Month: June 2010

Get It In When it Fits In

What part of your work day are you guaranteed to have at least an hour to yourself? Before work, maybe if you don’t have to be at work at 6:00am, if you don’t have kids you have to get to school, if you don’t like to sleep in, if you don’t have dogs to walk. After work, maybe if you are still energized enough, if it’s not dinner time, if you don’t have to pick up the kids from soccer practice, if you don’t have a late meeting. Lunch time, for sure! This is the best part about working out on your lunch break, you’ll always be guaranteed to have that time to yourself. Maybe you might have a lunch meeting but for the most part that is your one hour out of the work day that is yours to do what you wish. Sounds like the perfect time to get a quick, strenuous, fun, energizing, and beneficial workout it! Besides having it fit nicely in the middle of your day, here are a few great reasons to workout at lunchtime:

  1. Get in, get out and it’s done for the day. No worries about having to make time for a workout after work, this way there are no excuses.
  2. Stop the after lunch crash, no more coffee or energy drinks required. After a lunchtime workout you’ll be energized with endorphins and will be ready to finish off the last half of your work day.
  3. The quality of your lunch meal will be so much more beneficial. Most of the time you go for a salad at lunch but sometimes you grab a pizza, a pasta dish, or maybe even some heavy Thai food. After a good workout you will want nothing but good fuel for your body, I mean you didn’t do all that hard work just to turn around and un-do it all in 10 minutes – right!?
  4. It’s easy to get your co-workers involved. Sometimes you go to lunch with your friends from work, but now make it a healthier get together and come down to the gym together. It’s always more fun if you have a partner in crime!
  5. You are awake enough (as opposed to bright and early before work) to be alert and strong but not tired enough (as opposed to after an 8 hour work day) to not have enough gas in the tank to put forth good effort.

Come down during lunch, try it out and experience the benefits of a lunch time workout first hand. There are plenty of classes, programs, trainers, and gym partners for you, making this a great way to break up your work day. Plus, when you are done you can enjoy some of the healthy sandwiches, salads, smoothies, and fruit that available at the SAC Café.

Adriana offers a great Lunchbox Express workout that works for all fitness levels and is scheduled perfectly to suite the lunch hour.

World Cup Perspective from Sounders FC Player Taylor Graham

I wish I were writing under different circumstances, having just witnessed yet another game where the United States played well, but failed to get the necessary result to advance to the quarterfinal stage. After the 2-1 defeat at the hands of the last remaining hope for the African continent, Ghana, the US is heading home after a World Cup in which they had a great opportunity to advance deep into the tournament. It was a tournament of ‘what-ifs.’ What if the US could start a game with the same intensity that they played with in the second half of every game? What is the US could rid themselves of their Achilles heel of conceding goals within the first 15 minutes of every game?

Despite going down a goal in three of their four games in South Africa within the opening minutes of kickoff, the US always responded with increased possession of desire to attack. For me this shows a lot of character. Character to persevere. Character to outwork their opponents, which is a testament to their coach Bob Bradley. Throughout a 90 minute game, it might not seem that terrible to concede the opening goal, since there is ample time to search for the equalizer. But this is certainly not the case. Teams that are good in possession, like Ghana, can sit back, possess the ball, knowing that it is the US who has to come out of their defensive shell, take risks, and possibly open themselves up for the second and killer goal. The fact that the US was able to equalize in ALL three games after giving up the first goal is quite impressive. This takes good fitness, and mental strength.

And remember that team USA was playing with a lot of unproven players at the international level. Sure Landon Donovon and Clint Dempsey have been there before, but it was their surrounding cast that allowed them to win their group, ahead of England who entered as the overwhelming favorite. For me Michael Bradley was the man of the tournament for the United States. I know that Landon scored three of the team’s five goals, but Bradley covered every blade of grass of every pitch in which he played. Anyone who screamed ‘nepotism’ about the coaches’ 22 year-old son who starts in the center of the midfield (the most important position on the field) has all been proven wrong. His ability to break up opponents attacks, combined with his playmaking of our offense was as good as any American midfielder I have ever seen. It seems like we finally have a viable replacement for Claudio Reyna, who retired after the 2006 World Cup.

