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Posted by Vishal Punj on Monday, April 4, 2016 - 10:47

As our construction period nears its end and our Grand Opening date gets closer I’ve noticed that my stress level has begun to slowly creep its way into my psyche.  But wait -- as a fitness enthusiast, I’m not supposed to be stressed!  Or at least that’s the conventional thinking.  This morning I was feeling particularly overwhelmed and decided to work out a little earlier than usual.  Voila!  It worked.  I felt better almost immediately, and finally felt ready to tackle the week ahead.

It got me thinking about why I felt better.  Admittedly I am guilty of falling victim to ‘bro science’, the idea that a workout releases endorphins into the body.  It is these endorphins that are supposedly responsible for the feelings of elatedness that immediately follow a workout.  As I write this I am reminded of the wise words a fellow gym rat told me during finals week in college.  “Dude, throw some heavy weights around bro.  The endorphin rush will leave you feeling like a million bucks”.

‘Bro science’ does not fully explain this phenomenon.  What follows below is a great article I came across from the American Psychological Association explaining the research behind the links between stress and exercise.  The full article can be found by clicking the following link:   http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/exercise-stress.aspx

My takeaway from reading this article is that for most people, eliminating stress is often impossible (unless you wish to live a life of solitude in the mountains, the beach etc.)  The realities of life in the modern world mean that stress will always be present.  The human body’s amazing capacity to adapt to physical, mental and emotional stressors mean that over time, we can get better at dealing with stress.  Exercise forces our body’s communication systems to interact much more closely.  It is this heightened communication that helps us respond to stress.  

By Vishal Punj

Vishal Punj is the owner of Aatma Fitness Studios, a full service boutique health and fitness club in the Center Of The Universe, Seattle.

Posted by Vishal Punj on Tuesday, December 8, 2015 - 10:51

“Engage your core.”  Many trainers utter these words several times throughout the day, as do instructors from nearly every discipline ranging from Pilates, Strength Training, Yoga, to Barre and even Boxing.  But what is it exactly?  And what’s the big deal?

The most common phrase I hear people say when the topic of core comes up is “Isn’t core just a fancy way of referring to your abdominals?”  The truth is that abdominals are just a small part of it.  The core musculature is defined as the structures that make up the lumbo-pelvic hip complex including lumbar spine, pelvic girdle, abdomen, and hip joint.  Basically this means all of the muscles that you don’t get to see that support the hips, the spine, and the shoulder girdle.  The core is where the body’s center of gravity is located and where all movement originates.  So yes, the core is pretty important! Having a strong and efficient core is necessary for maintaining proper muscle balance throughout the body’s movement system. 

It’s called ‘core’ for a reason.  Building your core strength means building a strong foundation.  When you improve your core strength, you make it possible to move on to more complex exercises while reducing your chances of getting hurt. 

So how many crunches do you need to do to build a strong core?  Although crunches are ok, they may not be the most efficient way to train the core.  Better options are exercises that use total body movements to force you to ‘flex’ your core muscles to move.  Some good examples of this are the squat, push-up, lunges, kettlebell swings, etc.  Want to incorporate your core into your everyday lifestyle.  Easy.  Try to focus on flexing your core muscles in everyday activities, such as walking or even sitting.  One effect you will immediately notice is that your posture improves.  Your posture has no choice but to not improve, since engaging your core forces your spine, hip and pelvis into alignment, forcing you to stand/sit up straight. 

Added benefit: Your mother doesn’t have to yell at you to stand/sit up straight!

By Vishal Punj

Vishal Punj is the owner of Aatma Fitness Studios, a full service boutique health and fitness club in the Center Of The Universe, Seattle.

Posted by Vishal Punj on Saturday, November 14, 2015 - 10:02

Walk into any grocery store or restaurant nowadays, and you will likely see several foods and dishes that are gluten free.  As with any recent phonomenon, there are some very opinionated folks out there who both espouse and vehemently disagree with the reported benefits of the the gluten free diet.  Although I can't say I've tried it myself (as I have not seen a need to), I do know of quite a few people who have been doing it for years and swear by its benefits.  This morning I was browsing around several articles online and came upon this article by The New Yorker.  It's a bit long, but well balanced and worth a read.  Enjoy, and don't shoot the messenger!

 
By Vishal Punj

Vishal Punj is the owner of Aatma Fitness Studios, a full service boutique health and fitness club in the Center Of The Universe, Seattle.

