Friday, April 30, 2010

Healthy Snacks for an Active Summer in the Northwest

As the days get longer and warmer with summer approaching in the Northwest, we look forward to camping trips, hikes in the Cascades, picnics by the lake and beachside BBQs. With all these wonderful summertime activities, we often find ourselves needing to pack snacks and meals on the go. Fortunately, summer offers plenty of nutritious foods to help make your excursions memorable as well as healthy.

The wide variety of berries grown locally are packed with many vitamins and fiber. High nutrient, low calorie berries such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries add beauty and taste too many meals and snacks. Whether eating fresh berries by the handful, adding berries to your smoothie, throwing some blueberries in your salad, making berry pancakes, or putting a handful of berries on your cereal or oatmeal in the morning, summer berries are sure to please the crowd and add needed nutrients to your diet. Most berries can be packed in plastic bags and frozen to be used later in the fall or winter.

Peaches: Not much tastes better on a warm day than a juicy, ripe peach or nectarine. Enjoy some of the Northwest grown peaches and nectarines this summer by slicing them up for a snack, grilling them on the BBQ, blending them into a smoothie, chopping them up with some granola into a yogurt parfait, or just bite right in to get all the fiber and vitamins without any worry for calories. Like berries, peaches and nectarines give you nutrients in a sweet and juicy package all for about 50 calories!

One of the most common home garden items in Seattle is the tomato. Like berries and peaches, tomatoes are also a nutrient dense food without a lot of calories. While many of us like to just pop them in our mouths, try them sliced with some mozzarella cheese and basil drizzled with a dash of olive oil and vinegar, chopped with some onions and cilantro for a salsa, or diced on top of any salad to add color and sweetness.

Take advantage of the chance to eat a wide range of fresh, local produce this summer. There is no better time to improve the nutrients in your diet while moderating the calories with all the sweet, juicy summer choices coming to your grocery or farmer’s market soon.

Written by Karen Woo MS, RD
Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fitness Tip Video: Resting Metabolic Rate Testing

Back in March, Fitness Director Jacob Galloway discussed Why Should a Person Assess and Reassess Their Fitness Level? In this video, Jacob focuses on Resting Metabolic Rate testing that can be done at the clubs by a member of our fitness teams.

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Exercises for the Swimmer

Earlier Personal Fitness Trainer Paul Nelson’s wrote in his blog post titled, “Sports Conditioning to Gain a Competitive Edge”, about how athletes are taking their training indoors and extending their cross-training. Building a strong strength base can develop “weak” athletes into strong powerful ones but also improve muscular balance that one might develop through repetition sport can bring.

Dry land training for the swimmer can be a bit challenging. Swimming is not something you can mimic out of the water so strength through full body range of motion is key, rather than isolating a specific muscle group. For example; performing a pushup requires your entire body to work together in order to perform the movement but doing a chest press, isolates the chest and arms. Isolating a muscle like this for swim training can lead to more stress on an already overused shoulder joint and cause overuse injuries.

Body coordination, functional strength and explosiveness are all areas that should be addressed when building a foundation of strength starting with focusing on the core. Core stabilization of the hip and shoulder girdle area are pre-requisites for any athlete that intends on building power and speed. Doing core specific work insures the athlete can maintain total body control while performing their sport and training for their sport. Below are various exercises that will help the swimmer build core strength, stabilization and power to help them reach the next level.

Four Point Kneeling Hold with Extension
■ Place your arms shoulder width apart just below shoulder level. Your knees should be in a kneeling position just below your hips as well.
■ Draw your belly button in towards your spine while maintaining a level back.
■ Extend your right arm and left leg while maintaining this position. Hold for 5 seconds then switch arms and leg.

Progression Options:
1. Hold for a longer period of time.
2. Perform the same movement on your elbows and toes and seen below.

Double Arm Wall Squat
■ Face the wall with hands shoulder width apart.
■ Keeping your hands on the wall, squat down sending your hips as far back as you can and keep your heels on the ground through the entire motion.
■ You will feel a stretch throughout your lats and calves and the weight of the work in your thighs.

