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Pilates for Breast Cancer

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Tara Fallon, Qualified pilates instructor.

Tara has worked in the Fitness Industry for the past 10 years. Her experience and academic achievements are nationally and internationally recognised. Tara has worked as a Personal Trainer & exercise specialist at David Lloyd Riverview, Iveagh Fitness Club Christchurch, Regimes Personal training Studio, Peak Performance Personal Training Studio Sydney & Fitness First Melbourne.

Tara setup Fitness M a t t e r s Personal Training & Pilates Studio ( in 2004 to provide clients with excellence in personal training, pilates, post-rehab and small group training programmes. Tara wanted to bring her expertise to another level by training AND educating all her clients.

Her educational training began in 1996. Tara holds a degree in Leisure Management & a Diploma in Neuromuscular therapy. Tara believes education is wealth, and has continued to educate herself on the new developments in the fitness world. She has spent the last two years learning from experts in the states, ie Paul Chek (scientific core training), Maureen Hagan (functional training) & Sherri Betz (Pilates Training for osteoporosis).

Along with training under Renee Peuizzo a Master Stott trainer from Stott Pilates institute in Toronto. Tara is a fully certified in Pilates mat-work, Pilates on the ball, foam roller & circle, pre & post natal Pilates, rehabilitation & special populations. Outside of the studio Tara runs Corporate Heath Expo,s & Health seminars.

Anita Begley, breast cancer survivor

I started pilates in 2001 and I was doing it for a number of years before I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After I started my chemo I was back in doing pilates within four weeks. Pilates helps me feel normal.
It was the single biggest thing that helped me during my recovery from breast cancer.

Pilates can help in a number of ways. It increases the range of motion after surgery and it also helps the area of the lymph nodes post operation
Pilates is not that aggressive and it is safe after exercise for people recovering after breast cancer. Post surgery, It can also make people more confident.

When people come to me that have had breast cancer, I will prepare and design a programme for them.

It can also help if they have low confidence and it can help in a number of small ways. If for example, they are standing on a bus and they have to reach out. their energy levels can also increase..

In Watching Anita since she has come into me, there has been a massive improvement and pilates has helped her in a number of ways.

Anita: I would recommend it to everybody that has breast cancer to get a personal trainer.. it has made such a difference to me.

Anita Begley:

Q. When were you diagnosed with breast cancer and how did you find out you had the disease?

I was diagnosed in October 2004, after I found a thickness in one of my breasts. It was a shock to the system really.

Q. Can you describe this shock?
It was a shock when I was diagnosed, but I think at the time that I was maybe going through the motions and maybe it didn't really sink in at the time.

Q. What happened after you found out that you had breast cancer?

I had surgery in November 2004. I had a lump removed from my breast, I didn't have invasive surgery. I also had two sensory nodes removed from under my arm to see if the cancer had spread but it hadn't spread. I started chemo in Jan 2005, up until April 2005. I started the drug for the chemo in august 2005 and I will be on that now until August 2010. In and around July 2005, I had started the radiotherapy

Q. You lost your hair, but you look at this in a different light than most people?
I lost my hair shortly after I started chemo, but it started to grow back again in July or August 2005. I actually had good fun with the wigs that I was using. My godchild actually got breast cancer recently and my advice to her was to say, 'treat this disease and adventure'. I used to wear the wigs a lot, people would say great hair sometimes, but it was a wig.

Q. How did you find that pilates helped?
Pilates was the single biggest thing that helped my recovery. I started chemo in January 2005 and I was back in with Tara in February and I was with her right through radiotherapy an up until now, and I am in remission for a number of years.

Additional Q's

Q. you said that it made you feel normal?
Pilates made me feel normal when I was going through my treatment. I actually didn't think that it might have been possible to continue pilates during my chemo and radiotherapy, but he classes were great with Tara.

Q. Did it help you fight off the side effects of chemo and radiotherapy?
It definitely made me feel less tired when I was getting my treatment and really everybody who is going through cancer should

Q. Did you first get a letter from your oncologist, before you started pilates after your cancer?

Tara had asked me to get a letter from my oncologist to make sure that it was ok for me to continue with my exercises.

Tara Fallon: Pilates Instructor

Q: Tara, where and when did you do your training for pilates and breast cancer?

Tara: I trained in Chicago for this.. It was part of an overall course, and the breast cancer was just another element in it and I am trained to help people recover from breast cancer.

Q Tara, how can pilates benefit people with breast cancer?

