Tag: Seattle Athletic Club

Befriending Stress

How do you manage the stress of modern everyday life? Many of us muddle through, coping as best we can. Sometimes we fight against it, or work to fix it. Sometimes we just ignore it or repress it, hoping to avoid possible discomfort. We have all heard throughout our lives how stress negatively affects our immune system. It is at the heart of many diseases (pun intended) and is a leading cause of death. Chronic stress and long held tension in our body can become like armor. We hope to shield ourselves against the effects of stress. This chronic tension affects our immune system, energy level, emotional well-being, posture, and our ability to concentrate.

Endocrinologist Hans Selye discovered it is not necessarily the stress that affects our health. It is the way we perceive the stress. If we change our thinking, we change our body’s response to it. Is it a threat or is it a challenge? In both, the body gears up for action. We breathe faster to get oxygen to the brain, our blood pumps faster and, we sweat to regulate our temperature. The difference between anxiety and excitement is our perception. We either constrict or adapt and grow. It can strengthen us or weaken us. Can we bring our attention and presence to what is wanting to grow within us to meet the challenge?

There are many effective ways to relieve stress; such as exercise, yoga, meditation, spiritual readings, or being in nature can be immediate tools one can use. When we take space, we discover we are much bigger than the stress in our lives.

One of my first spiritual teachers, Stephen Levine, often said, “The body is solidified mind.” During retreats with Levine, we would dialogue with our body, and it’s places of tension and actually ask the tension where it comes from, what it wants, what it’s trying to tell us?

I have found that one of the best ways for me to reduce the effects of stress is to get a professional massage. Through relaxing our body we can relax the mind. A skilled massage therapist can dismantle the long held stress and its disruptive patterns in the body. The benefits of a skilled massage are more than just the physical benefits of released tension and improved musculo-skeletal function. The nurturing effects of human touch also release oxytocin, a hormone that affects our heart physically and emotionally. (A good excuse to hug someone right now.) We experience more caring, empathy, and ability to respond. We recover faster. We become better at stress. Oxytocin is what causes us to seek connection. It helps us to not only trust ourselves more, but we seek connection and strengthens so our relationships and our network of support.

Did you know that massage is offered morning through evening daily at the Seattle Athletic Club by our highly skilled, licensed massage therapists? Call today for an appointment. It can transform your health.

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

It’s Only Human Nature

Have you ever wondered why knocking out 20 push-ups in front of your trainer is easier than when you do it alone? Could you swear sometimes that on the weekends when you workout at home you take twice as many rests as you normally do and the workout drags on and on? Is it possible that your squats can be done with 20 lbs extra with your girlfriend in the same room? If you are thinking there is something crazy going on don’t freak out just yet.

It’s true, a second pair of eyes will nearly always make you workout harder than you would by yourself. It’s true if you are in the weight room with 10 other people, if you are working out with a trainer, or if you are running a long run surrounded by a marathon of other people you will inevitably work harder and perhaps that work may even seem easier than when doing it by yourself. It’s human nature to do better, work harder, push more if there are other people around (watching you or not). This is why workout partners and trainers help so much with improving workouts. I’m not saying that if you and your co-worker get on an Elliptical next to each other and talk gossip for 30 minutes that you’ll be working out harder than you would on your own. There are certain ways that a partner can lessen your workout. But if you are keeping your eyes on the prize and working hard already, well then, a workout partner may be just the push you need to work that much harder.

Most people that exercise, whether we admit it or not, have a competitive streak. Some people have that on going challenge inside them and push themselves to do better than they think they can. Those are the lucky few, the few that have enough drive to work hard against themselves as opposed to the person on the bike next to them. But for the most of us a little competition or ever working out with someone who constantly lifts more, runs faster, jumps higher, goes longer can help inspire you to try and catch up. Even if you never are the best one you may find yourself stepping up your game as to not get left behind.

In addition to working out hard with a partner, having a pair of coaching eyes on you will also make a huge difference in the accomplishments you can make in the gym. Trainers do a lot of things for a lot of people. We coach, we encourage, we keep you safe, we design smart effective programming for each individual, we keep you accountable, we challenge, we push, and most of all, we watch. Having a scrutinizing pair of eyes on you will for sure drive you to do your best. The next time your boss comes around your office try surfing the internet instead of working super hard on your work. Let me know how that goes. It’s human nature to work harder with someone else’s eyes on you. So if you don’t have a workout partner, if you do not have the luxury of hiring a trainer, workout at a semi busy time (esp. helpful if you workout when all the hot ladies do) and see if you aren’t doing one extra rep, adding 5 more pounds, or running just a little bit faster. Just by having more than one or two people in the same room as you can ignite a little bug inside of you that says, “I don’t want to look like a weenie, I can do this!” People may not actually be watching you but just in case they are you’ll be ready!

