Friday, February 26, 2010

Is Your Conditioning Program Helping or Hurting Your Squash Game?

I have been in the fitness industry for over 14 years and witnessed people fall in love with squash everyday. Some people play squash strictly for the great workout while others to compete. No matter what your reasons are for playing, when beginning a conditioning program it is important to fully understand the demands. Squash requires the aerobic capacity to run and swing a racquet for 20-60 minutes, the flexibility to reach for deep rails and tight drop shots, and enough strength to forcefully start and stop while controlling a racquet. A good squash conditioning program should help strengthen your aerobic fitness, flexibility, strength, and mental focus.

One of the major misconceptions about improving your squash performance is that simply playing the game will get you in better shape. This thought will only keep you at a stationary level of ability and performance. To get better at an activity, your conditioning should closely resemble the movement patterns, ranges of motion, speed of movement, as well as the coordination in which you perform in the actual activity. When planning a conditioning program for beginners as well as professionals I have three major rules:

1. Stay off selectorized (sit-down) machines
2. Use integrated movements
3. Move in multiple planes

Stay off the sit down machines! In squash, you are moving in multiple planes of motion which requires balance, coordination, and activation of your core muscles. Using selectorized machines will prevent the activation of your core muscles and remove any balance or coordination. If your conditioning program consists of bouncing back-and-forth between seated machines you are training your body one way and asking it to perform in another (on the squash court).

Use integrated movements that get muscles to work together rather than isolated movements that focus on one muscle working independently. In squash, you are lunging in multiple directions while swinging a racquet. This is an integrated movement of your lower and upper body. Your conditioning program should be as similar to the demands of squash as they can be. Doing lunges with rotation using medicine balls or cables is an easy way to integrate the muscles in your upper and lower body.

Move in multiple planes such as forward and backward, side-to-side, and rotation. If your conditioning program consists of sitting on a stationary bike and seated machines pushing and pulling in one plane of motion then it is time to try something new. You do not need to get rid of all of your favorite exercises but try to add in some squash-specific movement patterns. Try lunges in multiple angles, cable chops from multiple angles, push-ups with one hand on a medicine ball. Get off the sit down bike and get up and try running some stairs or skip rope to increase your aerobic conditioning. Moving in these multi-planes will keep your stabilizer muscles running well and prevent pattern overuse all while making your conditioning program more “squash specific”.

Try to add a few of these exercises to your routine:

Stair Running

Starting Position: Start at the bottom of a set of stairs with multiple flights.

Action: Run up stairs touching every stair. Walk back down the stairs. Maintain proper form by leaning slightly forward and striking each stair with the balls of your feet.

Special Instructions: Progress to running every other stair.

Muscles Worked: Glutes, Hamstrings, Calves

Jump Rope

Starting Position: Begin with jump rope relaxed behind your legs touching the floor. Keep core tight and posture up straight.

Begin by rotating the jump rope up and around your body while timing your jump with both feet at the same time. Try to stay on the balls of your feet.

Special Instructions: Progress by changing your jumping action. Try alternating feet while you jump or even adding in two rope rotations per jump.

Muscles Worked: Shoulders, Arms, Legs

Step Ups

Starting Position: Begin by standing in front of the step or riser (8-12 inches tall) facing forward.

Place right foot in the middle of step and step up as you balance your body for 1-2 seconds on the right leg. Your left leg should be behind your body to help stabilize your weight as it is shifting. Step down with your left leg first and continue on down with your right. Try for 2 sets of 10-12 repetitions for each leg.

Special Instructions: If you don’t feel comfortable with a riser or step height between 8-12 inches, start out at a lower height.

Muscles Worked: Quads, Glutes, Calves

Lunge with Medicine Ball Twist

Starting Position: Begin this exercise by standing upright while holding the medicine ball out in front of you just below chest level. Your elbows should not be locked.

