Tag: instruction

Pilates Exercise of the Month: HIP CIRCLES

Hip Circles, Pilates Moment

Purpose:  Hip Circles focus on the abdominal muscles; strethes the front of the shoulders, across the chest, and down the arms.

Starting Position: Sit in a V position with the arms extended behind the body, hands resting on floor; fingers face away from body. The legs are together, about an 60 degree angle from the floor.

  1. Inhale; move your legs down and around to the right.
  2.  Exhale, complete the circle, bringing the legs to the left and back up to the starting V position.
  3. Complete 3-5 sets.


Visualization: Imagine your hands are stuck in cement and you are unable to move your torso except to keep it lifting to the ceiling.

  Head to Toe Checklist:

  1. Begin small, increasing circles as you gain strength.
  2. Circling the legs too low will compromise your abdominals.
  3. Don’t let the upper body collapse.
  4. Press the shoulders down and away from your ears.


Prop yourself up on your elbows if maintaining straight arms is to difficult.

Jocelyn Paoli, Pilates Instructor

Tips for Exercising in the Summer Heat

The sunshine is here! Most individuals prefer exercising outdoors once that sunshine comes out and it is a great idea, especially during the summer. There are a few things you should keep in mind when doing so. Below are some tips for you when you decide to head outside for a run on an 80 degree summer day. I have also included some examples for you to refer too.

Clothing: Wearing lighter colors will help reflect the heat from your clothing and skin. Looser and lighter clothing will help with the evaporation of sweat and make your workout more comfortable. (Example: NIKE Dri-Fit)

Stay hydrated: Drink water before, during, and after exercise to keep your body hydrated when out in the heat. If you do not have enough fluid in your system, it could result in fatigue, nausea, and even heat exhaustion. (Example: ZICO coconut water

Sunscreen: Check the weather before leaving and if it is sunny or even overcast outside, wear sunscreen so you do not risk getting burnt. (Example: NEUTROGENA spf30 sunscreen)

Time of day: The hottest part of the day is normally between 11am and 4pm, so if you have a chance to workout before 11 or after 4 if it is going to be outdoors, I recommend doing so. (Example: At 9am after eating 2 scrambled eggs and peanut butter toast)

Acclimation: If your body is not used to exercising in warmer climates, it takes about 10-14 days for your body to get used to it. Your workouts should be short and slow paced at first so that you get used to the climate before adding intensity. (Example: Monday-15 minutes @ low intensity; Tuesday- 25 minutes @ low/medium intensity; Wednesday -35 minutes @ medium intensity; and so on)

Performance: Don’t be surprised if you do not get your best times or maximum amount of reps when working out in the heat. Your heart has to work harder to pump blood to your working muscles and therefore you might not perform as well as if you were indoors or in cooler weather. (Example: Indoors- 15 box jumps in 10 seconds; outdoors/heat- 15 box jumps in 16 seconds)

Listen to your body: You know your body best, so listen to it. If you start to feel dizzy, confused or light headed during your outdoor workout, I would recommend stopping. (Example: I am running and start to feel a headache coming on, therefore I am going to head to the shade and drink some water before starting again)

Stay close to the water: Some of the best summer activities are on the water where you can be cooled very easily if in the heat. (Examples: Paddle boarding, Kayaking, Swimming, Rowing, Pool volleyball, etc.)

If you have any further questions about exercising in the heat or exercise in general, please contact Amber Gruger at Agruger@sacdt.com.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Swimming

Benefit: Swimming stretches and strengthens the muscles along your spine.

Pilates Swimming

Starting Position: Lie on your stomach, arms extend overhead, palms down. Sqeeze the backs of legs together, slightly turn feet outward (Pilates stance, laterally rotated).

  1. Inhale, pull navel up into your spine, lift your head; then your right arm and left leg off the mat.
  2. Switch arms and legs by lifting your left arm and right leg. Without shifting your body weight; flutter the arms and legs in a swimming motion.
  3. Inhale for 5 counts and exhale for 5 counts. Feel that you are stretching in opposition, fingers and toes reaching for opposite ends of the room.
  4. Complete 3-5 sets of 5 inhalations/exhalations each. To end and stretch your lower back, sit back on your heels in child’s pose.

Head to Toe Checklist:

  1. Work the arms directly in front of you and in line with your shoulders.
  2. The legs should flutter close to each other and in line with your torso.
  3. Swim briskly; avoid rocking from side to side.
  4. Keep arms and legs as straight as possible without letting them touch the mat.

Move rapidly and keep your head up as though you were actually in water.

Speed up swimming action of arms and legs, 2 movements per count. This challenges coordination and torso stability.

Top 10 Pilates Questions

I’m new to Pilates. How do I start?
The best way to start if you have never tried Pilates is to begin with an orientation. In an orientation, a certified Pilates instructor will teach you a beginner lesson on the Pilates equipment, and then direct you to the class you would like to take.