Wide Grip Body Weight Row (using the smith press machine)
■ Place the bar on the smith press machine that way your body is at a 45% bend.
■ With an overhand wide grip, draw your belly button in towards your spine in order to keep your body in a neutral position.
■ Pull your body up towards the bar so the bar reaches mid chest level.
■ Pinch your shoulders blades back and keep your shoulders down and relaxed as much as possible. Hold then lower slowly.

Progression Options:
1. Lower the bar on the smith press machine.

Medicine Ball Throw
■ Stand facing a wall with your feet shoulder width apart.
■ Take a step forward and at the same time, throw the medicine ball off the wall.
■ Keep your abdominals drawn in, do not arch your back as you perform this movement.
■ Repeat this exercise alternating legs each time.
Progression Options:
■ Increase the weight of the medicine ball

Keep in mind that the above exercises incorporate strength through full body range of motion but are not always good for everyone depending on one’s health history and injury background. For specific exercises to fit your personal swim training needs please contact a personal trainer to ensure you are on the right track.

Written by Dana Lauren
Fitness Director, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

Monday, April 26, 2010

Easy Outside Workout Tips

The sun is finally out and you are bursting at the seams to get out there and exercise. But you are torn because you don't want to give up your weightlifting hour, or your time on the elliptical but you aren’t a runner and walking doesn’t really seem like much of a workout. But it’s Seattle, there is finally Vitamin D to absorb and you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Well I have the answer for you, it’s called HILLS!

You can walk/run/bike/lunge/skip/go backwards up any hill and if you push yourself with speed or by wearing a weight vest I can assure you it will be a workout. Find the hilliest part of your neighborhood. Find a new area of town you want to see (a hilly one of course) and start at the bottom and work your way up. I personally enjoy hill repeats on a nice sunny day. If I don’t feel like putting miles in running I will simply find a steep incline or a mildly long incline and run up it. If it’s short I’ll do it 10-20 times if it’s long or I’m going up two or more blocks I might only do 5-10 repeats. The goal is always to keep moving, the down is the rest so enjoy it while it lasts. As soon as you get back to the bottom it’s time to sprint/walk/ride etc back up again.

If this sounds like fun but you are looking for a little more diversity try adding in stairs to your workout. Queen Anne has TONS of them (as do MANY other areas of town), add them to a run, add them to a walk, just go out and get up some stairs! You can repeat as many times as you like, go as fast or as slow as you like, use your body weight or added weight, whatever strikes your fancy. The goal is to push yourself just like you would in the gym but be able to be outside and enjoy the roses.

Lastly if you don’t feel too weird about being that guy doing squats, push-ups, park bench jumps on your trail run adding in the body weight exercises to your cardio is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. Tired of running/walking and you still have 3 more miles to go? Take a “break” and do 20 squats, 20 push-ups, 20 floor to ceilings, and or 20 tuck jumps. Take the gym outside and enjoy our few months sunshine!

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

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Understanding Hydration and Exercise

Understanding Hydration and Exercise

Here are some general guidelines before you venture outside:
- Drink at least 17-20 oz. 2-3 hours before exercise
- Drink 7-10 oz. every 10-20 minutes during exercise
- After exercise drink enough water to replace any weight lost during exercise.

First, let’s look into how water plays a role in your body. For your body to properly metabolize calories, one needs to be properly hydrated. If you are even 1% dehydrated, this can slow down your metabolic efficiency to 5%. For example, if you have solid calories in your belly any water ingested will go straight to the belly to help with digestion instead of hydrating working muscles. During activity this leads to muscle cramping and in cases of high impact activity, undigested foods and fluid will be bouncing around in your belly which can cause side aches, diarrhea and even nausea.

If you grab a sports drink make sure the carbohydrate content is less than 6-8 percent of the calories. Anything more can cause intestinal distress during exercise due to slow gastric emptying and can increase the chance of dehydration.

As I mentioned above, dehydration leads to muscle cramping but can also contribute to achiness of muscles, pain in your joints and headaches. So stay hydrated and keep your muscles and joints lubricated.

