Friday, July 30, 2010

Pilates for Back Pain

Why is Pilates good for back pain? For anyone suffering from general backache to acute pain, Pilates can carry an important role in relieving pain in your back.

I think of Pilates as intelligent, corrective exercise. Pilates exercises your body as well as your mind. It can change the shape of your body. You may not even realize some of the ways you may be moving that are causing stress on your spine. Pilates specifically focuses on and addresses the intrinsic issues that can lead to back pain including poor posture resulting in asymmetry of the muscles, lack of core strength and inflexibility. Pilates teaches you to become more aware of your body and helps to break the bad habits that are contributing to back pain.

Proper alignment of the spine is crucial to back health; when alignment is off, uneven pressure on the spine results. Strengthening weak areas in the body is a major component to good posture. If you sit with your shoulders rounding forward, or tend to stand leaning into one hip, your posture is suffering and you are causing unnecessary strain to your spine and hips. A good Pilates instructor alerts you to these imbalances and then creates a program focused on creating symmetry in your body, allowing you to move more efficiently.

Another primary cause of low back pain is lack of strength in the inner abdominal muscles. This weakness causes the lower back to sway forward and tightens the muscles that cause pain. A good Pilates program focuses on strengthening the “core” muscles that support the spine. Strengthening the “core” goes beyond the outer abdominal muscles. The “core” consists of the inner abdominal muscles that create a flat stomach and hug and protect the spine. Creating this “inner” strength is crucial to back health.

Flexibility also contributes greatly to how your back feels. Your spine carries the ability to twist, move from side to side, and bend forward and backward. When you develop core strength you have the support to build flexibility in your torso, your hip flexors, and your hamstrings (back of legs) safely without putting strain on the spine.

One great aspect about Pilates is that you can work at your own pace with your instructor to increase strength, flexibility and alignment. Working towards these goals of symmetrical alignment, strengthening your core, and creating flexibility in your body can help you live a pain free life.

Written by Heidi Meyerholtz
Pilates Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Martial Arts Video: Fight Choreography

In this final video of the series, Martial Arts Director Jody Garcia demonstrates how to choreograph your footwork, punching and kicks to for a great little fight sequence.

Demonstrated by Jody Garcia
Martial Arts Director, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Squash: Movement, Footwork, and Positioning

“Movement, Footwork, and Positioning” is an important chapter in the “Book of Squash”. Getting to the ball and recovering to the “T” in the most efficient and effective manner can well determine the outcome of a match. The prescribed method of movement on the court is up and down the middle sometimes referred to as the “red carpet”. Moving this way, you should arrive in good position to hit the ball and also be able to return to the “T” with the greatest ease. The most common error with beginners is to run directly to the ball. Once you learn to stay on the “red carpet”, you are on your way to becoming a better player. One more thing, arrive with your racquet up and ready to swing.

Written by Bruce Vinsonhaler
Squash Pro, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Barbells for Everyone

What's new? Try something old; we are talking the tried and true basic barbell lifts. Here's a few basic barbell exercises you may have heard of before; Front squat, Back squat, Overhead squat, RDL's, Shoulder Press, Bench Press, and Good Mornings. If you haven't heard of these movements you should get to know them ASAP.

Why are these movements so great if they are "basic?" There are a few reasons to do these exercises;
  1. Increase your strength quickly, safely, and efficiently.
  2. Increase your core strength actively through a full range of motion.
  3. Increase your flexibility and joint/bone strength.
  4. Burn more calories by using your full body, targeting larger muscle groups and increasing body tension while moving through the motions.
  5. Using your new found strength and range of motion to apply to sports, general fitness, and overall health.

These basic lifts, when done correctly and to full range of motion, will make your workout feel like sprinting up a hill. The full range of motion, combined with a heavier load, pushes your body both in muscular strength and increased heart rate. Not only do these lifts make you sweat (buckets even) they push you to keep good form, good posture, and the concentration demands are much higher than sitting on a bench or using a leg press. You'll test yourself physically and mentally to find more depth, increase your weight, and build core strength. Lifting with barbells will help you understand your body better and coordinate your muscles to fire harder, faster, and more efficiently. All these things add up to a intense workout, quicker strength gains and greater flexibility that will push you to continually work harder (increasing your heart rate and caloric burn).

Learning how to coordinate and move your body through space without weight first is pivotal in executing these more demanding exercises. Be smart, make small gains, be true to the movement, always aim for proficiency before increases in weight, and have fun!

