Fitness for All
“I WANT TO BE A LEAN, MEAN MUSCLE MACHINE.” I’ve always associated “bulking up” with frat boys, meatheads and any other health nuts nicknaming their arms “weapons of mass destruction.”
Kris Mukherji, fitness manager at 24 Hour Fitness in La Jolla, tells me tackling this goal with an egocentric mentality is tempting a hernia. He says healthy muscular gain requires planning and pacing. He attributes 60 percent of results to nutrition. And no, inhaling a 50-gallon drum of protein every month is not the secret.
“You don’t just eat protein, because it’s pretty low in calories,” Mukherji says. “Nutrition has to come from all directions.”
He recommends a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fiber and essential fatty acids. He also suggests supplementing the diet with a multivitamin, L-glutamine, whey protein and, for the especially active, a meal replacement product.
The workout objective, Mukherji says, is to “keep things simple.” Free-weight power-lifts take the place of my dreaded cardio—hoo-ah! Muscle exhaustion is the goal, so Mukherji encourages heavy weights for three sets of six to 10 repetitions. Just don’t compromise form for increased weight. “You’re in the gym to work your body, not your ego,” Mukherji says. “It’s about humbling yourself.”
Paired with a good sleep pattern, this advice promises to transform “peashooters” into “cannons.” But Mukherji is careful to reiterate the importance of keeping your eyes on the prize— and not just your biceps. 858-551-7800; 24hourfitness.com
—J. MAURY HARRIS
“I WANT TO BLOW THE COMPETITION OUT OF THE WATER.”
Kathryn Giblin was running along Mission Bay when she spotted a boathouse and decided to inquire about rowing lessons. Fast-forward two years, and Giblin is schooling the competition as a member of the ZLAC Rowing Club, the world’s oldest women’s rowing club.
“I’ve worked out diligently for the past 10 years, but into my 30s it became really hard to keep in shape,” says Giblin. “Rowing works every part of my body; I’m happy with how I look and feel, and it’s a much more enjoyable way to work out.” To get in shape for races such as the San Diego Crew Classic, Giblin trains six to seven days weekly, alternating core strength training and cardio cross-training in the gym with technique drills on the water. “Time spent on the erg [stationary rowing machine] brings all the training together,” she adds.
ZLAC coach Mary Obidinski’s training regimen dispels a common myth about rowers: “While many people believe a good rower must have a huge upper body,” she says, “the reality is it’s a high-intensity aerobic sport that requires a phenomenal aerobic base and strong legs.” To become a strong rower, she advises building that aerobic base by doing longer workouts at a lower intensity. 858-274-0661; zlac.org
“I’M AN AMATEUR TRIATHLETE WITH IRON AMBITION.”
A few years ago, burnt out on pounding the pavement as a runner and eager to mix up my athletic pursuits, I decided to tri it. Triathlon, that is. The ultra-fit triathletes I saw swimming, biking and running along Highway 101 only encouraged my interest. After gaining some experience under my (fuel) belt in shorter races, I decided to step it up: I signed up for the Ironman triathlon.
The Ironman is a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride, topped off with a marathon run (26.2 miles). I brought months of training and guidance from a small army of experts—personal trainer Kevin Lewallen, nutritionist, swim coach, countless massage therapists and other, more seasoned triathletes—to the start line of the Ford Ironman Arizona in April.
Winner of the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii eight times, San Diegan is the event’s reigning queen. “The most important thing to keep in mind is to not fixate on the end result,” she says. “If you are generally fit and work out four to five hours per week, it’s reasonable to build up to Ironman in six months if you are consistent in your training.” Programs like those offered through Multisports.com, where Newby-Fraser coaches, can be instrumental for first-timers.
Equally important as those long rides and runs is establishing a customized nutrition plan. According to sports nutritionist and competitive triathlete Kim Mueller, triathletes expend anywhere from 2,500 to 5,000-plus calories per day when training. “In order to optimize training and sports performance, an equal amount of energy should be consumed,” she advises. Not a problem for this triathlete; the all-day, guilt-free noshing is just one training perk. 760-635-1795; multisports.com; kbnutrition.com
“I’M A PRO RUGBY PLAYER WHO WANTS TO CRUSH THE WORLD CUP COMPETITION.”
Thirty-year-old Riaan Hamilton of Leucadia doesn’t just play rugby. He eats and breathes the sport he’s played since he was a child growing up in South Africa. Hamilton moved to the United States seven years ago to pursue a professional rugby career, eventually landing in San Diego and on the Old Mission Beach Athletic Club (OMBAC) team, which bills itself “the nation’s premier rugby football club.” He’s also a member of the national rugby team, with which he’s training for the World Cup.
