#EmpathyDay, Listening, and Honest Conversations

June 12th was Empathy Day, organized by Empathy Lab, a UK-based group that encourages people to read, share, and do in order to “put empathy into action and make a difference in your community.” In that spirit, today’s One-on-Won blog is a departure from the norm. Rather than Dr. Mary Ann being the interviewer, today she is the interviewee and will be speaking with her daughter Tori Wilmarth.

Family, friends, and loved ones are vital support systems for all of us, but they are particularly critical supporters for those suffering from chronic illnesses (See Blog Post: The Importance of Having A Supportive Family When Living with Chronic Illness By Steve Bedard on The Mighty). Although loved ones and caregivers are around chronic illnesses frequently, we often do not take the time to ask or to listen to truly understand our loved one’s experiences. This has been the case for me (Tori). Over the past two years, I have often been the one of our family members who has been here physically to help my Mom. But if I am being truly honest with myself, I have not genuinely listened to my Mom. I know some of the facts about what she is going through, but I have not tried to imagine what it feels like to be a #chronicwarrior and to run out of spoons (#spoonies) just trying to get ready to go to the doctors. Without listening, I have been an ineffective advocate for my Mom.

“How do you define empathy?” My Mom recently asked me this question. Thinking featured prominently in my response. She rightly pointed out that empathy is not about thinking; it is about feeling. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Em comes from the Greek word for in; pathos from the Greek word for feeling….in-feeling, empathy.

Coming out of an MBA program focused on developing analytical skillsets, I am used to thinking my way through problems – a business case, new strategy development, financial modeling. This is all highly analytical work. But when it comes to supporting a family member with chronic illnesses, thinking will only get you so far. Thinking leads me to focus on things that need to be done, and although I can do some of them, the to-do list steadily grows just as we chip away at it. Feeling helps me remember that each movement aches for my Mom, that her chronic illnesses sap her of her energy and blanket her in fatigue and pain. Although doing things is helpful, the actions I take are more meaningful when they come from a place of empathy, when they are paired with emotional support and understanding. Patients, just like family members and all of us, want to be listened to and to be heard (See Blog Post: To The Doctor Who Finally Saw Me As More Than A Case File By Taylor Yenko on The Mighty).

I recently had some routine testing done as a part of a pre-employment exam for a new job (I will be starting a hospital administration fellowship in Boston in a few short weeks). During this visit, a very kind nurse practitioner inoculated me for a tuberculosis exam. “There is going to be a pinch and a short burning sensation,” she said, as she pulled out a small needle and vial. “Pinch and burn.” I looked away as she pricked my left arm. It was very minor and routine, but I had felt the pinch and burn, and I had looked away in discomfort. The day before, my mother, Dr. Mary Ann, had spent 5+ hours receiving her monthly IVIG infusion. Her primary nurse had trouble finding a suitable vein because she was dehydrated from coughing and vomiting the night before (this difficulty is not entirely uncommon with chronic illness where you are fighting for hydration and homeostasis throughout the body). There was nothing to be got, no vein easily accessible, so the nurse called in reinforcements. My Mom was pricked at least 5 or 6 times that day before the nurses were able to set up a line for her to receive her treatment intravenously.

My mom spent the day in the Oncology Infusion Center. We were there on #EmpathyDay, so we were tweeting and reading to participate. Ironically, I was not applying the empathy I was tweeting about to my Mom’s situation. If I were the patient with a 5+ hour infusion at a cancer center, I would have been nervous, tired, worried, and lonely. I would have been beyond frustrated that after over a month, breathing was still difficult for me, even at rest, and that none of my doctors had satisfactory answers. Had I been the patient, all of this would have been a very big deal. For Dr. Mary Ann, this was merely a Tuesday. I am amazed by my mother’s strength and optimism, and to be honest, I do not think I would have the abundance of either quality if I were in her position. This One-on-Won is not only a part of #EmpathyDay festivities, but it is an opportunity for me to be a more empathetic and understanding daughter, listener, and caregiver.

What made you want to make the change from DocMAW to PatientMAW?

Dr. Mary Ann: First of all, with Doc to Patient, I have actually been Doc AND patient from the very beginning because at the least, I have had osteoarthritis since the day I started working as a physical therapist (PT). I have always had to deal with osteoarthritis secondary to a motor vehicle accident. I was a freshman at Middlebury College and was hit by a car while I was in a crosswalk on my way back from chemistry lab. The result was chronic osteoarthritis throughout my body and chronic problems with both knees – including 9 surgeries culminiating in a total knee replacement on the right. I am currently waiting for a total knee replacement on the left.

