Month: July 2012

Why is circuit training great for full-time working or constantly busy men and women?

Circuit training is a combination of high intensity aerobics and resistance training. High intensity aerobics can be anything from sprints to stairs to jump roping. Resistance training can use weights, weight machines, bands, medicine balls, and/or body weight alone. Everyone has their own way of imagining and doing “circuits” or “circuit training,” but all of it is quick and effective when it comes to getting a good workout in for the day. I am targeting circuit training toward full-time working men and women because you can do a great and effective circuit anywhere from twenty to forty-five minutes. This makes it easy for an individual to come home from work and get an entire workout done within twenty minutes if need be.

When I do circuit training, I prefer to use mostly high intensity body weight exercises because they can be just as effective when trying to improve heart health as well as muscular strength. The Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation states in a 2010 study in patients with heart disease suggesting that high aerobic intensity exercise training improves the capacity of the intrinsic pump within the heart.

Another amazing factor about circuit training is you can still get an awesome workout with NO equipment. Using your own body weight is an exercise in itself (which could be a whole other blog topic) and a great one at that. You can do workouts without using weights, whether it is here at the Seattle Athletic Club or at your own home. It is a fun, yet intense way to work out on your own or with a group of friends.

Circuit Training Workout:

  1. Jump Rope (30 sec)
  2. Push-ups (10)
  3. Jump Rope (30 sec)
  4. Jump Squats (10)
  5. Jump Rope (30 sec)
  6. Triceps Dips (10)
  7. Jump Rope (30 sec)
  8. Lunge Switches (10-each leg)
  9. Jump Rope (30 sec)
  10. Mountain Climbers (10-each leg)
  11. Jump Rope (30 sec)

Rest for 2 minutes; Repeat 3 times total

All in all, this is a quick circuit that can be done in a timely manner but you are still dripping sweat by the end. You are getting a mixture of cardio and strength workouts in for an overall outstanding workout. If you do not have a jump rope you can do sprints, stairs or jogging in place instead. The triceps dips can be done on a bench or stairs or anything that is off the ground enough for you to dip down. This will conclude your short and intense workout, with no equipment needed.

“Pull Your Ribs In” and other corrections: 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 piriformis 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.

Are Your Movements Causing You More Harm than Good?

From the day we are born, humans are constantly learning how to move. Most people learn fundamental movement patterns such as reaching, crawling, squatting, walking and running in succession and these skills serve as the foundation for movement throughout life. These movements are learned through many hours of trial and error and become solidified with more and more practice. But over time, the movements can be forgotten due to a lack of practice or even replaced with faulty patterns as a result of practicing bad habits. A great example is a deep squat. A curious baby can comfortably stay in a deep squat for minutes at a time while exploring an object on the floor but many adults find a deep squat uncomfortable or even impossible. Patterns such as the deep squat can be “unlearned” as a result of injury, exercise history, vocation or choice of hobbies. With so many potential ways for a pattern to break down, it can be hard to tell which fundamental patterns a person has maintained and which they need to regain. Furthermore, movement patterns are not related to skills or conditioning so athletic ability, strength, and fitness are very poor predictors of movement ability. Movement ability contributes to efficiency and safety, especially in challenging situations such as lifting weights, going on a long run or playing sports. Before engaging in any of these demanding activities, it is imperative to determine which patterns you can accomplish well and which patterns have limitations.

Movement screening is a systematic evaluation of basic movement patterns that can be used in a logical way to observe movement ability. Without screening, a workout can be like a shot in the dark with the trainer forced to throw out exercises at a vaguely defined problem. But screening allows for a scientific process that quickly determines which exercises are helping to improve the client’s most significant limitation and which exercises are not. Since movement ability is a matter of learning, dramatic results can be achieved within one session if the client is able to experience a well-tailored series of challenges. A more permanent adaptation will be made within 2-4 weeks as the brain and body are required to deliberately practice the new pattern. Furthermore, the “goal” of training movement ability is not to achieve perfection in every movement but rather simply to reach an acceptable level that will serve as the base from which to pursue a specific goal, such as increased fitness, weight loss or athletic performance. The rapid rate of neurological adaptation and the simple goal of attaining only a minimum standard ensure that hours of workouts are not spent trying to get “perfect form” on various exercises. Instead, investing a relatively small amount of time into learning fundamental movements will contribute to a natural ability to meet any challenge your body confronts.