If you want to learn more about these lifts and how to increase strength quickly, Personal Fitness Trainer Adriana Brown runs Men's Power Training for Sport (barbell lifting) every Wednesday from 7:00-8:00am. To find out how you can become a barbell aficionado, call Adriana at 206-443-1111 or send her an email.

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

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Child Safety Tips for the Summer Time

Although you should make every effort to keep your children safe year-round, it is especially important in the summer when most kids are out of school. Here are some common hidden dangers your child faces in the summertime, and the best ways you can prevent them.

Summer Heat Tips
Excessive sun and heat exposure can lead to heat-related illness such as dehydration, heat stress and heat stroke and can also cause skin damage and sunburns. All of this can be prevented by keeping kids well-hydrated, taking frequent breaks when playing outside, and watching for symptoms such as thirst, cramps, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and fever. Here are some tips to keep you safe this summer:
  • Drink plenty of fluids and don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. Chances are if you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
  • Never leave children alone in a parked car. Temperatures can rise to over 122 degrees F within 20 minutes in an enclosed vehicle when the outside temperature is 93 degrees F. Contrary to popular belief, leaving the windows cracked open will not keep the inside of the vehicle at a safe temperature.
  • Protect yourself from the sun, stay in the shade and use sunscreen with an SPF 15 or more.
  • To keep cool on hot days, stay indoors in air-conditioned facilities or plan a trip to the beach or local pool. At temperatures above 94 degrees F fans are not effective at preventing heat-related illness; they push the air around rather than cooling the air down.
  • The coolest part of the day is early morning and late afternoon if you can arrange your outdoor activities to fit around this time of day.
  • Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing and a brimmed hat, or use an umbrella for shade.
  • Children and infants under the age of one should be kept out of the direct sun and are at a higher risk for heat-related illness up to the age of four. Young children do not sweat effectively and therefore have a harder time cooling themselves down. It is important for adults to ensure kids are kept cool and receive plenty of fluids throughout the day.

Common Sun Block mistakes
  • Not using sun block or not applying enough sun block. This is especially common early in the spring or summer, when you don't think it is sunny enough to get burned. The average person uses less than half the recommended amount of sun block when they do apply it on their kids. So apply a thick layer to each section of your child's body, to the point that it is actually hard to work it all in.
  • Missing areas of their child's body when they apply sun block. Many kids, especially younger ones, don't like to have sun block put on them. This can make applying sun block quite the battle, making it easy to miss a shoulder, thigh, or nose.
  • Reapply sun block every few hours, especially when your kids are in the water or sweating a lot. Even sun block that is waterproof should be reapplied often. It is easy to forget when it is late in the day or when you underestimate how long your child will be outside.
  • Remember, to be effective, sun block should be applied about 30 minutes before your kids go outside. If you wait until your kids are already outside, they will be unprotected for about 30 minutes, which is more than enough time to get a sun burn.

Water Safety Tips:
  • Teach your child to swim, but remember that younger children shouldn't be left unsupervised around water even if they know how to swim. Always wear a US Coast Guard approved life jacket when on a lake, river or ocean while boating, water skiing, jet skiing or tubing. Have children who don’t know how to swim wear a life vest instead of “floaties” when they are in a pool or water.
  • Educate your children on the different bodies of water such as the ocean, which can have currents and undertow versus still water in a pool.
  • Don't allow children to run around the pool area.
  • Childproof your swimming pool with a fence around your backyard and a fence (at least 4 feet high) around the pool, with a self-closing, self-latching gate. Also consider having a phone poolside and learning CPR in case of emergencies.
  • Be aware of swimsuits with the floatation stitched in. The flotation device in the swimsuit needs to be distributed evenly for it to work properly.
  • Always swim with a buddy.

Written by Ronianne Olson
Childcare Director, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Interval Training

A great way to maximize your cardio vascular workout time, build endurance faster and burn more calories is to add interval training to your regular cardio workouts. Interval training can be done during any type of cardio activity and on any cardio machine. This includes running, cycling, rowing, swimming as well as the elliptical and Stairmaster machines. You can even incorporate high intensity interval training to your strength training regime.

