Oprah’s got the Bread!

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I read recently that our old friend Oprah forked over (pun intended) 43 million to own a 10% share in Weight Watchers. My guess is that she believes in the program and didn’t do it so she could attend the meetings for free. In her interviews she stated numerous times she loves eating bread and with the Weight Watchers point system can still eat bread. Lady Oprah is all about the bread and as one of the wealthiest women in the country (she is worth billions) has enough bread to even purchase a considerable stake in Wonder Bread. Stay tuned.

Programs like Weight Watchers (and oodles of others) are beneficial as they offer the participant a proven system that promotes weight loss. Some offer their own branded “delicious” products that you can purchase at your local grocer while others will even ship the meals right to your front door and for an additional fee, will even shove it down your throat.  If done sensibly many of these weight loss programs can be a wonderful start in the right direction.

What befuddles the Bearded Lady is that many of these programs seem to put little emphasis on exercise. Yes, you are “allowed” more points for activity yet it is not an emphasized part of the program. Everyone agrees that exercise accelerates and promotes weight loss yet some of these programs seem threatened by fitness. Fitness facilities often try to partner with local weight loss centers and are typically met with strong resistance from “corporate”. We are not trying to sell their clients double cheeseburgers and fried dough; we are trying to introduce exercise into their new lifestyle.

There are actually a few medical benefits to carrying some excess weight but there are no benefits to being deconditioned. There are scores of thin, deconditioned people and many well-conditioned people who have excess weight to lose. Stand at the finish line at the Boston marathon and check out the “bods” that can run 26.2 miles. Losing excess weight is certainly a start in the right direction but dieting alone will not strengthen one’s core, improve one’s cardio, improve balance and stability, increase strength etc. etc. etc.

The point being… try buttering your bread with a sensible and challenging exercise program. We’re not the enemy, we’re the complementary solution!

Realistic Expectations!

realistic expectationsIt’s January which means the lovely ladies of PUMPS are running around the gym like its Armageddon and they have to get in shape immediately because the world is ending tomorrow. (Not for nothing but the Bearded Lady could think of a few things more pleasurable than exercising if she knew the world was ending tomorrow but that’s a story for another blog.) Frantic women come up to me every year at this time and say they are in the worst shape of their life and have to drastically improve their health and fitness asap. I ask them how long they have felt this way about themselves, how long has it been since they exercised regularly and with intensity (yawning on a treadmill at 3 MPH for 30 minutes isn’t considered intense) and how long since they practiced sensible eating practices. The answer is invariably something like 6 months to a year to which my response is typically the following; “It took you 6 months (or whatever) to get out of shape so what makes you think you’re going to change your fitness overnight?”

The easiest way, both physically and emotionally to accomplishing ones fitness resolutions (regardless of the time of year) is to take baby steps and set realistic expectations. As of this writing no states have a “Fitness Injection with Dignity” act that would allow an individual to receive an injection that would immediately transform them to be in the best shape of their life. That being said, don’t set yourself up for failure by thinking you have to lose 30 pounds by the Super Bowl, 8 inches by Valentine’s Day or be able to sprint effortlessly by every Kenyan runner come Marathon Day.

Resolutions mean different things to different people so the thing to focus on is improvement from this point forward. We can’t turn back time (just ask Cher) but can learn from it. Whether your goal is to walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded or competing in the National CrossFit games, progressing towards that goal is very doable. If you require expertise or accountability clubs like PUMPS certainly offer it or if you have been recently successful progressing on your own then just do it (hm, sounds like a good name for a slogan). Also, if you have an off day or two don’t throw in the towel and say “F” everything! Get re-focused and remember your initial goals. PUMPS features real before and after photos of our members who had fitness goals and aspirations just like you so if they could do it, why not you? Set realistic expectations and fitness resolutions will become a thing of the past.

Stressed Out? Tiz the Season!

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The “merry” holidays are upon us and with it comes the welcome stress and challenges of finding the perfect gifts for those we care for. To add to the enjoyment we are also compelled to find thoughtful gifts for those that we see but once per year with that “once” coming way too often. Yes, some of us believe that re-gifting is truly underrated. The Bearded Lady has been listening to members talk about HSS (holiday stress syndrome) for many a year and I assure them all that vigorous workouts and a positive mind set will ease their stress like nothing else. Some might argue that a healthy dose of bourbon and cognac in the eggnog is the ultimate holiday cure all but to each her own.

