Fitness Tips

New Year, New Things to Try

15 January, 2017

by Sherry Eckert

As we move through the new year exploring things we would like to change or improve and seeking new ways to invigorate not only the body but the mind as well, we can find ourselves feeling hesitant to actually step into a space outside our comfort zone.  

Take yoga for instance. It isn’t just for the young and bendy, or any other preconceived notions we may have.  Yet it can still be intimidating to walk into a yoga class (or any class) for the first time.  

Why try yoga, you might ask. One of the biggest reasons is that it goes beyond just moving your body.  Yoga is one of the few physical practices that emphasizes awareness and connection to your breathing.  Yoga combines both breath and motion, and allows you to stay present in the moment by turning off the mental chatter we so easily slip into.  Yoga provides a way to be ‘in your body’ and release self-judgement and shame.  You slow down, meet yourself right where you are in the present moment, accept yourself as you are, and learn to listen to what your body has to tell you.  The practice of yoga is a way to build strength, stamina, mental clarity, and balance.  

Learning something new allows you to focus on what you are doing and gives you the opportunity to leave everything else at the door when you step in, but anything new also requires a learning curve. 

We all started at the beginning. We all wondered if we would be able to find our way, worried that we look funny while learning, and hoped that no one was judging us.  It can be intimidating to take that first step, to cross the threshold into a group class. It is all too easy to tell ourselves stories that keep us stuck where we are instead of expanding and learning something new.  

At Island Fitness we strive to provide a welcoming, inclusive environment for you to work on your physical fitness.  There are several ways to ease into any new group class:

  • Speak with the front desk or membership staff about what class options there and who the instructors are.
  • Contact Beth, our group fitness coordinator, for more detailed information about classes, instructors, content and a possible buddy that would be available to greet you before class, introduce you to the instructor and help you get set up for class.  Email Beth at:
  • Ask a friend to join you! It always makes it more fun to have someone you know to work out or take a class with.
  • Contact the instructor before you take a class to ask questions, and share info about yourself that will help the instructor know about you and ease the sense of ‘newness’ before you walk through the door.

We offer over 50 group fitness classes every week that are included with your membership.  We also offer several small group classes that are fee-based as well.  Island Fitness has a wealth of talent and inspiration housed right in the heart of Bainbridge Island, we welcome you try something new—you just might surprise yourself!


Drinking Soda Is Bad for Your Health

15 September, 2016

Numerous studies have shown the negative health effects of drinking soda on your waistline and your teeth. Drinking soda however, has far more health risks than many of us may realize. Regular consumption of sugary drinks is linked to numerous health problems including diabetes, heart disease, asthma, COPD and obesity.

