Thrive: No Magic Wand to Getting in Shape

My 30-minute session with a personal trainer who is adamant that people don’t need to become a gym rat to get fit.


I’ve always approached the idea of a personal trainer with a rolled eye. I’ve got a personal trainer, dahling. Fiddle dee dee! This cynicism runs deep because I’m very good at convincing myself that I know it all when it comes to working out (even though I know I don’t).

So I thought I’d put Russ Kappeler, one of the certified personal trainers at my branch of Fitness 19 in McCandless, to the test. The guy’s fitness/nutrition background spans 25 years, and he’s also a former competitive bodybuilder. 

“People think you have to be a world-class athlete to need a trainer, and that’s not the case,” he explains. Anyone can use a personal trainer — from novices to someone training for a marathon.  

Our first 30-minute session is an orientation so he can customize my plan. He wants to know my health history, eating habits and goals.   

To have the body of Gisele Bundchen, I reply. He hears this one a lot. 

“I can’t wave a magic wand over someone,” he smiles. “It’s a team effort. You can have the best workouts in the world but if you’re going home and eating pizza, cupcakes and wings, forget it.” 

So, we get to work — first with a weighted body bar while sitting on a stability ball for some oblique twists and simulated rowing to work out my core and upper body. Then we’re onto the floor for hip bridges to work my glutes.  Which I begin to feel. Immediately. 

Next he has me do some oblique cable twists followed by a glute bridge/ball roll to work my hamstrings, glutes, abs and lower back — first with both feet on the ball, then with one. He isn’t kidding — this is hard-core. He wants me to experience “momentary muscle failure.” 

In layman’s terms, he explains, balls to the wall. 

I’m digging balls to the wall. Our workout is intense — and really satisfying. 

As we finish, Kappeler remains adamant that people don’t need to become a gym rat to get fit. Work hard for 30-40 minutes about three days a week, he advises, not two hours daily. It’s counterproductive. “Increase intensity, decrease duration,” he says. 

Verdict? I’m a convert. He showed me invaluable techniques to up my game. I’d like to sign up for periodic session to keep things fresh. Pricing varies between $20/$30 per session. One note about the Fitness 19 chain ( Kids as young as 12 years old can get a membership and receive personal training.  

Eat This Month

Dietary Nitrates
Dietary nitrates and nitrites received a bad rap recently when studies suggested they may increase the risk of colon cancer when used as preservatives for bacon and other cured meats. But when found naturally in whole foods such as fruits, leeks, dark leafy greens, and root veggies including turnips and beets, dietary nitrates can pack a powerful health punch.

“Increasing consumption of [fruits and vegetables high in] dietary nitrates can have a big impact on lowering blood pressure,” says Dr. Matthew Darnell, assistant professor in the Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh. And a healthier heart can help stave off two of the leading causes of death: heart disease and stroke.


Categories: Top Doctors