Back pain royally sucks, no doubt (I speak from personal experience). It will strike most of us at some point in our lives- some people earlier than others, some more intensely and debilitating than others, some recover quickly while others it becomes a chronic condition. Why? The first answer is: genetics. You got what you’re given, like it or not. Just like your height, eye color, condition of your heart, or how flexible you are, genetics plays a huge role. Many of the primary structural contributors to back pain like Osteoarthritis, Degenerative Disc / Joint Disease, and spinal Stenosis are determined by your genetic parents. Many people develop these conditions early on in life, while some not until much later. Identical twin studies have helped prove this, whereby identical siblings will be tracked over their life span. One may have a very physical job / lifestyle, the other more sedentary, and most of the time they will develop the same back pain causing conditions at about the same time. There’s not much you can do about this except minimize environmental conditions & lifestyle choices that exacerbate these conditions. Things like being overweight, smoking, not exercising, having a poor diet – they all can contribute to earlier onset and/or worse symptoms when these conditions are present.

But what about when these conditions are not present? Why do so many people (in fact, the majority of acute back pain sufferers) get back pain when none of these conditions are present? The short answer is: those same environmental & lifestyle conditions that have a huge effect on the physical state of your soft tissues. Things like stress, certain movements / postures, poor muscle strength or endurance, and poor body mechanics can bring on back pain. Humans are upright beings with long, relatively thin back muscles, which are NOT designed to do a lot of heavy work or lift / move heavy loads. Yet go to any construction site and see the heavy loads being lifted / moved / carried w/ bent backs and straight legs – OUCH! That’s a back spasm waiting to happen. Not to mention the load that intervertebral discs are subjected to when one bends over to lift even just a 20# object with a rounded back (discs can bear 5-10x more lbs / sq. in. than the load itself). This causes OVERLOAD. And just like when you overload an electrical outlet in your home, your brain acts as the breaker box and “trips the breaker. ” Only instead of cutting off the electricity, it supplies your back with an involuntary, uncontrollable, and often unending blast of electricity, commonly called a spasm. This can last for a few hours or a few weeks, depending on many various factors, things such as: is it a repetitive stress / movement that has accumulated trauma to the tissue over time or is it a single action that overloaded it? What state was the tissue is in to begin with – were the tissues healthy, fit, and in good condition prior to the event or were they stiff, dehydrated, weak / fatigued? How much rest and healing time is the sufferer able to allow the overloaded tissues before subjecting them to loads again? These all play into how intense, frequent, and long lasting back pain can be. Plenty of research is out there, even in popular magazines like Consumer Reports, saying that the most common cause of acute back pain is muscle / tendon / ligament injury. A host of medical experts and studies in the past 5-7 years have proven that the typical ways of evaluating and treating back pain (X-Rays & MRIs followed by invasive treatments & opioid medications) have failed to show any significant reduction in either pain or disability. That’s partly because it’s been proven that the structures that most commonly show up as “positive findings” on X-Rays and MRIs (bulging or deteriorated discs, facet arthritis) are not typically what’s causing the back pain. So getting these tests can lead a person to receiving all kinds of unnecessary treatments without getting to the source of the problem.

