Month: November 2012

Decoding Weight Loss Fads

There are always new products and new research concerning weight loss solutions. Analyzing fads critically will give a fresh perspective to what can aid the process, or is just an erroneous claim. This article analyzes a few foods that are said to help with weight loss. Some believe research studies can be manipulated by corporations to support there interests, so it’s important to view each claim objectively.

  • Green coffee bean – You can purchase a pill, extract form or brew a cup. There are several research studies done that results indicate a weight loss of 0.8lbs a week up to 7lbs a week and most studies done were on overweight participants. There is additional research that was done on mice claiming it will stop fat absorption or increases fat metabolism. The active compound is chlorogenic acid, which is removed when the coffee bean is roasted.
  • Pine nuts – These nuts have a lower amount of saturated fat and are considered by some to be a superfood. They are said to reduce appetite by releasing appetite suppressant hormones, such as CCK. Certain vitamins and minerals contained in nuts are beneficial for normalizing metabolic processes. Pinolenic acid is a fatty acid that is found in pine nut oil and is very biologically active.
  • Tea (EGCG) – Epigallocatechin gallate is an antioxidant catechin present in tea. It has many therapeutic properties for disease and symptomology and is said to be helpful with weight loss because of its thermogenic properties. The antioxidant was discovered to be in highest amounts in green and white tea.
  • Capsaicin – The property in peppers that make them hot. It is said to help fight body fat by increasing energy expenditure, deterring fat cell growth, and decreasing appetite. It stimulates beta-adrenergic receptors and can up regulate uncoupling proteins in the mitochondrial cell wall thus increasing thermogenesis.

The research that has been done on these compounds can illuminate promising effects, but effects vary depending on vital factors, such as: the intial weight of participants, age, and if they were also working out and changing overall diet in addition. There are many more nutritional foods and herbs that have properties that assist in fat loss; however, the most important thing to remember is nothing will be an ultimate answer. Your hard work and effort with exercise and good, balanced nutrition is still the best way you will create lasting change. If you have questions about how to address your exercise routine, contact me Amber Walz. If you have question about how to address nutrition, contact one of our staff nutritionists.

Welcome Back, Massage Therapist Janice Eng!

Janice Eng returns to the Seattle Athletic Club Downtown massage team! For those of you who have not been at the club for over two decades, let me introduce Janice Eng. Janice started here when the club first opened in 1982 and was the person responsible for hiring our infamous Julie Bacon on board as well.

Janice has been in the field of bodywork for many years – graduating from the Brenneke School of Massage class of 1980 and receiving a BS from Bastyr in 2001. Janice has gone on to study many modalities of wellness including counseling, neurolinguistics as well as non-violent communication. She also teaches communication skills in prisons and as workshops to those who are interested.

The style of massage that Janice currently provides is very relaxing. She has many skills in the energetic realm of bodywork such as; Reki, Body Talk and Thought Field Therapy. Janice also gives a very nurturing Swedish relaxation style of massage.

Janice is available Sundays 10:00am – 2:00pm and Mondays 11:00am – 3:00pm. To book an appointment with Janice please call the front desk at 206-443-1111 or access her schedule through the member reservation link at

Is Your Swim Going Down the Drain? Fix It with Pilates and Yoga!

I am often asked why swimming seems so much harder than other sports to learn and even master. It’s harder because you are asking your body to perform in conditions that are alien to the way humans are designed. We are designed for land use: gravity, solid surfaces and a constant supply of oxygen. Swimming provides none of that. What’s more, we are designed to function best standing up. Swimming requires us to lie down. Even worse, it demands we drastically control our breathing—in a rhythmic way!—and do summersaults against a wall. So why do humans constantly go about doing things they were never meant to do? We’ll leave that for another day. But, for now, let’s consider swimming.

When you are swimming you have to create a place of solidity from which you can generate force. Think of volley ball: The game played on a hard court will be quicker, involve higher—more spectacular—jumps, blocks and spikes. Conversely, the game played on the beach will be slower and lower. That’s because a hard surface is easier to generate force than a soft one. A swimmer can’t rely on the water to help generate force so that solid platform must be created in the swimmer’s body.

