Monday, December 14, 2009

Easing the Pressures…

As December ends and January begins I always like to do a short review of the last year and how it affects our family and community as we move forward into the next. We have had a challenging year full of unexpected obstacles, problems, concerns, all of which have made us pause often and reflect on the total picture. It has also made me realize it is an important time to single out all of the blessings that may have gone unrecognized during the focus on struggles.
This brings me to two things I want to bring up which may or may not be issues for you but may affect you through others: control and perfection. Both of these pursuits can be toxic to life happiness. I often find myself trying to anticipate any possible thing that can go wrong and then spend countless hours finding the available avenues to control the outcome before it happens. I am noticing that this comes in a package with an unyielding amount of dread and worry and the absence of the joy of living in the moment. We are constantly bombarded with the disasters that can befall us so it’s difficult not to live in a semi-constant state of potential panic. Maybe it is just a sign of the times and will pass but I for one have realized my “control” is often wasted effort that ends up only driving me down.
Control and perfection seem to be evil sisters. What is it that drives us to seek perfection in ourselves and in others (sometimes more of one than the other) and honestly who gets to decide how it is defined? How far do you go to be the perfect daughter/son, the perfect wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend, the perfect parent, the perfect sister/brother, the perfect boss, the perfect employee, the perfect friend...the list is endless. Being perfect is such a slippery slope, and ever changing as years come and go. It can become such an obsession that it takes over every aspect of your happiness and contentment. Whether this drive to perfection manifests itself in appearance, behavior or expectations it is always healthy to step back and allow yourself to be forgiving to yourself and others. Being judgmental serves no great purpose and isn’t a positive catalyst for anyone. I’m not saying don’t care, I’m just saying be happy in your skin, make the necessary changes that serve the larger purpose and live life by your own realistic high standards. This positive energy will affect all those around you.
This Christmas won’t be perfect, neither will the New Year…our gyms will never be perfect. Communication may not be perfect. Response may not be perfect. But you can count on this: we do listen and will always try to make constant improvements. All of our energies go towards this business, our communities and making the gyms the place you want to be to see friends and work on being a healthier you. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year 2010!!


Thursday, November 12, 2009

Standing Tall and Moving Large

There’s one part of the ideal workout program that typically gets the short end of the stick, or is nonexistent, and that is stretching. I think all of us have been guilty of finishing a great cardio or strength training session and then simply rushing off to the rest of our day. The very least we should do after every workout is stretch the muscles we targeted in that workout. In group classes instructors are trained to do this effectively even in a short window of time. Unfortunately we often see a good percentage of members leave immediately after the “work”. We know how short “me” time is and it’s hard to fit everything in but if you leave you should plan on doing your own stretching series. If by chance you don’t see flexibility as too important you will eventually pay for the oversight. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind as you consider putting some focus on this area this month.
The most common type of stretching we do is assisted or passive stretching. This is when you use some sort of outside assistance to achieve the stretch, which might be your hand, a strap, your body weight, gravity, maybe even another person. One concern with this is it is easy to apply too much force and cause injury so you must always be aware of the amount of tension being applied and how your body is responding.
Unassisted stretching is when you contract one side of the body in order to stretch the opposite muscle group. You probably do this after working on the computer when you contract your upper back muscles to sit straight, which in turns stretches, the muscles of the chest, front shoulders and abs. This type isn’t as popular since you can’t achieve as much force in the stretch but the great thing is you can actually make gains in your strength at the same time you stretch.
Another concept to keep in mind is the difference between static and dynamic stretching. Static stretching requires holding a position to allow the muscle time to respond and lengthen. We typically recommend holding a stretch for 10 to 30 seconds for best results. Dynamic stretching happens when you move through a range of motion at a joint with control and purpose. This method has fantastic performance benefits since it often happens automatically in sports. As fitness trainers we still discourage the use of ballistic or bouncing stretches because of the associated risks. It may seem like a faster more energetic method but it isn’t worth it in the long run.
Stretching can reduce the tension in the muscles, which can actually help you build strength and endurance and keep the joints mobile and lubricated. It is important to balance your stretch sequence from front to back, right to left, and include some rotational movement. Moving through multiple plane positions will be ideal in finding tightness and imbalance. So go for variety and mix it up. Try doing a stretch type, for instance hamstring stretch, in different positions: on back, kneeling, sitting and standing. Each position will offer different support and help you learn how to stabilize the stretching joint and other parts of the body. Stretching for balanced flexibility, top to bottom, will become a huge benefit and perfect addition to your training program. See you on the mats!!


