Author Archive: Don Spence

Injury Prevention and Sports Massage

By Fay Porter, LMT

Almost anyone can run a marathon.  Getting to the finish line all in one piece is an entirely separate matter.  At Big Toe Studio we say: “It’s easy to train, but self care is the difficult part.”  Any goal requires not just careful planning and execution, but support.  Overtraining and injury are very real possibilities when you start a new exercise program.  As you begin to learn your own limits and as your body learns the new movement patterns, strain, overuse, and poor body mechanics become a concern.

Sports massage provides not only relaxation, but utilizing specific techniques resets your muscle length and tone, prevents scar tissue from building up, and facilitates the removal of lactic acid from your muscles which reduces soreness post-exercise. A massage therapist specifically trained in sports massage techniques can assess your body mechanics, provide facilitated stretching, break down scar tissue, reduce inflammation, increase flexibility and range of motion, and encourage muscular balance.

Effective sports massage is an important element in not only reaching optimum performance levels, but in maintaining them.  As your body reaches peak effectiveness in your activities, it becomes even more important to provide yourself with regular self care.  The increased circulation and lymph drainage from sports massage decreases the inflammation levels that can build up in old injury sites and with the regular use of muscles as you train more often.  This means you can go out, play harder, play more often, and hurt less.  And life is really all about play anyway, right?

Let us get you on track to become and stay your best self.

Self Care = Self Love

By: Ginny Maillet RN, NP

Take a moment to reflect on your life right now… How are things going for you?  Are you in a great place, job going smoothly, family life is great, love life couldn’t be better?

Or are you struggling to keep your head above water, feeling stressed and pressed upon every side? Finding it difficult to say NO to all those that make requests of you?

The key to self-care, knowing yourself and your physical and mental capabilities and limitations and LISTENING to what your body, mind, and spirit are saying to you!

Your body begins to speak to you, first in a whisper, and then finally in a shout which is usually an illness that finally gets your attention.  And remember, you can’t take care of anyone else if you are the sick one!  (Like on an airplane: you’re supposed to put your own oxygen mask on first!)

Life today is challenging and unavoidably stressful but good self-care will help you manage your life in a much healthier way. Remember, you may not be able to control the waves in your life but you sure can learn to surf!

Your # 1 Priority- Taking Care of Yourself

Here are some self-care tips:

Just Say NO: The most effective self-care practice involves repetition of one word – “No.” For many of us, it takes nerves of steel to utter this simple one syllable word.   It takes a while to learn to use “no” – so start small and see what happens. Experiment with: “I’m sorry, that won’t be possible.” “That really doesn’t work for me.” “I’m sorry, but I can’t take on any new responsibilities right now.”

Start Your Day with Inspiration and Intention:  Set aside time 5-10 minutes (usually when you first wake up) for prayer, reflection, meditation and to set the intention for your day. Make this a habit; it takes 30 days to form a solid habit. This practice will set the tone for your day and help you move through the challenges of the day with greater ease, peace, and calm. An intention can be a very simple one-“I will maintain a sense of calm and joy throughout my day”

Engage in Daily Movement- Something FUN that You Enjoy: One of the best antidotes for stress is exercise, getting rid of stress hormones, pumping in those feel good endorphins, improving the functioning of mind, body, and spirit. Bring movement into your life that you enjoy and that nurtures YOU!  30-45 minutes daily is ideal but 20 minutes will be very beneficial.  Biking, Zumba, Tai Chi, Pilates classes, or simply walking the dog, do anything that makes your heart and body sing!

Eat Whole and Nutritious Foods:  Self-care equates to good nutritious food. But, this takes some planning so you don’t resort to processed or fast foods out of desperation and hunger pangs.  Raw foods, plant based meals are a source of super nutrition just what a stressed, challenged body needs.  And don’t forget the water, limit sugar laced sodas and high energy drinks…they aren’t nutritionally sound.

Adequate and Restful Sleep: Research studies have demonstrated over and over that we need an average of 6 ½-8 hours of sleep each night.  Sleep loss impairs not only our cognitive function (shorter attention span, impaired memory and longer reactions times) but our immune function as well.  Develop good sleep habits, go to bed at a regularly scheduled time each night, and don’t watch TV. or news right before bed, this can overstimulate you and make your bedroom a restful sanctuary that invites a restful slumber.

Start small, maybe just with the NO word. Then add the other self-care strategies to your daily life. Before you know it, you will begin to feel better, stronger. You will feel a shift in mood, your body will feel less stressed, your soul replenished a sense of calm within your spirit. You are feelin the self-love!!!

Self-Love Exercise– Adapted from Energy Magazine – Sept/Oct 2012

  • Think of something or someone whom you love unconditionally- a pet, a child or your special, magical place. If it is a person or pet, think about the great love you feel and how you adore this special person or pet.
  • If it is a magical special place, think of how you feel when you are physically there, the sights, smells, what emotions this place brings to your heart and mind.
  • Feel the warmth, love, and gratitude that you feel when you think of this person, pet, or place.
  • Now let this feeling of love grow and expand as if you were holding this object of your love. Feel this sense of love in the heart area in your chest. Allow this feeling of love and gratitude to feel up you whole chest area. Breathe deeply as though breathing through your heart area.
  • Now let this feeling of love and gratitude fill you entire body, expanding beyond your heart space and chest but throughout your body, down through your fingers and toes.
  • Now allow yourself to feel these feelings of love and gratitude for yourself. You are just as wonderful and deserving of love as those to whom you direct your love.
  • Allow yourself to feel these feeling of love and gratitude every day, at least once a day. This is a powerful tool that can make a positive impact not only on your mind, body, and spirit, but impacts your immune system as well.

