Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Get It In When it Fits In

What part of your work day are you guaranteed to have at least an hour to yourself? Before work, maybe if you don’t have to be at work at 6:00am, if you don’t have kids you have to get to school, if you don’t like to sleep in, if you don’t have dogs to walk. After work, maybe if you are still energized enough, if it’s not dinner time, if you don’t have to pick up the kids from soccer practice, if you don’t have a late meeting. Lunch time, for sure! This is the best part about working out on your lunch break, you’ll always be guaranteed to have that time to yourself. Maybe you might have a lunch meeting but for the most part that is your one hour out of the work day that is yours to do what you wish. Sounds like the perfect time to get a quick, strenuous, fun, energizing, and beneficial workout it! Besides having it fit nicely in the middle of your day, here are a few great reasons to workout at lunchtime:
  1. Get in, get out and it’s done for the day. No worries about having to make time for a workout after work, this way there are no excuses.
  2. Stop the after lunch crash, no more coffee or energy drinks required. After a lunchtime workout you’ll be energized with endorphins and will be ready to finish off the last half of your work day.
  3. The quality of your lunch meal will be so much more beneficial. Most of the time you go for a salad at lunch but sometimes you grab a pizza, a pasta dish, or maybe even some heavy Thai food. After a good workout you will want nothing but good fuel for your body, I mean you didn’t do all that hard work just to turn around and un-do it all in 10 minutes - right!?
  4. It’s easy to get your co-workers involved. Sometimes you go to lunch with your friends from work, but now make it a healthier get together and come down to the gym together. It’s always more fun if you have a partner in crime!
  5. You are awake enough (as opposed to bright and early before work) to be alert and strong but not tired enough (as opposed to after an 8 hour work day) to not have enough gas in the tank to put forth good effort.
Come down during lunch, try it out and experience the benefits of a lunch time workout first hand. There are plenty of classes, programs, trainers, and gym partners for you, making this a great way to break up your work day. Plus, when you are done you can enjoy some of the healthy sandwiches, salads, smoothies, and fruit that available at the SAC Café.

Adriana offers a great Lunchbox Express workout that works for all fitness levels and is scheduled perfectly to suite the lunch hour.

Written by Adriana Brown
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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A Sitting Duck for Low Back Pain

Low back pain is a common health problem in all industrialized countries. More than one-quarter of the working population in the U.S. is affected by low back pain each year.

With the rapid development of modern technology, sitting has now become the most common posture in today’s workplace. It is common for many people to sit at their computer for 8-10 hour stretches, rarely getting up to stretch or relieve pressure on their spine. One would think that low back pain would be reserved for those employees doing physical work involving lots of lifting, bending, and stooping. So if you don't do physical work all day, why does your back hurt?

Often two major muscle groups, the hamstrings and hip rotators, end up being in a shortened position and under constant stress when sitting. This coupled with long bouts of inactivity, non-ergonomic desk arrangements and poor posture can commonly cause low back pain.

Through regular stretching of these two areas, it is possible to reduce tension in the low back and potentially prevent further injury and more severe pain. Doing the stretches can also make a difference in your ability to get longer lasting results from treatments such as massage, fitness training and chiropractic care. It is important that you don't let fear of pain keep you from trying gentle stretching and light activity.

The first muscles to stretch are your hamstrings, as sitting all day puts them in their shortest position. Stand up or sit in a chair and put your legs straight out on a chair. Slowly try to touch your toes. Just go slow and only as far as you can reasonably go without pain. Hold the stretch for at least thirty seconds. Repeat on each side twice.

The second muscles to stretch are your hip rotators. Loosening the muscles here takes a lot of strain off the sacrum and gluteal region, often helping sciatic problems. This stretch can be done while lying in bed or on the floor. Keep one leg straight while you pull your other leg up to your chest. You should feel a pull. You can further stretch this area by pulling your knee across your body to get better results. Again, hold the stretch for at least thirty seconds. Repeat twice on each side.

Chances are, you're not going to stop working on your computer any time soon. Taking a few minutes each day to do some stretching will make a world of difference. Getting massages and stretching regularly, in conjunction with working to correct poor postural habits can dramatically reduce tension and pain in the body!

Written by Allyson Madera
Licensed Massage Practitioner, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate
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European Spine Journal. 2007 February; 16(2): 283–298. Carragee EJ (2005). Persistent low back pain. New England Journal of Medicine, 352(18): 1891–1898.

Monday, June 28, 2010

World Cup Perspective from Sounders FC Player Taylor Graham

I wish I were writing under different circumstances, having just witnessed yet another game where the United States played well, but failed to get the necessary result to advance to the quarterfinal stage. After the 2-1 defeat at the hands of the last remaining hope for the African continent, Ghana, the US is heading home after a World Cup in which they had a great opportunity to advance deep into the tournament. It was a tournament of ‘what-ifs.’ What if the US could start a game with the same intensity that they played with in the second half of every game? What is the US could rid themselves of their Achilles heel of conceding goals within the first 15 minutes of every game?

Despite going down a goal in three of their four games in South Africa within the opening minutes of kickoff, the US always responded with increased possession of desire to attack. For me this shows a lot of character. Character to persevere. Character to outwork their opponents, which is a testament to their coach Bob Bradley. Throughout a 90 minute game, it might not seem that terrible to concede the opening goal, since there is ample time to search for the equalizer. But this is certainly not the case. Teams that are good in possession, like Ghana, can sit back, possess the ball, knowing that it is the US who has to come out of their defensive shell, take risks, and possibly open themselves up for the second and killer goal. The fact that the US was able to equalize in ALL three games after giving up the first goal is quite impressive. This takes good fitness, and mental strength.