Another aspect to look at is heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Our bodies perspire in order to decrease our internal temperature; as blood moves toward the skin, the heat generated evaporates through sweat. With the rapid increase in temperature the body has not had time to acclimate to the heat and you can be more susceptible to heat related illnesses. Even by losing 1-2% in body weight through dehydration it can affect your performance. Be on the lookout for heat cramps, heat syncope (dizzyness) and heat exhaustion. Some signs and symptoms could be cramping, nausea, incoherence, fatigue, vomiting, etc. As an athlete, you may notice your skin blotchy and flushed. If dehydration becomes severe, an athlete may get the goose bumps and the chills because the heat generated is not being evaporated effectively. This is serious and can be life threatening.

Keep in mind, for every 1% decrease in hydration you will experience a 3-5% decrease in performance. As a runner, that can be an additional 3 added minutes to your running time. Avoid letting your thirst be indicative of whether you are hydrated or not. Your thirst mechanism isn’t triggered until you are about 3% dehydrated, which right there is well into 10% decrease metabolic efficiency, cooling, muscle function and performance.

How do you know what your sweat rate is?
As an athlete this is very important when preparing for peak performance.
First weigh yourself both pre and post workout. Take note of whether you were inside or outside, specific weather conditions and intensity of the workout. For every 1lb of weight lost during activity, this would equate to 16oz of water. So for an hour of activity, you are looking at replenishing your body with 32oz of water. For activity over an hour, especially in heat, adding sodium to water helps against electrolyte imbalances. In general, .5 to 1liter of water per hour with .5 to 1 gram of sodium during longer more endurance type of activity will be beneficial.

With the warm weather approaching us, take caution and make sure you are adequately hydrated. To optimize performance and be at the top of your fluid game as an athlete, it is important to understand what is really going on in the body.

Written by Crystal Kennedy
Wellness Director/Personal Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pilates Exercise How To Video: The 100

Pilates Director, Danielle Zack demonstrates how to properly perform the Pilates exercise "The 100". Demonstrated by Danielle Zack
Pilates Director, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

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Breaking Down The Principles of Pilates

The six principles that are the foundation of the Pilates method are an approach to exercise that can benefit sports, weight lifting, yoga, dance or any form of movement. Pilates done correctly requires a strong mind-body connection that enables the body to move with less effort, allowing flowing and balanced movement. The method uses an individuals own body to its greatest advantage utilizing its own strength, flexibility and coordination and requires that the individual pay attention to his or her own body throughout the exercise.

It is important to note that Joseph Pilates did not directly set out the Pilates principles. They are concepts that were extracted from Joseph Pilates work from later instructors and because of that there are some variations in the specific words, but the concepts can be found in almost any Pilates program.

The six principles are as follows:
■ Control
■ Centering
■ Concentration
■ Precision
■ Breath
■ Flow

Over the next few months I will be focusing on one principle at a time with a hope that it can bring a new aspect to not only your Pilates workout but any of your workouts here at SAC.

Control: Every Pilates exercise is done with complete muscular control. There are no body parts that are left to their own devices.

For any exercise technique there needs to be a level of awareness that is necessary for progression. The ability to control your movement will develop as your skill level increases and the complexity of the movement increases. With practice you will always be aware of your alignment, body position, and muscle activity. How many times have you looked in a mirror while exercising and been surprised that you are not in the position you thought you were?

Progression in Pilates is not about the speed of the movement, but rather the quality of the movement. Controlled movements equal good technique which is imperative for safe, effective results.

This week as you take your session with your instructor, or hop into a mat class, think about how you can apply control to your movements and your transitions between exercises. Try this: during “Open Leg Rocker” do 6 repetitions without landing on your neck or head. Then, to transition to the “Corkscrew”, bring your legs together and take 5 or more seconds to slowly roll down to the mat, leaving your legs in the air.

Written by Merc Howard
Pilates Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Protect Your Health with Massage

Massage not only feels good, it can help prevent you from getting sick! New research has shown massage to be highly effective in strengthening the immune system and helping to ward off colds and flu. Intense training can lead to fatigue and increased levels of cortisol (commonly known as the “stress hormone”) in the body, which reduces the available number of white blood cells and killer cells. The combination of intense training and the daily stress of life compromises our body’s ability to fight off illness.

