Month: May 2012

Elevate your golf game

Are you the type of golfer that goes into each golf season with just hitting a couple buckets of balls and feels ready to play? If you are then you are setting yourself up for a disappointing season as well as multiple injures that can plague you through out the remainder of the year. If you want to get the most out of your golf season then you need to get in the gym before the season starts and develop a level of fitness that will allow you to perform your best. The better level of strength and conditioning you develop in the off-season or pre-season will greatly impact the amount of time you can devote to the fine tuning skills developed during the in-season.

Don’t waste your money on the newest driver that claims it will increase your driving distance this season instead focus on the most important piece of equipment used in your golf game…your body! The amount of coordinating muscle actions that have to occur to perform a golf swing is amazing but I believe the most important multi-functioning muscle group is the gluts. Specifically Gluteus Maximus and Gluteus Medius. It is extremely important for both of these muscle groups to work together in harmony to develop power and consistency in the golf swing. The gluts are vital in helping the golfer to maintain lower body stability throughout the swing as well as maintaining core stability. The gluts help to blend the lower body movement into the upper body movements, via the core to produce that perfect timing or rhythm.

So now the big question is how to get your gluts to work? First you need to focus on getting your brain and muscles to start communicating with each other through exercise drills done in your workouts and then eventually through repetition and muscle memory your gluts will remember and fire so that we can call on them again and again for the same purpose. With proper function in the gluts a golfer can increase their level of play while preventing injuries. Add a few of these exercises in to your workout routine or come into the Seattle Athletic Club and talk with one of our trainers to find out how to “wake up your gluts” before you hit the golf course this season;

  • Bridging Two Legs – 2 sets of 10 reps each. Hold each repetition for 10 seconds. While on your back with your knees bent. Raise your hips off the ground focusing the movement from your gluts. It is easy to over activate the hamstrings so try to focus on tightening the gluts.
  • Bridging One Leg – 2 sets of 3-5 reps each. This time raise with just one leg on floor and one leg out straight. Hold each repetition for approximately 3-5 seconds. This time period will increase as your glut strength increases. If you feel a cramp coming on in the hamstring or lower back region, discontinue the exercise immediately. This is a sign that the glut muscle is being shut off and the hamstring/lower back is taking over. It is our goal to work through this issue by reprogramming the mind’s control over specific muscle groups (gluts).
  • Squats and Squat Jumps – 2 sets of 10 reps Start with body weight then work up to dumbbells, barbells or cables for extra resistance.
  • Lateral Lunges – 2 sets of 10 reps each leg. Lunge out sideways or at a 45 degree to load the hip in multiple planes of movement.
  • Single leg balanced lunge reaches – 2 sets of 10 reps each. While standing on one leg lunge and reach out with opposite hand for a cone or a fixed object about a foot in front of you. Slow and controlled!
  • Side Steps with Ankle Tubing – 2 sets of 10 reps each direction. Place tubing around feet but under your arches. Get in ready golf position then take big smooth steps sideways without dragging your feet. Feel the burn in the gluteus medius.
  • Side Leg Lifts – 2-3 sets in each direction, until you reach point of burn. In a side-lying position, with hips directly on top of one another, make sure to bend lower knee to a 90 degree angle. With top hand, isolate the top of the pelvis and secure its position (this bone shall not move!!!). During the leg raise, keep foot positioned at a 90 degree angle and only raise leg straight towards the ceiling. Never allow the foot to pop forward, while the hip shoots backwards. This drill should be felt into the side of the butt and no place else. It is imperative to lock the Iliac Crest (top portion of pelvis that hand is grasping) in place and allow the leg to rise from the actual “hip” joint.

To begin training to improve your golf game, please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Jason Anderson.

Which Pilates Mat Class is right for me?

Here at the Seattle Athletic Club one of the great benefits as a member is being able to take an unlimited number of group exercise, yoga, and Pilates mat classes! If you are looking to take a Pilates mat class, here are some things you should know.

