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Posted by Vishal Punj on Monday, June 13, 2016 - 09:20

What prompted your interest in Muay Thai?

Well, culturally I am Thai.  I was already learning Chinese kickboxing and so several folks told me I need to learn Muay Thai because I am Thai and it is my heritage.

 

Is it true you have a Masters degree in the Ethnography of Muay Thai?  What is that?

Yes it’s true.  I have a Masters from UW. Ethnography is the study of culture or peoples and I happen to specialize mine in the lives of fighters and cultural conservation of Thai kickboxing.

 

Tell us about your experiences competing in Thailand.

I only competed once in Thailand and it was in a terrible dive bar.  It was for my Masters thesis.  I filmed myself fighting in a “stadium” that was really a dive bar in Chiang Mai.  I won by knockout.  I won $50 US but I accumulated about $1000 US in medical bills back in the states from that fight, but my Masters thesis was approved!

 

What are your passions outside of Muay Thai?

I’m a photographer that specializes in craft beer.  I photograph craft breweries and bars all over the country and I have my own beer festival.  

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 Monday, June 6, 2016 - 13:03

With certifications in personal training, corrective exercise, and yoga, Hillary is a real asset to the Aatma team.  Get to know Hillary better.

Tell us a little about your journey with fitness.

I struggled with weight for a long time.  At one point I was 200 lbs, and had very poor self-image.  I was very mean to myself.  I was going through a very hard time in my life.  I went through a divorce.  I was having a hard time listening to myself.  One day, I went out on a run, and I could hear nothing.  For the first time in a while, I did not have to think.  This became a habit, and I started to run.  I then started my certification with the NPTI (National Personal Training Institute), but I did not do anything with it for a while, due to my negative self-image.  However, I slowly figured out what exercise had done for my life, and slowly worked away at it.  I did not know where to start, but I started with my friends and family to build a community, as I could not find a gym that met my needs at the time.  What inspires me to be a coach is knowing that there are others out there in a similar situation who are struggling with something, whether it be a relationship, job, or something else and could be going through something similar.  I want to be there for them to help them discover themselves and love themselves again.  Whether that means clearing their head, getting the body that they want, or finding a community so they can discover who they are and be confident.

What is a common misconception about fitness that you come across?

A common misconception that people have is that they are not ‘fit’ enough for a fitness program.  They feel as if they need to work out in their home first.  Being afraid to step into the gym is the biggest one.  This is what I love about classes, that they build a community.  No matter your fitness level, they all remember their first day of fitness.  This builds a community.

Being that your focus is body mechanics and posture, what are some common issues that you see in your classes?

I see a lot of improper shoulder mechanics, limited range of motion in shoulders and hips, and improper hinging.  All of this can cause severe issues later on.  Often issues stem from the foot and ankle, whereas people think it’s coming from somewhere else.  With activation of the appropriate muscles it is very easy to see some improvement.  If you stick with it for a month, you will see things improve but it takes dedication and undoing of what we’ve been doing in our adult lives. 

How do you spend your day off?

On my day off, I work out in the morning.  I usually do this with my dogs to give them exercise.  I try to spend time outside gardening, hit up a farmer’s market, and cook an awesome meal for my friends.  If I have no friends over, I’ll just bake a meal for myself (and possibly give it away)!

What’s your favorite pre-workout or post workout meal?

Before my workout I usually eat something that is fibrous like cereal with fruit or oatmeal.  Something that is hearty.  I always eat an hour and half before my workout.  Post workout I eat something big and delicious.  Grilled chicken salad with veggies and nectarines.

What’s your favorite healthy treat to bake?

Toasted coconut macaroons.  Half a cup of sugar in the entire recipe and it makes 50 cookies.  Each one is a half dollar size.  That means you can eat three of them and not feel bad about it!

Toasted Coconut Macaroons

Yields 40-50 cookies about the size of a half dollar

Ingredients:

·      3 egg whites

·      ½ cup sugar

·      2 tsp. vanilla extract

·      ½ tsp. almond extract (optional)

·      14oz shredded coconut

Directions:

·      Preheat oven to 325 degrees

·      Combine egg whites, sugar, and both extracts in bowl of mixer with whisk attachment

·      Whisk on high until stiff peaks form

·      Gently fold in coconut until evenly coated with egg white mixture

·      Line cookie sheet with parchment paper

·      Measure batter with a tablespoon as you place each cookie 2 inches apart on the parchment (It helps to wet the tablespoon from time to time to keep the batter from sticking to it)

·      Bake in preheated over for 25-30 minutes until the outside is a nice toasted golden color

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, May 31, 2016 - 18:31

Don’t you just love long weekends!  Now that Memorial Day weekend is officially behind us, it’s safe to say that the summer season is now upon us.  And you know what that means, more trips to the grill!  I thought I’d take a few moments and share a few tips to start off the season right.  Here we go…

1) Load up on Vitamin D – We Seattleites don’t see the sun as often as other major cities do.  So when it does come out, we need to take advantage of it.  This means ditching the car whenever possible.  Why not start a little earlier in the morning and walk to work?  If you’re too far, how about biking?  There’s nothing like breathing in fresh air on your way to the office to make you feel energized and get the blood pumping.  If that’s not an option, you can always schedule an event on the weekends that requires you to either walk or bike to get there.  Got a date planned Sat night across town?  Instead of ubering/driving, do your best to find a more local spot that you can both walk to. 

2) Stay Hydrated – We all know how important water is to our bodies to keep things working the way they should.  The hotter it gets the more water we have to drink to stay replenished.  If the idea of guzzling water 24/7 has you needing a little more variety, another way to add to your H20 needs is to add a little more fruit to your diet.  Strawberries, raspberries and watermelons are my personal favorites during the summer months.

3) Get your veggie on – Yeah we’ve all heard it from our mothers since we were kids to clean up our veggies on our dinner plates.  What’s awesome about the spring and summer months is how much easier it is to throw some veggies on the grill.  It’s funny how a little heat can so dramatically change the texture and taste of pretty much any vegetable you can think of.  Here in western Washington I’ve found that green beans, squash, zucchini and sweet corn seem to ripen between June – August and are perfect for the grill.  Add a little bit of olive oil, some salt and pepper (or pretty much any seasoning) and voila, you’ve got yourself an awesome veggie plate.  See mama, we do listen (sometimes)!

4) Let loose a little – No, this doesn’t mean eat a chocolate ice cream every day during the warm months.  Going back to our childhood, the summertime was when we didn’t have to go to school and could let our hair down and well, just be kids.  Somewhere along the line as adults many of us forgot what this was like and we now feel we have to keep our pedal to the metal all the time.  It’s ok to keep abreast of our responsibilities but at the same time allow ourselves to relax and unwind both mentally and physically.  This may mean attending an outdoor concert or two or making a few weekend trips out of town this season.  Or it could be something as simple as heading down to Alki with a good book on a Sunday afternoon and letting your mind wander.  Bottom line is, we all need a little time to recharge our batteries.  This is the perfect time of year to do it!

Here's to a great summer 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 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.

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