What can be done about it? Research at the Kessler Medical Rehabilitation Center, USA showed that healthy individuals under academic stress had increased killer cell activity following massage. The research also showed that this was immediate after only one massage and didn’t require a series of treatments. Another study of HIV positive men at the University of Miami School of Medicine showed that massage increased the number of killer cells and decreased levels of cortisol.

Written by Allyson Madere
Licensed Massage Practitioner, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

Referenced from: Zeitlin, D., et al. Immunological effects of massage therapy during Academic stress, Psychosomatic Medicine, Jan/Feb 2000
Ironson T. et al. Massage Therapy is Associated with Enhancement of the Immune System’s Cytotoxic Capacity, Internal J. Neuroscience, 1996

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Seattle Weather Report Calls for No Rain - Now What Do I Do?

With spring weather comes outdoor adventures. Many of us will enjoy the spring warmth and sun outside instead of inside like during the cold winter months. This usually means less time in the gym burning off all those calories. This doesn’t mean that we stop working out, it just means that we bring the workout outside.

Most of our spring and summer activities will become outdoor activities; so the question is then posed, how do I continue to workout and stay strong while enjoying the outside sun. There are many very good ways to stay fit and still get a great workout outside. A great place to start is to look at recreation website to find a good park or walking/biking routes around the city. Parks usually have great walkways where someone can walk, run, rollerblade and bike. Sometimes there will also be a lake or pool near the park for swimming and recreational boating adventures. There’s tennis and basketball courts available for pickup games and matches wherever there are communities. If you want to enjoy activities outside of the city try researching local hiking trails, and take some friends on a hiking or mountain biking expedition. The benefit of doing these outdoor activities is that they burn as many or more calories than many indoor types of training, you get the vital Vitamin D which is important in muscle function and our immune systems, and most important they are all fun and enjoyable activities, why else would you be doing them?

So what happens to our workout when we get those spring showers that bring all the flowers? This is when we take full advantage of our club and train for the activity we aspire to do outside. If we want to go play tennis outdoors, try working on your racquet sport conditioning with squash, the glute building, and high calorie burning sport. If a weekend hike is your family’s next trip, bring them to your gym to try conditioning on the versa-climber or stair mill. If you just enjoy walks in the park, try walking around the 1/12 mile track, where you get to view the entire club as you make your way around. If you an extreme mountain biker, you will probably be out in the rain enjoying your muddy ride, but if not, bring your bike into the club and get it tuned up and fit to your body by the new bike fitting expert. If you have a love for the water, then practice the crawl stroke in the Olympic size pool. For those of you enjoying your first or tenth marathon or triathlon; a certified weight training expert at the club could help you get the strength/endurance and technique down to finish the race within your goal time. Rain or shine the gym is always open for all your training needs.

By taking advantage of the good spring weather you may find yourself doing all kinds of calorie burning activities. This is a great way to begin getting in shape with all kinds of activities that will peak your interest, and maybe getting a nice tan along the way. Just make sure that when the weather turns for the worse, we don’t stop our exercise enthusiasm; but instead continue our training and fun inside our club, so that when the good weather comes back we can enjoy those outdoor activities at a higher capacity than our last outing.

Written by Jacob Galloway
Fitness Director, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Perfect Squat

Fitness Director, Dana Lauren follows up her earlier blog post " The Perfect Lunge" with a demonstration on how to perform the perfect squat. Demonstrated by Dana Lauren
Fitness Director, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

What Exactly is V02 Max?

Many of you may have heard the term “V02 max” thrown around when talking about your cardiorespiratory endurance and aerobic fitness, but I’m sure many of you are all wondering the same thing…What exactly is V02 Max and should I get mine tested??

VO2 max is the maximal oxygen uptake or the maximum volume of oxygen that can be utilized in one minute during maximal or exhaustive exercise. It is measured as milliliters of oxygen used in one minute per kilogram of body weight. VO2 max is one factor that can determine a person’s capacity to perform sustained exercise and is linked to aerobic endurance. It is generally considered the best fitness assessment tool available to accurately identify the appropriate training intensities specific to your fitness needs/goals.