Interval training is any exercise done at a high intensity, usually at 75%-95% of your maximum heart rate. It is then followed by a period of rest that is a much lower intensity and repeated for several sets. These intense intervals can be as short as 20-30 seconds or as long as 15 minutes for aerobic training. The goal during this rest period is to allow yourself enough rest and recovery, so you can again push yourself at that high intensity. Using a heart rate monitor can help you see if you are working at that high intensity and it lets you know when you have recovered and ready to go again for the next bout of work. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, you can monitor your perceived exertion on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the hardest you can push yourself. How long your interval sets are, the number you do and the rest time you need will vary from individual to individual based on fitness level and goals. That being said, there are some general rules of thumb to follow when doing interval training.

A rest period always follows the high intensity work. Usually that work-to-rest ratio is determined by the athlete’s fitness, but it is generally one, two or three times the length of the work in high intensity interval training. An example is a 30 second sprint will require 60-90 seconds rest if done at 100% effort.

In longer aerobic periods of work where your heart rate is not as high, say 2 minutes, your work-to-rest ratio is usually one to one.

You can incorporate interval training into your longer workouts as well, just realize your perceived exertion should still be at that 8-10 even though the pace you are working at is slower, but you are sustaining it for a longer period of time (5-15minutes), which will still feel very hard.

More and more research on the value of interval training continues to be done, leading many fitness experts to believe it is more beneficial for weight loss goals because it burns more calories in a shorter amount of time. Also, it is just as valuable for specific training goals of speed and endurance, with less training time being done in that steady state mode. With interval training, you are maximizing the time you have to work out, seeing better results as well as making working out much more interesting and fun. So on your next workout, give it a try!

Written by Laurie Leonetti
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lunch Box Express 45 Minute Workout

Earlier in June Personal Fitness Trainer Adriana Brown talked about the benefits of High Intensity Training. Her latest "Get It Done" lunch time workout applies these principles in a quick 45 minutes.

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

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

8 Simple Questions to Ask when Selecting a Pilates Instructor

It’s important to do your research when seeking out a Pilates instructor, but how do you know which Pilates instructor is best for you? Here are 8 simple questions to ask when searching for a Pilates instructor.
  1. Are you a certified instructor?
    Unfortunately for you, the consumer, an instructor can get “certified” by any variety of “Pilates” instruction. Therefore, you need to ask some follow-up questions.

  2. What training program did you complete?
    Your instructor should be certified through one of the Pilates master teachers (a person directly taught by Joseph Pilates). Some names you should listen for are: Romana Kryzanowska, Ron Fletcher, Lolita San Miguel, Mary Bowen, and Kathy Grant.

  3. How many hours did your certification process require?
    Your instructor should have at least 600 hours of apprenticeship, where he/she spent time observing, assisting, teaching student clients under supervision, and then instructing solo. Several written and practical exams are required for the trainees to become certified.

  4. Are you current with your continuing education requirements?
    Make sure he/she is current on their continuing education requirements, usually meeting a required number of hours in a workshop every year.

  5. How many years have you been an instructor?
    Look for an instructor who has at least 2 years of teaching experience.

  6. What is your exercise philosophy or specialty?
    This can vary greatly, so look for an instructor who meets your needs.

  7. What is your experience with injuries?
    A Pilates instructor should know about any condition that you may want to discuss and how to work with it, including musculo-skeletal conditions and auto-immune disorders.

  8. Are you qualified to teach on all pieces of Pilates equipment?
    Some certified Pilates instructors are trained only on certain pieces of equipment. However, an effective Pilates instructor should know how to safely use every piece of equipment so that he/she can assess and deliver the exercise that will benefit you the most.

Fortunately here at the Seattle Athletic Club, all of our Pilates Instructors meet or exceed those standards. However, we all have different styles, so please feel free to engage us in conversation about Pilates. We love to share our passion!

Written by Danielle Zack
Pilates Director, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer Fun with an Open Water Swim

Nothing says summer fun like enjoying our beautiful shores of Lake Washington with an outdoor swim. Here are a couple of favorite spots that are perfect for an outdoor workout. Seward Park and Madison Park are two of the best swimming beaches in Seattle. Both have nice shorelines, plenty of shallow water before the deep water drop off and are easily accessible. If Lake Washington seems a little daunting, you can always head towards Green Lake and enjoy the swimming area there.