The place to start is the core. If you are struggling with your technique, if you are swimming a lot but feel you’re just not improving or even slowing down, it may well be that you are lacking core strength and stability. Pilates and Yoga are great ways to start reconnecting to your core. Try it out then start practicing stabilizing your core muscles throughout your swim. You should begin to find more power and more connection to the muscles that your teachers and coaches keep telling you about.

Top three reasons you should hop into the pool. . .

  1. Endurance- swimming longer and longer each time you get into the pool will build your endurance greatly. Swimming is usually able to be done for longer periods of time then running is which as a result a swimmer can train for longer time periods and burn more calories.
  2. Core- swimming use’s all of the body’s muscles together, but is stabilized and predominately balanced by your core strength. You are holding that long floating position in the water while being able to hold your body up and rotate your hips. The rotation process is in the hips, but takes a strong core to be able to do it well; therefore swimming will increase core strength.
  3. Flexibility- swimming relaxes your muscles (if the pool is heated or once you are warmed up), which increases the flexibility of your muscles. Lengthening your stroke and glide stretches the muscles and can increase your flexibility, the longer you swim.

If you would like to learn more about swimming please contact Personal Fitness Trainer/Swim Instructor Amber Gruger.

Say what? Put on weight?

Say what? Put on weight? That’s rarely the goal. Well I’m here to tell you perhaps it should be more of a goal than you think. I mean, let’s lift some heavy weights! Add an extra 5lbs to the bar, go up 10lbs in your dumbbells, push yourself and let’s move something heavy!
Why? Why not!

Lifting heavy (I don’t mean that if you are shoulder pressing 8lbs right now that you should try and press 45lbs the next go around), or what you would consider “heavy” will really help you gain strength quickly and efficiently. Usually when I tell people to move heavy weight, esp women, the first thing i hear is, “But I don’t want to bulk up.” Oh my Lord, if ever there was a misconception! The “bulking” that most people think of when lifting weight comes from many hours in the gym, a high protein diet, heavy heavy weights, and some good genes! To become The Hulk you would really have to put in serious amounts of time and effort. This will not be happening to your average gym goer. But still I hear some people say, “When I’ve lifted heavy before I did seem to get bulkier.” This would come from a lack of fat loss, a lack of a decent diet, and a misconception about what is “bulking.” My guess is the 2 times a week you lifted “heavy” did not in fact give you raging thighs, instead it was the other things you were or were not doing outside of your exercise.

Why lift heavy? There are a multitude of reasons why pushing yourself with the amount of weights you lift is a good idea….

  1. Increase lean muscle mass which = a higher metabolism. The more lean muscle mass in your body the more calories your body burns every day. Unlike cardio, lifting weights and stressing your muscles will burn calories for you while you are doing the exercises, for an hour after, and the many hours after that. While cardio may burn 400 calories in the hour you are doing your running your body soon loses that spike in metabolism and ends an hour after you finish. So while the number may look good on the machine, if you had lifted you would have burned nearly (if not in some cases more) that many calories in 45 minutes and will continue to burn more throughout the day. Muscles need fuel and worked muscles need extra fuel to repair and grow.
  2. Increased strength quickly and effciently. Squatting with the 10lb dumbbells in your hands 20 times might make you feel like you have gotten a lot done in a short amount of time but in fact we’ve done just the opposite. If burning calories, increasing your strength, and spiking your heart rate is your goal you need to cut the high reps and increase your weight. The heavier weight will push your muscles more (gaining strength), push your heart rate higher (to pump more blood to your strained muscles), and give you much more benifits in half the time (think 5-10 reps instead of 15-20). Your calorie burning will shoot much higher and your body will work much harder in half the reps!
  3. Increasing your mental toughness. It’s hard to lift heavy, not just for your muscles but also for your mind. Telling yourself to try something new, pushing yourself to move up in weight, pushing yourself to keep going even though the back of your mind is telling you it’s too heavy, is so much about mental strength. It’s the old saying, “If I can do this I can do anything” kind of mentality. Work your mind and your body and finally be proud and impressed with what you can do!
  4. So helpful in the real world. I don’t know about you but I have yet to find the 5lb bag of bark/cement mix/bricks at Home Depot. If you can lift it in the gym, when you go to tackle that new retaining wall in your back yard it will be no problem! Long gone are the days of waiting for your husband to come home to move the couch/washing machine/lawn mower/etc, your a strong lady, do it yourself!
  5. It’s fun, it’s hard, it’s mental, it’s a huge accomplishment. I realize it’s not everyone’s goal to deadlift one and a half times their body weight but it should be your goal to be strong, efficient, fit and healthy. Lifting heavy is one of the best ways to accomplish all of those things!

