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Health and Fitness

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David Kirsch
Owner of the Madison Square Club in Manhattan, N.Y., and Fitness and Wellness Guru
Tuesday, June 14, 2005; 4:00 PM

Wondering the best way to get and stay fit? Then ask.

David Kirsch, New York fitness and wellness guru and the owner of the Madison Square Club in Manhattan, was online Tuesday, June 14, at 4 p.m. ET to talk with you about health and fitness tips.

Kirsch, who has more than fifteen years of experience, combines his knowledge of physical fitness, good health and spiritual wellness in his approach to fitness and nutrition. He is an advocate of mind-body conditioning, working with such clients as Liv Tyler, Linda Evangelista, Sophie Dahl, Naomi Campbell, Bridget Hall, Heidi Klum, Faith Hill and James King.

A featured expert on ABC's highly rated series Extreme Makeover, Kirsch is the author of the book "The Ultimate New York Body Plan" (McGraw-Hill, October 2004), a two week makeover and a follow up to his first book "Sound Mind, Sound Body" (Rodale, January 2002). He has also released a series of videos, "David Kirsch's Sound Mind, Sound Body Boot Camp," "David Kirsch's One on One Training Series" and "The Ultimate New York Body Plan."

Kirsch also has experience in the areas of nutrition and skincare. His ventures include "One of A Kind Food¬" "David Kirsch One of a Kind Supplements and Meal Replacement Powder," "MS2 Spa Collection" -- a line of natural, aroma-therapeutic body and skincare products -- and exclusive worldwide fitness excursions.

Related Links:

David Kirsch's Ultimate New York Body Plan

Madison Square Club

A transcript follows.

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Chicago, Ill.: Hi David, thanks for this opportunity. I'm a male, age 58, and interested in using exercise to moderate elevated BP which is controlled with a med. Currently I am biking 6 miles in AM and PM, 3 times per week. Running seems too punishing on the bod. I'm happy to say that my current activity seems to have a good effect. Any thoughts on optimal way to use further exercise to impact BP? Thanks.

David Kirsch: Yah, that's actually a very common problem amongst our population of late. I think that many people are dealing with issues like obesity, like high blood pressure and other issues of the sort and exercise is a great way to reduce the strain on the body, reduce body fat and reduce high blood pressure if that is the issue. I think that the cycling is great and I think that it's important to push the body and I think that it's important to increase duration first, and then once the duration is good, increase the intensity of the body during exercise. You want to continue to increase the intensity of your exercise, thereby pushing your body to its limit and beyond in a safe and controlled manner. As a final thought, I, too, agree that running is often too aggressive on your body's joints.

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Washington, D.C.: I've gotten into a routine over the past few months of swimming Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for a total of a couple of miles (usually spending between 45 minutes and an hour and a half per swim), lifting weights and walking (for, generally, a couple of miles) on Sundays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, and taking Saturdays off. I enjoy that routine and I like the results I've gotten so far, so the routine seems to be a good one. What's driving me nuts, though, is the fact that I can't swim more than a lap at a time with some strokes without my heart rate going through the roof, absolutely gasping for breath, and getting a headache. It'd be one thing if I was making progress with my cardiac efficiency, but I'm not, even though I've taken lessons and my stroke feels much more efficient. Do you have any tips on improving my aerobic fitness in this regard?

David Kirsch: Although I'm not a swimming expert, I often find that introducing other forms of cardio, for example, the rowing machine, elliptical machine, even the versa climber or the upper body ergometer, will often increase your strength, endurance, stamina and cardiac efficiency.

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Olney, Md.: David, congratulations on offering to those of us who like to keep a buff body some great workouts to follow. I like a personal trainer who practices what he preaches.

I am still looking for the ideal ab exercise. I can see my abs, but as a male, would like the cut look. Pecs were easy to get and obtain, but I am still striving for those washboard abs. Any suggestions? I have been measured with 11 percent body fat.

David Kirsch: Thank you for your kind words. I think the search for the perfect six pack has been around as long as the cavemen in loin cloths. The quest for perfect abs are often achieved through a combination of good nutrition and zeroing in on specific areas of the mid-section. For men, the issue is generally the lower abdominal region and the obliques (fondly known as love handles). Reverse crunches, knee tucks on a stability ball, and oblique crunches are all very effective and bring about great results. In my latest book, The Ultimate New York Body Plan, there are many other abdominal exercises, and the specifics to my A,B,C's of nutrition.

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Washington, D.C.: What is the basis of your program? Can vegetarians effectively use the nutrition aspect?

David Kirsch: The basis of the program is two fold. On the fitness side, one will exercise 45 to 90 minutes each day for 14 days. On the nutrition side, one will follow my A,B,C,D,E,F rules of nutrition. Vegetarians have done my program to great success and have been able to modify the plan substituting such proteins as tofu, seiten and tempeh.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi David,

I weigh waaay over 300 lbs. (I am a woman) and cannot lose weight. I exercise everyday, drink lots of water and cut back on calories. I lose a little and then nothing. I take supplements from a nutritionist, etc. What am I doing wrong?

David Kirsch: I often compare the road to wellness to a marathon. And when somebody has that much weight to lose, that's how they need to pursue it and perceive it. It's very important to find a plan that your A. comfortable with, and B. is healthy and C. works into your lifestyle. With that attitude and that patience you should continue to make progress and continue to get healthier.

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New York, N.Y.: I'm trying to get in faster running shape, yet at the same time increase my muscle mass. The only problem is sometimes my legs are too tired to run a hard workout a few days after a hard lifting session. What do you suggest I do? Is there a way to recover faster from lifting or improve my running level without laming myself for a few days?

David Kirsch: I think that getting faster at running doesn't necessarily jive with creating more muscle mass. The more muscle density you have to some degree, the more difficult it might be to run fast. For example, I personally was a marathon runner for years. I made a decision to stop running because I found it very difficult to keep muscle mass on while I was running as much as I was. Although everybody has a different body type, generally speaking you might be trying to achieve two diametrically different objectives.

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Bowie, Md.: What are your thoughts on gastric bypass surgery compared to "doing it the old- fashioned way?"

David Kirsch: I'm an old-fashioned guy!! Having said that, there are situations that call for more extreme measures. There is no substitute for good nutrition and challenging exercise, but some situations call for a little more help.

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Arlington, Va.: I will begin a Masters program this fall focusing on health promotion issues. Following the program, I would like to obtain certification from the American College of Sports Medicine. Although I am still exploring options, I am interested in working in research (which I understand is a focus of ACSM), in particular the impact of exercise and related nutrition issues in older women. Do you have any advice for people considering a career in the health and fitness field?

David Kirsch: You seem to be on the right track. ACSM is an amazingly reputable organization offering a plethora of knowledge and information. Good luck on your quest. I welcome you to a wonderfully rewarding field.

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Herndon, Va.: Mr. Kirsch: I'm a 63-year-old man, 5' 10" and was up over 200. I've been exercising and TRYING to watch my diet for over a year, and have dropped about 20 pounds and feel much better -- have even added some muscles and have a fairly flat belly. However, I still have, for want of a better word "boobs" on my chest. How to get rid of those?

David Kirsch: It sounds like you're leading a healthy lifestyle and for that I commend you. Lack of pectoral development is often the bane to many males out there. If there were only one exercise and no machines and you were stuck on a deserted island, push ups would be the answer. I find them very effective and relatively easy to perform correctly. Start tomorrow, first thing in the morning, with three sets of at least ten repetitions each set. Make sure your form is perfect, and that as you perform the push up you stick your brain in your chest and imagine that you're creating, no, rather sculpting the perfect chest.

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Reston, Va.: The only way I've been able to keep from getting bored at the gym is by dropping the concept of counting reps and sets. I start with a weight that I can do about 13-16 reps. I keep going until I can't do anymore (in proper form), then immediately drop the weight and do more reps and then repeat with lower weight, lower weight, etc. ... without a break ... until I get to the lowest (reasonable) weight for that exercise, take a break then start at the "top" again and repeat the sequence. No counting, no clock-watching. So, by this method, what disservice am I doing myself? If there are any disadvantages, I'll have to weigh them against the threat of boredom I guess ... Thanks for taking my question.

David Kirsch: It's hard to judge the correctness or effectiveness of solely doing drop sets as you define them. I find drop sets to be an effective tool that affords me maximum burn and complete muscle fatigue. If you are trying to put on size, more than shaping your muscle, this might not be the most effective way to do it.

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Arlington, Va.: I struggle in the summer to get to the gym as much as I want. I am considering moving to a total-body workout two or three times a week versus isolating muscle groups. Thoughts on this? If I do this, can I do less exercises per group, e.g., lat pulldowns, rows for back, incline plus pushups for chest, leg presses, and then super-set curl/push down for arms. Thanks!

David Kirsch: I'm actually a very strong believer in circuit training and full body workouts. Particularly in summertime when it's hotter and there are many other activities we can be doing. Try to engage the entire body and be sure to get your cardio in.

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Tampa, Fla.: How good is swimming for losing weight? I know it's great for overall fitness. But I can't lose weight even though I swim 1600 meters (about 1 mile) a day 5 days a week (takes about 1 hour). I'm 51 years old. I don't gain weight, either, but the pounds just don't come off. I try to follow a low-carb diet. Could a different diet (such as low fat) provide better results with swimming? I guess this gets into the question of whether you should match your type of diet with specific exercise programs.

David Kirsch: The answer is exercise is very subjective so if you don't find that swimming is effective for weight loss then you need to shake it up. And by that I mean introducing other forms of cardio. I believe in low carb diets. Unless you're an endurance athlete I don't think one needs to eat as many carbs as we tend to eat.

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Capitol Hill Manager: David, HELP! I am a 38-year-old male, 6'1" FINALLY up to about 195 lbs, low body fat, but I really want to get BIGGER. I have been lifting for two years, and worked with trainers in the past. I have an extremely high metabolism, and my current trainer is telling me I need to be eating close to 4,000 calories a day to meet my goals. The women at work joke that I am the only person they know who WANTS to be over 200 lbs. Any suggestions? Thanks!

David Kirsch: Lean, clean protein every few hours. Protein builds muscle. Amino acids, protein shakes and progressive, safe weight training, particularly in the legs first, back and chest, should help put on lean solid muscle and help you toward your goal. Don't forget to incorporate some cardio or your belly will grow as your chest grows.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi,

Is it possible to actually gain weight AND size from increasing workouts and muscle? I run between 3-5 miles several times a week, lift light weights, and do the Firm abs (tough!) daily. I find that I'm actually gaining weight (could be muscle weight) AND getting thicker around the middle. Some clothes don't fit any more, which is frustrating b/c I had always believed that although I might gain muscle weight, I would lose inches.

Help!

David Kirsch: Although it's possible to gain weight and size, I wouldn't be expecting a size increase in your middle. Something is wrong -- either the form and technique being used or the accompanying diet.

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Washington, D.C.: My doctor told me I need to lose 30 pounds for my heart to be healthy, but to aim for losing about 1-2 pounds per month. I already have high cholesterol and heart disease runs in the family. I started a moderate paced step aerobics class which I enjoy and I would like to know if you think it is an efficient weight loss workout. The class is three times a week, about 50 minutes long, and combines cardio with strength training. I am also making dietary changes. Is this going to do the trick?

David Kirsch: I am not one to contradict doctors -- particularly since I've never met you. Losing any amount of weight is a good thing. As long as you stay motivated and focused, then you're heading in the right direction. My programs, as depicted in both books and videos, are safe, effective and offer much more dramatic results than 1-2 pounds a month.

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David Kirsch: I appreciate the time, respect and intelligence of the questions. I am motivated and encouraged by your discipline and your quest for wellness. I tried in this format to offer sound and safe advice. As I indicated earlier, my latest book, The Ultimate New York Body Plan and its accompanying video of the same title, shed further light and provide useful information.

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