Before you jump in, remember a couple of things. Always swim with a buddy when doing open water swimming, never swim alone. Early mornings can be the best time as the waters tend to be much calmer then. Check the water temperatures before you go and if the water is a little too cold for your liking, then wear a wetsuit made specifically for outdoor swimming. These wetsuits are designed with a thinner and more flexible material and will enhance your open water experience. Too cold of water can make for a higher chance of drowning if not properly prepared. Finally check the bacteria and algal toxin levels before you jump in. As the weather gets warmer and warmer some swim areas level of bacteria pollution increases and may become a health risk for swimmers. You can find this information, as well as current temperatures online at Armed with some friends, a wetsuit and a safe and clean swimming area, your open water swimming this summer is sure to be nothing but fun and exhilarating. Enjoy!

For more questions and information about open water swimming, please contact any one of our swim instructors or Aquatic Director Dan Lavin.

Written by Laurie Leonetti
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate
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Monday, July 19, 2010

Yoga Pose of the Month: Eagle Pose

For athletes who spend a lot of the game balancing on one leg, like kicking a soccer ball, or pushing off a dominant foot for a jump shot- Eagle Pose is an excellent pose for you to strengthen the standing leg, while improving balance. Eagle also targets a tough muscle group between the shoulder blades, that include your Rhomboids and Trapezes, which need to remain flexible especially in sports like tennis, and basketball to take the stress off shoulders.

The benefits of Eagle include:
  1. strengthening ankles, calves and adductors (inner thighs)

  2. Stretches hips, shoulders and upper back

  3. Improves concentration and breath flow under stress

Let’s Play
  1. Start at the top of your mat with both feet together and find a point of focus about 5’ in front of you. Get in tune with your breath; slow rhythmic breathing through the nose.

  2. Bend your knees and cross your right thigh over the left, balancing on your left foot.

  3. Squeeze inner thighs firmly together, and get active in core to increase your balance.

  4. Reach your arms out in front of you and cross your right arm over left, bend elbows and bring palms together. If it’s difficult to wrap your arms, hug your shoulders instead.

  5. To increase the intensity, sit lower in chair till your thighs are parallel to the floor and reach your fingertips forward. A slight rounding in the back and you ‘ll really feel the stretch between your shoulder blades.

Have Fun! Remember to Breathe! It’s only yoga after all, and the more you can keep your sense of humor and come back to the pose if you fall out, the more relaxed and determined you’ll be under pressure; in sports or in life.

For more instruction on Eagle, or any pose, please come to my classes at the SAC or schedule a private yoga lesson, now offered at SACDT, by myself or any of our many wonderful yoga teachers.
Let's raise a glass to Summer!!

Written by Tonja Renee Hall
Yoga Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Sunday, July 18, 2010

What is the Healthy Steps Program?

Healthy Steps with The Lebed Method is a not just an exercise program, it is a celebration with pizzaz. Participants progress toward better health while having the best time imaginable. Fun, easy to follow steps coordinated with great music allow class members to work within their personal parameters, and have fun while striving for wellness.

Healthy Steps with The Lebed Method was designed by two physician/surgeons and a dance movement specialist in 1980. This experienced and dynamic team effectively integrated dance movements, and physical therapy based exercises with music to form a distinctive program that delivers. The musical component is a key factor as participants are shown to move more freely when awareness is directed away from discomfort and limitation through musical stimulation. Props such as top hats, canes, boas are often incorporated into a routine to further stimulate a sense of imagination and play.

Numerous studies validate the Healthy Steps Program’s effective benefits for persons with conditions that limit upper and lower body movement, range of motion, and balance. Individuals recovering from accident, injury, surgery, athletic performance, breast cancer, other cancers, or suffering with chronic disorders such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, arthritis, M. S., diabetes are shown to thrive. Seniors and those newly beginning an exercise regimen flourish. It is safe for pregnant women through the third trimester. Certainly this is a program for anyone. The class can be done standing or seated.

Since 1980 this program’s therapeutic benefits have proven beneficial to many of those struggling along the, oftentimes difficult, road toward wellness. This unique, sensitive, international program, validated by numerous studies and published in a medical journal, promotes well-being, and joy. Class members are often transformed from survivors to thrivers while gently being launched to higher levels of lifestyle wellness than they would have dreamed.

