Monday, December 28, 2009

Add Olympic Lifts to Your Workout

Olympic-style weightlifting is a long-established and commonly misunderstood form of resistance training. When performed correctly, Olympic lifts can be some of the most beneficial exercises that exist today, and may likely have a place in your regular workout routine.

What are “Olympic-Style Lifts”?

Olympic lifts are exercises where you move relatively heavy weight over your head in a quick, concise movement.

Traditionally only the snatch and the clean & jerk are considered to be Olympic lifts, as they are used for Olympic competition. In non-completive environment, however, similar lifts such as the power clean, push jerk, as well as many variations involving subtle shifts in grip and body position also qualify.

Do not be afraid!

Olympic lifts often take a backseat with the general population because of fears surrounding accidental injury. Fear not! When done correctly, Olympic-style lifts are some of the safest activities available in the weight room, including those sit-down resistance-training devices.

Olympic lifts have unique advantages: they utilize the entire body, require complete core involvement, promote strength and power development, teach you to generate force utilizing muscles in sequence, and accustom the individual to distribute and accept force correctly.

Also, the extension of the hips, knees, and ankles utilized in Olympic lifting exists in virtually all athletic activities. For those who value power production, which translates to moving quickly, jumping higher, hitting harder, and the like, Olympic lifts are right up your alley.

Before you get Started…

You need to log some serious hours training in the weight room. If it is your first week back to the gym in a few years, Olympic lifting may not be best for you. It takes a certain amount of structure (created with hypertrophy training) as well as requisite strength to perform an Olympic lift effectively. It is a good idea to become proficient in some simpler exercises that utilize the components of the Olympic lifts, like the back squat, deadlift, Romanian deadlift, bench press, and overhead press before beginning an Olympic-style routine.

Safety First!

As stated earlier, Olympic lifting, when done correctly, is a very safe activity. As with all exercise, there are risks inherent to the performance of Olympic lifts, so do your research! To mitigate the risk, ensure you put in the necessary training hours prior to beginning an Olympic program, begin with a reasonable weight, make sure you have enough room, familiarize yourself with appropriate spotting and escape techniques, and attain the correct equipment.

There is no substitute (this article included) for instruction from a qualified professional. If you are interested in learning about Olympic lifting consult a strength coach or an experienced and qualified personal trainer.

Written by Damien K. Krantz, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Detox in the New Year!

While the holiday season is full of big meals, parities, and celebrations it typically comes at a price – bigger bellies and tainted eating habits! Now that the traveling and baking have come to a hault take some time to detox your mind and body with healthier eating.

When we hear the word “detox” many of us imediately think of consuming gallons of mysteriously flavored water; or being confined to a very limited, restricted, and bad tasting diet. This is not the type of detox I am talking about. I would like to suggest a simple and healthy way to detox this New Year.

Let’s detox this January by cutting out “processed foods”. Technically speaking, most of the foods we eat are in some way processed, whether it is a pealed orange or sauted vegetables. These are not the foods I am speaking of. The “processed foods” I’m talking about are foods chemically altered through additives like preservativves, colors, fillers, flavor enhancers, etc. Cutting these foods out will force us to consume more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fresh and natural meats and poultry, and more water! While it may take your body some time to adjust, this detox is sure to help purify your body and teach healthier eating habits that can transfer into your normal daily routine.

Processed foods are typically lower in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein; and higher in harmful fats, refined sugars, and preservatives. You know the ones I’m talking about…the breakfast bars, doritos, packaged dinners, and white breads that seems to last for YEARS in your cupboard and freezer. It seems difficult to know where to start, so start by being whole food oriented. Whole foods are things like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and unprocessed meats. Things that are still in their original form. Here are some simple ways to begin cutting out processed foods throughout the day:

Instead of a bagel and cream chesse – choose – Whole grain oats with fresh fruit

Instead of a granola bar, candy, or potato chips – choose – Veggies dipped in hummus, small handful of walnuts with a piece of fruit, or baked veggie chips dipped in pure avocado guacamole.