Movement ability can be compromised as normal patterns are forgotten or replaced with bad habits but regular, consistent screening allows for the implementation of challenging exercises to resolve movement limitations. Once effective movement is achieved, training for increased physical performance can resume. By serving as the base for effective training, competent movement ability releases the body to train at a higher level and achieve previously untouched levels of performance.

If you would like to talk more about motor learning or movement screening please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Hunter Spencer. If you would like to better understand the necessity of movement screening and implementation of a movement screen, see the book Movement by Gray Cook.

Strong is the new SEXY! Women and resistance training.

Many women have similar goals and fears associated with resistance training (i.e. lifting weights). Most commonly we find that women express the desire to lose fat and improve muscle tone, but fear getting “bulky.” This often leads women to avoid the weight room altogether, and in our opinion is one of the primary reasons why there is a gender barrier between the cardiovascular and resistance training equipment (stereotypically boys lift weights and girls take cardio classes). This is a minor tragedy, as cardiovascular exercise is an ineffective and inefficient means to losing fat and improving muscle tone. Regular cardiovascular exercise is critical to maintaining overall health, but it is called cardio for a reason: it is primarily for your heart.

The fear that many women have regarding becoming “bulky” is unfortunately dynamic and deeply rooted, but we can overcome it. There are two primary sources of this trepidation: a general misunderstanding of female physiology and psychosocial stress.

The physiology is relatively straightforward. Put simply, lifting weights gives women the tone look and feel that they desire. Resistance training (geared toward improving muscular hypertrophy) increases metabolism and improves muscle tone. Women receive a tone look (as opposed to a bulky look) not due to a difference in training methodology, but a difference in physiological tools. Women are born with less muscle fibers (typically about 70% of that found in men). Additionally, the female endocrine system plays a significant role in keeping women small. Primarily responsible is the lack of testosterone, but also hormones like estrogen and progesterone generally prevent dramatic increases in muscle mass.

The psychosocial aspect of why women want to look a certain way is a little more complicated. Pressure to be small and skinny comes from all around us (e.g. family, friends, television, and fashion magazines). Whatever the source, they are largely sending a similar message: women should be small, un-athletic, and devoid of muscular definition. Sadly the picture that is commonly painted of what is, or what should be, a desirable feminine form is generally unattainable and is incompatible with fitness. Healthy women are not frail and skinny. Healthy women have curves and definition. Healthy women are strong, fit, and well-built. Healthy women can do a push up. And healthy is sexy.

Cardiovascular exercise is great for your heart, but the rest of your body needs attention too; some of which can only be attained in the weight room. So ladies, we urge you to set aside your misgivings, ignore the looks and the naysayers, and set a new trend. Join the increasing amount of women who believe that “strong is the new skinny” and that being fit is sexy.

Benefits of Swimming

1. Low Impact

  • Stress on joints is decreased by 90% in water
  • Even when your feet touch bottom there is les force on the body because of buoyancy
  • Great for rehab, arthritis, pregnancy, overweight, seniors….EVERYONE
  • Your body weight is 1/10 of what it would be on land.
  • It is the most injury-free sport there is

2. Builds Respiratory Fitness

  • A 12 week study showed an increase in oxygen consumption by 10% and an increase in stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped to the heart) increased by as much as 18%

3. Builds Muscle Mass

  • Muscle mass in the triceps increased by 23.8% in a 10 week study
  • All muscle groups are used

4. Alternative when injured

  • Maintains fitness levels
  • Aqua jogging
  • Because of the resistance, which is 12 times great than in air, of the water it makes the muscles works with out strain or impact like that on land

5. Calorie Burner

  • Swimming burns anywhere from 500-650 kcals per hour
  • In comparison to running it burns 11% fewer kcals and in comparison to cycling 3% fewer
  • However, this does not account for efficiency and for intensity….so the less efficient you are the more calories you burn
  • Be aware that heart rate decreased 10 beats per minute e in water and max heart rate decreased by 10-30 beats….it is believed this is due to the lower water temperature and the lesser pull of gravity in water.