Join the Healthy Steps Class because your quality of life will be improved. If you, or someone you know, are staying away because of any of the following think again. Just remember the Healthy Steps class is the place for you even if you:
  • Have two left feet
  • Lack experience
  • Are not athletic
  • Are not in the best shape
  • Pregnant
  • Are recovering from a illness or accident
  • Are living with a chronic condition
  • Want a gentle full-body workout without beating yourself up

Written by Claudia Cheyne-Cook
CLMT, CHT, Group Exercise Instructor Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Friday, July 16, 2010

Post Exercise Fueling

Just finished a hard training session with Captain "I said 10 more!" and now you are dog tired and hungry as a wolf. What do you re-fuel your body with, there are so many choices! The best thing to do is pick food higher in protein and fat and lower in carbohydrates and sugars especially. The more protein the better chance your body (muscles in particular) have of re-pairing themselves. The protein combined with the fat will take long to metabolize and sustain your energy for longer. Stay away from simple carbohydrates such as bagels, muffins, scones, syrups, yogurt coated nuts, etc. Need something fast, a protein shake with real fruit and a small amount of milk/soy milk in it will really hit the spot! Want to keep it simple? Try a hand full of almonds, a hard boiled egg, and a small piece of fruit. Don't forget to follow it all up with plenty of water!

Written by Adriana Brown
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Golf Tip: Reading Greens and Putting

It is important to take time to learn to read the greens in order to make the appropriate adjustments to your stroke. When judging a green, the latter half of a putt is much more important than the first half of the putt. This is due to the fact that the ball is losing speed as it travels across the green. When a putt loses speed, the characteristics of a green have a stronger influence on the path of the ball. To master distance control, you must learn to read the green and play your stroke accordingly so you place the ball close to the hole, or sink a putt in fewer strokes.

By Dave Boivin
PGA Professional, SAC Elite Golf

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Pilates Mat Class Q&A

Have you ever taken a mat class, and wondered why we teach them the way we do? I’ve been teaching mat classes since 1999, and I hear these same questions over and over. Let’s address them!

Why use “Magic Circles”?
The magic circle is a tool that adds resistance to an exercise. It is a circle with cushions on the side comprised of a metal band (or several bands) inside that bends when you squeeze it. When you press into the cushions of the circle, you strengthen your body. Specifically, the circle can make your inner thighs work harder (like in double leg stretch), strengthen your arms (like in spine stretch forward), or engage your pelvic floor and lower abdominals (like the roll-down).

Teachers will choose to use the circle for various reasons; to strengthen specific body parts, to stretch your legs, to check for evenness (or demonstrate unevenness), to add variety to your mat routine, and to integrate or connect your legs, hips, back, and abdominals to each other. It’s tough (!) so if you are new to using the circle, make the movement smaller and focus on what the instructor is saying.

What should I wear?
Pilates Instructors like to see your form, so wear something fitted to your body. We want to see your back (to see if you are sitting up straight), your shoulders (to see if they are up to your ears) and your hips, your knees, even your ankles. Long pants need to be rolled up so we can watch your ankle and foot alignment when you stand. Don’t wear your shoes to class. We work the foot and the arch so wear socks or bare feet. Please wear your hair out of your face so we can see your neck. Also, leave your jewelry at home. It’s clunky, noisy, and you end up fussing with it.

What should I tell the instructor about me?
An instructor will want to know if you are brand new to Pilates, how many sessions or classes you’ve taken, and maybe what style of Pilates you’ve done. Let her know if you have had any recent or long-term injuries, esp. any surgeries, including childbirth. Most everyone can do Pilates, but there are some conditions that are contraindicated (not allowed) in Pilates, including pregnancy (unless you have been doing Pilates before you became pregnant), severe osteoporosis, and certain spinal conditions that do not allow for much flexion (bending forward).

Written by Danielle Zack
Pilates Director, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What is TRX Suspension Training?

First of all let’s start off with what the TRX system is. TRX was originally designed by a Navy Seal who needed to be able to stay in shape with limited space and something small enough for sea bags. Since then, TRX has made its way into the fitness industry and is used by many pro sports teams, coaches, and top trainers around the world.

Simply put, TRX is a type of training that uses gravity and your own body weight to build strength, power, balance, coordination, flexibility, core and joint stability, all while preventing injuries, and increasing bone density. There are many advantages of using the TRX system.
  • Regardless of your training goals the TRX can help! For starters, you can minimize your training time by working your entire body switching from one exercise to the next in just seconds. The best part is every exercise engages your core. You may think that your core is just your abdominals, however, it is more than that! Your core includes the pelvis, abs, glutes, back, and chest muscles.

    It is your core that provides your body with stability, balance and flexibility. Everything you do in your life starts with your core, whether it is bending over to pick up the pen you dropped on the floor, washing your car, playing basketball with your kids, or participating in an Ironman. A strong and stable core is important to help prevent injuries, not just in your low back but throughout your entire body. Just think of how developing good core strength and stability will not only enhance your performance, but your way of life too!