Posted by Vishal Punj on Saturday, October 24, 2015 - 11:44

I was reading an article the other night on the Net about the concept of a tribe, and what it means in our society.  Like most folks, whenever I hear the word ‘tribe’, for better or for worse I think of the affiliation of that word with the Native American community.  However, upon closer inspection you will find that it has a much deeper meaning and influence in society as a whole.  Author, blogger, and entrepreneur Seth Godin defines a tribe as “A group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.  For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another.  A group only needs two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.”

For much of the history of the fitness industry starting in the late sixties up until the present, health and fitness was largely viewed in ‘individual’ terms.  Accomplishing your goal in health and fitness often meant going at it on your own.  The upside to this meant that when you did reach your goal, you got all the glory and accolades that came with that achievement.  “Wow, you lost 20 pounds!  Good job, your hard work paid off.” “Congrats on being able to lift 500 pounds, you the man/woman!”  Of course, the downside to all this was that for most people, going at it on your own is really, really hard.  Why?  Because we’re human, and being human means that we all have our ups and downs as far as the demands on our time, responsibilities, mood, motivation level, etc.    

This is where tribes come in, to keep us focused and provide the social cohesion and commitment for us to stay focused and do what we need to do.  After all, it’s worked for us for several millennia, starting from the ‘tribes’ of hunter-gatherers to our present day political parties and civil organizations such as the PTA.  It only makes sense for us to cultivate this power in health and fitness so that we can all achieve success as tribe and celebrate our achievements together. 

Keep moving and stay fit!

By Vishal Punj

Vishal Punj is the owner of Aatma Fitness Studios, a full service boutique health and fitness club in the Center Of The Universe, Seattle.

Posted by Vishal Punj on Saturday, October 17, 2015 - 12:06

I was in a contemplative mood this Saturday morning, and my thoughts turned to a conversation I had earlier in the week with a former schoolmate of mine who had started a business a few years ago, only to see it crash and burn in front of his eyes a short while later.  I could tell he was extremely bitter about it, and during the course of our conversation he expressed a full range of emotions including feelings of despair, to doubt, and ultimately to feelings of resentment to his experience. 

I couldn’t help but draw parallels from the experience of my former schoolmate to the experiences of countless people in the health and fitness world.  Whether it be the person who has tried a wide array of diets several times (or just once), only to never quite lose the desired weight, the powerlifter who misses a lift of a particular weight for the third week in a row, or the yoga enthusiast who can’t quite seem to master Mukta Hasta Sirsana A (Tripod Headstand), we all have our failures that we deal with.

Like it or not we live in a society that puts an emphasis on achievement.  While there is nothing wrong with this, often there is little to no mention of the steps, processes, and failures that happened along the way.  It doesn’t help that the media does a great job of highlighting success and what it means to ‘win’.  All you have to do is watch an episode of Shark Tank (which is, consequentially one of my favorite shows) and specifically the introductions of the Sharks themselves to see how achievement is defined and glorified in the business world.  A similar paradigm is clearly present in other aspects of our culture, including health and fitness.   

It’s easy to see how this world of ‘winning at all costs’ can lead to constant feelings of failure and disappointment and not achieving a certain result.  Don’t get me wrong – we should all strive to improve ourselves towards whatever goal we have chosen to pursue.  This self-improvement should include a mindset that prepares for and resolves the negative feelings that will naturally arise from the bumps and missteps that occur along the way.  Instead of defining success as the accomplishment of a certain result, success should instead be defined as the completion of a journey, with failure being a part of that journey.   

Have a good weekend folks!  

 

By Vishal Punj

Vishal Punj is the owner of Aatma Fitness Studios, a full service boutique health and fitness club in the Center Of The Universe, Seattle.

Posted by Vishal Punj on Friday, October 2, 2015 - 11:29

We all know it – as Americans we don’t move enough, and it’s showing up in our increasing levels of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and a host of other chronic conditions.  My experience in this business has taught me that although most people have good intentions of doing exercise, making it a consistent part of one’s lifestyle can be really hard.  Below are 5 steps that you can use to help keep you on track. 

Step 1: Identify your goal.  Knowing why you are exercising in the first place provides motivation.  This goal will be very different for each individual.  As an example, for the young, single man in his 20’s, his goal may be muscle enlargement.  Why?  So that he can walk into the hottest nightclub in town and have the ladies swoon over his biceps (yeah, that was me, just being honest).  His goal is cosmetic in nature.  But, let’s take the 70 year young grandmother who wants to play catch and other active games with her grandson.  Her focus will be on endurance and conditioning so she can have fun and be able to keep up with her grandson.  Knowing what the goal is from the outset will allow you to see the big picture.