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tis the season for... resistance training :)

Now that the days are getting shorter, colder, damper it’s a bit harder to stay motivated to be physically active. The holidays are looming and the carefree, flip-flop moments of summer are becoming a distant memory. I challenge you to keep as active now as you were all spring and summer by looking for opportunities to make the right choices.
One important thing to remember is to remain strong. Maintaining or increasing your percentage of lean body mass will help you become a more efficient, energy producing machine. There are so many varied opportunities at the gym to do this. By including some kind external resistance training you’ll feel immediate results. If group ex is your passion try to include some of our classes that use weights, barbells or elastic resistance (a few examples: Body Pump, Cut, Fit, B-360). Gravity™ is a unique resistance program I encourage everyone to try. By combining a cable and pulley system, with an incline-adjustable free-motion glideboard the options for gains are endless. Since it is a ½ hour workout of high intensity you really leave with a feeling of total body accomplishment.

I encourage you this fall to look for easy and functional ways to stay more active in general. Don’t always look for the closest parking space unless you need it for a reason. Walk an extra block to your destination, or run when it is raining. Use the stairs rather than the elevator or escalator whenever you can. Begin to increase your speed, or take two steps at once. Take the dog out often, the more miserable it is outside the faster you walk…just don’t decrease the time. Outdoor yard work is a boot camp of fitness opportunities. Go out and rake the leaves, it’s a never-ending job that gets the whole body involved including the core. Find ways to engage your family since they typically need the activity also. Inside, deep clean the house. Move the furniture and get underneath with your rags or sweepers. Clean out storerooms and closets. Vacuum and dust with a vengeance. Anyone who has ever cleaned houses or buildings for a living knows what a sweat producing workout this is…and what a feeling of joy when it is your own. Not only have you made your home beautiful, but also you’ve probably reduced allergens, killed those hidden germs and best of all reduced your stress. One less thing on your list to do!
Chip away everyone. Get on your feet whenever you can, make good choices one at a time. They do add up!!


Monday, September 14, 2009

How healthy are you?

Do any of you find that you are in a rut with your habits, your diet, your fitness or simply negative thoughts regarding the ability to make changes? Often times these are all so intertwined we can’t separate them enough to know how to begin. Take a moment and check out the new program we are introducing through ProRobics from onvo. It is all about whole body health and a plan to “Get Lean Get Healthy”. We are offering informational sessions this week at both gyms so please try to make one and see if this is something that might help you reach the goals you have set for yourself. I had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Mark Adams early this summer to hear more about his philosophy and get a feeling for the type of person he is beyond the title. I was impressed with his message, his personal history and lifestyle, and his ability to communicate his passion for helping people get healthier.
I know when I feel overwhelmed and stressed I make bad decisions and often those decisions become patterns I want to break. That is where I personally run into mind-based roadblocks since the excuses typically tackle my desire to make change. Look at this opportunity with onvo as a “kick start” to a new you, with the added benefit of other members taking the challenge along with you. A support system will be in place and onvo will be along side to encourage you throughout.
ProRobics is not in a partnership with onvo and makes no profits on your participation. This just seemed like a perfect opportunity to bring something directly to you that is convenient, sound, and quite possibly the help you need to get on the right track this fall as the weather begins to change.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Wide World of Fitness

