Month: April 2011

Debunking Pilates Myths

It’s expensive
A one-on-one session is a great way to start your Pilates training, but when you learn your routine, you can work out with a partner or small group to cut costs.

It’s only for women
Joseph Pilates was a man, and he created a system of exercise meant for every body, male or female. Pilates requires concentration, focus, coordination and agility.

It’s repetitive
Pilates builds a foundation of core strength, and that requires some deep, precise, consistent work. Only after your core is established and muscles correctly firing can you move on to the more complicated, advanced Pilates exercises. So yes, Pilates can seem repetitive in the beginning. But be patient! Your repertoire will expand as you become stronger and are able to demonstrate control in your body.

It’s only for dancers
Joseph Pilates was not a dancer; he was a boxer and wrestler, studied yoga and gymnastics. When Joseph and his wife Clara set up shop in New York City, George Balanchine sent many dancers to Pilates to rehabilitate their ballet injuries. The news of a workout that promoted strength with stretch spread quickly through the dance community, and has been popular ever since. However, Pilates is beneficial for all populations.

It’s easy
Pilates can be modified to accommodate nearly any injury, but true Pilates, once the basic concepts are understood, is challenging to the most fit person.

Dirty mouth can lead to poor health… really!

Many of us gym goers think to stay healthy they need to get their 60 minutes of exercise daily, eat quality foods and get plenty of sleep and water. Well of course those are all true, but there is an important factor that many people over look or just don’t even think to address…your oral health.

There have been many studies that show a correlation between people’s oral health and their overall health. They state that problems in your mouth can affect the rest of your body, this usually happens when the bacteria in your mouth go unchecked or correct oral hygiene is not followed; allowing this bacteria to multiply without a safeguard. Now many of you may be saying that there is no way me not brushing and flossing can lead to anything that harmful…

Here are some of the problems that can come up from keeping that dirty mouth:

  • Endocarditis, where the oral bacteria can enter the blood stream and attack other parts of the body, like your heart lining.
  • Cardiovascular Disease, thought to be attributed to the chronic inflammation from severe gum disease.
  • Premature Birth and low birth weight
  • Alzheimer’s disease is associate with tooth loss before 35 y.o
  • Osteoporosis is also linked with poor oral health

So here are ways to keep your mouth happy and thus body healthy:

  1. brush those chompers at least twice a day
  2. trade out toothbrushes every 3 to 4 months
  3. Floss!
  4. Eat healthy foods, limit sodas and sugary drinks
  5. Go to the dentist twice a year

It’s kind of scary to think that all this can happen from letting our oral health go, but the great part about our body is that just as exercising our bodies daily keeps us healthy, a little bit of oral upkeep daily can keep our bodies healthy too. Now that dental insurance seams to be worth every penny!

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 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” 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” refers to tightening the bottom in order to contract the outward rotators of the pelvis; specifically, the piriformus 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.

The Best Ways to Protect Your Hair from Chlorine in Indoor Pools

Protecting your hair while swimming can be a challenge, yet so easy at the same time. Your hairstylist will tell you to put tons of conditioner in your hair, or an oil to create a barrier between your finely colored hair and the chlorine. There are a ton of products out there too. From experience oils do work the best. This is all under a swim cap of course. The silicone caps are much friendlier on your hair, as opposed to latex. You can check out the new SAC silicone caps at the pro shop.

Here’s the kicker. You don’t need much oil or conditioner! Your hair does not need to be drenched in product for protection; it just needs a thin layer. The key is to rinse and shampoo immediately following your swim to insure the chlorine is not absorbed. A leave in conditioner is super helpful in ensuring the healthy look and color in your hair after a swim.

Posture at Work and Pain

Often, people suffer from pain while they are working, particularly those who work at a desk all day. This can range from neck pain and headaches to low back pain to cramping hamstrings. Posture plays a vital role in all of these areas of the body. Poor posture will tighten certain muscles, loosen others and cause nerves to over fire, causing pain. If you have pain, look for these signs:

  1. Are your shoulders rounding forward? This is usually a weakness in the external rotators of the shoulder and tightness through the chest. By strengthening the rotator cuff your shoulders will pull back more naturally. You can stretch the chest in a doorway by placing your arms at 90 degree angles and leaning the weight forward. Take a deep breath and allow the stretch to deepen. This stretch should be performed as soon as you get to work. It will help to keep your open for the rest of the day.
  2. Are you tensed in the neck talking on the phone or do you reach your head forward looking at a computer screen? Every so often take a deep breath and sigh out the mouth. This will help calm the mind and relax your body. Also, perform cervical spine stretches while sitting.
    • While looking forward drop the ear towards the shoulder. Take a few deep breaths to deepen the stretch. Perform 3 times on each side
    • Drop the head down, pointing your nose towards one of your armpits. Again, take a few deep breaths. You will feel this one more behind your ears.
    • Turn and rotate the head as if you were trying to look over your shoulder. With each breath, try to look a little bit further.
  3. Do you get back spasms while seated? You may be flattening your back against your chair, giving it an unnatural curve. When this curve occurs, the lower vertebrae take on more weight than they were designed for. To help take the strain off the vertebrae, different muscles will begin to over fire, causing pain. While sitting, reach the crown of your head up and maintain this position. Sitting on a Swiss Ball helps with this. Since no back support is provided the body is required to be in the correct posture.
  4. Do your legs or knees hurt while sitting? You may be sitting too long. While in a seated position the hamstrings are slightly contracted and the quadriceps are slightly stretched. This position can be taxing on the muscles if maintained over an extended time period. While sitting, stretch one leg out straight, placing the heel on the ground. Keeping the spine straight, lean forward and feel the stretch up the back of the leg. Also, try to stand up from your seat every so often to get the blood to flow back to your legs. Even just sitting down and standing up a few times will help loosen up your legs and back.

Seattle Bike to Work Month – Safety and Health Tips

May is Bike to Work Month in Seattle, and to help keep riders as safe as possible during the month we have assembled a few handy tips to keep in mind.

  1. Wear bright clothing. Sometimes a light or reflectors aren’t enough. Make sure to wear a bright coat/shirt, the more visible you are the better for everyone.
  2. Always wear a helmet even when you are only going a short distance. You never know what might happen, and you can’t control what mistakes someone else could make. Plus, it is the law.
  3. Remember your water bottle. You can easily lose track of time on a long flat ride. Make sure to have plenty of hydration before, during, and after. Having a small snack with you is also a great idea.
  4. Keep your eyes peeled. You may ride the same way to work every morning, most of it may be on a bike path. Don’t get lazy, keep your eyes and ears peeled. Safety first people!
  5. Stretch! Sometimes you just look at biking as pure transportation. However it’s first and foremost exercise. Make sure to get some leg swings, hip flexor stretches, low back rotations, chest stretches etc. done before and after a ride. The repetitive motion of biking can cause tightness in your hip flexors, hamstrings, quads etc. Most of us sit too much at our desks already shortening our muscles. Add biking up hills, long distance, etc. into the mix and you have a recipe for injuries.
  6. You are not a car. Stop at lights, stay in the bike lane, use hand signals. Be safe for you and others around you.
  7. Make sure your bike fits you! Take your bike into any local bike shop or stop by the fitness desk and ask Jake Pedersen or our Multisport Coach, Teresa Nelson for tips on fitting bikes.
  8. Always do a walk through of your bike before taking off on a long ride, check the tire pressure, brakes and seat to make sure everything is where it should be.

Handy Links to Official Bike to Work Information – Seattle 2011

The many benefits of indoor cycling

Indoor cycling has many benefits, no matter your outdoor riding experience or fitness level. Whether you are an experienced “roadie,” mountain bike rider, commuter, touring enthusiast, or a beginner, SAC has a wide range of instructors, formats, and class times for you to pick what works best. Indoor cycling is an ensured way of managing your hectic schedules and allow you the proper conditions, coaching, and synergy of fellow riders to improve many things: cardiovascular and strength training, endurance training, proper form and technique to avoid injuries, stress relief, an hour away from your Blackberry or email, meeting new friends, riding with long time riders, a good sweat, and the list goes on and on.

It is the goal of the Cycling program at SAC to both introduce and advance your abilities, no matter your experience, meaning we welcome ALL levels of riding including first time riders! Here are some helpful tips for those that are just considering this as a part of their fitness program and reminder to those already part of the program. First, sign up for a class and alert that instructor that you are new and would like a few minutes to get acquainted with the bikes. Proper set up and seat and handlebar adjustments are an important step in safety but more importantly, for an enjoyable ride. Getting to class a few minutes early to “play” with the settings is always a good idea when first getting started. Once you get the hang of it, it will become second nature to get set up.