Step 2: Make the goal measurable.  What this means is, you have to quantify it.  In the previous example given, instead of the young single guy saying “I wanna be buff”, he could instead state that he wishes to add 10 pounds of lean muscle to his body over the next six months.  In the case of our 70 year young grandmother, instead of saying that she wants to play active games with her grandson, her goal could instead be to be able to climb 10 flights of stairs in under X minutes.  Her ability to do this will give her the endurance she needs to keep up with her grandson.  The point here is that with a measurable goal, you can manage your progress.

Step 3: Find the right environment.  This step involves doing a little bit of soul searching and coming up with the right balance of both physical surroundings and the people you like, or not like to be around.  Are you the type of person who needs others around you for motivation and support?  Or, maybe you are the type of person who just can’t be bothered by all of that, you like to do your own thing.  With a little experimentation you can find what works for you.

Step 4: Having fun.  This may seem obvious, but you would be amazed how many folks view exercise as a chore that they must do.  The good news is that all exercise has the effect of releasing endorphins in the body.  No matter what exercise you do, you will feel like a million bucks afterwards.  Life is short, it is ok to enjoy yourself while doing exercise and reap the rewards too! 

Step 5: Self-monitoring.  Back in the day this meant keeping a written journal of exercises you did, the duration, and the different foods you ate.  Nowadays, most of the work is already done for you.  It’s called a ‘Fitbit’, and that’s just one example.  The beauty of these devices is that they force you to be honest about your activity and the choices you make.  For example, if you’ve made a commitment to exercise every Wednesday evening, but find that you are missing it consistently, you can review your log to find the culprit: Maybe every Wednesday is free pizza day in the office, and you just can’t help yourself!

We live in a world in which everything is available immediately at your fingertips.  People are able to purchase and experience things in an instant.  This type of thinking does not translate over very well into health and fitness.  Health and fitness is a journey, so trust in the fact that it will be a process and enjoy the ride!  Keep moving and stay fit!     

By Vishal Punj

Vishal Punj is the owner of Aatma Fitness Studios, a full service boutique health and fitness club in the Center Of The Universe, Seattle.

Posted by Vishal Punj on Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 13:44

As a fitness and health enthusiast, I started off like most people.  That is, some person (in my case, my high school football coach) telling me I better get my butt in shape so as to be able to handle business on the football field.  The cosmetic effects were immediate – and in a society that places a premium on men and women who maintain a certain body ‘image’, I have to admit, I liked it!  

After then years upon years of the usual ‘bench, arms, and leg days mixed in with a little cardio’, I came to the realization that there has to be more to all of this.  After all, is fitness just really about having a certain body type that conforms to society’s vision of what beauty is and is not?

Without getting into religion and philosophy too much -- if you really think about it, the human body is really just a vehicle, that is, a tool that we as humans use to express ourselves.  If we wanna climb Mount Fuji, we can’t do it with our minds, we need a human body that is capable of doing so.  

Around this time, I opened up my first fitness club, and hired and worked with trainers and instructors whose views scanned the full spectrum.  What was even more eye opening were the members of the facility whose needs and reasons to join the health club were as diverse as ever.  The grandmother who just wanted to be able to catch up with her grandkids had the same zest and determination as the twenty year old single male who wanted to look the Hulk in the nightclub.  They all came to the facility for answers to address their goals.  So whether we like it or not, those of us working in the industry are then placed in the position of shaping opinions and methodologies based upon how we can deliver on our customers’ needs.

Choosing a fitness facility can be, well, confusing.  Crossfit clubs, yoga studios, Zumba and dance studios, Jazzercise, pilates studios, powerlifting and Olympic lifting gyms, boxing and martial arts studios, and the list goes on.  The interesting thing is that they all work.  So what does it all mean?  Does it mean that for functional movements and conditioning I join a Crossfit club, to learn how to defend myself I join a boxing gym, and to stretch and expand my body and soul I join a Bikram yoga studio?  

That’s enough for today, have a great day!

By Vishal Punj

Vishal Punj is the owner of Aatma Fitness Studios, a full service boutique health and fitness club in the Center Of The Universe, Seattle.

Posted by Vishal Punj on Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 13:42

Morning all,

Here’s an interesting article that was forwarded to me by a friend of mine a few weeks ago.  It will definitely make me think twice about how I may in fact be inadvertently doing the ‘big boys’ a favor by supporting the ‘good guys’.  Enjoy!

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ocean-robbins/the-dark-side-of-cocacola_b_...

By Vishal Punj

Vishal Punj is the owner of Aatma Fitness Studios, a full service boutique health and fitness club in the Center Of The Universe, Seattle.

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