First, the mat class focuses on the development of the “powerhouse”—the abdominals, the lower back, and the buttocks. Each class consists of a specific series of controlled movements, engaging the body and mind, performed on a mat. The mat class trains the entire body while emphasizing proper alignment and posture, effective body mechanics, correct breathing and improved circulation. There are three different levels: Intro, Fundamentals, and Intermediate, as well as some hybrid classes, like Magic Circle Mat, and Cardio Pilates Mat.

Beginning Pilates Mat
(No previous Pilates experience necessary.) Designed for the beginner, this class slowly takes you through the basic principles, vocabulary and exercises of Pilates. Modifications will be demonstrated and the goals of each exercise will be explained. This is a hard class because it is taught slowly; so don’t skip it if you feel that you are ready to jump into a higher-level class. It’s educational.

Fundamentals of Pilates
This class is designed for both the beginner and intermediate student who want to deepen their understanding of Pilates. Attentions to precise movement, breathing, and core control are the key elements in this class to further strengthen the “powerhouse”. Some members use this class as a stepping-stone to practice what they learned in the intro class, and to get stronger so they can join the intermediate class.

Intermediate Pilates Mat
This accelerated class is an enjoyable challenge to the intermediate student. The instructor will often only demonstrate the most advanced exercises, so previous SAC Pilates experience is highly recommended. That is, the instructor will call out the name of an exercise, and she will expect that you know what it is, how to perform it correctly, and rely on you to decide if it should be omitted based on how you feel (i.e. if you have a bad back that day, you know to leave out the “criss-cross” and the “jackknife”).

Intermediate Mat with Magic Circle
No “magic” here, just deep resistance training with the traditional Pilates ring. It’s a great tool for toning chest, arms, thighs, and buns.

Advanced Intermediate Pilates Mat
Short on time and trying to pack it all in? This is the perfect combo for a lunch workout! A forty-five minute class combining the great core workout of traditional Pilates and taking it to the next level by incorporating cardiovascular exercise. Be ready to spring into action with explosive jumps to and from the floor. This fast-paced class requires some previous Pilates experience.

If you have any questions on which class is for you, don’t hesitate to ask any of the Pilates instructors or Pilates Director Danielle Zack.

Please check our website for a Mind/Body Schedule. See you in class!

Why am I doing this exercise? The Landmine

Landmine training is a ground based rotational training device that works the entire body. An Olympic bar is stuck into a hinge that is mounted to the floor, so that ideally you are using the bar as a big lever. Grab hold of the end of the bar, start moving, bending, rotating, pushing and pulling and you will have found one of the best training tools in the world for developing whole body explosive power.

Landmine training is an incredible way of developing your fitness and performance. It’s super fun and can be done with light or heavier loads. If you use light weights you can improve your endurance, speed, tone and burn loads of fat. If you use heavy weights you can increase your maximum strength, power and muscle mass.

The other reason landmine training is so effective is the fact your core has to work so hard to keep the bar traveling through the range of motion. A lot of the exercises challenge you to move quickly through different planes and make it feel like the bar wants to fall away from you. Take the single arm fly. You would normally associate this exercise with a chest isolation exercise used with dumbbells by body builders, although do it on the landmine and you will feel your abdominals working like never before, as well as your chest and shoulder complex!

The best point of landmine training is that every exercise is whole body, so you develop power through your legs, transfer it through your core and in to your arms…toe to finger power! This is why you will see such insane increases in your strength. If you’re throwing, lifting, running, jumping, etc. you will be able to produce a lot more force if you use your body as a unit, rather than isolating specific muscles.

This sounds obvious but if we know that we need to create force using our whole body then why do some athletes still train in isolation or with really stable, simple movements? Bicep curls, Bench pressing and sit ups will all have minimal impact on your performance because they are movements we NEVER re-create in any other sport for that matter. The closer you get to real movements that you use in your sport the better the transfer you will see from the results you get in the gym to your performance on the court, the field, the course, etc.

If you’re looking to improve your athletic performance or searching for new ways to amp up your fitness by including the landmine and many other modes of exercise, contact Christine Moore and try the new Ligot Training System.

Exercise is the Best Medicine

Exciting news: This month is “Exercise is Medicine Month.” The phrase “Exercise is Medicine” usual suggests the exercise can be used to treat diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Exercise can also support mental health and many other facets of wellness. But can exercise be “medicine” for everyday infections like the common cold?

