Plenty of people purchase gym membership, say they are going to eat healthier, and plan to increase their fitness activities. But how do you keep the fitness fire burning when the gym loses some of the glamour and the couch and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s are calling your name? Top local trainers give fitness advice through a series of questions and answers:
Kat Saurbier of Oak Brook Racquet & Fitness Club
I have a sedentary job, and throughout the day, my back feels strained and hunched over. Is there a quick fix to relieve my pain on my lunch break? What can I do to improve my posture in the long run?
Unfortunately, I think your problem is a common one. However, there are some basic, easy exercises that you can do on your own to help strengthen your back and the muscles that contribute to healthy posture.
Bridge: Lying on your back with knees bent and spine neutral, contract your glutes, pull your abdominals in toward your spine, and lift your hips up off the ground so that you are in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Be sure you don’t lift the hips by arching the back—the work should come from your glutes and hamstrings with the abdominals tightly contracted. This will help open up the hip flexors (which can get tight from too much sitting) and strengthen the glutes. Do 10 to 12 reps. To progress this exercise, try lifting one leg off the floor parallel to the other and then lift and lower the hips, being sure to keep them level.
Scapular retraction: Sitting in a chair with a tall, neutral spine, reach your arms straight out to shoulder height. Retract your scapula (squeeze your shoulder blades together). Hold for several seconds and release. Do 10 to 12 reps. Keep shoulders down and initiate the move from the shoulder blades and not the arms. This exercise will help strengthen the middle and upper back muscles which contribute to better posture and will help combat that hunched and rounded posture you mentioned.
Thoracic extension: Lie prone, with arms long by your sides, palms facing the body. Slide your shoulders down and lift your upper back off the floor, keeping the neck long and neutral, reaching your fingertips to your toes, abs tightly contracted. Hold for a couple seconds and lower down. Do 10 to 12 reps. This is a great way to counter all that forward flexion you do sitting at your desk by extending your back in the opposite direction. To progress this exercise, bend your elbows and rest your forehead on your fingertips. Keep your fingers on your forehead as you lift the upper back off the floor, adding a bit of body weight to the lift.
As far as a long-term plan, I would design a program that would include cardio, strength, and stretching. I would want to strengthen all the major muscle groups, paying special attention to your core and any issues you have resulting from your particular postural alignment. Since the body functions like a chain with each link connecting to the others, you want the whole chain to be strong and healthy. I would probably incorporate some Pilates exercises into your regimen as well, since Pilates is all about strengthening and lengthening through stability.
After a kickboxing instructor suggested Kat Saurbier go into teaching, she acquired a range of fitness certifications, including kickboxing, general group exercise, personal training and Pilates. obrfc.com
Erik Knowles of Five Seasons Sports Club in Burr Ridge
Diet and nutrition inevitably play a role in health and fitness. What do you
recommend eating before or after a workout? What are the best foods to keep you energized? Are supplements for everyone?
Before I say anything about diet and nutrition, I want to clarify that I am not a registered dietitian; it is recommended that if you have any illnesses, consult with a doctor or a registered dietitian to better design your diet.
I don’t recommend eating sooner than one hour prior to the workout, and try not to eat anything too heavy or hard to digest. Before your workout, you want to eat complex carbs: oatmeal, brown rice, sweet potatoes. Complex carbs allow the body to have sustained energy, versus simple carbs, which offer immediate energy but for a short amount of time. Post-workout, I would recommend a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein. A banana and a protein shake would be a perfect example.
We always recommend three basic supplements no matter what your goal is: a supplement replacement that is 100 percent whey, CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), and L-Carnitine. CLA is a fatty acid that allows your body to metabolize fat, and L-Carnitine is an amino acid that allows the body to utilize its energy storage. Together, these maximize the energy systems of the body, spare lean muscle tissue, and help build new muscle.