Determining your V02 Max involves a graded exercise test on a treadmill. The test begins at a light intensity and gets slightly harder each minute until you reach near maximum exertion. The subject wears a mask and the volume of air expired along with the percentages of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the expired air are measured. From this, we can determine the following:
■ Peak oxygen consumption
■ Calories burned during exercise at different heart rates
■ Aerobic and Anaerobic Thresholds
■ Target intensity zones

VO2 testing is the best way to measure your cardio fitness and maximize your workout. Each person has a unique optimal training zone. Exercising at different levels of intensity will meet different fitness goals. Some intensities burn more fat, some increase endurance, and some focus on strengthening your heart. As you may know, the calories burned calculated on cardio machines are not known for their accuracy. Some machines are even known to bump up the calorie readout by almost 25%! Furthermore, machines do not always take into consideration all the factors in individual fitness levels and the specificity of the exercise, so relying on these machines to give you an accurate calorie and heart rate count can hold you back from attaining your goals if your not careful. Also, many of the charts you see on exercise equipment displays target heart rate based on only on age. V02 max testing measures your precise target heart rate, then calculates your personal target intensity zones and how many calories you burn in each zone. These zones give you the precise heart rates necessary to optimize each level of exercise and maximize your results, so you workout smarter, not harder.

By knowing your V02 Max you will in turn be able to:
■ Burn more fat
■ Maximize your workouts
■ Eliminate training plateaus
■ Decrease fatigue and injury potential

Anyone who is looking to lose weight, maximize the potential towards their workouts, improve performance or most importantly, help make fitness goals attainable. Although many individuals would benefit from knowing their V02 max, it is especially valuable for those involved in sports where endurance is an important component in performance, such as:

■ Cycling
■ Rowing
■ Cross-country skiing
■ Swimming
■ Running

With summer approaching quickly and marathon/swimming/cycling season underway, now is the perfect time to maximize your potential and workout smarter, not harder!

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

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

It's Never Too Late to Swim

Do you know that millions of Americans can't swim? So if you are one of them, don't be ashamed anymore. It is never too late to learn how to swim. There is such great joy that can be derived from heading into the pool or a dip in the ocean; it isn't worth missing out on it, just because you never learned how.

Aside from the fun that can be had with this sport, swimming is an extremely healthy activity that can get you into amazing shape and keep you there with little damage or stress to your body. Being in the water is very easy on your joints and allows you to perform cardiovascular exercises and movements that you may not be able to do on dry land. Once you get involved with swimming, you will notice fantastic changes in your body, from a toned physique to more energy completing your daily tasks. Your lung capacity will increase as well too as you get to be a better swimmer, this improvement will show in every aspect of your life.

Written by Donna Chan
Swim Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Benefits of Indoor Cycling

Indoor cycling has many benefits, no matter your outdoor riding experience or fitness level. Whether you are an experienced “roadie,” mountain bike rider, commuter, touring enthusiast, or a beginner, SAC has a wide range of instructors, formats, and class times for you to pick what works best. Indoor cycling is an ensured way of managing your hectic schedules and allow you the proper conditions, coaching, and synergy of fellow riders to improve many things: cardiovascular and strength training, endurance training, proper form and technique to avoid injuries, stress relief, an hour
away from your Blackberry or email, meeting new friends, riding with long time riders, a good sweat, and the list goes on and on.

It is the goal of the Cycling program at SAC to both introduce and advance your abilities, no matter your experience, meaning we welcome ALL levels of riding including first time riders! Here are some helpful tips for those that are just considering this as a part of their fitness program and reminder to those already part of the program. First, sign up for a class and alert that instructor that you are new and would like a few minutes to get acquainted with the bikes. Proper set up and seat and handlebar adjustments are an important step in safety but more importantly, for an enjoyable ride. Getting to class a few minutes early to “play” with the settings is always a good idea when first getting started. Once you get the hang of it, it will become second nature to get set up.

