Month: December 2010

10 Sure-fire Nutrition Tips to Conquer Your Resolution Blues

Many of you started off the New Year with well-intended nutrition goals. You were looking to cut calories, eat out less, incorporate more fruits and vegetables, detox from all the holiday partying, etc., etc., etc. You are now a little over a month in and you may be reaching the point where you wonder why setting those goals was ever a good idea! I want to encourage you to push past the pain and frustration and stay committed! Research has shown that it takes 21 days of forcing yourself through a new routine before your mind and body begin to accept the new routine as a habit. It is likely that many of you are beyond this point and still feel frustrated.

Take a moment to reflect on what methods you are using to achieve your nutrition goals. Use these tips as a guideline and reference to get you back on track as you make your daily food choices and stay on track to achieving resolution success!

1.) Start your day with a healthy breakfast. This is key to jump-starting your metabolism! Try a combination of whole grains, fresh fruit, and low-fat dairy.

2.) Eat multiple small meals throughout the day. Instead of consuming three large meals at breakfast, lunch, and dinner try eating four to five smaller meals throughout the day. This will keep your metabolism elevated and your hunger under control!

3.) Focus on incorporating six to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day! Use snack times as an opportunity to bring them into your diet.

4.) Work on getting 25-35 grams of fiber per day. Fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains are all great sources of fiber! Fiber will aid in digestion, help you feel fuller longer, and keep your blood sugar at bay.

5.) Drink water! Our bodies are made up of nearly 75% water, so make sure you are hydrated because it is essential for your body to function properly. Try keeping a bottle of water handy at your desk!

6.) Take time to enjoy your meals. The brain takes 20 minutes to recognize satiety, so take time to slow down and pay attention to what you are eating and how you feel. Then you are more likely to enjoy our meal, feel satisfied and not overeat.

7.) Keep your portion sizes under control. Make a habit of reading food labels and measuring out correct portions. For more information on correct portion sizes visit www.MyPyramid.gov.

8.) Take control of your environment. We may not always be able to stand up to temptation, but we can create a positive environment for success. For example, if you know there are certain foods that provoke you to overeat keep them out of the house and out of your desk drawer.

9.) Set realistic goals. Don’t try to revamp your diet from the get go, but commit to achieving one goal each week.

10.) Keep a food journal. The average person underestimates their intake by 600 calories each day! Recording what you eat makes you be accountable to yourself, and also gives you clues about where extra calories are coming from.

Aqualogix – the Evolution of Physical Fitness

A few months ago I had the pleasure of working with an amazing trainer names Gavin Macmillan. One of the many things he taught me was the Aqualogix aquatic workout. At first glanced I was unimpressed as I watched a handful of athletes grunt and splash around in the shallow end of the pool. Out of respect I stifled my disinterest and dropped into the water. After strapping on a set of resistance fins and taking hold of a plastic pair of hand bells I started the workout. My eyes went wide as I pushed as hard as I could through the water in the first set of movements. I couldn’t believe the sensation of having flowing and constant resistance everywhere I moved my body. I was working hard but the flowing nature of the movements seemed to stretch me out at the same time as I tried to blast through the water. The most amazing part of the experience is that even though it was one of the hardest workouts I have ever done I came out invigorated and energetic. In a mere thirty minutes I was a believer.

Aqualogix is the next step in the evolution of physical fitness. Using patented fins and bells this aquatic workout strengthens, stretches and heals the body with natural flowing motions. Forget everything you know about strength training because the usual rules don’t apply.

Omniresistant
Omniresistant means resistance in all directions. In an Aqualogix workout everywhere you move there is a constant flow of resistance. This allows for flowing natural motions that mimic actions of everyday life. The body was meant to move in all planes of motion. Conventional strength training is linear in nature and forces the body to compress under load and move in a robotic fashion. With Aqualogix push, pull, rotate and jump in any direction against the resistance of the water. Work every muscle in the body in this amazing aquatic routine.

