Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Great Health and Fitness Information by Seattle Health and Fitness Professionals

If you haven't jumped over to our new blogs, we've posted a lot of great material. Use the links below to stay connected with our professionals.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New Blog for Seattle Health and Fitness Professionals

Over the summer we have been working on creating a better blog experience to share with our readers. The new blog runs on a WordPress foundation to allow many new enhancements that should make searching, indexing and finding specific information much easier. Whatever your interest, whatever your goals, we are sure you will find a wealth of information surrounding numerous health and fitness topics on our new blog.

We invite you to visit, share and connect to the new blogs at:
We hope you enjoy all of the great new features and we look forward to hearing your comments and answering your questions.

Be sure to visit our Twitter (SACDT) (SACNG), Facebook pages (Downtown - Northgate) and YouTube Channel too.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tips to Become a Successful Multisport Athlete: #3 Comparisons

It's all about competition right? So many athletes think that one “less than perfect” practice means they are not progressing. Once again comparing yourself to others on the track, at a bike ride, etc. really should not mean anything to you, or your coach. If you are following your game plan then you should reach your "A" race prepared and ready. If you are chasing down someone in training to get the “win “ for the day, then you are venturing from your plan and possibly causing interruption to the weeks workouts ahead. Compare yourself to YOU, by following your training journal and listening to your coach.

If you are interested in beginning training, or you are ready to take your training to the next level, contact Teresa Nelson to begin.

Written by Teresa Nelson
USAT Level II Triathlon Coach, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tips to Become a Successful Multisport Athlete: #2 Following Their Plan

Following their plan
Coaching a team is fun, but an athlete comparing themselves on a daily basis to their team mates is super detrimental, more mentally than anything. A coach prescribes a program for YOU as the athlete, if another athlete is doing more volume in their training, then that is what their coach feels they need. Don't measure your training program against another athlete's without fully understanding the coaches goals for them. More is not always better and the coach is considering several other factors when designing each athlete’s schedule. So it is best to follow your plan, your heart rate and your workout goals. Stay focused and don't be concerned about what others are doing.

If you are interested in beginning training, or you are ready to take your training to the next level, contact Teresa Nelson to begin.

Written by Teresa Nelson
USAT Level II Triathlon Coach, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Monday, September 20, 2010

Stress, Hormones and It’s Effects

Beginning our day with a calm relaxed mind has many advantages as we all know. But in order to see these advantages we need to understand the drawbacks and workings of a non-calmed mind. In essence, a non calmed mind is a stressed mind. Stressors happen daily, whether it is subconscious or conscious and the way that we deal with these stressors can have a big impact on our body, especially when we are attempting to reach a certain goal. When the body is stressed it cannot perform optimally, and many of its thoughts will produce negative reactions and responses to various stimuli within our body which a calmed, stress-free mind would otherwise be able to handle in a more controlled and logical fashion.

The interesting fact is that stress actually changes your body’s chemistry. Trying to put up or deal with stress results in a chemical change that may be quick to pass or could possibly take many weeks, depending on which way your body wants to fight it. In the struggle to gain strength, lose weight or perform at our optimal level, stress is a major factor that needs some consideration. Understanding how to handle stress is very important to achieve the fitness level and physique that you desire.

During stressful situations our body releases two hormomes; fast-acting Adrenaline and long-lived Cortisol. The short term response to body stressors is the release of massive amounts of Adrenaline; which acts to increase your heart rate and breathing like when you are scared or surprised. For our long-term reaction to stress that occur on a daily basis, the body uses a hormone called cortisol, which enters our bloodstream at a slower pace. Once cortisol is present in our body, it slows our metabolism down and may take months or even years to remove its excessive effects. One important fact to know is that cortisol is closely associated with belly fat, which leads to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other health related issues. Life is becoming more and more stressful as an American and in return our bodies are producing more and more cortisol. People are eating more starchy processed foods only contributing to the obesity epidemic we are facing today.

Its not only our daily stressors that affect us, we even stress when we sleep, making it more difficult to function the next day. Several hours before you get up in the morning, a very tiny portion of your brain, sends a signal to stimulate your adrenal glands which causes a slight rise in adrenaline. And further more after you have awakened, cortisol levels begin to rise. Most heart attacks and strokes occur between 6 am and 8 am in the morning and are often related to the increased rise of cortisol. It is obvious that getting cortisol under control is of a major importance for a healthy fit individual.

Cortisol is usually at its highest level a few hours after you wake. Over a period of time through the day, your levels decrease. This can answer the age-old question of the when is the best time to exercise. Mornings are optimal as your cortisol levels are high and you have the best chance to suppress them at this time. Nothing like releasing a little tension by lifting weights or taking a class!

We all have specific goals we want to achieve, and a general direction we want our lives to head in. If we are running around stressed, frustrated, dishonest, with forced anger and violent actions pressed on others, how can we remain focused and calm enough to accomplish our own life's goals?

This becomes more important when trying to achieve physique related goals. Anytime a goal is set with a stressed or disorganized mind, you can expect to struggle whether you know it or not. Some of the obvious steps to controlling stress are associated with simplifying your life. Putting too much on your daily schedule is a sure way to make life too difficult. There is no question that some people seem to handle stress much better than others, but it is a constant work in progress. Life is too short to walk around stressed out, so try taking a look at your daily habits by organizing your day. Try adding things to help combat stress can help fight these effects; taking a quick vacation, exercising, taking a nap, or doing anything that helps you to relax and feel good, will likely result in a decrease of cortisol!

Written by Christine Moore
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Tips to Become a Successful Multisport Athlete: #1 Consistency

There have been a handful of commonalities I have seen in athletes throughout 9 years of coaching that have lead to some reaching success or their goals sooner than others. Not one tip makes an athlete better than another, it is just a common base of similarities that has been recognized amongst athletes.