So, what can we do about it – both before an acute back pain eruption and after it’s already happened? The best things to do to prevent, or at least minimize the likelihood, of back pain is to stay fit and be smart. Being fit means maintaining an equal amount of mobility / flexibility as well as strength. A person can be super strong but have very little flexibility (picture the stereotypical logging crew guy that can pick up a tree and sling it over his shoulder but can’t get to his kneecaps in a forward bend). Conversely, one can be the best Yogi in the class, so flexible she can lay her forearms on the floor, but her core muscles can’t stabilizer her pelvis carrying a laundry basket up a flight of stairs. Both of these individuals are more likely to get a back spasm due to overload of those long, thin back muscles –  the guy from over-stretching, the gal from over-working. Once an overload has occurred, it depends on how severe the brain perceives the overload to be that determines how severe the “trip of the breaker” is. It could be as mild as a little bit of tightness in certain motions or difficulty bending all the way over to tie a shoe lace, or so severe the person can’t stand up or even roll over in bed. NOTE: Pain in these situations, even what feels like nerve type pain or pain radiating down into the legs, is most often normal, and should be thought of as a sign that the signaling system is working as it should, not that there is something structurally wrong that needs to be “fixed.” There are a few “red flags,” however, that do warrant an urgent exam by a doctor or other practitioner experienced in back pain: bilateral and/or unrelenting radiating pain into an unchanging region of the body or leg(s), loss of function or control of any part of the body (bowel / bladder or other organ, legs, or feet). Once those red flags are ruled out, the biggest healers are: avoidance of exacerbating movements / activities / postures, getting professional help to speed recovery (Physical Therapy is obviously my first recommendation), and time. Medications and pain blocks can mask the signals the injured tissues are sending the brain, thereby allowing you to go on business as usual and that can further injure already injured tissues. Rest and recovery are what the brain is trying to force when it causes “spasms,” so listen to it! 

Besides MDs & Physical Therapists there are lots of other practitioners out there that say they treat back pain: Chiropractors, Massage Therapists, Acupuncturists, even a dozen or two YouTube gurus who claim everything from “solve your back pain in 5 minutes or less” to “never have back pain again.” Who’s telling the TRUTH?

The truth is: they’re all right…sort of. Watch for Part II of this post….



Admission of Guilt!


Power = Thought + Communication + Emotion + Action

Ok, ok, I’m going to come clean: I have NOT lived up to my previously stated goal of writing a blog & sharing tips and tricks to keep on your New Year’s goals every week, as I said in February’s post…not even every 4 weeks…more like every 6. BUT – that’s OK. I’m not going to beat myself up about it because I’ve not met my goal, I just know I’m not making it a habit in my life (again, see February’s post).

But here is what I have to share today, something called THE POWER FORMULA:


In a nutshell: the results you get (and should expect to get) are the product of these 4 things. If you put negative or poor quality things in, you’re going to get negative or poor quality results out….if you put positive or high quality in, you’ll get positive / high quality results out…pretty simple.

Thought:  AVOID NEGATIVITY! Stop with the media already – they want us to be captivated, and the human mind gravitates toward negativity as a self survival mechanism: “If my life / existence is being threatened, I must act!” Surround your brain with POSITIVITY – inspiring music, great podcasts, uplifting movies / TV shows (are there any?), etc..

Communication:  LEARN TO DO THIS, WELL, and OFTEN. Lots of new research is out showing that life fulfillment & joy is directly proportional to the amount of good, quality relations you have with other humans (i.e. communication). If this is a challenge for you, look into sources of help: books, talks, seminars (there’s a TON of this stuff on the web)…a few I recommend:; Compassionate Communication or NVC ( or our local group; books How to Win Friends and Influence People or Ask More.

Emotion: GET THESE UNDER YOUR CONTROL! When emotion is high, intelligence and the ability to make quality decisions is low. Do NOT make critical decisions when you are in a high emotional state. Get them under control. Deep breathing helps stimulate the “calming” part of the nervous system. Also removing yourself physically from the thing causing your high emotions – go for a walk, go to the bathroom / drinking fountain, whatever you can do in the moment to calm yourself down before reacting / making a decision.

Action: This is often the hardest thing to do. First, find out your base nature: are you a high action-taker person or not? One way to determine this something called the KolbeA index test ( It is a test that will help measure your tendencies towards actions, reactions, and interactions. It is very helpful, especially if you’re a leader or boss or director-pay the $50 and take it!

Hope these tips help!

Now go out there and become a better YOU!

We’re doing this for YOU…..really, we are!

              Membership Commitment

                    WHO ARE YOU?   WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE?

