The MELT method, recently profiled in The New York Times, claims to alleviate chronic pain, aching joints, weight gain, stress, digestive problems, low energy and insomnia. Salonpas sat down with Raleigh, NC-based Karin Singleton, who is an advanced MELT instructor, to learn more about this method which is taking the country by storm.
As an ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist, Karin is also qualified to work with people with medical conditions that are beyond the scope of regular personal training certifications. Her clientele consists of clients who have health issues including pain conditions.
How did you get into the fitness industry?
I enjoyed exercise all my life, first horseback riding and Taekwondo, and later playing squash and swimming. Unfortunately, I ended up with shoulder injuries and, ultimately, had to have surgeries in 1989. I had to rethink what I was doing and joined a health club where I did the traditional fare of cardio, weightlifting, flexibility and some step classes. Because of my previous injuries, I felt a need to educate myself on how to modify exercises. While the gym had trainers, I did not expect them to have such knowledge. At that time, the personal training industry was in its infancy, and most of the trainers had their grounding in body building.
At that time, I still worked in the corporate world with a 9 to 5 desk job. In 1994, I married and became a permanent resident of the United States. This change opened the opportunity to look at a new career, and I decided to get into the business of fitness. Having come to this new career from personal injuries, I immediately gravitated towards working with people who needed extra help finding the right set of exercises.
MELT is a self-treatment technique for fascia (sometimes, not quite accurately, referred to as connective tissue). Fascia is a tissue in the body that is not only comprised of tendons and ligaments, the plantar fascia and the IT Band, but it also surrounds every bone and muscle and even every muscle fiber. It is the tissue in the body that gives us our shape and holds everything together. It is a fluid filled tissue which can adapt to movement by expanding and contracting but with the goal to return to a balanced state.
Activities of everyday life such as prolonged sitting, but also sports and repetitive movement, can cause this tissue to get stuck and dehydrated in some areas. This ‘stuck stress’ as Sue Hitzmann, the creator of the MELT Method, calls it, and then prevents the body to return to its ideal equilibrium. The result is that the body begins to act like a car where none of the wheels have been aligned, and those misaligned structures lead to muscular imbalances and ultimately pain. This has often a very inconspicuous onset with just a little stiffness after sitting for a while or a little twinge here and there.
There is hardly a person who can escape from those stresses, from a couch potato to a world class athlete. As such MELT, is truly for everybody and every single body. Because people are subjecting their bodies daily to stressors, they need to continue to MELT regularly to help mitigate them. MELT should become part of regular self-care just as brushing and flossing (even though MELTing three times per week will suffice). If done regularly, even long-time habitual imbalances can be improved and even reversed.
What are MELT length techniques and how can these techniques bring the body into a more balanced state?
The first thing a MELT class participant does is to assess his own body. While lying on the floor in a position of anatomical neutral (legs straight, arms by the sides and palms up), I as the instructor go over the entire body and explain what ideal alignment should be. This brings a first awareness to the areas of ‘stuck stress.’
Even though everybody has their own personal problems, many misalignments can be found in the majority of participants: and excessive arch in the lower back, forward rounded shoulder, head forward position.
One popular exercise is with what I call an ‘upper back rub’ (its rib lengthening) which manipulates the muscles of the upper back and around the shoulder blades through shearing and gliding maneuvers. A typical result is that the muscles in the upper back which have been locked in a lengthened position relax into their normal state, the ribcage has greater mobility, the shoulders come down and the head position often improves. At this point, there is usually a sigh of relief in the room.
There are other length and release techniques for other parts of the body which gradually add to the initial improvement. From what people tell me, they feel taller, and pain that they brought into the room often miraculously disappears. People also report that sleep improves.
How can people find a MELT class in their area?
The best way is to go to the main MELT website www.meltmethod.com where MELT instructors are listed under the ‘Find MELT’ tab.
With the New Year upon us, how do you recommend people engage in goal setting done right?
Setting goals is great but there is a way to increase the odds of you actually achieving them, and here are some tips:
- Write them down and divide them into a long-term (e.g. I want to lose 20 lbs. in 6 months) and short-term goals (e.g. I want to lose 5 lbs. in the first month by walking every day for a total of 20 minutes and decreasing my caloric intake by replacing my afternoon super-size double chocolate thingamajig with a small single chocolate thingamajig).
- Share your goals with others.
- Tape the goals where you can see them every day. You can even write a subset of them on your daily to-do list if you do such a thing to keep them present in your awareness.
- Identify potential barriers and think through strategies how to offset them. For example, where will you walk when it rains and you cannot go to a park? Is there a mall? Do you have access to a treadmill? Are you getting bored? Have you tried listening to music or a recorded book (my personal favorite)? Do you have a party coming up where thingamajigs will abound?
- Track your progress. After a week or two, review what went right and what was difficult. Adjust your short-term plan as necessary. Rather walking every day for 20 minutes, maybe it’s better for you to walk only 5 times per week for 30 minutes each.
Studies have shown that good goal setting can make or break the deal whether you will reach your goal or not.
Do you recommend that your clients make resolutions?
I encourage it, and I assure my clients that they can count on me in areas where their resolutions can benefit from my expertise. I also tell them about my own resolutions, and they take great pleasure in checking up on me.
As an ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist, you are qualified to work with people with medical conditions beyond the scope of the typical personal trainer certifications. What kind of medical conditions do your clients have, and is it challenging to work with them?
The clients I see and have been seeing have come to me with neurological disorders (such as MS, Parkinson’s, neuropathies and stroke), COPD, diabetes, peripheral artery disease, coronary artery disease, hyperlipidemia, any form of arthritis, back, shoulder, hip and knee problems with and without surgery, carpal tunnel syndrome and plantar fasciitis. Often a client has a combination of the above. Obesity often compounds the problems and is always a complicating factor.
The greatest initial challenge working with those clients is to establish trust, both in me but also in their own bodies. Even after having made a comprehensive assessment, a starting point can be difficult to find. For example, an overweight client with Metabolic Syndrome and arthritis should be encouraged to do cardiovascular exercises. A strength routine needs to be established but the client cannot get on and off the floor which puts more limitations on the program. It can be frustrating in the beginning but ultimately very rewarding once the first little progress is made and things begin taking off in a positive direction.
What type of dietary recommendations do you advise for your clients?
Even though I have a certification as a Fitness Nutrition Specialist with NASM, it is beyond my scope of practice to make specific dietary recommendations. That does not mean, however, that I do not talk about nutrition. I advise on portion sizes, caloric intake, food labels and the need for a balanced diet. I often get questions about the latest and greatest way to lose 10 lbs. in one week and can competently evaluate those claims. I am not a personal fan of shakes and powders and encourage real food.
I generally advise against supplementation beyond a daily multi-vitamin with 100% RDA levels and strongly encourage my clients to talk with their doctor about it if they are considering any. This is particularly true when clients are taking medication which might interfere with supplements.