by Jim Merk & Jeff Libengood

Health concerns. Everybody has them—just in different degrees. Mine, for example, have been historically low. I always val­ued brains over brawn (exercising the brain doesn’t cause as much sweating). The best shape I remember being in was when I was 16 years old, fleet of foot and, at 118 pounds, playing center forward for my high school’s soccer team. My health concerns rose and fell over the ensuing years, but at no time was I ever truly “in shape.” All that is about to change—I got my wake-up call.

I was watching Bruce Willis knock off a bunch of bad guys only to find myself out of breath at movie’s end. Then I felt my paunch as I knocked back another Black-jack and Coke—getting bigger. I thought of my exercise avoidance: elevators, not stairs; riding my mo­torcycle, not walking…that type of thing. A look in the mirror finished it—the face was getting an extra chin.

How did this happen to such a young (nearly 30), mentally alert, environmentally aware, politically con­scious, rock-loving, ex-patriate? What, I can’t think myself into shape? No, unfortunately.

O.K. I admit, things aren’t quite that dramatic, but the fact remains—I am out of shape and need to do something about it. My goals are simple: I want five years back—when I turn 30 next year, I should look 25. I want to again think of stairs as a means to a higher floor. I want walk to the subway station and pocket the money I used to pay cabs to get me there. I wouldn’t mind being able to finish lunch and not need a nap. Having cute girls wink at me wouldn’t be bad. Saying, “No, I am not really Claude Van Damne, but I kicked his butt the last time he looked at me wrong.” Sorry, didn’t mean to get carried away—you get the idea. I want to look and feel good.

Chances are your own state of health isn’t at the point you would like it. Like me, you probably have tried and quit many training programs. This time, we are going to succeed. Why? Because we will get in shape together. Starting with this issue and continu­ing once a month I report my progress as I get trained by Tokyo’s (and the Weekender’s) fitness expert, Jeff Libengood. He will pass on the tips, strategies, formu­las and routines; I will serve as living proof that they will either kill you or get you into incredible shape. Hey, if I can do it, anybody can.

Jim Merk

* * *

Hi, everyone. Before going further, I must admit that I’m more concerned about the state of Jim’s mind than his body. Perhaps a trip to the local pyschiatrist should precede a trip to the trainer?!

As you journey with Jim and I on a regular basis through the Weekender, take notice of the real keys to good health and fitness: 1) consistent and proper exer­cise (anaerobic, aerobic & stretching), 2) a good, low-fat diet loaded with proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, 3) rest.

When exercising, keep these points in mind for great workouts.

  1. All workout sessions begin with a minimum of 10 minutes devoted to general, active warm-up exercises and stretches. Calisthenics, jogging, cycling and jumping rope are all great active exercises.
  2. The program is complete and simple. When begin­ning, choose exercises that work all the major muscle groups in your body, adding one or two exercises for the smaller helping muscles. This ensures complete­ness and simplicity. Completeness is desirable for bal­anced development, while simplicity is desirable for greater intensity and better focus of energy in a shorter amount of time.
  3. The components of the program are repealed periodi­cally. Train two or three times per week for best re­sults.
  4. The program is progressive. If you train for strength, the weight should be increased periodically, not con­tinuously. Or, in fitness training, train hard and vary the exercises regularly to create muscle confusion, thereby eliminating plateaus from the muscle adapt­ing to the same exercises over and over.
  5. The program is compatible with the trainee’s abilities and goals. The severity of the program should match your physical and mental capacities. If it’s too easy, you’re wasting your time and you won’t progress. If it’s too difficult, your body won’t recover sufficiently and you’ll be overtrained, resulting in no progress.

Now on to Jim’s training. To accurately calculate how much weight he should use to begin with, he’ll undergo a five repetition maximum (5RM) test in which he’ll see how much weight he can lift with good form for a total of five reps in each of the eight exercises selected for his program. This data will indicate about how much weight he can do for ten reps per set (the desired rep goal per set for the next month.)

After calculating test poundage, Jim will be ready to make his move into the real “world of muscledom.” His routine will consist of stretching followed by ab­dominal/lower back work, weight training (using six “core” exercises which work the body’s large muscle groups and two isolated exercises for the arms.) This will be succeeded by cardiovascular work to bring the workout to a close. Bear in mind, Jim is a beginner. Therefore, his goals should be to increase strength, improve muscle tone, decrease body fat, gain flexibil­ity and better his cardiovascular condition.

Good luck, Jim. I know you can do it. Readers, please follow along with us every month. Next month, I’ll tell you the results of the tests and the actual exer­cises, pounds, sets and reps Jim is working with. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please fax me in care of Tokyo Weekender, 5689-2474. I’ll an­swer them as quickly as possible and include some of the most frequently asked questions in future columns. If you’d like to begin your own personal training pro­gram, call me at The Riviera Club, 3746-3330. Until next month—get fit.

Jeff Libengood