Month: June 2012

Pilates Exercise of the Month: Roll-over

Purpose: To stretch the lower back and hamstrings; develop spinal articulation and improve control of the abdominal muscles.

Note: if you have a bad neck or lower back, leave this exercise out.

  1. Lie on the mat with arms long by your sides; palms down. Lift both legs to a 60 degree angle from the mat.
  2. Inhale, lift the legs to a 90-degree angle. Initiate from the abdominals; bring your legs over your head peeling your spine off the mat. Keep reaching the arms long, shoulders pinned down. Don’t press onto your neck.
  3. Exhale, open your legs just past shoulder width and flex your feet. Keep the back of your neck long, avoid any tensing or crunching in the front of the neck. The arms continue to press into the mat. Your body weight should rest squarely in between your shoulder blades.
  4. Begin rolling back toward the mat, feel your spine stretching longer and longer as you articulate down until the tailbone touches the mat.
  5. When the tailbone reaches the mat, take the legs to just below 90 degrees and squeeze your legs together again. Repeat the sequence.
  6. Complete 3 repetitions with legs together when lifting and 3 times with legs apart.

Head to Toe Checklist:

  • Keep your upper body glued to the mat- avoid rolling onto the neck
  • Don’t use momentum to roll over; use abdominals
  • Palms press into mat, arms long throughout.
  • Shoulders are stable on the roll down.

Visualization: Imagine your arms are lead bars pinning you to the mat.

Water Safety

Do you consider yourself to be safe when you are on or near the water? Do you have the appropriate safety gear for any of your water activities? Are you on a boat; are there enough lifejackets for everyone on board? Are those lifejackets within arms reach? Do you have all children 12 and under wearing life jackets at all times while on the boat? 80% of all drowning victims in boating accidents were not wearing lifejackets.

These are all questions you should be asking yourself before you embark on your next boating or any type of water adventure.

What do you do if someone falls off of a dock and doesn’t know how to swim? Do you go in after them? Are you a good swimmer? Do you have any lifeguard training skills? The best way to help is to lie down on the dock reaching with your arm or leg if you cannot reach them that way take off your jacket or shirt if need be your pants get a good grip on one end and say grab my coat or arm. Don’t jump in and try to save them yourself. There have been to many times where either both people end up in trouble or the rescuer is the one that drowns. If you have an unopened large bag of chips can be tossed to the victim for them to float on. Then you can give them instructions how to get to shore.

Hip joint restrictions

Hip joint restrictions can lead to back pain, leg and knee pain as well as neck pain. It can also lead to injury due in part to improper body mechanics during workouts attributed to limited range of motion.

Whether you cycle, run, play squash or lift weights, the benefits of massage and stretching should not be underestimated. If you have restriction in the hip joint you are working against yourself, your movements are playing tug-of-war. With tightness in the back of the hip you have to pull harder with your hip flexors and your abs to bring your leg forward. Restrictions in the front of the hip leads to back tension and too much external rotation on your kick back. It can also cause knee pain due to the pressure pushing the quad over the knee during squats and lunges because the hip joint is not dropping down and back as it should.

Keeping your hip joints unrestricted will help you perform better and keep you from getting fatigued as quickly.

USDA MyPlate

The USDA MyPlate was based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. MyPlate was designed to help American consumers eat healthfully and make better food choices. The image has been changed from a pyramid to a more familiar place setting visual to show the five food groups: vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, and dairy.

Vegetables and Fruit

  • Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, putting the emphasis on the vegetables. Always vary your choices so you get a good range of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and other nutrients found in different produce. Choosing dark leafy greens and red, yellow, and orange produce gives you the variety of nutrients your body needs.
  • Choosing whole fruits and vegetables over juices increases your intake of fiber, decreases your calorie intake, and keeps you full longer!
  • Aim for 9 or more servings of vegetables and fruit per day. Keep in mind that about one cup raw or ½ cup cooked vegetables or fruit counts as a serving.
    Try something new: Try sautéing rainbow Swiss chard with oil, garlic, and lemon.
  • One quarter of your plate should include a whole grain. Options include whole wheat bread, brown rice, oats, quinoa, whole-grain pasta, bulgur, barley, and many others.
  • Try to limit your intake of refined grains like white rice and white bread. Refining grains removes the endospore and bran of the grain; along with it goes the fiber, B vitamins, and vitamin E.
  • Try something new: Quinoa is a delicious (gluten-free) whole grain that’s easy to make: just follow the simple instructions on the box then try adding some toasted pine nuts and feta cheese crumbles.


