Fitness Files: Dr. Suzanne Martin

Dr. Suzanne Martin is the founder of Pilates Therapeutics and has recently launched a 3 video series that includes:

  • Assessment/ Creating a Client Profile (30 minutes)
  • Activ-Wedge® on the Mat (40 minutes) 
  • Activ-Wedge® on the Apparatus (60 minutes) 

Originally designed for its use in the Pilates environment for clients with scoliosis, Dr. Martin found that the wedge is useful for any client with asymmetries, as well as having a home and office use. The name Activ-Wedge® distinguishes its use from other wedge products often used for passive stretching, positional release, and therapeutic manual therapy. This promotes the movement to achieve better balance.

I strongly believe that so many of us are focused on cardio and weight training that we tend to overlook the other elements of fitness that help make a balanced lifestyle.  Continue reading my Fitness Files interview with Dr. Martin to learn more about her background and how she is helping patients get better alignment in their everyday life. 


NMF: Has fitness always been a major part of your life or was there a catalyst/point in your life when you made it more of a focus and priority? 

Suzanne Martin (SM): My ah-ha moment about the power of fitness came as a graduate student in dance at Mills College, about 35 years ago! The kinesiology course was really an introduction to fitness and was taught by the athletic training department. Part of the kinesiology course was to learn how to do a cardio and toning training. When I embarked on my fitness training goals, I was shocked at what results I got in terms of endurance to make dancing easier, as well as the cosmetic aspect of looking healthy, toned. My instructors certainly approved! Then I had a fall during a performance, which set off back spasms and a great deal of pain. Ultimately this led me to osteopathic treatment, and to Pilates. It turned out I have both some general hypermobility and scoliosis. Ever since then, I became a believer in managing musculoskeletal “individual differences” with fitness, Pilates and self-care. It’s the actual philosophy of my entire clinical and educational work. I am so grateful to still be able to dance, garden, travel internationally. I owe it all to what is now called “Lifestyle Medicine.”

NMF: What are a few of your go-to healthy snacks/drinks that help keep you on the straight and narrow?           

SM: This may sound odd, but I just LOVE dried orange slices! My acupuncturist tells me that they stimulate energy. I also eat a lot of nuts for the protein and the satiation from the oil. I also crave Greek yogurt. I keep a carton of coconut water ready to go in the fridge for sipping between client sessions. The coconut water is excellent for hydration replenishment. Did you know that hunger is often misperceived and is really thirst? Also mental capacity diminishes with only 2% dehydration. So the coconut water helps me to keep the good mental ability to motivate clients in the right way and avoid physical fatigue from long hours.

NMF: How do you train your mind and stay motivated? 

SM: I do believe the highest form of leadership is self-leadership. I give training on the John Maxwell philosophy of leadership, as well as using their resources for mentoring. I also belong to other groups for individual stimulation for clinical interests, spiritual interests, and emotional interests. It takes a lot to stay focused. I am convinced that life will just pass you by if you don’t pay attention. Every day has to be fired up with reading and practice. I value experiences more than physical possessions, and so seek out those experiences.

NMF: How do you change your body?  What are your fitness favorites?

SM: I am a believer that body change happens through nutrition, rest, physical exercise, mental exercise and emotional exercise. It doesn’t happen without any of the above.  I had a leg injury where I stopped dancing for 2 years and cold barely walk. It was very interesting to watch not only the tone changes of the leg but the rest of my body. I knew that if I just kept going that I could come on of the other side. Thanks to Pilates and other fitness and healing techniques, I am on my way completely out.

Training is a combination of stress and rest. That is how an athlete or any pro is made. So I follow that paradigm. High achievers use a lot of mental rehearsal and mental self-talk. It’s critical in making a change. Change is often like seeing a giant cruise ship change course. It can take quite a bit to overcome the inertia of stillness, but if the force of change persists, it will gain momentum. It’s just like the physical laws of science.

One of my favorites pieces of cardio equipment is an arm-ergometer, basically a bicycle for your arms. It helped me so much when my legs couldn’t even bare being on the Pilates reformer.

I like using a four-pound mini-bar with my arm and back Pilates work, and the Pilates Wunda Chair essentially was made for knee health. I completely have relied on it to bring my legs, climbing and standing ability back.

I just started using the MOTR®, which is excellent for strength as well as core development. I started using it in my travels where the host sites can provide me with a home MOTR® to stay in shape when I am away. It is an adapted Pilates piece of equipment and is just great for everything: strength, core and flexibility. I encourage clients to get one for home use to practice their Pilates. I also work with the cancer community. I had younger and younger women coming in asking how they could get back to their Pilates and Yoga. That’s when I realized how useful the MOTR ® could be for cancer survivors. Evidence supports resistance training as a beneficial aspect of restoration. That’s what inspired the latest MOTR ® videos I just released.

The whole Pilates philosophy is to use as much of the whole body and mind and emotions while performing the exercises. That philosophy is translatable to any other type of movement or fitness. What I say is that the body essentially has 602 muscles and about 206 bones. General fitness focuses on large muscle groups such as the quads or glutes for large explosive moves such as sprinting and jumping in basketball and dance. Pilates fills in all those other muscle groups and primes the body to use itself more fully in the large fitness conditioning activities.

Ultimately the Golden Rule is just keeping it up. One of my biggest role models is the late Jack Lalanne. He did unbelievable feats like swimming while pulling barges with his teeth. He was a small, ill guy who got bullied when he first started out. I remember in an interview, he was asked if he liked fitness. He said not really, but he likes the EFFECTS of exercise. And Joseph Pilates, our Pilates community name-sake, he understood health in a way that we now understand better. In a conversation with one of Pilates’ clients, Chuck Rappoport who was a LIFE Magazine photographer told this encounter to me. When Rappoport asked Pilates why exercise was so necessary,  Pilates said that there were fires in the body that had to be put out. That there were certain areas of the body that were fire stations, in the armpits, the groin, and abdomen area. These fire stations had to be called upon to put out the various flame-ups in the body through breathing and all the various exercises he used. If the fires aren’t put out, then the body starts to develop inflammation…disease. As a certified lymphatic therapist, I couldn’t believe my ears. Chuck’s story about Pilates’ theory of acquired disease fully fits in with current ideas about the immune system and health!

No matter what happens in your life, pregnancy, divorce,  law school, asthma, fractures, whatever looks like it will de-rail you and disrupt your Lifestyle Medicine, just get on the horse and pick it back up again. You might have to adapt or start back again at a different pace or style of movement, but just keep at it. I had a friend who said an injury is really a blessing in disguise. Over and over again, see the people who made that statement a reality. All of my Dance Studio Life articles end with this saying that helps to pass on the motivation, the mental attitude, to others. It’s simply: I have faith in you.

For more information on Dr. Suzanne Martin click here!

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