Category Archives: Healing with Exercise


From blisters to bunions, most of us will suffer from foot problems more than once during our lives. Some issues can be resolved with over-the-counter remedies, targeted Pilates exercises, reflexology and gently rolling your feet on a tennis ball.

But if the pain you feel is in your heel and it doesn’t go away within a week or so, Plantar Fasciitis, Heel Spurs, Heel Painsee your doctor.

The pain is usually caused by the inflammation of the plantar fascia, also known as plantar fasciitis, a chronic irritation due to abnormal biomechanics. Wait too long and you could be headed to surgery.  The pain often feels like you bruised your heel on a stone.  It can also radiate through your arch.

The triangular structure of the feet allows the weight of our bodies to efficiently spread out over a broad base. The plantar fascia is a tight band underneath your foot.  Its job is to prevent the foot collapsing out when you walk. When this band is overly stressed, it can tear, causing pain.

The most common cause of plantar fasciitis is faulty biomechanics (walking  abnormalities) that place too much stress on the heel bone and the soft tissues that attach to it. It can also be caused by walking, running, or jumping on hard surfaces; wearing poorly constructed shoes; or being overweight.

To learn more about heel pain and taking care of your feet, visit the American Podiatric Medical Association.


Despite the many psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacologic interventions, relapse rates for substance abuse and dependence remains high.  A 2011 European review article reported in The Scientific World Journal took a close look at affects of exercise on relapse prevention.  The outcomes show promise.

The authors scoured the databases of Pub Med, Medline, and Web of Science to find studies that investigated any form of exercise as a therapeutic intervention strategy.  They looked at smoking, alcohol and illicit drug abuse/dependence. Smoking cessation studies had the most scientifically stringent methods (the most randomized control trials) and clear outcomes. Exercise, however, showed promise in all three areas with respect to relapse prevention.


  • Neurochemical changes -dysfunctions in neurotransmitters that have been linked to craving; exercise may help reverse those faulty functions
  • Reduction in craving – in smoking studies, exercise reduced craving and withdrawal-related negative mood
  • Mood regulation – stress, anxiety and depression are major reasons for relapse, exercise was shown to improve mood so long as it wasn’t too intense or competitive (which worsened the effect)
  • Poor self-reliance – substance abusers have low self-esteem due to their lack of control.  Some study authors generalized that supervised training and positive fitness results can increase positive self image

As far as type of exercise both aerobic and resistance training showed similar positive results.  It was also important to introduce exercise after the acute phase, meaning after patients got through detox. What seemed to be most helpful was exercise at least 3 times a week for about 9 weeks.  Researchers will want to look more deeply into type, duration, timing and the many other ways one can slice and dice study designs.

At this point, however, it is clear that exercise does point to relapse prevention.  That alone should motivate more counselors and addiction recovery centers to help their patients find ways to include exercise as part of their life-long recovery strategy.



Women complain to me about their menopause middle and ask how to get rid of it.  Exercise, good nutrition and sound sleep –  the traits of a healthy lifestyle at any age, are ever more important at middle age.  According to Nancy Clark, author of the upcoming new edition of the best-selling Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook (Human Kinetics, November 2013), women do not always gain weight during menopause. “Yes, women aged 45 to 50 commonly gain weight as fat settles in and around the abdominal area,” Clark says. “But, these changes are due more to lack of exercise and a surplus of calories than to a reduction of hormones.”

STAY ACTIVEPilates ball exercise
In a three-year study of more than 3,000 women (initial age 42 to 52 years), the average weight gain was 4.6 pounds. The weight gain occurred in all women, regardless of their menopause status. According to Clark, weight gain is not caused by the hormonal shifts of menopause, but by other culprits associated with midlife. That is lack of exercise and excess calories.

Middle age women (and men) tend to be less active which is especially unhealthful as we age.  We need to keep our muscles strong and flexible for many reasons: better balance, good bone mass, and for weight control.

more muscle = faster metabolism = increased calorie burn

You’ve probably dieted a gazillion times by now, has it led to permanent weight loss or are you dieting several times year?  That ought to tell you something about how effective that approach is.  There is no magic bullet when it comes to food or fitness.

What does work is eating fresh, whole foods that are nutrient dense. That is foods that pack a lot nutrition for the amount of calories – think apple vs pretzels.  They may have the same calories but your body gets more satisfaction out of that apple.

Choose movement that you enjoy.  If you like boxing – great! Weight-lifting, Pilates?  Perfer bike riding to dancing?  Do what feels good.  Mix up some resistance training with activities that increase your heart rate enough so that you can talk but not sing while you are doing it and you’ve got a good aerobic pace.

exercise 3 – 5x/wk for at least 30-minutes.

Once you experience how good it feels to live in a strong, fit and healthy body, you’ll want to keep it that way.  You only have one body, one life.  It is mostly up to you how you’re going to feel in it.  Of course, you’ll probably reduce or get rid of the menopause middle too.  That’s just the bonus.  Feeling great in your own skin is the real prize.



Joseph Pilates was known to say that breathing is the first and last act of life. Can’t argue with that.  But breathing is not something we think about ordinarily;  it is mostly an unconscious biological function.  When we do pay attention, breathing can transform your Pilates workout and your life.

In Pilates, the breath is used to assist motion and to better activate the deep core muscle.  By following the natural exhale you find that your belly muscles compress.  Sneezing and couching are an extreme example of how much abdominals contract when breath is strongly pushed out of the body.  Go ahead, try it.

We want to keep the belly actively pulled in. So how the heck can you breathe deeply while holding in your belly?  Lateral breathing.  It means using the full capacity of our lungs.  Try this simple exercise using a flexible flat band.  You can do this standing, sitting, or lying down.  It’s a great way to start your workout and relax at the end of your day.

