At Home Senior Fitness is Growing…Again!

It has been about four months since I told you about my welcoming At Home Senior Fitness’ first additional personal trainer, Sam Kalamasz. She is steadily growing her client base and bringing our unique brand to the Brunswick/Medina/Strongsville area near Cleveland as well as the rest of the world via the internet. I am looking forward to her continued success and growth.

As of the first of the year, I welcomed Victoria (Vicki) Yannie to AHSF as well. I hinted at it in my year-end reflection, and now it is official. Vicki brings a wide range of skills and experience. Both her undergraduate and Master’s Degrees are in the areas of physical education and she is a certified Silver Sneakers instructor. She has extensive experience working with older adults, has written papers, and made presentations on a wide variety of topics related to fitness. Vicki will be helping me to cover the eastern suburbs of Cleveland as well as some on-line work.

When I started AHSF, I was not sure if there really was demand for what I was offering. It was a risk, but it has paid off–not only from a business standpoint, but also in the ways that we have been able to help older adults become stronger, more flexible, and even more independent.

The big news, then, is that At Home Senior Fitness is able (finally!) to accept new clients. If you are or know an older adult who wants to get the most out of their years, contact me at michael@athomeseniorfitness.net or http://www.athomeseniorfitness.net.

Thanks to all my clients and everyone else who has supported AHSF! Here’s to a bigger, better, and healthier 2023!

Reflections on 2022

As 2022 draws to a close, I have a few reflections on the work that I have been doing for the last 12 months.

There were many successes. I have engaged two other trainers to work with me; the newest will be introduced on this blog soon. This has become a necessity as I continue to get regular inquiries about my services and there are only so many hours in a week. My book of clients has been maxed out for a while. Once I get these two trainers up to their desired number of hours, I will consider expanding further. All of this was unimaginable to me when I started At Home Senior Fitness over two years ago.

The rabbi work continues to be fulfilling. My part-time pulpit at Beth El – The Heights Synagogue continues to allow me to do some of the work that I enjoy best and for which I have decades of experience. Our small congregation of 80 families feels just like that–family; this, of course, means that there are squabbles just like in any family, but we always look out for each other. The most exciting developments this year have been the addition of some new families/individuals who have brought fresh ideas to what we do, and the inititation of a fundraising campaign to raise $250,000 to write a new Torah scroll and have some money to cover extraordinary expenses.

I continue to help out at a local synagogue that is “short” a rabbi. This is like being a substitute teacher but, in general, the “students” are more respectful and appreciative of the work I am doing. Most of the time (sometimes weeks on end), I have no responsibilities, but there are other times when I have my hands full with hospital visits, funerals, leading services, etc. I am glad that I can help this congregation as my family and I have many wonderful connections there.

I also have a very part-time gig as a consultant for American Greetings, based here in Cleveland. They have a line of greeting cards for Jewish occasions and I make sure the content and artwork are appropriate for the given purpose. This is actually fun and lets me flex some creative muscles (see what I did there?).

On a less positive note, two of my clients passed away. I blogged about one earlier; the other passed away in the fall–quite suddenly. He was one of my best clients, training with me three times/week for 45 minutes; I really enjoyed our time together and miss him and his sense of humor. Other clients have been through injuries and medical crises, but thankfully most are back to working out or on their way to recovery.

Best of all, I have had a good year health-wise: no surgeries! I did have COVID and am still dealing with Long COVID, but I am grateful that my case was mild and my continuing symptoms are mostly manageable.

It has been a good year. 2023 will be filled with lots of opportunities. I will continue to blog about what matters to older adults when it comes to their health, and I will continue to service the community in other ways as well.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and fit 2023!

That Time I was a Guest on a Podcast

As many of you know, I was asked to be a regular columnist for Northeast Ohio Boomer magazine last year. Each issue I wrote about a different issue related to exercise/fitness and older adults. The magazine also hosts a number of blogs and has a podcast as well for which I was interviewed. If you’d like to hear my voice and my thoughts about fitness, click here. The podcast is about 20 minutes long.

I am waiting for 60 Minutes to contact me next….

