May Contest Winner! How Pilates/ProBalance has Changed My Life.

At ProBalance, we have been so accustomed to hearing about the great stories of recovery and life changing events, we decided to hold a contest to hear it from you.  They were fun to read and a great reminder of how powerful focused movement to restore balance and function can be.  Out of all of the entries, this one stood and was declared the winner.  The winner, as you’ll read below, didn’t even want the gift certificate as she was so grateful for having her function restored…and still comes to ProBalance on a regular basis.  We insisted that we donate the $100 in the charity of her choice.  So, in the name of her mother, ProBalance will donate $100 to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.

Read her story below:

Three years ago I had sudden, fluke injury that caused me, in the blink of an eye, to lose my ability to walk or stand. I was confined to a walker, and could barely put weight on either leg… I could not even do a task so simple as holding a cup of water unless seated.

I spent over a year in conventional physical therapy barely walking, unable to take care of myself and in a great deal of pain… and despite huge amounts of effort, making very little progress.

The main progress I made during the first year and a half of my injury was with a Pilates trainer I worked with outside of a physical therapy setting. This trainer helped me regain my ability to stand and put weight on both legs, to do limited waking and she helped decreased the pain I was having in my shoulder…all through work on a Pilates reformer. It was that glimpse of how a skilled Pilates professional could help, above and beyond what could be healed through conventional PT, that pointed me in the direction of Pro Balance PT.

When I first began physical therapy at Pro Balance, I worked with Cicely. I remember the first day I met her, how she listened with so much empathy and caring to my story and struggle. She took super thorough notes, asked me so many questions, and so clearly cared about my answers… that I felt heard and supported from day one. Within the first few sessions with Cicely, I could feel my core begin to engage in a more stable way than it had since my injury, and I remember having glimpses of normal walking and movement even from that first week. Cicely worked with me ongoing twice a week for almost a year, so patiently (some days even talking me through the trials of living with such an injury…) and giving so generously of her own time.  I soon saw steady progress, and over the months I could walk a bit more and a bit more. The emails I would send Cicely telling her things such as “I just walked from Panera Bread Company to See’s Candy at Southshore” (….maybe 5 minute walk….) would get responses of “Wooohoooo!!!!!” that would keep me motivated. Cicely worked tirelessly and every milestone I had over that year… such as taking my twin toddlers on a very short trick or treat jaunt, being able to get a child out of her crib by myself, or being able to bounce a ball around with my family… seemed as if they were milestones for her too.

Cicely was also encouraging when I had the idea to get a reformer for home, and even researched models on her own time, to help me get just the right tool to help myself further. She created a video taped library of basic reformer exercises that we had worked on together over time, like leg presses and pulling straps so that I could do the exercises I felt comfortable with at home, and keep gaining in strength and functioning. Having this reformer and a home routine has accelerated my healing tremendously.

When Cicely went away over Christmas this passed year, I worked with Ada for the first time. Ada showed the same caring as Cicely right from the start, and even offered to come over to my house for our first session to help me on my own reformer (as she said this would help me translate exercises from PT to home).   Ada spent over an hour at my house that day working with me, and although she had never worked with me before, her eyes very quickly picked up the details of my movement. She put me through a long, thorough workout that engaged my body in so much the right ways. When the session was done, my husband and two kids were waiting outside for me, and one of my two year old twin girls ran into my arms. I was amazed and overjoyed that I could stand there holding her in my arms for the very first time ever!

 Ada has since seen me through many more milestones. I have gained the ability to drive for the first time in over three years, and have been able to care for and enjoy my daughters on my own for hours at time without fear. She too has given so much of her own extra time, and so generously made time to see me as much as she thinks necessary to get me to stable ground. Ada gets emails from me too, but instead of “I walked 5 minutes from Pinera to See’s”, she now gets emails these days about how I took my kids out alone and walked around the neighborhood….and I just as quickly get an email response that says something like “Yay!!!!!”. That lets me know she too cares deeply about my gains.

I am not sure I fully understand how Pilates can reinstate movement patterns to the point that I am relearning to walk, lift, drive….but I know that it does. I have seen that it is a powerful tool, and one that I would love really learn and understand from “the ground up”…as I intend to keep Pilates practice as a regular part of my life long after I am fully better.

I also know that Pilates alone could never be giving me back the joy I have in caring for my kids and living my life… is Pilates guided by caring and skilled practitioners that is transforming my world.

Please don’t let me forget Nancy who has driven me home on many occasions before I regained my ability to drive, who thinks one step ahead about scheduling to make sure much needed appointments are always on the books (even if I forget to book) and whose genuine caring also has lifted my spirits so many times as I walk through the doors of Pro Balance

So…if I win this contest I get $100 gift card…..???  Pro Balance…If I win…  Please keep your gift card.