Isokenetic
Water is what to refered as an Isokenetic Isokenetic is a resistance that only resists against you as hard as you push against it. No matter if you are a child, senior citizen, or professional athlete the water will apply the appropriate amount of force to give a safe and challenging workout. Post rehab patients can ease into their motions while seasoned athletes can power through one of the hardest workouts of their life. With the ever-increasing resistance of the water you will never outgrow an Aqualogix workout.

Lengthen and Strengthen
In addition the buoyancy of the water carries past your usual range of motion in a safe and flowing manner. Tight hamstrings? Try a few leg swings in the water and feel your leg float beyond a height and range you thought possible. Do you have tight shoulders and chronic aching neck? Try one of the many flowing shoulder movements of an aqualogix workout. You will feel your muscles stretch out and relax as they sail through the water. This not only heals the damaged tissue but strengthens the muscles at the same time. Gain flexibility and get stronger at the same time.

Sports Specific
Do you want to improve your squash serve? Just swing your arm as you would on the court and develop true Functional Strength. The nervous system will adjust to the added resistance of the water and slice through the air next time you are on the court.

Are you a long distance runner trying to cut down your mile time? Power through the water in your natural running stride. The buoyancy of the water gives you time to perfect your stride and the resistance ramps up your ability to accelerate with poise and power.
Non Impact Cardio

Many activities such as running can be detrimental to your joints. With aqualogix you can run and jump with more height and intensity then on the ground with a mere fraction of the impact. This not only allows you to work harder and burn more calories without beating up your joints. No pain no gain does not apply here. After a typical Aqualogix conditioning workout prepare to work harder than you ever have before but come out full of energy and vigor.

After months of planning and wating Aqualogix is now here at the club. Classes and one on one sessions are ready to jump into. If you have any questions or would like to give Aqualogix a try feel free to contact me.

Curt Ligot
206-443-1111 ext. 284

Hans Swim Paddles for the Triathlete and Master Swimmer

Hans Paddles:
The Han’s paddles (the small black ones) are smaller and are a great place to start when first using paddles. Because the Han’s paddle does not have a wrist strap it gives you immediate feedback as to whether you are swimming efficiently. If at any time the paddle is sliding on your hand it is telling you that you are not keeping adequate water resistance on your hand and are not propelling your bodyforward.

These can be worn in three different ways but the most popular is with the boxy end at the top of your fingers and the more curved end at the bottom (as illustrated).

This position teaches the hand, wrist, and elbow order of entry and encourages the downward sweep of the hand and high-elbows positioning in order to continually reach for “new” and “more” water with each stroke.

Strokemaker Paddles:
The Strokemaker paddle (which comes in various sizes and colors) is the bigger paddle that we offer. It increases distance per stroke by preventing you from allowing an early recovery (exiting arm from water). The size allows for strengthening of your swimming-specific muscles and aids in water propulsion. It is imperative that you do not take out the wrist tube in order to ensure proper use and to make sure you finish your stroke. You can use paddles in any stroke but be aware that the larger the paddle the more stress is put on your shoulder joint.

Make sure, if you start using paddles, to start out slowly. Only use them for 200-300 yards for the first few sessions and then build upon that. If you have any shoulder pain, stop. Start with the smaller paddles (ie: the black Han’s paddle or the green Strokemaker paddle) and build up. Most recreational swimmers should not go beyond the yellow Strokemaker paddle as the red (the largest we carry) is designed for elite swimmers or those that have been swimming with paddles for some time.

Pilates for Squash Players: How to Improve Your Game

At Seattle Athletic Club, we are widely recognized for our superior squash program. More than 500 members compete in tournaments, and many people seek out our club to study with the legendary Khan family. Coincidentally, Seattle Athletic Club also has an excellent authentic Pilates program. All of the instructors have graduated from the most rigorous authentic training program, under the tutelage of master teachers hand-picked by Joseph Pilates and his protégés. The common denominator here is the availability to receive the best cross-training method in addition to the best squash instruction.

So, how can Pilates improve your squash game? Racket sports, by nature, are repeatedly one-sided. Half of the body, generally speaking, is used more than the other half. Also, the rotation required in the torso, let alone the extremities, is significant in the game of squash. Furthermore, the mental focus and physical stamina required in squash is crucial to the outcome.