Common sense seems to suggest that an illness such as a cold is best treated with rest. On one level, this makes perfect sense; exercise is a physiological stressor that a body already combating illness is unlikely to be able to cope with. Indeed, intense exercise is known to have an immunosuppressive effect for 1-3 days following the activity. Intense exercise also increases the volume of stress hormones in the body. These hormones give you the boost to make it through a dangerous or difficult situation but they also take a toll on the body’s ability to stay healthy, a phenomenon commonly experienced by individuals who fall ill immediately after cramming to meet a stressful deadline. But less intense exercise is a bit different. Regular, moderate physical activity can yield a positive boost in immune system activity while maintaining a low level of circulating stress hormone. Furthermore, the increase in circulation that occurs with exercise can allow immune system cells to function better.

All this adds up to mean that regular exercise of light to moderate intensity can reduce the likelihood that you will get sick in the first place. Intense exercise is important for many individuals with goals ranging from athletic performance to weight loss but it is useful to keep the complementary benefits of moderate exercise in mind. If you are incorporating intense exercise into your regular routine, make sure you also include some moderate activity as well. To maximize performance, body composition and health results, a typical schedule should include no more than 2-3 days of intense activity coupled with 4+ days of light to moderate activity.

It is clear that moderate exercise can support your immune system in the long run, but what about when you are in the middle of an illness? As a general guideline, if you have flu symptoms like nausea, aches and fatigue, wait to resume moderate activity until your symptoms clear up. But if your symptoms are relegated to a cough, runny nose or scratchy throat, the immune-supportive effect of light-moderate exercise may actually assist in your recovery. It is amazing how many aspects of your health can be improved by exercise, all with very low risk of any negative side-effects. Maybe the month should be renamed “Exercise is the Best Medicine Month”.

Please contact Hunter Spencer if you have any questions or would like to set up a fresh exercise routine.

Try 2 Wheels Instead of 4!

Living in Seattle has some pretty great perks: coffee, business, and a few months of sun. The city is also a great place for outdoor enthusiasts looking for the next big adventure. Even if you are not the “extreme sport” type, Seattle will definitely have something right up your alley to get you outside and moving!

Did you know Seattle has an amazing network on biking trails that connect north, south, east and west? You can ride, relatively car-free (excluding certain stretches were you ride in a bike lane), from downtown all the way past Shoreline, around to West Seattle, out to North Bend, and down to Orting or even Tacoma. Several years ago the city of Seattle took on a project to convert many of the unused railroad tracks to biking paths. Some of the trails follow the trail road the whole way while some are actually paved directly over the previous grade. They provide a brand new experience of the city that would otherwise go unnoticed. Next time you are looking for something to do on the weekend, get out and enjoy one of these trails!

Burke Gilman – This is one of the most popular trails in Seattle. On any given sunny weekend you will see cyclist, runners, people on roller blades, walkers, dogs and kids! The trail starts at Golden Gardens and stretches all the way to Bothell (roughly 20 miles). This trail is heavily used as a commuter trail during the week since it connects Ballard, Fremont, Wallingford, and the U district.

Interurban North – If you are looking for some hill climbs, this is the trail for you! Starting north of Ballard at 110th, the trail connects north Seattle with Shoreline and eventually the city of Edmonds. Most of this trail runs through neighborhood streets as it meanders up and over the hills of the city.

Interurban South – Further south of the city, you can take the Interurban to connect with Tukwila, Kent, Auburn, and Pacific. This trail starts at Fort Dent Way in Tukwila and crosses over the Green River. It follows along the Puget Sound Energy power line corridor and is used both for commuting and general recreation. The path ends at 3rd Avenue SW in Pacific.

I-90/Mountain to Sound – This is one of my favorite trails in the city! It gives you several different options if you wish to extend your ride and see some different places. Starting just south of Seattle by Sturgus Park, the trail follows along Lake Washington until it connects with I-90. Take the bridge over (looking at everyone sitting in the traffic!) to connect to Mercer Island. You can get off the trail here and ride a nice loop around Mercer (I recommend riding counterclockwise so you are on the outside). This is roughly 13 miles around the island. You can also keep going and connect out to Bellevue, Issaquah, or even North Bend if your legs can handle it!!

