Month: February 2012

No Time to Exercise? No Problem! The Key is High Intensity Interval Training.

Are you sick of spending hours in the cardio room? Do you sometimes skip your workout because you do not have a full hour in your schedule to get to the gym? Do you find your cardio mundane and boring? Then it may be time to break out of the normal routine and push your body to new levels. Research has shown that you can achieve great results from high intensity interval training as a substitute or addition to traditional cardiovascular training.

Here is an example:
Instead of doing a flat 60 minutes on the stationary bike you can perform an interval circuit of 30 seconds as fast as you can go with 90 seconds of recovery. The recovery pace is the same speed you use for your warm-up. You repeat this cycle for 20 minutes with 5 minutes for a warm-up and 5 minutes for a cool-down.

The idea is that you will put more effort into the 30 second interval knowing you will have 90 seconds of rest. The approach trains your body, and more specifically your heart, to recovery faster to prepare for the next intense burst.

In addition to cardiovascular health, interval training has also been proven to increase the body’s ability to burn fat. In a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology eight women in their early 20s cycled for 10 sets of four minutes of hard riding, followed by two minutes of rest. Over two weeks, they completed seven interval workouts. After interval training, the amount of fat burned in an hour of continuous moderate cycling increased by 36 percent. They also found that it did not matter how much the person was already training. Even if they were frequently visiting the gym they still found improvements to endurance.

Interval training does not need to be limited strictly to pieces of cardio equipment. In several training classes here at the gym (Body Pump, Boot Camp, Winter Sports Prep, etc.) interval training is utilized by pushing your body for a specific amount of time and limiting the amount of recovery. This is done using a wide variety of total body exercises.

So the next time you are in a rut in the cardio room and you want to spice it up, try throwing in some sprints, always warming up first. You can start as simple as 15 seconds of sprinting with 90 seconds of recovery. As you start to get stronger you can increase the sprint time and decrease the recovery.

If math isn’t your strong suit, come join a Boot Camp class or jump in the Winter Sports Prep and Play program and let the trainers do the counting for you!

Oh Those Nasty Shin Splints

Whether you are going after general fitness or you are training hard to prepare for a certain sport, if you train with any purpose, then you are probably training hard. And when you go hard, you are bound to run into a few “wear and tear” problems along the way. These issues do not need to take you off course and should not keep you from reaching your goals!

One common issue I’ve heard of lately is shin splints. If you’re jogging around outside, training for a race, or participating in a boot camp class, you’re at risk of a common, running-related injury called shin splints. Referring to pain along the shin (tibia) or the large bone in the front of your lower leg, the pain is caused by an overload on the shinbone and the connective tissues that attach your muscles to the bone. This overload is often caused by specific athletic activities, such as:

  • Running downhill
  • Running on a slanted or tilted surface
  • Running in worn-out footwear
  • Engaging in sports with frequent starts and stops (ie. basketball and tennis, or agility training and plyometrics)

If you have shin splints, you may notice tenderness, soreness or pain along the inner or sometimes outer part of your lower leg and mild swelling. At first, the pain may stop when you stop running or exercising. Eventually, however, the pain may be ongoing.

Most common among runners, many times they can also be caused by training too hard, too fast or for too long.

TREATING SHIN SPLINTS:

  • Rest. Avoid activities that cause pain, swelling or discomfort, but don’t give up all physical activity. While you’re healing, switch to non weight bearing cardio such as biking, the elliptical, or swimming.
  • Ice the affected area. Apply ice to the affected shin for 15 to 20 minutes after you train.
  • Wear proper shoes. Be sure you are wearing shoes designed for the sport in which you participate. Invest in a pair of shoes that will enhance your performance and protect you from injury. Also consider the age of your shoes. Athletic shoes will last you the equivalent of 350-550 miles of running, depending on your body weight, running style and surfaces on which you train.

*It’s also important to resume your usual activities gradually. If your shin isn’t completely healed, returning to your usual activities may only cause continued pain.

