Month: April 2012

Cardio vs. Lifting Weights: Which burns more calories?

There is a great deal of confusion surrounding body composition improvement. Conflicting information saturates the media concerning what methodology is most appropriate to help us reach our goals, which leads to many of us expending unnecessary time and energy in the gym doing the wrong things. Approaching our goals from the wrong direction, unfortunately, keeps them out of reach.

First, we need to get a few things straight. Body composition is the comparison of adipose tissue (fat) to lean tissue (everything else). Those of us who desire to shape, tone, and define our bodies often mistakenly identify our primary goal as simply “weight loss”. In reality, our goal is more accurately described as “body composition improvement”. Losing weight alone will not produce the result we strive for. We also need structure – in the form of lean muscle. To put the bottom line up front: Lifting weights (resistance training) is a better way to improve body composition than cardiovascular exercise. Disagree? Read on…there are two main reasons resistance training is so effective – one occurs in the short-term, one in the long-term.

The short-term can seem a little tricky, and is often misinterpreted. While you are actively exercising, cardiovascular exercise burns more calories than resistance training of the same relative intensity. This fact alone causes a great deal of confusion and feeds misinformation to popular fitness media.

There is more to the story than how many calories we burn during a workout. How many calories are expended post workout is relevant as well. When our cardiovascular routine ends, it takes the body merely a few minutes to return to resting heart rate, and therefore resting metabolism. However, when we finish resistance training, our metabolism is positively affected by tissue repair and growth for up to 72 hours. When we finish with cardiovascular exercise, our metabolism returns to normal before we hit the locker room, while after a resistance training workout we continue burning extra calories for several days. Still not convinced? Consider the long-term.

The long-term picture is a little simpler. Resistance training over time will cause the body to create additional lean muscle mass. Lean muscle is more metabolically active, that is, it requires more calories to maintain itself than adipose tissue does – so the more lean muscle mass we have, the higher our metabolism. Elevating our metabolism causes the body to burn more calories during everything that we do, day and night.

Restated simply: Resistance training is a more effective way to improve body composition than cardiovascular activity, both in the short-term and the long-term. Cardiovascular training is still critical for good health – the heart is the most important muscle, after all. But we call it “cardio” for a reason: it is primarily for the heart. The road to train the rest of the body runs straight through the weight room.

So stop worrying about weight, step off the scale, and pick up some dumbbells.

If you have questions about how to plan your workouts based on body composition measurements, please feel free to contact Personal Fitness Trainer Damien K. Krantz.

Train Smarter, Not Longer

Out of all the excuses we use to avoid going to the gym one ranks above them all. It’s no secret that our lives are getting busier and busier and unfortunately this trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down. So the question is where can we find time to fit in that hour of exercise 4-5 days a week? What if I told you that you didn’t need an hour, or 45 minutes, or even 30 minutes for that matter? What if 4 minutes could be enough? Dr. Izumi Tabata challenges the traditional format of a workout with a specific variation of interval training designed for maximum output in a minimum amount of time.

Dr. Tabata performed a study in 1996 involving seven subjects who were put through 6 weeks of training with 5 workouts each week. Each workout consisted of a 5 minute warm-up followed by what is now known as the Tabata Training System. This system involves 20 seconds of work at maximum capacity followed by 10 seconds of rest repeated 6-8 times. In this study the control group performed a more traditionally accepted method of cardio which involved challenging the individual to complete exhaustion in 30 minutes. What Dr. Tabata found was nothing short of incredible. The Tabata Training group out performed the control group even when the total amount of exercise was only 4 minutes compared to the 30.

Why does this work? The overload principle states that training adaptations come about when the body is subjected to unaccustomed stress. The specific adaptation depends on the nature of the overload imposed. In other words, specific exercise overload brings about specific training effects. Traditionally people have geared training towards either aerobic or anaerobic conditioning. However with the Tabata Training protocol both aerobic and anaerobic can be overloaded. This Method also takes into consideration the mental aspect of working at maximum capacity. For the average individual it is nearly impossible to achieve maximum output for anything over 60 seconds. This becomes increasingly more difficult if we take into consideration the addition of multiple sets. Part of why Dr. Tabata’s training method is so effective is that it allows the individual to achieve maximum output, while at the same time, requiring minimal rest.

It is important to note that this training system is not recommended for an untrained individual. As with starting any exercise regimen, it is crucial to start off slow and gradually work your way up to ensure that you will stay injury free. It is recommended that before you begin using the Tabata Training Method you start with 1-3 sets and slowly work your way up to the full 8 sets. This method also shouldn’t be applied to exercises like box jumps or other high impact exercises due to the added risk of injury.

If you would like to know more about Tabata Training, please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Will Paton.