11 Ways to Knock out Stress

02 June, 2016

11 Ways to Knock out Stress   
Choose Your Medicine: Laughter, Music, Optimism
11 ways to knock out stress and lower your chance of heart disease
Stress: The word lingers like a threatening hiss. And that's appropriate, because too much stress, over time, can cause you to acquire risk factors--diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure--that lead to heart disease. How does stress work? It releases adrenaline from the autonomic nervous system. "This adrenaline release sets up a whole cascade of reactions, including increased heart rate and blood pressure and stimulation of blood clotting cells, called platelets. Stress hormones can damage blood vessels by altering their flexibility and making them more vulnerable to plaque disruption," explains cardiologist Nieca Goldberg, MD, author of The Women's Healthy Heart Program.
Chronic stress can result in unhealthy habits, such as smoking, being sedentary, overusing alcohol, eating poorly, and being socially isolated, she adds. Too stressed to even think about taking care of yourself? Here are some   tips  to help you out:
Be optimistic
PollyAnna was right: Optimists live longer than pessimists, according to a study of over 1,100 people tracked for 30 years by researchers at the Mayo Clinic. And, in a separate study of 999 people, men and women ages 65 to 85, researchers in the Netherlands found that optimistic participants had lower rates of heart disease and were 77% less likely to die of cardiovascular diseases.
Switch jobs
Yes, your critical boss really can make you sick. The more your job stresses you out, the greater your chance of developing metabolic syndrome, a combination of factors that increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, according to a study of over 10,000 British civil servants.
Turn on the tunes
Researchers found that classical music, particularly Baroque--think Pachelbel's Canon in D--works well. Music with adagio movements of 60 beats per minute produced heightened alpha brain wave activity similar to that found during deep relaxation and meditation.
Don't yo-yo diet
Is fitting into that slinky black dress worth a heart attack? A study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health showed that consistently gaining or losing weight increased the risk of cardiovascular disease due to lower levels of HDL, the good cholesterol.
Take control
"When you perceive you're not in control, that's when stress hormones come into play," says Goldberg. Know what triggers your stress, and work to lessen the feelings so the stress is not prolonged.
Toast less
"Some people use alcohol to reduce stress, but it's a two-edged sword that most likely will lead to dependency," says JoAnn Manson, MD, DrPH, chief of the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital. Abusing alcohol raises levels of triglycerides, which are fats in the blood, and can lead to high blood pressure and heart failure.
Practice tai chi
Moods were raised and cortisol levels dropped in one study of tai chi practitioners. When compared to other participants in the study who walked 6 kilometers per hour, the tai chi practitioners were found to have similar heart rate and blood pressure levels.
Have you heard the one about...?
Researchers at Loma Linda University Medical Center had adults view funny videos, and found that humor triggered a physiological response similar to exercise. Laughter increased endorphins and neurotransmitters, lowered stress hormone levels, and activated T-cells, which fight viruses. Too buttoned up to belly laugh? Consider joining a laughter club for some help (
Forgive someone
Stanford researchers, in a study of 259 people who received forgiveness training, found that 70% of them had decreased feelings of hurt, 27% had reduced physical symptoms of stress, and 15% had lower emotional stress.
Make friends
"Women need each other, especially after a sudden stressful event," says Goldberg. A 2005 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that women's hearts are more vulnerable to sudden stressful events, and that highly emotional experiences cause a surge in stress hormones and temporarily weaken the heart muscle.
In a Canadian study of 90 patients, those who meditated in a group for 7 weeks, as well as additionally at home, had lower scores of mood disturbances, stress, depression, anxiety, and anger than the group that did not meditate. So take time to center. Most experts and meditation teachers recommend 20-minute periods.
SOURCE: Therese Droste, a freelance health and fitness writer based in Washington, DC.

Top 5 Ways to Spice Up Your Health

17 May, 2016

Spices. Wars have been fought over them. Great explorers have sailed in pursuit of them. And gifting history was made by three wise men bearing them. Turns out that the ancients were on to something. Research is now showing that five spices we've long savored just for their flavor are also nutritional powerhouses. Toss these overachievers into your salad or sauce and get a whopping dose of disease-preventing antioxidants along with a flavorful punch.

  • Cinnamon: This natural germ-fighter also helps lower blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels -- one-quarter teaspoon a day is a healthy goal. Sprinkle a little of the powder on freshly ground coffee beans when making your morning java, or try these irresistible Cinnamon Baked Apples for a low-cal dessert.
  • Thyme: It makes it into recipes for marinades, grilled poultry, and fish by virtue of its minty, lemony flavor; it makes it onto the list of healthy herbs by virtue of its anticancer potency. It's also long been used as an antiseptic -- yep, that could be thyme oil in your mouthwash. If you've got a fresh bunch, mince some into your vinaigrette. Yum.
  •  Cumin: Concealed in your humble chili powder is one of the world's most popular spices (it's a key ingredient in Indian curries, too) and another anticancer soldier. Go exotic and add cumin to rice, grain salads, and marinades.
  • Oregano: Thank our GIs for bringing oregano home from Italy after WWII. A food-world superpower, leaves of the herb boast 42 times more antioxidants than apples. Wow! Use oregano to add a delicate flavor to salad dressings, garlic bread, and omelets, as well as your favorite pastas.   
  • Turmeric: Called the "Queen of the Kitchen" by Indian cooks, turmeric (and its active ingredient, curcumin) has earned its crown. Studies show promise in fighting cystic fibrosis, colon cancer, arthritis, and even Alzheimer's -- is there anything this golden gal can't do? For an earthy flavor and yellow coloring, add a pinch of turmeric to rice, stew, or lentils -- hey, it might even help you remember where you left your keys last night.