Making your training a priority regularly, starting early with base building and continually making your training a habit has lead to many athletes reaching their successes. Several athletes use the procrastination technique due to online programs such as 12 weeks to your first half ironman and such, and as this does get many to the starting line it is eliminating the importance of base training and there is very little room for error with such a short time frame (ie: illness, injury, etc.). When an athlete has been training consistently, lost time tends to have little to no effect on their performance due to the solid base they have established with their base training methodology.

If you are interested in beginning training, or you are ready to take your training to the next level, contact Teresa Nelson to begin.

Written by Teresa Nelson
USAT Level II Triathlon Coach, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

TRX Suspension Training: Overhead Lunge

Personal Fitness Trainer Katrina Yniguez demonstrates the TRX Burpie. The TRX Suspension trainer is a great tool that provides you with a total body workout using your own body weight.

If you are looking to join the movement and begin training with the TRX Suspension trainer today, contact Katrina Yniguez for more information on how to get started.

Demonstrated by Katrina Yniguez
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Pilates Exercise of the Month: The Seal

Purpose: To massage the spinal muscles, work the powerhouse and test balance and coordination. It is often done at or near the end of a mat routine.
  1. Sit at the front of your mat with your knees bent to your chest and heels together. Open your knees to shoulder width. Hands reaching through the legs to hold outside of ankles.
  2. Tip back and balance on your tailbone. Bring your feet just above the mat. Keep the knees within your frame; scoop the navel deeper.
  3. Inhale, roll back, pulling your feet with you. Balance on the base of the shoulder blades. Allow your legs to extend slightly until your feet are over your head- (head stays on mat). Clap the heels 3 times (like a seal clapping its’ flippers).
  4. Exhale as you roll forward to the starting position, tucking your chin into your chest. Balance and clap the heels together 3 times. Your heels should not touch the mat.
  5. Repeat 5-8 times; feeling the massage up and down the muscles of your back.

  • Maintain a constant C curve of the spine.
  • Never roll onto your head, neck or shoulders…only the base of the shoulder blade.
  • Initiate rolling back from the powerhouse not from the head.
  • Avoid hunching shoulders and tilting head back.
  • Don’t use momentum when rolling up. Roll up slightly slower than you rolled back to challenge the abs.

Note: Omit this exercise if you have an acute back injury. Proceed with caution if you have a delicate wrist or elbow.

Modification: You can begin without the claps and successively add 1,2, then 3 clapls as balance improves.

Visualization: Imagine you are on a rocker, balancing on the edges of both the front and back; trying not to tip over in either direction.

Written by Jocelyn Paoli
Stott Certified Pilates Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Friday, September 10, 2010

Heave and Ho - What are Sandbags Doing in the Gym?

Sandbags, what and why is this in the gym and not at a construction site? Sandbags (which are literally just bags filled with sand) are an old school tool that are getting a lot of new publicity as of lately. You see them being used by NFL players, by UFC fighters, by that guy at the park. Why are these bags so utilized by highly powerful athletes and those looking to gain that explosive edge?

Here are just a few reasons to use a sandbag instead of a conventional dumbbell or barbell:
  1. Because the bags are filled with sand the weight is constantly varied and no rep will feel the same. As the weight moves around in the bag you'll have to balance it out as you move explosively through exercises.
  2. Balance, ripping a 45lb bag filled with loose sand off the floor to your chest will require much more full body balance and coordination than a unified barbell would.
  3. Real world training. It's cool to bicep curl 50lbs but if you are looking to gain an athletic advantage on the soccer field (increasing your take off speed, jumping, quick turns, etc) or looking to be able to work in the yard without throwing out your back every other weekend, you'll find that sandbags are as real as it gets.
  4. Unique exercises, sandbags are diverse and will challenge you with full body power movements as well as with stretching and core work. The possibilities are endless with this tool.
  5. Fun! The bags are diverse, challenging, and can be used just about anywhere. You can build an intense workout with 4 basic exercises, sounds more fun than sitting on benches doesn't it?!

Sandbags will push you to find new ways to use your legs and arms as one powerful unit and help you build full body strength. Give it a try, pick up a bag and see how unique it is. This is one time you won’t get in trouble for throwing sand around!

To learn more about sandbag training contact Personal Fitness Trainer, Adriana Brown by phone at 443-1111 ext. 273.

Written by Adriana Brown
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Losing Weight Safely

It is safe to say that a majority of our population today is looking to lose weight, but most are unsure of how to go about doing so. Whether it may be a few pounds or 30, most are striving to get to a place where they are comfortable, confident and healthy. Unfortunately, this leaves many turning to fad diets and/or extreme exercise measures to drop the pounds quick. While you may lose weight initially, you are actually doing yourself more harm than good. There is no supplement, no magical device and no “fad diet” to help you lose weight. The safest and best way is tried and true…through nutrition and caloric expenditure.

Many gym goers believe that weight loss is 80% what you do in the gym and 20% of what you put in your mouth. This is the first mistake many people make. If you would like to see any substantial change in your physique, nutrition is one of the most important factors to the equation. Getting your nutrition under control should be your top priority, followed by your daily exercise.

Weight loss is an equation, we burn a certain number of calories per day based on our metabolic rates. Calories come in through the fuel we feed ourselves and calories are expended either through exercise or everyday functions and daily living. The goal in this equation is to consistently make a big enough deficit in our caloric intake/output to then yield a lower number on your scale. Sound confusing? Well by numbers it is actually much easier than you think!