6. Increases Lung Capacity

  • The need to hold your breath while swimming trains your lung capacity
  • This increases stamina and change heart rates
  • Great for asthma

7. Increases Flexibility

  • Increases mobility
  • The body is able to do stretches more easily than on land

8. Family Affair

  • The entire family can do it!
  • Everyone enjoys a day in the water…by the pool at the beach
  • It encourages health and fitness for the entire family

9. It is a lifetime Activity

  • Due to its low impact it can be done through all stages of life.
  • USMS- masters swimming…has age groups of 100-104!

10. It’s Relaxing

  • Water is soothing psychologically
  • There is a meditative quality about being able to just swim…float on your back
  • There is no noise and distraction of life on land

11. Improves Posture

  • Swimming strengthens your stabilizing muscles and works rotationally…therefore, strengthening your core and postural muscles

12. Lifesaving Skill

  • Swimming is a necessary life skill that everyone should possess
  • Open water, pool swimming, etc…


  • the fact that you can call yourself a swimmer is a reward in itself!

New member loses 35 pounds in 12 weeks with the help of the Evolve weight loss program.

Leela, a new member to Seattle Athletic Club, joined looking for help losing weight. After meeting with the Wellness Director Kelly Callison, she decided to challenge herself with the 12-week weight loss program, Evolve. Evolve is where Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness come together to assist weight loss. Most diets are unsuccessful because the very word diet suggests that the change is temporary.

During the Evolve program Leela worked with Personal Fitness Trainer Thomas Eagen twice a week and met with Nutritionist Kathryn Reed every couple of weeks. Thomas and Kathryn worked with each other to develop a course of action best suited to fit Leela’s needs. Starting with the RMR or Resting Metabolic Rate, Leela was able to find out exactly how many calories she required to sit in a room and breath. With this information she could work with Kathryn on developing the caloric intake plan. This allowed her to lose roughly 2-3lbs a week by eating throughout her entire day, tracking calories and protein throughout. The simple change of eating breakfast made a huge impact on Leela’s energy levels not just for workouts but day to day activities in general.

“I have always struggled with my weight, but lately it had been getting so out of hand that I decided to make my health a priority. SAC seemed like the perfect choice because it was close to my office, has a wide variety of activities and especially because it has a specialized weight loss program. I really needed the structure and support that Evolve gives me. Thomas and Kathryn have outlined a very reasonable workout schedule and diet for me that doesn’t interfere too much with the rest of my life. I’ve actually been really surprised by how little I’ve had to change. For exercise I workout with Thomas twice a week, do Zumba twice a week and then I have one day to do whatever exercise I feel like. I’ve really enjoyed getting to try out the different classes and programs available at SAC. And I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how little I’ve had to change my diet. I still get to eat things that I like, I’m just much more conscious of portion size and having smaller meals throughout the day. I count calories and really focus on reaching my daily goal for protein. I’ve already started noticing some big changes. My clothes are getting looser, I’m getting stronger and I have much more energy. I’m really excited for more changes in the future. My eventual goal is to get back down to a healthy weight for my height. It’s still a ways off, but I am fully committed to working on my weight and setting up a healthy lifestyle for myself. I want to stick with the eating and exercise habits I’ve developed in Evolve for the long term. And I think with the fairly simple changes I’ve made it won’t be that difficult to do.”

Currently at week 12, Leela has lost 35 pounds, 6 % body fat, and has reduced her measurements around her entire body. Keep up the great work!! If you would like more information on our Evolve weight loss program please contact Wellness Director Kelly Callison.