I am at the point where I need to explore options of what is the best way to get my story out there and to share my experiences with other patients, caregivers, advocates, and clinicians. I want my story to be shared in the best way possible because as a patient I have seen a disconnect between patients and caregivers that is not positive for healthcare. By bridging the gap, making more connections, and emphasizing empathy, we can make it a much better landscape.

I worked over 35+ years as a PT with chronic pain and dysfunction myself as a result of osteoarthritis. I worked hard to stay strong and to function well. I did not consider myself having chronic illnesses for most of my career, but in reality I did, as I struggled with osteoarthritis, kidney problems, endometriosis, and more. I worked my ass off to make it appear like I was well. That is what you do with a chronic illness….you work so hard to keep going and appear well. I was constantly making accommodations for how my knee felt or my skier’s thumb (also known as gamekeepers thumb — in my case an injury from ski racing in high school. Skier’s thumb can be a  challenge as a PT with a manual specialty. I did not shy away from it, even with my own injuries and pain.

This is what it means to have a chronic illness. I pushed myself so much to manage my pain and appear well. I know that everyone has their issues; it is all a matter of degree. You do not know what they have had to go through to get up in the morning. The more time went on, the more I needed several hours to get myself going.

Why did you choose to transform Back2BackPT into Back2Back Wellness rather than creating something new to share your experiences with chronic illness?

Dr. Mary Ann: The choice of bringing Back2BackPT to Back2BackWellness was a debate, but I am the same person, so it made sense to evolve Back2Back. I wanted people to see what it is like going from working full time, having 4 jobs, being relatively healthy (which for me still meant having chronic illnesses) to becoming a full-time patient and dedicating all of my time to trying to be well.

Back2Back Wellness has allowed me to work on things like Twitter, Instagram, and other social media. It also got me back into photography, which has saved my life emotionally over the past few years. My love of photography and finding beauty in every day was a part of why I moved to the ocean.

When it comes to Back2Back Wellness, I wanted to grow with it, and I wanted other people to see what it is like from both sides. Your healthcare providers are human. They cannot work as robots nor do you want them to. You want them to have empathy and to take care of themselves as well, so they can do their best to help you heal.

With chronic illnesses, there is not a lot of privacy. Things are out in the open for the most part. My approach has been to accept it, advocate for myself, and build off what others before me have done to improve the patient experience. We all stand on the shoulders of others and help to strengthen the community and enhance understanding of chronic illnesses.

Initially, I had no idea how ill I was going to get or how all of this would play out. I was doing consulting with patients and former patients. I wanted to maintain the PT part of it. However, I did not have the stamina or physical ability to maintain my professional PT work. I did not have the ability to be available in the way that I felt was necessary to be a strong, effective practitioner with a caring heart.

I have not stopped my lifelong learning. I have taken on advocacy for health and empathy in general for patients dealing with any chronic illness. It is wellness in general that is most important – PT is a specific part of a person’s well-being. I am excited to be encouraging wholistic wellness, as I work on finding wellness myself.

What have your chronic illnesses helped you to discover about yourself?

Dr. Mary Ann: You do not go into chronic illness expecting to learn more about yourself than you ever thought you would, but surprisingly you actually do. I would challenge anyone who has the fortune or misfortune to have a chronic illness to not learn more about yourself than you ever had before.

It challenges you in ways that you never have been previously, regardless of how difficult your circumstances were or how many aspirations you had for yourself. Having chronic illnesses brings you to depths of challenge, isolation, pain, insecurity, enigma, and all of the above at every given moment in time. Chronic illness can bring a perfect storm into your life. That storm becomes an ongoing reality, and then you must learn to dance in the storm or perish.

At the same time, no one who has not gone through chronic illness can truly understand what you are going through. They will challenge you, whether consciously or subconsciously, for what you are doing or what you are not doing. They will challenge you that you are not working hard enough, that you are not doing the right things, that they have a better solution to your problems.

When you are working the hardest you have ever worked just to exist, it is hard to keep a smile on your face and move forward. Empathy is key – everyone is going through something at some point in their life. You do not know exactly what they are going through. You need to trust them. You need that for lifelong learning. You need to trust them and to listen. That is how we support one another. That is what life is all about.