The first thing we need to find is your RMR* (resting metabolic rate) or how many calories your body burns in a day. You also have to determine what rate you would like to lose weight, I would recommend to achieve safe and permanent weight loss stick to .5-2lbs per week, meaning you need to create a deficit in calories through diet, exercise or both and consistently stick to that deficit.

So, since 1lb=3500 calories…
  • To lose .5lbs/wk you must make a deficit of 250 cals/day
  • To lose 1lb/wk you must make a deficit of 500 cals/day
  • To lose 2lbs/wk you must make a deficit of 1000 cals/day

Take and utilize the following example to jump start your own weight loss! So let’s say I want to lose 2lbs per week and my RMR=2300 cals/day. I would need to make a 1000 calorie deficit per day in order to stay consistent with my weight loss. Cutting 1000 calories out of our diet would be a bold task, the safest way to make this deficit is to cut back on food intake while also supplementing with exercise.

On days that I exercise I will strive to burn at least 400 calories (which is equal to about 40 minutes of moderate intensity exercise) this will allow me to only have to cut 600 calories out of my diet.

After taking my RMR I have found that I expend approximately 2300 calories per day. Our equation would look something like this…
  • RMR=2300 cals so to create a 1000 calorie deficit I must subtract 400 cals(from exercise)-600 cals(through diet) to equal 1000 calories expended.
  • So now that we have our deficit we can determine how many calories we should eat per day. We do this by taking our RMR and subtracting our 600 calories we will cut out of our diet to contribute to the deficit.
    • RMR=2300 cals-600 cals(through diet)=1700 calories total to consume/day.

On days that I do not exercise I have to be cautious to still maintain a deficit making it a little more difficult if I wanted to stick to my 1000 calorie deficit. This would mean I would have to limit my intake to 1300 calories on those days; although you may choose to consume slightly more as long as you stay within a deficit you should not gain weight.

Getting a grip on your nutrition will not only help yield promising results but will also give yourself a sense of empowerment knowing that you are in control of your results. You might find that the simple act of being aware of how much is going in and what effort is being expended will make you feel better in its own. Now granted there are a number of other factors that can go into weight loss, this is one of the safest tools you can use when it comes to planning out your weight loss safely and remember it is always a good idea to speak to a physician first before you begin any weight loss program! If you have any questions on how to set up an RMR test or how to get started on your weight loss program please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Christine Moore at 206-443-1111 x292.

Written by Christine Moore
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

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Monday, September 6, 2010

Yoga Pose of the Month: Natarajasana

Nata= actor, mime, dancer
Raja= king

This beautiful back bending pose is a classic, seen not only in many yoga styles, but also in classical India artwork. It is a pose dedicated to the god, Shiva, the Lord of the Dance and seen often in graphic depictions of him. You too can feel like a kingly dancer, or at least 10 times more energized when you do Dancer Pose correctly. Its many benefits include, stretching the chest, shoulders, quads, and abdomen. This pose strengthens your ankles, and whole leg, while honing your balance and focus skills.

Get into the Groove
  1. I know you are developing your yoga practice from not only reading this wonderful blog, but also by taking regular classes with our fantastic SAC teachers!! Right!! So, that said, please do some Surya A and B warm up before attempting this challenging backward bending pose.
  2. After warm up, come to the top of your mat and shift your weight onto the right foot. Bend right knee, and grasp the foot in a classic “runner’s” quad stretch pose. If you find it a struggle to easily grab your foot, please grab a towel or strap for the rest of the exercise.
  3. Allow your pelvic bone to drop and tilt forward, this will stretch the quad more deeply and prevent pinching your low back as you back bend. Hold this simple stretch for 5 breaths.
  4. Before going further, keep your pelvic bone dropped, AND lift your chest up to your chin. Then you can proceed into a backbend by leaning slightly forward, and kicking the weight of your foot into your hand and continuing to lengthen your foot and hand upward.
  5. If you feel any pinching, stop, grab a strap and use this excellent tool to ease into Dancer till your quads, pectoral’s and mid back are more open.
  6. GO SLOW. A lot of folks slam themselves into poses, and they are designed to be meditative, thoughtful and well, dancer like. If you find yourself rushing into Dancer or any pose, stop. Are you breathing? Are you struggling to go further than your muscles will allow at this time? Remember, yoga is NOT a competitive sport, but a wonderfully challenging way to integrate breath and body to enhance a healthy mind and body. Stay in Dancer about 10 breaths, then switch.

Counter Poses/Modifications Forward bending with slightly bent knees, or “soft” knees, or a supine twist are great counter poses to Dancer. Also, if you are still feeling vibrant, a headstand or one leg stretched forward, balance ( Eka Pada Hasta Padagustasana) are excellent ways to balance Dancer. If you need to modify, grab a strap and lasso your lifted foot with it. Also, standing near a wall and using it for support is a great way to train yourself to balance. You can also do this pose with a buddy, who can hold you. As always, all poses are best learned under the guidance of a certified yoga teacher. We have so many excellent teachers at SAC to choose from. You can always talk to me in one of my classes, Mondays and Tuesdays.

Tonja Renee Hall
Is a yoga instructor at Seattle Athletic Club Downtown, and for professional sports teams. She uses her 10 years teaching experience here, internationally and in many disciplines of dance, cycling sports, and equestrian sports to inform her teaching. She uses humor and discipline to encourage her students to reach for their personal best. To schedule a private yoga lesson, please refer to her website or contact Anna Miller, Group Fitness Director at Seattle Athletic Club Downtown. Her favorite color right now is orange, and she can’t get enough of this sun!!!

