How many times have you heard a coach at Urban Athlete say, “Inhale down, exhale up”?
Probably too many times to count…
But, why do they say it?
We all know that breathing is important! Our lungs play a critical role in our circulatory system. They release carbon dioxide, or waste from our muscles, into the atmosphere and in turn bring oxygen into our system, specifically into our bloodstream.
Our blood transports this oxygen to our working muscles and then picks up its waste products to be released from the body.
It is a super important system that allows our muscles to continue working.
So, why inhale down, exhale up? Why not exhale down, inhale up?
Coaches say, “Inhale down, exhale up” during exercises where at one point the movement is working with gravity, and at another point the movement is working against gravity.
Here are two key terms:
Eccentric – muscles are lengthing, working with gravity
Concentric – muscles are shortening, working against gravity
Think about the Romanian Deadlift (RDL), for example. At the start of the movement, you hinge at the hips with a flat back, letting gravity take the weight towards the floor. This is when “inhale down” applies, because this is the eccentric part of the movement. Next, you come out of the hip hinge – full hip extension. You are working against gravity, as your hamstrings and glutes tighten to bring you back to upright. This is “exhale up.”
We breathe in during the eccentric phase, in order to prepare our muscles for the subsequent contraction. During the contraction, or concentric phase, we exhale all of the waste products that our body accumulated during the lift.
Are you super aware of your breathing right now? I know I am!
Ever walk into a gym and think, “Whoa, what’s going on in here?”
You keep thinking, “How am I supposed to do all of this, when my back hurt just getting out of bed this morning…”
You’re a little stressed from the morning you’ve had and now you’re at the gym where it’s supposed to be fun, right? But now it’s not looking all that fun, and the idea of trying to work out like everything is okay seems pretty miserable.
So instead of walking-out, you speak-up. You need an alternative. You want to be in the gym with your friends, but the pressure to complete a workout, that your body is telling you is too much, can no longer be ignored.
Cue Restorative UA!
At the start of 2020, we launched Restorative UA, a low impact workout designed to keep people, who needed an alternative, coming into the gym. Not necessarily easier, but definitely different. In this way, Restorative UA helps to bridge the gap between physical therapy and functional fitness, or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
Let’s answer a few questions you may have:
- Is this for me, if I haven’t done physical therapy? We say physical therapy, but insert any word to describe what has kept you from the gym or your recent health and wellness goals. This could be nagging aches or difficulty with everyday tasks, such as standing or picking-up little ones.
- What is functional fitness? Functional fitness encompasses all of the movements that we do in the gym that you also see in everyday life. For example, hip hinging in Restorative UA is bending over to get something out of the fridge at home.
- What is a low impact workout? Exercise is a stressor on the body – an external stimulus that causes the body to adapt, or make physiological changes. A low impact workout is designed to put less stress on the body, allowing it greater time to make adjustments.
- What can I expect from a Restorative UA workout? Every Monday and Wednesday from 11AM-12PM, you can expect gentle strength training, mobility, flexibility, and balance exercises.
Have a few questions or want to try some FREE classes? Simply call us at 215-248-2130 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org !
Kids have always had an affinity for Urban Athlete. Maybe it’s the stability balls, ropes, and rings that cause their eyes to light-up. Or maybe it’s the open layout that adds to the charm – space where any game or obstacle course can be imagined.
At the start of the year, we launched a program that allows youth to experience this excitement in a structured class.
The purpose of our STARS program for ages 14-18 is athletic development. STARS stands for Strong, Team focused, Agile, Resilient, and Successful – characteristics of a well-rounded athlete who is ready to take on the season. To accomplish this, we’ll use speed and agility exercises, along with variations of our functional movements – squat, hip hinge, shoulder push and pull. This class is offered:
- Mondays & Wednesdays from 4-5PM
We designed our Young STARS program after learning that homeschool and cyber school students needed a fun, social space to fulfill physical education and activity requirements. In preparation to one day join our STARS class, ages 8-13 will have fun with game based play that incorporates foundational, bodyweight movements. This class is offered:
- Mondays & Wednesdays from 1-2:30PM
During the final two weeks of February, both of these classes are FREE! Come get a taste of what it means to be a member of Urban Athlete and meet some new friends along the way!
To register for the STARS program, simply call us at 215-248-2130 or send an email to email@example.com !
We’ve started our last few blog posts by talking about rest. Why do we rest? Simply put – we rest because we’re tired and crave more energy. In our bodies, energy has a name – adenosine triphosphate (ATP)! We’re going to spend this blog post briefly discussing where the ATP comes from for the specific exercises that we do while at the gym.