I just recently returned from the IDEA World Fitness Convention, this year held in Anaheim. I have been to this conference in the capacity of presenter or attendee since 1985 and have been fortunate to witness the global evolution of fitness first hand. What first began as a convention featuring primarily high-impact aerobics has now become a yearly destination for instructors, personal trainers, business owners, managers, equipment suppliers who specialize in multiple formats/systems, using unlimited equipment or none at all. Over 4000 of us come together from all corners of the globe with the same purpose in mind, to be inspired, to learn what’s new and to witness the exciting ever-changing industry of fitness and wellness. Here’s a sample of some of the movement based classes on the schedule this year: “Beach Olympics”, “Hot Hula”, “Partner Tubing”, “Drums, Dance and Rhythm”, “Fuego!”, “Three Canadians and a Step”, “Indo-Row”, “Kranking®”, “Boot Camp Boogie”, “Beam-lates™”, “Aqua Zumba®”…this is only a sample of the 300+ sessions. This year marked the 20th anniversary of The Step with a celebration workout sponsored by Reebok. Hard to believe we have been stepping this long. Does anyone remember the hand-made wooden boxes we started with at Queen Anne (8”, 10”, 12” high) which we eventually sold as plantar boxes when we were finally able to get the real thing?? ProRobics has been a creative, expressive and enthusiastic part of this fitness revolution right from the beginning!

Along with all the workouts there were informational sessions and lectures that ran the spectrum from A to Z covering new information about: Aging and Exercise, Youth Fitness, Stress and Wellness and multiple sessions on Gym Programming, Personal Training, Club Management, Lifestyle Coaching, Pregnancy/Menopause Issues, and Post Op Care. You name it and it was there. The biggest problem at these conferences is deciding which of the 40 sessions offered in each time block you want to attend. You are on the run from 7am to 6:30pm. These are exhausting days filled with workouts and lectures but even more enjoyable is the time spent with old and new friends worldwide.
One of the events not to miss is the Welcome Celebration for all attendees. It’s a dance-off, food fest and cocktail party. There is no dance party like the kind a couple thousand fitness instructors/trainers create with a hot LA DJ. It’s a showcase of vibrant, movement-addicted type A personalities—all want to lead, be heard and be noticed. It’s hilarious and oh so fun.

Just so you know this event isn’t only for those in the business. Fitness fans from all over come and spend four days overdosing on workouts with some of the best instructors and speakers in the world. So next summer let me know if this is something you would like to do and I will make sure you get the info. Many of your favorite instructors here at the gym attend as often as they can. It’s an amazing celebration and reminder of what a great gift the BODY is to all of us!


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Body at Rest Will Remain at Rest Unless Acted Upon by a Force…

This past month I’ve been inspired once again by a great series on TV “So You Think You Can Dance”. It’s a show I rarely miss since it was introduced a couple of years ago.
I often mention SYTYCD to my HiLo classes because it is the finest demonstration of the diversity of dance and athletic styles as well as a showcase for the amount of work that goes into each performance. You cannot watch this program without being moved by the dancers and the choreographers. It truly showcases the finest of both and the competition is fierce.

The large and growing group of young dancers that audition and progress in the competition have to do solo, couple and group performances and also be ready and willing to learn complex, physically challenging dance choreography in short time frames…and often the dance style is totally different from their own specialty. You will see the best examples of hip-hop, street, ballroom, lyrical, contemporary, Broadway…even bollywood and ballet. It is an amazing ride for the dancers and the absolute best entertainment for those who admire both athletic and creative ability. The level of artistry, risk-taking, confidence and then ultimate grace under pressure and criticism is beyond anything I ever get to witness.