Instead of a white bread sandwich with processed lunchmeat, cheese, mayo, and veggies – choose – Ezekiel 4:9 bread (flourless) with grilled chicken breast, avocado, mustard and veggies. Or try making a homemade soup full of fresh veggies, organic chicken or vegetable broth, whole grain brown rice, and beans/legumes.

Instead of a frozen or prepackaged dinner – choose – Frozen veggies, a whole grain (brown rice, quinoa, pearl barley), and fresh poultry or meat. Doctor it all up with herbs and spices! Or try making a delicious salad topped with fresh vegetables, black beans, corn, hard boiled egg, hazelnuts and topped with a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice.

Instead of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream - choose - Fresh or frozen berries topped with 2 Tablespoons of fresh whipped cream (sweetened with honey).

Remember that as you begin to incorporate more fruits and vegetables your fiber intake will increase significantly. Make sure you get at least 2 liters (8 cups) of water each day to ensure adequet digestion and filtering of toxins out of your body.

As you start the journey toward healthier eating this New Year remember to make small, acheivable goals. Do not expect yourself to change a lifetime of habits overnight! Start by adding one more fruit or vegetable each day and go from there.

Written by Alison Wilson
Wellness Director and Nutritionist, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Understanding the Essentials of the Lymphatic System

Lymphedema is a type of swelling that can occur anywhere in the body, but most commonly occurs in the limbs. It is often discussed in the course of care for women who have been treated for breast cancer, but it is not unique to this population. In fact, the condition is an issue for individuals with many types of cancer and also for people who have never had cancer at all. Anyone with insufficient lymph transport abilities, either because we were born that way or because we have been through medical procedures that compromised them, may develop lymphedema. The reason people who have had cancer are at increased risk is that surgeries and radiation are likely to damage nodes and lymphatic pathways.

The vessels of the lymphatic system run parallel to the blood vessels. Their job is to transport the body’s cellular waste. Lymph nodes along the way screen out the large particles. This is an important part of our body’s ability to heal localized injuries and clear infections. Lymphedema is the result of impaired transportation within this system.

Looking at traffic flow provides an excellent analogy to the problem of lymphedema. When our local highways get overloaded with cars, traffic slows, gets backed up, and then cars on the highway may exit and spill over into adjacent streets. In the case of lymphedema, the fluid traveling up through lymphatic vessels gets trapped because of insufficient pathways. Just like the traffic jam scenario, the fluid transit gets stopped and then seeps out into the nearby tissues, causing swelling.

Many people do not have full-blown cases of lymphedema, but have a tendency to have some sluggishness in their lymphatic system that is manifest as ankle swelling or other mild impaired fluid transport. There are some simple strategies we all can use to help support and enhance our lymphatic flow. Gentle exercise helps, as does one of life’s great joys: laughter!

When lymphedema occurs it is usually recognizable by chronic swelling. Sometimes people feel heaviness or a dull aching in their limb. This is not an emergency unless it is also accompanied by redness, fever, or any other signs of being ill. Even though it is not an emergency, promptly informing your healthcare provider will make it easier to address and begin to manage the situation. Untreated lymphedema worsens and has the potential to be a serious condition.

Treatment of lymphedema must be performed by professionals who have special training in evaluation and treatment of the condition. Currently, there is no nationally recognized certification process, though many institutes that train therapists issue a certificate. The people who might market themselves as lymphedema therapists are physical therapists, occupational therapists, and, occasionally, massage therapists. Massage therapists are generally not covered by insurance for treating this diagnosis, and they are not licensed to assess for range of motion deficits or give any exercise prescriptions.

