Mouth Clamped Shut: the Anguish of a Responsible Personal Trainer

01/09/2014

It’s a recurring theme. 

To speak or not to speak?  To be a Buttinsky or keep my mouth shut?

One of the most difficult challenges I’ve faced since becoming a personal trainer is maintaining my own fitness.  Between maintaining balance between scheduling appointments, travel, administrative and personal obligations, I also had to deal with what was for me a new phenomenon.

Celebrity?!?

Okay, so that may be slightly overstating things, but there’s no question that I became a popular and sought-after figure on the fitness floor.  Consistently completing an intense, focused workout became more and more challenging in my “home” fitness center.

So many people stopped to chat — fitness center members, staff, my clients — that I couldn’t follow my usual routine: maintain an intensity that I was used to or complete all the exercises I wanted to do in the time I had to do them.

Oh, I know.  I could have politely but firmly excused myself and continued my routine.  I could, and did, wear headphones (didn’t help).  But that’s so against my nature that I almost always allowed the interruption.

So, for this and other reasons, I’m a member of more than one club.  I need my space!

That presents its own set of challenges.  Not the least of which is learning to keep my mouth shut.

And not interrupt my workout!

(I mean, how true is the expression “Life Imitates Art?”)

Well, life imitated art as recently as this morning.  A young lady — who I’m certain was doing her fair share of courting (that’s a polite, old fashioned way to say flirting) — was asking her buff, male companion for help as she performed a series of strength training exercises.

I cringed as I watched her do the first exercise.  Dumbbells overhead, sitting on a flat bench, her lower back arched too far forward, shoulders rounded back, and emitting a cute little grunt as she heaved the weights heavenward.

She was imitating her musclebound companion, who was performing the same exercise right next to her, on a chair with proper back support.  He tossed the much heavier dumbbells above his head with such ease that they could have been plastic toys.

They both finished their set, she on the bench and he in the chair.  Then he sat her down in the chair and gave her instructions as she performed a second set.

Back still arched unnaturally forward, negating the benefit of sitting in the chair, shoulders molded around the top and back of the chair.  Same cute little grunt as she heaved the weights high above her head.  That is, when she wasn’t telling him “I want to look like youuuuu!”

I finished my set of chest presses and I need a stretch.  I’m watching her lift as I walked directly behind her chair, the words screaming in my head, “pardon me; may I make a suggestion?”

But I can’t bring myself to open my yap.

Just like driving past a traffic accident, I had a hard time looking the other way.

I see this scene repeated virtually every time I’m in a gym or fitness studio.

What to do?  Where does my responsibility begin and end?  Do I have any?  It’s like knowing CPR and not offering assistance.

But… she was getting assistance.

How did I know the guy wasn’t her paid personal trainer?

How would my friendly advice have been perceived?  Would my interruption have been any different than those friendly interruptions I get during my workouts?

It was getting late.  I finished my workout and headed for the locker room.  There were my two new, unnamed friends, behind me now at the leg press machine.  She was on the seat, a couple light weight plates on either side of the machine.  He was offering instructions.  Her head off the bench, neck muscles straining, shoulder blades rotated forward, teeth clenched, as she drove her legs forward.

Heading toward the shower, I had visions of shoulder and cervical spine issues in this lady’s future.

Should I have been a Buttinsky and said something?

Would she have listened?

What do you think?

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Low Calories

01/11/2013

As I sit here licking my lips from the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I just devoured (hey, even fitness studs like me — NOT!!! — have breakdowns every now and then), I’m going to pick on an e-mail I received today from my favorite coffeehouse.  They shall remain nameless simply because I’m going to pick on them.

Just a little.  And playfully.  Citing their e-mail only as an example.

First of all, the PB and J… yummy.

I was starving.

Well, probably not literally.  But my little (?) tummy was growling and I felt the need to torture the cats by eating something they don’t like.  I spied the loaf of Natural Ovens Bakery Hunger Filler bread (100% whole grain, 4 g of fiber, 2 g of sugar, 4 g of protein per slice), and the worst thing you can be is anything edible when I’m hungry.  Two slices toasted, slathered with natural peanut butter and Smucker’s grape jam (yes, it’s true… high fructose corn syrup; even I’m not perfect), and the leftover cup of green tea, reheated for, like, the fourth time.