So next time you think about getting in the car, think twice and jump on your bike! Be sure you are prepared. Always bring: a first aid kit, flat tire repair kit, a cell phone, water, extra food, extra water, a change of clothes/warm clothes, some cash (in case you need to bus back!)

For more information on outdoor activities, or training for your outdoor adventures, please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Thomas Eagen.

Kettlebells 101

Recently I have noticed a resurgence of kettlebells in the world of fitness, and as a result I have been getting more questions regarding their origin and utility.

So, “What is the deal with kettlebells, and should I be using them?”

Just for the record, training with kettlebells is not a new idea, just newly popular. Kettlebells as we know them today have existed for around 350 years. Originally they were used as handled counterweights for use in public markets, later were put to use for entertainment, and eventually for they made their way to the weight room.

Fun facts: In 1948, modern kettlebell lifting became the Soviet Union’s national sport. In the 1970’s kettlebell lifting became part of the United All State Sport Association of the USSR, and in 1985 national rules, regulations & weight categories were finalized, and the first National Championship took place in Lipetsk, Russia. To this day, the Russian Military requires its recruits to train with kettlebells. Additionally, the US Government and law enforcement personnel have been using kettlebells for physical training for decades.

Put simply, a kettlebell is just a dumbbell with the weight in the middle and below the handle instead of on the ends. Most exercises that I see the average exercise enthusiast attempting with a kettlebell can be easily performed with a dumbbell, including power exercises like the snatch, hang clean, and push jerk. That said, kettlebells are unique in that their center of mass extends beyond your hand, unlike the dumbbell, which does facilitate ballistic and swinging movements.

Kettlebells are most effective when used for power (e.g. clean, snatch, jerk) and deceleration (e.g. the kettlebell swing) training. If you are wondering whether or not kettlebells are for you, you need to first answer the question “am I interested in power training”. Power training is best for those individuals looking to increase their quickness, jump higher, or generally become more explosive. If you are trying to improve your first step on the squash court, or get closer to the rim in basketball, power training is for you. If your primary goal is to look better or improve your cardiovascular endurance, kettlebells may not be the best answer for you. And always remember that power training can be dangerous if you have not built up an adequate level of muscular strength with less demanding exercises. If you have an injury, particularly in the hip or low back, or a weak core, power training can be a very dangerous activity. Please, if you are recently returning to the gym, start with resistance training exercises that are less ballistic in nature. You will be better off in the long run.

All in all, if used correctly, kettlebells can be easily and safely incorporated into your workout routine. As with all trending fitness modalities, take their rise in popularity with a grain of salt and do not throw out your traditional exercise routine for an exclusive “ultimate kettlebell bonanza”. If you are interested in using kettlebells, try incorporating an exercise or two into your existing routine. Forgo joining a kettlebell-only gym, or suffering through an hour of kettlebell-only training.

For more information on how to utilize kettlebells safely please contact Fitness Director Jacob Galloway.

Wielding Optimism

Optimism can shape our reality. Our ability to look at a situation and discern whether the outcome will be good or bad is skewed by experience. If we experience a negative outcome and approach every situation that follows with skepticism, our beliefs of a negative outcome become re-affirmed. It is then easy to start to look for that negative in everything. The reality is in the eye of the beholder.

Training the brain to be positive is like training the muscular system. Recent research on neuroplasticity shows that as you develop new habits, you can rewire the brain. So, what does this mental workout entail?

Find your personal strength- Recent research has shown having an “Oprah moment” of psychological growth in response to a traumatic event in your life is possible if coupled with specific action. In other words, the belief “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” can only be accurate if a personal betterment of self is associated with it. According to, “Post-Traumatic Stress’s Surprisingly Positive Flip Side,” by The New York Times, recent studies done on trauma survivors show positive change in relation to renewed appreciation, better relationships, and more spiritual satisfaction.