I bring this up because everything you see can be applied to class, or any of your workouts. It is all about performance quality in everything you do. In more dance-oriented classes the workout is so much more than putting the foot or the arm in the appropriate place. You have to feel it from the deepest part of your body and then extend that expression beyond your limbs. The lift you feel when you jump, when you use every muscle from your toes, up your body to the top of your head and then reaching into your fingertips…this is what you should strive for. When you come down from a jump you have to work the same way to decelerate and cushion the weight of the body. It is like a coiled spring where every part of the movement is critical to the execution. There shouldn’t ever be a part of your body that isn’t in a conscious position. Even a static “hold” has the life of upcoming potential power. With practice and confidence you begin to see and feel the full-picture of dance and how even the position of the head can affect the look and feel of everything below. We hear the term mind-body so often as it applies to slower paced classes but it should be a priority in all classes with even a greater emphasis the faster the beat. When the momentum of speed becomes a factor the mind-body connect has to be in full force. The concept of mind-full movement should be applied to all your physical activities whether dance, sports or simply that walk around the block. Look beyond what you see as an external placement and get to that point where you feel it through every stabilizing or movement-generating muscle in the body.

I salute the incredible dancers on this show. They are mature beyond their years and will be able to tackle anything in life with this determination. In our own way we are doing the exact thing at the gym.


Monday, June 1, 2009

Facing our Fears

For many years I’ve been in the position of instructor/teacher. There’s obvious power in this as I get to call the shots, decide on process, and it is easy to stay in a comfort zone of familiar. Even when developing or learning new workout formats, mastering new equipment or dance skills there is still a long-practiced base of knowledge and experience that cushions the newness. The confidence level may get shaken, but not broken.
Recently I’ve taken that leap to learn the sport of tennis and after 50 this is not necessarily an easy endeavor. The trigger that sent me on this quest was an invitation to a weekend tennis camp a couple of years ago with friends who were all players, great players. At that point, my level of tennis was to “be present”, run for it and simply hit the ball over the net which I soon learned was way over simplified. In a clinic or camp it is drills, repetition, focus and mastering technique. I was so frustrated and humiliated in not being able to understand the instructions on drills or the corrections when given…I truly needed the 101 on how to hold a racket but that wasn’t part of the rotation. My internal conflicts were magnified by the external factors of everyone else knowing exactly what to do and doing it well. I felt like the leak in the tire slowing down everyone’s perfect day. I have never come so close to walking away, quitting. Pool time, alone, with no pressure sounded safe and inviting.
Then, something clicked. From my studies in college and long career experience I know a great deal about learning differences and I know how MY brain/body connection works best. I learn segmental from one part of the body to the next, and one piece of the puzzle at a time. I need to know exact positioning. Tell me where to plant my feet, where my shoulders should be facing, where I should be looking. I need to understand the physics behind how the racket face should hit the ball, where the racket is relative to the body, where body weight is on impact, what the position or placement is on finish, how to develop the skill and confidence to do that elusive “follow through”. I need to know when I actually do it right since I am unfamiliar with the feel of right or wrong. The more information the better, but a big BUT…I need to hear things more than once, and even when I do hear it, it takes time and repetition to actually get my body to perform. Once I started to gain a few basic skills it has become easier to broaden my focus to more fine-tuning, becoming more aggressive and learning how to best use the strength, endurance and agility that I’ve developed through fitness training. Game strategy and win shots now seem possible. The bottom line is time, patience and practice. I’ve been trained to learn as a dancer learns. This will be a lifetime process, I only wish I had started it a long time ago.

I’ve played my first USTA doubles matches this past month and last week had my first ever singles match. No partner to back me up…the fear was like a bubble, but I knew I HAD to do it, challenge myself to put everything in place and learn from the mistakes. Win or lose, I won by doing it.

Does any of this sound familiar to those of you that have ventured into the gym or into classes as a complete novice?? I still believe if it is too easy the rewards aren’t as sweet. So my message this month….take that step to tackle something completely new. Face it, falter, learn, and achieve. Nothing like it in life…at any time.


Friday, April 10, 2009

Party on!

Spring is the perfect time for renewal, awakening…and party! We have some great new programs coming to both gyms that I think you will all enjoy adding to your repertoire of classes that you take each month. And for those of you that still haven’t ventured into the main studio NOW is the time. This month we have both Zumba® and Hip Hop being added to the schedule.