PREVENTING SHIN SPLINTS:

  • Choose the right shoes. As previously mentioned, wear footwear that suits your sport and replace them as necessary.
  • Lessen the impact. Cross-train with a sport that places less of an impact on your shins, such as swimming or biking. Start new activities slowly and increase time and intensity gradually.
  • Add strength training to your workout. Try foot strengthening along with calf raises. You can perform this exercise with added resistance by sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Loop a wide resistance band around your toes. Flex your toes toward you and extend outwards for 2-3 sets of 10 reps. Leg presses and other exercises for your lower legs can be helpful as well.

Seattle Athletic Club Downtown fitness programs incorporate athletic training to build strength, endurance, and agility. Training this way strengthens joints, tendons and connective tissues along with the major muscle groups. Strong muscle attachments and joints that can bear the stress of heavy training are essential in the prevention of injuries. However, even the fittest athlete can encounter wear and tear problems! By taking the right steps, you can minimize the pain and long term effects and get back to your normal routine in no time!

Meditation and the Brain

OHMMMM… With the stress of modern life most people seek some sort of retreat. Often times this manifests as a vacation adventure, internet search, blog or book, television show or movie. This does in a sense allow a break to enjoy life, but have you actually allowed your brain to completely shut off?

Meditation is said to help us realize our emotions as we deal with the suffering and joy of life, bringing to the middle (a balance in the present moment). Meditation is seeing the mind and differentiating parts of an experience (the present and the perception). Many cultures have a form of meditation, most are familiar with Buddhist meditation. Brahma meditation focuses on loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. Vipassana meditation quiets the mind through concentration and mindfulness.

When we intentionally shape our attention through mindfulness, we induce long-term changes in brain function and structure. This is neuroplasticity- how the brain changes in response to repeated experience.

Psychologically, there are often problems stemming from too much rigidity or chaos that meditation can bring balance to. Common psychosomatic disorders that are alleviated through a meditative practice are: anxiety, binge eating, mind chatter, compulsive disorder, borderline personality disorder, drug addiction, chronically relapsing depression, and perceived stress (to name a few).

Through regular practice, there is improved self-perception, confidence, optimism and self-control. Look at meditation as kindness to yourself and your own life experience. When it comes to choosing a meditative practice that is appropriate for you my advice is to explore options. There are several guided meditations (visual- i.e. chakra meditation), focus meditations (for example candlelight and Hamsah- third eye meditation, or breath meditation), also deity meditations (for example Brahma or Jana- nature meditation). Chanting is often times used to maintain or heighten a meditative state, and yoga asanas and breath work are used in preparation. Zen meditation is one of the most disciplined styles, and you can always start with disconnecting with outside distractions by being outdoors in nature away from other people.

However you choose to start a regular practice is your choice and comfort level. There is always room for your practice to deepen and take new forms. In modern society, meditation may be one way to bring harmony and balance to your busy life.

3 Tips to Maximal Muscle Growth

One of the most frequently asked questions in the fitness world today is how to build the most muscle in the least amount of time. This question has singlehandedly been the catalyst for the creation of countless new exercises, exercise equipment, diets, and nutritional supplements all attempting to speed up results. Through this article I will cover three components to building muscle and attempt to remove some confusion on this controversial subject.

Possibly the biggest hurdle to gaining muscle lies solely in having an adequate diet to support the growth. Often we believe the word “diet” is synonymous with the practice of reducing calories. Although this type of thinking can be appropriate when trying to lose weight, it will have an adverse effect while attempting to build muscle. Even when our body is at rest it is still working like a car engine and requires fuel even if idling. The amount of calories burned in 24 hours (not including exercise) will vary person to person but will generally be around 1200-1500 calories. Adding an hour of intense exercise can bump this number up another 600-800 calories. Research has shown that up to 36 hour after resistance training your metabolism can be elevated also adding to the total number of calories burned. On top of that, each pound of muscle requires 30-35 calories a day just to simply maintain itself, so any new muscle built can have a large affect on the amount of calories needed in your diet. When we take all of these factors into consideration we can see just how easy it is to “starve” our bodies when trying to build muscle. For an accurate measurement of your personal caloric needs, it is recommended that you take Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) test.