If you recall from last week, actin and myosin are the smallest parts of our muscle, but arguably the most important. In order to contract our muscle (think hamstrings in UA’s hip hinge movements), these fibers slide past one another, but they cannot do so without ATP, or energy. They also cannot relax, or return to normal, without ATP.
ATP is incredibly necessary!
Here is a brief overview of the three systems in our bodies that provide us with ATP. As we discuss them, keep in mind that all three systems are at work at the start of any exercise, it’s just a matter of how long each system stays working, or “drops-off,” if you will.
ATP-PC (Phosphocreatine) System
This system is the most short-lived. It supplies ATP for only about 10 seconds, so it is frequently seen in explosive movements, such as a sprint or 1RM of a squat, bench, or deadlift. ATP is formed by the energy collected from breaking down phosphocreatine.
This system is our main source of energy from that 10 second mark to a few minutes. Exercises that rely on the glycolytic system are still high-intensity but last longer than a sprint or 1RM. Glycolysis means the breakdown of glycogen – our storage form of glucose in our liver. Each time this system runs, we have a net gain of 2 ATP.
We use this energy system for sustained, low-intensity exercise that lasts longer than a few minutes. This is the energy system at play when we think of endurance – such as long sessions on the rower or bike. This system generates the most ATP – 36, but at a much slower rate than the other two systems. Unlike the glycolytic system that can only use carbohydrates, the oxidative system can also use fats at the start of the reaction.
In conclusion, ATP goes hand in hand with our nutrition. It is also the fuel that our bodies operate on, and it is the same energy that allows us to complete a workout or grab a cup of coffee.
In last week’s blog post, we talked about the intentionality of rest in workouts and everyday life. This week we’ll talk about muscle contraction and the reason why we rest!
Anatomy and Physiology just happened to be my favorite class!
Let’s start from the beginning. The parts of your muscle that actually do the contracting (or shortening) are buried deep within your muscle. Try to think of the following as nested within one another.
From largest to smallest:
- Myofibril (Actin & Myosin: the parts of your muscle that contract)
Actin and myosin are two strands that slide past one another, in order to shorten your muscle. Think about one of the largest muscle groups in your body – your quads. These small fibrils which are embedded in your muscle fibers, which are embedded in your fascicles, which are embedded in your quad muscles, are responsible for your ability to squat, run, and jump – to name a few!
Muscle contraction is incredible, isn’t it? So why do we rest? We rest, in part, because actin and myosin cannot contract repeatedly on end. We would need an endless supply of calcium and ATP (energy) to make that happen!
Calcium makes our actin and myosin filaments ready for contraction, and ATP sets it into action! Better yet, this whole process is triggered by our brains!
Some additional food for thought: We need ATP for both contraction and relaxation.
Want to learn more about ATP? Tune in next week for our blog post on different energy sources for different types of exercise!
Here at Urban Athlete, we are passionate about health and wellness and the positive impact that a gym setting can have on our lives. In 2020, we are spreading our love for health and wellness to the youth in our area, and we couldn’t be more excited!
How are we going about this?
One of the main determinants of exercise adherence is whether the type of exercise is enjoyable! With the mindset of starting lifetime habits early, we have created a pre-programmed workout for kids that is fun, interactive, and effective. The adults at Urban Athlete are provided with a different workout each day to create varied stimuli for our muscles and prevent boredom, so that is what we have done for our youth!
Whether your child comes every Monday in the semester or twice a week, they will always be engaged in different exercises! One day, they might be doing partner tennis ball planks, medicine ball carries, or a bear crawl relay. The next time they come in, they could be doing a farmer’s walk, push-ups, or rope jumping pull-ups!
Each exercise is chosen purposefully. Our mission is to be a small part of your child’s health and wellness foundation, both physically and mentally.
As we were designing our youth curriculum, we specifically wanted to create a time and space that would serve homeschool and cyber students, as well as their families.
In line with this, we are offering an hour and a half program every Monday and Wednesday from 1-2:30 PM for children ages 8-13. Our hope is that parents would be able to use this time for themselves, while their children participate in game based activities, body weight movements, and agility exercises.
Here’s what that time will look like:
At 1 o’clock, we will begin with a meet & greet, before we get going with our 15-minute warm-up. This is an important part of our programming – getting our blood flowing! We will spend the next 35 minutes running, jumping, and balancing our way through the workout, before having our 10 minute snack break. Then, we’ll finish the day with more relays, partner games, and body weight exercises. Most importantly, we’ll be having fun while getting a little stronger and a little healthier each day!
