Tag: Athletic

Swim Slow and Move Fast!

Do you ever see those swimmers in the pool who seem to go so far and fast but seem like they aren’t trying very hard? What’s up with that? How is it that they seem to be swimming slow but they are moving through the water like fish?

It’s because they are. They are allowing their entire body—from the arms and shoulders through the torso to the hips and legs—to join the fun. Many people swim with just their shoulders and arms and hope they can drag the rest of their body along without sinking first.

Rotation and glide is critical to a more efficient and effective stroke. In my experience teaching swimming, I find that the two biggest impediments to a well timed rotation and supported glide is awkwardness in the breathing and trying to balance with the recovery arm.

Breathing should always be calm and controlled, even in sprints! Inhale through the mouth and exhale though the nose. Take time to exhale completely before taking another breath. The amount of time you are inhaling should always be shorter than the time you are exhaling. (Click here to find out why.) You should be rotating your head easily and looking slightly behind you on the inhale. Wait for your elbow to extend past your head before returning your head back into the water. Start exhaling immediately and smoothly through your nose. This process should become very rhythmic whether breathing every second, third or fourth stroke.

The rotation should be full and done with your hips and torso, not the shoulders. Balance will come from your core. Your recovery (the hand that is traveling out of the water) should be just that, a recovery. It should be relaxed, free of tension, and placed into the water rather than thrown in. Practice leading you arm with the elbow and dragging your finger nails through the water during the recovery. If you can sustain that, you will be well on your way to becoming one of those swimmers who make it all look so effortless!

Rethinking Your Cardio

One of the key components to any exercise program is cardio, however for most there is still a lot of mystery surrounding this topic. What machine works the best? How fast should I go? How much time is needed? As a result of this confusion most will tend to gravitate to one machine and perhaps even worse, remain at one pace and intensity for weeks on end. The goal of this article is to shed some light on this topic and leave you with some alternative ways to challenge yourself in a more time-efficient and fun manner.

How long should my cardio be?
There are many theories surrounding the topic of most effective duration of a cardio workout. It seems as if every year there is a new study claiming 30 minutes, 40 minutes, 60 minutes, etc. is the key to the most effective cardio workout. With such a wide variety of options to choose from, all claiming to be the superior method, it tends to leave many overwhelmed and confused. There is however good news. What virtually all of these methods have in common is the inverse relationship of time to intensity. The more intense the activity, the shorter the time needed to produce or maintain a training effect; the less intense the activity, the longer the required duration. In short, if you find you only have 30 minutes to devote to cardio, rather than choosing a light jog, try adding in sprint intervals. This will in turn not only promote positive changes to your cardiovascular system, but will also have a significant impact on the total number of calories burned.

What machine works the best?
This is often one of most discussed aspects pertaining to cardio training and unfortunately there is no right answer. Regardless of the machine, all of them have their strengths and weaknesses. For example, while the treadmill has the added benefit of forcing the user to exercise at a certain pace, it provides little to no benefit to the muscles of the upper body. The elliptical provides a low impact option to cardio training but leaves the intensity of the workout solely up to the user. All of these machines can have tremendous benefits but it is important remember to challenge your body in new ways regularly. Remember, there is no “perfect shape”, rather than always gravitating towards that same cardio machine, try a new machine each week. This will help keep your body balanced and prepared for whatever life throws at you.

Lastly, while we all know those certain individuals who absolutely love nothing more than spending an hour on a cardio machine, the reality is that this doesn’t describe the vast majority of us, myself included. Possibly the most difficult hurdle involving cardio to overcome is the mental aspect. All cardio machines revolve around a repetitive movement than can quickly become boring and monotonous. This is especially discouraging when the goal of a quality cardio workout is to challenge your body through intensities it isn’t used to. Here is a list of cardio workouts that will hopefully spark your interest, and in the process, might introduce you to a few new pieces of exercise equipment.

For more information on cardiovascular training or questions surrounding the four workouts, please contact Personal Fitness Trainer Will Paton.

What do I need to bring to my Pilates lesson?

