From Pilates and Ballet Fit to Step Aerobics and Zumba, Midtown Personal Trainer Vanessa Huaman does it all.
She has 20+ years of dance and fitness industry experience, and we decided to pick her brain to see what we could learn.
Question: How does your experience across several different fitness disciplines help you as a trainer?
Vanessa: While there is some overlap between different fitness disciplines, I enjoy being able to pull from all of them to develop well rounded programs for my clients. Variety is important, not only to keep muscles from getting too used to a particular exercise, but also to add fun to workouts.
Question: One of your specialties is Pilates Reformer training. What are its benefits?
Vanessa:Reformer training is great because it compliments any level or type of fitness program. The equipment is designed to help your body achieve neutral alignment and build a strong, stable core. I have seen incredible strength gains in athletes wanting to take their sport to the next level, as well as beginner-level clients that struggle with proper posture and low back pain.
Question: The Reformer looks a little intimidating. Would it be better to start with a MAT Pilates class?
Vanessa: People often comment that the Reformer looks more like a torture device than exercise equipment! However, the Reformer is actually an easier method because it guides your body into the proper position for each exercise. Reformer also incorporates principles of progressive resistance, similar to changing gears on a bike, so participants of any level can adjust the intensity to meet their needs.
Question: How can you expect to feel after a Reformer session?
Vanessa: Unlike MAT Pilates, which focuses mainly on core muscles, Reformer helps to build overall strength through the arms, legs, and core, through strengthening and stretching weak and tight muscles. The best thing about it is that it is challenging, yet gentle on the body. Most people who have never tried it before say that it helped them “discover” muscles they haven’t used in a long time.
Question: How does Pilates fit into an overall fitness program?
Vanessa: If you are new to exercise or strength training, starting with one-to-three days of Reformer training per week can help expose and correct muscle imbalances before you move into more intense forms of exercise. Pilates should not replace cardiorespiratory, strength, or flexibility training, but it can help improve all of those components. No matter what you do, start slowly and address weak areas one by one to ensure that you are training in the safest and most effective way possible.
Question: What do you like most about training?
Vanessa: I enjoy helping people no matter how big or small their fitness goals are, and it doesn’t have to be a physical change like fitting into a size 4. One client told me that she couldn’t walk up the stairs without knee pain, and that she couldn’t bend over to tie her shoes. After several weeks of hard work, she accomplished both of those goals. Her excitement from having overcome those hurdles was some of the most meaningful feedback I’ve ever received.
Question: Any last words of advice?
Vanessa:Just remember to start slowly, add variety to your routine, and continue to learn about and challenge yourself.
Thank you Vanessa! If you have a question you would like one of the trainers in the Fitness Department to answer, you can post your question as a comment to this post, or e-mail it to me at email@example.com. If you email the question, I will ask it anonymously on your behalf, and post the question and answer (but not your name) on the next “Ask the Trainer” post. You do not need to be a member to ask a question. Let’s hear it!
Do you experience muscle or joint stiffness, soreness, pain, and/or injury that prevent you from functioning at your best? Have you accepted pain as a “part of life,” and given up hope that it can improve? If you’ve tried Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT), you know that pain doesn’t have to be permanent!
We sat down with Midtown’s Certified MAT Specialist Ron Greenberg to discuss what MAT is and how it can help just about everybody. Here is what we learned:
Question: What is MAT?
Ron: MAT is a systematic approach designed to evaluate and treat muscular imbalances that cause restrictions in motion, joint instability, and muscular tightness and weakness. MAT jumpstarts the muscles to get them working the way they were intended to work.
Question: What led you to become a Certified MAT Specialist?
Ron: I began my career in personal training in 1993 and eventually became a Performance Enhancement Specialist to work with athletes. Over time, I observed my clients enduring more muscle and joint problems as the intensity of their training increased. The regular treatments, such as icing and stretching, weren’t working. It became clear that we were treating the symptoms (pain and muscle tightness) and not the actual problem of muscle inhibition. I decided to become certified in MAT, so that I could treat the underlying problems and get my clients back on track.
Question: Does everyone have muscle imbalances?
Ron: Just about everyone. Imbalances show up in the form of tightness and/or weakness, which are often caused by postural problems (e.g. hunching over a desk all day), or repetitive activities (e.g. running). Tightness is the muscle’s response to protect a positional weakness. In other words, muscles shut down and get tight because they are overworked to a point where they can no longer function properly. MAT restarts those muscles, which not only restores movement, but also addresses the weakness that caused the pain and decreased range of motion in the first place.
Question: Shouldn’t strength training help prevent or correct muscle imbalances?
Ron: Not necessarily. Unless your exercise history is flawless (no injuries, balanced and correct training protocol, etc.), strength training will most likely cause your strong muscles to get stronger and overcompensate, which leads to your weak muscles becoming weaker.
Question: How can someone get started with MAT?
Ron: I am available for appointments on Monday and Wednesday evenings. We would begin by discussing your health history, followed by an initial evaluation and determination of a treatment plan that fits your schedule and budget. Having a MAT evaluation can certainly benefit everyone. Even if you aren’t in pain now, your performance may be suffering in ways that will lead to injury in the future. Too many people spend their lives in and out of pain and physical limitation that can and should be prevented.
Thanks, Ron, for your insight on MAT!
For more information, or to schedule and appointment, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Midtown Oak Park Personal Trainer Jim Albrecht has your answers.
With 10 years of personal training experience (8 years at Midtown), and as a Resistance Training Specialist (RTS), Jim has a great deal of knowledge to share.
Question: Why is strength training important?
Jim: There is a common misconception that we don’t need to strength train if we participate in a particular sport or are active in general. Muscular imbalances are extremely common in all types of exercisers, and strength training balances out muscle groups resulting in improved functionality. Additionally, strength training can prevent muscle atrophy and the resulting loss of strength and flexibility that occurs as we age.