Another obstacle to gaining muscle is having an appropriate program to follow. This means that not only is the program appropriate for challenging your current level of fitness, but also provides a clear progression in order to avoid the dreaded “plateau”. Research has shown that in order to build muscle, that muscle must be challenged to the point of failure at least 2 times per week with no more than 3 days rest in between. However, this does not necessarily mean that more is better. Training a muscle group 4-5 times per week will likely offer no additional muscle growth and can actually be harmful to your body. It is important to remember that your body needs rest otherwise it can easily slip into what is known as “overtraining”. Overtraining the body can hinder results and ultimately lead to greater fatigue and poor performance. Muscle growth happens not during the exercise but rather the days following, rest can be just as important as the workouts.

Lastly, and arguably the hardest factor to come to terms with, is patience. The fitness industry has been littered with ineffective products all promising the same miracle results using tag lines such as “Gain 18 lbs of muscle in two weeks!” or “Increase your bench press by 100lbs in 30 days!”. It is easy to get discouraged when infomercials and fitness magazines promote these ridiculous myths. Even when dialing in all other factors involving muscle growth, ultimately it is our dedication and commitment to a lifestyle change that has the most dramatic effect on results. Remember, “Nothing worthwhile ever came easy”.

What is Self-Defense Training?

The martial arts have so many reasons why people participate in them weekly, from breathing arts, to sport arts, to combat arts, and traditional fighting styles. The formats all have self-defense practicality, and lifesaving skills that will be introduced to you from your practice. If you want to do a crash course on self-defense then try a seminar/workshop.

The material is simple to learn, geared towards a fast approach to learning practical techniques for getting out of a provoked situation. You don’t have to have a black belt, or a super athlete to go to one. Most class formats are very welcoming to the public, and please look into the format (some can be military based) and require prior experience. I love to teach these seminars with a key chain tool to give the participant a way to be safe and be confident in practicing. What you should expect is to learn how to build a surrounding awareness, know where you are and who’s with you. Learn tested techniques that will work to getting you safe. You should leave feeling like you can practice, imitate the drills, and not get hurt practicing.

Keep your head up confidence is the #1 tool

What to look for in a self defense class:

  • Group setting to practice hands on
  • Learn to use your voice, and body to be a verbal weapon
  • Key chain device (kubaton) used for getting free from holds
  • Safe drills to help you remember escapes and counters
  • Escapes from grabs, holds, and attacks is usual information given

The Seattle Athletic Club Downtown holds Self Defense seminars periodically during the year; sign up for the newsletter to stay connected with what is coming up at the club, or book a session for yourself and friends with Jody Garcia.

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Single Leg Stretch

Purpose: This exercise strengthens the abdominals and the buttocks and improves coordination.

  1. Sit in the center of your mat with your knees bent. Hug your right leg and pull it in to your chest with your inside hand on the knee and your outside hand on the ankle.
  2. Roll your back down to the mat, bringing the bent leg (right leg) with you; head and upper shoulders are off the mat. Then, extend your left leg out in front of you; let it hover above the mat at about a 45 degree angle or at an angle so your back stays flat on the mat.
  3. With elbows lifted; chin to chest; inhale. Then, exhale and switch legs, bringing the outside hand to the ankle and the inside hand to the knee (left leg). Stretch your right leg long; hovering above the mat at about a 45 degree angle; making sure your leg is in line with the center of your body.
  4. Repeat 8-10 sets. To finish, hug both knees in toward chest, put head and shoulders on mat.

Checklist:

  1. Scoop your belly at all times. Stay lifted (eyes on belly) and slide shoulders down away from ears.
  2. Remain still in your torso- not rocking your body from side to side when switching legs.
  3. Pay attention to the hand placement as it keeps your leg in proper alignment with your hip.

Visualization: Imagine you are anchored to the floor below.

Modification: Rest your head on the mat when necessary. If you have a bad knee; hold the underside of the thigh. For a bad back; extend the straight leg to the ceiling. As your lower abdominal strength improves, you can begin to lower the leg.

Athletic Shoulders: Training the Shoulder Girdle for Sports Performance

Over the years I have worked with a wide variety of athletes. Soccer players, runners, squash players and martial artists. In all of my athletes I have found limited range of motion and overall weakness. Though the athletes on the tight side do have strength in certain ranges, these ranges are usually limited (straight forward, straight up). In the rare cases of hypermobility the athletes lack strength and the ability to protect the joints involved.