The only draw back to lifting heavy? It’s hard to do if you aren’t sure about your form. It’s hard to do if you aren’t sure about how much you should move up in weight. It’s hard to do some of your exercises without a spotter. My advice? Grab a trainer, ask some questions, get a session, join a weight lifting class. If you aren’t comfortable on your own get some help or free advice, that’s what we are here for! The best way to start is move up 2.5-5lbs in the exercises you normally do (lat pull down, dumbbell bench press, lunges, etc) and cut your reps. If that seems to easy for a set of 10, go up another 10lbs. The goal should be to use heavy enough weight that by the time you get to 10 reps you shouldn’t be able to do another. If you aren’t stressing yourself you aren’t lifting heavy enough. This is hard work. It will make you wish you were downstairs running endlessly on the treadmill! Eww.

Have questions? Looking for a good way to get started on strength training? Contact Personal Fitness Trainer Adriana Brown

3 Steps to a Quicker Start

All sports share a one common trait. Whether it is volleyball, basketball, swimming, or biking, all depend on the ability to perform a given task in the shortest time possible. For instance, the success of a tennis player relies on making split second decisions and having an explosive reaction. The foundation of this action is sprinting. Sprinting is often misunderstood; in that, the benefits of being able to sprint are not only applicable in the 100 meter dash, but are equally useful in virtually every sport. Below are three key points that will help improve your sprinting form and in turn lead to better sport performance.

    One of the most crucial components of sprinting begins with correct body positioning. While maintaining a relaxed upright position, the head, torso, and legs should be aligned at all times. During acceleration the body should lean forward approximately 45 degrees and quickly move upright to a less than 5 degree lean upon achieving maximal speed. Your head should remain focused directly ahead during the entire movement. It is also important to note that weight distribution should be primarily on the ball of the foot or your toes. Variation of weight distribution between these two are typically considered to be a personal preference.
    The first step to having an effective start is dorsi-flexing the foot (ankle at 90 degrees) and moving the heel directly toward your glutes following the push off. Your knee should come up as high as possible, ideally 90 degrees, as the other leg extends and strikes the ground using the ball of your foot as the first contact point. One of the most common mistakes that can dramatically hinder performance and even increase the risk of injury is over-striding. A common characteristic of over-striding is striking with your heel first followed by a rolling motion through the foot. Doing so eliminates one of our body’s primary shock absorbers (the ankle) and in turn causes the impact of striking the ground to reverberate through the tibia and fibula often leading to shin splints. A heel strike also means more time on the ground leading to a slower stride.
    Sprinting is a full body explosive movement that requires the synchronization of both the arms ands legs in order to do so effectively. Here is a simple test that demonstrates just how important proper arm movement is; try sprinting with your arms held straight and down towards your hips throughout the entire movement. Instantly this movement should feel very unnatural and awkward. Now, this time during the sprint, hold your arms at 90 degrees and attempt to move them faster than the stride of your feet. This is very difficult to do and will usually result in your legs attempting to match the same tempo as the arms. A common error in arm movement during a sprint comes from too much flexion and extension in the elbows scene by a “chopping motion” with the hands. A good rule to follow is the “rule of 90’s” which refers to keeping both arms at 90 degrees once the body is in motion and has achieved the 5 degree lean. Hands should come in front of the nose but not across the body, any lateral arm movement (arms crossing the center line of the body) will result in energy lost and a slower maximal sprinting speed.

It’s important to note that before beginning any sort of sprint training a proper warm-up is crucial. Due to the high intensity nature of a sprint the likelihood of injury goes up dramatically if a warm-up is not performed. Also, corrections to form will lead to much greater improvements in speed over simply attempting to just run at maximal effort. For more information on sprinting technique and how it can benefit you please contact Will Paton.

