Fitness 101 Health & Fitness News

Fitness 101, Issue 2: Your questions answered

A head photo of James Chicalo.

1. Why is stretching important? Do you have a stretching routine you recommend?

Flexibility is an important aspect of fitness that can enhance performance and improve quality of life. Flexibility can help reduce the risk of injury, especially in the lower extremities, and can also enhance an individual’s ability to carry out daily tasks and exercise. Stretching to increase one’s range of motion should be undertaken cautiously. It is important that, in the pursuit of increased range of motion one does not aggressively stretch to the point of causing muscle or tendon damage or diminish one’s ability to perform optimally.

Yes, I do a basic stretching routine that targets all of the major muscle groups. It is best to find a stretching routine you like and will stick to. Everyone is at their own personal level, so finding what works best for you is key.

2. What’s a plank? How do I do it correctly? How long should I do it for? Why should I do it? How often?

A plank is a position we place our bodies in to train and develop our core muscles. It is arguably one of the best core training exercises.

The plank is where we find ourselves in the extended or upper part of a push up. The plank refers to the direct board like positioning of our bodies from our shoulders down to our heels. In this position we hold our abdominal muscles tight, strengthening through our torso and hold this plank position for 30 seconds or longer.

After much reading and research I am of the belief that 30 seconds to 2 minutes is an ideal range to maintain perfect plank form. I recommend starting out planking for 20 seconds 2-3 times, each time you workout or as much as everyday. Soon you will be able to plank longer, as you develop a stronger core. Try planking for 1:00 minute, three times with small rest breaks in between.

As with most exercises, the plank can be modified (like the push up) by performing it on our knees and hands, or knees and on our forearms. It is best to have a certified trainer demonstrate the plank then ensure you are doing it properly to avoid injury.

3. How often should I weigh myself? Why?

This is a topic that is hotly debated. I believe in weighing yourself often if you have weight gain or loss in mind. That way you’ll be able to track your progress and increase or decrease caloric intake as needed. If you want to gain or lose weight you’ll want to keep a record.

However, If you weigh the same every day you step on the scale (within 5 pounds every time) and you don’t care about whether you gain or lose that 5 pounds, then weigh yourself whenever you want!

Do you have fitness questions? Submit them here.

Health & Fitness News My Go-To

My Go-To: For Nutrition Science

Dr Greger headshot

Dr. Michael Greger

I like Dr. Greger for a few reasons: He seems genuine, he tells it like it is, he has a comedic approach to his presentations, and he is a friend of Brenda Davis, whom I greatly admire.

He posts free, informative videos and information regarding diet that is a great resource. It is science and evidence-based and supports the healthiest lifestyle and eating habits.

A founding member and fellow of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, Dr. Michael Greger is a physician, New York Times bestselling author, and internationally-recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues. He runs the popular website, a nonprofit science-based public service site providing free daily updates on the latest in nutrition research. All the proceeds he receives from his books and speaking are donated to charity.

Dr. Greger has a great app called Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen, which helps you track the most important foods in your diet. He has great weight-loss tweaks and is a must-have!

His two best selling books are called: How Not To Die, and How Not To Diet

You can check him out and get all of his free info and videos at Please consider supporting his work and buying his books, because it’s folks like Dr. Greger that deserve our support.

As a side note: I had a question about what vitamin B12 supplements I should take, so I emailed him. Dr. Greger responded personally and described the differences and made suggestions for me. He did it more quickly than I hear back from my own doctor!

~ James

Health & Fitness News

COVID-19 Update

In keeping with the latest information and recommended action with regards to our Covid 19 virus outbreak:

Upon recommendations of health officials, the clear decision has to be made to protect our health. It is safest to be cautious and prudent.

As of Monday, March 16, I am cancelling all of my fitness classes and postponing personal training sessions until further information and evidence arises.

~ James

Health & Fitness News Workouts

COVID-19 & Group Fitness Classes

This post is for all of my fitness clients and HIIT class participants, and to all my friends: I hope you are well.