A visit to a lymphedema therapist includes a thorough discussion of your history, including exercise habits, past orthopedic injuries, recent surgeries and treatments, and what your lifestyle is like in terms of hobbies, job activities, and other elements. Assessment includes range of motion, measurement and palpation of swelling, and inspection of surgical incisions. Depending on findings, patients may need treatment in the clinic or taught how to care for themselves independently. The three major elements of lymphedema treatment are lymphatic drainage massage, compression, exercise and education about self-care. Each of these elements needs to be specifically tailored to the individual.

If you are experiencing lymphatic swelling, or are at risk for the condition, make a point of learning about it from reliable sources. There are many simple strategies for managing it, and the research in the field is progressing at an exciting pace! The more you know, the better you can care for yourself.

Written by Peg Maas, PT
Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

Monday, December 21, 2009

Quick and Dirty of Stretching - Part 2

In part one of the Quick and Dirty of Stretching, the essentials of stretching were identified, marking key points to reaping the benefits of stretching. Now let’s take a look at what to stretch and where to begin?

A complete stretching routine can take as little as 10 minutes, so no excuses! The best time to perform your flexibility routine is after exercise, this being when the muscles are warmest and when you can use the relaxation after your strenuous workout. Because everybody has unique needs, a stretching routine can be designed specifically for you based on your current activities and range of motion. If you find yourself stuck on where to begin, below are basic sample stretches from head to toe, allowing a fluid transition through the routine.

Neck stretch: Lateral Flexion- Ear to shoulder:
Gently bend your neck in attempt to touch your left ear to your left shoulder. Stop when a stretch is felt in the right side of your neck and hold that position for 30 seconds. Return to starting position and repeat for the right side.

Posterior Shoulder Stretch:
Pretend you have an itch between your shoulder blades. Hold your left arm across your body and grab the back of your left elbow with your right hand. Pull the left elbow in as far as you can so that your left fingertips can reach your upper back. Repeat for the right shoulder.

Anterior Shoulder Stretch:
Hold a towel with both hands behind your back, or if you can, grab your hands with elbows extended. Now stick out your chest while you raise the towel/hands back away from your body and hold.

Chest/Biceps Stretch:
Place the palm and inner elbow of the right arm against the wall. Keeping the right arm in contact with the wall, exhale and slowly turn your body around, to feel the stretch in your biceps and chest. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the left arm against the wall.

Triceps Stretch:
Standing up straight and keep shoulders even as possible for this stretch. Bend your right arm at your elbow, lifting your arm next to your head. Position right fingers so they touch the shoulder blade area. Place your left arm across top of your head, and left hand on the right elbow to gently support the arm during this stretch. Hold and repeat for the other arm.

Back Stretch (Childs Pose):
In the kneeling position, place your arms extended out in front of you on the floor and shift your hips back towards your heals. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat if necessary.

Hip Flexor/Psoas Stretch:
Lie on your back. Bend your left leg and bring it toward you. Grasp your left knee gently with your right hand and pull it slightly down and to the right until you feel a stretch. Turn your head to the left. Your right leg should stay flat on the floor. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.

Standing Quadriceps Stretch:
Stand on one leg (grab onto something solid if you need support). Bend your knee and bring your heel toward your buttock. Reach for your ankle with your hand. Stand up straight and feel a slight pull along the front of your thigh and hip. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, release and repeat on the other leg. Be careful not to strain your knee - the goal is not to touch your heel to the buttock, but rather to stretch the thigh.

Hamstrings Stretch:
Sit on the floor with one leg straight in front of you and the other leg bent (with the sole of the foot touching the inside thigh of the outstretched leg). Keep your back straight and lean forward from the hips. Slide your arms forward toward your outstretched foot. Stop when you feel a pull in the hamstring. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg extended.

Written by Jamey Peters
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

Friday, December 18, 2009

Is the Treadmill Taking Advantage of You?

Many people love to hold on to the treadmill while running or walking, and it is common to see a gym-goer clinging on for dear life when the treadmill is revolving at top speed! But what is this really doing for you and your progress? The answer is "not a lot." In fact, it increases the risk of injury and burns fewer calories.