A tasty little snack that satisfied the hunger pangs.

So here’s the takeaways:

  1. Strength training means never having to say you’re full.  Well, that’s not exactly true, but it sure makes it seem that way.  I never feel full (except at Thanksgiving and on Christmas Day).  The point is, burn a lot of calories, build some muscle, and it requires more calories to fill you up.
  2. Nobody’s perfect.  If you eat an occasional non-supportive meal, the world will not end.  The sun will rise in the morning (even if obscured by clouds).  You will have another opportunity to get it right tomorrow.  And the sandwich wasn’t that “non-supportive.”  Well, except for the high fructose corn syrup.  That’s why it’s best not to even have it in the house; it got in between me and my empty stomach.
  3. If you’re hungry and you know you’re hungry, eat!  I’m not an expert on emotional eating, but I know I’ve done it and will probably do it again.  But after you get in the habit of eating supportive meals on most days of the week and spacing your calories throughout the day, you get in touch with your body’s needs and you know when your body is craving calories and you’re not using food as an “outlet.”

Now back to the e-mail…

This particular coffee establishment was advertising various breakfast and beverage items.  The title of their e-mail:

“Resolving to be healthier? (We) can help.”

How can they help?  Their advertised items are low in calories.

Is that a good thing?

We’re not going to get into your body’s metabolic needs in this post.  Suffice it to say, we have to consume enough calories — quality calories — so our body can function appropriately, so we don’t slow our metabolism.

Our body cannot differentiate between “cutting calories to lose weight” and starving.  If we don’t adequately fuel our body, our body will respond accordingly.

The e-mail got me thinking about the menu boards at restaurants like Panera Bread and McDonald’s, etc. that now indicate the number of calories contained in each food item.

That’s a nice start.

But it’s incomplete information.

For instance, in the coffeehouse e-mail, is the Small Lite Latte (under 200 calories) healthier than the under 300 calories Classic Oatmeal?

Seems obvious, right?

Maybe not to the calorie counter desperately trying to lose ten pounds.

How much fat?  Is it saturated?  How much sugar?  Any protein?

At every meal, try to eat a lean protein, a whole grain starchy carbohydrate, and a fibrous carbohydrate.  And try to limit empty calories from beverages (we’re not talking about meal-replacement smoothies here).

So, kudos to the coffeehouse.  They’re trying to be responsible citizens while trying to sell product at the same time.  Unfortunately, in their attempt to help, they’re adding to the confusion.

The focus should not be so much on the calories as on the nutrients: the fat, carbohydrates, and protein.  And the quality of those nutrients.

All that being said, if you’re hungry and you know it’s really hunger…

EAT.

 


“The Episode” – A Night That Changed My Life

09/03/2012

I don’t suppose any school night at our house was typical.  Usually, we were racing from a girl scouts function to basketball games or vice versa, or some meeting at school or church, or all of the above.  Oh!  And wolfing down some fast food grub or snacks at the basketball game.

I don’t remember if this particular night, the night of “The Episode,” was a school night, but I do remember that I was playing racquetball in the morning and looking forward to it.  And it turned out to be a most important night on my personal transformational journey.

I always looked forward to playing racquetball.  Still do.  I enjoy the competition and camaraderie.   At the time, I’d been playing with the same group of crazies for… ten, twelve years?  Crazies?  Well yeah, who else gets up to play racquetball and take verbal abuse at 5:30 every morning?

Since we moved to Winthrop Harbor, it was more challenging to navigate the logistics.  The Southlake Club was 25 miles away.  When we lived in Gurnee, I played three or four times a week.  Not so often any more.

But tomorrow morning we had a doubles match scheduled at 6.

Late on this particular evening, dishes done, kids off to bed, I was not feeling well.  My stomach ached most of the evening and I was growing more uncomfortable with every passing moment.

Now, I will spare you all the graphic details, but most of you’ve been there.  Gastrointestinal distress, you don’t feel like socializing, you don’t feel like reading, you don’t feel like doing anything.  It would be nice if you could simply pass out and wake up when it was all over.

There are… ah, certain… “things” you wish would happen so you can just get on with the rest of your life.