When I can walk around the Park street festival with my kids only thinking how much fun I am having, go down the slide at the park with a child on my lap… dance with my husband with one of my toddlers wrapped around my leg at the same time.  ~J.S.

I am living again and I couldn’t pay you enough for all that you’ve given me back.


Making Pilates a HIIT–How to really make a Pilates session cardiovascular

12 minutes per week vs. 90-180 minutes per week for cardio:
Which would you choose?  Which could you commit to?

One of the limiting factors of people sticking to an effective exercise program and healthy lifestyle (and hence seeing results) is the time commitment.  This is another one of those cases where you can make a dramatic difference by choosing quality over quantity.

We know that a body responds to the stresses placed on it.  This is how we build muscle, bone, and improve our cardiovascular system.  Therefore, we want to make sure we incorporate forms of exercise that adequately challenge the body so that it needs to adapt to improve.  Recent research tells us that while  low/moderate jogging, brisk walking, stair master/eliptical machine, etc for 30 -60 minutes 3-4 days/week are beneficial for cardiovascular health and improving metabolism, it is not nearly as efficient (and even as effective) as doing High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), otherwise known as Sprint Interval Training in just a fraction of the time. In fact, to get the same effects, one study in a review of the literature showed that actual exercise time was 42x less for the HIIT group than the low/moderate exercise group.

Pilates, has so many wonderful benefits, but the one place that Pilates (in the traditional sense) may not be as efficient at is boosting cardiovascular fitness and metobolic rate for those interested in weight loss as it is a low/moderate form of exercise.  So, how can we incorporate HIIT in a Pilates class or session?  Let me introduce you to a great piece of equipment that we use at ProBalance called the Xiser.

The Xiser, at first glance, looks like one of those cheap mini-steppers that you might buy at your local discount store, but it is actually a smooth, quiet, hardcore piece of equipment that is actually found in training rooms of several professional sports teams.  What it does is essentially give the user the convenience and equivalent of sprinting up stadium steps for a minute.  Without breaking a sweat, you maximize your workload, you breath harder than you ever would after a brisk walk or jog, and you move in a way that doesn’t pound the joints and is consistent with our principles of alignment, balance, and control.  We are able challenge an elite athlete in the same way we can challenge a beginner since the resistance is increased as the force is increased.

We often incorporate 3 to 4 one minute intervals in a 55  minute class or session when we want to incorporate this additional component.  Our clients and patients love it, and it’s such an ideal fit for the Pilates studio.

Interested in purchasing?  Click here and use our ID 110425.0923.

Have You Had Pain for Longer than 6 Weeks? Watch This!

Pain is produced by the brain, not by the tissues. The good news is that the brain is the most trainable part we possess. This is why our work as movement specialists is only as successful as the positivity of the movement experience…especially to a person with pain. When we can become conscious of what things our brain perceives as threats, our likelihood of tapping into those very things that make us feel safety and pleasure might be more accessible. This is the essence of the conscious movement experience and what happens when you have a skilled Pilates or movement teacher guide you towards your potential.

Please share this wonderful video where Lorimer Moseley explains what the neuroscience is telling us about chronic pain, how it’s perception is shaped by prior experiences and previously held beliefs rather than actual tissue damage. The fact that there is almost no correlation between tissue damage and pain intensity should cause us to re-think how we frame our diagnostic tests, our treatment plans, and most importantly, how we communicate/interact with someone with chronic pain. As I like to say, with Pilates, we are retraining your brain…it just happens to be connected to your body.

Why the Concept of Core Strength Can Be Misleading

Often, when I ask someone why they’re interested in doing Pilates, a common answer is that they want to improve their core strength.  While there is a certain amount of absolute strength one needs to be able to perform his/her activities of daily living, sport, etc., the ability to perform these tasks more efficiently, has a lot to do with core control.  It is the body & brain’s ability to provide the appropriate amount of stability for the anticipated load or task that is at hand that is much more important.  This helps to explain why people say that after just 2 or 3 Pilates sessions, they feel significantly stronger, when physiologically, it takes several weeks to see muscle hypertrophy that translate to actual increased strength.  Our focus on movement quality in the Pilates environment versus quantity means that we can perform the same task with greater efficiency when alignment and motor control are optimal.  In the end,  you’ll feel stronger and have more endurance to get more out of your other workouts and activities without necessarily increasing your absolute strength.

Mobilize the Ankles for Healthy Movement Elsewhere in the Body

This is a simple self mobilization technique which is helpful for restoring accessory motion in the ankle joint.  It can be done using Pilates springs or by using a resistance band.