Step forward with one leg and lower your body to 90 degrees at both knees. Don’t let your knees go past the plane of your toes. Your thigh should be parallel to the floor at this point in the exercise. As you step forward, rotate your torso to the same side you step to (right leg forward then twist to the right) with the ball, keeping arms straight out in front of you. Push back to an upright position with your forward leg and bring arms back to the center of your body. Try doing 2 sets of 10-12 repetitions for each leg.

Special Instructions: Progress with a heavier medicine ball.

Muscles Worked: Quads, Glutes, Shoulders, Obliques

Push-up on Medicine Ball

Starting Position: Begin by kneeling on a mat (not pictured) with your legs together, hands about shoulder-width apart and directly beneath your shoulders, and one hand on top of a medicine ball. Extend one leg at a time until you are balanced on the balls of the feet in the start ("up") position of a pushup. Make sure your abs are engaged and your body forms a straight line from the shoulders to the hip, knee and ankles.

INHALE: Bend the elbows as you slowly lower your entire body--not just the chest--toward the ground. EXHALE: Straighten the arms and push back up to the starting position to complete one rep. After one set, switch the medicine ball placement to the other side to perform another set.

Special Instructions: Keep your abs engaged and your spine neutral. Look at the floor about a foot in front of you to help maintain a neutral head and neck position. Make sure you are able to maintain a straight line with the body while lowering toward the floor. Don't lock out the elbows completely at the top. Only lower as far as you can in good form.

Muscles Worked: Chest, shoulders, triceps, abs

Wood Chop with Medicine Ball

Starting Position: Hold a medicine ball and stand tall with your legs straight, feet hip-width apart, hips centered and abs engaged. Keeping your lower body planted, twist from the waist toward the left and extend your arms overhead and toward the left side of your head (pictured).

EXHALE: Keep your arms straight and your Feet planted as you twist your torso toward the right and lower your straight arms on a diagonal across the body and down toward your right foot, slightly bending both knees and pivoting on your left foot. INHALE: Reverse the movement, twisting your torso toward the left, straightening your legs and lifting your arms back up toward the left side of your head to complete one rep. Perform all reps on this side and then switch sides to complete on set.

Special Instructions: Keep your arms as straight as possible at all times and relax your shoulders away from your ears. Pull your abs in tight to protect your back while you twist side to side.

Muscles Worked: Abs, Obliques, Shoulders

Hamstring Curls with Gymball

Starting Position: Lie on the mat, with your arms at your sides. Place your heels on the Stability Ball with your toes pointing upward. Raise your hips from the floor.

Bend your knees and pull the ball toward you. Keep your arms on your sides and your hips off the mat while flexing your knees. Roll the ball out to starting position then repeat 10 times.

Special Instructions: Tighten your glutes and core so you can keep your hips off the mat while doing this exercise. To make it more challenging, do this one leg at a time.

Abdominal Crunch on Stability Ball

Starting Position: Begin by sitting on top of the Swiss ball. Roll in the direction your head is pointed until your lower back is supported by the curve of the ball. You can either cross your arms over your chest or place your hands behind your ears. Do not put them behind the head or clasp them together behind your head.

EXHALE: Crunch forward, using your abdominals, until you are at approximately a 45 degree angle to the ball. Keep you neck in a neutral position.

INHALE: Lower yourself back to the starting position, where your head wraps back around the ball. Try doing 2 sets of 15 crunches.

Special Instructions: Keep space in-between your chin and chest, so your spine stays in a neutral position. Balance yourself on the ball with as much upper body weight off the ball as possible without falling over backwards.

Muscles Worked: Abs

Balance on ½ Foam Roll

Starting Position: Begin by standing on ½ foam roll with one foot in front of the other about 10-12 inches apart. Keep chest up and core tight to maintain upright posture.

Lower your body by bending both knees. Only go down as far as you have good control of your balance and posture.

Special Instructions: Keep your core tight and posture up straight.