The other thing I have discovered is that my chronic illnesses have brought me to the lowest of lows – from Harvard to homeless. I went to the low extreme on more than one occasion. I take it one day at a time. I do my sunrise and sunset seeking and take in the beauty to fill my soul, so that I can get through another half day, another hour. If I can do that, I can get through another day.

You can’t worry about 2 weeks from now. You do not know what your health is going to be doing then. You have no choice but to live that way, but people can learn from you. This is the way to live. Your life is made of all these little moments. There is meaning in all the work that went into have the small, special, meaningful moments.

If someone says those moments are not meaningful, I would have to agree to disagree. It is about getting that special gift or getting their favorite ice cream and having it ready because they are exhausted. You want them to be happy for that moment in time. Those are the things that make the difference. No one is asking you to do things; you are doing it out of the goodness of your heart and not expecting anything in return. You are supporting the other person wholeheartedly.

The editorial note is that as we had this conversation my Mom kept falling asleep mid-sentence, trailing off in a blur. She was exhausted and sore. We were having this conversation late in the evening, but daytime brought the same challenges. There is never enough energy for the tasks at hand, but my Mom has to push through the pain and exhaustion. As she said, this is what having a chronic illness is all about.  

The evening of this conversation was quite terrible for my Mom. After dozing mid-conversation, she was up all night with a hacking cough that triggered vomiting spells. In her words, she felt like she was going to spew her insides out. She was having immense difficulty breathing and was very nauseous. It was a painful evening for her. As a result, we will be supplementing this One-on-Won with additional posts.














❤️ in Wellness,
Dr. Mary Ann

If you know if anyone that would be a good candidate for the One~on~Won with Dr. Mary Ann please contact her at mwilmarth@back2backpt.com or complete the contact form on this website. Thank you!

What Does Retirement Mean For Your Exercise Regimen?

One Two Try Triathlon Won – But Definitely Not Done

Dr. Meredith Harris is our 1st One-on-Won person to be interviewed for the Back2BackWellness website. Check back here later tonight & over the next 24-48 hours for additional information. This Won-on-Won really needed 2-3 sections in order to accurately describe her activities in this format. Do come back – You will will be glad that you did!!

❤️ in Wellness,
Dr. Mary Ann

If you know if anyone that would be a good candidate for the One~on~Won with Dr. Mary Ann please contact her at mwilmarth@back2backpt.com or complete the contact form on this website. Thank you!

Interview with Chris Cassidy

IMG_4669dddChris and Trey at World Bike Relief in Kona

From being curled up in the capsule heading to the International Space Station (ISS) at record speeds and feeling like a cannonball, to orbiting the earth 2,656 times or 70 million miles, and back down, and now to conquering a demanding 140.6 mile Triathlon in Kona. It’s Hawaii, tropical, vacation paradise – How hard could it be, right? Wrong! It is only for the toughest and bravest of heart. And Chris Cassidy has what it takes.

Chris Cassidy is a NASA astronaut and Navy SEAL. He was the 500th person in space when he went on the STS-127 mission July 15-31, 2009. Chris went up as a flight engineer for expedition 35/36 launched aboard Soyuz TMA-08M. He was in space at the ISS between March 28-September 10, 2013.

Just what were all the effects of gravity-free?



We take our fluid balance here on earth for granted. Once Chris got into space his body thought that he had too much fluid. His heart had to accommodate. He had to pee a lot. His face was puffy. It took weeks to adjust. He also had a stuffy nose for a month. And once he adjusted and his body balanced out, he had a lot less fluid.

Before Chris left for his return trip to earth he drank a lot, or as he said, he ‘pounded lots of fluids’. He also took salt tablets in order to retain more fluids. Then once he landed on the earth he was given an IV of fluids.

Not everything remained completely in balance up at the ISS though, and we will get to that as we go along here…


As far as VO2 max, his oxygen level, was concerned, Chris remained without change. Therefore he stayed fit aerobically. With lifting strength Chris actually came back stronger than before he left for the International Space Station (ISS). Now, this would not seem possible, right?! At first glance, I would agree. However, when you have 2 hours a day dedicated to exercise and have the backing of years of research from NASA and top notch people planning and guiding your workouts, then it is really no surprise.

The workout times were all scheduled in advance since there was obviously only one of each piece of equipment, which had to be shared among all members of the crew. The computer housed all the schedules, which were made by the teams on earth. It was very important for each crew member to start and stop their workouts on time since every single thing on the ISS is part of a finely tuned machine and if any one thing is off schedule, then this can throw everything else off. That being said, any time humans and luck are involved, things happen and so you need to adjust accordingly.

