Tag: lessons

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!

Tips for sharing lanes in the pool

From the time we are babies we are taught to share. With this simple teaching the hope is as adults we continue to use this practice. This goes with so many different things in life.

You think “I need to get my laps in, I will go swimming today”. You head to the club. In the locker room you put on your swim suit and cap with goggles in hand you head to the pool after you have showered. You’re all ready to jump in and swim as you walk onto the pool deck you think to yourself “what’s this? All the lanes have someone in them!” There is a swim lesson in one lane, someone jogging in another lane and the other lanes have one person swimming. What do you do? Do you wait for a lane to open up? Do you get mad and leave?

There is a simple answer to those questions and leaving is not it. This is where the life long lesson of sharing comes into play. Watch the swimmers see who fits in with your level or speed of swimming. You can wait for them to stop and see you standing on the deck to ask them if they will share with you. You may think I don’t want to disturb someone’s pace; you can climb in making sure not to get in the way. Stand off to the side when they stop ask if they would like to swim circles or split the lane in half.

If you are the person swimming and see someone looking for a place to swim you can offer to share your lane with them. It is also possible to ask the jogger and lesson if they wouldn’t mind sharing a lane so you can swim laps.

Lap lanes can hold many people in them. If you leave :05 – :10 seconds between you and the person in front of you there will be plenty of room for a lot of people. If you were on swim team growing up you always shared lanes with possibly 10 or more people. It’s nice to have the pool or lane to yourself. Sometimes we get so used to it that the first thought is “What? My lane has someone in it.”

All in all there is plenty of room for everyone. All we need to do is SHARE.

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 doesn’t the Pilates Instructor workout with us?
— A Pilates Instructor teaches her class based on what she sees, and she responds to your abilities. Observe the mat class closely and you will notice that a good Pilates mat class is interactive. Are you having trouble with an exercise? She may come over to help you. Is the class moving too slowly? She will give you energy with her voice. If she did her whole workout in front of you, why would you come to class? You could just stay at home and pop in a DVD if you would rather just go through the motions and not be pushed. You are not the “audience”; you are the active participants and are helping to design the class!

Why does the instructor walk around? What is she looking at?
–She is looking at you! She is watching your form and judging your abilities so that she can form the exercises around the needs of the class. When I’m teaching, I notice right away as people walk in whether they are dragging their heels with a lack of energy, or come bouncing in with a lot of energy. If they have a lot of energy, I’ll make the 100 more challenging by adding the criss-cross legs. During the roll-up, I notice if the class is generally flexible or stiff. If no one can touch their toes, I’ll spend more time stretching during single-leg circles.

I like having the dim lights. Why are the brighter lights on?
–The instructor needs to see you! Dim lights are great for a meditative, stretching, breathy class. But Pilates is meant to invigorate, not put you to sleep.

Why is there no music?
–Pilates is very rhythmic. Can you picture the instructor counting the 100 right now? What about open leg rocker? Have you ever done the criss-cross quickly, then slowly? Each exercise has its own rhythm that is unique to that particular exercise. We manipulate the rhythm to make the exercise harder or, occasionally, easier for you. Music would interfere with this technique.

It’s never too late to learn to swim… better!

Learning to swim as an adult can be challenging for some more than others. We see people swimming around making it look easy and it is easy for them because they have been swimming their entire life or close to it. They have spent more hours in a swimming pool than you can imagine; playing, training for a swim meet, practicing water polo just a few of the many things that can be done in a swimming pool.

You’re an adult and think it’s time to learn how to swim. Make sure to have the proper gear. Find a swim suit that is comfortable and goggles that fit your eye size and shape, both should fit properly. If you have long hair a swim cap works better than a ponytail. It will actually keep your hair out of your eyes. Now, there are a lot of really good swim instructors waiting for you.

The first day you take the plunge you’ll be hooked; okay maybe not hooked. Let’s face it, it may take a few times to get comfortable and gain confidence in the water. With help the next thing you know ‘You will be one of those people making it look easy’.

SAC swimmers conquer 11 miles of open water swimming!

On June 22nd, 2012 at 7:00am, 36 swimmers jumped into Portland’s 70 degree Willamette River to conquer 11 miles of open water swimming. Two of those swimmers consisted of member Oscar Mraz and swim instructor Lindsey Highstrom-Millard.

Oscar first came up with the idea to do the endurance event after being compelled by Seattle Athletic Club (SAC) swim staff the previous year to do some open water swims. After a 1 mile race and a 3.1 mile event Oscar decided to over triple the distance. He signed up early to ensure that there was “no turning back”, quickly urging Lindsey to do the same.

Lindsey and Oscar spent the next the next 6-8 weeks getting serious about being in the water. They swam on average 6 days a week, and most of those consisted of double-days in the water (with a min of 2-3 days in the open water). They met often at 5:15am to get in mileage before heading off to their full-time jobs and spent many hours in the swim conditioning classes at SAC. Biggest mileage training weeks were in the range of 22-24 miles of pure swimming bliss with the longest training session being 6.5 miles.