Muscles Worked: Glutes, Hamstrings, Quads, Calves

Written by Jason Anderson
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Swimming is Fun for ALL Ages

Head down, back and forth, back and forth. Only the sound of your heart beating, only the black line to look at…swimming can be a lonely and grueling sport. Swimmers of all ages need to remember: FUN IS REQUIRED!

Whether you are a recreational lap swimmer, an adult training for a triathlon or a kid trying to improve your stokes for summer league make sure you incorporate some laughs and play time. Try these 5 tips to liven up a hard workout or bring back the inspiration in a worn out swimmer:

1) Swim with friends: The Seattle Athletic Club has some great programs to get you in the pool and keep you motivated with swimmers of all ages and abilities. For kids, try our Sunday pre-competition class or a set of swim lessons. For adults, we have many swim conditioning opportunities and triathlon training classes as well!
2) Change the scene: Seattle is a great place to swim outdoors in the summer. There are a few outdoor pools across the Puget Sound and of course there is always the lake! Don’t forget your wetsuit though!
3) Learn something new: Want to get a better workout but don’t know all 4 strokes? Struggle keeping up in swim classes because your flip-turns need work? Take a swim lesson. Lessons are available for adults, children and toddlers.
4) Play a game: If you are swimming with a friend and you want to get through a set of 15x100, play a game when you are on the wall resting. Name a professional baseball player who’s names start with A and go all the way to Z. Can you finish the game before all 15?
5) Take a break: Swimming should not be a chore. If you find yourself dreading coming to the pool to do your swim lesson or your workout and you’ve tried the other 4 suggestions you may want to take a break. Come back to it next week and try again!

Kudos to you for taking on swimming! Training in the pool is a great way to stay in shape and getting lessons for your kids is a great way to teach safety in a city on the water but make sure to HAVE FUN!

Written by Kim Harada
Swimming Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pilates “Power-Up” for Your Golf Game

Have you experienced the elusive “perfect shot” moment? Your intention is clear, your swing is fluid, and your body and mind are synchronized. Your swing tempo, your movements, and firing of the muscles are working together. As a golfer, I love it when everything comes together. Would you like to have those moments consistently?

Both Golf and Pilates are mind-body activities and share some of the same basic principles. Golf and Pilates principles include precision, centering, power, control, and concentration.

Pilates is a great tool for conditioning both sides of your body and preventing injuries that plague golfers. Golfers are repeatedly bending over the ball, twisting their body in one direction and exerting the same muscles over and over. Pilates restores balance and realigns the body to bring back the natural, normal movement pattern.

Specific Pilates exercises build balance, strength and flexibility, while teaching the body to move in an efficient way. These exercises shown below are designed to help golfers’ finesse their game, improve their swing and drive the ball further.

Written by Jocelyn Paoli
Pilates Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Monday, February 22, 2010

Plantar Fasciitis

Here are some easy tips to keep your plantar fasciitis under control.

Not just your calves get your hamstrings involved into the lengthening as well! If the fascia of the hamstrings is tight or bound it can pull the fascia of the entire calf up, creating stress for the foot and further stressing the plantar area. Make sure to get your feet and toes as well. It is extra helpful to warm up the foot/toes first thing in the morning before you place weight on your feet.

It is your friend after all! Stand on it, roll on it, play with it, and just use it!! You can also implore the use of a tennis or squash ball to get into some specific sites. It’s a great thing to get into the habit of doing while watching a movie or hanging out on the couch. Self-massage is a wonderful tool.

A bag of frozen peas or corn works great. One of my new favorite methods is tossing a plastic bottle of water into the freezer and then rolling it under the arch of the foot. Don’t be afraid to really put some weight into it, you will get good relief.

If your plantar fasciitis is not responding be sure to see your doctor. In some cases the use of orthotics can be a good aid or even a boot to sleep in.

Written by Jessie Jo Egersett
Massage Director, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pilates Mat vs. Individual Apparatus Sessions - Do You Know the Difference?