  • Clean socks. Pilates exercises utilize the feet, so we don’t work out wearing shoes. If you are concerned about slipping, you can bring your socks with little sticky grips on the bottom. Or, we can provide a sticky pad to help adhere the feet to the Pilates equipment.
  • Fitted workout clothes. Pilates works on alignment; therefore, we need to see your body! We look for specific landmarks in the hips, shoulders, knees, ankles, and metatarsals.
  • Health history. It helps us to know what your health has been like your whole life, not just recent injuries. Chronic means long-lasting and acute means short and severe. We want to know both!
  • Energy. By now, everyone realizes that Pilates works your core, so some people like to workout on an empty stomach. I can’t emphasize this enough: don’t skip breakfast! A Pilates lesson is an hour long and requires energy (calories) to get through it! Eat something before you come, even if it’s just a handful of almonds. Your body and brain need the fuel.
  • No equipment. We supply mats, towels, equipment, etc. If you want to bring gloves, like weight training gloves, feel free. You probably won’t need them for your first lesson, but eventually we work up to pull-ups, and you may like them for cushion, comfort and grip.

8 tips to make cardio easier and more fun!

The holidays have come and gone and some of you might have put on extra weight that you want to lose. Or maybe your New Year’s resolution is to drop 10 pounds in the next three months. If this is you; I have some tips to making cardio more enjoyable and easier for you.

8 tips to make cardio easier and more fun:

  1. Start out slow
    When beginning cardio, most people seem to want to hop on the elliptical, put the resistance up, and go as hard and fast as possible to burn those calories. This is okay to do, but can quickly tire you out and make you not want to do cardio as often or at all. My advice is to hop on the elliptical, treadmill; etc.and put the resistance to a light to moderate setting and start slow. Once you get more comfortable with this resistance and speed, you can slowly progress both resistance and speed.
  2. Pick good music
    When you’re listening to music you enjoy, you will want to continue your cardio workout for a longer period of time. Pick music that is quicker paced and keeps you pumped up. Music plays as a distraction while exercising because you are not paying attention to the time as much when you’re enjoying a good song. This is definitely a great method to making cardio go by faster.
  3. Mix it up
    Most of us choose one machine that we like to do and stick to it; for example the elliptical. If you are getting bored of cardio because you are using the elliptical every other day for 30-60 minutes, then switch it up. Try the elliptical for 15 minutes and then the treadmill for 15 minutes. If this still isn’t enough, you can add in the stair stepper or the stair climber as a third machine of use.
  4. Add it into your strength training routine (Circuit Training)
    If you are lifting weights upstairs, take the time to add in a minute sprint on the elliptical or bike between each set of exercises. This will keep your heart rate up as well as blood flowing throughout your muscles. It is easy for individuals to totally forget about cardio, so to make it easier and shorter, just add it between different sets of what you do enjoy.
  5. Interval Training
    If you get bored of jogging on a treadmill at 5.4mph for 20 minutes, then switch up the speed and time frames. For example, walk for a minute at 4mph and then run for a minute at 6mph. Repeat this about five to ten times to keep that heart rate up. If you would like more of a challenge, then increase the speed after each set. For example, walk at 4mph for one minute, run at 6mph for one minute, walk at 4.2mph for one minute, run at 6.2mph for one minute; and so forth.
  6. Find a Buddy
    There are days when we just don’t have the motivation to come into the gym. Therefore, everyone should have that friend that will help motivate you or visa versa, to go to the gym or for a walk outside. When exercising with someone else, you can carry on a conversation and forget you are even working hard or sweating. If that friend is competitive, that is a great way to get incentive to beat each other’s time or distance or whatever the goal may be. This is also another way to make time go by a lot quicker during cardio exercise.
  7. Take a group exercise class
    If you don’t do well by yourself and on the same machine every week, try taking a group exercise class. There is an instructor in each class along with a group of members just like you to keep you motivated and on top of your game. The Seattle Athletic Club offers many different types of classes involving great cardiovascular workouts. Some of these classes are Power Cycle, Zumba, and Step Aerobics.
  8. Jump Rope!
    Most of you probably learned how to jump rope in elementary school at Recess. We think of it as something we did when we were kids for fun, but people forget that this can actually be a cardiovascular exercise. Try it for a minute and see how tiring it can actually be. Jump roping is a great way to keep your cardio workouts fun and effective.

Analysis of Posture Cueing

As a trainer, there is a lot of information to convey in a short period of time and in a way that is easily understood by the client. The largest role a trainer plays is as a teacher. Sometimes it can be a challenge to communicate effectively in a concise way using as few words as possible. Each trainer has there own style of communication and usually uses verbal and kinesthetic tools. This said, there are a few cues that trainers use more consistently that will be explained in detail in this blog to provide more clarity.