Pilates is designed to work the body evenly, building strength in the torso to aide in the mobility of the entire body. A program of specific exercises will work the body more uniformly in order to prevent overdevelopment of one side. The custom Pilates workout will also strengthen the deep abdominal muscles providing a stable base from which to hit the ultimate ‘kill shot’. The range of motion through the middle of the body is improved upon during every Pilates exercise, as the core initiates all movement. The shoulders and upper back, typically a difficult region to stretch, will gain flexibility through precise movements that will subsequently enhance far-reaching swings, and your ability to reach that drop shot.

The focus required for your Pilates workout will increase your focus on the court. The ability to decelerate in your Pilates workout in order to develop the specificity of the work, will inherently improve your concentration in any fast paced sport. You will, perhaps, be able to anticipate and prepare shots that were once more hurried and less skillful. Also, the breath control that is essential to your Pilates workout, will enhance your innate ability to find that last energetic lungful in order to successfully complete the game.

The benefits of Pilates will follow you through your daily routine, condition your body so that you stay injury-free, and will clearly aide in the mastering of your chosen sport. Squash is a challenging game of athleticism, and Pilates is clearly a ‘straight drive’ to your success!

Plyometrics

“A stretching and shortening exercise that combines strength and speed to achieve maximum power in functional movements”

When the term Plyometrics is mentioned jumping comes to mind. Although this is a staple in any plyometric program; jumping is just one of the countless ways to train in this fashion. Plyometric movements are any movement that generates power and maintains momentum by shortening and lengthening the muscles and tendons in an elastic manner. Jumping, throwing, skipping, and even dancing are considered plyometric movements.

In the world of commercial fitness using momentum is often frowned upon and looked at as “cheating”. This misconception is due to the popularity of conventional weight training (barbells, dumbbells, etc). Conventional weight training predominantly is geared toward strengthening the muscle belly through the concept of overload. You place a muscle group under load (ex: bicep curl) and have this muscle group work in an isolated fashion with a linear and segmented movement. These conventional movements allow you to mobilize the load without the help of momentum or any elastic power. Though this does increase the strength and size of the muscle belly it doesn’t strengthen the connective tissue (tendons).

Tendons, the connective tissue that connects muscle to bone, strengthen with flowing and fast movement. Movements with adequate speed and length stimulate the nervous system which sends a signal to tendons and muscles to shorten back to their original length. This rapid lengthening and shortening happens so quickly it often looks effortless and graceful. Elite sprinters and classically trained ballet dancers are excellent examples of this. These type of movements are not only beneficial for tendon strength and health but they also are essential in any athletic training program. A competent plyometric program develops a flexible, fast, strong and efficient moving human being.

With that being said, training with plyometrics is something to approached with caution and ideally under the watchful eye of a qualified fitness professional (preferably short and bald). The length and speed needed for these movements require an adequate amount of strength, flexibility, and coordination; and training beyond your limits (too fast or too far) can cause extreme soreness and in some cases injury. When starting on a plyometric training program always follow these 3 simple rules:

1) Establish Kinetic Order
Move in correct kinetic order. Feet, Legs, Hips, Trunk, Torso, then Arms.
Think of the body like a whip. Most movements generate their power from the feet. From there the power flows through the body and out the arms. This not only maximizes your potential power but it also ensures the no one body part takes the brunt of the movement.

2) Establish Flow
No matter if you are jumping rope, throwing a ball, or running; strive for flowing continuous movement. With unloaded human movement (no weights or external objects) there is a constant ebb and flow between all the muscles of the body. As power travels through the body, effort is handed off from one muscle to the next (again like a whip) in a flowing continuous manner. Start things off slow until you feel like there is no end and no beginning to your movements. Then and only then is it time to pick up the tempo.

3) Pick Up the Speed
Once you have established Kintetic Order and Flow, pick up the speed. Though your movements will become more explosive at this point make sure to always make rule 1) Kinetic Order and 2) Establish Flow are your priority. Without those two rules in place your quality of movement will suffer. Speed, load or volume without the presence of quality movement = damage to the muscle and tendon. Once you have mastered all three steps expect your flexibility, strength and speed to increase dramatically.