And remember that team USA was playing with a lot of unproven players at the international level. Sure Landon Donovon and Clint Dempsey have been there before, but it was their surrounding cast that allowed them to win their group, ahead of England who entered as the overwhelming favorite. For me Michael Bradley was the man of the tournament for the United States. I know that Landon scored three of the team’s five goals, but Bradley covered every blade of grass of every pitch in which he played. Anyone who screamed ‘nepotism’ about the coaches’ 22 year-old son who starts in the center of the midfield (the most important position on the field) has all been proven wrong. His ability to break up opponents attacks, combined with his playmaking of our offense was as good as any American midfielder I have ever seen. It seems like we finally have a viable replacement for Claudio Reyna, who retired after the 2006 World Cup.

Jozy Altidore was another difference maker. The combination of his physical presence and pace bothered every defender he played against. His ability to hold up the ball in possession is essential for a team like the US who like to counterattack. He is good in the air, and good at drawing fouls and set pieces. But at the end of the day, the role of a striker is to score goals, and he was unable to do that. His goals will come for the US; unfortunately they did not come on African soil. Hopefully he will keep maturing on the field, as well as continue helping the world in a positive way off of it. (Jozy raised over $140,000 to help victims in Haiti after their earthquake. His parents are Haitian.)

Now that the US is out of the tournament, I can look at the tournament with my head rather than my heart. While England have yet to reach their potential at this tournament, I see them advancing to the semis, leaving Germany, Argentina, and Mexico in their wake. (Although it would be entertaining to see Argentina win it all since coach Maradona promised to streak through Buenos Aires if they win.) I also see Spain advancing to the Semis, along with Ghana, and Netherlands (sorry Brazil fans, I see their lack of discipline hurting them at some point in this tournament). These picks are certainly a leap of faith, but what do I know? I have yet to win a final four pool, so clearly I lack the ability to pick sporting victors. Maybe this is my year…

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Overcoming Exercise Plateaus

Are you one of those people who keep doing the same exact workout that you have always done and wonder why you’re not seeing the results you want to see? Well, you’re not alone. I find that most people will stay with the same workout week after week, month after month and even year after year. It's great that they have such a commitment to their workouts, and they are staying healthier than if they didn’t workout at all, but they could be reaching much better results if they integrated change to their workouts.

To find better results, you need to first ask yourself “what are my goals”? If you don’t have any workout goals you will be lost in the gym - idling at your current level of fitness. Keep your goals simple and SMART. SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timed. Example: “I want to lose 15 lbs. in 3 months.” The example fits all of the SMART criteria.

Now that you have a goal, write it down and keep it somewhere you’ll see everyday or set a daily reminder on your computer or phone. This way you’ll be reminded of your goal each day and not lose site of where you are heading. From this point, the burden of making your goal a reality is upon your shoulders. If you really want to reach a goal then don’t let anything or anyone stand in your way. Be accountable for your goals.

Second, you need to ask yourself “am I working hard enough to reach my goals or am I just doing what I need to do to get 30 minutes done on the treadmill”? I find most people are doing the ladder. If you only put in the same amount of effort every time you workout, you will only find the results to be mediocre at best. So, if you’re trying to stay at the same weight or fitness level then you’re on track with this sort of workout. But, if that’s not your goal, and you’re trying to lose 15 lbs. in 3 months, the same workout isn’t going to work for you. You need to change it up and get serious about elevating your fitness level.

Instead of getting on the EFX at a resistance of 6 and zoning out for the next 20-30 minutes try the rower, or consider the track and the stairs or an interval workout on the EFX. Whatever you choose, the workout should be challenging and out of your comfort zone; but it shouldn’t kill you either - so be aware of the level of intensity you are aiming for. The change is just what your body needs when you have hit a plateau. When you first start working out it’s tough on your body, but in a short time you start to feel better and you start to see results from your hard work. The workout is something new to your body and it's reacting well. But after a few months of the same routine your body is used to the workout and isn’t challenged anymore and the gains you saw earlier are dwindling (except that you are still in good health). Now you need to increase the amount of work you do during your workout - change it up. You can increase the amount of time you spend on the treadmill and/or increase the resistance or speed of the machine you use. It’s time to put a little more effort into your workout.

Interval training is great for getting you outside of your comfort zone. Basically, you have a work interval (30 sec. – 5 min.) followed by a rest interval. The rest interval can be 1-2 minute break to get some water and to catch your breath before you do your next work interval (passive recovery) or just slowing the treadmill down to a walk or slow jog for a 1 – 5 (active recovery). This will be exactly the change your body needs.

The same thing goes in the weight room. Try different lifts (especially if you haven’t done anything new in years), change the number of sets you do, change the number of repetitions you do and/or increase the amount of weight you lift. Your muscles won’t get any stronger if you don’t overload the muscle and challenge them. I know a lot of you are nervous about “getting to big.” Being stronger has nothing to do with getting bigger and it takes a lot of hard work and a high calorie diet for one to really “get big” from weight lifting. Rule of thumb: strength/power = 3-8 reps, muscle hypertrophy = 8-12 reps, and muscular endurance = >12 reps.