You may have heard of Zumba® since it gets quite a bit of press and lots of exposure at fitness conferences. Two new talented instructors will inspire you with Latin rhythms, lead you smoothly through easy-to-follow moves and get those hips, shoulders and core working up a sweat. This is a fitness-dance party like no other and is the workout that will make you love aerobics for the first time…or all over again. Created by a fitness celebrity in Columbia it has since taken the world by storm. ProRobics will now join in the fun…guaranteed to make you want to move.

For the ultimate dance challenge we have a new Hip Hop instructor joining our teaching team. This will be an authentic dance class, the real deal where you can master the full- body, bass driven workout that is an art form in its own right. There isn’t a part of the body that won’t be challenged but the good news is the breakdown so that you learn moves slow, then take it up to the beat. Hip Hop is a fantastic way to learn the intricacies of contemporary dance, expression and attitude. It’s young, it’s hip…and only requires a body that can go places while the mind enjoys the journey of learning.

So spread the word to all your friends! Along with the amazing classes we already have on the schedule ProRobics will be the place to hang, and get fit, this spring and summer!


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Can I rent wrist guards?.... What about knee pads?

As a kid I was a skateboarder; fearless, faithful and fanatic. I was either riding that or my banana seat bike with the high handlebars. Speed, skills and maneuvering were a passion.

Many, many, many years later….
I’m riding the chair lift again, skis on, watching the snowboarders and thinking I sooo want to do that, I think I can do that…. yesterday I did.
Oww. I’m sitting here, no actually propped to one side, and can hardly move my arms. There isn’t a muscle from my ankles up to my forehead that isn’t in stress. There is something about repetitive falling, pushing up, then falling the other way all within seconds that takes it toll on the body. I lasted 2 ½ hours nonstop, spending a good deal of that time on my knees and hands (slam landings), on my back (thanks for the helmet) or just lying face down in the packed snow as the tots wiz by. I love studying physics, and forces and how the body reacts to stress and this was the ultimate demonstration. When you fall, especially with the element of speed and momentum you automatically brace for impact. Then those very muscles are forced into a stretch while contracting…sound familiar? We talk about eccentric (lengthening) contraction and it’s affect on muscle soreness in workout situations but OMG I am a walking science experiment! I feel like I’ve had a car accident that just kept repeating itself from different directions. I had heard many first hand accounts of tailbone and wrist injury…. no one told me about the knees but I guess I should have figured that one out on my own. My nephew suggested I put a pillow in my pants, I wish I had known to wear my daughters volleyball kneepads. Since the last thing I wanted was an injured tailbone (experienced that) I tended to favor falling forward if given a choice (most times you don’t have one). I asked about wrist guards when renting the board/boots and he said “not recommended” since the brace would just cause the stress to go up the arm and you then risk upper arm or shoulder injury. It just kept sounding better.

You have to understand that walking with a snowboard attached to one foot, sideways (severe inward rotation, not a retired ballet dancers’ favored position) is actually a dragging limp as you learn how to propel forward. This is a trip in itself. Then it’s off to the “magic carpet” that lovely strip of moving walkway that carries you up the “hill”. Getting on and off that without falling so they have to stop it (for everyone!) was the first challenge. Taking in the view on the way up I couldn’t help but think this looks easy, I can do this. We’re talking minor incline on this slope here but once on the top, strapped in it looks like a black diamond. And then you begin to move…

My brother, love him, was the designated instructor for my daughter and I. Only problem is he had two of his kids with him whom of course get first right of attention. Their patience for our learning curve didn’t last as long as we needed. My daughter goes one way, I go another…neither can stop. Brother needs to get fries for the youngest. I am alone on my face. My motherly instinct says I should go check on my daughter but I’m only facing one direction and now in the trees. Backward roll flip legs over, now heading the other way but I have no clue how to “drive” to my daughter, or stop when I get there. All the great tips my brother gave me make total sense but for some reason either my application is incorrect, or the irrational fear that wants me to hug the mountain requires another sacrifice slam down. Agghh…

Now the great news is you learn, you discover, you adapt and you win. Adult training is not easy…that is why we stay with what is safe, comfortable and affirming. Bottom line is you want to QUIT!! That first hour of learning, especially when it is something exceptionally challenging and requires skills you don’t have yet can be a true test of self. Do you have it in you to keep trying? Why say to others “don’t give up you can do it” if we can’t put ourselves on the line and stick with it…when things seem the most impossible.