Two Years on my Own (sort of)

Today marks two years that I am working on my own as a Personal Trainer. November 15, 2020 was my last day employed at the local JCC. Last year I blogged about my thoughts on the one year anniversary; and it was an interesting read.

I wrote “sort of” in the title because I am not exacly all on my own any longer. The addition of Sam Kalamasz to my team means that I have someone who is helping me expand my territory and business. Sam will begin offering on-line classes aimed at a more beginner/intermediate level; my fitness classes are more on the challenging side. Once we get one class up and running, we will expand the offerings further. These classes will be offered virtually, so if you are interested or know others who would be, please contact me at michael@athomeseniorfitness.net.

There are still many opportunities out there. I would like to get into the digital realm and hope that 2023 will be the year that happens. I will be in need of more help the east side of Cleveland soon as I have potential clients whom I have turned away. I am also eager to find ways to partner with others who serve older adults. It is all looking up.

It is important to mark milestones like these. It is a time for reflection–looking back and looking forward. For now, as we are about to head into the Thanksgiving holiday, I am grateful for all the help and support.

Here’s to many more anniversaries!

Is this Blog still Kosher?

Those familiar with the upcoming (in just a few hours) holiday of Rosh Hashanah know that the next 10 days (The Ten Days of Repentance) are a time for reflection. We consider our actions over the last year and plan how we can do better in the coming one. It is a process that we repeat every year and, as we do, hopefully we get closer to the best version of ourselves.

I think about this not only on a personal level, but also with regard to my life’s work as a personal trainer and a rabbi. I know that on both accounts I can always do better and I work hard to achieve that goal. The same is true with this blog. I am grateful to those who have offered me constructive advice (mostly my brother, Joel) as I hone by blogging craft.

When this blog started it was supposed to be about the intersection between Judaism and Fitness; I saw it as a way to integrate the two career paths that have occupied my adult life. Over time, the blog has come to focus much more on fitness–especially as it impacts older adults. I have wondered if (and how) I should change the name of the blog and its description. I often ask myself just how kosher this blog is.

For the time being, I do not plan to make any big changes. Most of the current content–90% of which does not involve anything explicitly Jewish–deals with issues of how we care for ourselves. I began this blog with the premise that caring for our bodies is indeed a Jewish value. Of course, this is not an idea I came up with on my own; the sages of our tradition understood that we could not fulfill our role (individually or as a part of a people) unless we had the strength and stamina to do it. This is borne out in Psalm 117 which states that the dead cannot praise the Lord. Unless we care for our bodies, we cannot serve God nor our fellow human beings. Ultimately, my blog continues to deal with the intersection of Judaism and Fitness–implicitly if not explicitly.

The next Ten Days will be a time of reflection and repentance for Jews around the world and for me. It is my hope that during this period–and beyond–I will be guided to do the most good possible through my work as a rabbi, personal trainer, and blogger.

Wishing all my readers who celebrate, a very happy 5783! May all humanity be blessed with good health, happiness, justice, peace, and fitness!

At Home Senior Fitness is Growing!

It is just over two years since I trained my first client at At Home Senior Fitness. At the time, I was still working as a Personal Trainer at a local gym, but had decided that I wanted to branch out on my own. I worked both jobs for two months before giving my 2-week’s notice at the gym; I knew that in order to make my business successful, I would have to jump in with both feet.

Although I have always been busy, in June I got to the point where I could not take on any new clients virtually or in-person. I had all but stopped advertising since word-of-mouth was my biggest source of referrals, and I did not want to take out ads and then be unable to offer a spot on my schedule to those who would make inquiries. I began to consider whether I should hire someone to work with me. I was working with my SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) mentor to strategize and was about ready to make the move when “fate” intervened.

I mid-July I received an unsolicited inquiry from a certified group fitness instructor who was also studying for ACE certification as a Senior Fitness Specialist. After many years of working with older adults, she was interested in transitioning her career into fitness and wanted to talk to me about the work that I do. We set up a Zoom conversation and, after speaking, we both understood that working together could be a great fit (pun intended!). It was fortuitous for both of us.