When you consider your normal gait while walking or running off the treadmill, you can begin to see how gripping the hand rails becomes a bad idea. With any exercise, posture is critical in avoiding injury. When you grip the handrail while running or walking, you partially raise your body from the tread. This creates a lighter body weight than what your body is used to while off the machine. While your legs wistfully work through the motions, your upper body sways to and fro, placing the shoulders in a hazardous position. This sort of behavior can lead to injury and compromise spinal alignment (especially for taller individuals) because it increases the tendency to slump over, allowing the head to jut forward. Another issue that develops from gripping the hand rail is the limitation your legs have to fully extend prior to your feet contacting the tread. This results in shorter step lengths, which most people attempt to correct by taking longer strides. By doing this they create ballistic action in the hips that raises the risk of repetitive stress and/or injuries.

The reason that you burn fewer calories while gripping the hand rails is that it eliminates a majority of the workload from the legs and shoulder girdle. If you take away the work from the legs and the gluteal muscles (the biggest muscles in the body) you decrease the total calorie burn tremendously because big muscles require more energy.

So next time you consider gripping the hand rails, just slow down, focus on your posture and reap the benefits of burning more calories. Your body will thank you later!

Written by Jamey Peters and Paul Nelson
Personal Fitness Trainers, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Yoga for Your Immune System

There is a wonderful and potent practice we often do at the end of yoga class for a few minutes. The benefits of this pose increase when we schedule an extended time to practice, and the quieting effects on our nervous systems have tremendous benefit to the health of our immune systems. The pose is: yogic relaxation or savasana. Aaaah, savasana. Different than sleep, savasana is a conscious process of connecting to the earth energy, and gradually letting go mentally and physically so that our bodies can take in the message that all is well. This message is powerfully communicated to every cell in our body, and so we leave the practice, restored and at peace; rested and uplifted. So, rather than “relaxing” by turning on the T.V. and zoning out, or with too much food or drink, try adding savasana into your daily routine.

How to Practice:
Pick a 25 minute period where you can lie down undisturbed. Lie on your back on a yoga mat or blanket. If you like, place a folded blanket under your head. If you have an eye pillow and like to use it, place it over your eyes. Lie with your knees bent, and feet wide, knees resting together, hands resting comfortably on your lower belly. Wiggle around a little until you are really comfortable.

Begin by consciously feeling gravity, the pull of the earth underneath you. One teacher I know calls gravity the earth’s love for us, pulling us closer. Sense the energy of the earth, through the floor you are lying on. Feel all the parts of your body that are touching the floor and begin to relax there. Let your eyes relax, your ears, your mouth. If you have injuries in your body, or areas of chronic holding, give them a little extra attention and cue to let go now. Feel any tension in the body, and continue to invite it to let go into the earth below you. Allow your thoughts to settle. Pay attention to your breath. Feel the spaces between the breaths, and let your mind and body rest into those gaps. Let go completely. If you fall asleep, it is okay. You probably need the rest. Just continue to stay present to your breath, your body, allowing deeper and deeper layers of letting go. If you like, you can work with an affirmation such as: “all is well.” Let your body know you are safe and supported. Feel the support of the earth, the support of the moment. Simply be.

At the end of the time, take your time opening your eyes, stretching out, and feeling the good effects of your practice.


Written by Shannon McCall
Yogi, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

Pilates for Squash Players: How to Improve Your Game

At Seattle Athletic Club, we are widely recognized for our superior squash program. More than 500 members compete in tournaments, and many people seek out our club to study with the legendary Khan family. Coincidentally, Seattle Athletic Club also has an excellent authentic Pilates program. All of the instructors have graduated from the most rigorous authentic training program, under the tutelage of master teachers hand-picked by Joseph Pilates and his protégés. The common denominator here is the availability to receive the best cross-training method in addition to the best squash instruction.