Just what did the 2 hours of workout time consist of up at the ISS?

  • ½ Hour was for Cardio – either Treadmill or the Bicycle
  • 1 Hour was for Weight Lifting: Squats, Dead Lifts, Bench Press, Shoulders, Hips, Gluts, Legs
  • ½ Hour – The final ½ Hour was for getting dressed and preparing and taking down the equipment, etc.

Some members of the ISS crew were more intense with their workouts than others, just as they would be on planet earth. Chris said that he personally was demanding with the intensity of his workouts. He said that it was a time that was good to focus on the exercises, and he also knew that he needed to do it to maintain his muscle mass, bone density, etc. In addition, it was a good stress reliever for him. It is not like he could just go outside for a run whenever he felt like it, or even a walk for that matter. And of course, the astronauts never wanted to make a mistake on any experiments or procedures while there. Under those circumstances, exercise was a good antidote to the stress for Chris.

If time was not a factor, then Chris said that he could have worked out more sometimes. However, there was no additional down time for further exercise.


The other thing that is closely related with the workouts is sleep. On the ISS sleep was scheduled from 10-6 every day/night. In addition, there was a 2-hour pre-sleep period and a 2-hour post-sleep period. The sleep time was sacred, as it should be for everyone here on earth as well. Sleep is restorative and a time when muscles and systems are recovering for the following day. When we do not allow enough time, we create dysfunction and inflammation and problems ensue. Unfortunately, sleep cannot be stored up.

Chris did well with sleep for the most part. He had to get used to having no pillow, which was strange. He was in a sleeping bag that was tied to the wall. He would get hot though and would unzip the bag sometimes. One time he unzipped the bag a little. Apparently, he floated out of the bag and flipped around and ended up being totally disoriented. Chris woke up and did not know where he was – that was quite a night and he did not want to repeat that scenario!

Chris’s bone density remained the same except for a small change, approximately less than ½%, which dropped in his heel and hip. This may have been due to his lack of walking with gravity.


The treadmill was Chris’s preferred method of cardiovascular exercise. Due to the lack of gravity he had to click in with a bungee cord and could adjust the amount of his body weight with a harness that pulled down from his shoulders as he walked or ran. The issue was that it felt somewhat like having a backpack on and even though the weight came through the hips, the majority of the weight was in the upper half rather than the lower half of the body as it usually is when we are walking and running on earth. Chris did a mixture of varying the percentage of his body weight and his speed.  He would wear the harness with the backpack and have approximately 70% body weight for walking, although he stated that the weighted harness was somewhat uncomfortable. For running he would wear the harness alone and be around 30% body weight. He varied his speed with the number of heel strikes for both.


Chris was surprised at how difficult the bike was initially. Before he was in space, he had done a series of protocols on a stationary bike and determined his VO2max. From his last VO2max his team prepared an exercise prescription for him to follow in space at the ISS. He had specific guidelines with a peak wattage that he was supposed to achieve. This had been predetermined from the testing that had been done in advance of his launch to the ISS.

The bike on the space station was not a regular bike as you would normally imagine. It was a box with pedals. There was no need for the person to sit due to the lack of gravity. They would just have their hands on either side. Once Chris was up in space he found that he needed to stop during his biking almost 15-17 times from sheer exhaustion. This was only 2-3 days after he got to the ISS. He could not understand how he could have lost his strength and endurance so quickly as to require 15-17 rest periods when biking. Chris spoke with his team at NASA and the fact was that up in space it is just the pedals and just the muscles of the legs working, namely, the quads and hamstrings pushing and pulling. There is no weight of the leg pushing down to assist. There is no assistance from the hands or the core, which usually adds a lot towards the overall workout.

Chris said that it took almost 2 months for him to get to a point where he felt adjusted to the biking. The remaining 4 of the 6 months were then fairly steady as far as the biking was concerned.

His muscles and body had adjusted to this new way of bicycling, which worked the quadriceps and hamstrings more, but possibly worked the core less.

Speaking of core, what happens with balance on and off the space station? Obviously, balance is not an issue when on the ISS. With no gravity, the body is taken care of in space in every direction. One does not need to worry about falling. Is there even such a thing as falling in space?