I am very pleased to welcome Sam Kalamasz to the At Home Senior Fitness team! Sam will be training virtually as well as in-person in territory that I am unable to cover (Medina, Strongsville, and Brunswick, OH). Sam begins with her first client today! Over the coming weeks, we are looking to build her client base, so if you know people who might benefit from working with a kind, compassionate, and skilled personal trainer–either on-line or in her territory–please refer them to http://www.athomeseniorfitness.net.

I am so excited for this new stage for me and AHSF…and for Sam. We are honored to be able to help older adults live their best lives with improved strength, mobility, and independence!

Are You Your Beloved?

This evening at sunset begins Rosh Chodesh Elul, the observance of the new month of Elul on the Jewish calendar. It is the last month before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

There are many observances connected with Elul. In order to “wake us up” from our complacency, it is traditional to blow the shofar (ram’s horn) each morning during the month except on the Sabbath. We also recite Psalm 27 every evening and morning. These practices are aimed at preparing us for the difficult and sacred work of repentance that takes place during the first 10 days of the New Year.

The name of the month is also quite special. It is an acrostic in Hebrew for Ani L’Dodi v’Dodi Li, which is based on the verse from the Song of Songs and means “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” Traditionally, the Song of Songs is seen as an allegory for the love between God and the Children of Israel; the name of the Hebrew month reminds us of our relationship with God and that we should be especially cognizant of repairing and strengthening our connection with the Holy One.

Because this verse is often recited at a Jewish wedding, it also refers to relationships with our loved ones and partners. This is a month when we should work on repairing and strengthening our human connections too.

Additionally, we should be concerned about our relationship with ourselves. Do we make an effort to treat others right but not afford the same to ourselves? We all know the famous verse, V’Ahavta l’Reacha Kamocha, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” What if you really do not love yourself? What if you pay lip service to self-care (in all its many forms) but do not take action when it comes to being the best version of yourself you can be? How can we love others if we do not learn to love ourselves first?

This applies to fitness, but many other areas as well. The High Holidays are all about forgiveness, but sometimes the person with whom we are the least forgiving is ourselves. We beat ourselves up for making missteps. We compare ourselves unfavorably to others. We always put the needs of others ahead of our own to our detriment. It is not a luxury or conceit to care for one’s self. We are supposed to love our neighbors as ourselves, but to do that we must first love ourselves. This requires concrete action. During the month of Elul, this is our focus. Not only should we concentrate on how we interact with others and God, but also with how we treat our own souls. Beyond contemplation, we plan for how to change in concrete ways in the coming year.

Wishing everyone a great month ahead. Whether you are Jewish or not, observant or not, this is as good a time as any to refocus and remember to be beloved to ourselves too!

The Core of the Matter

If you were to ask anyone who participates in my group fitness classes or does personal training with me what are the top 3 phrases I use, one them would certainly be “engage your core!”

We hear a lot of talk about the core, but what exactly is it and why is it so important? The coreĀ is made up of the muscles surrounding your mid-section (sometimes called trunk); it includes the abdominals, obliques, diaphragm, pelvic floor, trunk extensors, and hip flexors. Some people define it as the area between the mid-thigh to just below the pectoral muscles.

The core important because it provides stability for doing many of the tasks of daily living, and supports everything above it. A weak core can lead to overloading other muscles, which often leads to back pain. Most of the activities in which we engage–both in the gym and out–depend on us having a core that is strong enough to support the movements required.

When I say, “engage your core,” what does that mean? I usually follow this term with the instruction to keep shoulders back, chest up, and belly button pulled back to the spine. This is an oversimplification, but it is a signal to my clients that they need to be aware of their posture. I often tell them to imagine the drill sargeant is about to come by and they need to stand at attention.

There are a number of exercises that help to strengthen the core. A popular one is doing abdominal braces. Basically, this involves tightening the muscles of the mid-section all at once. Imagine that someone is about to punch you in the gut; what muscles would you tighten to lessen the impact of the punch? This is what you do in a bracing exercise. There are all kinds of bracing exercises, many of which you can find with explanatory videos by using a simple internet search. Doing these exercises will give you a good idea of just how strong your core is (or isn’t!).