The moral of the story is if you can get a workout partner (that wants to workout, not sit around and talk about the weather) you should! If you can workout with a trainer, I can guarantee you will work harder than you do alone. Or if nothing else maybe you wake up a half an hour earlier and workout when you know the gym isn’t a desert. If you are looking to improve your productivity and do better simple changes can be your answer. Try a group X class instead of working out alone. Come to the gym with your husband instead of staying home and going for a run. Motivation is a huge key in doing your best and working hard, find your motivation and get at it!

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.

Tips to Increase Your Strength Safely

Back in January I wrote a goal card to deadlift twice my bodyweight by June 1. I’m very excited to report that I reached my goal by lifting 348 lbs for 1 rep. Over the last several months, I have put in a lot of time working on deadlifts so I thought I would pass along some tips on how to increase your maximum strength in deadlift or any other exercise.

Get in the Groove
Make sure your deadlift pattern is PERFECT under no load and under sub maximal load. Poor deadlift patterns put your vertebral health in jeopardy and hamper performance through inefficiency. The specifics of the deadlift pattern are beyond the scope of this post but check out this video (by one of my former professors) for some general tips. Take the time to develop the movement competency required to deadlift well and then invest in learning the pattern. Make sure to maintain the pattern by including sub-maximal lifts in your training.

Plan for Success

Set a reasonable goal based on your current level and experience. Then expect to spend at least 10-12 weeks working on it. Invest the first couple of weeks in learning the movement and sub maximal workouts. Spend around four weeks in a hypertrophy phase in which you try to grow muscle with sets of around 6-8 reps. Take a week to re-focus on technique and movement ability before starting the next four week sequence, this one focused on maximum strength by employing very heavy sets of around 3 reps and using long (120+ sec) rest intervals.

Try Complexes

A complex is a heavy lift immediately followed by an explosive, exhausting exercise. The explosive exercise is followed by 90-120 seconds of. I reaped great benefit from complexing medium-heavy deadlifts with kettlebell swings. The combination of heavy weight, lactic acid inducing explosive exercises and rest effectively stimulates testosterone and human growth hormone to help increase muscle mass.

Go Heavy-Medium-Light
Try to lift heavy one day per week. This is the day to try a strength workout like 6 sets of 3 or a hypertrophy workout with 4 sets of 6 at 95-100% of your effort. Lift at a medium intensity one day per week. This should still be a challenging workout but the top priority is to maintain perfect technique throughout. Lift light one day per week. Use just enough load that you are aware of it but it doesn’t come close to distorting your technique. Use this day to rest and prepare for your next heavy day and also experiment with any changes to your technique on these days.

Heavy lifting can be very rewarding and a lot of fun. Enjoy these tips and I hope they help you reach new heights! Please contact me if you need help with your deadlift technique: I can’t overstress the value of investing in your movement ability and technique before even thinking about lifting at a maximum intensity. Reach me at Hspencer@sacdt.com.

Now Offering Craniosacral Therapy at the Seattle Athletic Club

What is it?

Craniosacral is a form of manual therapy that focuses on the pulse of cerebrospinal fluid and the subtle motility of the cranial bones.

Where did it come from?

Originally it came out of Dr. William Sutherlands osteopathy in the cranial field in the 1930’s and later evolved into craniosacral therapy around the 70’s. It was headed at the time by John Upleadger and has continued to evolve over the years.

Who would best benefit from it?

People who have sustained head trauma or any kind of trauma that prevents them from receiving or tolerating deep touch. It is also very helpful in addressing headaches and jaw pain.

What can it do for me?

It uses many mainly gentle techniques on the head, face and spine to address held tension or trauma. It also implores the use of intraoral techniques to address deeper structures of the jaw.

Jessie Jo recently completed a 260 hour formal training in CST. If you have any questions about this new-to-the-club style, feel free to be in touch.

Best 5 Tips to Improve Your Fitness

There are many things that can get in the way of us reaching our health and fitness goals- lack of time, injury, illness and even traveling for work can all hold us back. Sometimes we can control these things; sometimes we can’t…that’s life. Try to make improvements in these five areas and you will see a change in your fitness.