Pilates, a system of exercise created by Joseph Pilates, was originally designed to be a one-on-one personalized workout with an instructor. Nowadays, thanks to late night infomercials and books galore, Pilates seems to be thought of as just a generic “mat class”, but the true intention is to use any and all of the spring-loaded equipment created by Joe, including mat, to find and strengthen weakness in the body. Not every body needs every exercise…it is most effective when tailored to you.

It may help to understand where Joseph Pilates came from. Joseph Pilates was a sick child, suffering from asthma and rickets, and was determined to create a healthy body for himself. So, he studied yoga, wrestling, gymnastics and acrobatics, and throughout his life put together a series of exercises using a mat. He started teaching mat conditioning, and quickly noticed how nearly impossible it was for most people, so he knew they needed something else to support their mat work.

At the same time, he was German national in an internment camp and many of the people around him were injured soldiers. For the injured soldiers he attached heavy springs to their hospital beds, so they could strengthen their bodies from bed. This design evolved into the “Cadillac” or “Trapeze Table” that current Pilates instructors use to strengthen legs, arms, chest, back and of course abdomen.

The Universal Reformer, or another “bed on springs,” offers additional resistance in order to provide more stability or to provide an added challenge to those who need it. When Pilates is taught one-on-one (the ideal way), the instructor typically incorporates work on the reformer and mat, as well as other Pilates apparatus, based on your needs. The individual session caters to the specific needs of the client, where each exercise is systematically performed and specifically chosen for you.

The focal points of his work are to increase lung capacity, to improve core strength and to use one’s mind to control body movements. Hence, the six Pilates principles evolved: control, centering, concentration, precision, breath, and flow.

The work on the mat, where your muscles create the resistance, and the apparatus, where springs create the resistance, complement each other. As you become stronger by working on the apparatus, consequently, the mat work often becomes more challenging and fulfilling. Including private Pilates sessions in your fitness regime will better allow an instructor to focus on your individual needs, and will help you to develop the strength and flexibility necessary to correctly perform and benefit fully from the mat work.

Your workout should never feel easy, but should always present new and different challenges as you work your powerhouse deeper. So, enjoy the “journey” that is Pilates. It’s well worth the hard work!

Written by Amy Sommer
Pilates Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Monday, February 15, 2010

Massage, It’s Not Just for Feeling Good

Did you that massage not only makes you feel better but it can actually help you sleep? As it turns out massage is good for boosting serotonin and dopamine levels. Those hormones help in slowing your heart rate, reducing your blood pressure and blocking your nervous system’s pain receptors. It also increases blood flow to the muscles, which can help them heal.

More serotonin and dopamine in your blood stream may also mean less stress, anxiety and depression. Massage has been shown to increase activity in the left side of the frontal lobe that controls happiness and decrease activity in the right, which is more active during depression.

So why wouldn’t you want to make massage part of your regular routine? Sure sounds good to me!

Written by Jessie Jo Egersett, LMP
Massage Practitioner, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Friday, February 12, 2010

10 Sure-fire Nutrition Tips to Conquer Your Resolution Blues

Many of you started off the New Year with well-intended nutrition goals. You were looking to cut calories, eat out less, incorporate more fruits and vegetables, detox from all the holiday partying, etc., etc., etc. You are now a little over a month in and you may be reaching the point where you wonder why setting those goals was ever a good idea! I want to encourage you to push past the pain and frustration and stay committed! Research has shown that it takes 21 days of forcing yourself through a new routine before your mind and body begin to accept the new routine as a habit. It is likely that many of you are beyond this point and still feel frustrated.

Take a moment to reflect on what methods you are using to achieve your nutrition goals. Use these tips as a guideline and reference to get you back on track as you make your daily food choices and stay on track to achieving resolution success!

1.) Start your day with a healthy breakfast. This is key to jump-starting your metabolism! Try a combination of whole grains, fresh fruit, and low-fat dairy.

2.) Eat multiple small meals throughout the day. Instead of consuming three large meals at breakfast, lunch, and dinner try eating four to five smaller meals throughout the day. This will keep your metabolism elevated and your hunger under control!