Having adequate ankle mobility is optimal for maintaing lower extremity alignment for a variety of functional tasks such as squatting, walking/running, etc.  This is due to the spins/roll/glides that need to occur at the ankle joint when it bends (dorsiflexion) during functional weight-bearing activities.  If there is inadequate mobility at the ankle, then those spins and glides may be transmitted to the joint above, potentially feeding into hyper mobility at the knee joint which may lead to  wear and tear and/or pain.  Often, if there is excessive spin/movement at the knee joint, then the hip joint musculature may become excessively tense, which can lead to abnormal mechanics at the hip and even spine.  This is why the location of the pain/symptoms is not necessarily the same as the location of the dysfunction.

Harnessing the Power of the Mind to Heal

This is such a pertinent video in today’s “healthcare” (or rather, “disease management”) system. Think about how you are treated when you visit your MD or healthcare professional? Are you reduced to a diagnosis or do you leave there feeling like you are both being cared for as a whole, as well as empowered to make choices in your healing process?

Get away from the notion that you have or are a diagnosis and remember that you are a whole complex system that ultimately, is controlled by your brain’s response to input. Make sure that those who are in your life are nurturing and empowering to enjoy your greatest potential for healing. 

The mind is an extraordinarily powerful and overlooked tool in the healing process, and it is a large reason why, within our physical therapy/Pilates studio, the focus is on creating a positive movement experience to help reset the brain into helping the body achieve and recognize what it can do, rather on focusing on pain and what it can’t do. There are plenty of practitioners out there who may possess superior technical skills, but when you can harness the inner strength of the whole body in front of you, the possibilities are tremendous!

If you can spare 18 minutes, this is an excellent video on the mind’s potential to heal and the medical establishment’s potential to either help or hurt you.  It’s great food for thought.

Which Pilates Exercise Are You?


Which Pilates Exercise Are You?
By Ada Wells, PT, PMA-CPT

These days, social media is obsessed with quizzes ranging from what superhero should you be to what country you should have been born in. I’m going to pass on the quiz, but go straight to the answer key.

So…which Pilates exercise are you?

People often think they know you at first glance, but you let them know that there’s more to you than what you see on the surface. There are some who fear you because you’re quick to let them know with a good hamstring cramp that they are trying to power through without attention to pelvic control and lower body alignment. Just a way to strengthen your glutes? Think again. Just add a dash of spinal articulation to encourage mobility with segmental control in the lumbar spine and suddenly, you’re everyone’s best friend that is always being invited to the party.

You provide just the right combination of support and feedback. You don’t just leave the body alone to battle the challenges of gravity, but rather, you create some support, while at the same time leaving room to grow and progress. Your easygoing nature makes you a flexible companion, as the stability required at the torso and pelvis will enable adequate mobility at the hips. Add a dose of scapular stability and ribcage alignment and suddenly, people know not to take you for granted.

People are often in awe of you, but you are sometimes perceived as unapproachable. You know that this is so far from the truth.   They just need to know that they can’t just jump right in and think they can just charm you with abdominal strength alone. They’ll need to coax you out of your shell by making sure there has been a proper warm up to encourage good lumbar articulation into flexion to see you shine. You and your younger sister, the rollup, make a great team.

You are a classic….full of grace and strength. You are the fountain of youth with your hip and thoracic extension combined with the attention to head/neck/shoulder organization, spinal mobility into extension and core control. So many people attempt to be like you, but they often fall short because they try to lead with their head instead of their heart, causing them to lose control of what’s important. Your secret is your lengthening energy that creates space to move. Even though you lead with your heart, you still keep your gaze moving on its path upward, which keeps your head in the right place.

You can be very misunderstood and polarizing at times.   Some think you can be very approachable right from the start, but if they’re not careful, you’ll quickly make the situation more tense…and be perceived as a “pain in the neck”. Spending a little time encouraging good head/neck organization and creating the right energy will go a long way to avoid being perceived as a blow hard.

You are the most organized of the bunch because you have to be, and you’re not afraid of being committed to achieve results. If you let any one aspect of your body organization to fail, the result is a fall from grace. However, when you’re at your best, you have the ability to bring everyone and everything together.   The combination of staying anchored while allowing flexibility and flow in multiple directions makes you someone that everyone looks up to and respects.

Standing Roll Down:
People think you’re a pushover, and often assume they can just roll all over you without thinking you care. However, you do care…especially if one just skips straight to hip flexion without taking care to appreciate the importance of lengthening the lumbar spine and articulation into flexion. It’s usually best to come later to the party so that everyone has had a chance to warm up to you and can appreciate the sense openness that you can provide.

Rolling Like a Ball:
You have the ability to consistently put a smile on people’s faces. You remind us that movement is fun and sometimes, you just have to follow the momentum and roll with it…so long as you maintain some control at the end.