Second: come hydrated and “fueled.” About 1-2 hours before class, be sure to start hydrating and have a light snack to ensure you’ll have the fuel to effectively power through class. Bananas, energy bars, oatmeal, bagels, and PB&J’s are all great options. Third, take a few minutes to stretch before class. Our classes are taught at early hours, lunch, and after work, all times that require stretching! And finally, come prepared to have FUN! If you come to class with that mindset, it will most likely happen.

We are fortunate at SAC to have a very solid base of experienced instructors, outdoor cyclists, and long time members of the Indoor Cycling program. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, don’t be afraid to set your own pace, don’t be afraid to push yourself as you choose. Our goal as instructors is to provide a well-rounded, safe, and challenging format that builds strength and confidence to keep coming back!

As we enter our late Spring and Summer months of longer days, it is our hope we’ll see you in our classes and give you the tools to make
your outdoor rides more enjoyable. And for those that don’t like dodging cars, a great work out to make your day and night’s sleep that much more enjoyable.

See you soon in the studio or perhaps on the open road!

Written by Anna Miller
Group Exercise Director, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Managing Menopause

Menopause is the time in a woman’s life when her reproductive capacity has ended and she no longer passes eggs out of her ovaries or creates a lining in her uterus for one of those eggs to grow in, should it be fertilized. There is a great deal of attention paid to this transition for women, which leads us to think of it as a medical event rather than what it really is: a normal passage into the next phase of a woman’s life.

This midlife transition for women has gone from being an uncomfortable subject enshrouded in secrecy to being the very public basis for jokes and off-handed references. Every woman who lives through her 50’s will go through menopause, though, interestingly, women’s experience of it varies. Some women barely notice anything beyond the absence of their menstrual period, while others are plagued by uncomfortable and distressing symptoms. Some of this may be genetic. Asian women, for example, tend not to have hot flashes as much as Caucasian women do. Over the past several years, we have begun to look anew at what menopause is like for different women around the world and we have discovered that there are aspects of it that women can impact if they are well-informed.

The average age of menopause in the United States is 51 years, though the normal span is from early 40’s to late 50’s. Women who smoke or are very thin may have menopause earlier than other women. Along with the cessation of menstrual periods, other changes occur in women’s bodies. In fact, these changes begin to appear in the years or months before menstruation stops, and many continue for a while afterwards. Understanding the processes in the body, and learning how to adapt to these shifts can make this stage of life easier to move through and can set the stage for better health in the postmenopausal years.

Although we mark menopause from the time a woman has not had a period for 12 months, the years before that, referred to as “perimenopause,” are often marked by the beginning of hot flashes, sleep disturbances, sexual dysfunction, and mood changes. Research shows that regular exercise during menopause can reduce symptoms.

Studies show that the best exercise plan during and after menopause is relatively high-intensity physical activity performed several days per week. That said, what matters most is participation in an exercise program that you can be consistent with. Exercise has been shown, among other benefits, to be correlated with decreased levels of stress and improved quality of life.

Once a woman is fully in menopause, her body is producing markedly less estrogen and progesterone. At this time, several health issues become much more of a concern. Among these are bone density, heart disease, weight maintenance, and mental health. Fortunately, women can impact their likelihood of encountering these health challenges. Below are some suggestions for addressing these major issues.

Bone up! Our bones are constantly being remodeled. On a cellular level, they are broken down and rebuilt constantly. At menopause, bones begin to break down faster than they are rebuilding. This is the basis of osteoporosis which puts women at risk for fractures. Weight bearing exercise is essential to keep bones strong. Taking Calcium supplements and Vitamin D can help, too, as does eliminating soft drinks.

Keep the beat! At menopause women’s rate of heart disease catches up with men’s risk. Aerobic exercise and low fat diets have a big impact on heart health.

Choose the right “weight”. As metabolism slows with the hormone changes, it becomes very easy for women to gain weight. The deposition of fat, especially in the abdomen, is linked with many serious diseases. Keeping strong helps keep your metabolism up, and burning calories with moderate levels of exercise will keep those extra pounds off.

Let the good times roll! Studies show that depression and difficulty concentrating are common in perimenopausal women. Both of these can arise from many factors. While exercise is not a cure, it has been shown to help reduce the severity of both depression and cognitive impairments. Getting involved in meaningful projects, learning new skills, and developing healthy approaches to handling stress are all ways to enhance mental health.