Meditation – This concept has been brought up in past blogs, but transitioning from internal dialog to awareness can bring deeper clarification of our perceived reality. Learning to be present and experience with our senses while observing our reaction to it is crucial to breaking the cycle.

Controlling memory – You can cultivate positive energy by changing the stories you tell about the events in your life. This goes back to being the observer and noticing how you process your experiences.

BREATHE – Controlling your breath will reduce anxiety by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. A lot of our physical habits/ reactions can negatively impact our mental state and visa versa.

Control the external environment – It seems like common sense, but find the things you enjoy participating in and make it more of a routine. Research suggests people are attuned to context when they are experiencing positive emotions. When you spend more time allowing yourself to see the good that surrounds you in even the smallest of details, you can train your brain to recognize the positive, or evoke positive emotions in response.

Visualization/ modifying the senses – Using a visual to imagine every time you notice your thoughts going in a negative direction can divert your thought pattern. Try envisioning a stop sign, which can give even more motivation to control that negative thought path, or visualizing something funny (i.e. a purple elephant in a tutu). This is like self-induced semantic priming, where you are evoking a reaction to a situation when it occurs later in your life.

You can also get a theme song. I’ll never forget one summer I took an accelerated summer course in organic chemistry that was so grueling. And, I remember one kid would sing to himself, “You’re the Best,” by Joe Esposito as his theme song. Let your song be a reminder you can choose to redefine what is possible.

Write a gratitude journal – Reflecting on all you have to be grateful for leaves you with true appreciation. This as a regular practice should keep everyone thankful & optimistic. More importantly, it keeps you realistic. Life is hard and every human being has a collective of both positive and negative experiences that help shape your personality. Recent research suggests an optimal ratio of positive to negative being 3 to 1. This to me seems an arbitrary demonstration of our need to have balance in every aspect.

Psychologist Martin Seligman proposes in his book, “Flourish,” a new well-being theory. He believes there are four pillars of well-being, including: positive emotion induced by happiness, satisfaction, and engagement; meaning, positive relationships, and accomplishment. We can all flourish by reminding ourselves to view optimism as training our brains.

If you have questions about this posting, or would like ideas on beginning a new workout regime, please feel free to contact Personal Fitness Trainer Amber Walz.

If I only had 5 minutes…

There are many great exercises in this world and many amazing ways to build them into a workout. But I often get asked by members and clients what are the very best exercises to do. Here is a list of 5 of the most beneficial exercises for anyone looking to better overall fitness. You can use these exercises to design a program that focuses more on specific aspects of fitness but as an overall list these exercises will improve everything from endurance, to power, to flexibility. If you aren’t doing at least some of these exercises you are missing out!

  1. Front squat – especially the kettlebell front squat (also known as a goblet squat) is a great exercise for developing leg strength as well as focusing more on “core” stability than the back squat and it also carries with it a far less risk of injury. There is a lot of truth in the statement “everybody needs to squat more.” This squat will allow you to find lower depths in your squat as well as teach you to use your trunk to stabilize during the movement. Of course since you are using your legs and using a bigger range of motion you are also increasing your heart rate and burning more calories. Score!
  2. Turkish Get-Up – especially those done with a kettlebell is a real “full body” exercise! This movement demands you to stabilizing weight overhead while shifting your body beneath the weight, because of this skill you will be developing key stabilizing muscles and doing it in a highly functional way. Getting up from the ground is a fundamentally human pattern, and is scalable for lifelong strength and functional mobility. It’s cardio, it’s strength, it’s ab work, it’s flexibility, it’s skill and technique, and it’s fun!
  3. Jumping – especially box jumping, jumping is a wonderful way to get back to the basics of human movement. Any form of jumping (jump rope, stair jumping, long jumps, etc.) is an amazing way to increase your cardiac output as well as move your body through space with power. Box jumping in particular is great as it forces you to commit to the movement and use all your power and muscle contraction from your calves all the way up into your glutes, into your core, and even into your arms and shoulders. It’s a full body exercise that will test you physically and mentally and can be done anywhere!
  4. Push-ups especially gymnastic push-ups. Push-ups are a great way to train your body to move as one. In a proper push-up you move everything together towards the floor (and touch the floor of course!) putting high demands on your core. In a gymnastic push-up you get to take the basic skill and range of motion one step further and increase joint strength and mobility as well as focus more on tricep strength and shoulder mobility. This exercise will train your body from your shoulders to your glutes and really make you aware of where your body is in space.
  5. Weighted swing especially with the kettlebell. This is hands down one of the best exercises for literally nearly anyone and everyone. The kettlebell swing trains everything from your feet on up to your shoulders. You learn to use your body with power, speed, and aggression. Even more so you learn to use your biggest muscles in combination with supporting muscles to achieve a full body movement. Due to the demand through your core you also get a ton of back strength and bettered stabilizing from smaller muscles. It really gets the heart rate up as well as increasing strength.