I asked Chris what was the most difficult thing to manage once he returned, and he definitively said BALANCE. It took a long time to get it back to within functional limits, 3 weeks, although the bulk of it did return within the first week.

When Chris first came out of the capsule, approximately 1 hour after touchdown, he was immediately put into a chair in a reclined position. For his first few steps he had other people spotting him. He was wobbly, but he was able to walk.

Then he and the other astronauts went through some testing.

  • First, he had to stand for 10 seconds.
  • Second, he had to lie on his stomach for 1 minute, then stand for 3 minutes; this was hard according to Chris. He said that he could feel his back, bottom, and stomach muscles firing, but they were not in synch and did not feel efficient at all. The muscle memory was not there yet. For me, I would think of it like the 5 year olds playing soccer – they all run around and have the muscle power within them, but they do not know how to put it all together. Compare this with division 1 college or professional soccer players who pass with finesse, have strong muscles and use these muscles efficiently. That is where Chris was and will get back to soon.
  • Third, he was asked to cross his arms and walk heel to toe as one would with a sobriety check. This was impossible for him to do at that time.

Once the above-mentioned testing was completed, then he took a 2 hour helicopter flight and had an IV and felt OK after that. Following an airplane flight to Houston and 24 hours later, Chris felt pretty much OK and was within normal to walk short distances. However, he did say that he would grab things to stabilize himself.

Chris was very pleased that he was fortunate enough to have 45 days of physical therapy for 2 hours a day once he returned. For the first week the focus was balance related and agility activities.

For example, he worked on the following:

  • Balance
  • Stabilization
  • Agility – Cones, ZigZag, Wiggly Ball &Platform, Bosu

Chris felt that he was approximately 85% to normal by the end of the 1st week. And by the last 2 weeks he felt that he really did not need it, although it was nice to be able to continue to review it.


For 2 months Chris felt that his stamina was not there. The interesting thing is that the data, the numbers state that his endurance should be fine. He talked with others who had returned from the ISS and they apparently felt the same way – their endurance just was not there right away.

This makes sense to me since there is specific endurance training. Think of training in the pool and then trying to adapt that to running or some other endurance sport. It takes time to adapt to that specific sport.

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So, speaking of endurance, how did the Ironman come to fruition?

While Chris was on the ISS he and Luca Parmitano sent an email to the Ironman World Headquarters in Tampa asking about the possibility of doing a triathlon once they returned from space. Luca is an Italian astronaut in the European Astronaut Corps (ESA) who was on the ISS during the same time as Chris.

Luca had a neighbor who did Ironman triathlons and Chris was interested in doing one as well. In February/March 2014 Chris found out that he and Luca would be doing the Kona Ironman Triathlon as TeamAstro. He had approximately 8 months to really train for the race. Chris had done sprint triathlons previously, but even that had been a couple of years. In the time since then, Chris spent 6 months in space without any gravity. He returned in September 2013. Despite this, Chris did manage to get one half Ironman triathlon in for training during the summer 2014 before Kona. It felt good, but he knew that Kona and the full Ironman and the elements would be a different story.

For Chris, the overall distance of the Ironman Triathlon did not feel too bad. That may have had to do with the race day excitement or his preparation or a combination thereof. Before the start of the race the atmosphere is almost electric and athletes literally feed off the energy of the crowd. You can feel the buzz. For some athletes it is their profession, this is what they do and who they are. For the majority, this is something that they do because they want to conquer a bigger challenge. It is like going into battle for these athletes. For Chris, it felt in some ways like another mission, only this one was on earth – and he would definitely be fighting gravity every step of the way. But for all athletes regardless of their age or reason for racing, I think that they would all agree that they never felt more alive than at the start of the race. Each and every athlete was ready to discover what she or he was made of and how well s/he could do against the elements in Kona. Now was their time and their moment to shine!

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Chris found the swim to be hard with the mass start. He had people touching and kicking him the entire 1 ¼ miles out and 1 ¼ miles back in the choppy waters with growing swells that just got more and more difficult to navigate. According to the race officials, there was an offshore storm that created the roughest conditions that the race had in years.


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The wind was a factor as usual with the bike portion of the Triathlon. It was windier than usual and did blow people over on their bikes. Chris found the bike to be difficult due to the winds, but also because of the hills. He trained in Houston where there are no hills and therefore the hills in Kona were more than what he was used to riding in Houston.

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Chris said the run was hard, but he was excited during the run and felt that it went by quickly, all 26.2 miles. He could hear people while he was running whereas he could not during the swim or bike. And he was able to High-5 people, both adults and children, during the run and this felt great and helped to motivate him and make the run go by fast.