Yes, I hurt today. But I feel so good. I am not fragile and I feared in this decade of life I would be. Or that it was just too late to learn something so physical…

The gym is here to enhance your life. We not only want ProRobics to take you to your next workout, let your workouts take you to your next life goal. If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines silently wanting to try something that you believe you can do…don’t wait. Life is short. Find out a way to work with any real limitations you might have and use the physical, mental abilities you have going for you now. Make the most of what your body lets you do. (And of course with doctor’s approval…)

I, for one, will be on that magic carpet again…as soon as I can move.


Friday, January 9, 2009

What is BEAM™?

Happy New Year and I hope yours is off to a great start! This is a perfect time of year to look at the Balance within your life. We have a new class at ProRobics that is a wonderful opportunity to help put your body and mind “in line”. It’s impossible to participate in this workout without being totally aware of what is going on with your body since your feet, or supporting body part, is working on limited space. Reaction to the BEAM™ workout has been spectacular because it brings physical responses that you can’t always anticipate…you have to react immediately.

It is not a gymnastics workout, not a choreographed or complicated routine, not a fast-paced cardio workout.... it is simple, effective, quality movement and exercise at it’s best. Many of us have unknowingly allowed our feet to become lazy and atrophied in many cases from the advancement and technology of athletic shoes and effectiveness of orthodics. How many of the 26 bones, 33 joints and over 100 muscles in the foot are you actually challenging in your existing exercise routine? With the BEAM™ barefoot workout you will discover the weaknesses of your feet and ankles, the instability or imbalances in your hips, or your lack of constant core integration and balanced spine. We will challenge your central nervous system, your inner ear, and all your proprioceptive abilities that allow you to know where your body is in space.

The class is typically a combination of standing movement using the length of the beam, along with static balance challenges both of which may incorporate taking your eyes off of your forward focus. Although we are only elevated 2 inches it is most challenging to imagine you are several feet off the floor. This way you make all efforts not to “fall” off. Your brain sends the message to a large army of muscles to keep you upright. You’ll notice it immediately in your feet, ankles and legs especially. This work is followed by creative use of the cushioned beam for body strengthening, toning, and flexibility in all positions. The beauty is as instructors we can incorporate many of the best training techniques we already use in other class formats including methods of pilates, yoga and sports training.

You will see how incorporating a BEAM™ workout into your routine will affect every aspect of your daily life, including your other workouts and sports. Your posture will improve, your reaction to off-balance situations will be more effective; you’ll see you have a more centered approach while doing the sports you love. For me, skiing and tennis were obvious recipients of these benefits. If I suddenly end up on one ski going downhill it’s not as big of a problem as it once was. I can typically get back on center with fast reaction, quick assessment of both body and ground… and continue on both skiis with only a racing heart. In tennis, strokes and serving all come from a deeper place with more awareness as to where my feet are, how I’m using them, and where my body and center of gravity is for the most power and control. Both sports are a constant source of challenge, learning and growth for me.

There isn’t an area of your life that won’t benefit from taking the time to slow down and appreciate the beautiful connection of your entire body from the ground up. Look at the BEAM™ workout as a way to get you focused on yourself on a deeper level. Allow your mind to embrace the successes and rise to the challenges. Notice the things you can do rather than the things you feel you can’t. Who knew a simple Beam could do so much?

B.E.A.M. Balance Engage Align Move

Classes on now, with more to come…
Laurelhurst: Wednesdays 10:45am with Kari and Thursdays Noon with Martha
Queen Anne: Wednesdays 7:45pm with Jana