Hypermobility is when a joint moves easily beyond the normal range. It is sometimes referred to as loose joints or being double jointed. The joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments are formed more lax. There are simple mobility screenings your doctor can do to diagnose hypermobility; however it is usually benign. Hypermobility Syndrome can be diagnosed if it causes pain in the joints, particularly knees, fingers, hips and elbows.

There are a couple of theories behind what causes one to be hypermobile; one being the heritable gene polymorphisms that effect the development of collagen, elastin, and fibrillins. It is also hypothesized to be a genetic connective tissue disease. It can be a feature of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, causes a higher risk for dislocation, sprains, scoliosis, osteoarthritis and is commonly seen in people with Down syndrome.

As one gets older, you may become less flexible and thus decrease your tendency to being hypermobile. A positive benefit of hypermobility is greater agility to perform certain physical activities. If you are someone with an increased range of motion within some joints (usually females) you may want to change how you exercise and move. Your whole body should aid in the movement (bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons); you should not allow your joints and bones to take the brunt of all the forces. Exercises should be tailored to avoid injury to joints and work on stabilizing and strengthening.

  • Proprioception – This can be addressed by working in multiple planes of motion and applying resistance coming from different directions.
  • Balance – Postural control and balance activate stabilizers to help strengthen around the joints. Try implementing a type of stability device into more standard exercises.
  • Strength – Working on the overall strength of large muscles will shorten the muscles and tendons surrounding the joints and add the majority of external support to the joint, so this is just one more reason to lift weights.

Hypermobility is not anything that is threatening to your body, but you should be aware of whether your body has an increased range of motion. If you do then just be aware of your movements and make sure that you keep the musculature and supporting connective tissue around the joint tight. Try working on proprioception, balance and strength to increase this joint awareness and thus safety and you can enjoy safer joints for longer. If you have any questions about how and what exercises to perform to help alleviate hypermobility, contact Personal Fitness Trainer Amber Walz.

Aches and Pains

Do you ever stop to think about how long your knees have been bothering you or how long that shoulder injury has been tormenting you? Well you are not alone. I’m sure more than 80% of your fellow gym go-ers have the same nagging injuries you do. Why is that? Why is it okay to walk around every day in pain and continue to ignore it? Sometimes maybe you take a break from your favorite sport (knowing how much basketball kills your back) and maybe sometimes you ice but when was the last time you actually made an effort to heal yourself? When was the last time you took a good long look at yourself and decided you would still live if you gave up squash and did some cross training for one month? I’m guessing if you are still living with those same aches and pains every day that it’s been a while since you’ve let yourself heal.

Now is the time and here are a few options to help you get started on the road to recovery no matter what your injury is;

  1. Cross train!!! If you knowingly go to Body Pump every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and every time you walk out of there with a sore shoulder then perhaps it’s time to give something else a try. You still want to sweat and you still want to come into the gym at the same time so what can you do? Try swimming, try Yoga, or try a different class that has more to do with lower body than upper. Try something new out, maybe you’ll find something you like better and hurts less, double score!
  2. Take a break! I know it’s hard but instead of enjoying long runs during the lunch hour maybe you take a week off and either do nothing or take that time to work your legs in a different fashion, hill walk instead of your 4 mile run. It’s okay to rest for a week or two, I swear you won’t lose everything you’ve built up and you won’t become obese!
  3. Seek help! If you haven’t been to the doctor go! If you meant to get to PT and just never got around to it go! You haven’t magically fixed it on your own; it’s time to get some professional help. Maybe it’s just a massage or two, or you finally get in with your favorite chiropractor. Just make sure you are being proactive and seeking assistance when you need it.
  4. Don’t let yourself off the hook. Being in pain is no badge of honor. It’s unhealthy and “fighting through it” will result in bigger injury down the road, trust me!
  5. Work with a trainer. The Seattle Athletic Club has an amazingly knowledgeable training staff and everyone has different specialties. If you have an injury (or two or three) and you want to workout but don’t know how to do it safe and effectively it’s time to get a coach. Many trainers have backgrounds in physical therapy and or have their own personal experience with a wide range of injuries. Invest in some training time and get some one on one attention to find workouts that work specifically for you. It’s great knowing you are working hard and recovering at the same time!
  6. Warm-up, stretch, cool down, and ice! All that prep and finishing stuff will only take 10-20 minutes and could save you much pain. Take some extra time to efficiently ready your joints, heart, and lungs for a workout and make sure to have some spare time at the end for recovery with ice. Decreasing inflammation is key in healing your body and decreasing pain!