Jozy Altidore was another difference maker. The combination of his physical presence and pace bothered every defender he played against. His ability to hold up the ball in possession is essential for a team like the US who like to counterattack. He is good in the air, and good at drawing fouls and set pieces. But at the end of the day, the role of a striker is to score goals, and he was unable to do that. His goals will come for the US; unfortunately they did not come on African soil. Hopefully he will keep maturing on the field, as well as continue helping the world in a positive way off of it. (Jozy raised over $140,000 to help victims in Haiti after their earthquake. His parents are Haitian.)

Now that the US is out of the tournament, I can look at the tournament with my head rather than my heart. While England have yet to reach their potential at this tournament, I see them advancing to the semis, leaving Germany, Argentina, and Mexico in their wake. (Although it would be entertaining to see Argentina win it all since coach Maradona promised to streak through Buenos Aires if they win.) I also see Spain advancing to the Semis, along with Ghana, and Netherlands (sorry Brazil fans, I see their lack of discipline hurting them at some point in this tournament). These picks are certainly a leap of faith, but what do I know? I have yet to win a final four pool, so clearly I lack the ability to pick sporting victors. Maybe this is my year…

Pilates Exercise of the Month – Round Back/Short Box

Purpose: To strengthen adominals and stretch low back. This is an intermediate exercise performed on the Pilates Reformer with the Short Box. A SAC Certified Pilates Instructor should assist with this exercise.

Position box width wise on carriage. Box can be placed over or pressed against shoulder rests.

Starting Position: Seated upright on box; close to the front. Place feet under the foot strap, knees slightly bent, clasp wrists and place in front of lower abdomen. To prepare- Inhale.

  1. Exhale, round the torso, (roll back), simultaneously lifting the arms away from chest. Still Exhaling, lower the body backward with your torso in the rounded (C curve) position. Inhale, and pause in this position, keep abs scooped in.
  2. Exhale, raise the body so the shoulders are level with hips, maintaining the C curve of the trunk. Then, Inhale, and return to the starting position- stacking the vertebrae and sitting tall.
  3. Complete 5 repetitions.

Neck injuries: limit range of roll back. Shoulder injuries: use a light bar or cross arms across chest.

Head to Toe Checklist:
Keep shoulders relaxed and away from ears.
Feet can be flexed and must be securely hooked under footstrap.
Avoid collapsing the spine when in the rounded position and tiling backward.

Visualization: The rounded position opens the vertebrae, making the spine feel longer. The round back position tips back in an action that resembles pouring tea from a teapot.

Advanced: Hold a pole or light weighted bar straight out in front of you (level with bottom of sternum). As you roll back, lift pole up toward ceiling (overhead) while maintaining abdominal engagement.

Agility Training

Athletes who put focus on their agility training can gain that competitive edge which in most sports can help you win the game. Agility training requires cognitive focus, balance and control, as well as strategic planning. When adding agility training to a workout you are adding a mental component, diversity, and it can be fun and skill specific if necessary.

The NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) suggests that agility is a trainable motor skill that can be acquired through proper progressive practice. Agility training can enhance ones mental focus during competition by training through precise controlled movements and thinking while moving to the point it becomes natural movement. Many agility drills require you to pay attention to your movements to do the drills correctly in a controlled space. This attention to detail can be translated as a quicker first step without wasting movements, avoiding your opponent while retaining control of the play or action and produce more efficient movement. Not only does agility training teach controlled movements but also requires balance and swiftness. The joint control required in keeping your balance will aid in injury prevention keeping you in the game giving you more control over your playing ability.

Anyone can benefit from agility training due the gain of balance and multi-planar movements it requires. So if working towards improving your movement for a particular sport is not your goal, agility training can come in handy by adding diversity to your workouts. Performing short bursts of agility can turn your workouts into a dynamic circuit training program that can add heart rate training and lateral movement to burn those extra calories you’ve been struggling to get off.