3.) Focus on incorporating six to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day! Use snack times as an opportunity to bring them into your diet.

4.) Work on getting 25-35 grams of fiber per day. Fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains are all great sources of fiber! Fiber will aid in digestion, help you feel fuller longer, and keep your blood sugar at bay.

5.) Drink water! Our bodies are made up of nearly 75% water, so make sure you are hydrated because it is essential for your body to function properly. Try keeping a bottle of water handy at your desk!

6.) Take time to enjoy your meals. The brain takes 20 minutes to recognize satiety, so take time to slow down and pay attention to what you are eating and how you feel. Then you are more likely to enjoy our meal, feel satisfied and not overeat.

7.) Keep your portion sizes under control. Make a habit of reading food labels and measuring out correct portions. For more information on correct portion sizes visit

8.) Take control of your environment. We may not always be able to stand up to temptation, but we can create a positive environment for success. For example, if you know there are certain foods that provoke you to overeat keep them out of the house and out of your desk drawer.

9.) Set realistic goals. Don’t try to revamp your diet from the get go, but commit to achieving one goal each week.

10.) Keep a food journal. The average person underestimates their intake by 600 calories each day! Recording what you eat makes you be accountable to yourself, and also gives you clues about where extra calories are coming from.

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

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Does Your Yoga Practice "Awaken" You?

The classical Yoga of Patanjali, an Indian sage who lived more than 2,000 years ago, has eight limbs, or aspects to the path:


The idea is that for yoga students to transform and reach their full potential, the need to practice all eight limbs is required. Additionally, each limb can contain all the other limbs, so students can practice all eight limbs within any one limb. It’s holographic.

These days, the general understanding of yoga is limited. It’s seen as a cool form of exercise, or a way to relax and de-stress. This relates to yoga as asana, literally “seat” or “posture,” and these are the exercises that are performed in any hatha yoga class. But asana is just one aspect of the practice. In fact, students can continue to do the exercises for years and years and derive some benefit, but not change very much. For the practice to be transformative, that is; for the practice to awaken the yoga student to their full potential, the practice of all eight limbs is a necessary path.

The first limb, “Yama” refers to the characteristics that can be practiced to live in harmony (in yoga, literally “union”) with the world. If harmony is lacking from a students life, it will be difficult or impossible to still the mind, or come into yoga.

The 5 Yamas:
Ahimsa – non-violence
Satya - truth
Asteya – non-stealing
Bramacharya – containment of energy
Aparigraha- non-grasping

This month we will look at the Ahimsa (non-violence) Yama. For most people, violence that imposes harm to others is not a big problem. This is good, but there are more subtle levels to ahimsa that should be considered. For example, it’s not uncommon that small amounts of aggression find their way out into the world through socially acceptable actions like road rage. Other forms of actions that could be damaging include harboring angry and resentful thoughts about people, gossiping, and practicing self-critical and harsh behavior towards ourselves.

A wise meditation teacher once said that “we learn to be loving by noticing how unloving we are.” To focus on where a students practice reside, pay close attention to the ways aggressive energy is released into the world in seemingly harmless ways. Take notice of the ways you talk to yourself, how often the inner voice is critical, harsh and unkind, and how you talk and behave with those nearest and dearest to you. As students discover more about themselves, consider how to celebrate the wakefulness rather than exhibit further levels of aggression. Learn to be non-violent by noticing how violence is projected.

Written by Shannon McCall
Yoga Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

Interval Training in Swimming – Increase Your Speed!

If you are a lap swimmer churning up the yards, I have a great booster for your regular swimming agenda: interval training. Interval training will maximize your time in the water and help your swimming abilities with increased conditioning and better form.

In a busy adult world time is essential. Use it all to the fullest. Interval training is an integral tool for all modern sports training. It teaches you how to pace yourself during each workout using the cardiovascular system. It will also enable you to stay motivated. Most people have a self-defeating tendency to start each workout as fast as they can go. Remember, start off slowly and build.

