Skip the Machines For a Great workout: Check Out My interview on

The following is a Repost from (

Kelvin Gary is the personal trainer behind Body Space Fitness, a newly-renovated boutique gym in NYC offering a unique, time-efficient, and affordable approach to working out. With a background in business, Kelvin knows the physical constraints of an office job, and works with clients (pssst..we hear Rebecca Minkoff is one of them!) of all different fitness levels to help their bodies function at their best capacity. We worked out with Kelvin before our interview, and we have to say — he’s the real deal. Read our Q&A with him below to find out why you should be avoiding workout machines, why “ab days” and “arm days” don’t always make sense, and how you can stay fit at the office.

StyleList: You started out your career in the corporate world. What pushed you to make the jump to personal training?
Kelvin Gary: I was in corporate finance, and before that I was a manufacturing engineer. Long story short, I got to the point in my life where I was like, “You know what, I’m 26 and I’m overweight, and my knees are hurting. It’s not just my diet or that I have a stressful job, it’s that I’m stuck behind a desk.” So, I got my personal trainer certification. I did it more for me in the beginning. I wanted to figure out what was going on with my own body as the result of being stuck behind a desk most of the day. Next thing you know some of my friends from business school found out i was a personal trainer, and they said “OK, you gotta start training us!”.

SL: And then you opened Body Space Fitness?
KG: I started to think that maybe I’d missed my calling when I realized I enjoyed training and helping people get results — whether they want to lose weight, run faster, or move around pain-free when they run around with their grandkids. I decided this was what I’m meant to be doing, not sitting behind a desk running numbers. With that in mind, I left my full-time job and went into training.

SL: What makes Body Space different than other gyms?
KG: I think more people should have access to good trainers. I knew that doing it in the fashion we do it, it would allow people to get a customized, individualized program, and lower the price point — that makes it more accessible. I want the gym to be a place people like to go, where they can be comfortable and not feel judged, and know that the people there are going to guide them to do the right thing for them. We definitely wanted to create a different environment, a positive mental space. Change is as much a mental thing as it is a physical.

SL: What’s the training style like at Body Space?
KG: We say full-body training style is the way to go, meaning your body is one unit and needs to be trained as one. If you do a squat, you do it holding something. If you do a lunge, you do it holding something. Find ways to get your upper body and lower body integrated into one move — training the body the way it was designed. Athletes train that way, and a lot of times people don’t realize that they have an inner athlete. I have clients who may say, “Well, I’m not an athlet, I’m a mom!”, and I’ll say, “Well, you’re a mom, but at one point in time you’re going to reach down to grab a grocery bag while you’re holding a kid, and you’ll throw a diaper bag over your shoulder at the same time.” You gotta use your whole body. You gotta use your core. That’s not much different than a linebacker trying to tackle somebody. People don’t realize that life calls for certain things you need to train for. You can train this way for all kinds of different goals. That’s our training methodology — train everything, all the time.

SL: A lot of trainers we know are proponents of segmenting body parts — doing “ab days” or “leg days”. But you do things differently.
KG: When people have a goal to lose weight or tone up, getting everything working together in that integrated fashion is going to help you get to your goal. It’ll burn more calories. But, it depends. If someone’s goal is to get bigger arms, do segmented days. But otherwise, we can be more efficient with our time. Work everything all together. Unless your goal is to focus on one area, integrate everything.

SL: What do you take into account when you’re making a training plan for a client?
KG: How well do they move? Do they have any restrictions? People who sit at a desk all day long, they usually have what we call Upper Cross Syndrome, and they have really tight shoulders and a lack of shoulder mobility. Their hips are really tight, and their glutes are shut down. If I injure one of your muscles that was already strained, that’s the equivalent of a doctor doing a bad surgery. If someone has really bad shoulders, I’m going to take that opportunity to open up their shoulders. If I know they have tight hips, I’m going to give them a lot of hip mobility drills in their program.

SL: When this editor trained with you at Body Space, she noticed there weren’t many machines other than the treadmills. What’s up with that?
KG: Here’s my thought about most machines — they’re trying to make things more efficient by making things easier but in doing so, they’re taking the easy way out, and not allowing you to work as hard. They don’t let you integrate things the way you would in real life. Take the leg extension machine, for example. When I kick a soccer ball, I don’t just extend my leg. Everything above and below it works too.