So where do you start? The Dot Drill is one of many agility training exercises that develops dynamic leg strength as well as increases knee and ankle strength and stability. This is a great agility drill for anyone who plays multi-directional sports, has the need to make quick changes of direction and landings such as skiers and basketball players or the weekend warrior looking to change up their routine. Start by putting five dots on the floor spacing them like you would see on a dice about 2 feet apart. First try the “in/out” movement and place your feet on top of the bottom two dots. Jump with both feet to the middle dot then proceed to the top two dots making an in and out movement pattern. Then go backwards to the center spot finishing at the starting point. Start by getting the pattern down but then challenge yourself by accelerating your movement. See the video for an example of how to perform the Dot Drill and get started on adding agility to your training routine today!

Exercising Tips While Traveling

Summer is here! The kids are out of school, there are camping trips to be had and traveling to be done. So how do we maintain all the hard work we have put into our bodies and exercise routines while we are on the road? Sounds a bit challenging, yes, but not impossible. All you need to do is take the time to plan ahead, prepare and keep your eye on your goal of staying on track.

Where are you going and what do you have to work with?
The best way to stay on track is to do your research before you leave and make preparations from home. When staying at a hotel, call ahead of time and find out exactly what they have in the workout facility. You maybe in luck and find everything you need from cardiovascular equipment to weight machines and free weights. If there isn’t a workout facility and/or not enough exercise equipment to work with, check the hotel front desk for a health club nearby.

Now, if you are heading out into the great outdoors or somewhere that doesn’t offer exercise equipment, getting creative and making a plan is going to be key. Be realistic in your expectation that your workouts will be different and most likely not your typical club workout. But hey, different can be fun and your body will most likely embrace the change. When traveling, the goal is to stay on track with your workouts.

What to Do?
Energy, better sleep and an overall feeling of wellness are just a few of the benefits you feel by staying on track with your workouts. It only takes a little bit of physical activity to feel these benefits and so many more. Shoot for 20 or 30 minutes of just cardio or do follow sample strength workout below with burst of jumping jacks and jump rope to get your heart pumping.

When staying at a hotel with no cardiovascular equipment you do have options. If the weather is nice, go outside for a walk/jog/run or find a trail nearby to walk or hike. If the weather brings rain or it is too cold to go outside, try to walk/run stairs at the hotel. Other options include: Jumping Jacks, Jump Roping (bring one along if you have one) or try High Knees. You can also add these cardio bursts to the sample workout plan below.

With strength training keep it simple. If you have access to free weights or machines you can make a workout plan ahead of time. If you are without anything, your bodyweight will be just as beneficial and effective as your regular workout.

Body Weight Workout Sample:

Cardio Burst
Jumping Jacks, Jump Rope (with or with out a jump rope), High Knees

Dynamic Squat (50 sec or 20 reps)

  1. Stand with feet just wider than hip width apart, toes at a natural angle forward or slightly out.
  2. Bend the knees and squat, pushing your rear out as though you’re about to sit in a chair. Your knees should stay behind the toes.
  3. As you are squatting, keep the knees going in the same direction as the toes and avoid arching or rounding the back.
  4. Squat as low as you can, touch your hands to the floor and then explode up reaching your hands up to the sky. Repeat.

Push Ups (To Fatigue)

  1. Lie chest-down with your hands at shoulder level, palms flat on the floor and slightly more than shoulder-width apart, with your feet together and parallel to each other.
  2. Look forward rather than down at the floor. The first contact you make with the floor with any part of the face should be your chin, not your nose.
  3. Straighten your arms as you push your body up off the floor. Keep your palms fixed at the same position and keep your body straight. Try not to bend or arch your upper or lower back as you push up. Hold for a second.
  4. Lower your body slowly towards the floor. Bend your arms and keep your palms in fixed position. Keep your body straight and feet together throughout this movement. Once you hit a 90 degree bend in your elbow, exhale and push yourself back up.

Cardio Burst
Jumping Jacks, Jump Rope (with or with out a jump rope), High Knees

Reverse Lunge with Straight Leg Kick (50 sec each leg or 20 reps)

  1. First, stand with your feet shoulder width apart and keep your trunk upright. Your arms should hang down to your sides or find a place on your hips.
  2. Take a large step backwards with your right foot, to make a right angle.
  3. Lower your hips until your left thigh, is parallel to the ground and hold for one count. Your left knee should be directly above your ankle. Your left foot should be pointed straight ahead and your right heel should be lifted.
  4. Pushing through your left leg, power through your glutes and hamstrings to make a straight leg kick to the front. Once you get the hang of it, extend your opposite arm to touch your toe as you kick through.
  5. Bring your leg back to the reverse lunge position again and repeat.