Listening To The Wisdom of Your Heart

By: Ginny Maillet, RN, MSN, WHNP-BC

If you’re looking for a relaxation tool that really works, be sure to explore powerful heart-based techniques. Easily accessible (once you learn the simple one minute technique you have it at your immediate disposal), these approaches teach you to generate and focus on positive emotions (appreciation, love, abundance, joy, compassion), attain a sense of calm and relaxation – on purpose.

The heart based techniques just feel so good – and feeling good amplifies the power of your heart, sending signals of happiness and relaxation to your brain, and changing the biochemistry of your body. For most people this results in a deep level of calmness very quickly and easily.

The Institute of Heart Math has spent nearly twenty years of scientific research on the heart, the heart ‘brain’, the impact of stress on our heart, and how we can engage positive emotions and reduce our stress levels. These techniques, which are called “heart resonance” or “heart coherence,” have been trademarked through (

To learn how to do this technique, you can work with a certified Heartmath™ coach, listening to the wisdom of your heart as a path to inner peace and more joy. How cool is that?

Ginny Maillet RN, MSN, WHNP-BC – of Transitions-Integrative Therapies for Holistic Health is a fully trained as a HeartMathTM coach and can work with you to lower stress, build resilience, and achieve a sense of calm and well-being within your life. Please contact Ginny at Big Toe Studio for more information on this amazing tool.

Finding Balance

By: Melanie Leithauser

We all get stuck from time to time.  You know the feeling, when there are things that you want to accomplish, but you lack the motivation to make it happen.  Or perhaps there is the perception that there is “not enough time” to do what your heart desires, like your favorite hobby, cooking a healthy meal, or spending quality time with a friend.  And so, it’s easy to get bogged down with the details of your busy life.  When life gets hectic, it is often our daily, personal care that goes out the window.  “I’ll take care of myself next week, when I have time.”  “I don’t have time for __________, there’s too much work to do.”   “I don’t want to move my body, I already feel exhausted!”  When these voices come in, odds are good that we’ve lost our balance.

True balance is about connecting with your center, your true self.  When you can find stillness and listen inwards, your priorities begin to change.  You realize that caring for yourself, your body, your mind, and your spirit, allows you to open to your fullest potential.   When you give yourself love, suddenly you have more love to give out to the rest of the world.  But it’s not just about love, it’s about finding your true self and what you really want.  If you are an artist, than sit down in front of the easel.  If you are a singer, than find somewhere to sing.  If you love to be in nature, than go outside.  If writing is your thing, than sit down and start typing…

For me, my yoga practice is my reminder that I can do anything that I put my heart into.  When I step onto the mat, I have to opportunity to hit the “reset” button on my brain, my body, and my life.

We all need reminders that we have the power to create our own reality.  So, here is your reminder:

The daily life details will always be there.  There will always be laundry to do.  There will always be errands to run.  But, only when you take time for yourself will you find your true hearts joy. What do YOU want to do today?  How can you love yourself a little more?  Where can you find your balance today?

Why Winter Workouts Are Wonderful

During these cold winter days, it can be all too easy to stop working out. The temperatures are quickly dropping, the sun plays peek-a-boo as days grow shorter, and you may still be recovering from the leftover stresses and extra calories of the holiday season. Somehow a couch feels cozier and tv seems more interesting when it’s this frigid. Let’s not overlook that winter days are, for many, accompanied by winter blues.

Believe it or not, thirty percent of people don’t exercise at all during the winter!

Even though you may feel like hibernating, you are not a bear. Unlike bears, humans need to exercise during all four seasons.

While some of us love to engage in winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, others find these activities too daunting.

There are many exercises that can be performed indoors year-round. You can spend time at a local gym, use exercise equipment and fitness videos at home, or head to an indoor swimming pool. With some creativity and planning, you can continue to stay fit whatever the weather forecaster says.

Of course, winter is great time for Pilates. Pilates will involve both your body and mind as you build muscle strength and become more flexible. As with all exercise, Pilates can help you reduce negative thoughts and decrease your stress levels. While taking a Pilates class or working one-on-one with an instructor, you will be engaged socially, get your endorphins flowing, and feel the satisfaction that comes from mastering a skill. You will lift your spirits as you lift your legs and arms.
If losing those holiday pounds, increasing your overall health, and improving your quality of life aren’t enough motivation, consider this: before you know it, you’ll be pulling out your shorts, t-shirts, tank tops, and bathing suits. Do you want to put them on, or sadly shove them back into the drawer?
We want you to sprawl on your couch, enjoy your favorite television shows, and snuggle under your blanket – at the end of a chilly day that included a terrific workout!

Pilates and Body Awareness

During our Pilates classes, we breathe deeply, stretch our muscles, and pay close attention to our bodies. We find and celebrate our physical strengths, and increase awareness of weaker areas to improve them. We use control and concentration to connect our minds and bodies.

This newfound awareness doesn’t end when we exit the studio.

Most of us who do Pilates find our daily lives changed. We learn that injury and weakness result from many things: our desk-bound jobs, sedentary lifestyles, and lack of exercise. As Pilates makes us aware of these pitfalls, we go about our routine activities — brushing our teeth, pulling on our socks, sitting in front of computers, cooking, cleaning, and driving — with greater, newfound attentiveness. We are now conscious of our abs, shoulders, necks, and posture. We ask ourselves new questions: Are we comfortable? Do we feel tension? Can we stand a little straighter, bring our shoulder blades closer together, pull our stomachs in?  We strive to be tall, strong, and symmetrical.

This mindfulness is not an accident — the precise, flowing movements of Pilates were designed to make our minds more aware of our bodies. Joseph Pilates said that his exercise system is about “the complete coordination of body, mind, and spirit.”

So, as you practice Pilates, remember that it not only helps tone and strengthen your body — it also changes your brain.