What is an interval? It is a time which you can complete the swim and get some rest. It means you will consistently keep to a scheduled departure (every 50 sec., every 1:00 min. or every 3:00 min.) for a given distance. As you get in shape, learn to pace and improve on technique, your rest on the same interval (time schedule) for the same distance will be greater because you will be traveling faster. With time, you will gain endurance enough to decrease that interval, enabling you to challenge yourself – and increase your speed!

Interval training is important to any coaching regimen. You will see immediate as well as long-term progress. Write down your swim times and your interval times after each workout so as to chart your progress. Pacing will also improve your stroke; it will become smoother, more stretched out and more relaxed.

Anytime you are in the pool for a swim, check out the white board for interval workout ideas, and please ask me if you have any questions! Happy Swimming!

Written by Karin Stender
Swimming Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Monday, February 8, 2010

Amp Up Your Yoga Practice

Brrrr…it’s cold out there! This is the time of year where we Seattleites hunker down in our jackets to avoid the crisp temperature and seasonal rain fall. No wonder many people have trouble with depression, foul moods and forgetting about the charge we get from the warmer summer months.

Wanna find something to help bring our the smiles? Amp up your Yoga Practice.

“It’s getting’ hot in here!”
Winter is the best time to take advantage of our wonderful saunas at SAC. Not only is sauna heat proven to boost the immune system, rid the body of toxins and lubricate your joints, it is a great way to pump up your metabolism, warm your muscles, and help shed your winter coat. Sit in the dry sauna for 10 minutes before class and do some gentle stretches. Hydrate well, and you will be amazed at the difference!

“Take a Seat”
Winter is a deep time of introspection and when balanced with heat producing exercise, can be a great time to develop a meditation practice. One of the main differences between Yoga and other sport is it’s designed to unite the Body and Mind through Breath. Used in tandem with yogic breathing techniques, Meditation can be used as a very powerful tool to calm the mind, focus and suggest to the sub conscious anything you would like to accomplish. Before your physical practice, sit up on a folded blanket in a comfortable seat on your mat. As you settle into your seat, begin to focus on the sound and rhythm of your breath. Begin to increase your inhale to a count of 6-8, hold the breath in at the top of the inhale, and as you exhale, open your mouth and let loose a” Lion’s Breath”. After 3-5 Lion’s Breath, return for a few minutes to your natural breath and see if your mind is more relaxed and calm. I use this technique with the elite athletes that I train to great effect. They develop their lung capacity and can keep their heads in the game with more focus and energy.

“Get Sweaty”
Vinyasa Yoga or Power Yoga is an athletic form of yoga that links powerful poses to the breath, which is offered daily by our excellent yoga instructing team at SAC. Between each pose is a series of fast moving push-ups, up dogs and down dogs. This sequence is beautifully designed to rapidly heat the large muscle groups of the body to prepare you to be flexible and strong enough for the more intricate asana’s or poses. In the winter, challenge yourself and keep moving through the sluggishness to create a bright perspective on your life.

“Get Grounded”
Since winter is a dark and heavy season, also focus on poses that will strengthen your legs and ground you to the earth. Ayurveda is the sister science to Yoga, and stresses that to stay healthy, we must stay in tune with the season. To balance your sweaty Vinyasa practice, add poses like Warrior I and II, Triangle and Tree. Ground your feet, find your focal point, and stay grounded for 10-20 breaths. The longer you hold these leg strengtheners, you are building endurance, and the large muscle groups that will aid any winter sport like Skiing or Snowshoeing. Also, remember to return again and again to your breath and deepen it the more challenging the pose.

I have created a Winter Yoga Sequence for you to try that will take about 20 min. This will not only aid in keeping you fit during the winter months for winter sports it will heat your large muscle groups and loosen your joints so you can shine bright.