Rugby training is a seven-days-a-week discipline for Hamilton, who is also a certified personal trainer at North County’s Cardiffit. He juggles his daily weightlifting regimen with practice for two separate teams, plus a battery of conditioning and strength-training workouts. “It’s important to balance the weightlifting with workouts that enhance my speed and agility,” he says. “I focus a lot on explosive training.”
Regarding diet, rugby players should “eat a hell of a lot— between six and eight meals a day,” he says. Hamilton recommends lean protein like chicken and fish during the week, with emphasis on carbohydrate intake heading into the weekend— match time. 760-634-9743; cardiffit.com; ombac.org
“I’M A 40-PLUS WEEKEND WARRIOR, AND I WANT TO LOSE 10 POUNDS.”
Thirty came and went. Ditto 40. Not so suddenly, the workout regimen isn’t countering dietary intake. As a younger man, I was active and paid little thought to what I ate. Half a cold pizza for breakfast could be negated by lunchtime through a high metabolism and a morning of physical activity.
Those were the days. Now, lunchtime linguine from Little Italy takes up long-term tummy residence.
I’m working out more than ever—five to six times a week. The workouts are longer but less dynamic—the treadmill has been replaced by an elliptical machine and stationary bike. “Older athletes have to worry about knees and backs,” says Will Hicks, a trainer at Athleticism, who works with several Chargers players. “Flexibility is also key—remember, you’re not 20 anymore.”
According to popular weight-loss expert Jorge Cruise, my battle with the bulge will be won or lost not in the gym but at mealtime. “Ninety percent of weight loss is through diet,” says Cruise, local author of The 3-Hour Diet and personal trainer to Today Show weatherman Al Roker.
Cruise touts portion control, but says it’s not necessarily what we eat but when we eat. He recommends eating small meals every three hours— to keep sugar levels stable and prevent cravings. “Your diet can be sabotaged by one moment of overeating at night,” he says.
The part I like best: Cruise says you can still eat anything you want, just not so much of it. The plan must work—if Cruise devotees Angelina Jolie and Lucy Liu are any evidence.
“I’M A GYM NEOPHYTE WHO WANTS TO BREAK A SWEAT. MAYBE.”
The last thing I expected from my first visit to a gym was that I’d have fun. Sweating in public isn’t my idea of a great time— one reason I’d never extended my exercise efforts into such places. But there I was, grinning in exhilaration after stepping off the elliptical trainer. Maybe there is something to that endorphin rush I kept hearing about. Would I go back? Perhaps, though my life still presents the same obstacles to regular attendance. But I’d consider a day pass . . .
My session with Jason Ventetuolo, owner of Fitness Together of Del Mar (a one-on-one personal-training studio), was my second gym venture—and by golly if I didn’t have fun there, too. Who knew? I can’t say I enjoyed the treadmill— even playing with the machine’s settings to vary the walk type, it’s tedious—but the rest of the time was an enjoyable exploration of my capabilities, hinting at what I might achieve. Ventetuolo led me through the moves with good humor, explaining which muscles we were working. As he provided resistance during one exercise that had me pushing hard against his strength, I asked if stubborn customers preferred this move. He laughed wickedly and said, “It’s all about mental domination.” 858-481-2255; ftdelmar.com
“FORGET ABOUT WASHBOARD ABS . . . I’LL SETTLE FOR A SIT-UP.”
As I lay on my yoga mat during a recent class, the teacher instructed us to rise from a flat back to touch our toes, then slowly lower and repeat. Easy enough, I thought. My arms began the reach toward my feet, but then . . . nothing. I commanded every fiber of abdominal muscle to cooperate. Still nothing. My neighbors seemed to effortlessly float up while I struggled in vain against the concentrated force of gravity centered directly over my mat.
Maybe yoga really does inspire enlightenment. Man, am I weak.
Determined to build some abdominal strength, I paid a visit to SynergySystems Pilates studio in Encinitas. The series of exercises developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s are designed to improve the body’s core strength, namely the deep abdominal and back muscles. Studio director Cathleen Murakami explains Pilates incorporates 30-plus floor exercises and hundreds of different moves performed on five primary pieces of equipment, simultaneously stretching and strengthening the body.