What’s the Difference? Mat vs. Equipment

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

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

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

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

The focal points of his work are to increase lung capacity, to improve core strength and to use one’s mind to control body movements.

Hence, the six Pilates principles evolved:

  1. control
  2. Centering
  3. Concentration
  4. Precision
  5. Breath
  6. Flow

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

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

To introduce Pilates in to your workout regime, or inquire about private Pilates instruction, please contact Pilates Director Danielle Zack.

Spring Training Outside on Pier 66

With more daylight extending in to the evenings, why not use this opportunity to change your fitness routine?

Training outdoors can awaken your urban fitness child and enhance your workout experiences. All you need is a good pair of athletic shoes, a resistance band and a jump rope. The challenge of having to do something outside of your comfort zone, along with the fresh air and great weather, is what outdoor workouts are all about. Just outside the Seattle Athletic Club Downtown doors, you can find easy access to the waterfront by heading down the overpass and stairs at the base of Lenora Avenue. There are running trails along the waterfront, as well as the pier 66 stairs and Sculpture Park grounds that provide a lot of options to plan a rewarding routine around.

Here are some exercise examples and calories expenditures pertaining to the movement to get you started:

  • Running stairs for a hour = 612 calories
  • Doing a circuit of upper and lower body = 544 calories
  • Running a 12min mile = 544 calories a hour
  • Jump rope 3 minutes = 100 calories

By using some simple activities, mixed with some base exercises, you can easily build a 750 calorie burning workout together. An example might include: a small run in, do a flight of stairs, stop do some upper body & lower body resistance band sequences, add a minute of jump rope, repeat a 2nd set and run back to club to finish with some core work and stretching.

If you need help with putting this routine together contact any member of our fitness team.

If these benefits seem like something that interest you and you would like to be our group workouts please contact Martial Arts Trainer Jody Garcia.

Expanding the Brain

Neuroplasticity is the ability for the brain to grow new synapses and expand the wealth of knowledge stored away as memory. In order to create new synapses, the brain needs new stimulus. There are several ways to enhance brain power and retention.

Sensory motor skills can boost cognitive ones, so that’s just one more reason to exercise. When it comes to aging, the most important way to improve neuroplasticity is through stability work. Several muscles have to communicate and work synergistically in order to perform an exercise correctly. Functional training is a way to improve coordination and integrate contra-lateral movement (where a movement is synchronized with both sides of the body performing different movements). Another way to improve brain power through exercise is doing a sport that requires quick reflexes, hand/ eye coordination, speed and agility. This will improve reactive skills and depth perception among many other benefits.

Working on progressive matrices and geometric configurations will improve spacial thinking and problem solving. Strategy games and adventure games improve vital activation of multiple hemispheres of the brain at once.

Attention is the sine qua non of learning and thus of boosting intelligence. In order to improve attention and mental clarity many variables have to be considered. Multitasking actually makes it hard to focus your attention. Too many things going on at one time will only give you diverted attention and create bad habits. Be a perfectionist with one thing that requires your attention at that very moment. Meditation is the key to de-cluttering the mind. Learning to decrease unnecessary expenditure of your energy on over analytical processing and emotional roller coasters brings you to the ‘present’ where you can focus and retain what is in front of you and have energy and motivation to learn new tasks.

Nutrition is something most people don’t recognize has a huge impact on brain power. Hydration and healthy, regular meals should be occurring before signs of thirst or hunger appear. Try eating more filling, low-glycemic foods when you know you won’t be eating again for a while.

Sleep will also help brain power. Listen to your body and what it needs. Most people are so sleep deprived they go through there day like zombies. Retention will improve when you are awake and more of your senses are involved in a task. Napping in the middle of the day or after a particular challenging task can also boost memory, so take advantage of a little down time.

Working at these small things will improve mental health and in turn quality of life by motivating you to try new things and explore. For additional ideas or recommendations contact me, Amber Walz.

The Power of Proprioception

All athletes will face the danger of getting injured during their sport. This is why we train the muscles and practice the movements. By practicing, we help provide the body and mind with the confidence that we can perform the tasks required of us. One of the largest components to this sense of confidence is proprioception. Proprioception refers to the sense of a joint position in relation to the rest of the body. This allows our body to know where we are in space; more specifically, while we are moving in relation to the rest of the body as well as the environment. The more balanced our body becomes; the more efficient our movements will be, making ourselves stronger. Once the body can control the hips and spine, the primary muscles can take over to perform the power required. The true key to any sport is efficiency. Can I prepare my body for any type of movement that may occur during performance? Can I avoid getting hurt while still going all out and not holding anything back?