Ok, some of you may have heard we’re changing our membership structure away from ALL classes included with our membership, and to more of an a la carte system: you choose what you want before you commit (and pay). We are asking YOU to decide: what is your health and your body worth? What kind of commitment are you really willing to make for that big ‘ole sack of cells that hauls you around, lifts & carries things you want moved, caters to the every wish and whimsy (well, almost) of that squishy round thing at the top that’s always trying to see, smell, hear, talk, and think? How much time are you willing to commit? How much money? How much sweat? How……much…….is…….it…….worth……?

Well, we know that, as with everything, different strokes for different folks. With our new lower priced basic membership, which includes a smattering of introductory classes AND new member / equipment orientation, PLUS a whole bunch of new, exciting fitness & wellness courses designed by our amazing, super knowledgeable trainers and Physical Therapists, there really is something for everyone!

For the do-it-yourself’er: basic membership – $29 / month.

For the mostly do-it-yourself’er but with a little bit of help & guidance, or at least some fresh workout ideas to keep things from going stale: basic membership AND pick 1 course per month that runs 1x/wk: $29 / mo + $7.50 for each class in the course (that’s $30 if it’s 4 weeks).

Need a little more help / guidance: pick a 2x/wk course or 2 different courses: $10 / class without a basic membership, $7.50 with 

You’re the “there’s no way I’m going to put those gym shoes back on unless there’s somebody there telling me exactly what to do and barking at me if I’m slacking” type: no gym membership, only courses: 2-3x/wk (at least): $10/class, $20-30/wk – about the price of a tank of gas (small car), or a meal out (not downtown)…..not that much.

Get the picture? Like I said, something for everyone – you get to decide who you are and who you want to be!

For more info, come to any of the following info sessions, hosted by yours truly, at the gym:

                     Thurs 5/4 10 a.m.,           Tues 5/9 at 5:30,               Fri 5/19 at 11:45 a.m.,             Mon 5/22 at 6 a.m.


In gratitude for ALL of our past, current, & future members.


New Year’s Resolutions-friend or foe?


Asheville Family Fitness strong!

We’re back! After a much too long hiatus (Sam, we miss you), we’ve resuscitated our blog. And couldn’t be a better time! This is the time of year that many, possibly even you, decide to make positive change in their lives and get in shape. GO YOU! Don’t listen to the naysayers or statisticians that poo-poo the new years resolution-ers with balloon-popping data of drop out rates, unmet goals, and more inches to the waist-line. NO, you’re going to do it! And we’re going to help! Over the next 3 months we’re going to post

tips backed by research to help you stay focused & achieve your new year goals. Plus, were going to be posting and sharing exercises & videos on our Facebook page ( to help you avoid injury.

So, without further ado….

Here are some tips from experts that REALLY WORK:

  1. Set realistic, attainable goals. If you’re learning how to play the piano, you wouldn’t set Beethoven’s 5th as your goal would you? Of course not. There’s nothing wrong with setting an easily attainable goal. Once you meet it, you’ll give yourself the feeling of accomplishment & success, and that will help build your momentum. Now set another, more challenging goal…and so on. Just like taking a flight of stairs, tackle…1… at… a… time.
  2. Have a workout buddy or partner. Lots of research says that this is the #1 factor that consistent exercisers have in common. Got an old friend or co-worker you’ve been wanting to connect with? Call them up, chances are they’ve been thinking about getting in shape too (we all do at one point or another, don’t we?). Need to mend some holiday bridges with a sibling or family member? Great opportunity to hold out an olive branch.
  3. Food journal. Simply keeping track of exactly what you’re putting in your mouth and when creates HUGE changes in your diet-research proves it. Successful programs like Weight Watchers have been doing that for years, and continue to, so it must work. But you can start simple & do it yourself: there are lots of free ones on the internet and inexpensive ones elsewhere-Wal Mart even carries one. Then the stage is set for you to begin shedding that extra weight and improving the way you look AND (more importantly) feel.
  4. Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going. If you’re reading this, you probably have the motivation, but what you need to create is the habit. Don’t look short term (“I want to lose 30# for that party coming up”) but think long term (“I want to prevent my joints from wearing out.” or “I want to not only be around for, but be physically able to play and have fun with, my grand kids.”)