Overcoming the challenges and stress of the holidays may at times seem overwhelming so here’s a story that may help you put things into proper perspective.  Anyone that has recently graced the halls of PUMPS has no doubt come in contact with one of the newest additions to our team. She is very difficult to miss and it has nothing to do with her imposing size or booming voice. Her engaging personality, funky cool accent and beautiful bright smile can be felt and seen from every corner of the gym. Her positive attitude, energy and spirit can make even yours truly feel good about things and herself (no easy task). Her name is Tiz (short for Tizita) and the challenges she has overcome in life will put most anyone’s holiday anxieties to shame.

Tiz is not your typical local gal who was born and raised on the south shore then made it big and moved up here to the north shore. She was born in Ethiopia (eastern Africa) during a time when her country was embattled in a civil war. Nearly 1.4 million Ethiopians died during this prolonged conflict but this was the world she was born into and lived in. Thousands fled the country to escape the war and economic misery so in order to give her children a chance at a better life Tiz’s mom put her and a brother up for adoption. They were fortunate to be adopted by a family who lived in a rural Minnesota suburb so at the age of nine Tiz and her brother were sent to live in America.

Though she was now safely out of her war torn country her new home brought a host of new challenges. To say there were very few black people living in this rural country town would be an understatement as young Tiz and her brother constituted 100% of the African American population. The color of her skin coupled with her cultural differences made building a future for herself especially challenging. Throughout her formative years she was constantly told (by school officials) that success would always elude her and she would have a difficult time making anything of herself. Not that she needed any additional encouragement, but the words of her school officials fueled her desire to succeed even more. Through hard work and dedication she received two scholarships, took out numerous student loans and worked continuously throughout her four years in school. Though at times her obstacles seemed unsurmountable Tiz defied all odds and received her BS in Exercise Science and Sports Management. Additionally, she attained her degree with a double major and minor! She has since earned numerous fitness certifications and worked at some of the leading health clubs in the country (PUMPS clearly being the leader).

Tiz is a woman who has a smile on her face at all times (except when she doesn’t) and one who appreciates life and lives every day to the fullest. No matter what worries or troubles her, her attitude is that someone else probably has it worse. She should know as she has been that “someone else”.

The next time you feel stressed beyond belief, especially over something trivial, be inspired by our Tiz which will hopefully put things in perspective!

The Dreaded “F” Word: The Perfect Holiday Gift!

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Have you ever given a holiday gift that truly was the catalyst for changing someone’s life? What woman doesn’t love opening up her holiday gift and finding a Gucci bag, Piaget watch, Manolo Blahnik pumps or the latest and greatest threads from Dolce & Gabbana? Or how about a “December to Remember” and finding a brand new Lexus wrapped in a bow in her toasty little garage? And who doesn’t love a cruise to “anywhere” which is guaranteed to heat up the mistletoe action? Those material gifts are undoubtedly extraordinary and given to the recipient with unconditional love. Old Santa surely had the best intentions as he or she zeroed in on the big time bling.

Yes, all those “items” look impressive and will surely hold great sentimental value but what do they do to make the recipient feel great about themselves 24/7? Do they improve the recipient’s quality of life by making them fitter and healthier? Do they improve their confidence and self-esteem? How often have you heard a friend say that wearing my Piaget watch has literally changed my life? How about never? Gift cards for facials and massages are also wonderful (especially for the esthetician and masseuse) but the feeling of euphoria wears off faster than a good holiday egg nog buzz.

If the Bearded Lady had a pair of Manolo Blahnik pumps for every time a member said to her that joining the gym and exercising regularly has literally changed her life then I’d be buried under a pile of Manalo’s never to be seen again (joy to the world). We live in a stressful world and when you feel great about the way you look, feel and function it makes life that much easier and enjoyable. Statistically 82% of our population looks at fitness as the ultimate “F” word yet that “F” word can change our lives like nothing else. All those before and after pictures and testimonials you see on our advertising (and most results based clubs) are real people who have experienced real results. We ain’t claiming we can make you taller, shorter, wealthier or less sarcastic but we guarantee you we can improve your health and fitness.

If you are looking for a gift that can truly change someone’s life (or perhaps your own) then consider purchasing a gift certificate to a health club. Here’s another cold hard fact you should know; if the recipient of your gift is a fitness novice or someone who has never achieved results on her own then she will absolutely need professional expertise. Purchasing a gym membership in and of itself is like purchasing a country club membership in that it simply gives the individual “access” to the facility. Anyone can figure out how to walk on a treadmill or perhaps perform a lunge much like anyone can figure out how to hit a ball off a tee or select a club. Tiger Woods didn’t learn how to play golf on his own nor did Jillian Michaels know what she was doing without professional instruction. Start them off on the right track and give them the total package. They will be forever grateful to you for leading them into a fitness lifestyle and perhaps will thank you by giving you a “December to Remember”.