Third, if you need some assistance with changing up your workout, try a session with a personal fitness trainer at the club. If you need your car worked on you take it to a mechanic. The same should pattern applies to working on your fitness. Trainers have the knowledge and the skills to put you on the right track to reach your goals. Having a trainer set up a workout will make your time in the gym time well spent.

Again, the changes to your workout will help your body get past your exercise plateau. In order to get stronger and become fit your body needs to be challenged and keep your muscles guessing. If you start to change up your workouts every 6 – 12 weeks you should never reach a plateau and you will reach your goals.

Now that you have the tools you need to overcome your exercise plateau, go out there and get it done. Set your goals. Change up your workout. Put in some hard work and have fun! If you have any question please don’t hesitate to contact me, or any of the other personal fitness trainers, at the club.

Written by Joel Mitchell
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Friday, June 25, 2010

Pilates Exercise of the Month – Round Back/Short Box

Purpose: To strengthen adominals and stretch low back. This is an intermediate exercise performed on the Pilates Reformer with the Short Box. A SAC Certified Pilates Instructor should assist with this exercise.

Position box width wise on carriage. Box can be placed over or pressed against shoulder rests.

Starting Position: Seated upright on box; close to the front. Place feet under the foot strap, knees slightly bent, clasp wrists and place in front of lower abdomen. To prepare- Inhale.
  1. Exhale, round the torso, (roll back), simultaneously lifting the arms away from chest. Still Exhaling, lower the body backward with your torso in the rounded (C curve) position. Inhale, and pause in this position, keep abs scooped in.
  2. Exhale, raise the body so the shoulders are level with hips, maintaining the C curve of the trunk. Then, Inhale, and return to the starting position- stacking the vertebrae and sitting tall.
  3. Complete 5 repetitions.

Neck injuries: limit range of roll back. Shoulder injuries: use a light bar or cross arms across chest.

Head to Toe Checklist:
Keep shoulders relaxed and away from ears.
Feet can be flexed and must be securely hooked under footstrap.
Avoid collapsing the spine when in the rounded position and tiling backward.

Visualization: The rounded position opens the vertebrae, making the spine feel longer. The round back position tips back in an action that resembles pouring tea from a teapot.

Advanced: Hold a pole or light weighted bar straight out in front of you (level with bottom of sternum). As you roll back, lift pole up toward ceiling (overhead) while maintaining abdominal engagement.

Written by Jocelyn Paoli
Stott Certified Pilates Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Agility Training

Athletes who put focus on their agility training can gain that competitive edge which in most sports can help you win the game. Agility training requires cognitive focus, balance and control, as well as strategic planning. When adding agility training to a workout you are adding a mental component, diversity, and it can be fun and skill specific if necessary.

The NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) suggests that agility is a trainable motor skill that can be acquired through proper progressive practice. Agility training can enhance ones mental focus during competition by training through precise controlled movements and thinking while moving to the point it becomes natural movement. Many agility drills require you to pay attention to your movements to do the drills correctly in a controlled space. This attention to detail can be translated as a quicker first step without wasting movements, avoiding your opponent while retaining control of the play or action and produce more efficient movement. Not only does agility training teach controlled movements but also requires balance and swiftness. The joint control required in keeping your balance will aid in injury prevention keeping you in the game giving you more control over your playing ability.

Anyone can benefit from agility training due the gain of balance and multi-planar movements it requires. So if working towards improving your movement for a particular sport is not your goal, agility training can come in handy by adding diversity to your workouts. Performing short bursts of agility can turn your workouts into a dynamic circuit training program that can add heart rate training and lateral movement to burn those extra calories you’ve been struggling to get off.

So where do you start? The Dot Drill is one of many agility training exercises that develops dynamic leg strength as well as increases knee and ankle strength and stability. This is a great agility drill for anyone who plays multi-directional sports, has the need to make quick changes of direction and landings such as skiers and basketball players or the weekend warrior looking to change up their routine. Start by putting five dots on the floor spacing them like you would see on a dice about 2 feet apart. First try the “in/out” movement and place your feet on top of the bottom two dots. Jump with both feet to the middle dot then proceed to the top two dots making an in and out movement pattern. Then go backwards to the center spot finishing at the starting point. Start by getting the pattern down but then challenge yourself by accelerating your movement. See the video for an example of how to perform the Dot Drill and get started on adding agility to your training routine today!

Written by Lamont Fish
Personal Fitness Director, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate
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Monday, June 21, 2010

Exercising Tips While Traveling

Summer is here! The kids are out of school, there are camping trips to be had and traveling to be done. So how do we maintain all the hard work we have put into our bodies and exercise routines while we are on the road? Sounds a bit challenging, yes, but not impossible. All you need to do is take the time to plan ahead, prepare and keep your eye on your goal of staying on track.

Where are you going and what do you have to work with?
The best way to stay on track is to do your research before you leave and make preparations from home. When staying at a hotel, call ahead of time and find out exactly what they have in the workout facility. You maybe in luck and find everything you need from cardiovascular equipment to weight machines and free weights. If there isn’t a workout facility and/or not enough exercise equipment to work with, check the hotel front desk for a health club nearby.

Now, if you are heading out into the great outdoors or somewhere that doesn’t offer exercise equipment, getting creative and making a plan is going to be key. Be realistic in your expectation that your workouts will be different and most likely not your typical club workout. But hey, different can be fun and your body will most likely embrace the change. When traveling, the goal is to stay on track with your workouts.