If you want to know more about these exercises and other movements that will help you achieve better fitness contact Adriana Brown.

Sitting too long? Feeling tight and sore?

Most of us, whether at the computer, behind the wheel, hunched over our bicycle or in front of the TV, are spending many hours sitting. And that seems to be what we do in our culture – sit. Because of this, certain muscles are in a shortened position, the body gets out of balance, and we feel achy, stiff and cranky. The hamstrings and hip flexors become tight. And the front of the shoulders and chest have been locked in a forward position, and we start to assume a hunched-over posture. Not good – not healthy! The pain is often felt in the low back, hips and the shoulders, among other places.

What can we do about this? A few self-care stretches and postures can really help:

  1. Lie on your back and wrap a towel or strap around the foot. With the knee straight or slightly bent, pull the leg toward you, stretching the hamstrings. Switch sides. Hold each gentle stretch for 30 seconds and repeat a few times.
  2. In a lunge position, with the back knee on the floor (or a mat), lean forward to stretch the front of the hip. Again, hold and switch sides.
  3. If you’re at the gym, or have access to a large therapy ball, drape yourself over the ball – face up – and let the weight of the arms and legs open the body. Gently rock back and forth. Reach the arms out and then up, breathe, and let the chest and shoulders stretch.
  4. Bend forward, keeping the feet apart and knees straight. Lace the fingers together behind you and extend the arms over your back and head as far as possible. Without changing this position, lift your head back in opposition. Hold for 20 seconds, then bend the knees and slowly come back to an upright position.

Being consistent with these self-care stretches and postures will really help with aches and pains due to sitting for too many hours. Ask our massage therapists or personal trainers for help with this, and for other ideas. There is a great hand-out that we can give you called “Computer Posture Exercises”.

And, of coarse, book an hour massage! You’ll be glad you did. Along with you’re routine at the office, home or gym, a professional massage will give you relief and help reinforce the work you are doing on your own. We can help releasing the hamstrings, hip flexors, chest and shoulders. This will get the body back in balance.

Yes, we do spend a lot of time sitting, but with some consistent self-care and a good massage session, we will feel relaxed and healthy again. Thanks for reading this, and feel free to ask one of us for help.

It’s sunny and warm, but beware of swimming in cold waters

We have had so many months of either working out inside or some people braving the rain, snow and wind to get a workout in outdoors. As soon as the sun comes out we all flock outside – looking for some vitamin D. Warmer weather means more beach time, but keep in mind the water is not nearly as warm as we may think it is. Just because we have had sun for a few days, it doesn’t heat Puget Sound and the many lakes and rivers around here rapidly.

Water temperatures range from 44 ° – 46 ° F in the winter to 54 ° – 56 ° in Spring and Summer months. The human body’s temperature run between 97 ° – 99 ° – which is a huge difference from the water temperature. Keep this in mind when you head out for your Spring and Summer activities. It only takes 1 – 4 hours of being in the water for hypothermia to affect your body. The time it takes for hypothermia to affect you depends on a few things, such as body fat the amount and type of clothing you are wearing. If you are moving you seem to keep warmer but once you stop all the heat quickly dissipates.

Children get chilled much more quickly than adults. Watch for chattering teeth and lips this is sign of being too cold. After that the lips turn from pink to purple this means get out and get warm. Typically one should think of getting out before the lips are purple.

Don’t forget the sunscreen!