Shoulders back and down-
This is a cue that most people are familiar with; however, there is a lot of confusion around its interpretation. The action of back and down is a description of the shoulder blades in an action of retraction and depression. One reason this is so widely used as a descriptor among trainers is because the shoulder joint is susceptible to injury when it is unstabilized. These actions of the shoulder blade give the joint a stabilized position to work from when manipulating heavy weight. Another reason this is used is because it counteracts the position of excessive kyphosis (rounding of the thoracic spine) to bring the spine in a neutral alignment.

New research has shown that the lazy posture brought on by sitting too much leads to weakened muscles in the upper back, but without creating this excessive curvature. When the shoulder blades are retracted and depressed this can overcorrect the posture and cause other ailments. If the shoulder blades are in the proper position the shoulder joint should not be anteriorly rotated and the blade should be in the shape of an upside down triangle with the apex pointed slightly out. This allows the proper curvature of the thoracic spine. Your trainer should be able to help explain and show this too you so you can ensure you are putting yourself into the right posture.

Squeeze your glutes-
The gluteal muscles make up a large system of muscle on the back side of the hip joint that stabilize, extend, and protect the hip joint. For adequate stabilization during certain exercises, increased core activation and protection of the knees and lower back squeezing your butt muscles is important.

This cue can be enhancing a posterior pelvic tilt in many people. This is when the pelvis is curled under and usually accompanies a forward shearing motion at the head of the femur. The important thing when squeezing is to maintain a float inside the hip joint, contract without tucking or thrusting forward, and focus more on the internal hip stabilizers and lower part of the glute complex.

Draw in your core-
The core muscle system includes 29 different muscles that perform big and small motions of the hip, sacrum and lumbar spine. Many of the muscles protect the organs and act as a hammock for the pelvis. To contract these muscles in preparation for movement the muscles perform and upward and inward motion; primarily in smooth muscles such as the transverse abdominus. This gives the muscles a contraction that acts as a support structure around the lumbar spine to protect it when heavy weight and when impact is applied.

The problem with this cue is it is often associated with sucking in, or can be misinterpreted to include diaphragmatic musculature. This tension can travel through the body, make your breathing improper, your spine tense, and impede movement.

Although these are common cues trainers use with clients, a deeper understanding of them can give you a better understanding of proper movement and positioning. For further information contact Personal Fitness Trainer Amber Walz.

Pilates… more than a late night infomercial.

Pilates, a system of exercise created by Joseph Pilates, was originally designed to be a one-on-one personalized workout with an instructor. Nowadays, thanks to late night infomercials and books galore, Pilates seems to be thought of as just a generic “mat class”, but the true intention is to use any and all of the spring-loaded equipment created by Joe, including mat, to find and strengthen weakness in the body. Not every body needs every exercise. The work is most effective when tailored to you.

It may help to understand where Joseph Pilates came from. Joseph Pilates was a sick child, suffering from asthma and rickets, and was determined to create a healthy body for himself. So, he studied yoga, wrestling, gymnastics and acrobatics, and throughout his life put together a series of exercises using a mat. He started teaching mat conditioning, and quickly noticed how nearly impossible it was for most people, so he knew they needed something else to support their mat work.

At the same time, he was German national in an internment camp and many of the people around him were injured soldiers. For the injured soldiers he attached heavy springs to their hospital beds, so they could strengthen their bodies from bed. This design evolved into the “Cadillac” or “Trapeze Table” that current Pilates instructors use to strengthen legs, arms, chest, back and of course abdomen.

The Universal Reformer, or another “bed on springs,” offers additional resistance in order to provide more stability or to provide an added challenge to those who need it. When Pilates is taught one-on-one (the ideal way), the instructor typically incorporates work on the reformer and mat, as well as other Pilates apparatus, based on your needs. The individual session caters to the specific needs of the client, where each exercise is systematically performed and specifically chosen for you.
The focal points of his work are to increase lung capacity, to improve core strength and to use one’s mind to control body movements. Hence, the six Pilates principles evolved: control, centering, concentration, precision, breath, and flow.