What to Do?
Energy, better sleep and an overall feeling of wellness are just a few of the benefits you feel by staying on track with your workouts. It only takes a little bit of physical activity to feel these benefits and so many more. Shoot for 20 or 30 minutes of just cardio or do follow sample strength workout below with burst of jumping jacks and jump rope to get your heart pumping.

When staying at a hotel with no cardiovascular equipment you do have options. If the weather is nice, go outside for a walk/jog/run or find a trail nearby to walk or hike. If the weather brings rain or it is too cold to go outside, try to walk/run stairs at the hotel. Other options include: Jumping Jacks, Jump Roping (bring one along if you have one) or try High Knees. You can also add these cardio bursts to the sample workout plan below.

With strength training keep it simple. If you have access to free weights or machines you can make a workout plan ahead of time. If you are without anything, your bodyweight will be just as beneficial and effective as your regular workout.

Body Weight Workout Sample:

Cardio Burst
Jumping Jacks, Jump Rope (with or with out a jump rope), High Knees

Dynamic Squat (50 sec or 20 reps)
  1. Stand with feet just wider than hip width apart, toes at a natural angle forward or slightly out.
  2. Bend the knees and squat, pushing your rear out as though you're about to sit in a chair. Your knees should stay behind the toes.
  3. As you are squatting, keep the knees going in the same direction as the toes and avoid arching or rounding the back.
  4. Squat as low as you can, touch your hands to the floor and then explode up reaching your hands up to the sky. Repeat.
Push Ups (To Fatigue)
  1. Lie chest-down with your hands at shoulder level, palms flat on the floor and slightly more than shoulder-width apart, with your feet together and parallel to each other.
  2. Look forward rather than down at the floor. The first contact you make with the floor with any part of the face should be your chin, not your nose.
  3. Straighten your arms as you push your body up off the floor. Keep your palms fixed at the same position and keep your body straight. Try not to bend or arch your upper or lower back as you push up. Hold for a second.
  4. Lower your body slowly towards the floor. Bend your arms and keep your palms in fixed position. Keep your body straight and feet together throughout this movement. Once you hit a 90 degree bend in your elbow, exhale and push yourself back up.
Cardio Burst
Jumping Jacks, Jump Rope (with or with out a jump rope), High Knees

Reverse Lunge with Straight Leg Kick (50 sec each leg or 20 reps)
  1. First, stand with your feet shoulder width apart and keep your trunk upright. Your arms should hang down to your sides or find a place on your hips.
  2. Take a large step backwards with your right foot, to make a right angle.
  3. Lower your hips until your left thigh, is parallel to the ground and hold for one count. Your left knee should be directly above your ankle. Your left foot should be pointed straight ahead and your right heel should be lifted.
  4. Pushing through your left leg, power through your glutes and hamstrings to make a straight leg kick to the front. Once you get the hang of it, extend your opposite arm to touch your toe as you kick through.
  5. Bring your leg back to the reverse lunge position again and repeat.
Tricep Dips (To Fatigue)
  1. Use a bench or chair that is sturdy enough to hold your body weight.
  2. Place your hands on the bench with palms down and your knuckles facing forward. Your hands should be right next to your hips on the bench or chair.
  3. Lower your body by bending at the elbow. Inhale slowly as you lower yourself for a count of two. Elbows should not point out away from your body as you lower, keep them in close.
  4. Exhale as you straighten your arms pushing your body back up. Repeat.
  5. Tip: Keep your body close to the bench and your weight primarily on your heels.
Cardio Burst
Jumping Jacks, Jump Rope (with or with out a jump rope), High Knees

Back Extension – Opposite Arm and Leg Lift (each side 10x’s) then both arms and legs together “Swimmers” (10x’s)
  1. Lie on your stomach on the floor or hard surface. Extend your arms overhead with the palms facing the floor.
  2. Keep your chin and head neutral with your spine.
  3. Engage your core muscles by pressing your hip bones down into the floor and squeezing your buttocks. Tightening these muscles will help stabilize your back.
  4. Exhale and lift your right arm and your left leg off the floor, pause a moment. Keep the arms and knee as straight as you can. Inhale and lower down.
  5. Lift the left arm and right leg up, pause and then lower down.
  6. Repeat for desired reps.
Back Extension - Swimmers
  1. Same instruction as above except you will lift both arms and legs at the same time and make a swimming motion. Both arms will move up and down and both legs will move up and down for 5 seconds, and then lower both arms and legs down to the mat.
Bicycle (50 sec or 20 reps)
  1. Lie on an exercise mat with your back flat against the mat and your hands placed behind your head and your fingertips just barely touching each other
  2. Bring your shoulder blades off the mat into a basic crunch. The shoulder blades need to be kept off the mat the whole time you are completing this exercise.
  3. Keep your neck in line with your spine, resisting the urge to bend and strain the neck. It may help to imagine that you are holding an orange underneath your chin as you complete this exercise.
  4. Lift your legs off the mat and place one leg in a 90-degree angle and the other leg in a 45-degree angle.
  5. Move your legs in a bicycle motion, like you are pedaling, bringing your left one up to a 90-degree angle as the right one moves back into a 45-degree angle.
  6. Meet your right knee with your left elbow as it comes closer to your upper body. As your left knee comes close to you, meet it with your right elbow.
  7. Repeat the bicycling motion.
Cardio Burst
Jumping Jacks, Jump Rope (with or with out a jump rope), High Knees

Plan your daily activities.
So now that you have your workout plan, the next important step is to plan your daily schedule so you can figure out the best time to get your exercise in. The most successful people, traveling or not, take a peek at the beginning of each week and figure out when exercise is going to happen for them. Let’s be realistic here, if your workout is not done in the morning it will most likely not happen while traveling. Keep in mind that life happens and last minute things come up but planning will keep you accountable and you are more likely to stay on track.

