Magazine Article

Full-Service Fitness

January 17th, 2012

By Darrick Meneken
Managing Editor, WAC Magazine

WAC Mag Cover January 2012When Linda Clark felt a sharp pain in her hip, she considered telling her doctor. And she probably would have, eventually. But before she had the chance, she mentioned it to WAC Personal Trainer Sara Moser.

“It was nagging me for several months,” Linda recalls. “I finally mentioned it to Sara, and she suggested I go to the Wellness Center.”

Despite her regular routine in the Coed Fitness Center, Linda had never been inside the Wellness Center, mere steps from where she stretched and lifted her way through morning workouts with Sara.

Shortly after telling Sara about her hip, Linda had an appointment with Physical Therapist Lisa Flexner, who diagnosed recurring hip bursitis. She assigned Linda a series of stretching exercises and, with Linda’s permission, began to work closely with Sara.

“Physical therapy is all about looking at the bio-mechanics of how nerves, muscles and bones interact,” Lisa explains. “We assess and address factors that are limiting clients from optimal movement patterns.”

If that sounds scientific to you, you’re right.

“The WAC isn’t just the most historic athletic club in Seattle, it’s also the most cutting-edge,” says Vice President Athletics Wayne Milner. “Science is telling us a lot about how the body works, about its interconnectedness, and we’re incorporating that into our approach in the gym and throughout the Club.”

Cycling Fusion, Nike SPARQ training and RIP-TRX, to name only a few options, offer a window into some of the Club’s industry-leading classes. Each takes a manifold approach to improving fitness performance.

Promoting interconnectedness, meanwhile, means facilitating cooperation between physical therapists and personal trainers, offering nutritional counseling in conjunction with exercise routines, and working toward the mental as well as the physical benefits of active lifestyles. Moreover, it means understanding the individual needs and goals of the amateur athlete—including you.

We’re all athletes

“If you’re breathing and moving around, you’re an athlete,” says Stuart Eivers, head of the MTI Physical Therapy clinic located in the WAC Wellness Center.

During a break between patients, Stuart talks passionately about how hip pain can relate to back pain or foot issues or both. The word biomechanics comes up more than once.

“If a client was working out at the Club before an injury, we encourage them to get back to it as quickly as possible,” Stuart says. “The thing I like to convey to people is never to concede. I hate to see people concede activity.”

Returning to the gym after an injury can take weeks. Tapping modern knowledge about how the body works can drastically reduce recovery time. Moreover, determining your strengths and weaknesses upfront and following a trainer’s advice can reduce your risk of injury.

“What we’re doing here is testing movement patterns,” says Personal Trainer Mona Caravetta. It’s a Tuesday morning just before noon, and she’s working with member Karen Bell, a baby boomer whose thin figure could be confused with that of a young dancer.

While Karen holds a plastic rod above her head and completes a series of squats, Mona watches each move carefully. She’s looking for weak links in Karen’s movement patterns. As she leads Karen through the seven segments of a Functional Movement Screen, Mona explains how poor postural habits and repetitive stress can cause multiple mobility issues.

“These tests will allow some of those faulty movement patterns to stand out,” she says. “From there, we’ll suggest some movements she can do to correct those patterns.”

Karen scores two out of three points on almost all segments of the test, including some “strong twos.” Her rotational and trunk stability are admirable, and Mona offers some ideas for how they could improve even further.

“These tests allow us to establish a baseline,” Mona says. “From there, we can track progress and watch people improve over time.”

By following prescribed exercise plans and working on their mechanics, members can restore their natural body movements and improve their quality of life.

“An optimized training strategy should leave the one-size-fits-all mentality behind and emphasize the unique needs and goals of the individual,” says Jordan Chun, a doctor of sports medicine and the head team physician for the Seattle Storm. “It should be well-rounded and engage the core elements of physical training—cardiovascular, strength and balance—as well as the mental and nutritional aspects.”

Fueling the body

Enter WAC Nutritionist Shana Hopkins. Whether members want to lose weight or improve their performance in endurance events, Shana can help.

“Fueling the body properly is critical,” she says from her office on the fourth floor. On a corner shelf, a small library on nutrition stands neatly arranged.

“Carbohydrates are the fuel of choice for long endurance events,” Shana explains. “When the body requires a quick source of energy, it turns to carbs.

“The body stores carbs as glycogen in the liver and muscles,” Shana continues. “During periods of exercise, it taps that fuel.”

The perfect time to pack away glycogen occurs right after an endurance event or long workout, she says. Her insights can prove critical to people looking to shave minutes from their personal-best performance, no matter the sport.

“This kind of holistic approach, incorporating the latest science, exemplifies our Club,” says Wayne. “We’re always looking at new developments and working to figure out what’s hype and what brings proven advantages.”

But it’s not all about physical fitness.

“Everything we do at the WAC should enhance your life experience and well-being, physically and mentally,” says Wellness Manager Tamela Thomas. “But you have to be in the moment. It’s all about being present.”

For many WAC members, yoga classes offer the perfect opportunity to focus inwardly. Past mind-fitness programs have provided similar occasion, and WAC team members have attended seminars in mind-body awareness.

When the Club expanded its philosophy to include mental fitness training in its culture and offerings, “it set itself apart from most other city clubs around the globe,” says Joel Levy, a Seattle- and Hawaii-based pioneer in mind science who has spoken internationally on the subject along with his wife, Michelle.

“The WAC stands out to us as an inspiring innovator in its field,” Joel says.

Mental fitness can determine competitive success.

“The mind alone can mean the difference between winning and losing,” says Lindsey Wilson, a three-time all-conference women’s basketball player at Iowa State University who now helps athletes unlock physical performance through mental training. Lindsey was featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary The Heart of the Game and will lead a WAC seminar on overcoming mental barriers in early February.

“The mind can take you to new levels, or it can sabotage you,” she says.

For Linda Clark, whose hip bursitis has been improving steadily, beating the mental challenge comes with ongoing support from her husband, Chris, and regular meetings with her trainer. “I’ve tried [working out] on my own at home,” Linda says. “The help and the feedback I get here have made a huge difference.”