  • Fill a quarter of your plate with lean proteins like fish, poultry, legumes, beans, and nuts.
  • Choose red meat, cold cuts, and processed meats like sausage and bacon less often.
  • Animal protein contains more saturated fat than plant protein. By choosing plant protein options such as beans, legumes, nuts, and tofu, you are choosing less fat and more vitamins and minerals. You even get extra fiber when you choose plant sources of protein.
  • The USDA recommends 5-6 ounce equivalents of protein in a day.
  • Try something new: Lentils are a great source of protein and fiber. They taste great in soups, as a lentil salad, or mixed into pasta sauce.

Dairy/Calcium-Enriched Products

  • Include 2 or 3 servings of low fat dairy or calcium-enriched products per day.

    Try something new: Kefir is a probiotic-rich yogurt drink that is great by itself or mixed into a fruit smoothie.

Other things to remember

  • Try to limit your intake of added sugars. The USDA recommendation for individuals who need 2000 calories per day is 260 “discretionary calories” or “empty” calories. These include not only added sugar but solid fats as well. These empty calories provide no nutrients, only added calories. They can be avoided by choosing nonfat milk instead of whole milk, avoiding sugary cereal and soft drinks, as well as other sweets, fried foods, and high fat foods like cheese and red meat. Choose unsweetened beverages, baked fish or chicken instead of fried, and smaller portions of naturally high fat foods like cheese.
  • Include healthier oils such as olive oil and other plant oils with your meals and limit saturated and trans fat. In general, oils (liquid at room temperature) are full of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which have more health benefits than the saturated and trans fats found in solid sources of fat like butter, margarine, lard, and partially hydrogenated oil.
  • Remember to always stay active! While no longer part of the official MyPlate, physical activity remains as important as ever. The USDA recommends 2 ½ hours of physical activity per week for adults. Physical activity should include both aerobic activity and strengthening exercises. For children, the recommendation is one hour of physical activity each day of the week.

Metabolic Conditioning Workout

Summer is approaching fast! Get your mind and your body right for the warmer months! Whether you’re getting ready for a marathon, squash tournament or bikini competition conditioning is one of the most important elements to building cardiovascular fitness as well as added calorie burning. Try this metabolism boosting interval workout to help give you a little extra push!

  1. Begin with 5 sets of abs at 12-20 reps.
  2. Stepmill : 5 min at 75spm
  3. Rowing machine: 4x200m sprint at resistance 6 with 1 min rest in between
  4. Stepmill: 5 min at 85spm
  5. Rowing machine: 4x100m sprint at resistance 8 with 30 sec rest in between
  6. Box push: 4x30yds
  7. Bike: 10 min at Level 4 sprinting every other minute at double the resistance.
  8. Cool down for 5 min at light resistance!

Going into the gym with a plan will help guarantee you make the most out of your workout! Don’t cheat yourself, beat yourself!

Picture Perfect Pull-up

One of the classic staples of exercise is the pull-up. Unlike the bench press or squat however, the pull-up can have the tendency to leave most with a giant question mark above their head. This is due to the nature of the exercise and some of the limiting factors that come with it. If you wanted to improve on your bench press the basic concept would be somewhat simple, start with light weight and slowly increase throughout the following weeks. Trying to apply this format to the pull-up usually bring up one big question “what if I can’t even do one?” The following is designed to answer that question and show how you can start a safe and effective progression in order to improve on your pull-ups.

Form form form. One of the hardest things to do in athletics is to unlearn bad form. This is why, even if you can already do several pull-ups, it is important to take a close look at your form to identify tendencies that might hinder your progression in the long run. One of the most common errors in performing a correct pull-up is what I refer to as “looking over the ledge.” This refers to over-using the abdominal muscles in order to assist in the movement. The problem with this is that bringing your body into a crunched position as you perform a pull-up will simultaneously take the stronger muscles of the back (latisimus dorsi/rhomboids) out of position to be the prime movers. One tip that can be helpful is to imagine a string attached to the middle of your chest and go through the range of motion as if someone was pulling you up by the string. Leaning back slightly while doing a pull-up will not only increase your power, but in the long run will enable you to perform more reps due to the increased muscle recruitment

Once you have identified proper form the next step is strengthen that pattern. To do this there are two exercises that I recommend; the first being the Lat Pulldown. With this exercise you can choose an appropriate weight that will allow you to focus solely on form as well as provide a clear path for progression throughout the following weeks. The other exercise that I recommend to begin with are called “jumping pull-ups.” To perform this exercise you will need a box to place under a pull-up bar. When standing on the box and holding onto the bar, your arms should have between a 25-45 degree bend in them. Squat down until arms are fully extended. While beginning the upward faze remember the goal is to use as much of your upper body as possible while still maintaining proper form. Aim for your chest to hit the bar (Note: Watch your chin on the way down!).

Once you are able to do 2-5 pull-ups while maintaining proper form it is time to add them into your routine. Start by doing as many reps as possible until you fatigue. Once you are unable to do another pull-up, switch to either the jumping pull-ups or the lat pull-down immediately after each set in order to fatigue the muscles even further. This progression should be used until you can perform 10-15 pull-ups with proper form.