You are Ready
Now that you have a plan, all you have left to do is pack your workout gear. This will be the last piece to keeping you successful and on track. Make sure you pack workout clothes, shoes, water bottle, mat, and resistance bands if you have them, jump rope, anything that you regularly use to keep you on goal and “excuse free”. Follow these tips and you will find yourself on track and will avoid sacrificing your workouts while exploring new and summer vacation favorites.

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

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SAC Elite Golf Weekly Golf Tip: Putting with Confidence

If your putts are coming up short, or nearly miss the hole, you may need to build some confidence in your stroke.

A drill that helps you build confidence in your putting stroke can be easily arranged on a practice green. Simply place a club horizontally in front of the hole (at the back/leading edge of the cup) so you have to cross over the shaft when attempting to make a putt. Once the club is set in this position, move away from the hole and square up to the shaft of the club. Take a few strokes to attempt to make a putt with the ball hopping over the shaft. It should take you a few strokes to find the right amount of force to put into your stroke. Once find this “sweet spot”, take away the club in front of the hole and see how your new stroke feels compared to your old stroke. You should see that you have a more confident putting stroke that places the ball a little further in to the hole.

Demonstrated by Dave Boivin
SAC Elite Golf PGA Professional, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown / Kayak Point Golf Course
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Friday, June 18, 2010

How many cyclist do you know with good posture?

Many Seattleites enjoy the vast terrain of Washington through the means of biking. Weather permitting many people hit the outdoors and enjoy all of its scenery using a road, mountain or on a hybrid bike. While the true enthusiast might brave the Seattle downpour, most people come inside the club and enjoy one of the many different spin classes offered at the club.

One Factor that is constant with all cyclists, indoor and outdoor, is that their posture will start to take a turn for the worst. Having correct posture consists of maintaining a balance in the strength and flexibility of the front side (chest and front deltoids) and back side muscles (rear deltoids, mid traps and upper lats) of the upper body. As we ride any type of bike we maintain a slight or extreme forward lean, sometimes for hours. This forward lean eventually causes a strengthening and tightening of the front side muscles, while never addressing the backside muscles. If this continues without constant stretching and strengthening of the backside muscles a kyphosis or mid back hunch back look will start to form. So now that we cyclists know what the issue is, how do we address it? Some of the great options offered at the club are to take a yoga class and ask them to add a cat and cow sequence to their class. This sequence is performed by getting onto your hands and knees and alternately depressing your chest as far as possible (cow) and then pushing your shoulder blades as far upward and apart as possible (cat). Another possible rehab solution would be to try pilates, where everything involves lengthening the spine and strengthening the core. If these are not addressing the posture problem then you could always get a personal fitness trainer to make a rehab workout to strengthen all the backside and core muscles as well as show you upper body stretches.

Cycling should be a fun and enjoyable sport that we can enjoy both indoor and outdoor until we are in our later years; in order to keep it that way and not create muscle imbalance problems for ourselves, we need to make sure that we stretch our chest and strengthen our back muscles as often as possible. If we keep our posture safe, we keep all of our daily activities safe and enjoyable.

Demonstrated by Jake Pedersen
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Martial Arts Video: Strikes, Footwork and Kicks

Martial Arts Director, Jody Garcia demonstrates the basics to perform strikes, footwork and kicks using the equipment at the club.

Demonstrated by Jody Garcia
Martial Arts Director, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Yoga Pose of the Month: Upward Facing Dog

The sun is peeking its elusive head out more often these days. For all those winter months we Seattleites have been hunched over our computers and bundled against the rain, and now it's high time to open our chests (and hearts) to the sun's warmth!

Upward Facing Dog is a quintessential pose in the Ashtanga/Power Yoga/Vinyasa warm up sequence that opens the chest, strengthens the arms, and provides a strong back bend when done correctly. Up Dog provides much needed space to breathe, strength for triceps, deltoids, traps, and core. Back bends are very energizing and calming when done in combination with a forward bend (like Down Dog, or standing forward bend). Most summer sports including, Cycling, Soccer, Squash/Tennis, Swimming would GREATLY benefit from Up Dog, because so many of those sports require the body to constantly be in a hunched or forward moving motion. Up Dog provides a much needed back bend relief.

Let's Begin:
It's best to warm up for 10 minutes doing gentle poses (refer to my previous SAC blogs for more info) before moving into Upward Facing Dog.
  1. From Downward Facing Dog, roll your shoulders forward over the hands for a strong Plank pose.
  2. Slowly, with elbows gracing the sides of your body, lower like a board, all the way to the mat.
  3. Slide wrists back to the middle of the rib cage (your bra strap line... sorry gents, you'll have to use your imagination!) and with your hands as flat as a pancake and fingers spread wide to protect the wrists, push yourself up and forward through the arms until your legs are off the floor. Your chest should be forward of your wrists, shoulders away from your ears, elbows very slightly bent, low back in a deep arch, legs strong around the knee caps, and chin level to the floor. You should be able to breathe comfortably and have no pain in wrists or back. If you feel "pinched" in any way, please start with a variation, below.