Chris enjoyed doing the Kona Ironman Triathlon very much and finished in 10:15.11. This was below his personal goal of 11 hours. His time placed him at 555 overall. Pretty amazing for someone gravity free less than 1 year before the race!


As far as future Triathlons are concerned, Chris figures that he now has the gear, so he may as well do some more Triathlons – maybe some of the local ones in Texas for starters. He already misses the training that he was doing for Kona! Chris mentioned that there are even Triathlons that you can do for you and your dog – now that would be interesting!

Chris can now add Kona Ironman Triathlete to his long list of accomplishments, which includes NASA astronaut, Navy SEAL, visitor at ISS twice, father of 3, and more. He always has his sights set on something. There will likely be more races in his future, and he would like to head up into space again and maybe even visit the moon, and who knows where else because…the sky’s no limit for Chris Cassidy. He is One Who’s Won, and Chris will continue to do so.

Thanks for our One on Won – Dr. Mary Ann





❤️ in Wellness,
Dr. Mary Ann

If you know if anyone that would be a good candidate for the One~on~Won with Dr. Mary Ann please contact her at mwilmarth@back2backpt.com or complete the contact form on this website. Thank you!

Interview with Caitlin Roman


Silks2Caitlin Roman has been very busy over the past two years completing her MBA at Harvard University. However, she has another career that involves a passion for flying and this form of flying does not involve airplanes or other forms of transportation. She discovered this during a team-building event and it has been with her ever since. Who of you has not had that dream or feeling of wanting to fly through the air? But how many of you have actually followed through on this desire? You must have the physical and intellectual core to be able to do so and Caitlin has both. Caitlin has worked with different types of aerial disciplines including both the flying trapeze and silks. I had the good fortune to work with Caitlin during her journey with silks.

Let’s hear from Caitlin Roman who has a passion for flying and moving through the air with the greatest of ease.


  • How did you first get into doing silks?

I started my “circus career” on flying trapeze in 2011, when the company I was working for took us to Trapeze School New York for a team-building class. I started going to flying trapeze regularly, and I fell in love with the physical and intellectual challenge of flying through the air. From there, I started experimenting with other related aerial disciplines, and I started doing silks more seriously when I moved to Boston. Trapeze was less accessible, and I found an amazing silks studio near my school: AirCraft Aerial Arts in Somerville.

  • What does it mean to do silks?

Aerial silks involve climbing up silk fabrics and doing various inversions and poses, to music. It requires both strength and flexibility – for example, through my silks training I can now do both pull-ups and also a full split. It’s an incredibly demanding discipline – as the saying goes, when you’re at your most beautiful, you’re at you’re most painful!

  • Do you have to go to a special facility to train for this? Are there many such places?

There are increasingly more trapeze and aerials-focused studios. You definitely need specialized rigging that is properly set up and qualified instructors. In Boston, TSNY offers flying trapeze and aerials classes, and there are two aerials (non-flying) studios: AirCraft Aerial Arts  and Esh Circus Arts.

  • I know that you have done trapeze before, did that help you in transitioning to silks?

Yes, definitely! In all circus disciplines, you need to have body control and aerial awareness – in other words, core strength that enables you to “stay tight” in the air. So I definitely progressed faster in silks after having spent two years flying.

  • Do most people who do silks have a background in gymnastics or dance?

Many people do – and it is easier to start aerials if you have one of those backgrounds – but it is not at all necessary – I never did either gymnastics or dance! I played soccer for 15 years, which requires totally different abilities, so it’s cool to see how my body has totally changed as a result of trapeze and silks.


  • Your silks performance is amazing! How long did you train for this?

I started working on my choreography about five months before the show – trying out different moves, picking a song, stringing moves together. It took a while to build up the strength to do four full minutes in the air – it requires a lot of endurance to move through a sequence of moves like that. Even once you have the sequence down and have built the endurance, there are a lot of performative elements layered on top – your “character,” the gestures you make, etc. I was working on the routine right up to the week before the performance.

  • It obviously takes a lot of strength, balance, and coordination. Did you do strength training? And other training?

Yes, I lift weights at the gym 2-3 times a week. I also incorporate a lot of core work and stretching into my gym routine. I love yoga but haven’t found a place I like in Boston, so while I incorporate lots of yogic elements into my normal workout, I haven’t been regularly practicing yoga this year.