Tricep Dips (To Fatigue)

  1. Use a bench or chair that is sturdy enough to hold your body weight.
  2. Place your hands on the bench with palms down and your knuckles facing forward. Your hands should be right next to your hips on the bench or chair.
  3. Lower your body by bending at the elbow. Inhale slowly as you lower yourself for a count of two. Elbows should not point out away from your body as you lower, keep them in close.
  4. Exhale as you straighten your arms pushing your body back up. Repeat.
  5. Tip: Keep your body close to the bench and your weight primarily on your heels.

Cardio Burst
Jumping Jacks, Jump Rope (with or with out a jump rope), High Knees

Back Extension – Opposite Arm and Leg Lift (each side 10x’s) then both arms and legs together “Swimmers” (10x’s)

  1. Lie on your stomach on the floor or hard surface. Extend your arms overhead with the palms facing the floor.
  2. Keep your chin and head neutral with your spine.
  3. Engage your core muscles by pressing your hip bones down into the floor and squeezing your buttocks. Tightening these muscles will help stabilize your back.
  4. Exhale and lift your right arm and your left leg off the floor, pause a moment. Keep the arms and knee as straight as you can. Inhale and lower down.
  5. Lift the left arm and right leg up, pause and then lower down.
  6. Repeat for desired reps.

Back Extension – Swimmers

  1. Same instruction as above except you will lift both arms and legs at the same time and make a swimming motion. Both arms will move up and down and both legs will move up and down for 5 seconds, and then lower both arms and legs down to the mat.

Bicycle (50 sec or 20 reps)

  1. Lie on an exercise mat with your back flat against the mat and your hands placed behind your head and your fingertips just barely touching each other
  2. Bring your shoulder blades off the mat into a basic crunch. The shoulder blades need to be kept off the mat the whole time you are completing this exercise.
  3. Keep your neck in line with your spine, resisting the urge to bend and strain the neck. It may help to imagine that you are holding an orange underneath your chin as you complete this exercise.
  4. Lift your legs off the mat and place one leg in a 90-degree angle and the other leg in a 45-degree angle.
  5. Move your legs in a bicycle motion, like you are pedaling, bringing your left one up to a 90-degree angle as the right one moves back into a 45-degree angle.
  6. Meet your right knee with your left elbow as it comes closer to your upper body. As your left knee comes close to you, meet it with your right elbow.
  7. Repeat the bicycling motion.

Cardio Burst
Jumping Jacks, Jump Rope (with or with out a jump rope), High Knees

Plan your daily activities.
So now that you have your workout plan, the next important step is to plan your daily schedule so you can figure out the best time to get your exercise in. The most successful people, traveling or not, take a peek at the beginning of each week and figure out when exercise is going to happen for them. Let’s be realistic here, if your workout is not done in the morning it will most likely not happen while traveling. Keep in mind that life happens and last minute things come up but planning will keep you accountable and you are more likely to stay on track.

You are Ready
Now that you have a plan, all you have left to do is pack your workout gear. This will be the last piece to keeping you successful and on track. Make sure you pack workout clothes, shoes, water bottle, mat, and resistance bands if you have them, jump rope, anything that you regularly use to keep you on goal and “excuse free”.Follow these tips and you will find yourself on track and will avoid sacrificing your workouts while exploring new and summer vacation favorites.

SAC Elite Golf Weekly Golf Tip: Putting with Confidence

If your putts are coming up short, or nearly miss the hole, you may need to build some confidence in your stroke.

A drill that helps you build confidence in your putting stroke can be easily arranged on a practice green. Simply place a club horizontally in front of the hole (at the back/leading edge of the cup) so you have to cross over the shaft when attempting to make a putt. Once the club is set in this position, move away from the hole and square up to the shaft of the club. Take a few strokes to attempt to make a putt with the ball hopping over the shaft. It should take you a few strokes to find the right amount of force to put into your stroke. Once find this “sweet spot”, take away the club in front of the hole and see how your new stroke feels compared to your old stroke. You should see that you have a more confident putting stroke that places the ball a little further in to the hole.