3 Ways to Boost Your Balance

13 May, 2016

How's your balance?

Stand with one of your feet 12 inches off the ground and see how long you can balance. You should be able to balance for 24 to 28 seconds if you are between 20 and 49 years of age. If you're between 50 and 59, 21 seconds is average -- 10 seconds if you're between 60 and 69. And if you're between 70 and 79, 4 seconds is average. Now, here are three ways to make your balance better.

Feeling Unsteady? Balance diminishes with age. And poor balance can set the stage for a nasty fall -- a major cause of injury and disability in older adults.
But you can change all that with 10 to 15 minutes of balance exercises three times a week. Here are some simple ones to try from Scott McCredie, author of the book Balance: In Search of the Lost Sense.

    Squat sit: With a chair behind you, squat as if you were about to sit. Just before your bottom makes contact with the chair, stand back up. Work your way up to ten reps.
    Heel-to-toe walk: Stand up straight and hold your arms out to the side. Now, place one foot directly in front of the other, with the heel of your front foot touching the toes of your back foot. Practice walking forward and backward in an imaginary straight line.
    One-leg stand: Balance on one leg while doing everyday tasks, such as brushing your teeth, watching TV, or standing in line.
    Caution! If you aren't so steady on your feet, hold on to a table, chair, or counter for extra support, and make sure someone's on hand to catch you if you start to lose your balance.

Ready to get grounded? Tune up your balance muscles with this exercise.

SOURCES: Balance: In Search of the Lost Sense. McCredie, S., New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007. Effects of exercise programs on falls and mobility in frail and pre-frail older adults: a multicenter randomized controlled trial. Faber, M. J., Bosscher, R. J., Chin A Paw, M. J., van Wieringen, P. C., Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 2006 Jul;87(7):885-896.

Island Fitness Holiday Guide to Feeling Your Best

29 November, 2015

We want you to feel fabulous when you wake up on New Year’s Day 2016! Check out our tips for maintaining your health, happiness and positive attitude.

Give back - Thanksgiving is much more than a day; it’s a state of mind. Gratitude is a word that tends to be overused, but in times such as these, it may be even more important to honor what we’re thankful for, and we have much to be grateful for. Did you know that it’s scientifically proven that happiness contributes to physical wellness? We were excited and inspired to hear that the Surgeon General believes happiness is an important component for our overall health.

Doing charitable work actually contributes to happiness. In this season, which can be so much about consumption, please consider doing more to help others less fortunate. We have so many worthy organizations within our community; Helpline House, Interfaith Volunteer Caregivers, and Arms Around Bainbridge are just a few that would welcome your support.

Rest – Keep to seven to eight hours of sleep. A good night’s sleep set’s you up for eating well, exercising and not becoming ill. A healthy lifestyle begins with rest! This is the time of year to embrace and celebrate family and friends. Plan out your commitments now, and make sure not to jeopardize your time for rest and relaxation. There is no way of completely wiping out anxiety and stress in our lives, but we can become more aware of managing our circumstances to best meet our individual needs.

Hydrate- You might not realize that drinking water would be so important this time of year. Hydrating with water will help support a strong immune system. We are especially prone to becoming dehydrated in the winter months. Whether you indulge a little too much in your caffeine or alcohol intake, it is important to drink a glass of purified water (preferably not out of a plastic water bottle). For every glass or cup of indulgence you partake in this season make sure to match it with eight ounces of water.

Nourish – We all worry about eating too much this time of year. Make sure you keep eating!! Stick with your regular healthful eating schedule. This is the best strategy for not over indulging. Eat a healthy snack or a small meal before going to a holiday gathering and you instinctively make better food and beverage choices. This is same idea as never going to the grocery store hungry. If you know you are going to be drinking alcohol or eating desert (make a choice either alcohol or desert, but not both) Eat salad first! It’s a proven fact that if you eat salad (w/healthy dressing) or greens first, you’ll consume few calories overall. Next, fill your plate with reasonable portions of a good source of lean protein and fiber. Look for the green veggie, chicken and seafood options. You can always bring your own healthful offering to the party.