Can the world learn from woman’s best friend?

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There’s lot of horrific and unimaginable things (bad shit!) going on all over the world that even yours truly with a bag over her head (to improve my stunning looks) would have a hard time missing. Take a quick glance at your favorite electronic device, television or newspaper and witness what human beings are sadly capable of doing to one another. Suffice to say, John Lennon’s lyrics on “Imagine” are light years away from reality.

We unfortunately live in a society where individuals are often typecast or judged based on a myriad of socio economic factors. Perhaps we should emulate woman’s best friend and not judge anyone until we have read their body language and sniffed them from head to toe. Not all canines get along but at least they don’t formulate opinions based on the color of ones leash or belief in a certain type of collar or harness.

Oddly enough all of the aforementioned rhetoric about the current state of our world does segue into a discussion regarding health club culture. The wonderful thing about the “gym biz” is that all those horseshit pre-conceived notions never materialize! Since 1988, the Bearded Lady has owned and operated five health locations under three different brands and estimates we have had in excess of 100,000 members. Our members have been comprised of doctors, lawyers, homemakers, politicians, students, policeman, former inmates, rabbis and everyone in between. We address everyone by their first name as opposed to “Mayor So and So” or “Former Inmate 13897”. No one is any better or worse than anyone else (though I’ve been told I am worse than everyone else) and no one is more or less important than the next. Once dressed in one’s favorite exercise attire every member appears the same and are treated respectfully as equals. Everyone is there for basically the same reason and cause – improving their health, fitness and overall well-being. Gyms offer a supportive community environment filled with positive energy where people of all demographics easily get along.

Perhaps our world powers should consider putting a few old and crusty gym owners on their staffs and then the world might be a friendlier place.

One stop shopping here at PUMPS!

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Your “Wicked Witch of Fitness” was recently asked to comment on the rapidly changing state of the health club industry. The fact that I have more lines on my face than an inner-city roadmap and more grey on my head than an aging greyhound led this person to believe I’ve been around this industry longer than the barbell.

Not so long ago the industry mainly consisted of full service clubs where an aspiring fitness enthusiast could go and get everything under one roof for a moderately priced $30 – $75/month.  In an attempt to be everything to everyone they traditionally do a poor job of helping members reach their goals. Due to their sheer size they are fairly impersonal and tend to focus on membership volume versus membership retention.

The budget clubs burst on the scene about ten years ago and for less than the price of a Grey Goose and tonic (with a lime, please) you can “enjoy” exercising shoulder to shoulder with 15,000 of your closest friends. The entire business model is based on volume with the realization that 95% of their members will never use the club. They truly care about member number 14023 and her reaching her goals – not!

The past few years has seen the invasion of the boutique studio. They are on every street corner and unfortunately have the life span of a goldfish. I say unfortunately because they are opened by enthusiastic trainers or group instructors who love fitness and believe they will become the next Jillian Michaels.  Their short life span has been attributed to lack of value. Most charge by the class or session which equates to clients spending considerable more money for services that are included in the monthly dues at traditional clubs. Having the instructor of your class or session know your name is wonderful but it certainly comes at a steep price.  Three or four classes per week under the class card system averages anywhere from $175- 250/month. Members typically invest that amount for 1 to 1 personalized instruction, not group sessions or classes! Additionally, most of the boutique studios do not have cardio, strength and functional equipment that can be used whenever the member pleases. Paying more for less…hmm.  

Now, what woman doesn’t want the best of all worlds? Not so ironically this leads us to PUMPS. We are the only full size (suburban) women’s only club that offers the personalization of a boutique studio with the amenities and service of a traditional club. Our entire staff is welcoming and supportive and treats our members as individuals. We don’t even believe in check-in bar code scanners as they “dehumanize” the connection between members and staff. We offer unlimited group classes and an enormous workout floor for under $40/month, feature the most comprehensive personal training and assessment system in the industry (Pro Fitness Program™) and have a kick-ass small group training program (WTF!).

Bottom line: The Bearded Lady may be 100% biased, but 1500+ PUMPS members can’t be wrong!          

“Let the resolutions begin – now!”

I'm No Dummy

Peruse through your favorite calendar and practically every month has at least one “justifiable” reason for missing numerous workouts and gorging like you just finished 39 days on Survivor. Is it a coincidence that New Year’s (with its’ resolutions) happen to fall immediately after Thanksgiving and Christmas? Thanksgiving has been around since the 1860’s and Christmas a hell of a lot longer and you can bet that a few influential and crafty health club owners had some input as to when these holidays would be celebrated. Check it out, it’s all right there in Wikipedia.