Scoliosis and Exercise

According to the National Scoliosis Foundation, scoliosis effects about 2-3 percent of the U.S. population with 85 percent of the cases being idiopathic (no known cause) and without cure.

Kyphoscoliosis involves excessive S-curvature of the thoracic spine, and some scoliosis can create more of a C-curvature of the lumbar. Scoliosis can be congenital, or can be a symptom of a neuromuscular condition.

Common affects are ventilatory function restrictions, dyspnea, uneven torso rotation strength, rib or shoulder blade prominence from the spinal rotation, uneven hips, arms and legs, and slow nerve action. It is commonly treated with physiotherapy, bracing, electrical surface stimulation, and spinal fusion surgery in severe cases. Physiotherapy can help tremendously in mild cases. A popular physiotherapy modality is the Schroth Method.

In treatment of scoliosis it is important to implement exercises that work on expansion of chest and back, assisted side flexibility and length, elongation of the spine, and proper hip mobility to correct seated posture. These movements can be done within several simple exercises.

  • Strength and Stability- Ball opposite arm and leg raises, ball back extensions with straight-arms overhead in a y-position, and straight-arm hanging side leg lifts are a few exercises that target balancing the affected areas.
  • Flexibility and alignment- Proper length and alignment of the spine occurs when creating good length-tension relationships in the fascia and the muscles surrounding it. Hip flexor stretches, forward band walks with the inside hip and back foot on an elevated surface, pelvic tilts, and hip circles create the proper sacral/lumbar positioning. A single-sided dumbbell overhead press with a side bend and incline band chest presses with rotation are two effective exercises to stretch and align the thoracic spine.

Scoliosis can be challenging to deal with, but with proper care and attention to detail, you can decrease the severity, increase overall function and strength, and maintain a pain-free life. For a demonstration or if you have any questions or concerns, please contact Amber Walz for further information.

Indoor Rowing is a Great Full Body Non-Impact Exercise

Are you looking for a great addition to your workout? Consider the rowing machine, also known as an Erg. It’s a fantastic tool to work on your both aerobic and anaerobic endurance, muscle strength throughout your body, plus developing coordination and timing though your muscle chains.

When using the rowing machine, set the computer to meters, and /500m splits. (It will not give you an accurate caloric expenditure, and the watts option is also inaccurate so don’t use those options.) The best way to judge your progress is to compare your 500 meter splits with your time and distance covered. Another way to monitor progress is to see how fast you can complete a given distance (say 2,000 meters) at a given stroke rate. So if your stroke rate is 24/minute and your first 2k test is 15 minutes then use that as a baseline. In a few weeks test again and see if you can bring that time down to 12:30 at the same 24/minute stroke rate. That is fantastic improvement! Keep up the great work.

Looking for a good Rowing Machine workout to keep that metabolism high while being tempted with all those holiday goodies?

  • 9x500m w/2:00 rest between each.
  • Do it in a stroke rate (strokes/minute) pyramid: 18; 20; 22; 24; 26; 24; 22; 20; 18. You’ll find the S/R on the display screen.
  • Goal is to improve your 500m split time as you climb the pyramid and maintain those same spits as your descend the pyramid. That will mean you are rowing with greater power and efficiency by using fewer strokes.

Set up:

  1. Get on the Erg (aka Rowing Machine) and turn on the monitor to Main Menu
  2. Go to Just Row
  3. On the bottom three buttons press the Change Units button
  4. Select /500m (Calories and Watts are completely inaccurate and useless options don’t waste your time with them!)
  5. Go back to Main Menu
  6. Go to More Options
  7. Go to Display Drag Factor
  8. Set Damper to 5 and start rowing
  9. Adjust the Damper until your Drag Factor is between a 115 and 120
  10. Return to Main Menu
  11. Go to Select Workout
  12. Go to Intervals Distance
  13. Use the scrolling arrows to so set your workout:

Set Workout:

  1. On the distance option use the arrow and +/- buttons to select 500m
  2. Scroll to Rest and set up 2:00 rest

Secrets of Shoulder Success Part Two: Secrets of Training

As discussed in Part 1 the shoulder complex is designed to allow both force generation and force transmission from the legs, hips and trunk. It can only perform these vital functions if adequate mobility and stability are maintained. To quickly evaluate the mobility throughout your shoulder complex, simply try to touch your hands behind your back with one elbow pointing up and the other elbow pointing down. Can you get anywhere close to touching? Do you notice a difference between the two sides? This motion requires full range of motion in the gleno-humeral joints, the scapulas and the thoracic spine and failing to touch or nearly touch the hands behind your back can indicate immobility at one or several of these joints. Re-gaining adequate mobility requires much more than static stretching because the underlying issue may not be the structural length of the tissues but rather the coordination between the brain, spinal reflexes, muscles and proprioceptors. To account for these variable explanations, a successful mobility routine must incorporate several modalities such as self myofascial release (SMR), proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching (PNF) and dynamic stretching. SMR includes massage-like activities such as foam rolling and increases mobility by relaxing fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds muscle bellies. PNF is a general type of stretching that involves a pattern of contraction and relaxation, for example stretching a muscle, contracting that muscle against a force and then relaxing to stretch the muscle more. Performing PNF at the beginning of an exercise session provides dramatic transient improvement in range of motion which allows improved mobility for the remainder of the session. Dynamic stretching includes anything that gives the shoulder an opportunity to explore a maximally large range of motion (ROM) at variable speeds and provides practice at incorporating the shoulder into whole body movements.

After acceptable mobility has been established, the ability to maintain a position within this ROM must be developed. Stability is not as dependent on strength as much as coordination; your neuromuscular system must work in harmony to quickly react to a perturbation. Training stabilizer muscles, such as the rotator cuff, for strength (with exercises such as rotator cuff rotations) does not train these muscles for stability and can even contribute to a dysfunctional, unstable shoulder complex. Instead stability exercises should challenge the shoulder to maintain position before, during and after a movement. Exercises such as a one arm bench press, reverse rows from a bar and even pushups can be used to evaluate and develop shoulder stability. The key to stability exercises is that they provide a stimulus-rich environment to teach the body what position is stable and how to maintain this position. Whatever exercises are being used, proper feedback is critical to avoid development of faulty motor patterns and ensure stability.

Both mobility and stability depend on the neuromuscular system to function properly. Several methods can be used to increase mobility and stability but it is imperative that any exercises designed to improve these traits provide an opportunity for the body to learn about moving through a complete ROM and maintaining a stable position. Because the neuromuscular system controls these traits, a chronic adaptation can be made within just 2-4 weeks. Adequate mobility and stability provide a safe and efficient platform from which to develop strength and then power. Mobility and stability in the shoulder are key to pain free, efficient movement and improved performance in racquet sports, golf and daily activities. There is no better investment for your shoulder function than to spend 2-4 weeks developing the mobility and stability you need to thrive! To learn more about shoulder and see if your shoulder mobility and stability are adequate, contact Personal Fitness Trainer Hunter Spencer.

Perfect your push-up form before performing them consistently; THEN join me and challenge yourself.

Starting position: high plank position, placing your toes and hands on the floor.

Hand position: your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width; making sure they are not out too wide or in too narrow.

Elbows: when bending your elbows and lowering your chest closer toward the floor, stop when your elbows reach a 90-degree bend and your biceps are parallel to the floor. When pushing back up to a plank position, do not lock your elbows.

Back and abdominals: keep your back straight and in line with your neck as you are tightening your abdominal muscles in toward your spine.

Gluts and legs: keep your gluts and thighs tight and squeeze them together during the up and down phase of the push-up. Squeezing your gluts and legs together will prevent you from slouching or hyper-extending your lower back.

Chin and neck: keep your chin tucked and your neck inline with your spine to prevent from hyper-extending your neck.

Proper breathing technique

  • When you bend your elbows to head toward the floor you should INHALE
  • As you push away from the floor back to plank position you should EXHALE

Once you have perfected that push-up form, join me in a CHALLENGE. Complete 50 push-ups each day. That does not have to be 50 push-ups at one time; you can split it up into 5, 10, or 15 at a time throughout the day to complete the 50 total for the day. Push-ups are a very great body weight exercise to strengthen your upper body. The main muscle groups pushups are working to strengthen are triceps, shoulders, and chest.

Get the correct push-up form down and join me in the challenge today!

If you have questions or would like to schedule a training session, please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Amber Gruger.