Going into the race both Oscar and Lindsey had separate game plans. Lindsey coming from a collegiate swimming background at Arizona State decided a positive attitude and “pain” would be the guide to swimming her furthest distance to date. While Oscar decided to start out very conservatively, build from there, and use his kayakers as his guide to limit sighting to conserve energy.

Each fueled throughout the event with nearly 1500 calories of gels and electrolyte drinks, provided to them by their kayakers on poles, as the swimmers were not allowed to hold onto anything during the swim.

The biggest highlight, outside of this amazing feat, was the two emerged from the water at exactly the same time of 4 hours and 20 minutes, both winning their respective wetsuit categories for men and women. The two emerged together at mile 7.5 and swam the remaining 3.5 miles together. This just goes to show that the athletes that train together, place together!

And after all this, they can’t wait to do it again!

“Pull Your Ribs In” and other corrections: What your Pilates Instructor really means when she corrects you.

Pull Your Ribs In
Pilates focuses on building good posture while creating a flexible, strong, and functional body. When the abdominals are not engaged, the lower spine can “sway” or hyperextend, which can also affect the middle spine, shifting the lower part of the rib cage forward, causing the look of “sticking your ribs out”. “Pull your ribs in” is a quick way of saying “straighten up” and align your back with the proper, natural curves of the spine, nothing exaggerated.

Soften your knees
Locking, or hyper extending, your joints, including elbows and knees, can overstretch and ultimately weaken the ligaments in those joints. “Soften your knees,” means to keep them from hyper extending, which may feel like you are bending them tremendously!

Scoop!
“Scoop your powerhouse” doesn’t mean suck in your gut! It means this: draw your navel toward your spine, yes, but also contract your pelvic floor, cinch your whole waist like tightening your corset (which engages the tranversus abdominus) and lift your spine (elongate the spaces between your vertebrae). It’s tough! Which brings us to:

Lift!
“Lift” is a quick way of reminding your body to decompress the spine and elongate the spaces between your vertebrae. It’s like “scoop” but with more emphasis on growing tall through the trunk.

Wrap
“Wrap” refers to tightening the bottom in order to contract the outward rotators of the pelvis; specifically, the piriformis and the other 5 external rotators sitting under your gluteals.

Have you ever watched a ballet dancer warm up? Her feet looked turned out, toes pointed away from each other, but really the “turn-out” stems from her hips. The turnout does not need to be extreme in Pilates, but enough outward rotation in the femurs (thigh bones) to engage the bottom and draw the inner thighs together.

Benefits of Swimming

1. Low Impact

  • Stress on joints is decreased by 90% in water
  • Even when your feet touch bottom there is les force on the body because of buoyancy
  • Great for rehab, arthritis, pregnancy, overweight, seniors….EVERYONE
  • Your body weight is 1/10 of what it would be on land.
  • It is the most injury-free sport there is

2. Builds Respiratory Fitness

  • A 12 week study showed an increase in oxygen consumption by 10% and an increase in stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped to the heart) increased by as much as 18%

3. Builds Muscle Mass

  • Muscle mass in the triceps increased by 23.8% in a 10 week study
  • All muscle groups are used

4. Alternative when injured

  • Maintains fitness levels
  • Aqua jogging
  • Because of the resistance, which is 12 times great than in air, of the water it makes the muscles works with out strain or impact like that on land

5. Calorie Burner

  • Swimming burns anywhere from 500-650 kcals per hour
  • In comparison to running it burns 11% fewer kcals and in comparison to cycling 3% fewer
  • However, this does not account for efficiency and for intensity….so the less efficient you are the more calories you burn
  • Be aware that heart rate decreased 10 beats per minute e in water and max heart rate decreased by 10-30 beats….it is believed this is due to the lower water temperature and the lesser pull of gravity in water.

6. Increases Lung Capacity

  • The need to hold your breath while swimming trains your lung capacity
  • This increases stamina and change heart rates
  • Great for asthma

7. Increases Flexibility

  • Increases mobility
  • The body is able to do stretches more easily than on land

8. Family Affair

  • The entire family can do it!
  • Everyone enjoys a day in the water…by the pool at the beach
  • It encourages health and fitness for the entire family

9. It is a lifetime Activity

  • Due to its low impact it can be done through all stages of life.
  • USMS- masters swimming…has age groups of 100-104!

10. It’s Relaxing

  • Water is soothing psychologically
  • There is a meditative quality about being able to just swim…float on your back
  • There is no noise and distraction of life on land

11. Improves Posture

  • Swimming strengthens your stabilizing muscles and works rotationally…therefore, strengthening your core and postural muscles

12. Lifesaving Skill

  • Swimming is a necessary life skill that everyone should possess
  • Open water, pool swimming, etc…

13. “YOU ARE A SWIMMER”

  • the fact that you can call yourself a swimmer is a reward in itself!