• 5 minutes supported Meditation and Breath seat. 3-5 Lion’s breath
• Rolling neck and shoulders
• Abdominal crunches
• Down Dog for 10 breaths
• Surya Namaskara A (Sun Salutation A) 3x’s
• Bent knee Lunge. Stand in lunge with your back knee bent half way. Arms are raised and elbows bent like a Cactus. Straighten and bend your legs, deepening every time for 3x’s on each side.
• Side angle pose, stretching your side waist 10 breaths each side
• Chair pose with twist
• Happy baby pose
• Svasana or final relaxation pose

Written by Tonja Renee Hall
Yoga Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
LuluLemon Ambassador 2010 Pacific Place Store
Yoga Trainer for Seattle Sounders, fc.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Getting Your Freestyle Kick Right

Do you feel like your kick is not really helping you? Maybe even makes you go backwards? Mastering the freestyle kick in a way that is efficient, simple, and moves you straight forward can be difficult for some people. Yes, I am talking about all of you runners out there with really stiff ankles!!! Here is an easy, simple, and pretty fast way to get ‘the idea’ as far as your kick is concerned...

You need a pool with deep water, or be in a body of water where you are not able to stand. Get into a vertical position, feet towards the bottom and start kicking. Now, try to raise JUST your hands out of the water, no farther than your wrists.

If you don't have deep water, hold a kickboard between your thighs (you are going to have to SQUEEZE!) and swim normally. Try to kick normally as well.

Does your kick speed up? Get MUCH smaller as in your knees don't travel apart as much and/or bend?? This is what your swim kick should be like too!! You should also notice that while vertical kicking it is much more difficult to only kick in a forward motion, you are forced to kick backwards with each kick as well, thus evening out your kick. Minimize any bend in the knee that mimics running because if you do 'run' in the water you are raising your foot behind you and causing drag!! (which equals that brake effect!) *Think of the kick swinging like a pendulum at the bottom of your legs evenly to the front and to the back.

TIP: While vertical kicking, make sure you are upright, you may start to feel yourself lean forward. Make sure your shoulders are in line with your hips, are in line with knees and the furiously kicking ankles are underneath your body. Have Fun!

Written by Kim Lorton
Swimming instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Friday, February 5, 2010

Adding Power Moves to Your Workout

As the new year resolutions slowly fade and your workouts don’t seem as relevant as when you started in January it is time to ramp it up and try something new. Power equals strength multiplied by time. Therefore if we increase the speed of our lifts we increase our power output. This has many applications for life and when done correctly, can give you more benefit than any other exercise. These are advanced moves that incorporate muscular and cardiovascular strength and endurance into one activity. In essence this is exactly what is required to perform well in sports, and power moves connect that last piece of the puzzle between building strength and applying it in a real life situation. Also, for those of you who just want to burn calories and look great there is nothing better. How many overweight athletes do you see?

The Kettlebell is a great tool for these exercises. Its design lends itself to dynamic power moves with a unique blend of strength and endurance.

The first move is the kettlebell swing. Start standing a foot or two behind the kettlebell, sit back making sure you fold at your hips with a straight back and take a hold of the handle with both hands. Keep your weight on your heels. Hike the kettlebell between your legs and behind you fairly close to your groin, drive the hips forward and start swinging. At the top of the swing everything should be tensed, your glutes, quads, core and lats. Relax on the way back down and repeat the movement always driving with your hips and never lifting with your arms. The swing provides an intense load to the hips. Power in the hinging movement created at the hips transfers directly to sports requiring running, jumping and throwing. Nothing trains this better than the swing. You can swing a kettlebell between your legs and behind you, something you can’t do with a barbell or dumbell. Also the shape of the kettlebell puts the center of gravity outside your hand adding to the difficulty. The deceleration component at the bottom of the swing builds muscle fast and is found in all sports.