  • Did you ever fall or slide down the silks when you were practicing? It looks like it would be so easy to do that.

Because there is no harness or safety net, it’s very important to take lessons at a school – the instructor will show you each move and you’ll practice it down low before you take it up higher. As you progress, you’ll develop more comfort with the different types of wraps, but the goal is never to “fall’ unintentionally! That would result in serious injury.

  • What did you like most about performing and the performance?

I loved getting to know the other performers (also students at AirCraft) as we prepared our routines. It’s an incredibly welcoming and supportive community, and I made great friends who pushed me and supported me during the many, many hours of practice.


  • Now, you were undergoing some rehabilitation during this past year as well. How did this impact your work with the silks?

I have had problems with my shoulders related to flying trapeze and silks, which put a lot of pressure on shoulder joints. To avoid serious injury while training intensely on silks, I needed to make sure I strengthened the surrounding muscles and warmed up properly before each session. I did a lot of work during the fall and winter with Dr. Wilmarth to stabilize and strengthen my back and neck muscles – she gave me some good exercises and we did regular therapeutic massage sessions.


  • What other advice would you give to people who are considering doing silks? For example, how would you suggest people start their training?

Take a class at a nearby studio and see what you think! It can be intimidating at first, but all of my fellow performers stumbled into it in one way or another and fell in love with the challenge and beauty of aerials – you may be one of them!

Caitlin is One Who’s Won.

Thanks for our One on Won – Dr. Mary Ann

❤️ in Wellness,
Dr. Mary Ann

If you know if anyone that would be a good candidate for the One~on~Won with Dr. Mary Ann please contact her at mwilmarth@back2backpt.com or complete the contact form on this website. Thank you!

Interview with Dave McGillivray


One-on-Won Interviewee Dave McGillivray will manage the 119th Boston Marathon and then run the race tonight after everyone else has finished!

DaveM_FinishIt is January 2015 and the start of another new year, a time when everyone is thinking about goals and setting New Year’s resolutions. These most often include something along the lines of exercising more, getting back to the gym, watching what I eat, having a better diet…I think that you all likely know the drill. Well, whether you are thinking about getting off the couch and trying the Couch to 5K or contemplating going from a sprint to an intermediate, long or ultra distance triathlon this year, or hoping to be able to walk 2 miles, there are questions that come up in your mind. You also may want to look to someone who has done these things before for some advice and inspiration. I asked Dave McGillivray a few questions for my first One on Won interview of 2015 because I think that he is a great inspiration and role model of someone who has done many triathlons and marathons. Dave is also coming off a noteworthy 2014 in terms of fitness. Last year he returned to Kona, Hawaii after 25 years to race another grueling triathlon. Within the last year he overcame medical issues requiring surgery for coronary artery disease and subsequent rehabilitation up to and including a fractured rib weeks before the Ironman triathlon. It was not easy by any means, and Dave did so while juggling his busy work schedule with DMSE Sports

Dave McGillivray is also an accomplished athlete with quite a resume, which you can view on his website at DMSE Sports. In addition, he is a race director, most notably for the BAA Boston Marathon since the 1980s. Dave is a philanthropist and has raised and continues to raise millions for various worthy causes. He is a motivational speaker, and one of his key messages is to “always set goals, not limits”. In 1978 Dave ran 3,542 miles across the United States to benefit the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and he has been organizing events and donating his time and expertise ever since. Countless people have benefitted from his spirit of giving and sharing.

I hope that the information here will help to motivate you in some way to take that next step to accomplish your goals for 2015. If you have not set any goals, then maybe you could set a goal — no matter how big or small, as long as it is yours, and you want to take steps towards achieving it, then it is a good thing. Be proud. Stand tall. And Pay it Forward. Your positive actions can help to motivate someone else.

Now, let’s hear from Dave McGillivray about getting back into training after being out of it for some time, and how training for the Kona Ironman Triathlon helped to save his life.


Getting Back Into Training for Races

  • How would you recommend that people, who are starting back at Triathlons or marathons, after an extended period, start again?

I like to set realistic goals and to have something to aim for, a target which acts like a magnet. This then becomes the incentive to be committed, to “get out of bed” and to do the work.   Once I commit to myself and know that this is what I truly want to do, then I tell those near and dear to me and then I truly become committed.


  • Is this different from what you would recommend for people who are doing these races for the first time?