Pull-ups are an important addition to anyone’s program regardless of whether or not your sport requires it. Adding pull-ups to your weekly routine will help ensure a balanced muscular structure by preventing the chest and shoulder muscles from being overdeveloped. Following this progression will help anyone, whether age 8 or 80, achieve a perfect pull-up without compromising form or increasing your risk of injury. For more tips on how to improve on your pull-ups please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Will Paton.

Get Ready for Summer the Correct Way!

I recently saw an article in a muscle building magazine that promoted a solution for building bigger legs while entirely avoiding squats. Think about that for a second. Squats, a movement that babies perform before they can walk, were entirely absent from this training protocol. If a client of mine asked how to get big legs, I would probably recommend squats within the first sentence. The author was clearly interested in “helping” people who found squats painful, uncomfortable or physically impossible. But the human body is supposed to be able to do squats. In the book Movement physical therapist, trainer and author Gray Cook considers an inability to reach a deep overhead squat a movement disorder. No matter how much muscle these leg-pressing-magazine-subscribers build up, it will not allow them to regain the ability to squat properly. That is my biggest issue with the “get big at all cost mentality.” Adding inches and inches of muscle onto a body that cannot move through fundamental patterns is a flawed mentality. The newly muscled body might look better, but it won’t be able to move better and it is actually more likely to endure an injury when an activity, sport or life demands movement. You would never mount a sports car’s body on a clunkers engine and then ask that “new and improved” clunker to go 200 miles per hour; the machine is more likely to blow up than succeed in the task. As ridiculous as this would be, people bent on getting ready for the beach follow a similar path all too frequently. Resistance training has numerous health and performance benefits but you do need to take specific actions to safely reach your goals through resistance training.

If you are interested in getting in shape, toning or bulking up before summer, understand that safe movement requires a sound foundation of mobility and stability before strength or size can even be addressed. Mobility is the ability of a joint to move pain-free through its entire range of motion. Stability is the ability to resist motion at joint or part while displaying body control through a movement. Test yourself or ask a Personal Fitness Trainer to screen your fundamental movement patterns such as squatting, lunging, twisting, reaching and bending. The book Athletic Body in Balance by Gray Cook offers a user friendly screen to see how well you are moving. If you discover limitations, consider meeting with a Personal Fitness Trainer to get corrective exercises that can get you moving properly. Finally, remember to take advantage of the Seattle Athletic Club’s great programs, such as Beach Body and Systematic Hypertrophy, designed to safely build a better looking and functioning body. Systematic Hypertrophy, a new class beginning in May offers an efficient, scientifically sound approach to building mobility, stability and muscle mass. Beach Body is available with varying degrees of support and offers tough workouts designed for people who are moving well through most fundamental patterns. Which ever route you choose, remember that the Personal Fitness staff is here to offer you assurance that you are making smart, efficient decisions with your body.

For more information about either program or questions regarding fundamental movement and movement screening, please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Hunter Spencer or 206-443-1111 ext. 274.

Don’t take water (and water safety) for granted.

After many years of being a lifeguard at a near by lake it still surprises me of how many people take water for granted. As much fun as it is playing in and out of the water we must respect the ramifications as to the dangers it can impose. Did you know it only takes a teaspoon of water to drown?

Here is the account of one of many near drowning experiences that I have encountered in my career as a lifeguard.

My first day, hour, 15 minutes of being on the lifeguard stand at the lake I watched a mother place her toddler with her 3 year old sister in the water at the shore. Then the mother walked about 10 feet away from both children sat down facing the water but put a magazine in front of her face. This happened just after I made the announcement “all children 6 years of age and younger must have a parent within arms reach at all times”. Within only a couple of minutes the toddler tipped over, she tried to push herself up and drifted out further. I jumped off of the lifeguard chair and had the baby in my arms. The mother was still reading her magazine. She didn’t look up until I was calling her and the toddler started to cry. As I told the mother I tell all of you stay within arms reach at all times. This could have ended much differently in a couple of ways; I could have walked away with the toddler or she could have easily drowned. Either way it could have been a tragedy. Please don’t let this be you.

Lifeguarded swim areas are a great place to spend time. However; it is not a place to use free baby sitters. They have a lot to watch in order to keep you and your family safe.

For information on learning to swim, or improving your swimming, please contact Aquatics Instructor Kelli Zappert.

Celebrate Your Right to Bare Arms This Summer

Tank tops, swim suits, strappy sundresses – warmer weather is just around the corner and that can send even the fittest women into a frenzy! Not only do you want to get your body in top, toned shape, but you also want to be ready for anything the season might toss your way.