Written by Tonja Renee Hall
Yoga Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Friday, September 3, 2010

TRX Suspension Training: Burpie Exercise Video

Personal Fitness Trainer Katrina Yniguez demonstrates the TRX Burpie. The TRX Suspension trainer is a great tool that provides you with a total body workout using your own body weight.

If you are looking to join the movement and begin training with the TRX Suspension trainer today, contact Katrina for more information on how to get started.

Demonstrated by Katrina Yniguez
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Training to be the Perfect Athlete

When the word “athletic” comes to mind I envision an individual who is competent in all aspects of fitness (strength, flexibility, endurance, agility and coordination). Though excelling at all of these is a rare and difficult task, being competent in each of them builds an amazing foundation for a healthy and active life.

On the other end of the spectrum, neglecting one or more of these components can be a detriment to your performance and health. Being incredibly strong but inflexible is the cause of many overuse injuries (tendonitis, arthritis, etc). Being flexible and lacking strength can lead to the exact same ailments. Concentrating on endurance alone (i.e.: running or swimming) without a proper base of strength and flexibility will cause hormone imbalances and will wreak havoc on your joints.

Through creating a foundation in all these areas seems difficult, but here at the Seattle Athletic Club we offer a myriad of classes and opportunities to become the “Perfect Athlete”. With a wide variety of group classes, you can easily add several tools to your fitness arsenal with no additional cost. If you want to take things to the next level, any of our highly qualified Personal Fitness Trainers can help you fill in any gaps you may have in your regimen.

Here are a few examples of how to develop each component.
  • Weight Training
  • Bodyweight Exercises
  • Resistance Bands
  • Yoga
  • Pilates

  • Yoga
  • Band Stretching
  • Pilates
  • Active Range of Motion (Leg swings, etc)

  • Running
  • Rowing
  • Swimming
  • Circuit Training
  • Spinning
  • Martial Arts
  • Squash

Agility + Coordination
  • Squash
  • Basketball
  • Jump Rope
  • Olympic Lifting
  • Martial Arts

If you have any questions or want more information please take advantage of our educated staff to help guide you with your fitness needs.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Get Started Jump Roping: Learning the Ropes

In this video, Martial Arts Director Jody Garcia talks about how to begin jump roping and demonstrates some basic technique to use in your exercise routines.

Demonstrated by Jody Garcia
Martial Arts Director, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Friday, August 27, 2010

What is Sciatica?

Sciatica is a set of symptoms including pain that may be caused by general compression and/or irritation of one of five nerve roots that give rise to the sciatic nerve or by compression or irritation of the sciatic nerve itself.

Generally speaking it is pain in the lower back, glutes, leg and foot. The pain may be in one of those places or all of them and can be mild or very severe. Someone with Sciatica may also feel numbness, and may experience muscular weakness causing difficulty moving or controlling the leg. Typically the symptoms are on one side of the body.

Although sciatica is a relatively common form of low back pain and leg pain, the true meaning of the term is often misunderstood. Sciatica is a set of symptoms rather than a diagnosis for what is irritating the root of the nerve, causing the pain. This point is important, because treatment for sciatica or sciatic symptoms will often be different, depending upon the underlying cause of the symptoms.

What are the causes of Sciatica?
The number one cause of Sciatica is a disc herniation – A condition where two vertebrae’s are compressed together forcing the jelly like cushioning to bulge out from in between the vertebrae’s. There are others causes though, such as:
  • Spinal Stenosis - A condition due to narrowing of the spinal cord causing nerve pinching which leads to persistent pain in the buttocks, limping, lack of feeling in the lower extremities, and decreased physical activity.

  • Spondylolisthesis refers to the forward slip of a vertebra over the one beneath. There is different grades of this, which explains why some people don’t have pain with this condition.

  • Pregnancy - Weight gain, uterus growth, ligaments and joints relaxing due to hormonal changes, cause shift in the pelvis, which can in turn cause compression on the sciatic nerve.

  • Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Dysfunction – SI Joint becomes inflamed; the portion of the sciatic nerve running in front of the joint will become irritated.

  • Piriformis Syndrome - is a condition due to an over active Piriformis causing compression on the Sciatic nerve.

  • Daily Habits and Activity – Daily activities can cause overuse of the Piriformis muscle or place more stress on the joints, which can cause added compression or irritation to the sciatic nerve.

Can sciatica be cured?
There is no cure for sciatica. You can relieve the symptoms to the point you don’t have any more pain or discomfort though a series of stretching and exercises. However, these symptoms may come back depending on the cause of sciatica. The best thing to do is, once the symptoms are relieved continue with the stretching exercises prescribed by your doctor or physical therapist. This will help in future prevention of the symptoms of sciatica to come back.

What can I do to relieve the symptoms?
Depending on what is causing sciatica depends on the treatment. There are many different forms of treatment that your doctor will prescribe to you depending on the cause of sciatica. Below are different approaches that may help to relieve symptoms. In most cases many of these will help. Always ask your doctor before beginning any form of treatment though.

Below is a list of treatments and description of each, try the least evasive forms of treatment first.
  • Stretching Exercises – Though a series of stretches for the hips and back you may relieve the symptoms of sciatica. This will help to relax the over active muscles compressing on the sciatic nerve.

  • Physical Therapy – Will rehabilitate the herniated disc or the over active muscles as well as give you a program to follow to prevent recurrent flare-ups and compression on the sciatic nerve. This program will help you to strengthen the muscles supporting your back, stretch the over active muscles, and improve the posture, which can cause the compression on the nerve roots.

  • Massage Therapy – Massage therapy along with trigger point therapy is a great way to help alleviate the symptoms of sciatica by getting the muscles around the area to relax releasing the compression on the nerves.