Beginning Variations:
  1. Low Cobra - from lying on your front side, squeeze your glutes and shoulder blades together until your chest peels off of the floor. In this Up Dog variation, your hands can be under your shoulders, and very light on the mat. This still gives you a chest opener, without aggravating wrists or shoulder injuries.
  2. Sphinx Pose - Similar to Cobra, from laying on your frontside, prop yourself up on your forearms, and make sure your glutes are SOFT in this pose, and shoulders down. This is usually a strong back bend for folks, so be conscious of your low back.

From any of these variations, bend your knees on the floor, and push your hips back to Child's Pose or Down Dog for a counter pose to a back bend.

For more instruction on Upward Facing Dog, or any pose, please come to my classes at the club or schedule a private yoga lesson now offered by myself and many of our other wonderful yoga teachers at Seattle Athletic Club Downtown.

Written by Tonja Renee Hall
Yoga Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Monday, June 14, 2010

Make Changes that Lead to Success in the First 90 Days

Many gym goers fall out of exercising within their first 90 days of joining a gym or starting a new exercise routine. One of the biggest reasons people stop exercising is because they do not have a very structured workout and/or do not know where to start with their exercising. A new and very beneficial program offered here at the Seattle Athletic Club Downtown is called "The First 90 Days of Fitness". It’s a structured introduction to fitness involving meeting with a nutritionist to get your diet analyzed in order to meet the demands of exercising; three consultations with fitness trainer where you get measurements and body fat taken and then training session. The Fitness trainers can also get set up on a structured workout program called ActivTrax.

One of the club's newer member’s, Chris Davidson, has been on this program and just completed his first 90 days of fitness. During his final assessment he was pleased to find out that he had lost 7.6 lbs of fat while gaining a considerable amount of muscle and strength. The major contributing factors to his fitness achievements were that he was at the SAC every day working out or playing racquetball; and that he exercised with a workout partner. This is just one of many success stories at the club. Fitness success is more attainable if you have a structured workout routine and with someone there to keep you accountable, whether it’s a Pilates instructor, personal trainer or workout partner.

Written by Jacob Galloway
Fitness Director, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Friday, June 11, 2010

Stay Healthy, Train Smart

At this time of year, there are lots of athletes (swimmers, triathletes and runners) looking for ways to improve their times over last year’s records. Much effort is spent on training, diet, and a rigorous schedule to stay on top of it. Through it all, you may have missed something.

Ever wonder why many accomplished athletes are in their 30’s? It’s because they’ve learned how to train more efficiently. They can’t, and don’t “pound their body” like they did in their 20’s. It’s too hard on their bodies, the recovery time takes longer, the chance of injuries becomes greater, and they don’t improve their times as effectively. It’s not just “what” you do, but “how” you do it.

Your body can’t, or shouldn’t be expected to handle a punishing training session just because you feel you’re losing ground. Effective training takes into consideration, the current abilities of the athlete, their previous performance abilities and the future goals or records that are to be broken. From these things, it’s all about efficiency and effectiveness of a carefully managed training program. To improve means you have to stay in the game long enough to identify shortfalls and accept the work it will take to overcome them.

Another aspect to take into consideration is the environments that you train in. Living in the greater Seattle area, our weather isn’t always ideal for training outdoors whenever we feel like it. For this reason, I sometimes suggest rotating an athletes training events from indoor to outdoor (and vise versa) depending upon the type of workout and the weather forecast.

Stay healthy, train smart. Monitor your workouts to find what’s best for you, and seek professional advise if you are having questions or need guidance.

Written by Dan Lavin
Aquatics Director, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Alleviate Your Computer Posture Discomfort

Repeatedly during the course of a massage, I have raked muscles between the scapula and thoracic spine and found them to be hard, tight and painful to the client who immediately pleads with me to work right there – that’s where they want me to provide them with relief. Unfortunately, it’s out of my hands, literally! Why? These muscles are typically stretched tight (like a rubber band) because they are weak; they are under tensile stress, and losing the battle against gravity. Most massage practitioners will agree that all the manipulating in the world will not relieve these muscles: they remain just as tight and painful at the end of the massage. It might feel good (or painful) to have them worked on but this is only palliative. The real solution to your discomfort is to strengthen these muscles yourself. You will learn five strengthening exercises that can banish your discomfort and/or improve your posture for these specific areas:
  1. Neck (Forward Head Posture)
  2. Upper Traps (Tensile Stress)
  3. Mid Traps (Tensile Stress; “Rounded Shoulders” or Forward Shoulder Posture)
  4. Descending Traps (Shoulders curled Forward/Down)
  5. Thoracic Erectors (“Slump” or excessive Kyphotic Curve in Thoracic Spine)
A great witticism that I’ve grown fond of is this: “Nobody likes to drink out of a fire hose.” That’s what’s so great about these exercises: no 3 sets of 30 reps etc. Each one can be done using your body weight, just ONE time, for as long as you can hold it (to fatigue). I’d prefer you do them nightly, right before bed, but you can also do them in your office chair and/or on the carpet if necessary.