Demonstrated at Kayak Point Golf Course

How many cyclist do you know with good posture?

Many Seattleites enjoy the vast terrain of Washington through the means of biking. Weather permitting many people hit the outdoors and enjoy all of its scenery using a road, mountain or on a hybrid bike. While the true enthusiast might brave the Seattle downpour, most people come inside the club and enjoy one of the many different spin classes offered at the club.

One Factor that is constant with all cyclists, indoor and outdoor, is that their posture will start to take a turn for the worst. Having correct posture consists of maintaining a balance in the strength and flexibility of the front side (chest and front deltoids) and back side muscles (rear deltoids, mid traps and upper lats) of the upper body. As we ride any type of bike we maintain a slight or extreme forward lean, sometimes for hours. This forward lean eventually causes a strengthening and tightening of the front side muscles, while never addressing the backside muscles. If this continues without constant stretching and strengthening of the backside muscles a kyphosis or mid back hunch back look will start to form. So now that we cyclists know what the issue is, how do we address it? Some of the great options offered at the club are to take a yoga class and ask them to add a cat and cow sequence to their class. This sequence is performed by getting onto your hands and knees and alternately depressing your chest as far as possible (cow) and then pushing your shoulder blades as far upward and apart as possible (cat). Another possible rehab solution would be to try pilates, where everything involves lengthening the spine and strengthening the core. If these are not addressing the posture problem then you could always get a personal fitness trainer to make a rehab workout to strengthen all the backside and core muscles as well as show you upper body stretches.

Cycling should be a fun and enjoyable sport that we can enjoy both indoor and outdoor until we are in our later years; in order to keep it that way and not create muscle imbalance problems for ourselves, we need to make sure that we stretch our chest and strengthen our back muscles as often as possible. If we keep our posture safe, we keep all of our daily activities safe and enjoyable.

Yoga Pose of the Month: Upward Facing Dog

The sun is peeking its elusive head out more often these days. For all those winter months we Seattleites have been hunched over our computers and bundled against the rain, and now it’s high time to open our chests (and hearts) to the sun’s warmth!

Upward Facing Dog is a quintessential pose in the Ashtanga/Power Yoga/Vinyasa warm up sequence that opens the chest, strengthens the arms, and provides a strong back bend when done correctly. Up Dog provides much needed space to breathe, strength for triceps, deltoids, traps, and core. Back bends are very energizing and calming when done in combination with a forward bend (like Down Dog, or standing forward bend). Most summer sports including, Cycling, Soccer, Squash/Tennis, Swimming would GREATLY benefit from Up Dog, because so many of those sports require the body to constantly be in a hunched or forward moving motion. Up Dog provides a much needed back bend relief.

Let’s Begin:
It’s best to warm up for 10 minutes doing gentle poses (refer to my previous SAC blogs for more info) before moving into Upward Facing Dog.

  1. From Downward Facing Dog, roll your shoulders forward over the hands for a strong Plank pose.
  2. Slowly, with elbows gracing the sides of your body, lower like a board, all the way to the mat.
  3. Slide wrists back to the middle of the rib cage (your bra strap line… sorry gents, you’ll have to use your imagination!) and with your hands as flat as a pancake and fingers spread wide to protect the wrists, push yourself up and forward through the arms until your legs are off the floor. Your chest should be forward of your wrists, shoulders away from your ears, elbows very slightly bent, low back in a deep arch, legs strong around the knee caps, and chin level to the floor. You should be able to breathe comfortably and have no pain in wrists or back. If you feel “pinched” in any way, please start with a variation, below.

Beginning Variations:

  1. Low Cobra – from lying on your front side, squeeze your glutes and shoulder blades together until your chest peels off of the floor. In this Up Dog variation, your hands can be under your shoulders, and very light on the mat. This still gives you a chest opener, without aggravating wrists or shoulder injuries.
  2. Sphinx Pose – Similar to Cobra, from laying on your frontside, prop yourself up on your forearms, and make sure your glutes are SOFT in this pose, and shoulders down. This is usually a strong back bend for folks, so be conscious of your low back.