How do I make an appointment for my orientation?
Contact Danielle Zack, Pilates Director at dzack@sacdt.com or (206) 443.1111 x246.

What is the difference between mat classes and private instruction sessions?
Pilates is intended to be done one-on-one under an instructor’s supervision and guidance, and mat classes are meant to supplement the work you do with your instructor. Both are valuable, though, and will strengthen your body. Private sessions are tailored to your individual needs so if you have injuries or specific physical concerns this is your best choice. Mat classes are designed for the general population and there is less individual attention.

What are the prices?
The average cost for a single Pilates session in the city of Seattle is $71.70 per hour. The SAC offers the highest quality instruction for nearly 40% less!

  • Private Session – $50
  • Duet Session – $31/client
  • Group Session – $25/client

How long are the lessons?
All sessions are 55-minutes in length.

What should I wear?
Please wear comfortable, fitted workout clothes and clean socks (no shoes needed).

Where do I go for my first Pilates session?
Come downstairs to the Pilates Studio, which is located across the Café next to the cycling room. Please feel free to enter and sit down next to the desk. If this is your first appointment, some paperwork will be on a clipboard with your name on it for you to start filling out. The instructor will be finishing up teaching a client, so feel free to watch. You’ll be next!

What if I make an appointment and I have to cancel?
All cancellations require 24 hours notice. All cancellations must be directly given to your instructor via email or phone messages. All appointments cancelled with less than 24 hours notice will be charged the full session amount.

Where do I go for mat class?
All Pilates mat classes are located in the Mind/Body Studio, which is across the basketball court.

Which Pilates mat class is right for me?
If you are a brand-new beginner, please come to the Introduction to Pilates Mat class on Saturday at 8 a.m. If you have very little experience with Pilates, please come to any Fundamentals Pilates Mat class. If you have some/moderate experience with Pilates, please come to any Fundamentals or Intermediate Pilates Mat class. If you have extensive experience, please feel free to come to any class, including the classes marked Cardio-based mat, magic circle mat, and Saturday’s advanced mat class.

If you have severe injuries or just concerns, please feel free to contact Danielle Zack for a recommendation.

Member Spotlight: Lori Dickinson

Lori lives and works over 40 miles away from the Seattle Athletic Club. She drives here religiously every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to participate in Swim Conditioning. I can always rely on Lori to show up with a smile on her face and eager to jump in. She helps me keep count of the set they are swimming. Her enthusiasm for swimming shows in every length she swims.

She has been a member of the Seattle Athletic Club since the club opened its doors in the 1980’s. Lori started in the swimming program just a short time after joining, going from only being able to swim one length of the pool to participating in the entire workout. She has been actively participating ever since, making her three swim workouts a high priority every week. Swimming has kept her healthy, happy, and relatively injury-free for a long time, she doesn’t plan to ever give it up.

“I’ve had various competitive goals during my swimming years, for 2012 I set a goal just to compete against myself–to swim 250 miles for the year. At the time I set the goal I really didn’t think too much about it, I calculated the number of yards I usually swim in a week and multiplied it by 52 weeks in the year.

What I didn’t think about was the inevitable snow and ice and marathon road-closures that make being late for practice a regular occurrence. I didn’t think about the work and family emergencies that would pull me away from practice. I didn’t take into account a bout with the whooping cough that took swimming away as an option for a number of weeks, or the fact that both Thanksgiving and Christmas hit on swim workouts days. During the summer I realized that hitting my goal was actually going to require some pretty aggressive work on my part.

From that point forward I made it a point to stay late after class if my yardage hadn’t met my daily goal. When the club closed for the summer maintenance I joined another club to keep my weekly yardage up. As the end of the year approached I counted out the number of workouts left, added up the anticipated mileage for each one and realized that I had to swim every single yard in every single workout to make my goal. If a snowstorm or illness prevented me from getting in I knew I wouldn’t make it.

Thanks to my coach, Kelli, who was tracking my mileage just as closely as I was, I got in a couple of extra yards here and there on top of my plan. It wasn’t just my coach that kept me motivated, the other members of the class have always been super supportive of each other, so they helped a lot, too. I hit my 250 mile goal with 2 miles to spare on the last workout of the year. Hooray!”

I look forward to seeing Lori 3 days a week. Thank you Lori for all of your hard work!

Pilates Exercise of the Month: The Scissors

Strengthens the abdominals, increases spine flexibility, stretches the hamstrings and hip flexors.

Starting Position:
Lie down on mat and bring your legs up to a 90 degree angle, toes pointed. Arms long by sides, palms down.