Breath control is a central component of Pilates practice, so Murakami starts by leading me through breathing exercises, in which air is drawn into the ribcage and the deep abdominal muscles are contracted on exhalation. Pilates focuses on precision and control in every movement, and she makes slight adjustments throughout our entire session, which includes resistance training on a “bed” equipped with sliding parts and springs.
Most importantly, Murakami has taught me to pay attention to core muscles even in everyday activity—from a simple breath to the now-not-so-dreaded sit-up. 760-632-5677; synergypilates.com
“WHO HAS TIME TO TRAIN?”
For people like 57-year-old Tom Wilson, working out can feel like one long, arduous session to be avoided at all costs. Good news for Wilson, the gym phobic and the time-crunched: BodyQuest Fitness in Solana Beach offers a 20-minute slowintensity workout.
“Although I’ve worked out my entire life, I’m not a big fan of exercising,” Wilson says. “I’ve tried to stay in shape, and the beauty of this routine is that you get in there, get it done and get out.”
A typical BodyQuest routine involves seven to 10 weightbearing machines. Owner and personal trainer Kristin Fergasse says the concept utilizes controlled breathing and 10-second repetitions of continuous muscle contraction.
“I’ve done a lot of research, and strength gains are about 50 percent more than what you get in a typical workout,” Wilson says. “What I like about this is it almost feels like dynamic yoga. It takes tension out of your body while you’re actually building the muscle.”
The price of each one-on-one session fluctuates depending on frequency; for one visit the rate is $60. Wilson says he saw results by his third session.
“My goal was to tone up my body, and I’ve been impressed with how quickly I’ve seen results,” he says. “You could even go there during your lunch hour and still have time to eat.” 858-794-0040; bodyquestfit.com
—J. MAURY HARRIS
“I WANT TO SLIM DOWN AND TONE UP AFTER HAVING A BABY.”
Welcoming a new baby into the family isn’t the only lifestyle makeover Nori Patrick has faced since giving birth. Patrick, 41, knew she had to change her eating habits and step up the exercise to regain her pre-pregnancy form. “I didn’t gain an excessive amount of weight, but everything just got soft,” she says. The Carmel Valley resident turned to Cindy Whitmarsh of Ultrafit Nutrition Systems for a customized fitness and nutrition strategy.
“Cindy’s program is really a lifestyle change,” says Patrick, who exercises six days a week, alternating cardio work with Pilates and yoga. “A lot of new moms get into a slump because they think they don’t have time to exercise, but it’s important to make time—even if it’s just pushing a stroller during a 20- minute walk.”
Available at area Frog’s Fitness clubs, Ultrafit’s six-week Post-Partum Nutrition and Fitness Body Transformation helps busy moms maximize their workout time and provides a detailed nutrition plan (grocery lists, menus and recipes). Whitmarsh advises waiting four to six weeks after giving birth before exercising, and starting out slow. She prescribes a balance of aerobic, strength and flexibility exercises.
To boost metabolism, Whitmarsh recommends eating small meals every two to three hours and tracking calories by keeping a food journal. “I’m more accountable and aware of what I put into my body,” says Patrick, who limits her calories to 1,500 per day. “When a lot of moms eat, they think, ‘One for baby, one for me,’ and you can’t do that.” 858-755-4348; ultrafitnutrition.com
“WHAT AM I TRAINING FOR? LIFE.”
Now that he’s 73, Bill Howe’s fitness goals are all about real-life application: carrying a 50-pound bag of dog food into the garage; bending over to tie a shoelace. Howe works out to maintain his strength and balance, prevent injury and fully enjoy a range of everyday activities and interests (ballroom dancing chief among them).
“I’m not exercising next to a 22-year-old guy who wants to look like Charles Atlas,” he says. “My goal is to make the rest of my life easier and to do normal activities without hurting or straining myself.” He credits his twice-weekly visits to Addie’s Studio One on One in Pacific Beach with preserving— and enhancing—his active lifestyle.
“Addie designed a program specifically for me, taking into mind some of the limitations that accompany getting older,” says Howe, who complements his sessions at Addie’s with cardio work on the treadmill and stationary bike. “They’ve helped me maintain muscle tone, enhance flexibility and keep my weight down. I move around better today than I did 20 years ago.”
Addie Merrill and her husband, Tyler, train a number of clients sharing Howe’s fitness objectives. “We’re not here to bodybuild our older clients,” says Addie. “We want to keep them moving—taking the trash out, picking up their grandkids —comfortably. We work a lot on balancing and flexibility to preserve active daily living.”
Before they get started with any fitness program, she advises older exercisers to complete a thorough fitness and health assessment. 858-483-2711; addiesstudio.com