Our older youth, ages 14-18, have the option to meet every Monday and Wednesday from 4-5PM. Here, we will focus on strength and conditioning, mobility, and injury prevention. This is a great opportunity for students who already play a sport or are looking for a way to get active!
Have questions or want to get to know Team UA? We are holding an Open House from 12-2 PM on Saturday, February 1stor check out the “Meet the Team” page of our website!
When I was 10 years old, my doctor told me that I had a curve in my back called scoliosis. My curve is roughly thirty-three degrees and looks like a question mark. As you can imagine, an already awkward period of adolescent growth was made even more difficult. My back muscles were trying incredibly hard to compensate for the curve in my back, and it was physically noticeable. Here are some anatomical changes (all noticeable to my friends) that happened in my body, due to the curve in my back:
- My left hip was higher than my right hip – which caused my right leg to be longer.
- My right shoulder was higher than my left shoulder.
- My left ear fell towards my left shoulder – which caused my head to tilt.
- My upper body muscles were incredibly stiff – which caused a pitch change in my voice.
All of this because of that curve in my back. Oy.
At the time, I didn’t have the schooling that I do now to understand the changes that were occurring and why. However, when the specialist we were seeing could have prescribed a brace or back surgery, he prescribed physical therapy. After 6 months of core exercises (mostly planking, if I’m being honest), I was on my way to standing straight. To this day, you can hardly notice any alteration in my posture, unless I bend over to touch my toes to show off my curve. Usually, I am the first to notice my own “crookedness,” and the very first thing I do is workout.
Here is something that you can do at home to understand exactly what I mean:
Sit or stand with both of your hands on your hip bones. Keeping your hands on your hips, gently roll your hips forward – being mindful of the arch that you feel in your lower back. Now, tighten your abdomen, pulling your belly button to your spine and notice how that arch in your lower back disappears. You might have noticed that your glutes also contracted – screaming “Finally! Man, I was getting bored!”.
Have a desk job? No problem. Here at Urban Athlete, this is the very reason that we incorporate the movements that we do into our workouts. To counteract tight hip flexors (the muscles at the front of our hips used when sitting), we work our gluteal muscles and our hamstrings (all the muscles in the back). In addition to our bodyweight exercises, we accomplish this through a variety of extremely effective kettlebell exercises, such as the RDL, swing, high pull, and clean – just to name a few.
Here’s the scoop: Back pain occurs when our back muscles are working too hard, often as a result of sitting. If we engage/strengthen our core muscles, gluteal muscles, and hamstrings, that workload is taken from our backs – often with a nearly audible “Thank you.”
It is my belief that one of the biggest detriments to the health and wellness industry is the abundance of information that is available on line, specifically nutrition (likely fitness too but I’m going to tackle nutrition today)… And here I am adding to that information. It’s also a detriment to consumers because it’s hard to tell who is telling the truth and what really works.
First: my disclaimer is that I am not a registered dietician or nutritionist and this is simply my opinion.
If you seek out information online about how you can be a healthier person and make better decisions when it comes to nutrition and exercise, then I’m sure like the rest of us – you’ve encountered more ways than you can count on what works. Not only that, I’m sure you’ve read success stories on each of those ways and now the big question you ask yourself is which one will I try?
It’s confusing to say the least. If you’re struggling with wanting to achieve any type of goal it’s also frustrating.
Here’s my take on all of it.
Most of us, even if we eat healthfully, don’t do so consistently enough for a long enough period of time to know if what we are doing is working or not working for our bodies.
Second to that, we are all different humans and some of us need different protocols to follow than others to see and more importantly feel success.
If you believe you eat relatively well then I encourage you to track your food and beverage consumption for just 3-4 days from the minute you wake to the minute you sleep. Here’s why…our mind tends to push aside the less important things to make room for those items that are more important. It’s easy for the best intentioned of us to assume we are following a smart nutrition plan 90-95% of the time. When in reality it’s closer to 65-70% of the time, simply because we forgot about the piece of chocolate after lunch on Tuesday or the glass of wine with dinner on Wednesday night.
Tracking will also show you if you are eating enough variety of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats and non processed carbohydrates. Like I mentioned above, this post is adding to the info that you can find online but in my opinion it’s important to evaluate. The objective here is to uncover if you are eating healthfully or if you just think you are.
By that, I mean no disrespect but it’s too often that we aren’t doing as well as we think we are so an honestly documented food journal will confirm that. It will also tell us; that before you decide to jump into the next, most talked about nutrition option that has the best success rate, if you’re eating enough whole foods on a consistent basis to start playing around with a different plan.