Other exercises to help strengthen the core include: Ab crunches, glute bridges, bird dogs, planks, side planks, and superheroes (formerly known as supermans). None of these exercise requires any kind of equipment; they can be done at home on a mat or other soft, but sturdy surface. If you want to make use of dumbbells you can add in: deadlifts, russian twists, wood chops (that also work the arms and shoulders), and over/unders. At the gym, there are machines that will also work the core and allow for varying the amount of resistance being used; ask a trainer or other employee to show you which machines they are and how to use them.

Getting to the core of the matter is an essential part of any exercise regimen. Lots of people like to focus on upper body and arms, as well as legs, but often leave out core. This is like building a home but leaving out the foundation. You cannot build a strong body without a strong core to support it all. Next time you are exercising, I hope you imagine me reminding you to “engage your core!”

400 Followers!

It has been 3.5 years since I began this blog, and now I have reached the milestone of 400 followers. To mark the occasion, I reread the blog that I posted when I hit 200 followers.

I noted back then, that I had little idea how the whole blogging thing worked. Originally, the blog was supposed to deal with the intersection of Judaism and physical fitness, but it veered more into fitness for older adults a couple of years ago, reflecting my personal training business At Home Senior Fitness.

What is new since I hit 200? My business was still in its early stages and I was struggling to get new clients; now I have a waiting list! I am now a regular contributor to Northeast Ohio Boomer where my column on fitness for seniors appears in each issue. I have taught classes for local organizations including a synagogue, Village in the Heights, and a group supporting individuals and families with Parkinson’s Disease. I have been interviewed for print media, radio, and a podcast!

It will be interesting to see where I am when I get to 600 followers. Currently in development is digital content from my brand, and the strong possibility that I will expand my business to keep up with growing demand.

In the meantime, I will keep bringing you the lastest news, tips, and advice for how to stay healthier and more fit as we age!

Thanks for reading, and feel free to offer feedback and spread the word!

How Do I Know if I’m Working Out Hard Enough?

My last post tackled the question of how we know if we are making progress in our exercise program. That discussion took more of a long view of things, but how do we know if we are working hard enough in any given workout? This is a topic that I have blogged about in the past as well: once on 9/6/2020 and then a few days later on 9/10/2020.

To recap, when it comes to cardio exercise there is a formula that is often used to determine if the workout is effective. It is not exact, but the equation is 220 minus your age; that number gives you the maximum heart rate, but the goal is to be at 65-85% of that number. For instance, a person who is 70 should not exceed 150 beats/minute; the “sweet spot” is between 97 and 127. When it comes to resistance training (weights), it is a little more complicated as it will depend on what the goal is. Rather than going into detail here, consult your favorite fitness professional; recommendations will vary in relation to a number of factors such as age, current level of fitness, injuries, etc.

Still, in any given workout, is there an easy way to get a sense of things? For cardio, there is something called the “talk test.” If a person is able to talk while doing the exercise (running, biking, etc.) it would be considered moderate; if a person can talk with difficulty but not sing, that is a more vigorous level. If the person is unable to speak at all (like during a sprint), that is the highest level of exertion–one that can only be carried out for a limited amount of time. What level is appropriate? It will depend on a number of factors (are you just trying to stay fit, or are you training for a marathon?), but going back to the formula above will help.

For resistance training, I usually recommend a weight that allows the client to do 12 reps with the last few being difficult. If all 12 reps are easy, it is time to either add weight or reps, or in some other way increase the level of difficulty. Those looking to bulk up, will follow a different set of standards–generally, heavier weight with less reps. I also use the RPE or Rated Perceived Exertion; this is fairly subjective, but it asks the exerciser to rate how difficult an exercise is. I use a 1-10 scale with 10 being the most difficult; most clients are honest (although we all know the adage “never tell a personal trainer something is too easy!”) This is a relatively simple way to gauge the level of work for both resistance and cardio training.

The key is not to rest on one’s laurels. When an exercise becomes to easy, it will not help to accomplish the fitness goal. Progression to a more challenging level is what is called for.

Although it can seem confusing at times, we are usually our own best judges of how hard we are working. We need to be honest with ourselves, though, so as not to overwork or underwork. Being honest with ourselves is a good rule in every aspect of our lives.