Regardless of their sport the regimen for training the shoulders is usually comprised of linear, robotic movements. Push ups, pull ups, shoulder press, lateral raises and maybe the occasional rotator cuff exercise are usually the movements of choice. Though these may make sense in a fitness routine, they hardly cover the vast ranges of movement and velocity the shoulder has to utilize in performance. In addition they create a hyperactive upper body that activates too early in the kinetic chain and often too aggressively.

The shoulder is a ball and socket joint. It flexes, it extends, it rotates, and moves across and away from the body. The scapula (shoulder blades) protract, retract, rotate (up and down), abduct (separate), adduct (squeeze together), elevate and depress. Ideally this happens in a smooth and graceful manner. This is rarely the case. Typical methods of training the shoulder (see above) compress the head of the humerus in the glenoid fossa of the scapula (aka the socket). In addition the scapula is often in a fixed position. This is ideal under external load but hardly ever in athletic movements. This limits its ability to move freely and severely hinders throwing ability, racquet and running speed. This starts off as tightness, then chronic soreness and in some cases this can progress to injury.

To truly train the shoulder as it was meant to move you have to change your way of looking at exercise. Forget what muscle or muscle groups you are trying to train. Try and focus on two things: 1) What ranges are you tight and/or weak in? 2) What motions do your shoulders have to perform in your sport?

Once you have identified these two things it’s time to get things moving. When training for athletic performance we need light weight and flowing (and ideally fast) full body motions. Small handled medicine balls, cables, bands and wrist weights are ideal. When selecting a weight pick one that doesn’t hinder your speed, power or quality of movement. Don’t think about fatiguing any one muscle. Focus more on enhancing your movements.

When selecting movements try throwing and swinging versus pushing and pulling. The power should generate from the feet and surge through the body in a seamless manner. If this is done in a competent manner, by the time the force reaches the shoulder it can loosen up those tight areas (#1). This teaches the overused and tight muscle to wait its turn to activate in correct order and in a more appropriate manner. Ideally it should activate and let the power flow through it instead of tensing up and taking the brunt of the movement. When addressing tightness make sure not to move through pain or extreme tightness. Stop just short of these sensations. Trying to power through will shut down your speed mechanisms and can cause injury.

Over time and with precision and care you can make vast improvements in tight overused areas. Once this is accomplished you can now move onto sports specific movement. Once again use light weights and fast and flowing full body movements. Strive for graceful power in your movement with seamless transitions from one muscle to the next. Once that grace or power dissipates end the movement. Pushing or muscling through these movements for the sake of volume ultimately sets back your progress for athletic speed and power. Make sure and rest long enough not only to catch your breath but allow enough time for you to regain the ability to move with force and grace.

This isn’t by any means an easy process. Avoiding and improving on tight and injured areas while improving sports performance is a whole different creature than fitness. It takes time, dedication, precision and most of all patience. Keep your eye on the long term goals of longevity and quality of movement and feel your body heal and watch your athleticism reach heights.

To Stretch or Not To Stretch…That is the Question!

Do you stretch before, during or after your workout, go on a run, swim or bike ride? Well, anytime is a great time to stretch. It depends on what it is you are trying to achieve. For example, some athletes may perform a brief warm up of 10-15 minutes and then engage in ballistic stretching (a bouncing-type movement without a hold) prior to their athletic performance. For the average person, it’s up to you on when you do it. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research did a study on pre- & post-exercise stretching and found little to no difference on flexibility. Some find it feels good to warm up and then do some stretching before your workout. Others, such as many of my clients, enjoy a nice stretch after a hard workout, especially with the assistance of their trainer. There are even some that like to stretch before, during and after. Whenever it is you decide to do it, I encourage you to definitely include stretching in your workout if you don’t already!

How to Workout with Medical Issues… Cancer

Every person in the world knows of someone that has had cancer or presently has cancer; sadly it is becoming more prevalent within our society with 1/3 of our population having some type of cancer. Cancer very plainly is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells; and there are more than 100 different types of cancer. With more than eight million cancer survivors it is becoming increasingly important to create structured workout regimes for the rehabilitative and maintenance of this issue.