Perhaps this is the year you try a different approach. If you are on your 25th New Year’s resolution to improve your health and fitness then let’s agree your typical approach is broken and needs fixing. Start exercising now, eat sensibly on and around the holidays and don’t wait until January 1 when you are totally deconditioned and have gained a pile of unwanted weight! Believe it or not Thanksgiving is only one day (newsflash) so if you overindulge, no big deal. Sure, Christmas parties can add up, but there is no reason to live like you were dying.  

Remember, everything in moderation (except the shenanigans under mistletoe), keep on exercising and you won’t wake up on January 1 singing the theme from the movie “Love Story”.  “Where do I begin…”

“I wish I were a Golden Retriever”

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Let’s face it, most human beings do not enjoy exercising. We really don’t need a pile of statistics to support this notion as all one needs to do is walk down Main St USA and use your eyes. If we had the pedigree of Golden Retrievers or Labs this wouldn’t be an issue and all 35000+ gyms in the country would be at capacity. This leads to the discussion of where one chooses to exercise when one finally makes the commitment to do so. Its human nature to want to do anything in an environment where one feels the most comfortable especially if it’s something (exercise) where most people don’t really know what they are doing. We ask members all the time why they will drive by several fitness facilities to workout at PUMPS and the response typically starts with “comfort” (culture, cleanliness and support also rank highly).   

Many women, regardless of age, body type or level of fitness simply do not feel comfortable exercising around men. There are countless reasons for this as all it takes is a few odd fellows (friggin weirdos) who think “staring, glaring and grunting” is a mating ritual women subscribe to. They feel they can apply what they have seen on the nature channel to women not realizing it doesn’t quite equate.

The moral of this dribble, ladies, is to understand that the place you choose to improve your health and fitness should be taken seriously. Pricing and convenience are certainly important but a few bucks more or less per month or a few minutes closer to your home or office should not be the deciding factor. Set yourself up for success and start your fitness journey in the most comfortable setting possible!

“One size does not fit all”

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Some of the greatest debates in American history pertain to making a single choice where there is no middle ground or grey area. The Ginger or Maryanne, Beatles or Stones and the Bearded Lady or Nurse Ratched debates have continued for decades and will until the end of time (will Cher still be around?). Personal preference is the American way and that’s how we like it. Not everything, however, has to be so black and white. This brings me to the subjective nature of Group X classes.

Nothing makes yours truly morph into Jack Nicholson in the “Shining” more than hearing a member sound off about an instructor’s class who they tried but once! Did your spouse fall in love with you on your first date? Did you and your BFF hit it off the moment you met? Did you love PUMPS the moment you walked in the front door (ok, there are exceptions)? Being a Group X instructor is extremely challenging as they must devise a workout and select music that will appeal to a wide spectrum of participants. Due to the nature of “group”, they have no idea who will be in their class therefore know nothing about the participant’s limitations, fitness knowledge or goals. They work very hard to appease this diverse audience as a lot of effort goes into devising the programming and music selection. Most participants realize the subjective nature of “group” and realize that it’s actually good to get varied routines from different instructors.  Comparing and contrasting instructors is fine but for your “fitness” sake and theirs, give those hard working instructors a chance!  Most instructors do welcome some honest constructive criticism but just remember that one size does not fit all!

“Dysfunctional Training took up a lot less space!”

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“The Times They Are a Changin” was a little ditty written in the 60’s by a fellow named Bob Dylan and it essentially became the anthem for frustrated youth. It was intended to signify our country’s Civil Rights movement and no one, not even old Bob himself, would have ever imagined the song would resonate again over 40 years later. This time, however, the lyrics refer to the frustration experienced by functional training gym members!

Gone are the days when the fitness minded woman would stroll through the assembly line (10 piece circuit), barely break a sweat or displace a strand of hair and head home. Women are now training their muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements that are done on a regular basis. Although this type of training does initially take expertise to perform (wonder why many of our trainers have a waiting list) the results are amazing. Although machines still do have their place in the gym the new “exercise tools” such as fitness balls, kettle bells, TRX straps and free weights are more practical and produce drastically better “functional” results and a much stronger core. So you’re wondering, what’s the problem here? The problem is this wonderful results based training requires a lot more open floor space and our 20+ personal trainers and over 1500 members are screaming at the Bearded Lady to create more space! All I can say is I’ve got two ears, two hands, half a brain and I’m going to make it happen! Look for less dysfunctional machines soon.