From any of these variations, bend your knees on the floor, and push your hips back to Child’s Pose or Down Dog for a counter pose to a back bend.

For more instruction on Upward Facing Dog, or any pose, please come to my classes at the club or schedule a private yoga lesson now offered by myself and many of our other wonderful yoga teachers at Seattle Athletic Club Downtown.

Alleviate Your Computer Posture Discomfort

Repeatedly during the course of a massage, I have raked muscles between the scapula and thoracic spine and found them to be hard, tight and painful to the client who immediately pleads with me to work right there – that’s where they want me to provide them with relief. Unfortunately, it’s out of my hands, literally! Why? These muscles are typically stretched tight (like a rubber band) because they are weak; they are under tensile stress, and losing the battle against gravity. Most massage practitioners will agree that all the manipulating in the world will not relieve these muscles: they remain just as tight and painful at the end of the massage. It might feel good (or painful) to have them worked on but this is only palliative. The real solution to your discomfort is to strengthen these muscles yourself.You will learn five strengthening exercises that can banish your discomfort and/or improve your posture for these specific areas:

  1. Neck (Forward Head Posture)
  2. Upper Traps (Tensile Stress)
  3. Mid Traps (Tensile Stress; “Rounded Shoulders” or Forward Shoulder Posture)
  4. Descending Traps (Shoulders curled Forward/Down)
  5. Thoracic Erectors (“Slump” or excessive Kyphotic Curve in Thoracic Spine)

A great witticism that I’ve grown fond of is this: “Nobody likes to drink out of a fire hose.” That’s what’s so great about these exercises: no 3 sets of 30 reps etc. Each one can be done using your body weight, just ONE time, for as long as you can hold it (to fatigue). I’d prefer you do them nightly, right before bed, but you can also do them in your office chair and/or on the carpet if necessary.

Computer Posture Exercises:
Shoulder Shrug (targets shoulder tension)
Lift shoulders as high as you can (arms hanging down). They should reach almost as high as your earlobes. Contract your shoulder muscles as hard as you can – so hard they tremble. Keep lifting/trembling for 20 –30 seconds. Now lower the shoulders slowly –dropping them too quickly can trigger spasm.

Forward Bend vs. Neck Extension (targets neck tension)
Perform a forward bend. Keeping knees straight, lace fingers together and extend arms over your back/head as far as possible. Now, without changing your position, lift your head back in opposition. (The tendency is to let arms down / back up as your head comes up.) Pit these two actions against each other in an isometric contraction for 20 seconds, then bend your knees, and return to standing (slowly).

Superman (targets longitudinal tension between your shoulder blades)
(Caused by descending fibers of the trapezius being weak and overstretched). It combats scapulae curling forward and down. Lying face-down and resting forehead on the floor, place arms in front of head. Upper arms should be at a 45 degree angle, elbows bent and forearms pointing straight forward. Lift arms off the floor and hold them in this position until you can’t anymore.

Iron Cross (targets tension across the top of the shoulder blades)
(Named after the gymnastic feat performed on the rings.) Targets tension across the top of your shoulder blades caused by weak, overstretched mid-fibers of the trapezius. It prevents shoulders rounding and curling inward. Lying face-down and resting forehead on the floor, stretch arms out to the side, perpendicular to your body. Make a fist, turn your thumbs up toward the ceiling, and lift your arms off the floor. Hold until you can’t any more.

Swan Dive (targets longitudinal tension along your thoracic spine)
It prevents forward slumping of thoracic spine, forward head posture and medial rotation of shoulders. (This is the grand-daddy of them all, if you’re only going to do one exercise, do this one!) Lying face-down, arms down at sides, lift head, neck and chest off floor, squeeze shoulder blades together while externally rotating arms by sticking thumbs out like a hitch-hiker. Hold until you can’t anymore.

Restorative Yoga (this is your big reward)
Using a bolster, yoga block or rolled up towel, position it horizontally directly inferior to the bottom edge of your shoulder blades – this is approximately half way down your thoracic spine. Resting in this position for up to 5 minutes lets the force of gravity work to undo excessive bowing forward by bending you backward!!