If these forms of treatment do not relieve the sciatica symptoms, then trying these more aggressive forms of treatment.
  • Non-Surgical spinal decompression - this technique is great for those with herniated or bulging disc that are causing the sciatic symptoms. It gently separates the vertebrae from each other, creating a vacuum inside the discs that we are targeting. This moves the herniated or bulging disc into the inside of the disc, off the nerve root. Eliminating the symptoms of sciatica.

  • Medications – you may be prescribed anti-inflammatory medicine to reduce the inflammation of the muscles that are creating sciatica along with a muscle relaxer to allow the muscle to relax. If you have a lot of pain a pain killer (narcotic) may be used for short term relief. In some instances your doctor may inject a corticosteroid medication into the affected area to help relieve pain.

  • Surgery - in some severe cases, this is an option when the compression is causing excessive weakness, loss of bowel or bladder control, and when the pain is progressively getting worse, even following all other treatment options.

What are some Exercises and Stretches I can do at home?
  • Low Back Stretch – Start by lying on your back pulling one or both knees to your chest holding for 30 seconds

  • Lumbar Rotation – Lie on your back with both knees bent, hands and arms making a “T” shape, drop your knees to the side, keeping your feet flat on the ground the whole time. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

  • Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch – Start by kneeling on the floor, place left foot in front creating a 90degree angle. Press hips forward while engaging the left glute to help the left hip flexor relax. Hold 30 seconds and repeat on the right side.

  • Piriformis Stretch – Lie on your back cross the left knee over the right, raising the knees and pulling across the midline of the body. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

  • Lat Stretch – Start by sitting on your heels. Keeping the hips on the heels, walk the hands out in front stretching though the back only as far as out as you can go while maintaining hips on heels. Hold for 30 seconds.

  • Marching - Start by lying on your back, placing your heels on the floor at a 90degree angle from your hips. Holding that angle as if in a cast, raise your knee up slightly past perpendicular to your hips maintaining that 90degree angle, lower and repeat 10-15 reps.

  • Clam Shells – Start by lying on your side in a fetal position, knees bent to almost 90degrees. Roll your hips forward so that the top hip and knee is slightly in front of your bottom hip and knee. With out rocking your hips backward and keeping your heels together, raise your top knee only as far up as you can with out changing the position of your hips.

  • Quadruped - Start out on your hands and knees by placing your hands directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Raise your left leg straight back pushing your heel toward the wall, while raising your right arm straight out keeping it as close to the ear as possible. Hold this for 5 seconds, lower and repeat on the other side, 8-12 reps on each side.

  • Swimming – Start by lying on your stomach placing hands out in front of you. Raise your left leg and right arm, and lifting chest off the ground, keeping the neck in neutral position, hold for 3 seconds, lower and repeat on the other side, 8-12 reps on each side. REMEMBER do not jerk your body into position only as far as you can controllably raise your chest, arm, and leg.

  • Bridge – Start by lying on your back, knees bent at a 90degree angle, feet flat on the ground. Squeeze the glute muscles, keeping the abs engaged, lift the hips up off the ground. Hold for 5 seconds, lower and repeat for 10-15 reps.

  • Pelvic Tilts – Start by lying on your back, knees bent at a 90degree angle, feet flat on the ground. Place your hands on your hips and tilt hips forward, (think about taking your hip bones and moving them to touch your leg bones). It is important to remember to not use your back muscles to create an arch in your bag, but instead using your deep core muscles to move your hips. Then tilt your hips backward (think about taking your hip bones and moving them to touch your rib cage.) It is important again to remember to use your deep core muscles to move your hips rather then squeezing your glutes to move your hips.

For a more detailed view of the Sciatic Nerve see the below pictures.

A couple of years ago I injured my back while training for a marathon. Initially I thought rest and ice would take care of it – it didn’t. I tried going to a chiropractor with no relief. Eventually, my doctor sent me to physical therapy where I received ultrasound treatments and was taught various stretching and strengthening exercises. The PT provided some relief, but I was still frustrated at my lack of progress as I had a nearly constant nagging pain, especially when I sat for long periods.

I spent a lot of time self-diagnosing. An article in a running magazine suggested that one common cause of lower back pain in runners was an injury to the piriformus muscle in the lower back and buttocks. It quite literally is described as a “pain in the butt.” I decided this must be it. At the end of 2009, I started working with Katrina Yniguez at SAC. I explained to her my desire to get back to running, and my belief that my piriformus was causing my back pain.

Katrina conducted an assessment of my biomechanics and immediately prescribed some corrective exercises for my leg and back muscles. She also started me foam-rolling (deep tissue massage) my piriformus muscle and other muscle groups. At first I thought she was crazy as the exercises she had me doing were very easy and seemingly unrelated to my back. Katrina explained, however, that strengthening these muscle groups would improve my biomechanics and ultimately reduce the risk for future injury. I persisted.

Eventually, Katrina stopped being crazy and started being just plain mean. Although always pleasant and upbeat, she had obviously decided at some point that the corrective exercises were not needed anymore, and it was time to start the hard stuff. Now, twice a week, she puts me through my paces with core-focused exercises that primarily work my back, legs and chest. I never look forward to the tough workouts, but I always am glad that I did them after they are through. The good news? My back pain is almost completely gone and, when it occasionally returns, I know exactly what to do to get rid of it. I’m now back to regular running, pain-free.

I appreciate Katrina’s ability to listen to what I thought was happening to my body and to design a program that would target the needed areas. It has been great working with her. She is great to work with an always has a positive attitude, and I’ve discovered she’s not really that mean (well, she kind of is).

Matthew D. Latimer

If you would like to begin developing a training program to assist with your specific situation, please contact Katrina Yniguez.

Written by Katrina Yniguez
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Swimming: How is Your Side Breathing Technique?