Here are some great examples of beginner plyometric exercises:

  1. Jump Rope
  2. Skipping
  3. Arm Swinging
  4. Stair Hops

If you have any questions about plyometric training please feel free to contact:
Curt Ligot
206-443-1111 ext 284

The Real Cost of Not Exercising

With the current financial epidemic our country is facing, it seems practical that we go through our bank statements and cut back on any extra spending. But, should your gym membership be one of them? Many publications have been suggesting that the gym is one luxury that you can do without. Although, canceling your membership may seem to save you money, it will cost more than you can afford in the long run and not only in terms of your bank account.

On the surface, an “at-home” routine may appear like a good idea. Before you make the leap, you need to consider the complete ramifications of your actions. After all, a gym environment has a lot to offer. The gym offers structure, and the motivation you get from working out in a group. Exercising with and around others can greatly improve your exercise adherence. Accountability comes from your trainers, friends, and peers, and they often push you during your workout as well. Your home workout will inevitably become less of a priority since you “can do it at any time”. We all know this leads to one place: procrastination. The gym also provides a great deal of equipment that will not be available to you at home. Attempting to replicate your routine outside the gym will leave you without the motivation, community, and the expertise provided by a professional exercise facility.

There is a cost associated with not exercising! Physical activity is necessary for life’s everyday functions, as well as stimulating the body’s own natural maintenance and repair system. By not exercising you increase your risk for many health issues. Research shows individuals who are physically active have substantially lower cancer rates, have fewer heart attacks, are less likely to develop diabetes, have healthier blood pressure levels, lessened risk of stroke, and overall are generally healthier. A variety of studies have shown that exercise combats low energy, stress, and depression and those who participate are more optimistic, sleep better, have stronger bones, and are less likely to be overweight or even catch a cold or the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), inactive adults have considerably higher direct medical costs than active adults, and the costs associated with physical inactivity increase with age. If you take into consideration the costs of maintaining your health without the help of exercise, you are factoring in increased health insurance costs, food costs, pharmaceuticals, and visits to the doctor. The costs of exercising are unmistakable: exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy body can save not only your life, but your money as well.

So, even though your gym membership may cost you every month, think about the savings your membership is actually providing you. If cutting back expenses is what you are attempting, try cutting back on your morning coffee or save by packing your lunch regularly rather than buying. Most importantly, cut back on the things that will not short-change you in the long run. You cannot put a price on your health and personal well-being.

Make Changes that Lead to Success in the First 90 Days

Many gym goers fall out of exercising within their first 90 days of joining a gym or starting a new exercise routine. One of the biggest reasons people stop exercising is because they do not have a very structured workout and/or do not know where to start with their exercising. A new and very beneficial program offered here at the Seattle Athletic Club Downtown is called “The First 90 Days of Fitness”. It’s a structured introduction to fitness involving meeting with a nutritionist to get your diet analyzed in order to meet the demands of exercising; three consultations with fitness trainer where you get measurements and body fat taken and then training session. The Fitness trainers can also get set up on a structured workout program called ActivTrax.

If you are looking for a little more structure to your workout program, there is also our 12 week Evolve program; offering personal training twice a week, fitness assessments, 5 nutritional consultations, two RMR (resting metabolic rate) tests, a shopping trip to your favorite store, educational literature each week.

One of the club’s members, Chris Davidson, has been on this program and just completed his first 90 days of fitness. During his final assessment he was pleased to find out that he had lost 7.6 lbs of fat while gaining a considerable amount of muscle and strength. The major contributing factors to his fitness achievements were that he was at the SAC every day working out or playing racquetball; and that he exercised with a workout partner. This is just one of many success stories at the club. Fitness success is more attainable if you have a structured workout routine and with someone there to keep you accountable, whether it’s a Pilates instructor, personal trainer or workout partner.

Benefits of Sprinting

Unfortunately there are some common misnomers about sprinting.

  • Bad for the joints and muscles
  • Doesn’t help with weight loss
  • Doesn’t train the cardiovascualar sytem
  • Only young people and athletes should do them

In reality sprinting drills are one of the most effective methods of increasing your fitness level and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Whether you are biking, rowing or running doing repeated bouts of short distances at high speed can do wonders for your heart, lungs, muscle tone, joint health and waist line.