Trust me, if there was a way to push a button or have a magic nutrition plan and all my health and fitness goals would be an instant reality, I’d jump all over it. The true reality is that most of us do not eat enough healthy, whole foods, balanced throughout the day to even consider fancy supplements let along invest in the “next best nutrition miracle on the market.”
Let’s not worry about which meal plan you should be following until you’ve confirmed that you’re eating well balanced, whole foods at least 90% of the time for a specific period of time first. We’d be happy to help you review your results once you’ve tracked them!
We all have habits – good, bad, and less than desirable. Habit formation is overwhelmingly a psychological concept, because of its roots in learned behavior. In our case, going to the gym or maintaining a healthy lifestyle would be considered a learned behavior. Here are four terms that psychologists use to describe how people learn or acquire a behavior:
- Positive Reinforcement
- Negative Reinforcement
- Positive Punishment
- Negative Punishment
*Try not to think of positive & negative in terms of good & bad.*
Positive = adding something
Negative = taking something away
Reinforcement = to increase a behavior
Punishment = to decrease a behavior
Here are some health & fitness related examples of each:
- Positive Reinforcement: your coach praises you for your efforts during class & you are seeing physical results in the mirror, so you keep coming to the gym
- Negative Reinforcement: you are no longer tired or out of breath during typical daily activities (walking the dog, playing with your kids, etc.) so that increases your gym attendance
- Positive Punishment: sore muscles from a new exercise routine or comparison at the gym keeps you from coming to the gym
- Negative Punishment: the absence of weight loss keeps you from coming to the gym
It is arguably “easier” to form a habit, when we are being positively reinforced – but what happens when we receive negative punishment? Do we just stop coming to the gym – something that we know will help our bodies, as well as our minds?
Some practical advice for when that happens:
- Create your own positive reinforcement: Whatever your reason was for attending the gym in the first place, praise yourself not for the final outcome (weight loss, inc. muscle mass, health, etc.) but for taking a step in the direction of your goal. This is something that we must do consciously & intentionally. Thank yourself for being on the journey.
- Write down or make a mental note of what you are going to tell yourself when you have to combat the forms of punishment that we talked about earlier. What are you going to say to yourself when you notice someone is lifting heavier than you & you are still tired from a long day at work? Have this ready to go ahead of time, as some variation of slow results, physical comparison, and body aches will inevitably happen to all of us – myself included. I personally say, “I am here because I love being around active people, and I know I will feel better physically and mentally afterwards.”
- Some important advice that was given to me long ago was to focus on what you like, not on what you don’t like. If your favorite part about the gym is getting to catch-up with a friend, then focus on that, rather than not being able to do more push-ups. This could also be the opposite for you – you LOVE trying out new exercises, but you don’t love how another person in your session is acting. Focus on getting to do those new exercises and catching-up with that friend, and your whole perspective at the gym will change.
Did I mention you’ll be getting healthier too, because all of these things kept you at the gym?
Thinking of you as wrestle with the uncanny nature of behavioral change – you are most certainly equipped to do it.
~ Jennifer B.
We’ve run various challenges and programs at Urban Athlete over the last 13+ years. Our most successful program outside of our membership commitments is our Lifestyle Challenge.
The foundation of the program is to make healthful and mindful habit changes that support lifestyle commitments that are sustainable for the long term, rather than short term with yo-yo effects. This 6 week challenge begins on Monday, October 14th and runs through Friday, November 22nd.
The 6 week challenge is open to non members (and members) of Urban Athlete and includes:
- starting and final measurements using InBody technology
- nutritional guidelines
- supportive recipes
- four scheduled group workouts a week
- participation in the member’s only November active challenge, along with other member benefits for the duration of the challenge
All guidelines and recipes will be available in advance of the challenge start date to be able to do shopping and food prep. Starting measurements should be scheduled (will only take about 5 minutes) and will need to be completed during the following days and hours:
- Saturday, October 12th 11am – 12pm
- Sunday, October 13th 9am – 11am
In addition to the guidelines, there will be a recorded webinar of what to expect, how to plan, scheduling your workouts and more to be assist in making the Lifestyle Challenge as successful for you as it can be.
Non-Members: the Lifestyle Challenge is a $159 investment for the 6 weeks of training and accountability, with the option to upgrade to semi-private training sessions for $399 (3 sessions a week).
To register for the Lifestyle Challenge simply call us at 215-248-2130 to set up your measurement appointment time and to confirm enrollment in the challenge.
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