Move – Keep exercising! Indoors or outdoors – move your body on a daily basis. Exercise equals good health, longevity and overall happiness. If you incorporate the first steps above your exercise routine is sure to flourish.

We all hear about the estimated weight gain the average person experiences this time of year. This does not have to be the case for anyone who rests, hydrates, gives back, eats well and exercises.

At Island Fitness, we have lots of fun and safe ways for you to keep moving and eating well this holiday season. Join our Rowing Challenge; try a Zumba class; 30 minute cycling class; you can even get your entire fitness plan set up for the New Year with an Ortho-Kinetics® assessment. 

Everyone at Island Fitness is here to assist you with all your healthy lifestyle needs. We want you to enjoy and celebrate the holiday season and look forward to the coming year!

Send us an email or contact our Front Desk.

Open Your Heart into Fall ~ Sherry Eckert, Yoga Trainer

09 November, 2015

Fall is all about slowing down after the busy summer season, allowing for a cooler, quieter time.  Restorative yoga is especially wonderful this time of year to allow for a deeper, relaxing practice focusing on full, deep breaths while the body is supported.

Plyometrics - how and why

12 October, 2015

Plyometric exercise is a great way to train the body for explosive movements. Plyometrics are often used to increase overall jumping capability, but similar techniques can also be used to train for explosiveness in the upper body. The benefits of plyometric exercises can be applied to most sports, especially to jumping sports like basketball and volleyball. But what exactly are plyometric exercises? How do they work? How can you incorporate them into your workout routine?

Plyometrics use what is called the stretch-shorten cycle reflex. This is when the muscle is stretched and wants to snap back to its starting position. Plyometric exercises increase the starting strength and rate of force production in which this process occurs. This results in a faster take off and a higher jump.

Before incorporating plyometric exercises into your routine it is critical to complete an Ortho-Kinetics® Assessment with a Professional Trainer. The assessment will identify any joint imbalances that may need to be corrected and stabilized before attempting explosive movements. Making sure you have a firm foundation built on stabilization and strength is a prerequisite to any plyometrics program. Remember, plyometrics focus on power. You don't want to try to shoot a cannon out of a canoe!

To incorporate plyometric exercises into your routine, begin with some dynamic stretches that target the area of the body to be exercised. Once you are sufficiently warmed up, perform your plyometric exercises prior to doing any strength work. Choose up to five simple exercises that don't need progression. After 4 to 6 weeks you can start increasing the difficulty of the exercises. Be sure to do them when you are rested and not fatigued, for example, not right after a tough weight workout. Sets and repetitions can vary ranging from 7 sets of 3 to 3 sets of 7. The more sets, the fewer reps, and vice-versa. Always push yourself to jump farther and higher than before. And most important, have fun!

~Tony Locascio, Professional Trainer

A Gym for All Seasons

03 July, 2015

As we head into the height of summer the gym is happy to offer you AIR CONDITIONING! The reality is, we are creatures of the Pacific Northwest and not acclimated to working out in the heat. We've got you covered. Island Fitness offers a cool environment to get your work done so that you can enjoy the beautiful weather without the guilt.

In the spring I wrote an article touting our new AMT machines in the cardio room. We are so pleased that so many of you have found your way to them! They are a great low impact way to work on leg strength and cardio endurance. With their growth in popularity we are going to ask you to set your time for a 30 minute workout. If you wish to put in more time on the AMT, please switch to another machine (or opt to do some weight work) and then return to the AMT. This gives those who are waiting an opportunity to work in.

We moved the ARC trainers (with stationary arms) to the front of the cardio room to make way for additional elliptical trainers (yay!). We now have a good array of machines available at the front to accommodate members who do not wish to have a screen in front of them while they work out. If you are working on reducing your screen time, step up to the front of the room. An additional benefit will be natural sunlight exposure which is recommended for those with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

To help motivate you to stay on track over the summer we offer our SIZZLING SUMMER Event! And it begins next Wednesday July 1st. This is one of my favorite events at Island Fitness because it is easy, fun and free. Our goal is to celebrate you for coming in over the summer and not losing momentum! Sign up, come in, get your card initialed, WIN PRIZES! It's that easy!