SL: That Upper Cross Syndrome you mentioned is totally us, by the way. What are your tips for getting physical activity in during a work day?
KG: First and foremost, set an alarm on your calendar or phone to get up and stretch, or at a very minimum, move around. At my last job, my nickname was “the mayor”, because instead of emailing or calling people, I’d walk over and talk to them. So, every two hours, no matter what, set an alarm on your phone to stretch and get a drink of water. That’s the best piece of advice I can give people. Set an alarm! You will almost always forget on your own.

Preparing to Workout – The Pre workout. Are You Ready to Go?

Last week I started with a new client who, in addition to being a gym rat, just so happened to be a multisport athlete. As I was explaining the results of her movement assessment, I started to describe to her how her sessions would flow. I explained that the first 5 minutes would be spent foam rolling. “If you get to the studio early, go for a little longer”, I told her. “Next we might hit a few static stretches for our lats, pecs and hip flexors, but we’ll usually move to more of a dynamic stretch; walking knee grabs, leg cradles, butt kicks, toy soldiers, knee drives for ankle mobility, things like that”. I then said, “We’ll follow that up with activation exercises for both upper and lower body.” “Last we’ll do some bodyweight moves; lunges, squats, push-ups, etc.” “Then,”  I said, “We’ll get to the resistance training portion of our workout.”

She looked at me and said, “Wait a minute, we’ve pretty much done a workout by the time I’ve done that much.” “I’m only actually ‘working out’ for 30-40 minutes by the time we’re done with all that”. “That’s right,” I said. I’m pretty she’ll thank me for it later.

Some people might look at my method and say that I’m wasting my client’s time. To that I say, “It depends.” If they can get to the studio early, know their routine, and can knock-it-out before their session, then yes, we can spend more time putting in work during the session. However, if a client shows-up to a session ice cold from a day of sitting behind a desk, the last thing that I’m going to do is let them grab a kettlebell as soon as they walk in the door.

Think about it this way; consider that your body was a finely tuned race car. Prior to running the car in a race, you would expect that the pit crew would check under the hood to make sure that all of the bolts and belts were tight. Then the driver would take the car for a couple of laps around the track before coming back to the pit to confirm that all systems were a go.

My client is that race car and all we’re doing is making sure that all systems are good to go before we put them out there to race. Luckily, I didn’t come up with all of this myself. This is the norm now-a-days in the strength and conditioning world with gyms like MBSC (Mike Boyle – Mass.), Train 4 The Game (Todd Wright –Austin Texas) and Results Fitness (Alwyn and Rachel Cosgrove – Calif.) leading the way in showing people how to workout, before the workout. They’ve shown that doing so not only helps reduce the risk of injury, but it also may lead to quicker results as they are able to perform better during their sessions.

So the next time you hit the gym and head straight for the squat rack, I want you to stop and ask yourself, “Are all of my systems good to go.” If not, take the time to really get fired-up before you put your body out on that race track.

Good Luck!


4 Quick Tips to Make Those New Years Fitness Goals a Reality

As with every year, today is the day that we make those New Year’s resolutions that we somehow always find a way to NOT stick to.  If you want to stick to those healthy resolutions this year here are a few helpful tips that I want you to keep in mind:

  1. Set goals and give those goals a set timeline.  Goals without a set timeline usually fall through the cracks.  Write them down on a 3X5 index card and review them 3 times a day.
  2. Have a plan…. and a backup plan to help you stay on track and move towards your goals. (We’ll talk more about what should go into this plan in later posts but let’s just assume that proper nutrition and exercise will be a big part of that plan.)
  3. Follow through.  A plan is only as good as the paper it is written on.  You have to make the time and be committed to make your goals a reality.  Find a way to hold yourself accountable.  Get an accountability partner or someone to help you stick with your plan.
  4. See yourself succeeding!  So often we start our fitness related New Year’s resolutions with the thought in the back of our minds of how we “have never been able to do it and we probably won’t succeed this year.”  As I explained to a good friend and client the other day, this is almost like conceding to failure before you even start.  I then said to her, “you know it’s funny, we usually don’t quit college before the first day of class, or our job on the first day and we usually don’t walk out on first dates within the first few minutes even if it’s a horrible date.”  “So why do we bring doubt into something that matters so much to us?”  Spend a few minutes everyday envisioning what it would be like to hit your New Years fitness resolution goals.

If you keep that picture of successfully reaching your goal in mind, have a plan and follow through then you’ll be in great shape before you know it.

Happy New Year and I look forward to helping many of you reach to your fitness goals!