Computer Posture Exercises:
Shoulder Shrug (targets shoulder tension)
Lift shoulders as high as you can (arms hanging down). They should reach almost as high as your earlobes. Contract your shoulder muscles as hard as you can – so hard they tremble. Keep lifting/trembling for 20 –30 seconds. Now lower the shoulders slowly –dropping them too quickly can trigger spasm.

Forward Bend vs. Neck Extension (targets neck tension)
Perform a forward bend. Keeping knees straight, lace fingers together and extend arms over your back/head as far as possible. Now, without changing your position, lift your head back in opposition. (The tendency is to let arms down / back up as your head comes up.) Pit these two actions against each other in an isometric contraction for 20 seconds, then bend your knees, and return to standing (slowly).

Superman (targets longitudinal tension between your shoulder blades)
(Caused by descending fibers of the trapezius being weak and overstretched). It combats scapulae curling forward and down. Lying face-down and resting forehead on the floor, place arms in front of head. Upper arms should be at a 45 degree angle, elbows bent and forearms pointing straight forward. Lift arms off the floor and hold them in this position until you can’t anymore.

Iron Cross (targets tension across the top of the shoulder blades)
(Named after the gymnastic feat performed on the rings.) Targets tension across the top of your shoulder blades caused by weak, overstretched mid-fibers of the trapezius. It prevents shoulders rounding and curling inward. Lying face-down and resting forehead on the floor, stretch arms out to the side, perpendicular to your body. Make a fist, turn your thumbs up toward the ceiling, and lift your arms off the floor. Hold until you can’t any more.

Swan Dive (targets longitudinal tension along your thoracic spine)
It prevents forward slumping of thoracic spine, forward head posture and medial rotation of shoulders. (This is the grand-daddy of them all, if you’re only going to do one exercise, do this one!) Lying face-down, arms down at sides, lift head, neck and chest off floor, squeeze shoulder blades together while externally rotating arms by sticking thumbs out like a hitch-hiker. Hold until you can’t anymore.

Restorative Yoga (this is your big reward)
Using a bolster, yoga block or rolled up towel, position it horizontally directly inferior to the bottom edge of your shoulder blades – this is approximately half way down your thoracic spine. Resting in this position for up to 5 minutes lets the force of gravity work to undo excessive bowing forward by bending you backward!!

Written by Julie Bacon
Massage Therapist, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Monday, June 7, 2010

Benefits of High Intensity Training

Why is it a good idea to workout so hard you feel like you could be in the movie 300? Well because it's great to workout with the intensity that stresses not only your body but your mind. If you are a squash player, a basketball player, a marathon runner, any sort of sport, you know what I'm talking about. When it's the last quarter of the game, when it's those horrible final 6 miles, it's just as much about how conditioned your mind is as it is about how conditioned your body is. Doing workouts in the gym that challenge you to keep going, finish those 5 reps, keep moving that final 10 seconds, increase your weights by that extra 10lbs. Whatever the challenge may be, it's important to work hard and conquer whatever the road block is ahead of you with your muscles and your mind. Plus the harder you work the more you'll get out of it. Increasing your weight (thus upping the intensity) will produce stronger muscles and more lean body mass. By moving past that point of when you want to stop (up the intensity) you will continue your increased heart rate and thus burning more calories. A lot of the goal comes back to working hard to burn more calories and increase more muscle mass, the best way to do that is to add in harder workouts to your regime and keep making progress with your mind and body! Here are a few easy ways to increase your intensity (without feeling like you might puke!)

1. Add in more full body exercises (Kettlebell swings, squat presses, burpees, slam ball, etc.)
2. Try new exercises, just the new challenge is enough to get your brain, muscles, and heart rate up
3. Add in bouts of high intensity movements (in between sets 1 minute sprints on the eliptical, running stairs at the beginning, middle, and end of a workout, etc.)
4. Do as much with your own body weight as you can, resist using a bench, a machine, or a ball and MOVE YOURSELF THROUGH SPACE.
5. Work full range of motion, you have all that muscle and flexibility for a reason!
6. Make sure that the weights you are using are challenging enough, if you can do 20 reps (even 15) of most anything it's too light!
7. Be your own "hall monitor" if you know you are taking it easy, taking your time, resting more than working, not breathing hard, flat out... work harder!
8. Find a workout partner, a trainer, a new sport and have someone or something else outside of yourself to challenge you and push you to make progress.

Written by Adriana Brown
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Third Limb of Patanjali’s Eight Limbed Path: Asana

The third limb of Patanjali’s eight limbed path is Asana, which can be translated as “seat” or “posture.” This is where most of us step onto the yogic path, through a practice of hatha yoga. Hatha can be translated as the union (yoga) of sun (ha) and moon (tha) where ha and tha are like the Taoist words yang and yin which point to active and receptive qualities within our minds and bodies-- active and receptive always in relation to something else. Hatha yoga is the yoga of the body, in which we balance these qualities (ha and tha) by finding the mid point between effort and ease, balancing strength with flexibility, finding optimal alignment within the body, with gravity and with the larger forces within and around us.

Asana refers to the various shapes in which our bodies are stretched in every direction from every orientation including forward, backward, twisted, upside down, reclining, prone seated and standing. Hatha yoga postures are an accessible and effective way of keeping the body/mind healthy, while balancing our subtle energies (the same energies balanced by acupuncture). There are many styles of hatha yoga to choose from so that a teenager, a young adult, a middle-aged man or an elderly woman can all find a practice that supports their body at their particular stage of life. Hatha yoga asanas, practiced with awareness, are something we can do throughout our lifetime.