Written by Peg Maas, PT
Physical Therapist, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Yoga Pose: Baddha Konasana

Spring is here! With all of it’s fickle weather that will have you smiling into the sun one minute, and running for cover from a hailstorm the next. Spring is such a tease, and it’s a time of wild transition that leaves most folks feeling a little spacey.

Time to get grounded!
At this time of year, most of us are trying to quickly shed our winter coats that may have settled around the mid section and the hips, creating some stiffness and discomfort. Baddha Konasana is one of the most perfect poses to gently stretch your inner thighs, groin and knees that will keep you flexible from your mid morning run or post winter soccer try outs. This pose is also soothing for menstrual pain and sciatica.

Here we go:
I suggest that you warm up with a few down dogs or vinyasa first to heat the large muscle groups of the body. Then, before you sit down on your mat, grab a blanket and fold it up like a burrito. Sit your sit bones on the edge of the “burrito” so your pelvic bone can tilt forward and give the knees, hips and inner thighs more room to stretch, especially if you have a tight low back. Once you are in position, bring the soles of the feet together, and draw your heels up as close to the groin as possible. From there, you can grab your feet, shimmy your sit bones back a touch, and round forward over your feet.

All together now.
Let’s put this pose together with a few others now for a little feel good sequence, that includes forward bending to kick in the relaxation response, and a mini back bend to fire up your nervous system and bring your forward bends into balance.

1. Sit on your “burrito” blanket in a cross-legged seat, for a seated twist. Bring the opposite hand to knee, and exhale on the twist.
2. Bring the soles of feet together for Baddha Konasana and sit in this pose for a minute.
3. Then, plant your feet on your mat about hip width, palms flat on the floor behind you, and lift your hips for Table Top pose. It is a half back bend.
4. Drop your hips back down on your “burrito” and extend your legs straightforward, bending at the hips for a forward bend.

Do this sequence 3x slowly after a run, or your workout, and you will feel amazing. Guaranteed.

Written by Tonja Renee Hall
Yoga Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Friday, April 9, 2010

Improving Your Swimming: One Lap at a Time

Swimming, like any other sport takes dedication, focus and practice. If you are ready to take your swimming to the next level, whether you are a beginner or experienced swimmer, think about revamping your training schedule just a bit to get the most out of the time you spend in the pool.

First of all, determine what your goals are and be prepared to dedicate some specific times for your training. Are you a beginner and want to learn just how to swim more efficiently and be comfortable in the water, or are you training for a specific event and want to improve your conditioning and speed? Look at your personal schedule and pool schedule and determine how much time you can spend in the water. For beginners that may mean 2 or 3 times a week, 30 to 60 minute a session. More advanced swimmers, 3 to 5 times a week, 60 minutes or more per session. For beginners, consider enlisting the help of a coach for a private or semi private swim lesson to get some instruction and training tips. More advanced swimmers consider challenging yourself at an organized workout A swim conditioning class can take your swimming to the next level, incorporate endurance and speed into your workouts and build some camaraderie with other swimmers.

Secondly make sure your practice time is focused. Have a plan when you get to the pool. Swimming back and forth is fine, but to make the most out of your workouts, mixing your practice time up with some drills, speed work and conditioning work will help improve your swimming abilities the most. Consider focusing on something different each practice; drills and technique one day, speed work another and conditioning and endurance on another. Or determine what your weaknesses are and be sure you focus on those for at least a portion of your workouts every time you are in the pool. This will help you see the greatest gains over time.

Finally, like any other sport repetition is key. You have to be willing to practice and put the time in to see positive results. Again enlisting the help of a swim coach to review your stroke, give you some specific instructions and assist you in developing a regular routing may be helpful. Or finding an organized swim conditioning class that meets on a regular basis can keep you on track and motivated. Arranging time to swim with a friend or buddy can also make you more accountable and make swim time that much more fun.

Swimming is great exercise, and although the learning curve is big, with lots of practice and help from a coach you can see quick results and will enjoy your time in the pool that much more.