With the two major issues for current cancer patients being loss of body mass and daily functional status (including extreme fatigue and difficulty walking), it is important to start an exercise routine during and following cancer treatments.

The benefits of exercise for cancer treatment side effects:

  • Decreased sense of fatigue
  • Increase in body mass
  • Increased coordination
  • Increased muscular strength
  • Increased cardiovascular endurance
  • Increased quality of life
  • Prevention of future cancers

So what should a cancer survivor’s workout goals be?

  • Improve your overall functional status. Are your workouts making life seam easier, giving you more energy, distracting your mind?
  • Improve flexibility and mobility of joints. Keep you loose and limber, this may take some thought as to not cause pain while stretching but it can be done.
  • Increase circulation with active motion. Get that blood pumping in your entire body!
  • Increase ventilatory function. Try to create an exercise routine that gets you to work on systematic breathing.
  • Prevent blood clotting. Keep your blood healthy with movement.
  • Increase muscular strength and endurance. Work with weights and cardio equipment to your own submaximal effort.
  • Reduce bone loss. Add weight bearing exercises to your workout to strengthen your bones and joints.
  • Keep your metabolism up and keep your muscles. Working on keeping your muscles strong and toned will keep your strength as well as keep your metabolism elevated.
  • Listen to your body. You don’t want to over tax your body, look for signs of increased fatigue, dizziness, cramping during or following exercise and stop what you are doing.

What should a workout for a cancer survivor look like?

  • Frequency At least 3-5 times a wk
  • Intensity 60-80% heart rate max or RPE 11 to 14 (out of 20)
  • Type Large muscle groups, walking & cycling
  • Time 20-30 continuous min per session
  • Progression May be cyclical with periods of regression depending on treatments

For those with some medical issue, exercise really is the cure all. No matter what the medical issue, exercise has never been shown to have detrimental effect, but rather the opposite; it usually alleviates all of the negative side effects. What you have to understand is how to modify exercise for each issue that arises like stated above. If you have questions about how to exercise being a cancer survivor please feel free to contact Fitness director Jacob Galloway.

Stretching 102 Video: How to Target Your Calves, Inner & Outer Thighs and Large Hip Muscles

This video of a three-part series addresses different stretch techniques including: static, active, dynamic and resistance stretching by demonstrating some basic stretches for the calves, inner/outer thighs and large hip muscles.

When assessing when a certain stretch technique should be used, there is no right or wrong answer; however, here is what I recommend to my clients.

Static stretching should be done once a muscle is thoroughly warmed up. I recommend it primarily after your resistance workout following a cool down. If you decide to static stretch before a workout, make sure you do a long warm up prior.

Active stretching can also be done before a workout after a warm up, or in place of one. This technique is used a lot with team sports and group fitness. It’s a great and safe way to get multiple muscles firing and create length in muscles that are tight before beginning a work out. I also use it with clients to reinforce proper movement patterns before adding weight to them, and with some clients this can be used as a workout itself.

Dynamic stretching can also be included as a warm up if you are outside doing a sport. I recommend at least a small warm up (walk/jog) before attempting these moves. Ballistic movements have a higher risk of injury, but also can produce good lubrication in the joints in multiple planes of motion. These stretches also mimick the natural plyometric movements of the body, so it is good preparation before a sport.

Resistance (Ki-Hara) stretching is fairly new. It has a medicinal benefit in that it allows you to stretch more of the muscle belly versus the tendons. Stretching the tendon is typical if you have a very short, impeded movement pattern. Professional athletes, like Dara Torres, use it regularly. It would be best after a workout, or on a day you aren’t working out because you will have increased blood flow to the muscle.

– PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) and basic assisted stretching are done with a trainer. PNF is along the same principles as resistance stretching only you squeeze the opposing muscle group isometrically, which shuts off (inhibits) the target muscle from resisting the stretch, and then relax as you are assisted into the stretch. During assisted stretching you can squeeze the target muscle in an isometric contraction to push blood into it, and then follow it with a relaxation during the stretch. These techniques I am more than happy to give you an introduction to if you would like further details.