CARDIOVASCULAR BENEFITS
Contrary to popular belief the cardio vascular systems isn’t inactive at short distances. With continuous, fast and flowing motions your heart and lungs have to work overtime to circulate blood to your working muscles. The cardiovascular system wasn’t designed to work in isolation. With sprinting there is a constant eb and flow between your anaerobic and aerobic systems. The muscles and connective tissue create, absorb and redistribute power while the aerobic system fuels the body with oxygen and blood. When challenged with short distances and high speeds the cardiovascular system is forced to pick up its game to fuel these intense bouts of exercise. Your energy systems respond very well to intensity not just volume.

SPRINTS AND WEIGHT LOSS
Have you ever peered down at the calorie counter on the treadmill and have your heart sink? All that work and you haven’t burned close to the amount of calories you wanted to. With sprinting the calorie burning doesn’t stop when you stop. With the increased demand of high intensity training your metabolism is working even when the workout is over. If you don’t believe me run a quarter mile as fast as you can then rest. If you can run with any inkling of speed I guarantee you will be huffing and puffing even after your stop running. The more intense your sprinting workouts are the longer your metabolic rate stays elevated afterwards.

JOINT HEALTH
The connective tissue (tendons and ligaments) gain strength when exposed to rapid and flowing ranges of motion. The fluid and buoyant movement of a competent sprinter gets the nervous system fired up which sends a signal to your connective tissue to expand and contract quickly. This creates power and momentum that travels through the muscles propelling you through space. These elastic movements strengthen the ligaments and tendons which enables them to fire faster and more efficiently. Slow and plodding movements can actually wear away and damage them over time. If you want to keep those joints healthy pick up the pace.

OLDER THE BETTER
Often sprinting is looked at as a young persons activity. This is hardly the case. In my mind the older you are the more you should be working on your sprinting. Some of the many attributes that decline with age are flexibility, strength and power. With decent sprinting technique you can develop and improve on all those attributes. Plodding your way through a slow, moderately paced workout for an hour will not slow down this process. If you train slow you will move slow outside of the gym as well. Training with fast and flowing motions will combat the aging process by training your body to move with long and fluid movements.

RUN, SWIM, ROW OR WHAT???
Sprinting workouts can involve many different modes of exercise. Running, rowing, biking and swimming can be great activities to use in a bout of sprints. Make sure to pick an activity that you are already competent in. If you are a horrible swimmer now is not the time to start torpedoing across the pool. Find a cardio machine or mode of exercise that you can move with at least some fluidity. The goal isn’t muscle fatigue. The goal to finish your allotted distance with speed and grace.

HOW LONG HOW FAR?
When picking a distance and amount of sprints to do be smart. Pick a distance and set number you can finish with fluidity and speed and competent form. If you start thrashing in the pool or you sounds like a 3 legged elephant on the treadmill you probably have gone too far or have done too many rounds. You can start with as little as 100m run or 1 lap in the pool. The distance doesn’t matter. Your quality of motion and the speed in which you perform trumps volume and mileage any day. A good rule of thumb is “When the power and speed decline it is time to stop”.

HOW LONG DO I REST IN BETWEEN ROUNDS?
Allow yourself up to 3 minutes in between rounds. If you are moving with any kind of speed you will need and appreciate the time off. You want to be as fresh as possible when you sprint. Focus on how fast you finish not whether you keep going. If you feel like you do not need the rest your speed , strength and technique need some improvement. Keep in mind these are not intervals. Finish your distance as fast and as fluid as possible, rest, then do it again.

Here are a few simple sprinting workouts I take most of my clients through while at the Club:
4 rounds/ 200m row / 2 minute break in between rounds
6 rounds / sprint up LENORA (hill outside) / 2-3 minute break between rounds
4 rounds / Box Push (to COKE machine and back) / 2-3 minute break between rounds

Can Pilates Make You Taller?

Can Pilates really make you taller? According to SAC member Lenell Nussbaum the answer to this question is yes!