Balance training will do much more than make you less clumsy. Along with strengthening your hip and ankle stabilizers you will become more agile, developing the ability to control and change your center of gravity throughout movement. Again, this is why we train and practice just shy of maximum effort. The body loves to learn through trial and error. You have to start to lose your balance before the body can learn where it needs to step up and activate. Hiking provides a perfect example of this type of proprioception. While the start of the hiking season might require that your entire attention remain focused on the trail to avoid falling, after a few hikes, you start to notice that you are more confident in your ability to adjust to the terrain by foot feel alone, thus making you less focused on the trail below you and allowing you to look up and enjoy the scenery. This helps to establish your connection with your surroundings and will, in turn, help with your balance.

Proprioception can be incorporated into your regular workout routine easily. When standing performing front raise exercises, try standing on one foot. This causes the body to become more unstable and will recruit different muscles to help find the balance point. When that becomes too simple, try closing your eyes. Try keeping your eyes closed through an entire yoga class, or pilates mat session to see if you can feel where your body is in space, focusing solely on your movements. Try a yoga class that focuses on balance training or arm balances. This will teach you which muscles to engage and which muscles to relax to help become more successful. Once the neural pathways are developed, the body can use these movements as tools to help their efficiency on the court, out in the woods, or even in the pool!

Kerry’s Kitchen Recipe: Rainbow Chard, Kale, Beet and Carrot Ribbon Salad.

Our April guest chef was Kerry Jean-Francois who presented seasonal salads to our members and guest. The Kale and Beet salad was one of the favorites of the night.

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch Swiss Chard
  • 1 bunch Purple Kale
  • 1 bunch Green Kale
  • 1 c. Red Cabbage, chiffonade, rinse in cold water
  • 1 ea. Red Beet, medium dice
  • 1 ea. Golden Beet, medium dice
  • 2 ea. Carrot, peeled and cut in half width wise
  • 2 TB Sunflower seed (roasted – shelled)
  • 2 TB Pine nuts
  • 4 TB Feta cheese, crumbled

  1. Preheat oven: 400 F
  2. Rinse and wrap beets in foil, place on sheet pan – roast ~ 40 – 50 min til tender.
  3. Using potato peeler, peel carrot into ribbons.

Salad Dressing Ingredients:

  • 1 TB Garlic, fresh, chopped fine
  • ½ tsp Olive Oil
  • 1/4 c. Balsamic Vinegar
  • ¼ c. Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Tarragon, fresh, chopped
  1. In small saute pan, toast garlic – remove reserve.
  2. In small jar with lid, combine Balsamic Vinegar and Olive Oil – shake until emulsified.
  3. Add Tarragon to vinegar-oil jar with garlic and shake until well blended.

Final Preparation Direction:
Combine all ingredients and toss with vinaigrette.

Push it up!

If there is a single exercise to do on a consistent basis, it would be a PUSH UP. Push ups are an awesome compound movement that is going to work your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core.

The great thing about push-ups is that they use your body weight as resistance, so you don’t have to use any equipment. When done correctly, a push up is one of the most effective exercises to strengthen your upper body.

Military Push Ups

  1. Place your toes and hands on the floor, making sure your back and arms are straight. Keep your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart and tighten your abdominal muscles.
  2. Inhale as you lower yourself to the floor, stopping as your elbows reach a 90-degree bend. Keep your body from touching the floor.
  3. Exhale and push yourself away from the floor. Don’t lock your elbows, and don’t bend your back.
  4. Repeat several sets.

Modified Push Up

  1. Place your hands and knees on the floor. Keeping your gluts and abs tight, your back should be in one diagonal line with your head and neck, and your feet should be lifted from the floor.
  2. Inhale as you lower yourself to the floor, stopping as your elbows reach a 90-degree bend. Keep your body from touching the floor.
  3. Exhale and push yourself away from the floor. Don’t lock your elbows, and don’t bend your back.
  4. Repeat several sets.

To make your workout more challenging, place your hands on a chair or bench for an incline push up.

For help designing a new workout, or information on planning modifications to your existing workouts, please contact Fitness Director, Jacob Galloway.

Does fancy make a difference?