  • Another advantage to TRX is that you use your own body weight to adjust your personal fitness level simply by walking closer or further away from the anchor point. This keeps you constantly challenging your body through every exercise, minimizing wasted time switching weights.

  • By using the TRX you can build muscle strength and size, challenging your body in a way it has not been challenged. TRX can strengthen all the stabilizing muscles around the joints needed to support a heavier weight, something that is not achieved by taking your body through a seated machine workout. This gives you more strength and power for your regular routines in the weight room, as well as giving you a strong foundation with less chance of injury. TRX is a great tool for plyometric type training as well, for an added increase in your power output.

  • TRX also helps in the fight against bone loss. The exercises on the TRX can be low impact while having the benefits of weight bearing exercises. You can add in a weight vest to make it even more challenging. The TRX helps you get in some ranges of motion you may not have been able to achieve before offering support while recruiting more muscles.

  • Are you looking for a cardio workout to lose weight and build muscle endurance? The TRX will fire multiple muscles, which increases the heart rate, burning more calories than sitting or standing through a “traditional" exercise. TRX can keep you constantly moving from one exercise to the next in a circuit-like manner. This strengthens your heart as well as increases muscular endurance.

Why should we train on the TRX over traditional styles of training?
Traditional styles of training are performed in what we call Sagital plane of motion meaning moving forward, backward, push or pulling types of exercises, typically while seated. An example would be a seated chest press, a seated cable row, or a leg press, none of which challenge the core the way we need for our daily activities. Do we always move in our daily routine only forward, backward, and supported? The answer is NO! We move left, right, forward, backward, diagonally and twisting and bending. Don’t you think we should train our bodies the same way? This is exactly why the TRX helps prevent injuries, while developing a strong and stable core. By moving in multi-plane exercises, you are training your body for daily activities and reducing chances of injury.

What are some of the exercises I can do to enhance my performance?
Like any new exercise program or introduction to new equipment you will always start with the basics until you have mastered form and technique. This will help you recruit the appropriate muscles and help prevent injuries. Here are some of the basic exercises that you would start off with when you first get going on the TRX: Chest Press, Row, Lunge, Squat, Plank, Tucks, Pike, Side Lunge, Oblique Twist, Back Extension.

Who is TRX training for?
As you see, the TRX system is very versatile for everyone: young, old, pro-athlete, recreational athlete, stay at home mom, body builder - no matter what your goals are or what your fitness level is, TRX is for you! Get started in a one on one program with a trainer or a group class today and take your physique to the next level!

To begin a TRX training program please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Katrina Yniguez, 206-443-1111 x289.

Written by Katrina Yniguez
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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TRX Exercise How To: Atomic Push Up

Personal Fitness Trainer Katrina Yniguez demonstrates the TRX Atomic Push Up. The TRX is a great training tool that provides you with a total body workout using your own body weight.

Begin your TRX training today, contact Katrina for more information on how to get started.

Demonstrated by Katrina Yniguez
Personal Fitness Trainer, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

To Go Bare, or Not to Go Bare? That is the Question!

Many magazines and gyms have heard the hype about running barefoot. It’s becoming a craze with running enthusiasts everywhere. There is even a brand of shoes on the market that are supposed to mimic wearing nothing called Vibram FiveFingers. The company states that “it puts you in touch with the earth beneath your feet and liberates you to move in a more natural, healthy way.” So the question is; what is the best way to run for your feet; no shoes, natural shoes, or running shoes?

Many exercise physiologists believe that wearing shoes, like other braces and supporters, weaken the muscles, ligaments, tendons and natural arches that support the structure of the foot. They think that the added cushion and supportive shoe inserts create poor biomechanics which can lead to increased risk of foot, knee and leg injuries.

On the other hand, some experts believe that certain proper fitting shoes can actually correct a lot of biomechanical problems, helping to alleviate the risk of injury. They state that if correcting foot pain was as simple as going bare foot, why isn’t everyone doing it, and why is the pain still present. Jumping into wearing no shoes can shock the feet, and without an adaptation phase can create more severe foot problems.

Until there is definitive research about whether one is better than the other all we can do is make an informed decision on what mode of running would benefit us most. So here are the pros and cons of barefoot running.