Lessons Learned From My First MultiSport Event


This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in my first “multi-sport” event, the Prospect Park Duathlon in Brooklyn, New York.  I’ve done numerous biking events but I’ve never done a multi-sport event or even a running event for that matter.  I won’t lie, it wasn’t easy, but I finished and in the process I learned a few things about myself, my training and how I can help my clients reach their goals.

For this race, I chose to do the classic duathlon distance, which was a 3.1 mile (5K) run, then a 14 mile bike ride, then another 3.1 mile run.  Little did I know that the 5k route was packed with hills, lots of big hills.  “Not to worry I thought, “I’ll pace myself and run my race.”  Two miles into the run, and on the second of two major hills, I started to second guess my decision to wake up at 5am on a Saturday morning to drive an hour simply to torture myself.  Again, “not to worry,” I thought, “what doesn’t kill me will only make me stronger.”   I made it through the first run and onto the bike only to find that the hills had done a number on my otherwise strong bike legs.  But even with a stiff headwind around most of the course I dug deep and pulled out a decent ride.  Then it was on to the second run and those damn hills again.

It was during the second run that it really hit me… the pain that is. When I thought about stopping for a second to let my legs catch up, a little voice in my head said, “Don’t stop…..keep running….how bad do you want it?”  By this time I was well out of any chance to place or win an award.  To me it was a matter of proving to myself, not anyone else, that I could do whatever I set my mind to, no limits.  So I picked up the pace and headed up the first hill and then the second.  I eventually arrived at the finish line in one piece, tired but proud of what I was able to accomplish.  It wasn’t the Ironman in Hawaii, but it was something.

We often underestimate or fail to recognize the power of our mind.  Keeping what motivates you fresh in your mind and staying positive is often enough to get you through something that you perceive to be hard or difficult.  I try to do this with my clients all the time when they’re having a rough day or it’s a hard workout.  I remind them of that wedding that they’re in 2 months from now or that trip to Vegas in another month.  That’s usually enough to pep them up until the end of the workout and beyond.  This applies not only to sports and working out, but to life in general.

So find a goal that stretches you, keep in fresh in your mind, stay positive and you can achieve anything you put your mind to. 

PS.  I’ve already signed up for my second race in the same park in May so that I can beat my time

Healthy Eating in NYC Made Simple

If you live in, work in or just visit New York City, this is a great resource for healthy eating! 

A few months ago, author and nutritionist Jared Koch came to share the Clean Plates 2011 book with our group of trainers.  Unlike other restaurant guides, Clean Plates 2011 takes the time (almost 50 pages) to go over dieting, what to eat and why.  The book then gets into a review of tons of places to eat ranging from Chipolte to Gramercy Tavern.

For more information check out Clean Plates 2011 by clicking on the book cover.

Part 3 – Want to Get Fit and See Your Abs by Spring? Here are a Few Do’s and Don’ts to Live By

Sticking with the “do and don’t” theme, today’s topic is about changing it up. Keeping your body adapting and responding to a new or different challenge is what it’s all about.

Don’t: Do the same routine, the same reps and the same weight over and over

Do: Change routines and progress the level of difficulty (sets, reps, weight etc).

In the fitness world we have a lot of guiding principles. The two principles of interest for today are the Overload Principle and “SAID” principle. The Overload principle in a nut shell states that a greater than normal amount of stress on the body is required for training based adaptations to occur. The SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) principle, on the other hand, asserts that the body, will adapt specifically to the demands placed on it.

Alright Kelvin, so what does it all mean? Plain and simple, if you want to see results from your exercise routine you need to be constantly changing the demands placed on your body for results to occur. For instance, if you do a workout with your 5 favorite exercises, in the beginning you may see some results. However, over time your body will adapt to that amount of stress and as a result it will eventually not need to change. This is what we all know as the “plateau”. To break through that plateau, make sure that you’re keeping your body adapting by changing the workout.

There are a number of really easy ways to change things up. For example, we could take that same workout of our 5 favorite exercises and turn it into multiple workouts simply by changing the number of repetitions, the weights we use and the number of sets we do. The amount of weight, number of reps and number of sets that you actually do will depend on your overall goals. We’ll talk about this more in a later post, but just know that if you’re looking to trim down 2-3 sets of 12-20 repetitions, with not too much rest between sets is a good place to start.

Another way to change things up is by changing the tools that you use. For example, we can use machines, bands, barbells, dumbbells, Kettlebells all of which can act on the body in slightly different ways. Changing the complexity and stability required are great ways as well. Think of a squat done on the floor versus a squat standing on a BOSU ball (BOSU stands for BOth Sides Utilized in case you were wondering). In this case a simple change in your base of support can make the same exercise much harder.