One of the biggest stumbling blocks in swimming is learning how to side breathe correctly. Many swimmers have a fear of drowning, but once they overcome that fear, they can work on relaxation, buoyancy, and increasing their distance.

Proper side breathing technique is when there is a turning of the body or rotation on it's axis that enables the mouth to be turned out of the water rather than lifted out to breathe. If you find that you are lifting your mouth out of the water, you will have the negative effect of adding drag by the sinking the lower body.

Proper breathing technique should allow you to inhale through your open mouth, and exhale through your nose. While your face is in the water, expel about 95% of your air supply under water. As you begin rotating, expel the remaining air out your nose. By releasing most but not all of your air prior to turning, you now have allowed the short amount of time that your face is now out of the water to inhale a good supply of air, rather than exhale and inhale in the limited amount of time due to your arm strokes. Don't be afraid to take a larger breath. A large breath allows your body to relax a little longer while performing an exhaustive athletic event.

Another important piece for efficient side breathing is the direction that you face to breathe. Looking behind you under your arm at a 45 degree angle creates a cove that the oncoming water moves around, rather than allowing water to be directed into your mouth. By looking under your arm and keeping your ear in the water, helps you to maintain the proper streamline position of your body while moving through the water smoothly.

Lastly, we should discuss the use of the off hand (the left hand for those that breathe on their right). As the off hand begins to drop (initiating the pull), the head should begin to rotate. The off hand is used in a supportive role, not aiding the rotation of the head. The longer the pull of the arms, the greater the breath and the more relaxed you should be.

If you have any questions about side breathing technique, or any other swimming related question, please feel free to contact me.

Written by Dan Lavin
Aquatics Director, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Debunking Pilates Myths

It’s expensive
A one-on-one session is a great way to start your Pilates training, but when you learn your routine, you can work out with a partner or small group to cut costs.

It’s only for women
Joseph Pilates was a man, and he created a system of exercise meant for every body, male or female. Pilates requires concentration, focus, coordination and agility.

It’s repetitive
Pilates builds a foundation of core strength, and that requires some deep, precise, consistent work. Only after your core is established and muscles correctly firing can you move on to the more complicated, advanced Pilates exercises. So yes, Pilates can seem repetitive in the beginning. But be patient! Your repertoire will expand as you become stronger and are able to demonstrate control in your body.

It’s only for dancers
Joseph Pilates was not a dancer; he was a boxer and wrestler, studied yoga and gymnastics. When Joseph and his wife Clara set up shop in New York City, George Balanchine sent many dancers to Pilates to rehabilitate their ballet injuries. The news of a workout that promoted strength with stretch spread quickly through the dance community, and has been popular ever since. However, Pilates is beneficial for all populations.

It’s easy
Pilates can be modified to accommodate nearly any injury, but true Pilates, once the basic concepts are understood, is challenging to the most fit person.

Written by Danielle Zack
Pilates Director, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Plyometric Safety: Before You Jump

Plyometrics refers to exercises that enable a muscle to reach maximal strength in as short a time as possible. It is the link between strength and power and if trained properly enables an athlete to reach peak physical condition. If you play an explosive sport such as basketball, tennis or soccer, plyometrics will take your athleticism to the next level and allow you to produce the power necessary to excel. If you are looking to take your training to the next level and not necessarily training for a specific sport incorporating plyometrics will definitely help but it is crucial that you are smart about it. More injuries in plyometric training occur if the athlete is not properly prepared.

Safety Considerations to think about prior to starting your plyometric training:
  • First and foremost the athlete must have a solid base of strength conditioning. It is recommended by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) that one is able to perform a one repetition squat at a weight 1.5-2.5 times that of their bodyweight and bench press a weight 1-1.5 times their bodyweight. Not having the proper strength base is a direct path to injury. Plyometrics not only stress the muscles and tendons but the central nervous system as well. This results for the need of longer rest periods and having the foundation of strength to support your joints when performing these drills. Are you set for landing? Landing without allowing your joints to collapse is a direct link to a strong base of strength. This and possible abnormalities of the spine or body structure needs to be considered.
  • What exactly are you training for? Make sure the plyometric drill(s) you are performing have a correlation to the sport or movement that you desire to be more powerful. For example a tennis player would get more benefit from side to side movements where a basketball player would benefit more from bounding type exercises and vertical jumps.
  • Make sure you have the right gear when performing the drills. Proper footwear with good ankle and arch support is important and depending on the drills, lateral stability is important in a good shoe as well.
This is just scratching the surface of plyometric training and all that is involved. When starting your program; warm up, intensity, frequency, rest periods are all components that need to be planned out to ensure you train properly. If you are thinking about adding plyometrics to your workouts, be sure to meet with a personal trainer who can guide you in the safest and most efficient direction.

Written by Dana Lauren
Fitness Director, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Bullies and the Victims – Pecs vs. Traps

Ever wonder why your shoulders feel so achy and tense? Several reasons are probably at play, with two likely culprits being less-than-perfect posture (shoulders rounded forward, slumped posture) and tight pectoral muscles. Nearly every client that walks through my door has tight shoulders AND tight pecs! The shoulder muscles are the “victims” while the pectoral muscles are the “bullies”. The shoulders won't loosen up until you also loosen the chest muscles. A great way to get your shoulders to loosen up a bit is to do this chest stretch several times a day:

  • Stand in a doorway facing perpendicular to wall. Place inside of bent arm on surface of wall. Position bent elbow at shoulder height.
  • Turn body away from positioned arm. Hold stretch. Repeat with opposite arm. Upper chest becomes more stretched with elbow lower. Lower chest and pectoralis minor become more stretched with elbow higher.