Secondly, we have the push-press. The goal of the push press is take that strength you’ve been building in your squat and turn it into a powerful move that propels a weight overhead. This can be done with a kettlebell, dumbell or barbell. The key is to transfer the power from your legs to the weight so that it just floats above your shoulder then you catch it. In this way it should not be like a military press at all and if done correctly you should be able to do it with more weight than you are comfortable pressing overhead.

Finally we have the burpee. From standing position squat down until your palms touch the ground. Then go back into a pushup position do a full pushup and spring up from the ground onto your feet as quick as possible, then jump as high as you can into the air reaching for the sky. This will build power in your arms and legs, as well as giving your heart a great workout.

As I said in the beginning, these moves are for the more advanced exerciser. They take time and practice to learn correctly but are well worth the effort. I believe anyone can learn these exercises with proper practice and instruction. Contact a personal trainer if you have any questions on how to perform these exercises.

Written by Paul Nelson
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Freestyle Technique and Breathing Bilaterally

Freestyle is a continuous, whole body movement in which one side lines up finger to toe, followed by the other side lining up finger to toe in a smooth rolling transition. The smoother the transition, the more effective the stroke the stroke becomes.

A swimmer's most streamlined position in the water occurs when he/ she is stretched out on the side, one hand reaching forward -as if being pulled by the tip of the fingers -with the rest of the body trailing behind. That is the exact body position to be while rolling to take a breath in front crawl. One arm is "spearing" forward, the other finishing off the last stroke, with the body gliding hydro-dynamically through the water.

Breathing in freestyle may be done bilaterally – which means alternating breaths to each side. There are many advantages to breathing in this way, including:

1. It is balancing out your stroke, so you are not working out lopsided.
2. Building symmetrical musculature on your back and arms (asymmetrical strength can lead to over use injuries)
3. Easing neck pain from always rotating to just one side.
4. In open water (as you would in a triathlon), you will be able to check for landmarks, avoid splashes from other swimmers as well as waves.
Just remember, the stroke is a constant rolling motion between the two sides and balanced breathing will help achieve the best results!
Ask any of the swim instructors for pointers and drills to assist you in achieving the perfect technique!

Written by Karin Stender
Swimming Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Perfect Lunge

The lunge, a common exercise to tone and build your legs and glutes. But are you doing it as effectively and as safely as you can? There are so many versions of a lunge but to start I am going to talk about the most basic, the stationary lunge. The stationary lunge exercise is a multi-joint functional exercise and should be performed that way. What I mean by a multi-joint functional exercise is moving more than one joint at a time. With this particular exercise the hip, knee and ankle joints are all involved.

A common mistake of a lunge is performing the exercise with most if not all of your body weight on your front foot and lunging forward rather than straight down. If you do this you will put most of the stress of the exercise on the quadriceps. With this excess stress, it also increases stress on the patellofemoral joint (knee) which can lead to an overuse injury. Isolating the quadriceps isn’t a bad thing but there are other, more safe exercises out there if that is your end goal.

Find the correct positioning:
*Start by using the 90-90 rule. Kneel on the ground with one leg forward and position your knees at a 90 degree bend. From that position, stand up. This should give you a proper distance on how long your stance should be.

*Next check your joint alignment making sure your feet are hip width apart so your ankle, knee and hip are all align.

*Keeping your spine and pelvis in a neutral position, lead with your back leg and lower yourself towards the floor. Picture a pole running straight through your body and all you can do is move up or down on that pole in order to prevent you from lunging forward.

*Keep your torso erect with proper posture as well throughout the lunge movement. If you have a hard time keeping yourself upright and lean forward, this may be a result of poor hip joint flexibility and a weakened core. Try stretching your hip flexors prior to performing the lunge. This may help for the short term but keep working on the hip flexibility and core strengthening to ensure proper movement long term.

If at anytime your technique breaks, drop your weight if you have added some or take a rest. You risk injuring yourself if you continue training your body this way. Doing 8 good reps is much better than doing 12 bad ones!

Written by Dana Hansen
Fitness Director
Seattle Athletic Club Northgate