1. Get Enough Sleep
If you want to work out hard and get the best results, your body needs rest, and lots of it. On a basic level, if you’re feeling tired you’re more likely to skip the gym. If you’ve had a good seven or eight hours of sleep, your body will run more smoothly, your mental state will improve and you’ll be able to workout harder and more frequently.

2. Clean up Your Diet
What you put in your body directly affects how you feel and how you operate. If you put cheap gas in a car it’s not going to run as well, as cleanly or for as long as it would if you chose a higher grade. It’s just the same with your body. Avoid the junk and chose high-quality, fresh, unprocessed foods. Of course enjoy your life and indulge in the things you enjoy from time to time, but make smart decisions and be honest with yourself about your choices.
3. Make Time for Exercise
Like anything in life, if you don’t make time for it then it’s very unlikely to happen. Develop a realistic plan and meet with a personal trainer to keep you accountable. Put workouts in your calendar the same way you’d schedule a haircut or a trip to the dentist. If it’s in your calendar, you’re less likely to skip and more likely to get into a consistent regimen.

4. Increase the Intensity
Doing something is definitely better than doing nothing, but if you’re looking for improved results then you’re going to have to up the intensity of your cardio. If you do the same old workout over and over, your body will very quickly become conditioned to it and your results will stall. You should be tired, you should be sweaty, you should be out of breath. Try to add in a few exercises that push you to your upper limits such as running hills, stairs, or incline treadmill.

5. Hit the Weights
I firmly believe that strength training is an important part of any fitness regimen. If you want to lose fat or change your body, one of the most important things you can do is lift weights. Diet and cardio are equally important, but when it comes to changing how your body looks, weight training wins hands down. Here are a few benefits from lifting weights:
• Help raise your metabolism. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you’ll burn all day long.
• Strengthen bones, especially important for women
• Make you stronger and increase muscular endurance
• Help you avoid injuries
• Increase your confidence and self-esteem
• Improve coordination and balance

These tips can help keep you from reaching an unwanted fitness plateau. Improvements in one or all of these areas will keep your fitness goals moving forward so that you get the most out of life. Talk with a Personal Trainer at the Seattle Athletic Club to get started with your personalized fitness plan.

Summer Outdoor Workout Routine

Summer sun; summer fun. Whether you are going on vacation or enjoying the multitude of options available in our backyard, here are a few exercises that can go outdoors with you.

*Superman pushup (full or modified) – This pushup incorporates an opposite arm and leg raise at the top position to train in a transverse plane (posterior oblique fascial line) for increased core strength and stabilization. The modification for this is a kneeling pushup or finding an inclined surface, like a bench or a wall.

*Wall jump dips- With your hands on an inclined surface jump as high as you can getting your legs in a tuck position like you are trying to jump up on the wall.

*Surfers- Start by lying on the ground and jump into a surfing diagonal squat position, jump back into a plank, lower yourself to the ground, and repeat on the other side.

*Multi-directional lunges- Lunges forward, reverse, lateral, or in a curtsy target stabilizers and train proprioception in different planes of motion.

*Single-leg squat touch down- Perform a single-leg squat with a hinge motion forward and touch down diagonally with the opposite hand. For an added level of difficulty, add a pepper jump (a single-leg jump) in the top position of the squat for dynamic stabilization.

It’s important you know how to do these movements correctly for full benefit and prevention of injury. There are additional outdoor workouts in our archive that can give you more exercises to try. Contact any our fitness staff for details and instruction. Be safe this summer and have fun out there!

The Importanct of Evidence-Based Practice: The Example of Exercise for Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis and osteopenia are common issues that affect the life expectancy and quality of life in nearly 40 million Americans. These conditions, which both indicate a decrease in bone mineral density, which we can consider as bone strength, occur in men and women of all ages but are most predominate in post-menopausal women. People affected with osteoporosis or osteopenia have reduced strength and resiliency in their bones leading to an increased likelihood of fractures. Fractures are linked to significantly increased all-cause mortality in older women as well as impaired mobility and quality of life so it is imperative that bone health be maintained.

