Wednesday, April 23, 2008


By Courtney Westlake


Exercising without stretching forces your body's muscles to work without being properly prepared.

"Stretching is important because it helps prevent injury of the muscle and helps to rehabilitate the muscles, so if you're already injured, it's nice to stretch the muscles to help the fluids in your muscles start activating," said Amanda Jillson, assistant director of fitness and instructional programs at the TRAC.

Stretching the major muscle groups of the body is essential, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, lower back, and shoulder and arms muscles. There are several simple exercises to stretch your major muscle groups. (To watch the stretches being demonstrated, check out the video.)

Your quadriceps are located at the front of the thighs between knees and hips. To stretch them, pull your heel back to your glute. Make sure to keep your knee pointed downward and close to your other leg, not pulling it outward, Jillson said. Hold for about 10 seconds and then switch legs.

Another good stretch for your legs involves pivoting and sinking back into your heel. Keep one leg bent and one leg straight, like you are able to drag your heel across the floor. You should feel the pull in your hamstring, located on the back of your upper leg. For a different stretch, pull your toe back towards you, which will stretch both your calf muscle and your hamstring.

To stretch your arms, put one arm straight out and bring it across your body; put your opposite hand right on your elbow and pull your arm into your chest. When you are doing this, you will feel the pull in your triceps, shoulders and the back of the arm.

To stretch your back, interlock your hands in front of you and push your arms out. This move pulls your trapezes in your back. To stretch your chest, do the same motion behind your back by interlocking your hands and pulling your shoulders back with your arms up.

When someone should stretch has become controversial topic, Jillson said, but she recommends stretching both before and after exercising.

"But you always want to stretch when you're warm," she emphasized. "You never want to stretch a cold muscle, so you always want to warm up with a light jog or jumping jacks - something for a brief couple of minutes. And after you perform your exercises, you always want to cool down with some mild stretches."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Eating Healthy for Less

By Courtney Westlake


Most of us know what we should eat as part of a nutrient-rich, balanced diet, but it doesn't have to cost as much as people might think.

There are several different ways to eat healthy without putting a strain on your budget, said Amanda Jillson, assistant director of fitness and instructional programs at the TRAC.

"Tis the season- it's the season of fruits of vegetables, and we're getting into the prime time when everything is fresh," she said. "Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, and you can also can or freeze fruits and vegetables."

Shop around as well, and try to buy from the local farmers markets and food stands.

"It's always better to eat local than at the big grocery stores," Jillson said.

You should also plan ahead. One night a week, sit down and look at your schedule so you can plan accordingly for your meals, Jillson recommended. You won't be forced to eat on the run or make poor choices when you have nutritious meals ready to be made or already made.

Jillson also advised people to take a daily multivitamin, which is an excellent supplement to getting the nutrition that we need. And don't forget one of the simplest ways to help your body, for free: getting enough water.

"You want about eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses, so anywhere from 64 to 80 ounces of water a day," Jillson said. "But if you're especially active, you should try to consume at least 100 ounces of water daily. Water is just really important for your health."

Lastly, watch for sales and use coupons when you can. Most stores often have various items on sale each week, including produce, fish and other healthy foods.

"It's really important to shop around and look for those discounts," Jillson said. "Using some of these different tips will help you eat healthily and not break the bank."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Disability Awareness

By Courtney Westlake


When the new recreation and athletic center at UIS opened last semester, it featured numerous state-of-the-art amenities, including a performance arena, fitness room, racquetball courts and tons of new exercise equipment, many pieces of which are handicap-accessible for students, staff and faculty with disabilities.

"TRAC has many different types of accessible fitness equipment for individuals with disabilities," said Amanda Jillson, assistant director of fitness and instructional programs at the TRAC. "There are hundreds of different disabilities, and if we're made aware of someone's needs, we can work with them to adapt our equipment for them."

One machine that can be accessible to people with different kinds of disabilities is the functional trainer. On the functional trainer, the attachments move to different levels, from the very bottom of the floor to the top of the machine, and can also move closer in to a person or farther away.

"We also have a cable crossover machine, resistance bands, dumbbells, and we have a line of equipment where the seat can be removed," Jillson said. "If a participant has difficulty using a piece of equipment then all they need to do is let me know and I can show them an alternative exercise that might be more suitable to their needs."

Staff members are available when the TRAC is open and are able to assist if someone should need help using the equipment, such as an attachment changed or an arm moved up and down on a certain piece of equipment, Jillson said.

If you need a "prescription," like knowing how much weight you should do or how to use a machine properly, that's where Jillson, who has a background in therapeutic recreation, comes in.

"So I encourage students, faculty and staff members to utilize my background," Jillson said. "Come and ask questions and set up an appointment with me, and I'll be able to create a workout for you that is catered to you and the health and fitness goals that you have."

Friday, April 4, 2008

Core Exercises

By Courtney Westlake


Sure, it's nice to have toned calves or bulging biceps, but the muscles you should especially focus on are at the core of your body.

"Core" refers to the muscles in your abdominals, along your sides (like the obliques) and your back muscles, and your core muscles are the basis for many of the activities and functions of your body.

"Your core is important for overall fitness as well as good posture and stabilization," said Nathan Forcum, a personal trainer with the TRAC. "You use your core in almost all exercises, even things like running and skiing, so it's good to keep those muscles strengthened."

Forcum and Amanda Jillson, assistant director of fitness and instructional programs at the TRAC, showcased some basic exercises one can to do strengthen the core muscles (to view the proper form, watch the video):

The Superman: lay on your stomach with your arms extended over your head and raise your arms and legs upwards to create a curvature in your back where your spine is. This exercise works your back core muscles, stabilizer muscles and lower back, Forcum said.

The Bridge: lay on your back with your knees bent and lift your pelvis toward the ceiling. Forcum said this focuses on your stomach, legs and glute muscles.

The Plank: get parallel to the ground face down and balance on your toes and forearms, simply maintaining your body in this position which works all of your core muscles. You can also lift each leg up and down to work different muscles, Forcum added.

"Your core should be treated more or less like any muscles; you don't want to overwork them," Forcum said. "As a general rule, unless your workouts are extremely strenuous, you can work them out every other day or couple times a week."