  • May develop a more natural gait, strengthen the muscle, tendons and ligaments of the foot
  • Helps the calves & Achilles tendon lengthen and stretch, reducing likelihood of lower leg injuries
  • May learn to land on forefoot rather than heel. Heel striking while running came around because of the excessive padding in the heels of shoes. Research is now showing that heel striking is less efficient, because you are basically putting on the brakes every step. Landing on the forefoot allows the arches of the foot to act as a natural shock absorber.
  • Can improve balance and proprioception by working smaller stabilizing muscles

  • If you are not experiencing any problems, should you not run in shoes?
  • They offer a layer of protection against foreign objects and the elements like snow and rain.
  • Overworking the small muscles, causing Achilles tendonitis and calf strains.
  • Without the stiff-soled shoe, our soft tender plantar surface may be more susceptible to plantar fasciitis.
  • Blisters will be your friends for the first couple of weeks without shoes.

If your feet have had aches that wont go away, try bare foot running. Just be aware that there are some consequences of running with protection; but your feet may thank you for the freedom to move more naturally, or they may say get me back in my protective environment. Only you can decide what is right for your own feet. If running bare foot is just too much, try one of the new shoes on the market like the Vibram FiveFingers and see if it is that perfect combination of support and freedom you feet need. Like any exercise, don’t jump in full bore, try it out a little at a time and listen to your body! Have fun and get running.

Written by Jacob Galloway
Fitness Director, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Principles of Pilates: Part 2 - Centering

Centering: Physically bringing the focus to the center of the body or the "powerhouse". All of the movements of the exercises need to originate from a stable core and require the ability to hold the required stabilizing core muscles at low levels for periods of time.

Energetically, Pilates exercises are sourced from your center. When this is achieved it allows the rest of the body to function efficiently.

Written by Merc Howard
Pilates Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Martial Arts Video: Punching Combinations

Martial Arts Director, Jody Garcia demonstrates the a couple punch combinations in his second video in the series of four.

Demonstrated by Jody Garcia
Martial Arts Director, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Thursday, July 8, 2010

On Behalf of the Calf

Are you struggling with tight calves? Every step we take uses our calves, as they are activated each time we toe off and take a step. Unless we are spending time stretching them, this repetitive use can gradually result in muscle tension.

The two principal muscles in the region of the lower leg we call our “calves,” are the gastrocnemius and soleus. Both of these muscles attach to the Achilles tendon, at the back of the heel. When these muscles are tight, we commonly see tension in the Achilles tendon and/or soles of the feet (“plantar fasciitis”). Since they pull on the connective tissue throughout the back of the body, tight calves can even cause problems as far away as the lower back. Thus, keeping energy flowing via flexible calves is essential for the maintenance of a healthy spine, leading to proper body alignment and nervous system health.

In Yoga one excellent posture for keeping the calves flexible is called Downward-Facing Dog. To get into this posture, come onto your hands and knees, with your hips over your knees and your hands placed a little ahead of your shoulders. Plant your whole hands firmly on the ground. Take a deep inhale and on your exhale, slowly lift your hips towards the sky. Gently lower your heels towards or to the ground. The shape of your body will be similar to that of an inverted ‘V’. In case of limited hamstring flexibility, you may need to bend your knees. Now rotate your shoulders outward, and relax them down away from your ears. Your arms and torso should be in one straight plane.

Be sure the stretch through your calves (and everywhere else the posture addresses) feels comfortable: the stretch should never feel sharp or painful. Stay in the posture for three to five deep breaths. When you are ready to come out of the posture, slowly bend and lower your knees to the ground and rest in what is called Child’s Pose. In Child’s Pose the tops of your feet are on the floor, and your pelvis is resting over your heels; your arms are by your sides, with your forehead softly lying on the mat. This is called a “counter pose,” when we take the body gently in the opposite direction to the previous pose. Counter posing helps the nervous system organize and integrate the changes that have occurred in the muscles.

Written by David Seborer
ACSM HFI and Swim Coach, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate
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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pilates + Running = Speed + Distance

Training for a marathon this summer? Maybe a 5K race? Whether you’re a marathoner, short distance or casual runner there is no doubt running is great cardiovascular work. But your body can take a beating and this can lead to muscle imbalances in the body that can sideline runners. Pilates can help balance things out and get you running faster and further.

As a runner, you have great leg strength. However, you may notice that your hamstrings (back of legs) are weak. Your quadriceps (front thigh), inner thighs and hip flexors may feel tight. These imbalances in the muscles of the legs and hips can potentially cause pain and injury for runners, especially the knee, hip, ankle and foot.

