With a passion for fitness and encouraging enthusiasm that’s contagious, fitness professional Lena Gines has been teaching exercise for over 20 years … and her motivation is as strong as ever. It’s well known that a balance of nutrition, exercise, and sleep result in good health, but finding that balance is the trick. As a mother of five, a certified fitness trainer and instructor, a ghost trainer (that’s right – read on to learn more), a studio owner, and a nutritionist, Lena knows a thing or two about maintaining a balance. Inevitably, a new year brings on a new round of resolutions, and in this interview, Lena’s got the skinny on setting manageable fitness goals for a fit you in 2014!
What’s your background and what experience do you have with fitness and nutrition?
I am a wife of 18 years, a mother of five, and a certified AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America®) trainer, fitness instructor, and nutritionist. I have been teaching fitness in the forms of yoga, step, cycle, running groups, boot camps, personal training, body pump, butts and guts, and more, for over 20 years, in between having my five children. My love for fitness has been my passion and has led me on this wonderful journey and brought me to where I am now.
What about your current endeavor with your studio?
I worked for various fitness facilities for years and finally decided that I would try to venture out on my own and open up my own fitness studio, along with my best friend, offering group fitness and personal training. I named my studio Z Fit 72 (Zumba®/ Fitness at 2672 N. 72nd St.). So far it has been a success and one of the best decisions I have ever made! We are constantly expanding our schedule and look forward to the many new classes we will be offering in 2014.
Fitness Q & A
1. Keeping in mind the Hayneedle Resolutions 2014 theme of “Small Changes, Big Year,” what are must-have items, in terms of fitness equipment and accessories, that you’d recommend for people seeking a well-balanced workout?
Start out with small goals in mind. Write them down and do them monthly, not yearly. I revisit my goals the first of every month and either expand on the ones I have or do new ones. For example, if you commit to exercising 20 minutes a day, three times a week to start out, try that for the month of January. Then on the first of February, add on more minutes or more days! Variety = success, so switch up your routines regularly. This is the same with nutrition. Start small, then expand. For example, don’t have anything to eat after 9 p.m., then move it to 8 p.m., etc.
I am a firm believer that you can use your body for most exercises, but because we live in a climate where indoor activity is common during the winter, a few indoor items would be nice – some type of cardio machine like a treadmill, StairMaster, or elliptical, or a jump rope, stairs, etc. Then I love to use the stability ball for abs, and bands for muscle strength. Also, from my experience, I recommend Polar brand heart monitors with a watch and chest strap.
2. What are some tips for staying motivated to exercise, especially during winter?
My big winter motivation is … you are creating your summer body right now! You can’t expect changes the month before or weeks before shorts-and-swim-suit season starts. You must begin now! It takes about 12 weeks of consistent workouts and healthy eating to see changes.
3. What are a few key exercises you recommend incorporating into a workout, no matter what your fitness goals are?
- For arms: use bands for bicep curls and arm raises (you can find some good band routines online).
- If you don’t have a band, do push-ups. A push-up works the chest, shoulders, biceps, back, and triceps.
- For tummy: crunches or planks.
- For legs: wall sits, squats, lunges.
4. Based on your nutrition background, how much does nutrition come into play when it comes to staying fit? Is there a percentage ratio for nutrition vs. exercise? Also, what about the importance of sleep?
My rule of thumb is 70% of how you look is done in the kitchen (nutrition), and 30% is done in the gym. As for sleep, it’s crucial to your overall health. Listen to your body and establish a “sleep routine” by going to bed around the same time every night. Spend the money on that mattress – you’ll spend 1/3 of your life with it!
5. How do you feel about nutritional lifestyle choices such as paleo, raw, veganism, macrobiotic, South Beach, etc.?
I personally believe you should be constantly changing your food to see what works best with your body. It’s not all one size fits all. Your body likes confusion [think muscle confusion], but not deprivation. The “diet” I go by is nothing processed (if I can help it). All raw and fresh, no fast food. Now I am not perfect, but that’s what I try to follow.
6. Similarly, what’s your take on HIIT (high-intensity interval training), Tabata, spin, and insanity-style workouts? Are they fads or sustainable exercise methods?
Everything seems to recycle, just like clothes! I am fine with doing what is popular for the moment (I LOVE Zumba), but am a little worried about some of the insanity HIIT workouts. You need to have an amazing trainer who knows how to protect your future body. Always keep in mind that you want to be able to maintain this body for as long as you can, and some of those workouts strain the knees, shoulders, etc. This is our one and only body – think toward the future when you are working out now.
7. Do certain exercises and foods actually boost metabolism?
Everybody’s body responds differently to different types of foods, so what works for my body may not work for yours. You need to experiment with different types of foods to see. Water, whole grains like oatmeal, and foods such as beans and peppers are a few metabolism boosters.
8. Once you’ve established a workout routine, what combination of cardio and strength do you recommend (either daily or weekly)?
You should reach for the goal of doing some type of cardio for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and then every other day, add in some strength training. It takes your muscles 24 hours to repair themselves, so three days a week of strength training should be good.
9. Most fitness experts disagree with isolated “spot” toning (for example, focusing on toning specific muscle groups, such as abs) and say that overall exercise is the only way to achieve toning – what are your thoughts? On that note, what’s your take on crunches – do they really help tone your abs or not?
As most trainers agree, you cannot “spot” train any part of your body. Sure crunches are awesome for building that six pack, but you must break down that fat with other exercises in order to see the toning. So to see those results, you need an all-over body workout.
10. What are some of the health benefits of yoga and Pilates?
Yoga and Pilates focus on the mind-body relationship and are great for stress relief!
11. Any last thoughts?
I hope this helps you on your fitness journey. Remember, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Don’t give up! Set your small goals every couple of weeks or months, and if you don’t achieve them, try them again. Have a healthy, happy, 2014!
Steps in Your Style
A fitness professional who gets it, Lena realizes that not everyone has the time or desire to spend hours at the gym. She’s able to think outside the gym for fitness fixes, and amongst her many roles, she’s also a ghost trainer, which means she’ll meet with you to discuss your fitness goals and will create a personalized exercise plan for you to follow on your own time. She’ll send follow-up texts to check on your progress and will meet with you every four weeks, if you want, to change up your exercise plan. She’s also willing to review and assess food journals, and always makes herself available for your questions.
If the motivating environment of group fitness is more your style, Lena even offers the first class at her studio on the house! So take those steps, whether you’re dancing in Zumba class, mastering the stair stepper, or taking a refreshing walk, and start making positive changes for your big year!
—Julie, senior editor