Well, nothing was happening except I was getting increasingly uncomfortable.  The gastric distress intensified and I didn’t sleep one minute.  Heck, I couldn’t even lie down!  Most of the night, I groaned and paced the floor, trying not to wake anyone.

Remember Violet Beauregarde, the gum-chewing young girl from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, who blows up like a balloon from eating an experimental piece of candy and needs to have the blueberry juice squeezed out of her?  Or Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life” where Terry Jones plays Mr. Creosote, the restaurant patron who eats so much food he finally explodes after eating an after dinner mint?

Maybe I should have eaten an after dinner mint and saved myself a lot of grief.

But then I wouldn’t be able to tell you this fabulous story!

You might have guessed.  I didn’t explode.  But after an endless night of misery (about eight straight hours of excruciating pain and “things” that happened that I won’t relate) and thinking I quite likely could explode, my early morning trip was not to the racquetball courts, but the emergency room.

So Kathy drives me to the ER.  Wouldn’t you know, on the way there, my pain begins to subside.  By the time the ER doctor finally sees me, my pain is gone except for a few fleeting memories.  Sheepishly, I recount my story; the doctor discusses possible causes, and says after a routine vitals exam, he’ll send me on my way.

Uh oh… not so fast.

“You have an irregular heartbeat.”

Next thing I know, I’m flat on my back on the gurney, staring into the glare of the bright fluorescent lights, wondering what the heck has happened in the last 12 (or so) hours.

“What’s wrong with me?  I take care of myself.  I exercise (translation: play racquetball two or three times a week and basketball on Saturdays during the summer, and one touch and one tackle football game every year).  This can’t be happening.  This happens to Dad, but not me!”

Further tests and a stress test a few days later concluded that “The Episode” was not heart-related.

We never pinpointed the cause of “The Episode.”  Doctors speculated that it may have been gall bladder related and possibly related to the high fat meal I ate that night.  Nothing conclusive.

“The Episode,” however, completely changed my life.

More about that in my next post.


Introducing… Me!

08/29/2012

Hi everybody.  My name is Dave Kwiecinski.  I live with my beautiful wife, Kathy, and the youngest of our five children, Martha, in Winthrop Harbor, Illinois.  Take a look at a map… we’re at the corner of Lake Michigan and the Wisconsin state line.  See us waving to you?

I’m a “recovering CPA” who still prepares income tax returns every spring (keeps the mind sharp).  When I graduated from high school (many, many moons ago), I was convinced that I would make my living as a writer and author.  That’s all I wanted to do with my life.

College has a way of reshaping expectations and aspirations.

I wish I could blame it on the drugs, but I didn’t take ’em.  No alcohol either.  Not enough anyway.  But something made me do “accounting.”

Well, not something… someone.

Me.

I’m analytical, have a head for numbers, the rest is history.  Early into my career, I knew I had made a mistake and kept trying to “fix it.”

Over the last 32 years (yikes), the one constant theme of my life has been taxes.  Tax prep.  Consulting.

One more constant.  The unquenchable desire to help people.

Getting Kathy through nursing school, five kids, three in diapers, helping her through some major health issues, school activities… weeks blurred into months, months into years… it was easier to remain a CPA through it all.

Fast-forward to the late 1990s.  A minor health scare resulted in a trip to the emergency room.

Much ado about nothing, but to make a long story very brief, it was the catalyst to a second career as a personal fitness trainer and a new goal: to live to age 100.

Not just limp along, mind you, and gasp out my last as I crossed the “Age 100” finish line, but to live, to thrive, and to matter… all God-willing… until I’m at least 100 years old.

I have a lot to give, so much to share, and there’s so much I wish to experience, it’ll take that long to fit it all in.

————————–

In 2004, I became a personal fitness trainer.  My new career journey began as a classic “rep counter” at the McGaw YMCA in Evanston, Illinois.  My practice has evolved into a variety of specialties, from working with clients suffering from debilitating disease, such as Parkinson’s and MS, helping the “unwell” move closer to optimal health and away from preventable diseases on the life cycle continuum, to simply helping those of us in our “middle years” cope with the ravages of time’s assault on our physical structure and those looking to transform their bodies for whatever reason.

I don’t own a gym or a studio.  I make house calls.