• Strengthen hamstrings, inner thighs, and gluteals, taking pressure off the front and side of the leg
• Elongate and align the spine for better stability
• Improve technique, flexibility and balance so you move efficiently
• Recover faster from injuries
• Increase range of motion in hips and shoulders
• Enhance concentration through focused breathing

The best way to know what your body specifically needs is to meet with a Pilates Instructor who will learn your weaknesses and tight areas, and develop a program based on those needs of stretching and strengthening.

But, in the meantime, here are some at-home exercises you could start today:
  1. The Hundred
  2. The Abdominal Series of five
  3. Single leg stretch
    Double leg stretch
    Single straight leg stretch
    Double straight leg stretch
  4. The Swimming
A balanced body will keep you out on the road, track or treadmill all season long; not to mention shave seconds off your times!

Written by Jocelyn Paoli
Stott Certified Pilates Instructor, Seattle Athletic Club Downtown
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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Don’t be Upper Body Dominant; Add Kicking for Faster Times

Try this test. After a nice warm-up in the pool, time yourself and count the number of strokes (counting just one hand) it takes to go 40 yds.

After a brief rest period, do it again without kicking (no pull buoy either). If there isn’t a significant difference in your time along with a reduced number of strokes, what does that tell you? That you’re not using the strongest muscle group in your body!

Adding a strong kick to your stroke not only makes you quicker, but also distributes the workload throughout your entire body. Many triathletes reduce the amount of kicking towards the end of their swim to “preserve” their leg strength, but while you can, allow your whole body to participate, not certain parts to dominate.

In your workouts, don’t do a lot of lengths of kicking at one time, but kick more often during your workouts. Short powerful bursts are very handy when needing to pass someone who’s slowing you down. Keep your kick “active” with a high percentage of usage for propulsion, not just for balance.

Written by Dan Lavin
Aquatics Director, Seattle Athletic Club Northgate

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Friday, July 2, 2010

The Life Curve

As someone who makes a habit of eating healthfully and exercising regularly, from time to time I find myself defending my lifestyle choices. I am sure many of you who are reading this have experienced this as well. People are often interested, and sometimes appalled, to hear that I would rather spend my Friday night in the gym than at happy hour, or that I would gladly choose some dark green leafy vegetables over a side of bacon. In effort to explain (and perhaps justify, depending on the audience) my lifestyle choices, I have tried out many different lines of reasoning. Nothing I have come across does a more effective job summarizing my overall reasoning than the concept of the life curve.

I have noticed that generally we think of our lives as a string with a definite beginning and an end. Your life begins when you are born, and it ends when you die. When you think about your life this way, it leads you to consider health in a one-dimensional fashion. Most health-related matters eventually boil down to whether or not they will immediately sever your lifeline. I am sure you have often heard someone lament that a particular activity or food “is not going to kill you” implying that if death is not a likely outcome, then it is without consequence. This sort of thinking also makes healthful eating and regular exercise somewhat easy to dismiss because, let’s face it, your life could end abruptly at any moment. And it seems reasonable to conclude that since “life is short” you may as well have a good time while you can and not worry all the time about extending your lifeline, right? That all seems logical given the information that we have, but perhaps there is more to the story.

The concept of a life curve expands on the idea of the lifeline by adding a second dimension, and it looks something like this:

In the above illustration, the x-axis represents how long we will live, just as it does in the one-dimensional representation of your life. The y-axis represents our quality of life. The higher up the life curve is on the y-axis, the better the quality of life. Here ‘quality of life’ represents many things. For example, immune system strength, bone density, body composition, energy levels, the ability to concentrate, and how long you can run are all examples of quality of life. The list is seemingly endless, and can best be prioritized by you.

‘Quality of life’ is a relatively abstract term, but this concept can significantly change our thinking. Length of life is no longer paramount, but secondary to how we will feel each and every day while we are alive. And believe me, all of our actions matter. Everything that we eat, all of the exercise that we do, how much sleep we get each night, and our overall level of stress, among many other things, all impact quality of life. Our behavior has real and tangible consequences that will be felt not only in the short-term, but in the long-term as well. Everyday decisions that we make have the potential to impact the rest of our lives.

The next time that someone is giving you a hard time for choosing water instead of wine, spending an extra fifteen minutes on the treadmill, or forgoing the cheese on your sandwich, encourage them to add a second dimension to the way they consider their lifeline. You may just have an easier time justifying your position.

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