Swim Like a Chicken!

Well, not exactly but emulating a chicken’s neck (or a giraffe’s, or a turtle’s, or even *Tim Duncan’s) will help you swim farther and faster with less effort.

Here’s how:
Effective swimming requires an effective glide. The way to an effective glide is by creating a hydro-dynamic tube around your entire body that you can slip through with minimal effort. Of course getting to that effortless place requires a lot of effort … but you can do it. Really!

Look at a chicken (or a giraffe, or a turtle, or even Tim Duncan) and you’ll see that they all have really long necks. Moreover, they all have really flexible necks that can lengthen and shorten at will. They extend and contract through their cervical vertebrae which enable them to rotate in a greater radius with less effort and distortion to the rest of their bodies.

Look at your typical adult and you’ll see that their necks aren’t very flexible at all. This poses a special problem for swimming: in order to breathe effectively while swimming you need to be able to rotate your head independently from the rest of your body, and the only way to do that is by unlocking your neck, which means extending through the back of the your neck.
Here are some exercises to help you unlock your neck and extend it to an effective gliding posture. Try them before you start your next swim.

  • Stand tall and practice slowly rotating your head side to side
    • o First lead with your eyes
    • o Next lead with your nose
    • o Finally lead with your chin
  • Stand tall in front of a mirror (preferably full length)
    • Align your eyes to be horizontally level and your nose to be vertical like a T-Square.
    • Hold that position, engage your core, and rotate your body as far as possible without losing your head position.
  • Practice lengthening the back of your neck so that your chin naturally lowers a bit verses tucking your chin.
    • Do the same things in the water while practicing your initial push and glide off the wall and notice if you go in a straight line just below the surface of the water.
      • If you’re going deep toward the bottom, you are probably tucking your chin.
      • If you’re breaking the surface of the water too soon (i.e., before you intend to) then you are probably raising the back of your head.
      • If you’re not gliding very far at all you may be ‘riding the brake’ by looking forward.
      • If you’re holding a level line just below the surface of the water, your neck is probably in pretty good position.

So pick your goofy role model and have fun as you practice gliding!

* Before Tim Duncan became a Hall of Fame NBA Basketball player with a fist full of championship rings he was on track to becoming an Olympic swimmer.

If you have any questions about this post or training with Nathan, please feel free to send him an email.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Roll-over

Purpose: To stretch the lower back and hamstrings; develop spinal articulation and improve control of the abdominal muscles.

Note: if you have a bad neck or lower back, leave this exercise out.

  1. Lie on the mat with arms long by your sides; palms down. Lift both legs to a 60 degree angle from the mat.
  2. Inhale, lift the legs to a 90-degree angle. Initiate from the abdominals; bring your legs over your head peeling your spine off the mat. Keep reaching the arms long, shoulders pinned down. Don’t press onto your neck.
  3. Exhale, open your legs just past shoulder width and flex your feet. Keep the back of your neck long, avoid any tensing or crunching in the front of the neck. The arms continue to press into the mat. Your body weight should rest squarely in between your shoulder blades.
  4. Begin rolling back toward the mat, feel your spine stretching longer and longer as you articulate down until the tailbone touches the mat.
  5. When the tailbone reaches the mat, take the legs to just below 90 degrees and squeeze your legs together again. Repeat the sequence.
  6. Complete 3 repetitions with legs together when lifting and 3 times with legs apart.

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Keep your upper body glued to the mat- avoid rolling onto the neck
  • Don’t use momentum to roll over; use abdominals
  • Palms press into mat, arms long throughout.
  • Shoulders are stable on the roll down.

Visualization: Imagine your arms are lead bars pinning you to the mat.

Water Safety

Do you consider yourself to be safe when you are on or near the water? Do you have the appropriate safety gear for any of your water activities? Are you on a boat; are there enough lifejackets for everyone on board? Are those lifejackets within arms reach? Do you have all children 12 and under wearing life jackets at all times while on the boat? 80% of all drowning victims in boating accidents were not wearing lifejackets.

These are all questions you should be asking yourself before you embark on your next boating or any type of water adventure.

What do you do if someone falls off of a dock and doesn’t know how to swim? Do you go in after them? Are you a good swimmer? Do you have any lifeguard training skills? The best way to help is to lie down on the dock reaching with your arm or leg if you cannot reach them that way take off your jacket or shirt if need be your pants get a good grip on one end and say grab my coat or arm. Don’t jump in and try to save them yourself. There have been to many times where either both people end up in trouble or the rescuer is the one that drowns. If you have an unopened large bag of chips can be tossed to the victim for them to float on. Then you can give them instructions how to get to shore.