If you would like to know more about injury prevention and recovery talk to the fitness staff or Personal Fitness Trainer Adriana Brown and get back on the road to good health!

Swim Like a Chicken!

Well, not exactly but emulating a chicken’s neck (or a giraffe’s, or a turtle’s, or even *Tim Duncan’s) will help you swim farther and faster with less effort.

Here’s how:
Effective swimming requires an effective glide. The way to an effective glide is by creating a hydro-dynamic tube around your entire body that you can slip through with minimal effort. Of course getting to that effortless place requires a lot of effort … but you can do it. Really!

Look at a chicken (or a giraffe, or a turtle, or even Tim Duncan) and you’ll see that they all have really long necks. Moreover, they all have really flexible necks that can lengthen and shorten at will. They extend and contract through their cervical vertebrae which enable them to rotate in a greater radius with less effort and distortion to the rest of their bodies.

Look at your typical adult and you’ll see that their necks aren’t very flexible at all. This poses a special problem for swimming: in order to breathe effectively while swimming you need to be able to rotate your head independently from the rest of your body, and the only way to do that is by unlocking your neck, which means extending through the back of the your neck.
Here are some exercises to help you unlock your neck and extend it to an effective gliding posture. Try them before you start your next swim.

  • Stand tall and practice slowly rotating your head side to side
    • o First lead with your eyes
    • o Next lead with your nose
    • o Finally lead with your chin
  • Stand tall in front of a mirror (preferably full length)
    • Align your eyes to be horizontally level and your nose to be vertical like a T-Square.
    • Hold that position, engage your core, and rotate your body as far as possible without losing your head position.
  • Practice lengthening the back of your neck so that your chin naturally lowers a bit verses tucking your chin.
    • Do the same things in the water while practicing your initial push and glide off the wall and notice if you go in a straight line just below the surface of the water.
      • If you’re going deep toward the bottom, you are probably tucking your chin.
      • If you’re breaking the surface of the water too soon (i.e., before you intend to) then you are probably raising the back of your head.
      • If you’re not gliding very far at all you may be ‘riding the brake’ by looking forward.
      • If you’re holding a level line just below the surface of the water, your neck is probably in pretty good position.

So pick your goofy role model and have fun as you practice gliding!

* Before Tim Duncan became a Hall of Fame NBA Basketball player with a fist full of championship rings he was on track to becoming an Olympic swimmer.

If you have any questions about this post or training with Nathan, please feel free to send him an email.

Client Appreciation

Most trainers are aware of how ‘personal’ training can be. It’s important for a trainer to have magnanimity and develop a sense for what a client is feeling emotionally, not just physically. Clients need motivation, inspiration, compassion, and empathy- human connection is the key to healing and growing. One thing that is never addressed is how this connection can have a reciprocal influence.

The study of epigenetics and gene expression is related to the concept of nature versus nurture, thus how much nurture is in our environment can positively affect our nature. Nurture is what attributes to if we flourish or fail. The rapport that is developed between a trainer and a client is through mutual trust and understanding. As a trainer, your listening skills become enhanced and as is the nature of most trainers, your empathy and desire to help increases as well. Forming an intimate relationship with the client is what I would view as an essential component of nurture.

As weeks, months, and years go by that relationship can grow on a whole different dimension. What I have found in the past is the client starts to know a lot about your personal life as well. The reciprocity effect can sometimes evolve into a lasting, valuable friendship. In honest reflection, I can say these have been some of the most meaningful connections I’ve had in my life. So, from a trainer to all her former and current clients, I thank you.