Lenell began Pilates a couple of years ago. She experienced regular back pain due to scoliosis and decided to give Pilates a try.

“The biggest change is that my back is no longer a pain issue. The by-product is that I am taller!” said Lenell.

Pilates works in several magnitudes – twisting, bending and extending – to strengthen the “powerhouse”, the muscles that support your spine. More space between the vertebrae is created by working and articulating the space in these magnitudes, thus lengthening your spine, improving your posture and in essence making you taller.

“I have ‘powerhouse’ muscles that didn’t know they were supposed to be the powerhouse. Really now: muscles on the front side of my spine? I was confident my gene pool had omitted them. Although I have always preferred doing things that I do well, it was clear I needed to do something that was difficult for me: find these muscles and engage them.”

Pilates exercises are specifically designed to reach and engage the “core” or “powerhouse” muscles. Exercises such as spine stretch forward on the mat, short spine on the reformer and push the pedal down on the wunda chair strengthen the muscles surrounding the spine, therefore creating support for the spine allowing you to stand more erect. The extra space created by stretching the spine will actually lengthen the spine and reduce pain caused by poor posture or weak muscles.

“My favorite aspect of Pilates is hanging upside down by my ankles! It offers my crooked back great relief. It feels like gravity is finally on my side. I also like short spine, where is get to turn upside down on the reformer. If gravity helps me stretch the spine, apparently the exercises help me strengthen the muscles in between to retain some of the space. I’ve located several of those muscles I didn’t know I had. We’re getting to know each other.”

Lenell has grown 1.5 inches since starting Pilates and is now living pain free!

The Biggest Loser: In Review

The popular television show: The Biggest Loser features overweight individuals who sign up to compete to win a large sum of money by losing the highest percentage of their weight (originally amount of weight) over a period of up to 100 days. Contestants are periodically eliminated throughout the competition for failing to make satisfactory progress. The Biggest Loser is marketed as a show that is “paying it forward” by motivating individuals, families, and communities to get healthy. But do they get it right? I decided to watch and see for myself.

On the surface, promoting fitness and health are things that should impress me, and initially I found their message to be intriguing. Although I found the title to be a little degrading to the contestants, I looked past it and tried to keep an open mind. Almost immediately I was impressed with the fact that they were approaching the solution from both sides: exercise and nutrition. In order to see real results both areas need to be addressed, and in my experience fitness pundits typically primarily focus on one area or the other. Contestants on the show are exposed to advice and challenging situations regarding both fitness and nutrition, which I think is absolutely great. As I continued to watch I noticed a much more prominent message developing – that real change is possible. It is possible to completely change your physical and emotional framework (regarding fitness at least). The biggest loser does not blame genetics, promote surgery, or advertise fantastic weight-loss pills. They push increasing exercise and nutrition management as their methods for instituting change, and I could not agree more.

As I watched the contestants progress and their message develop over the episodes I was confronted with some inconsistencies. In order to get their message across the trainers take dramatic measures at times. They regularly employ temptation, profanity, and ridicule in order to motivate the contestants. While I am sure this helps with ratings, I know that these methods are not necessary to produce results and the situations often felt demeaning to me. I also found some of the challenges (particularly the food challenges) to be degrading and counterproductive. Is consuming large quantities of unhealthful and calorically-dense foods an appropriate punishment for losing a challenge? The training staff also sets their physical performance expectations pretty high, which can lead the contestants into some medically-tenuous situations. Contestants are regularly injured, and some take chronic injuries home with them. Also the nutrition information is almost exclusively focused on calorie content. I recognize portion control as the prevailing factor in promoting long-term weight management, but I also know that there is more to the story. Nutrient content, not caloric-density, is most crucial to promote overall health and wellbeing.

Most importantly, The Biggest Loser fails to facilitate institution of a plan to create realistic, sustainable habits. Many of the show’s contestants benefit physically from the trials and tribulations they endure during filming, but revert to their former habits (and their former size) immediately upon returning home. All in all, I think that the show is attempting to convey a positive message, however overall treatment of the contestants and their taste for the dramatic sacrifices any integrity that the show might otherwise have.