Do you ever watch ESPN, see the NFL players training, and think, “Man, my gym really needs a tractor tire and a sledge hammer!” Or do you catch your eyes on the super fit member doing kettlebell swings and think that you really need to buy one of those for home! Or maybe you watch a YouTube video of some amazing new training on nothing but a log and a huge rope and think that you have really been missing out on the magical answer to achieving your goals! Well stop wondering and start reading…

The fitness industry is a million dollar industry, why, because everyone is always looking for the next big thing, the next revolution in health and fitness. If you stay up late enough you’ll probably run across half a dozen infomercials nearly all dedicated to some new piece of equipment that is sure to give you a six pack, a perfect butt, decrease body fat, allow you to enjoy endless hours of amazingly effective cardio. Everything from the Shake Weight, to the Pilates chair, to gizmos and gadgets that help you jump higher, run faster, and lift more. Does it work? Chances are no, chances are its all flash and no results. Some things may work if you stick with them but the “getcha” of equipment for the home is that it’s accessible all the time so you put off using it. Plus there is no one there to push you to do it, to support you, to help you, or to cheer you on. So most of the time you use your equipment at home for a week and then it becomes a clothes hanger (like that treadmill collecting dust in your basement). But in addition to the lack of use, the equipment is mostly smoke. You can lose 10lbs without a Bo-Flex if you got your diet in order and stopped coming to the gym just to use the steam room.

But what about fancy stuff at the gym, it must be worth it right?
Most non traditional equipment at the gym is great if you know how to use it. Here at the SAC we have a Versa Climber (it’s down in cardio next to the Stepmills), and what an awesome machine, if you know how to use it right. Do you need to have a Versa Climber to achieve your goals? Absolutely not. Do you have to know how to use the TRX to improve your flexibility and strength, no. When you see your co-workers working out with a trainer and tossing a sandbag around do you feel like maybe that’s why she looks like a swimsuit model and you don’t? Well the equipment is not the answer. Yes, the equipment we offer here at the SAC is amazing and helpful to training but it WILL NOT MAKE OR BREAK YOUR TRAINING. Just because you don’t know how to use the Quadmill does not mean you cannot strengthen your quads a number of other ways and some of them remarkably similar to the work you get on the Quadmill. Just because you don’t know how to swing a kettlebell doesn’t mean you can’t grab a dumbbell and accomplish a similar exercise with the same principles. While it’s nice and fun to change up your routine and learn something new and cutting edge it’s not magically going to change your workout world. The most important part of changing your workouts is learning proper movement. Understand why you are doing exercises and how they apply them to reaching your goals. If you understand the basics of movement then you can literally workout efficiently anywhere. If you only know how to use a TRX for exercise the next time you find yourself on a 2 week vacation you might not have a clue of how to get in a workout, let alone a good effective one. So equipment is great, but knowledge and understanding how to move your body is the ultimate key.

When you start and master the basics the possibilities are endless. You can learn how to use the fancy stuff but don’t think that learning how to use a strength rope is going to change your body into a professional athlete. When it comes down to it, it’s not about the equipment, it’s about how you move your body without weight, straps, bands, bags, bells, bars, etc. that will make or break your fitness advances. So bottom line, don’t get consumed by the fancy, the new, or the different…rather, be consumed by quality of movement and building a base of knowledge. Then if you feel like swinging a sledgehammer onto a huge tire go for it; but just remember why you are doing it and how it applies to you and your goals!

If you are looking for further ideas on how you can integrate some of these great pieces of exercise equipment in to your workouts, please contact Personal Fitness Trainer, Adriana Brown.

Spring Into Running with a Balanced Body

As spring approaches, we get excited about enjoying outdoor activities here in the Pacific Northwest, including running. It’s easy! Just grab a pair of running shoes and head out the door! But have you ever jumped into a running regime, only to find yourself nursing an injury a few weeks or months down the road? Whether you are new to running or training for yet another marathon, look for ways to cross-train for a balanced body so you can enjoy running all season long.

Most runners know that it is critical to have a strong core, back, hips, and pelvic muscles, but what is the best way to achieve that? One option for this cross training is Pilates. Pilates is a series of exercises given to you by an instructor who learns your weaknesses and tight areas, and then develops a program based on those needs of stretching and strengthening.

I’ve noticed that runners are generally good at Pilates; they seem to know how to engage their gluteals (bottom muscles) and are aware of their core/abdominals. However, runners also tend to have tight quadriceps (thighs) and hip flexors, as well as weak hamstrings (back of legs) and inner thighs. 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.

Pilates helps to balance things out in the legs by strengthening the hamstrings, inner thighs, and gluteals to take pressure off the front and side of the leg, leading to better alignment and less chance of injury. Plus the hip, abdominal and back strengthening exercises help to maintain better stability and alignment through the entire body while running.

The best way to learn what your body specifically needs is to meet with a Pilates Instructor one-on-one. But, in the meantime, some at-home exercises you could start today include the following:

  1. The Hundred
  2. The Abdominal Series of five
    • Single leg stretch
    • Double leg stretch
    • Single straight leg stretch
    • Double straight leg stretch
    • Criss-cross
  3. Spine Stretch Forward

A balanced body will result in better performance, quicker recovery, and less chance of injury so you can enjoy running all season long.