We are all together in this different-than-normal kinda time. Please stay tuned for updates as they happen, as it appears this situation is changing rapidly.  

For now, I want you all to know that I am planning on instructing my fitness classes as scheduled with some minor changes, as outlined below.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, on the CTV Noon report today, said that a way we can stay ahead of this current situation is to stay away from large gatherings, stay away from people if you feel you are becoming ill, and to get outside and get exercise so:

As of Saturday, March 14, 2020 at 4:00 p.m. PST:

Tuesday and Thursday Evolution Fitness classes are still on but we will move the action outside on the lawn adjacent to the Zen Centre. Please wear warm enough clothing (forecast is for 9C) outside shoes, exercise mat and perhaps gloves for when we plank on the grass.

Wednesday SynchroFitt class will be moved to Synchromesh Winery. At the winery, we will be making sure our social distancing is at its fullest potential.

If the situation does elevate to the point of isolation, I am in the process of exploring how to provide my fitness classes remotely. So until further notices, be kind, be fit and be well!

If you have any questions, please contact me!

~ James

Fitness 101 Health & Fitness News

Fitness 101: Frequently Asked Questions

A head photo of James Chicalo.

I am trying to add fitness into my life.
Should I focus on cardio or strength training? Why?

Well done on starting your fitness journey! Fitness is a key factor in everyone’s life and it is never too late to start.

When you are just starting a workout program, I believe it’s OK to focus on doing whatever activity it is that you like best, and captures your interest. If you enjoy getting on a rowing machine, then row! If you just love hitting a treadmill or elliptical machine, go for it! If strength training is a favourite? Then do whatever it is that will keep you in the fitness groove!

After some time, you will gain confidence, and hopefully fall in love with the way you feel when you move more. Then, You can decide which one gets you the best results, and really, both cardio and strength-training are pretty important.

But in short, over the long haul I’m a big fan of strength training. Want to know why? Here’s an article I read recently talking about the weight-lifting benefits for women – but guys, you can read it too, because most applies to all: For Women Weight Lifting is Essential, Here’s Why | ISSA

Should I work out every day? I’ve heard
“rest days” are important for muscle growth when lifting.
What can I do every day?

Yes, you should work out every day. But you may want to adjust what you do, each day. Here’s why:

Rest days are important. That is: Rest days from intense cardio or strength training/weight-lifting sessions.

However, while you might take a rest from the intense cardio/strength training, you should still aim to get 60-90 minutes of moderate to intense exercise every day. The easiest example? Going for a fast-paced walk is something everyone can do every day!

Here is what the World Health Organization recommends for adults aged 18-64:

  • Minimum 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity)
  • For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity physical activity to 300 minutes per week
  • Muscle-strengthening activities at least two days a week

But if you want a personalized plan that will help with those goals, contact me for more information.

What is one thing I should watch out for when
starting my fitness routines?

Please make sure you are doing the exercises correctly. Proper form is essential, and if you keep good form right from the beginning you will avoid injury, enjoy your workouts more, and likely stick to your routine long-term.

Hiring a certified personal trainer is one great way to ensure proper technique and form, while reducing the risk of injury. But you can also find reputable sources online, or refer to books at your local library. If you would like to find out more about my personal training services, check here. You can also attend some of my classes.

Also, remember that it’s important to check in with your doctor to let them know your plans and to get clearance on any ongoing health matters. In some cases, it might even be necessary to adjust medications due to your new-found health!

When should I “push through” the pain, and
when should I stop?

There is a difference between pain from an injury, and pain you are experiencing through what is called muscle hypertrophy – that’s an increased growth in muscle size during and after the work of lifting weights. Once you start moving regularly, you will quite quickly learn the difference. Pain is not good, but discomfort is excellent.

Listen to your body, and if it hurts to do something, explore that further. You may need to find another way to achieve a specific goal, or to consult a professional to figure out what’s going on for you. (Have I recently mentioned the benefits of working with me as a certified personal trainer? Call me!)