One of the best ways to accomplish this is through exercise. With every muscle action and every contact with the ground, bones have some force exerted against them and they respond by becoming stronger. Increasing the amount of activity and exercise is therefore a viable way to increase bone strength. But what type of exercise will work best? A review of randomized, controlled trials evaluated various types of exercise to see which would have the greatest impact. The results varied based upon the body part. We will discuss the impact on two common sites of osteoporosis: the spine and neck of the femur. In the spine, bone mineral density responded positively to two types of exercise: Weight-bearing low force activity such as walking or Tai Chi and non-weight-bearing-high-force exercises. In the neck of the femur, a positive effect was observed in response to non-weight-bearing high force exercises. Non-weight-bearing high force exercises include exercise machines (such as the leg extension, leg press, hip abductor, hip adductor and hamstring curl) performed with almost as much weight as possible.

Look at that list of non-weight-bearing high force exercises again. If you have read my other posts or talked with me before, it is obvious that I am not a fan of those machines. In fact, some of them are on my list of top things to avoid at the gym. The motor patterns reinforced by these machines seem unproductive to me and they develop strength in very limited, non-functional actions. Worst of all, these machines allow you to develop more strength than your body can handle, which can lead to terrible movement habits and possibly injury.

In my mind, well coached and well-performed squats, deadlifts, hip hinges and farmers walks would be way more helpful for developing bone density. But, the evidence is right there, pointing at me, saying that these much-maligned-machines may have some usefulness after all. Perhaps the machines were only helpful for the subjects tested because they didn’t have good coaching. Perhaps the researchers simply found it easier to compare exercise machines. Perhaps I am a good enough coach that I can overcome these obstacles and increase my clients bone density without using the machines. So, I find myself in a quandary: Follow the evidence and use the machines or trust my own education, intuition and instinct. The question is best answered with humility. I honestly don’t know if better results can be obtained without using the machines. It seems likely to me but at the end of the day, there is not evidence to directly support it. So, I would like to take a moment to apologize to all machine advocates out there and also endorse the use of these machines for increasing bone mineral density in the spine and neck of femur.

If you have osteoporosis, osteopenia or are at risk, this discussion was likely very useful for you. But if you don’t, it still offers a valuable lesson. No expert can know everything. Even strictly within the field of exercise, there are countless complicated decisions that cannot be answered through logical reasoning and intuition. When it comes to your health and fitness, you deserve to know that you are making the best decision. Always ask your trainers, instructors and health care providers why they are doing what they are doing. Ask about the evidence they have supporting them. There are a lot of things that don’t have clear evidence-based answers but it never hurts to ask. It will make you a better client and make us better trainers.

When it Comes to the Spring Just Play

What is the one thing we often forget to do as we get older…play. Look around at children, they are our best examples of how to play…and sometimes, even when we should play. Yes, I said it, much of the time adults find that children’s spastic movements or loud boisterous play is out of place or distracting to what they are doing. Instead, I challenge each of you to take a moment in your day to stop what you are doing, smile, and be playful. There is no reason we cannot work hard AND enjoy what we are doing at the same time. You are having a rough day and have nothing to smile about? Then I challenge you to create something to smile about. Humans are creative, energetic, dynamic beings with a natural curiosity to be playful.

What is one of the best ways to play? Go outside. Once you are outside, here is something really fun to add…get dirty. I don’t care if its sweat or mud, sand or salt water…get dirty and stay present in what you are doing. It doesn’t count if you go run stairs outside SAC with your trainer and all you think about is the report or edit you need to finish by 2 PM when you get back. The best thing you can do for yourself is to be present in where you are, who you are with, and what you are doing. Have fun. Smile. Play. Here are some ideas for you this month as we dive into a gorgeous spring!

• Take a walk with a friend…but ten minutes in, start skipping, then do a cartwheel. Just because you can.
• Play hide and go seek with your dog.
• Mountain bike at Duthie Park…don’t know how? Take a class from Me, believe me, I’ll make you laugh, smile, and play on the trails.
• Ride around the city with trainer Thomas’ Urban Bike rides.
• Go run stairs outside SAC, then sit on the pig in the market until one of the Flying Fish guys talk with you.
• Go on a hike, at the top, try yodeling…don’t know how? That’s why I said try.
• Garden in your bare feet.
• Climb a mountain (you can do Baker with SAC this summer!)
• Buy the random person in front of you at the coffee shop their drink.
• Commit to learning one new activity this summer, maybe it’s climbing, maybe it’s riding a bike, maybe it’s swimming, maybe it’s a pull up…just smile knowing you are learning something new for yourself.

Have fun out there! Remember to play and stay present…you never know what you might find. Connect with me if you need help remembering how or where or when to play…I’d love to get you started again! broark@sacdt.com