinence

I get a lot of questions regarding different exercise programs, home gym equipment, training methods, injury-prevention tips, treatment programs. To answer these questions and more I’m dedicating at least one blog post a month to reviews. Got something you want answered? Just let us know and we’ll get on it!

As we move along with our “Exercise with Intention” theme, our reviews will take an educational approach. There is not one way for everyone and our goal will be to help you to understanding each product and it’s purpose so you can decide which product is best for you.

So what is our inaugural product? Foam rollers!  This is a common source of confusion and I know so many people have questions. First, let’s understand the concept behind foam rolling and then we’ll look at some of the different options on the market.

Myofascial adhesions, commonly known as “scar tissue,” develop over time and are a direct contributor to overuse injuries. As muscles are used, they are constantly being damaged and healed. This is why there is such a market for “recovery supplements” which we can definitely talk about later. If muscles do not have adequate time to heal or are not provided with appropriate nutrition, formation of myofascial adhesions reach a point over time where they can weaken the muscle as a whole. This weakness can lead to injury.

Soft tissue techniques such as Active Release Technique, Graston Technique, and general myofascial release, work to break up this scar tissue and allow the muscle to heal properly. Foam rolling provides a self-guided version of these manual techniques that can target superficial parts of muscles. Foam rollers create friction and tension on a muscle and will break up superficial scar tissue while bringing vital blood and oxygen into the area. In this manner, it can help with healing as well.  The different foam rollers on the market provide varying degrees of intensity and can reach different levels of muscle. This variation in purpose also leads to variation in technique.

  1. Foam roller without texture.

Overuse injuries, foam rollerThis is a great option for beginners to get both a feel for the compression and for the technique to roll. Foam rolling takes a bit of grace! You’ll notice that this version has a smooth surface that will provide a larger surface area on which to roll. Different colors correspond to different levels of density. White has less density, followed by red, followed by black with the most. In general, the higher the density, the more intense the treatment. That being said, it is important to keep in mind the purpose of foam rolling is to break up scar tissue and also to help muscle relax. It is tough to relax if it is too painful, so shoot for a “good hurt” with foam rolling. This is not a “no pain, no gain” situation

Who it’s best for:      All levels including beginners

Where it shines:       Great for legs and shoulders

When to move on:    If you have a stubborn muscle tightness, move onto a textured foam roller.

  1. Triggerpoint foam roller.

Foam roller, trigger point roller, overuse injuries

This option is great for someone who is just beginning with foam rolling, or someone who needs a little more oomph to their roll. I have to say, I do like the educational feel that this company portrays. The orange triggerpoint foam roller was the first one I tried and the texture provides a slight therapeutic effect. The material does tend to compress a little more than it seems like it should; however, if you have some DOMS or need more mobilization through the mid back and hips this is perfect. It is more comfortable for mobilization of the mid back that we incorporate into our Module 2.1.1 than the general foam roller. The small one looks so cool but functionally, I like the big one!

Who it’s best for:      Athletes after training, mobilization of joints in mid back and hips

Where it shines:       It provides texture without overly compressing the tissues. It’s great for recovery after training and can help bring blood into the area if you are sore following activity.

When to move on:    Significant restrictions in muscles that will not respond to stretching and foam rolling without texture

  1. The Rumble Roller.

rumble roller, foam rolling, overuse injuries

I have to admit, after working through a stubborn hip issue, I became a fan. However, the challenge with the rumble roller lies in technique. The best way I have found to use the Rumble Roller is to treat it as a trigger point therapy rather than a foam rolling therapy. This means rolling at a painfully slow rate and allowing the knobs on the Rumble Roller relax into the deeper layers of the muscle. If you just roll quickly along your muscles, it will be really uncomfortable a less effective. In our Module 2.1.1, we talk about foam rolling along the quad/IT junction for IT band syndrome. The rumble roller used along this same line should take a good 2-4 minutes to roll from hip to quad one time and back. Slow and intentional is the way to make the Rumber Roller work for you.

Who it’s best for:      Individuals who need intense and deep muscle work

Where it shines:        Best for the legs and hips. It’s a bit much for the shoulder and back area.

When to move on:    Give it a good week of daily work to loosen up the muscle and other soft tissues. If you still feel a lot of restriction, along with any pain, consult a soft tissue specialist.

The key to tackling any treatment begins with a clear understanding of injuries and where they begin.  Our fantastic ebook, “Where Do Injuries Come From?” is a great starting point to making great decisions about your health.

overuse injuries, foam rolling, post partum, women's health
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