Another very effective way to slowly change posture is to gain some body awareness. Several times a day (the more the better!) while you are at work, on the couch, driving, etc, check in with your body and see where your shoulders are at. Take a deep breath or two and let your shoulders drop down and back into a more relaxed posture. We all have a tendency to pull our shoulders up towards our ears when we are stressed or tired.

A combination of regular postural work, stretching, exercise (especially core strengthening work) and massage can result in a significant reduction in pain and tension in your body! Give it a try!

Written by Allyson Madera
Licensed Massage Practitioner, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Jumping Rope

If you’re looking for simple, effective cardio that you can do almost anywhere then jumping rope is the solution for you. A jump rope is all you need to improve endurance, speed, posture or just burn lots of calories and lose weight. Before you just pick up a jump rope and go to it, its important to learn the proper technique, have a plan and don’t overdo it.

True beginners should choose a beaded rope for the first time. This will be slower and easier to get a rhythm down before you move on to a lightweight speed rope. Determine the correct length for your height by standing on the rope with both feet and pulling it up to your armpits. Warm up with a slow jog in place before starting to jump. Stretch your calves before and after jumping to prevent injury and soreness. When jumping keep the elbows close to the sides, hold the handles with a firm grip and make small circles with the wrist, not the arms. Focus on an object straight ahead and keep your head erect with the torso straight but relaxed. Jumping rope is a great teacher of posture because it is nearly impossible to do for a long time without good posture. For the first two weeks don’t worry about speed or endurance but focus on your jumping technique. Practice jumping and landing lightly on the balls of your feet. Knee and ankle motion should be small as you jump just high enough to clear the rope. Be prepared to get snagged and hit by the rope but don’t give up. Progress slowly and focus on mastering the skill. Soon you will develop the timing and form necessary to start a serious cross training program.

There are two main steps to master first. The basic bounce step is jumping with feet together only high enough to clear the rope. Next is the alternate foot step or jogging step. Jump to clear the rope with alternate feet like you are jogging in place. Lift the knees up, do not kick the feet back. For both techniques each time the rope passes under your feet, it counts as one jump. Try to practice each for 50 times without stopping. Rest in between as much as you need to. Keep practicing and see if you can progress to 100, 200, 300 or even 500 times without a miss.

Jumping rope properly is a lot more intense than your average machine cardio workout in the gym. Why do think boxers do it so they can go for 10 rounds and outlast their opponent. This intensity will give you more benefits for less time! There is even more jump rope techniques beyond the scope of this article so please contact a trainer if you are interested in learning more!

Written by Paul Nelson
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate
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Monday, August 16, 2010

Downward Facing Dog


Let's all breathe in together... and sigh out a big exhale and relax. Usually that's the sound made when coming into your first Downward Dog of the day. Of course if your hamstrings and hips or shoulders are tight, you'll let out a few grunts, but like most forward bends, the function of relaxation and total body stretching out ways the groans. 

Downward Dog is an extremely popular pose in most Yoga sequences. Ashtanga, Hatha, Vinyasa, Power, Anusara, Hot Vinyasa all use this excellent pose to warm the big muscle groups and strengthen the arms and shoulders for the rigors of a more strength building practice. Downward Dog focuses on stretching the shoulders, mid back, hamstrings, calves, arches of the feet, hips and hands. The "yoga buzz" you might feel at the end of class, when mind, body and breath are in alignment are often directly related to downward dog. Yoga Therapists have known for along time the benefits of forward bending and stretching to calm the mind, ease mild depression and anxiety.

Ok, let's examine this pose more closely and practice.
  1. Set your mat, and come to hands and knees (Cat/Cow) from there tuck your toes under, ground the palms and first finger and thumb toward the floor and come to Downward Dog. Set your feet hip width apart and lift up on your tipy toes. Once on your toes, you'll take the pressure off your hamstrings so you can roll your shoulders back, straighten your spine, lift your sit bones to the ceiling.
  2. As you're lifting everything up, LENGTHEN, your heels to the floor, without rounding back and shoulders. Remember when you were in eight grade, chewing gum, if you clenched 1/2 the gum in your teeth and pulled the other half out like string, THAT'S lengthening. If your shoulders hunch, put a bend in your knees, grind your palms more firmly and press your chest closer to your legs.
  3. While holding Downward Dog for 5-10 breaths, engage your core and lift your kneecaps, keep micro adjusting shoulders and lengthening. Rest, by coming down to Child's pose or Cat/Cow.

  1. If you have shoulder, wrist or acute hamstring, eye injury, please do yourself a favor and HEAL before coming into a full on Downward Dog. You can get the benefits of a hamstring stretch by lying on your back, and strapping up a lifted leg and gently pulling it toward you. Go slow.
  2. If you can't yet comfortably ground your palms, grab two blocks as support props under your hands and come into the pose. You can also use a strap around your upper arms for more stability if your elbows poke out.

Like any yoga pose or practice, please consult your instructor before continuing if you have an injury or contraindication. I work with a lot of athletes, and often they work with incredible pain to stay on the field. Coaches have different theories on this, but my feeling, as a Yoga Coach is if you are in acute pain, stop and examine what's going on. I like to push people to there limit, not drive them into pain.

That being said, enjoy. Downward Facing Dog is one of my favorite poses and this combined with stretching hips, neck and a slight back bend, and sitting in silence for 5 minutes, can be your whole practice routine to re focus and energize your body daily.