  1. Inhale; prepare the body and scoop abdominals inward. Exhale; continue to lift your legs up to ceiling (toes to ceiling). Inhale; bring the hands underneath the hips with finger tips pointed outward and the wrists supporting the back and hips.
  2. Exhale; scissor the legs; one leg moves over the head as the other leg moves toward the mat in the opposite direction. Switch legs and continue to scissor. Keep the hips and pelvis still as you move legs; pulsing slightly.
  3. Inhale; bring the legs back up over the hips (toes reach to ceiling). Exhale; allow your back to roll down to the mat, slowly and carefully, one vertebra at a time.
  4. Complete 3-5 sets

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Do not roll onto the neck
  • Keep the elbows parallel to each other (or as close as possible) & cradle the pelvis with the hands
  • Keep torso rock solid as you scissor
  • Breath fully and deeply to facilitate the scissor motion

Imagine the legs opening wide like a handheld fan, then closing and opening to the other side.

Swim Slow and Move Fast!

Do you ever see those swimmers in the pool who seem to go so far and fast but seem like they aren’t trying very hard? What’s up with that? How is it that they seem to be swimming slow but they are moving through the water like fish?

It’s because they are. They are allowing their entire body—from the arms and shoulders through the torso to the hips and legs—to join the fun. Many people swim with just their shoulders and arms and hope they can drag the rest of their body along without sinking first.

Rotation and glide is critical to a more efficient and effective stroke. In my experience teaching swimming, I find that the two biggest impediments to a well timed rotation and supported glide is awkwardness in the breathing and trying to balance with the recovery arm.

Breathing should always be calm and controlled, even in sprints! Inhale through the mouth and exhale though the nose. Take time to exhale completely before taking another breath. The amount of time you are inhaling should always be shorter than the time you are exhaling. (Click here to find out why.) You should be rotating your head easily and looking slightly behind you on the inhale. Wait for your elbow to extend past your head before returning your head back into the water. Start exhaling immediately and smoothly through your nose. This process should become very rhythmic whether breathing every second, third or fourth stroke.

The rotation should be full and done with your hips and torso, not the shoulders. Balance will come from your core. Your recovery (the hand that is traveling out of the water) should be just that, a recovery. It should be relaxed, free of tension, and placed into the water rather than thrown in. Practice leading you arm with the elbow and dragging your finger nails through the water during the recovery. If you can sustain that, you will be well on your way to becoming one of those swimmers who make it all look so effortless!

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Pike on Floor or Stretch with Pumping

Purpose: This exercise increases flexibility in the hamstrings and lower back, plus challenges the powerhouse. It’s a great prep for the Mat exercise, Teaser.

Starting Position: Sit on the floor facing the chair, weight just back of sit-bones. Place your feet on front edge of chair with legs together. Arms long, reaching forward, palms on raised pedal. Shoulders down and stabilized.

  1. Inhale; Prepare. Exhale; Nod your chin, increase spinal flexion to maintain C-curve. Engage abdominals as you press the pedal down (arms can be slightly bent).
  2. 2. Inhale; Lift the pedal back up with control, keep abs engaged. Lengthen the spine and release the pedal. Exhale.
  3. 3. Repeat 3-5 times.

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Maintain scapular stabilization to avoid neck, arm or shoulder tension
  • Keep abdominals engaged throughout exercise
  • Keep arms in same position relative to torso so the pedal is depressed by abdominals, not by pushing with the arms

Modifications: Sit on a foam cushion or platform extender to decrease gripping in hips.

Pilates… more than a late night infomercial.

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: control, centering, concentration, precision, breath, and flow.

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

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

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Pull the Pedal Up or Elephant on the Wunda Chair

Purpose: To develop abdominal control, scapular stabilization and strengthen shoulder girdle. This exercise is 100% Powerhouse, making it difficult to perform. A trained professional must spot throughout exercise.

Starting Position: Face the pedal & place the palm of your hands on the edge of the chair with fingertips hanging off. Step 1 foot on the pedal to press it down, step the other foot on. Glue your heels together and lift so you are balancing on your tip toes.

  1. Inhale; Keep scapulae stable and round the trunk in a pike position, scooping your abs. Float your head between your shoulders.
  2. Exhale; with Powerhouse strength, lift pelvis up towards ceiling allowing weight to shift into hands. For 3 counts, lift pedal higher to top of its range.
  3. Inhale; lower pedal down with control. Bring pedal just above base (not quite to the floor), maintain the pike position.
  4. Complete 3-5 reps, lower pedal all the way down. Step 1 foot left; then the other, not letting the pedal rebound.

Visualization: Imagine your are floating upward – levitating.

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Maintain scapular stabilization to avoid sinking through shoulders
  • Keep head aligned with spine, think of dropping top of head toward floor
  • Stabilize around shoulders and through arms to avoid losing control
  • Don’t let your body rock or your hips move from side to side

Modifications: Omit the 3 count pulses.