Enjoy your summer and see you at the gym!

~Carol Hasko

Exercise Keeps the Brain Sharp By Lee Dye

05 May, 2015

New research shows that physical fitness can actually affect the structure of the human brain, and exercise may be our best friend when it comes to keeping the old noggin tuned up while we age.

We've been told for years that staying fit helps fight off the decline in cognition due to aging, and that's common sense because the brain, after all, is part of the body. But for the first time scientists have literally looked inside the human brain and found that people who exercise regularly maintain a physiological advantage over couch potatoes.

To put it simply, their brains don't shrink as much.

Keeping Your Grays and Whites

The researchers used high-resolution magnetic resonance imaging to study the brains of 55 volunteers between the ages of 56 and 79. They found that those who were physically fit had lost far less of their brain's gray and white matter than those who got very little exercise.

"People who are most fit showed the largest benefit," says psychologist Arthur F. Kramer of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "They showed the least amount of reduction in brain volume."

Gray matter is home to the neurons that are so important to learning and memory. White matter is sort of the brain's Internet, with fibers that send signals throughout the brain. Scientists have known for years that these tissues begin to shrink at about the age of 30 in a pattern that closely matches declines in cognitive performances, says Kramer, leader of the research team.

But the new research shows that the decline can be minimized by physical exercise, because the fitter participants had more gray and white matter than those who exercised less.

Furthermore, the areas that showed the most benefit are the same areas associated with mental decline due to aging, such as short-term memory loss.

The researchers found far more gray and white matter in the frontal, temporal and parietal cortexes among the physically fit participants.

That's particularly significant because of the role each of those areas plays in the cognitive processes.

Crucial Cognition

"The frontal areas of the brain have a lot to do with what people call higher-level cognition," Kramer says. That's where we synthesize information, and store data we've just acquired. If that's not up to par, you're likely to forget a phone number that you just looked up.

The temporal lobes consolidate short-term memories and build them into long-term memories. The parietal lobes allow us to navigate.

"People call it spatial cognition, to get around in the world," Kramer says.

All of those areas are associated with mental decline due to aging, and "those seem to be the areas that are most responsive to fitness training," he adds.

The participants were all well educated men and women, ranging from sedentary to very fit athletes. Three-dimensional brain scans were done on each participant, allowing the researchers to measure the density of white and gray matter.

Kramer cautions against drawing too many conclusions from the University of Illinois study, because more research needs to be done.

"This is the first study ever to look at the link between brain structure and fitness," he says.

But it fits neatly with other major studies at the university, also led by Kramer. Another study shows that even people who begin exercising late in life "show pretty dramatic benefits."

Doctor: ‘Get Off the Couch’

But those who start younger reap the greatest rewards, adds Kramer, a physical fitness nut who has even climbed Alaska's Denali (also known as Mount McKinley), the highest peak in North America.

If you want to keep your senses, he says, the evidence is clear: "Get off the couch, no matter how old you are."

"There's no reason not to start if you're older, and there's no reason not to start earlier if you're younger," he says. "We've been doing this kind of work for years, and 20-year-olds always say to me, 'Well, what does it matter? I can always wait until I'm 60.'

"My reply is the effects tend to be larger if you start younger. So if you plan to be around when you're 70, it might be a good idea to start now."

Another study led by Kramer, which will be published in the March issue of Psychological Science, revealed some similar results. It found:

Exercise programs involving both aerobic exercise and strength training produced better results on cognitive abilities than either one alone. That suggests that the old rule of walking 30 minutes a day, three days a week, may not offer as much protection against mental decline as a more vigorous routine.

Older adults benefit more than younger people because age-related declines are more pronounced.

The magnetic imaging study will be published in the February issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences. The studies were funded by the National Institute on Aging and the New York-based Institute for the Study of Aging.

Lee Dye’s column appears weekly on A former science writer for the Los Angeles Times, he now lives in Juneau, Alaska.

1 2 3 11 Next »