Written by Tonja Renee Hall
Yoga Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Friday, August 13, 2010

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 Danielle Zack
Pilates Director, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

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Monday, August 9, 2010

Pilates and Pregnancy

Most women wonder if Pilates is recommended during a pregnancy, and fortunately the answer in most situations is yes! Pilates is a great way to tone abdominal and pelvic floor muscles, which can support an ever-changing pregnant body. Also, Pilates is very adaptable. Most Pilates exercises can be modified as your body and abilities change. The modifications keep the original goal of the exercise, while altering the form to work for your body. Exercise during pregnancy may support an easier labor, a speedy recovery postpartum, a quicker return to your pre-pregnancy weight, not to mention a comfortable pregnancy.

Sounds great, right? Well, there are a few basic guidelines to follow before you jump right in.

First, and most importantly, if you have never done Pilates before and just found out you are pregnant; this is not the time to start. Wait until the birth, and then find a qualified Pilates instructor to lead you through the exercises. Generally this will be about four to six weeks postpartum for a vaginal birth and six to eight weeks for a surgical birth.

Second, as with any exercise routine, check with your doctor. Inquire about your limitations during pregnancy, especially during unique circumstances.

Third, exercise moderately. Most experts recommend not letting your heart rate get above 140 beats per minute. If you do not own a heart rate monitor, use the “talk test”. If you are too winded to talk in a normal fashion, it is time to slow down. Other signs that you need to take a break are dizziness, feeling faint, and nausea. Headache, shortness of breath, a racing heart, uterine contractions, and bleeding or leaking fluid are also signs to stop and see your physician.

Fourth, do not over stretch. Hormones, like relaxin, soften the ligaments in your body to allow your joints to spread for the birth of your baby. Consequently, women do experience more strains in their bodies during this time. You will want to be sure not to overstretch. Working in a smaller range of motion, avoiding bouncing exercises, and strengthening the muscles around your hips and spine will help you avoid the pain of strains.

Fifth, stay off your back. In the second trimester it is time to stop doing exercises while lying flat on your back. Your uterus has grown out of your pelvis and can press down on the major vein in your torso. This reduces the amount of oxygenated blood flow to your baby, and causes most women to be dizzy or light-headed.

All in all, pregnancy could be a very rewarding time to tune inward and connect with the principles of Pilates: centering, concentration, control, precision, breath and flow. Consistently working with these philosophies may enhance your workout experience and offer skills to bring to the birth and care of your baby.

Written by Danielle Zack
Pilates Director, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

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Friday, August 6, 2010

Goggles for Open Water Swimming

Goggles are goggles right? Not necessarily. Just like choosing which layers to put on when going outside, choosing your goggles for open water swimming is a must.

Some things to consider:
  1. Light reflects off water. The brighter the sun the harder it is too see. Opt for reflective and darker gogglers at this time. The TYR metalized tracer or nest pro-nano are perfect in these conditions.
  2. Even during “overcast” there is still some light reflection from the water. Opt for tinted lighted goggles in this case. The TYR tinted Tracer or Nest Pro Nano in pink and blue or clear are great for these conditions.
  3. If it is dark and gloomy and the visibility is limited in the water (think lakes that look red, murky, etc) then opt for lighter colored goggles. The clear, pink, and blues.
  4. If the water is super clear then still err on the side of caution and opt for the light reflective goggles. As for goggles fogging up, well, it happens, and as an athlete we must deal with what is thrown at as. There are different temperatures in the lakes, the air and such causing the “foggy-ness”.
  1. Anti-fog liquid works for some lucky folks, try it and see if you like it.
  2. Buy new goggles for race day that are the exact same pair you currently train with, try them once before hand to make sure they fit and there are no “leaks”. New goggles tend to fog less.
  3. Avoid putting your fingers or other products on your goggle lenses pre-race. Imagine sunscreen lathered fingers in lens creating a mess and limits visibility. The fit is super important, especially for the longer the races. Find goggles that fit comfortable, yet snug. It is nearly impossible to find goggles that don’t leave the “I just swam” lines on your face hours post training, so forget about trying to fix this look.
  1. Make sure it is snug but not overly tight.
  2. Make sure the goggle straps are straight behind your head, not sitting down super low and super high.
  3. To tighten goggles, tighten the strap, but also pull the strap a tad more snug by the eyes. No need to push on the front of the goggle to jam the eye holes on your face.
Happy Swimming!

Written by Teresa Nelson
USAT Level II Triathlon Coach, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Roll-Over

Purpose: To stretch the lower back and hamstrings; develop spinal articulation and improve control of the abdmonial muscles.

Note: if you have a bad neck or lower back, leave this exercise out.
  1. Lie on the mat with arms by your sides; palms down. Lift both legs to a 60 degree angle from the mat.
  2. Inhale, lift the legs to a 90-degree angle. Initiate from the abdominals; bring your legs over your head peeling your spine off the mat. Keep reaching the arms long, shoulders pinned down. Don’t press onto your neck.
  3. Exhale and open your legs just past shoulder width and flex your feet. Keep the back of your neck long, avoid any tensing or crunching in the front of the neck. The arms continue to press into the mat. Your body weight should rest squarely in between your shoulder blades.
  4. Begin rolling back toward the mat, feel your spine stretching longer and longer as you articulate down until the tailbone touches the mat.
  5. When the tailbone reaches the mat, take the legs to just below 90 degrees and squeeze your legs together again. Repeat the sequence.
  6. Complete 3 repetitions with legs together when lifting and 3 times with legs apart.
Head to Toe Checklist:
  • Keep your upper body glued to the mat- avoid rolling onto the neck.
  • Don’t use momentum to roll over; use abdominals.
  • Feet should not collapse on the floor on the roll over.
  • Palms press into mat, arms long throughout.
  • Shoulders are stable on the roll down.
Visualization: Imagine your arms are lead bars pinning you to the mat.

Written by Jocelyn Paoli
Stott Certified Pilates Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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