Here’s a Pilates move that will give you shapelier arms, sexier shoulders, stronger back, and of course, strengthen your core. Perform this exercise at least 2-3 times a week and include it your regular total-body Pilates program and/or current fitness regime.

In no time, you’ll be able to “bare” it all; looking strong and sculpted in any sleeveless style the warm weather demands!

Pilates Push Up

  1. Stand tall with your heels against the back edge of the mat; toes turn out to the Pilates V.
  2. Keeping hips over heels; inhale; pull your navel into your spine and roll your torso down toward the mat. Place hands on the mat slightly more than shoulder width apart. (Knees can be slightly bent.)
  3. Exhale and walk your hands out onto the mat until your palms are beneath your shoulders and your heels over your toes. Your body will be in a Plank (or Push-Up) position— a straight line from head to ankles.
  4. Perform 3 Push-Ups with the elbows into the sides of the body. To come out of the Push-Up, fold up in half, bringing your chest toward your legs; pressing your palms and heels into the mat. Pull your navel in and give yourself a gentle stretch.
  5. Inhale, walk your hands back toward your feet; trying to keep your legs straight.
  6. Exhale, roll your body back up to a standing position and repeat 2 more sets.

For an advanced challenge, perform the entire Push-Up sequence while balancing on one leg. The same steps apply for the Single Leg Push-Up; remember to keep your leg lifted throughout the entire exercise; repeat the exercise on the other leg.

To begin a Pilates routine, or for questions on how to integrate Pilates in to your workouts, contact Pilates Instructor Jocelyn Paoli.

Wait, what about my abs?

You’ve been dying for that 6 pack to sprout any day now. You’ve been doing 500 sit ups every morning and trying to get more done in the gym on fancy equipment but so far no abs. What’s the deal? Plus when you talk to your friend about what his training is like he hardly ever mentions tough ab workouts. Has the world forgotten about them? Has your body forgotten how to grow them? Why aren’t there millions of ab classes in this world, or, even at your gym?

First off, why don’t your 500 sit ups give you a 6 pack after a week or 3 months? When you strengthen muscle, any muscle, you increase muscle fiber and that’s how you get bigger stronger muscles. So when you are working overtime trying to workout your abs ultimately that is what you are trying to do. However, the problem with abs is that they are such small muscles as far as “girth” is concerned that they are just not very big (not like if you had huge biceps, those would pop out, not so true with your abs), so when you add “size” to them they do not get that much bigger. So 500 or 5 million, your abs are only going to get so big.

Second quality is key. If you can do 500 of anything (or usually more than 50 of anything non stop) than either one, you are doing it wrong, two, other muscles are helping, or three your range of motion is not to it’s fullest. So perhaps you need to re-evaluate your technique and make sure that you are doing things correctly. One main give a way is if you are going along and after 10 or 20 reps you no longer feel it in your abs. Instead you feel it in your back or your neck or your arms. This is a sign that you have lost either strength, or technique and now it’s become a different exercise all together. Fancy machines are usually the downfall of any ab work as most of the time you use momentum, body weight, or other muscles to move through the motion, and most of the time it is not a full range of motion. There is a reason why there aren’t trainers lined up in front of ab machines with their clients!

Why don’t more trainers focus just on abs? If you have a well rounded training routine you should be using your abs with every exercise you do. Plus a lot of the times when you see members with trainers jumping around or throwing a medicine ball, it is ab work, it just looks different because it’s more active. The more active the more muscles you can use at one time, the more real world the movement is, the more calories you can burn at one time, and the more explosive you can be. It’s fine to just work abs from time to time but if you have a good lifting program you use them with every lift and even more so with some specific movements even if to the outside eye it doesn’t look like an ab exercise.

Lastly, why don’t hours of abs equal rock hard abs? Well they might, it’s just that they are buried under layers of body fat. As humans (and animals alike) we store body fat in a few key places designed to protect our organs and keep us warm. So it’s unlikely that you will find someone with excess fat on their calves but finding someone with a beer belly or a muffin top is quite common. It’s just how our bodies were made. So if you expect to do tons of abs and magically burn away your abdominal fat and replace it with muscle I have some bad news for you… it’s not going to happen. We use our abs every day, for posture, for bending, for sitting, for all sorts of basic movements. So it’s not like you aren’t getting them worked out (especially if you add in active movements on top of that). It’s just that they are usually underneath a layer or more of fat and so there for you cannot see them. So ab away but until you lose body fat you won’t be showing them off to anyone anytime soon.

The moral of the story, abs are great but there is no sense in trying to sculpt a stomach without losing body fat first. So keep strong in your core but remember, if you really want to use your time wisely make sure to burn calories and work at more active movements that involve abs instead of laying on machines!

If you have any questions or want more guidance on great active ab exercises talk to our trainers!