Not really other than the fear of the unknown and knowing what is a realistic goal and what is too much to expect. It is important to be patient with it all and just “chip away”, one day at a time.


  • Do you approach your training differently when you are returning to racing after recovering from an injury?

Sort of, yes. With an injury, you have to be real careful you don’t come back too soon and that you ease into the process.   It can take a long time and a lot of miles to become injured the first time, but it can take just steps to re-injury yourself if you don’t take it slow.


Training as a Means to Saving Your Life

  • You said that the training for the Kona Triathlon saved your life – can you please elaborate on that? How do you feel that occurred? Did you feel it at the time or more so after the fact, or was it an equal measure of both?

Getting to the start line in Kona was more so the goal than even getting to the finish line. Having done the race 8 times before, I knew what it would take to “earn the right” to answer the starting gun. It’s more about the process than the result sometimes. I knew I had to eat, sleep, rest and train a certain way to properly prepare myself for Hawaii and in doing so the residual results would be that I would become healthier and it worked.


Food for Training & Racing

  • It sounds like you would make sure to bring your own food to the race and kept the food the same as what you were eating during training – Is that the case?

One should always find out what a race is providing and then try to train using similar products. It’s impossible to carry with you enough of your own food and drink on an event that is going to take 12+ hours. So, that is what I did while training for Hawaii and I think it paid off for me. I never once bonked or truly got fatigued.


  • How did your eating habits change with your training? What did you eat less of and what did you eat more of? Generally?

Generally, I stayed away from anything “bad” for you and only ate what is “good” for you. A pretty simple formula!  


  • How much food did you bring for both training and the race and how did you carry it? It is difficult to have the proper food when you are traveling & even more so when on the race course. What tips do you have for those new to racing or even for those more experienced people?

Don’t have a lot of tips. Everyone has to experiment for themselves as to what works for them. I would never give advice on what to eat and what not to. We are all different. That is what “training” and “preparation” is all about…to experiment on a daily basis and come up with that exact program that works best for you.


What’s Adrenaline Got to Do With It?

  • How much does adrenaline help you to the finish line on race day? Can you describe your feelings of adrenaline during a race?

I don’t think adrenaline had anything to do with it.   For me, I believe either you are fit or you are not fit. You did the work or you didn’t. Anytime I put on a race number, my goal is to finish what I started and I have never dropped out of a race that I have been officially entered in.   I won’t start if I don’t think I can finish.


After the Crowds are Gone

  • How did it feel after the race? Mentally? Physically?

Felt great in all ways – physically, mentally and emotionally. When you go as slow as I did, it’s tough to do any real damage!


  • What can someone expect after a first Triathlon? A first race?

Well, if they do well, they want more. If they don’t do well, they want revenge. In other words, they usually get hooked and it then becomes a life changing experience and then a lifestyle.


  • What about 2 days or a week after the Triathlon when the crowds are gone and it is back to training on the roads?

The intensity of the training definitely plummeted which is okay as I needed to refocus on family and business. But, I certainly have maintained a healthy training regimen since then and am anxious to start pushing harder as the 2015 season draws nearer.


Support and Training for Racing

  • Is it important to have a support group with you?

I went alone and discovered that it was a mistake. A support group would have made a significant difference.


  • What should your ideal support network look like and whom should it consist of as far as a team?

Mine is mainly family and friends…period…I don’t need a whole heck of a lot after that.


  • What about training in general? Do you like to train on your own or with others?

99% of the time I train on my own, mainly because of my crazy work schedule.


  • What about training with clubs or teams of people? What do you think of that?

I think it is great if you can work it all out…I just can’t at this stage of my life.


  • There are some programs, Teams in Training, that give training, support and education in exchange for raising funds. Do you have any thoughts about those groups?

God bless them all.


Other Advice from Dave

  • What other advice would you give to people who are considering doing a triathlon — whether it is a sprint triathlon, half ironman, or an ironman? For example, how would you suggest such people start their training?

Again, you just have to have realistic expectations.

Only you know where you are currently and what you are capable of doing.

That is not to say not to have lofty goals, but just set it all up for success not failure.

  • It’s your game, so it is your rules!



Dave is One Who’s Won.


Thanks for our One on Won – Dr. Mary Ann


❤️ in Wellness,
Dr. Mary Ann

If you know if anyone that would be a good candidate for the One~on~Won with Dr. Mary Ann please contact her at mwilmarth@back2backpt.com or complete the contact form on this website. Thank you!