When we practice asana, the simple guidelines Patanjali offers are to make it steady and pleasant. While performing a posture, we allow a steady, smooth breath so that our mind can relax and stay present, merging with whatever sensations arise. We take many actions within the pose to support good physical and energetic alignment so that we can relax our effort and find the support of gravity and the larger reservoirs of energy within and around us. Proper sequencing enhances the depth with which we can enter the postures by preparing the body to open so that we go deeper within a single pose or within a particular kind of pose such as backbends or twists.

Hatha Yoga asanas stretch and strengthen the entire body, and release stress held within our organs, supporting their proper functioning, while also toning the glandular system which supports healthy bodily cycles like menstruation, menopause, our stress response and overall mood. The proper performance and regular practice of asana will support us on all of these levels and allow these good effects to take root and blossom into a balanced and harmonious body/mind/heart. An imbalance at any level affects all levels, so working through the body tension allows for a smooth flow of energy through our emotional and mental systems and vice versa.

For asana to be most effective, we have to practice with sensitivity to our internal energy, understanding ourselves enough to see how we are faring with the tensions of life. During particularly stressful times it might be best to use the yoga practice as a time to restore and renew our energy. Likewise if we are feeling stuck and immobile, a practice that gets us moving is more appropriate. Understanding our constitution and how the seasonal shifts affect us also supports our self-understanding so that we can tailor a practice that will be balancing to our body/mind rather than throwing us deeper into imbalance.

When our teacher is leading our practice, these considerations still apply. Our teachers may not always offer the practice that is appropriate to us that day, but we can be sensitive to ourselves so that we can surrender to the flow of the class while still staying connected to our energy level and any limitations that need to be considered. Our home practice allows us to tailor the practice to our needs each time, as well as supporting the integration of all we receive in class and the awakening of our inner teacher, our true guide.

So, in looking at your asana practice, notice what you are practicing, how often, and also how you are practicing (your state of mind). One helpful lens from Anusara yoga is to evaluate your asana based on action, alignment and attitude. Once we learn the proper actions that support a balanced body, we apply them each time. We learn to be sensitive to our alignment and we look at our minds. Often our mind is sleepy, distracted, trying to be good, overly striving, overly focused on the external. In practicing asana, we notice these mental patterns while bringing awareness back to the present moment breath and sensation, and tuning our awareness to go deeper within. This attention to how we are practicing, to the qualities with which we infuse our practice, whether focused, gentle, devotional, sensitive, expansive, etc. is what brings the asana to life and makes the practice more than just physical exercise.

So, this week, take a look at your asana practice. Are you finding ease and steadiness with the postures; practicing in a way that makes you feel good? If not, what blocks you from finding this? Are you competing with yourself or others? Is your mind distracted? Are you discouraged or self-critical? If so, practice coming back to your body sensations themselves, and give them your full attention. Open to whatever you find while also tuning your awareness to an attitude that is more in alignment with your deeper motivation for practice. A balanced practice will leave you feeling lighter, steadier, peaceful and more integrated on all levels. Any posture we are taking is asana, so practice awareness of the shapes you find yourself in during your work day, and around the house, and try bringing more awareness to your asana all the time!

Written by Shannon McCall
Yoga Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Why Do You Put So Much Effort into Being Active and Fit?

Some of you members may ask yourself from time to time, “Why do I put so much effort into being active and fit?” Well here is a motivating story about why you should stay as active as possible.

Very early one Friday morning a 55 year old SAC member was working out with her personal fitness trainer, Jacob Galloway, and began to feel dizzy half way through her workout. They stopped for a minute and discussed what could be going on; such as not eating enough or eating their normal diet, or not getting enough sleep. They decided to continue to workout at a slower easier pace. The member then took a shower and was getting ready to leave the gym when she got dizzy again and had to sit down. She drove to work with no episode and after an hour at work she started having repeated dizzy spells accompanied by a racing heart while just sitting at her desk. It got to the point where she had to sit on the floor next to her desk; at no time was there pain or discomfort in her left arm. The member then made an appointment with her cardiologist (she had a coworker drive her), who gave her a 48-hour heart monitor to wear.

Three days later the heart rate monitor was returned for analysis and within 45 minutes of its return the member received a call at home explaining that her heartbeat had gotten up to 255 beats for minutes at a time and that the frequency of the episodes was substantial. The doctors couldn’t figure out why she had not passed out and told her to get to the hospital ASAP.

At the hospital the SAC member had an angiogram, which showed that her heart was unbelievably strong and had no blockages; but there was an electrical short in the heart (think misfiring spark plug) and that an ablation (soldering) was called for. It seems that this problem usually presents itself in athletes who are in their late twenties/early thirties and that there is a 5-10% chance of it happening again. The doctor explained that had she not been at the gym her usual 5 days a week doing weights training, Pilates and cardio exercise, this heart problem most likely would have been fatal.

The ablation was done the next day and five days later the SAC member was back in the gym for her first workout since the heart surgery, only lifting 10lbs maximum though, and like always with a smile on her face, happy to be able to continue working towards her fitness goals.

Two messages from this SAC member were:
(1) Do NOT ignore your body when it is trying to tell you something and do NOT delay in seeking a medical opinion.
(2) Start exercising if you are not already doing so. No excuses.

Written by Jacob Galloway
Fitness Director, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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