July 20, 2018
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10 questions for Jesse Wall, fitness coach at the Greater Portland YMCA

Photo courtesy of Jesse Wall
Photo courtesy of Jesse Wall


1.Why do so many people try yet fail to get into good shape?

If there were only one reason I think it would be a simple task and no one would fail. The truth is, failure is completely individual. That is the greatest task of the fitness coach. Anyone with a training certification can mix and match exercises and make people sweat, but it takes a coach gifted with many more skills to help an individual identify the reason for their difficulty in attaining goals. We all have many thoughts, and feelings that sabotage our progress. This is an internal process that needs focus, when so many people who begin on a path of fitness believe they just need something external to get them there (i.e. surgery, supplements, a trainer to motivate). More often than not it is the internal obstacles that hold people back, and the greatest successes will come from individuals willing to examine themselves.

2.What’s the most effective way to motivate people to exercise?

Again, it is different for everyone. I spend a lot of time getting to know my members and what is valuable to each of them. It is crucial that they “own” their goals, by developing them themselves. So many “experts” in the industry love to give people goals and plans. Those plans belong to the trainer and not the client, and it is rare that the member can really attach themselves to it. The one constant element that I will offer across the board for motivating people is believing in them even when they might not believe in themselves.

3. For people just starting to exercise, what should they do first after getting a checkup?

One good thing is to throw out any preconceptions on what “exercise” should look like. Not everyone will enjoy weight training, for example, and if the form of exercise is not enjoyed to some degree it is rare that they will continue. When one is beginning a wellness program it is beneficial to examine as many different forms of exercise as one can. The options are endless: swimming, court sports, strength training, dance, yoga, aerobics, etc. And these can be further defined by working with a coach, alone, or in a class setting. If your wellness facility offers several options, try them, see which ones you like and might enjoy.

4. Which do you recommend for aerobic exercise — treadmill, stationary bike, elliptical or going outside for a walk or jog?

All will work. I personally enjoy the benefits of a rowing machine, or any form that allows your body to move as it does naturally (such as swimming or running) without being “locked in” to a motion controlled by a machine. I also believe strongly in metabolic conditioning training.

5. Do people need to lift weights to build strength? Can they just do sit-ups and pushups?

People can see some good improvements with movements such as these, including increased muscular strength to a certain degree. However, if one wants to continue to build strength beyond the resistance level of body weight, weight training can accomplish that. As we age, bone density and strength become an issue that weight training has also been shown to improve. Certainly one should not consider a fitness program entirely made up of only pushups and situps, as it is too limited to balance the needs of the system.

6. What’s the best — or worst — excuse you’ve ever heard for someone not working out? How could you counter it?

“I’m too (fill in the blank.)” This one is very common, and incredibly crippling. People make barriers for themselves all the time surrounding some circumstance that can easily be made into an unsurapassable mountain. There is always some level of activity that a person can engage in that will benefit them despite any condition.

7. Is one time of day better for exercising than another?

Haha, well…I teach strength training classes at 6am, and if you ask me that is an awful time to workout! (jokingly) Any time of day is fine, as long as it works for the individual. If possible, identify a time when the body has benefitted from rest both physically and mentally. Going into workouts “fresh” usually helps performance and that is rewarding.

8. Is it true that three 10-minute blocks of exercise during the day is as effective as one 30-minute block?

It is all based on the intensity of the work performed. Short periods of very high intensity can be more rewarding than 30 mins of a lesser intense exercise depending on the goal. However, the amount of work performed requires the same amount of calorie expenditure regardless of the pace. Walk a mile or run a mile, it uses the same calories to do it. So why run? Higher intensity exercise affects your metabolism more and your “furnace” burns hotter and longer and the rate of calorie expenditure after exercise remains higher.

9. What are the benefits of yoga, Tai-Chi and similar disciplines? Can they build muscle strength and cardio health, or are they best for flexibility and stress relief?

There are many benefits including muscle strength, stress relief, flexibilty, balance, coordination, agility, and mental concentration. They can build strength, but again that depends on what kind of strength. Similar to the pushup question, let’s use an example: a yoga practioner will build strength to a point of lifting one’s body weight to perform the “crow” pose, balancing on the hands with knees on elbows and feet in the air. They may even advance to a handstand. While this is strength building, it is limited to the amount of body weight. In order to continue building strength (if that is an interest) beyond this point that person would benefit from weight training using heavier loads.

10. How about you — how often do you exercise and what do you do?

I normally exercise for or five times a week. I listen to my body; if it is particularly sore then I know it needs more recovery and may only get in 3 workouts a week or a slightly less intense day mixed in. I do a lot of strength training with kettlebells, gymnastics, and barbell training. I love unconventional stuff such as building my own toys such as an adjustable macebell and clubbell. I also have enjoyed mixing in strongman training into my routine, flipping frontend loader tires and atlas stones. But my favorite “exercise” is skiing! That is the last thing I’d offer folks regarding whatever exercise plan they choose, pick something that enhances the things in life that you really like doing. If its skiing, do things that make you a better skiier, so you can ski longer, better, and more easily.

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