My diet philosophy is fairly simple: portion control, meal timing, and food selection. Too many people consume the majority of their carbs in the evening; you really need to eat the majority in the morning up until the afternoon, and replace them in the evening with more vegetables. You should also be eating something about every three hours, because as you go longer, your body’s blood sugar levels tend to drop too low. As for food selection, I tell my clients to choose foods like grass-fed beef, range-free eggs—things that are organic. The chemicals put in foods obstruct your body’s ability to utilize the nutrition properly.
Erik Knowles received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science with a minor in strength and conditioning. He is certified through both the National Strength and Conditioning Association and National Exercise & Sports Trainers Association. His fitness philosophy is “Use it or lose it—keep yourself active every day for at least an hour each day.” fiveseasonssportsclub.com/burrridge
Stacey Fotias of Hinsdale Athletic Club
Machines versus fitness classes: What are the benefits of doing a class versus hopping on a treadmill or bike?
The benefits you get by doing a class is that you get natural movement. The machines restrict and control your movement. However, the use of bands, stability bands, and kettlebells benefit more than using a machine that’s doing everything for you. Using your own body weight for exercise is also far more superior than machines because it requires you to work your core. Core and stability are so important, especially as people get older, because it helps with functional movements.
The truth is, people don’t like to work out, so I try to make it fun. If you put people on a machine, it’s so redundant and repetitive. In class, people don’t realize they’re working out; they’re having fun! You can take a variety of classes—boot camp, Pilates, Zumba—the hour’s up and you’re done. You don’t have to be in a gym three hours a day; I think you can attain everything you want in an hour.
Stacey Fotias got her bachelor of science degree from Elmhurst College and went on to get certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She leads group classes as well as individual training. For her, fitness is not just a job—she’s a firm believer in it and she loves what she does. hinsdaleathleticclub.com
Ted Dres of Spark Fitness in Hinsdale
So many people are on-the-go and claim they don’t have time to exercise. What, then, would be the best workout in the shortest time frame? Does an intense 10-minute workout beat a half hour of jogging?
The best workout is high-intensity interval training for at least 20 minutes.
What is interval training?
High-intensity interval training involves a series of high-intensity exercises immediately followed by a very short period of recovery. The key is sequential resistance training using opposing muscle groups. If you want to have a long calorie burn, you can only get that with interval training, as it allows you to continually burn the most calories for up to 38 hours after your workout is over. Alternatively, steady-state cardio, which may involve using a treadmill, will only burn calories during the time of the workout—not after.
Interval training is more effective at achieving fat loss and calorie burn than an intense 10-minute workout or a half hour of jogging. This is due to the metabolism-boosting effects of exercising at high-intensity intervals. At least 20 minutes of intense interval resistance training will give clients ideal results for the amount of time they have.
Ted Dres has worked in every aspect of the fitness industry, from being a certified personal trainer and corrective exercise specialist from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) to receiving his master’s of business administration and owning Spark Fitness in Hinsdale. He is passionate about helping people achieve their goals and attain visible results. sparkhinsdale.com
Duane Johnson, club manager, and Jo Bice, group exercise supervisor, of Midtown Athletic Club in Willowbrook
The million-dollar question: How to stay committed to that New Year’s resolution? How do you engage the uncommitted to stick to a regular workout routine?
Duane: First, I would ask them what their honest goal is deep down inside. Why is this goal the most important to them and how would it affect their life? Then, I would find out what they enjoy and introduce them to a workout style that fits them. Once you know that, you can start them at the appropriate level for them to succeed. A lot of people say they want to lose weight, but when you get them to say why they want to lose weight, they start to focus more in on it and it’s more than just about the weight. If I motivate someone, I’m only motivating them for the time I’m with them; if I can inspire them, they’re doing things when I’m not there.
Jo: By making it fun and sticking with the client’s interests. If they hate the treadmill, I’m not going to put them on a treadmill! It’s all about what the client wants, what their true goal is, and what they enjoy. If a trainer can meld all three of those things, you will have a committed client.
Duane Johnson has been in the industry for 20 years and is certified by NASM and Personal Training Academy Global. He is the club and fitness manager of Midtown Athletic Club in Willowbrook. midtown.com
– Hinsdale Living Editorial Team // Photography by Joel Lerner