Written by Laurie Leonetti
Swim Conditioning Coach & Swim Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rub Your Headache Away

Lately it seems more people have been coming in to the club for massage complaining of headaches. They’ve arrived at the right place!

When a client seeks a massage to treat a headache, the primary areas of focus therapists concentrate on are the muscles of the back, neck and scalp. For example, the upper trapezius are a group of long muscles that attach at the base of the skull and neck vertebrae and run down to the shoulder blade. When they get tense, they can pull on the head and cause pain.

The suboccipitals, a deep muscle group also located along the base of the skull, can be very difficult to stretch out on your own when they become too tight. Through massage, these muscles can be released, providing a lot of pain relief.

Another muscle linked to head and neck pain is located in your jaw and cheek: the masseter. If you clench your jaw or grind your teeth at night you may be unknowingly tensing up this muscle. Concentrated massaging techniques focusing on the masseter and other facial muscles will help.

Therapists are also aware of the many muscles and corresponding nerve endings in your head that can trigger pain, which is why scalp massage is such a wonderful way to relieve headaches.

With all the stresses of daily life, tension builds up, tightens muscles and creates pain. Schedule a visit to the massage department and let us rub your headache away!

Written by Jennifer Hansen
Licensed Massage Practitioner, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

Monday, April 5, 2010

Proper Posture During Cardio

Have you ever seen (or maybe you’ve done it yourself) the people on the big revolving stairs called the Step Mill, hunched over, hugging the machine for dear life, and letting their buns hang out way behind them?

Have you ever seen the people on the little step machine called the Stair Stepper with their hands turned around behind them constantly holding up their body weight and when the turn the page of their magazine they start thudding on the floor?

Have you ever seen the people on a super high incline treadmill walking up the biggest hill ever created on a machine holding on with white knuckle grip and leaning back with all their weight holding on to the machine through their extended arms?

Have you ever seen (or maybe you’ve done it yourself) the people on the elliptical sprinting away with their hips way out behind them and their head right up in the control screen?

Well I’m here to tell you a few things about getting a good, safe, and result filled workout out of your “cardio time.” First off if you have decided to turn up the resistance or the speed and that results in you changing your posture then it’s too hard for you. If you have made the cardio exercise harder by increasing the resistance and all of a sudden you are getting an arm workout (from holding up your body weight) instead of the intended leg workout then it’s too hard for you. If you don’t walk up stairs normally by pulling your body weight up by the hand rails and bending over so that your head is around your hip height (think The Hunch Back of Notre Dame) then why on earth would you do that while you exercise?

By keeping good posture we not only work our core muscles but we also allow the best oxygen uptake into our lungs. We also help use are body in a real life fashion so that you can be stronger applying those same movements to the real world. In addition, keeping good posture also keeps us from causing injuries, the more out of align our bodies are while being stressed (with resistance or with speed) the more chance you will have to pull a muscle, cause joint inflammation, and or create lack of flexibility.

While it might be tempting to go faster than the person next to you on the machines or to turn up the resistance so you sweat a little more, if you can’t do it correctly you are FAR better off doing it at a slower pace or lower resistance. Make sure you are getting full benefit out of your cardio workouts, and that starts with good posture!

Don’t be that person!

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

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Importance for Your Children to Learn How to Swim

There are many reasons why kids should learn how to swim while they’re still young. One of the most important reasons is their safety. When children know how to float or can swim to safety, you as a parent can be more at ease when your child is near water. Swimming also provides a fun way for children and the whole family to get some exercise.

Here are some beginner tips for your child’s first pool encounter:
• Let your child pick out a bathing suit. It will be less challenging if they want to put it on and willing to get it wet.
• Water temperature? It helps to give your child his/her first pool experience in warm water
• Provide a fun experience and rewarding experience in the pool. There are many toys and equipment available to use as well.
• Be patient with their child. If you become frustrated with your child, they may not want to go swimming again.
• Sign him up for swim lessons. For beginners, lessons can usually start out as way for the child to get more comfortable in the water.
As above, keep swimming fun and excited. The more fun they have, the more comfortable they will be in the water and soon enough they will be able to swim on their own.

Written by Donna Chan
Swim Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown