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Fifteen with Gene

Category: Wellness – Fitness

Date: March 30, 2021

Gene Schafer, an athletic trainer, personal trainer, and founder of ARC Athletics, joined us for a Wellness discussion centered around simple, yet effective exercises we can do in a short amount of time. Our talk felt particularly relevant after the pandemic, which has disrupted so many of our routines, ambitions, and our overall health. His advice was measured, promising steady results and an overall improved feeling. Throughout, he stressed that everyone is different, so we all have different strengths and needs, but he demonstrated five efficient exercises that are great for every fitness level and only take a total of 15 minutes. During our conversation, he equipped us with practical advice and information to help us start over with our fitness, health, motivation, and accountability, so we can consistently work towards our personal wellness goals.


Gene opened our conversation by reminding us – we need to move around! We all feel better when we move. The pandemic has made us far more stationary, walking less throughout our day, so people are feeling stiffness in their bodies. It’s important to periodically get up, walk around, and move. Even a 15-minute walk can do wonders. If you are sitting all day, do not try and start an intense workout plan as you risk hurting yourself.

Making the Commitment to Exercise…And Then Following Through

The most important step is to set a goal that is achievable. Don’t say that you will work out every single day. Start with the intention to work out 3 days a week. After your workout schedule becomes a familiar habit, and something you regularly follow through on, you can then set the goal of working out on alternating days.

A great way to help establish the habit of exercise is to put the time you want to work out into your schedule or calendar. The morning is often a great time for a workout, so that it’s already done for the day. 

To help you execute your goal, make a list of 5-7 exercises, and put it somewhere accessible, either on your phone or a piece of paper.  Follow this list and do your 5-7 exercises one time and then do the entire set again 1 or 2 more times. Your list should be around 15 minutes of exercise.

If you need added accountability, you can pay for a fitness instructor. Another option is to find an accountability partner with whom you regularly share updates on your progress, or enlist a workout partner and schedule a time for you both to work out together.

Ways to Challenge Yourself

After you have established your routine, and are regularly exercising, it is important to continue to challenge yourself to improve your fitness level. You can add another day of exercise to your week, increase the weights, increase the number of reps, or work out for a longer period of time. Your workout should not feel easy.

Weight Loss

Gene stressed that weight loss is really difficult, so you must be clear on your reason for wanting to lose the weight. Otherwise, it’s hard to stay motivated for an extended period of time. You can hire someone to help you establish healthy habits that suit your individual needs and likes; we all need help at times, and the challenges of weight loss in particular requires having someone in your corner.

As with your exercise goals, it’s important that your weight loss goal is attainable and that you write it down. Tell your friends and family about it. For reference – losing one to two pounds a week is realistic, and you will not see a real difference in your body until about 6 weeks. 

Ultimately, you cannot out-exercise an unhealthy diet. In terms of what to eat, Gene noted that you can see a nutritionist for more tailored guidance, but overall, variety and moderation are the two key ideas. Variety is important for your health and enjoyment of food. For moderation, you can still eat your favorite foods, but just not to excess. 

Gene emphasized that you need to be aware of what you are eating and how it makes you feel afterwards, both mentally and physically. To take care of your body and mind, avoid the foods that cause any physical upset, energy surges and crashes, or mood swings.

Quick Tips: Exercise Form and Timing

  • Dynamic stretches are helpful before working out, as it is an active warm-up.
  • Stretch after running, rather than before. Your body will be warmer, so you’ll be more flexible.
  • For a plank, you can use your forearms or your hands.
  • For general cardiovascular health, exercising at 75% of your maximum heart rate is a good number for 30 minutes of cardio.
  • For the NYC marathon, you can train for approximately 16 weeks and perhaps a few more weeks beforehand. Be careful not to overtrain though, because you risk having an overuse injury.
  • If you have arthritis, especially in the knees, watch your range of motion. Rather than a squat, you can practice hip hinging exercises.
  • For those ages 50 and older, you can do the same exercises, just at lower intensity, fewer reps, or shorter duration.

Fifteen With Gene – The Big 5

Even if you only have fifteen minutes a day, you can create an efficient workout that is still effective, challenging, and mood-boosting. Gene recommended the below exercises and instructed us on proper form.

  1. Squat – You can use a box or chair to help you with your form. Sit your hips way back. Do NOT have your knees go forward. Keep a straight line between your knee and ankle. Sit and then stand back up. As you stand, think about pushing your heels through the floor. If you have a wall, you can put your toes up against the wall, and sit your hips back, which will ensure proper form because your knees will run into the wall if you do this exercise improperly.  
  1. Plank – You can use your hands or forearms. When you’re on the ground, tighten your core. You should also tighten your glutes to take stress off your lower back muscles. 
  1. Push Ups – Walk your hands forward. Bring your hips to the floor and then push the floor away from you. You can bend your knees if this modification helps you perform the exercise. 
  1. Reverse fly – While on the ground, facing the floor,  bring your arms up from your sides and squeeze your shoulder blades together. You can do this exercise with weights, a resistance band, or nothing at all.
  1. Bridge – Lie on your back. Bend your knees and have both feet planted on the ground. Raise your hips off the floor and squeeze your glutes. To make it more challenging, you can put your hands on your shoulders or you can do this exercise on one foot.

For these exercises, do 10-15 reps for each set. For the plank, you can hold that position for 15 seconds each round. Do 2-3 sets of each exercise.

Your To-Do List (A Summary)

  1. Write down an achievable exercise goal.
  2. Put the time you want to work out directly into your calendar.
  3. Make a list of 5-7 exercises for your workout. (The Big 5 are an excellent start.)
  4. Find support. Tell your friends and family about your plans. Ask someone to be your workout buddy. Don’t forget – everyone needs help sometimes. If you need someone cheering you on and giving great advice, hire a fitness instructor and/or nutritionist who will help you reach your goals.

Gene can be reached at (212) 281-6412 and https://www.arcathletics.com/home.

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