So keep finding ways to keep your routines changing and you’ll start to see results that last.

Good Luck!

Turn up the Intensity….Learn to Use a Kettlebell

If you want to burn more calories in less time, build more muscular endurance and simply get stronger, learn to use a Kettlebell.  Kettlebells are one of my favorite tools in the gym.  A basic move like a simple swing helps develop strength throughout the hip complex, challenges core strength and stability and gets your heart rate going.  More complex moves like the “Turkish get up” challenge strength and stability throughout the entire body.  Kettlebells can be used in seamless multi-directional training routines like the squat/multi-directional lunge complex in this video.  That’s why I think they’re awesome tools for sport and functional training. 

Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting some kettlebell circuits for endurance athletes that I’m using to prepare for my first duathlon (run/bike/run) in March, so stay tuned.  Until then get to a gym to find a good kettlebell coach and add them to your fitness program!

A Good, Quick Functional Training Circuit…. If You’re Ready for It

This Weeks Functional Training Circuit: (this one’s harder than it looks) 1. Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat Holding one Kettle bell, 2) Single Arm Dumbbell Row, 3) Single Arm Chest Press, Up/Down Planks.  Both the row and the chest press will integrate the core into the movement.  If you’re up for a challenge do all for without stopping, 3 sets and 15 repetitions on each side.  Good Luck

Don’t Try to Out Train a Poor Diet, Fix It.

“It’s almost impossible to out train a poor diet.” This is a great quote that I once heard during a presentation on fat loss. The only reason they used the word “almost” is because there is a very small part of the population that can eat like crap and do enough to burn it off. For the vast majority of us though that’s not the case. It’s easier than we think to wipe out an entire 2 hour workout in one meal. If your goals include losing weight or toning up you must acknowledge and accept that what you eat, how much you eat and when you eat can have a huge effect on your fitness results. The first step to addressing this issue might not be to jump right into a diet. Instead take a second to see what exactly needs to be fixed. For one week try writing down everything that you eat and drink, the times that you eat and where you eat (be it home or at a restaurant). Doing this will do two things. First, writing down what you eat makes you more mindful and conscious of what you’re eating. You can also start to identify trends that may affect your fitness results. Eating out too often or eating a lot late at night are too good examples. Not drinking enough water is another. Look to so see where the problems are first then attack them. Try this for one week and then ask yourself “what can I change or do better”. And be honest with yourself, the truth shows up in your results. Good Luck! 

To Foam Roll or Not to Foam Roll?

Most of you may be thinking, just what the heck is a foam roller anyway?  If you are one of my clients you have almost certainly been introduced to one.  For everyone else I’ll try to keep the explanation as simple as possible. A foam roller is nothing more than a solid tube usually 6 inches in diameter and 1 to 3 feet long.  They are usually made of pressed foam but can be made of PVC pipe that’s covered with foam.

The technique applied in using a foam roller is called “Self Myofascial Release.”  Simply put, it’s a way to place pressure on a trigger point (or knot) in your muscles in a way that will trigger a sequence of interactions that will inevitably allow your muscles to relax.  A good analogy would be when you go to get a back massage and the masseuse finds a knot in your back.  That masseuse applies some form of pressure to that knot to get it to go away.  The foam roller does the same thing.

For those who want the technical side of foam rolling the term for what happens during this process is “Autogenic Inhibition”.   Applying pressure to a knot sends a signal to the GTO (Golgi Tendon Organ) which then sends a signal to the Muscle Spindle to tell the muscle to relax.  This is the primary reason that it’s important to hold a stretch or the foam roller on a tight spot for at least 30 seconds.  The communication between the GTO and Muscle Spindle takes time so if you don’t hold it long enough it will not be as effective.

Foam Rolling along with regular stretching will bring muscles back to their proper length and decrease distortions in movement.  There are a lot of good resources out there for foam rolling via Google.  The following below is for an instructional video from Eric Cressy, a well known professional in the sports performance and conditioning field.  Take a look to see how it’s done (

You can purchase a foam roller at most sporting good stores; however I’ve found the quality of those rollers to be lacking.  I would recommend checking out the PB Elite Foam Rollers  from Perform  They are high quality and reasonably priced at $10 for the small roller and $23 for the larger roller (click on the words “PB Elite Foam Roller”  above for the direct link to 

Good Luck!