The work on the mat, where your muscles create the resistance, and the apparatus, where springs create the resistance, complement each other. As you become stronger by working on the apparatus, consequently, the mat work often becomes more challenging and fulfilling. Including private Pilates sessions in your fitness regime will better allow an instructor to focus on your individual needs, and will help you to develop the strength and flexibility necessary to correctly perform and benefit fully from the mat work.

Your workout should never feel easy, but should always present new and different challenges as you work your powerhouse deeper. So, enjoy the “journey” that is Pilates. It’s well worth the hard work!

Hanging Around – Working out with gymnastic rings

I have a little secret… I love being upside down. That’s a little weird I know but it’s true. I’m mostly talking about gymnastics rings. If you’ve never tried them boy howdy are you missing out! This is a piece of workout equipment that will blow your socks off with how fun and different it is. Rings are a great way to open up your shoulders, improve your core strength, improve flexibility, improve full body tensional strength, give you better body awareness, and above all, test your body and mind in ways you’ve never done before! Plus it’s almost like playing it’s so fun!

Rings are a little intimidating, when was the last time you jumped up on the monkey bars at your kid’s school and flipped upside down? Probably never; but why not? Well, it’s a little weird to push 8 year olds out of the way so you can get inverted on some bars. But besides that, why not? I’m guessing it’s because you are scared and unsure of if you can do it and if you can then get down without making a scene. But I’m here to tell you that you most certainly can do it and you totally should!

When working with rings it’s extremely important to start with the basics and build up. You should always work with someone who knows what they are doing as spotting on the rings is of utmost importance. But if you have a good coach and a capable spotter the world is your oyster! Here is how a basic progression on rings works, this could take one hour, could take 2 sessions, or could take a month depending on your starting strength and your coordination with the rings;

  1. Pull ups, can also be done with assistance
  2. Getting upside down with your hips above your shoulders
  3. Getting upside down and then opening up into a straight line
  4. Getting upside down opening up and hinging from your hips and straightening your legs
  5. Getting upside down and dropping your legs over so that your hips are dropping behind you and you open your shoulders
  6. Getting upside down hinging from your hips so that your legs are straight and opening your shoulders

There are many more exercises to do inverted. The list above are the very basics, although, once you get on the rings they may not seem so basic. Part of the challenge of the rings (besides just getting yourself inverted) is staying in control, staying contracted through your core, and understanding tensional strength. Once you master the basics it’s all about building strength and flexibility at the same time. You will find this kind of combination no where else but in gymnastics. It’s fun, it’s different, and it’s a world you are really missing out on! If you are interested in trying out a workout on gymnastics rings contact Adriana Brown.

Just How “Full Body” is Rowing Really?

Do you ever get tired of hearing that just about every such-and-such an activity is really great because it’s “Full Body”? What does “Full Body” mean anyway?

If you consider that using multiple joints at a time in multiple planes of motion for a given exercise is probably getting close to “full body” then there really are a lot of activities that fall into that category. Golf, Horse Shoes, Tennis, Gardening, Swimming, Food Fights… you get the idea. The real question is not whether a given activity is “full body” or not, but how to do it well, with efficiency, balance, power and stability. Any body can throw food in the cafeteria, but few can do it well and even fewer can do well and cause someone else in trouble for it. And, really, that is the goal of honest food fighting.

So maybe mastering the art of full body food fighting isn’t on your top-ten list for the New Year. But I’ll bet that Rowing is! And guess what, its “full body!” It requires muscles throughout the body to be primary drivers in one moment and stabilizers in the next. It requires tremendous core stability to control the slide on the recovery and to connect all the powerful muscles of the legs, back and arms during the catch, drive and finish of the stroke.

Not only that, it also requires both anaerobic power and aerobic endurance to sustain a given workout or race. And, if done well, there is virtually no injurious stress on the knees and shoulders. The web site for Concept 2 has a great explainer of what muscles are used when and how. You can find it by clicking here and an even more detailed description by clicking here.

Seattle Athletic Club has very good Concept 2 rowing machines. Take some time to learn how to use them well and start to feel the “full body” benefit of this great sport. If you would like more information on how to use this machine in a true full body motion please contact personal fitness trainer Nathan Palmer or watch his YouTube video.

Meet Himanshu Kale – Ironman in Training!