Second: come hydrated and “fueled.” About 1-2 hours before class, be sure to start hydrating and have a light snack to ensure you’ll have the fuel to effectively power through class. Bananas, energy bars, oatmeal, bagels, and PB&J’s are all great options. Third, take a few minutes to stretch before class. Our classes are taught at early hours, lunch, and after work, all times that require stretching! And finally, come prepared to have FUN! If you come to class with that mindset, it will most likely happen.

We are fortunate at SAC to have a very solid base of experienced instructors, outdoor cyclists, and long time members of the Indoor Cycling program. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, don’t be afraid to set your own pace, don’t be afraid to push yourself as you choose. Our goal as instructors is to provide a well-rounded, safe, and challenging format that builds strength and confidence to keep coming back!

As we enter our late Spring and Summer months of longer days, it is our hope we’ll see you in our classes and give you the tools to make your outdoor rides more enjoyable. And for those that don’t like dodging cars, a great work out to make your day and night’s sleep that much more enjoyable.

See you soon in the studio or perhaps on the open road!

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Double Straight Leg Stretch

Purpose: The fourth exercise in the Stomach Series targets the powerhouse to the extreme.

  1. Lie on your back with hands behind your lifted head; one on top of the other, (not interlaced). Elbows wide.
  2. Extend your legs straight to the ceiling, heels together and toes turned out slightly, squeeze inner thighs, sink navel toward spine.
  3. Inhale and lower your straight legs down toward the mat for 3 counts. Stop if you feel your lower back begin to arch.
  4. Exhale as you raise your straight legs toward the ceiling. Don’t allow the legs to pass 90 degrees; the tailbone does not leave the mat.

Complete 8-10 times. To end bring both knees into chest.


  • Remain perfectly still in your torso.
  • Engage the glutes and inner thighs to support and protect your back.
  • If your back arches off the mat as you lower your legs, you are taking them too low. Bring shoulders away from ears.

Note: If you have a delicate back, place your hands in a V position just below your tailbone (palms down) and leave your head down.

Visualization: Imagine your legs are attached to springs above your head. You must stretch the springs on the way down and resist their pull on the way up.

Fiber Helps Keep You Moving and Living Longer!

We all know that fiber is good for you but a recent study of 400,000 people age 50-71 has found that fiber can help you live longer! The men who ate 29 grams of fiber a day and the women who ate 26 grams of fiber a day were 22% less likely to die after 9 years than those who ate less fiber. More and more we are finding out that inflammation contributes to chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease and diabetes. The study found that fiber has anti-inflammatory properties.

So how can you eat a high fiber diet?
Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are high in fiber but to get above 25 grams a day you really need to add some beans/lentils.
You would have to eat 5 cups of broccoli or over 7 cups of brown rice to reach 25 grams but you only need ~1 ½ cups of beans or lentils to get to 25 grams of fiber.

  1. You can add beans and or lentils to a salad, soup or vegetable dish.
  2. You can have a bean and rice burrito for breakfast or lunch.
  3. You can have hummus and veggies for snack.
  4. The following recipe for Meatless Chili is not only high in fiber but also low in calories.

Enjoy and live long and prosper!

Meatless Chili
Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 can (16 ounces) chopped tomatoes
  • 4 cups cooked kidney beans, drained (reserve liquid)

Heat oil in a large saucepan; sauté garlic and onion until slightly brown. Sprinkle in chili powder and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients, cover and cook on low for 15-20 minutes until a sauce is formed. Add reserve bean liquid if mixture becomes too dry.

Calories per serving: 160
Fiber per serving: 22 grams

Fiber in Foods
Fruits / Serving size / Total fiber (grams)
Pear, with skin / 1 medium / 5.1
Apple, with skin / 1 medium / 4.4

Grains, cereal & pasta / Serving size / Total fiber (grams)
Brown rice, cooked / 1 cup / 3.5

Legumes, nuts & seeds / Serving size / Total fiber (grams)
Split peas, cooked / 1 cup / 16.3
Lentils, cooked / 1 cup / 15.6
Black beans, cooked / 1 cup / 15.0
Kidney Beans / 1 cup / 18.0
Pinto Beans / 1 cup / 18.0
Sunflower seeds, hulled / 1/4 cup / 3.6
Pistachio nuts / 1 ounce / 2.9
Pecans / 1 ounce / 2.7

Vegetables / Serving size / Total fiber (grams)
Artichoke, cooked / 1 medium / 10.3
Broccoli, boiled / 1 cup / 5.1
Turnip greens, boiled / 1 cup / 5.0
Brussels sprouts, cooked / 1 cup / 4.1
Carrot, raw / 1 medium / 1.7