  1. wrap the band around your body just underneath or breastbone, at the highest point of your six pack
  2. cross the band so that when you pull it tightens like belt
  3. inhale to prepare
  4. exhale our of your mouth and slowly pull the band tighter as you complete your exhale (notice how it deepens your belly)
  5. inhale to release the band tension

Do this several times.  Repeat with the band around your waist and a third position, around your hips covering the hip bones.

For more on how to do this, check out this excerpt from Pilates Master Rael Isacowitz

Take care to breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth like you’re fogging up a mirror.  Do that consistently throughout your practice. You will notice a difference. As a Pilates instructor I know people can feel self-conscious about breathing audibly. At very least, you should hear your own breath.

Joe Pilates was asthmatic at time when there was no medication – he breathed his way back to life.   Someday we will all take our last breath – so breathe deeply and completely to get the most out of your life now.



Pilates does a body good in many ways. Improves balance, strength, flexibility, confidence and strengthens the pelvic floor. All that helps improve that most intimate of act, sex.  Most people have heard of the Kegel method to improve a woman’s pelvic floor, but Pilates can be better.  So says this blogger/ Pilates instructor in the Huffington Post.  As a longtime Pilates devotee and instructor myself, I totally agree with her post.

If you’re talking about the “core” of the body you can’t get anymore centrally located then the pelvic floor. It’s what helps you activate your “corset” muscle known as the transversus abdominis, the muscles that hug around your waist and help support your spine.  Of course, all that flexibility can add much fun in the bedroom too.

When it comes to attractiveness, confidence goes along a way.  There’s nothing like the rush of mastering a new move like plank on the reformer, or teasers performed smoothly and slowly with control.  It’s elegance and power in motion.  It’s a turn on for you.  Nothing like post Pilates glow.

Many people, especially men, come to Pilates later in life and because they have injured themselves. But why wait?  You can prevent injuries, get stronger and more flexible as you age instead of the reverse.  And guess what guys,  improving pelvic floor is not just for women. There’s a lot reasons it can benefit you too.  For details, read here.

And for more mojo, reformer planks will keep you going strong . . .

Enjoy the Journey


Pilates certifications can be snagged in weekend or take several years and hundreds of hours to earn. Good instructors gain the equivalent of a Master’s degree. When you want high quality instruction, look for:

  • Minimum of 300 training hours
  • Comprehensive and mat certifications
  • Several years of teaching
  • Ask about specialties. Some instructors focus on populations such as seniors, pre/post natal, rehab or high performance athletes.

Like yoga, Pilates has evolved through time. Today, there are a variety of styles but core development is fundamental to them all. Among the most well-known trademarked brands are: Stott, Power Pilates, Core Dynamics, the Physical Mind Institute, and Romana’s Pilates. But a trademark doesn’t necessarily ensure quality instruction.

“Anyone can take a list of exercises and teach them,” says Chicago-based Vered Arbel of Elements in Motion, “how you analyze and fit the exercises to the needs of the person requires anatomical and biomechanical knowledge. Really look for that.”

A web search will result in lots of choices and can reveal a lot about a place.  What’s the vibe?  Warm and welcoming?  Super intense high energy?  Look at the pictures and the language.  Do they communicate well?  What do the instructors say about themselves? Look for client testimonials and consult Yelp.

Ask them questions that relate to what you are looking for and they should ask you questions too.  That will reveal their level of experience and care about new clients.  Questions instructors  should ask you include:

  • What do you do for exercise now?
  • What attracts you to Pilates?
  • What are your fitness goals?
  • Any injuries?

Taking a mat class is an inexpensive way to check out a studio and discover if the place simply feels right to you. Also, many studios offer discounted rates for first time students.

Counteracting the stresses of everyday life is among the main benefits of any exercise discipline.  Ultimately, Pilates can balance the body helping you feel at ease and comfort in your skin, increase energy, rid you of body aches and possibly back pain too. Well worth the price of admission.



The bad news is that back pain will likely plague you at some point in your life, and probably more than once. The good news is there is a lot you can do to prevent, manage and relieve that pain. Heat and ice treatments work wonders and both bring easy, convenient, and fast relief.

You can treat any sprain/strain injuries with hot and cold packs because both help reduce muscle spasm and pain. There are differences in these temperature treatments though. Ice reduces blood flow thereby quieting swollen tissues. Heat, on the other hand, stimulates blood flow. The increased circulation brings more nutrients to the injured site and helps relax sore muscles.

At the first sign of an injury it’s recommended that you start with ice to calm the swelling. Ice the area for about 15 minutes then repeat the icing in about an hour. After 24-48 hours, move to heat treatments.

Note that alternating ice / heat is a general recommendation. Because both ice and heat are pain-relieving, do which ever makes you feel better. There’s no magic rule. Some people like to alternate hot/cold packs, while others prefer to stick one temperature.

There are a lot of products on the market today that make hot/cold back therapy easy. They can be conveniently heated in the microwave or cooled in the freezer. Look for those which are large and can be draped around an area. Some are specially made for the lower back and attach with Velcro much like weight belt.

No cold pack? A bag of frozen peas can do wonders in a pinch. Whatever your do, avoid putting ice directly on your skin, it’s irritating. Place ice cubes in a bag, wrap a towel around it and apply. Be patient. It takes a few minutes for the cold to come through. Likewise, you can heat up a moistened towel in the microwave for a comforting moist heat wrap. Again, take care when applying to skin. You may need a second towel wrapped around the first.

A strong healthy body with good core strength helps prevent back pain in the first place.  Pilates is all about the spine and among the best ways to keep your back healthy for life. There are some simple exercises to bring quick relief such as this easy to do anywhere anytime upper back release.