Himanshu Kale joined Seattle Athletic Club at the end of July 2012. His goal: to complete a half Iron Man triathlon; his obstacle: he could barely swim! When we met that week for an initial complementary swim assessment, I found he had a lot of anxiety around the water. Like many with water anxieties, Himanshu did not trust that he could put is face and head in the water. However, I soon found that Himanshu had a lot more willingness to work through his fears and anxieties in order to achieve his goals. He was ready and willing to learn the fundamentals first: to start from the most elementary and foundational place: putting his face in the water practicing blowing air out of his body. Beginning with learning to breathe properly and gradually adding one technique on at a time, Himanshu has developed a technically strong freestyle stroke.

Many people who never learned to swim develop a fear and anxieties around the water simply because they’ve never been in it, making learning more challenging. Others have experienced traumatic events, leaving them with emotional scares of swimming. For all these people, learning to swim is such an act of courage. When they commit to this skill, however, the reward is a life changing shift in their entire perspective of their place in the world. Himanshu took on this challenge.

In November he ran his first half marathon. In December he started working out in my Swim Conditioning class and soon joined TN Multi Sports! There he is able to work on his conditioning and prepare for his first triathlons.

Now, when Himanshu and I meet, we focus on continuing to improve his technique, learn the other strokes and turns, and continue to work through any lingering fears that come up as we introduce new dimensions to his swimming repertoire.

Himanshu’s success is remarkable especially in such a relatively short period of time. I am honored to work with him and look forward to watching him reach his ultimate goal of completing a half Iron Man in June 2012.

Working with Himanshu has been an honor, making me especially proud.

Biking in Seattle

Biking outdoors and cycling in doors is a method of exercise used by many, especially in the greater Seattle area. Seattle has great trails that are used by bikers daily. One well known trail is the Burke-Gilman Trail, which begins in Ballard and ends in Kenmore. This is about a 14 mile ride with two paved trails that take you along some gorgeous views. The second commonly used trail is the Arboretum, which leads through the Arboretum down to Seward Park or up toward the Burke-Gilman trail. It can be heavily populated with traffic, but has wonderful scenery and plenty of shade. If you are new to the Seattle area or want to try something different, Seattle Heritage Bicycle Tours offer half-day or full day tours on many different routes around Seattle.

Biking Rules in Seattle:

  • Always wear a helmet, it’s the Law.
  • Remember to use your hand signals.

Right Turn Signal

Left Turn Signal

Stop Signal

  • If your riding on the street, you must follow all the rules of a car
  • Ride in bike lanes when available to you
  • Bicycles operating at night must have a white light in front and a red reflector in back

Bike Stores in the Seattle area:
Gregg’s Cycle (Green Lake)
Montlake Bike Shop (Seattle)
Velo Bike Shop (Seattle)

Bicycle Comparisons:

Road Bike: Suitable for triathlon participants and club cycling members. Best for- Pavement.
Generally a lighter weight than mountain bikes and is good for fitness, commuting long distances, events, and races. Some types are built specially for speed and racing with an aerodynamic riding position and others are made in an upright riding position.

Cruiser: Suitable for long leisurely rides. Best for- Flat roads, fun and comfort. Designed for flatter roads because these bicycles are designed with single speed. These bikes have balloon tires and are in an upright position. They are also known as beach cruisers because they are mostly used along the beach in nice weather.

Mountain Bike: Suitable for trail riding through dirt or rocky roads. Best for – Dirt, rocky trails, and gravel roads. Designed with shock absorbing features so that they can withstand dirt, rocks, sticks, roots, and bumps. Lower gears than road bikes so that they can handle steeper terrain. Mountain bikes tend to be less efficient on pavement because of their smaller diameter wheels.

Bike Tips:
Pedaling – It is normal to hop on a bike and want to only push down while you are pedaling. To be able to make you’re pedaling more efficient, you need to be pulling up as well. When your pedal gets to about 3 o’ clock on the pedal stroke, you want to pull back like you are wiping dirt off the bottom of your shoe.

Seat Position – Your seat should be positioned so that your leg is in proper line with the pedal, or in other words; KOPS/TTOPA. These abbreviations stand for Knee Over Pedal Spinal or Tibial Tuberosity (the bump right below the patella) Over Pedal Axle.

Handle Bars – The positioning of your handle bars should be between 180 degrees and 175 degrees. This is parallel with the ground below or slightly titled upward.