So, how can Pilates improve your squash game? Racket sports, by nature, are repeatedly one-sided. Half of the body, generally speaking, is used more than the other half. Also, the rotation required in the torso, let alone the extremities, is significant in the game of squash. Furthermore, the mental focus and physical stamina required in squash is crucial to the outcome.

Pilates is designed to work the body evenly, building strength in the torso to aide in the mobility of the entire body. A program of specific exercises will work the body more uniformly in order to prevent overdevelopment of one side. The custom Pilates workout will also strengthen the deep abdominal muscles providing a stable base from which to hit the ultimate ‘kill shot’. The range of motion through the middle of the body is improved upon during every Pilates exercise, as the core initiates all movement. The shoulders and upper back, typically a difficult region to stretch, will gain flexibility through precise movements that will subsequently enhance far-reaching swings, and your ability to reach that drop shot.

The focus required for your Pilates workout will increase your focus on the court. The ability to decelerate in your Pilates workout in order to develop the specificity of the work, will inherently improve your concentration in any fast paced sport. You will, perhaps, be able to anticipate and prepare shots that were once more hurried and less skillful. Also, the breath control that is essential to your Pilates workout, will enhance your innate ability to find that last energetic lungful in order to successfully complete the game.

The benefits of Pilates will follow you through your daily routine, condition your body so that you stay injury-free, and will clearly aide in the mastering of your chosen sport. Squash is a challenging game of athleticism, and Pilates is clearly a ‘straight drive’ to your success!

Written by Amy Sommer, Pilates Instructor
Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Keeping Kids Active Indoors

Winter is upon us and that means freezing rain, wind and snow. Unpredictable weather like this can make it unbearable for kids to play outdoors as often. You may hear your kids say, “There is nothing to do” or “I am bored”. On the contrary, there are many fun activities to do indoors. These cold months can be a great way to spend some quality time with the family and get kids to use their imaginations and be creative.

According to the American Heart Association, exercise and increased physical activity are important for kids not only for decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, such as obesity and diabetes, but physical activity promotes overall physical, psychological and social benefits.

It is recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine that kids get at least of 30 minutes a day of physical activity. This can be broken up into 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon, not all at once. One way you can make this fun for them, is to join in and be a role model. The more you are active with them and physical activity is valued, they will see the importance and start forming healthy habits. They look up to you, so be the change you want for them. The old adage holds true, “Like mother like daughter”. Still stuck? Here are some idea’s!

Indoor Activities at Home
• Build indoor forts with blankets, pillows and cushions. Gather empty cardboard boxes and let their imaginations run with it.
• Play “Follow the Leader” and lead them up the stairs, crab walk on the floor, jumping jacks and hopscotch, etc.
• “Duck-Duck-Goose” and “Musical Chairs” are fun with a few extra kids in the house.
• Hoola Hoop.
• Invest in a WiiFit.
• Have a Dance Party. (My girl’s favorite.) Make a dance routine to a favorite song.
• Play “Charades”. There is so much energy and fun trying to act out animals and objects.
• Have a Scavenger Hunt.
• Get creative and create an obstacle course for the family.
• Play Dress Up.
• Clean out a clothes closet or toy closet and donate any extras to charity.
• Set up a mini bowling alley or golf course in your basement or garage.
• House work help can be fun with music.
• Practicing T-Ball with squishy Nerf balls by hitting them against the garage walls.
• Play indoor soccer or hockey by setting up plastic cones or anything around as goals.

Indoor Activities away from Home
• Visit an indoor swimming pool for swimming or take swim lessons.
• Rock Climbing Gym
• Roller Skating Rink
• Ice Skating
• Check out your local gym youth programs.
• The library and library activities.
• Go to the movies.
• Go to the Mall and walk around.

Written by,
Crystal Kennedy
Seattle Athletic Club - Northgate
Wellness Director