Well, pilates can help in a number of ways:
When woman have had their ducts removed under their arm, i.e. they received a Lymphectomy, their circulation can be hampered after the operation. The function of the lymph nodes is to prevent infection, so when they have their operation done, it can leave them more susceptible to infection. Pilates can help by increasing the circulation in this area and help prevent infection and help prevent lymphedema (which is a swelling in a limb that the lymph nodes used to serve, because the lymph fluid has trouble draining).

Pilates also helps mobilization, and balance if woman have had invasive surgery, and Pilates can help rebalance their body. Pilates can also help with range of motion, arm mobilization, an increasing the range of motion in the chest and the neck

Pilates can also relieve the symptoms of stress and tiredness that comes from radiotherapy and chemotherapy as well as providing a relief from stress and increased self confidence for the women.

Q: How long would someone who has had breast cancer take classes in pilates?
It depends on the woman really, it might be for 6 to 10 weeks, and it is generally for a 10 week period. Anita, (who is here today) has been here since the beginning, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and it has helped through her the whole process. Pilates can also help with range of motion, arm mobilization, an increasing the range of motion in the chest and the neck

Q: When do they (women) start to feel the benefit?

Usually in week 10 they start to feel like that are getting a lot out of the classes. It usually always comes together in week 10.
General exercise in a gym might be too vagarious for the women, and they might not be able for it. But with pilates, women can feel like they have a work out done, which is not as hard on the body, and they can also benefit from it.

Q: Surely, women who are getting chemo might be too tired to be getting a pilates class?
There may be occasions when a woman (like Anita) is having chemo and is very tired. I might tell them to stay for 10 minutes and then go home. Even still, the 10 minute work out will benefit the client. On another occasion, the lady in question might be up to doing a full work out and they can stay for maybe up to 45 minutes or longer. We can design all this for the women

Q: When women have breast cancer they might feel that any kind of exercise is out?

Tara: Yes, this is very often the case; it also just makes them feel better about themselves, by simple going to and doing a work out as opposed to just not being able to do anything..

Q. Do you check with a consultant/ GP before anyone who has had breast cancer, or is just recovering from it comes to you?

Tara: Yes, I make sure that I have a letter from a hospital doctor before the women come to me, and if they were unable to do so, it wouldn't be a problem.

Any additional information

Breast Cancer rehabilitation with Pilates
Embarking on a fitness programme can help improve side effects from Breast cancer treatments. This can empower & help the survivor regain control of their body and improve their strength and endurance levels.

A number of side effects can affect the body due to surgery,
i.e. reduced range of motion, muscle weakness, fatigue, and difficulty in maintaining good posture. Fear of moving the joint!

The benefits of Pilates for breast cancer survivor
. Restore joint mobility
. Tissue integrity - scapular humeral rhythm
. Regain loss of strength
. Stimulate lymph system
. Increase endurance levels
. Reducing stress and anxiety
. Strengthening self confidence
. Feeling normal again, on the road to feeling yourself again

Improving all of the above translates into FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT
Upper traps can be over worked after surgery, due to pain. This will affect scapular humeral rhythm. Pecs and Lats tighten, causing misfiring around gleno-humeral joint.
Overall the chest, arm, shoulder, upper back muscles need to be rebalanced. Function is about correct timing and firing of muscle tissue.
Shoulder Shrugs address the whole mobilization of the shoulder blades
Protraction and Retraction, mobilising s/blades on your rib cage
Bicep Curl; strengthen front of arm, rebalance muscle tissue in arm!
Important work upper and lower body which is working the whole kinetic chain, also allowing the arm to rest in-between sets.
Re-learning functional movement for everyday life

Reformer and stability chair, add resistance to the exercises.
This is important as a common side effect after surgery is muscular imbalance through-out the body.
The machine will address the whole body, arms and legs moving at the same time while working against resistance!
Feels good for the client to be able to move the whole body again, they feel really empowered!
PROGRESSION; increase speed, range and intensity as get more comfortable with movements.

Best part about Pilates for someone fighting or surviving Breast cancer;
Pilates is GENTLE exercises, requires very SPECIFIC Movements, slow & controlled.
Participating in Pilates programmes enhances wellbeing along with increased endurance & taking control of you!
Guidelines for pilates exercises Post-operation
. Phase one ; 2-6weeks starting R.O.M and balance exercises
. Phase two; 6-12 weeks start strengthening exercises

How to get in touch with Tara:

Fitness Matters are currently operating from two locations; if you want to get in touch with Tara and contact her.

Regimes Personal Training & Pilates Studio,
Merrion Row. (top of Baggot street)
Dublin 2,
t: 086 3891 597

8 Pembroke Road,
Dublin 4
t: 086 3891 597

10 doors down from Waterloo pub!