Implement these tips right away and they will add to your success in the new year, I promise!


Bust Out of Your Salad Rut with These 4 Original Recipes

Radish salad

The transition of seasonal change — even though it happens every year, four times — is always a bit… funky.

Not only are you swapping out your wardrobe, adjusting to the additional hours of daylight, and digging through your storage room for dust-covered box fans, but all of a sudden your well-oiled-machine of a mealtime routine goes to pieces. Who wants slow-cooker turkey chili when it’s 75 degrees outside?

It’s time to dust off the old salad spinner, y’all. And I’ve got four fancy-feeling salads that you’ll actually be excited to dig into.

Strawberry Fields

Serves: 1  Prep Time: 15 mintues

  • 3 leaves Lacinato kale, cut into ribbons
  • 4-5 Romaine leaves, cut into ribbons
  • 4 basil leaves, cut into ribbons
  • Handful alfalfa or broccoli sprouts
  • 2 radishes, thinly sliced
  • 5-6 strawberries, quartered
  • 1/4 C walnuts
  • 1/4 C goat or cow feta crumbles
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper to taste

1. Arrange greens and sprouts in a large bowl and toss to combine.

2. Top with radish slices, berries, nuts and cheese, and drizzle vinegar and oil over everything. Season with lots of black pepper.

Spring Green Salad 

Serves: 1  Prep Time: 15 minutes

  • 2 handfuls mixed baby spinach & arugula
  • 3-4 dandelion greens, chopped
  • 2-3 romaine leaves, torn
  • Handful alfalfa sprouts
  • 5 strawberries, cut into fourths
  • 2 T goat cheese, crumbled
  • Small handful of chopped walnuts
  • Drizzle balsamic vinegar
  • Drizzle olive oil
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine greens, sprouts, and strawberries in a large bowl, toss to combine. Top with walnuts and goat cheese.

2. In a separate container, mix vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper. Take to work and dress salad just before serving.

3. To make this a bit more hearty, add some sliced turkey.

Fennel Apple Salad

Serves: 1  Prep Time: 15 minutes

  • 4 T fresh orange juice
  • 1 1/2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 3 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, thinly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch watercress, tough stems removed
  • 3 handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1/4 C chopped walnuts

1. Mix juices, oil, tarragon, mustard, and salt in a large bowl. Add salad ingredients and toss to coat.

Chard & Cherries Salad

Serves: 2  Prep time: 10 minutes

  • 1 bunch Swiss chard, shredded (you can dice the stalks if you want, or save them for stock)
  • 1 carrot, shredded
  • Big handful alfalfa sprouts
  • 3 radishes, thinly sliced
  • ½ a green apple, thinly sliced
  • ½ T nutritional yeast
  • Handful dry-roasted sunflower seeds
  • Handful dried cherries

Combine everything except the yeast & sunflower seeds in a big bowl and toss with dressing. Just before serving, sprinkle yeast & seeds.

For the dressing:

  • Equal parts apple cider vinegar & extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic
  • Dash coconut nectar (optional)
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • Sea salt & black pepper to taste

Mix it all together and enjoy. You might need to adjust the seasonings depending on how much liquid you use. This is best if you make it early and let it sit for a few days. It doesn’t need to go in the fridge.

Salad doesn’t have to be boring. You just need a little variety!

P.S. This will be my last blog post for AFF. The blog will stay live for several months to come, so you can access all of my previous posts forever and ever.

If you want to keep up with my writing, follow me on, where I’m writing about insomnia, the power of silence, Prince, and… well, whatever the fork I want.

Peace out!

Samantha Pollack, Holistic Health Coach & owner of Insider Wellness