Question: What is the most common weight training mistake you see?
Jim: Poor posture. I always teach posture before I teach an exercise to ensure that the movement is as safe and effective as possible. Posture begins with a neutral spine in the lower back and extends up into the shoulders, with a strong core in the middle. I encourage my clients to take a break or lower the weight if they start to lose their posture during an exercise, because perfect reps with less weight will lead to greater strength gains.
Question: How would you coach someone who is just starting a weight training program?
Jim: Beginning a structured exercise program is a lifestyle change, regardless of the shape you are in, so taking small steps is key. Many people push themselves a little too hard at the beginning and end up tweaking muscles in their low back, hips, or quads. My job as a trainer is to help my clients understand their current abilities and provide them with an appropriate level of challenge without overdoing it.
Question: How long does it take to make strength gains?
Jim: It depends on how hard are you willing to work out, and how often. Consistency means working all muscle groups at least one time per week. Two is better, with 3-4 days of cardiorespiratory exercise. On their own, men often avoid lower body work (resulting in weak glutes), and women often avoid upper body work (resulting in a weak back, chest, and shoulders). So, I usually do one day of upper body and one day of lower body with my clients, with the expectation that they will come in and work out on their own. That’s why instructing my clients on how to perform the exercises correctly is so important to helping them reach their goals.
Question: How do you make a strength training workout effective?
Jim: Decide what exercise you are going to start with, take your time with the first set, and then tailor your workout according to the way you feel. If the first set goes well, meaning you are performing repetitions as slowly and controlled as possible and feeling strong, you can do another set. A couple sets of really good reps is better than getting through every exercise on your list. Proper strength training takes a certain amount of concentration – my clients tell me that’s why they never get bored!
Question: Why do you like being a personal trainer?
Jim: Personal training is the only job (other than instructing scuba) where I spend one-on-one time with people I normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to know. Exercise is a concept everyone should think about, and honesty and trust are necessary on both sides of the trainer-client relationship. The most important thing I do is teach people how to use posture to correctly perform an exercise, so that they can repeat it on their own. You don’t have to do it “my way,” just safely and effectively, and you will reach your goals.
Thank you, Jim, for sharing your weight training wisdom with us!
If you have a question you would like one of the trainers in the Fitness department to answer, you can post your question as a comment to this post, or e-mail it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you email the question, I will ask it anonymously on your behalf, and post the question and answer (but not your name) on the next “Ask the Trainer” post. You do not need to be a member to ask a question.
Many consider massage to be an unnecessary self-indulgence, a way to pamper oneself, or the first stop on a “girls’ day out at the spa” itinerary.
These beliefs, however, leave out the very real benefits (physical, mental, and even social!) that massage can provide.
I had a chance to discuss massage with Midtown’s new therapist, Yvonne Zipter, and got answers to a few questions that will help you get the most out of your massage experience.
What Can Massage Do for Me?
Talk to many doctors, physical therapists, and personal trainers and they will tell you that tight muscles are weak and prone to injury. Exercise can help strengthen weak areas and improve muscle imbalances, but loosening particularly tight areas of muscle (often referred to as “knots”) can help speed the process.
So what does massage do to help even the casual exerciser improve overall health and performance?
Augment muscle repair and reduce inflammation and soreness
Help increase range of motion and improve physical performance (e.g. jump height)
Relax and soften injured, tired, and overused muscles
Release endorphins – the body’s natural pain killers
Reduce spasms and cramping
So Where Do I Start?
Massage is not, as the saying goes, “one size fits all.” To get the most out of your massage experience, your massage should be tailored to your fitness routine. Let’s look at some examples from Yvonne.
For you Pilates fans out there, a massage that breaks up adhesions in the soles of the feet can help you become more flexible and better able to perform the small movements necessary to get the most out of each exercise.
Runners, cyclists, and other endurance athletes may benefit from techniques such as myofascial release and trigger point therapy (see below) to relieve pain in vulnerable areas such as the Achilles tendon and illiotibial (IT) band.
Here are some o f the most common massage techniques/types to consider when working with your therapist
Swedish: gentle technique that uses long strokes to help relax and energize you
Deep-tissue: technique that uses slower, more forceful strokes to target deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, often to help with muscle damage from injuries
Sports: similar technique to Swedish that helps prevent and treat sports-related injuries
Myofascial Release: technique that uses long, stretching strokes to release tension
Trigger Point: technique that uses pressure to loosen sensitive areas of tight muscle fibers (“trigger points”) that can form in your muscles after injuries or overuse.
Is Massage Really for Me?
Although massage is generally a safe healing practice, it can pose some risks especially if you have an injury. Speak to your health care provider about any current conditions to determine whether massage therapy is right for you. You may experience some discomfort during or mild soreness after a session, particularly if a more intense form of massage is being used (e.g. trigger point).
The key is to communicate with your therapist. Make sure to discuss all potential health problems before your session, and don’t be afraid to speak up during your session if something hurts!
Sure, not every muscle issue requires the attention of massage therapist. Icing, stretching, rest and other types of self-care can help reduce muscle pain and improve physical function as well.
But, as Yvonne says, “if you have a nagging muscle issue brought on by too many squats, a marathon session of hoops, or too much front crawl, you should think about spelling relief M-A-S-S-A-G-E.”
What do you think? Has massage helped you maintain peak fitness performance?
Kristen Schumacher est la directrice médias sociaux de Midtown Oak Park et une entraîneuse personnelle. Lorsqu’elle ne s’entraîne pas pour sa prochaine course de fond, elle aime cuisiner, chanter et passer du temps avec sa famille et ses amis.