I will write more about how I provide solutions for you in a future blog post.  For now, I simply want to introduce myself.

————————–

I still aspire to be a writer.

The next leg in my own personal transformational journey commences today.

I will assist many more of you virtually than I can individually, in a one-on-one setting, so I am entering the world of online business to search for people hurting and seeking solutions to their physical challenges.  This will fulfill my lifelong expectation that I would live my life as a writer and author, a dream sidetracked by misplaced ambition, then life circumstances, and personal choice.

My choice now is to bring me back to my center.  And thus help hundreds, perhaps thousands of you… not just a handful… at a time.  I have a lot to give, so much to share, and I still have that same unquenchable desire.  To help you get what you want.

Let me know about you.  What are your expectations for your life?  How can I help you achieve them?  Send me an e-mail: dave@davekfitness.com.

I cannot wait to help you.


Healthy Breakfast – Quick, Affordable

09/27/2011

You’ve heard the clarion call.  You’ve seen the light.  You’ve felt the vibe.

You know that eating a healthy breakfast is the right thing to do.  How do you find the time to prepare that healthy meal to start your day?

Simple!

You probably have a morning ritual.  You know how much time it takes to drag yourself out of bed once the alarm sounds.  And you probably have a pretty good idea how much time it takes to make yourself presentable before leaving home and facing the world.

Does your morning ritual allow time for breakfast or will you need to build that into your routine?

Part of my daily ritual is feeding the cats.  They already know that a hungry daddy is a crabby daddy (although the younger ones refer to me as “great grandpa,” which is really disturbing), so they allow me some extra time to begin preparing my breakfast right along with theirs.  So far, I haven’t confused their food with mine… which is probably better for me than it is for them.

(Is it more disturbing that the cats refer to me as great grandpa, or that I acknowledge that the cats are actually talking to me?)

Trader Joe’s makes a Quick Cook Steel Cut Oatmeal that sells for about $3 a can.  17 servings.  It cooks in less than ten minutes.  I add the oats to the cold water to short-cut the cooking process and let them sit for a few minutes before I start cooking.  They are quick cook, so the oats are processed, but only minimally.  You still get four grams of fiber, two of them insoluble.  They are nutty, not creamy like, say Quaker Oats Old Fashioned Oatmeal.

And no comparison to a bowl of instant oatmeal.

If you’re going to eat instant, you may as well have a banana and glass of OJ (more on that in a separate post).

Now, just plain oatmeal might be fine for some folks, but I need to spice mine up a little… so to speak.  I add a healthy dollop of Bob’s Red Mill Whole Ground Flaxseed Meal for an extra measure of fiber and healthy fat, a handful of blueberries because I like purple food (… why is it that blueberries turn my oatmeal purple?), and a handful of walnut pieces.  Oh!  And a splash of milk.  Fat-free, of course.

I love my oatmeal and don’t get tired of it.

Each serving of the above costs less than $1 per serving.  And creating that masterpiece is quick.  Less than ten minutes.

Where can you find that ten minutes?  Better than that, what part of your morning ritual allows for multitasking?

As delicious as it is, that heaping bowl of oatmeal is not enough food for me.

I had a little extra time this morning, so I scrambled two eggs.  After pouring the eggs in a preheated pan, I grabbed about a half-dozen asparagus stalks, snapped off the woody bottoms, rinsed and steamed in the microwave for one minute.  I dropped the asparagus into the pan and continued to cook them with the eggs.

Total prep and cooking time was less than five minutes.  The eggs cost about ten cents apiece, the asparagus were less than two dollars a pound, so… fifty cents?  If that…

That’s a huge breakfast.  Which is good ’cause I have a huge appetite.  Total cost: less than $3.  Total calories: about 350 to 400 for the oatmeal mixture (walnuts account for about half) and about 150 to 200 for the eggs and asparagus.  Good fats, complex carbohydrates, lean protein (egg whites would have been leaner).

It’s easy to tailor the calorie count to your nutritional needs.  Remember… better to eat until you’re full than to count calories.

You are undoubtedly more creative than me and will come up with many alternatives to garnish your oatmeal.  Just remember to keep the selections healthy and supportive.

And every three to three and a half hours later, do it again.  Eat.  Healthy and supportive.


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