Eventually, you’ll start to recognize (and enjoy) the soreness that comes from a successful training session! And chances are, you will hurt a lot less than you do if you don’t exercise at all.

Do you have a Fitness 101 question? Use this form to get an answer!

Health & Fitness News

CHIP information nights coming to Penticton

For many years now, I’ve been involved as a volunteer facilitator of the world-renowned Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP).

Would you like to know more information about the program? What it is, and, more importantly, why I am such a big fan? Come on out one of our upcoming information nights – Thursday, March 12 or Tuesday, March 17 – to find out more.

CHIP – or the Complete Health Improvement Program – was founded over 30 years ago, and has driven positive health outcomes for tens of thousands of participants, according to Connie, one of the Penticton Organizers. The Penticton program is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and can help you reach your health goals.

“CHIP is a research-tested, intensive lifestyle intervention program designed to prevent, arrest and facilitate the reversal of many common chronic diseases so prevalent today,” Connie states.

The program educates in an entertaining group setting to give participants the tools to help make lifestyle changes that are proven to lower key risk factors within weeks. CHIP delivers a holistic health plan with potential clinical benefits including:

  • Disease reversal
  • Reduced risk of heart disease (#1 killer in Canada)
  • Normalized blood pressure
  • Lowered Cholesterol
  • Lowered triglycerides
  • Lowered fasting blood sugar
  • Lowered BMI/excess weight

Participants also see improvements in energy, mood, sleep, resilience, stress and digestion. Participants like Okanagan Falls resident, Pat Field. At 58 years of age Field found himself overweight, in pain with low energy and poor work performance. For the next 8 years, he describes himself as “being a mess, physically, emotionally and intellectually.”

Field completed the Penticton CHIP program in 2018 at the age 67. He was a model participant, and within 5 weeks got off two medications for diabetes and one for elevated cholesterol. After three months following the lifestyle changes, Field achieved the blood tests of a 40-year-old and a loss of 46 lbs. He speaks highly of the program.

“You can reverse diseases like Type 2 diabetes and hypertension simply by adjusting your diet. If you combine that with exercise, you can become again a vibrant human being capable of enjoying every moment this precious life has to give us. CHIP helped me and it can help anyone, if you make the simple choice to want to get healthy” he stated.

The 2020 Penticton CHIP Program begins Tuesday, March 31, and runs three nights a week – Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – through April. Participants will learn the “why,” the “how” and the “evidence” of a whole-food, plant-based lifestyle.

The first information session will be held on Thursday, March 12, at 6:30 p.m. with a screening the critically-acclaimed ‘Eating You Alive’ health documentary that reveals the truth behind why North Americans are so sick and what we can do about it. The film features leading medical experts and researchers, as well as health recovery success stories, including Naramata residents Sheanne and Dan Moskaluk, who recovered from obesity and Stage IV cancer by adopting plant-based lifestyle.

The FREE screening will take place at the Penticton Lifestyle Centre, 290 Warren Avenue W. After the film, there will be a Q & A discussion panel, featuring Sheanne and Dan and me, as a plant-based athlete and fitness trainer. There will also be an opportunity to register for the upcoming CHIP program.

The final Information/Registration session will be held Tuesday, March 17, from 7:00 – 8:00 p.m. at the Penticton Lifestyle Centre, 290 Warren Ave West.

For more info, contact Connie (250) 488-1558 or email , or contact me here.

Health & Fitness News My Go-To

My Go-To: For Nutrition

When I need factual information regarding nutrition for my family, friends, and clients, I turn to the foremost expert in Diet and Nutrition, Brenda Davis, RD. Brenda is a sought-after speaker who is currently touring the world providing cutting edge information on diet and nutrition backed by peer-reviewed scientific research. She is the go-to nutrition expert for many in the health and wellness industry as well as in the private sector.

Brenda Davis is a gifted writer, with many published books, one of which is the first book I reach for when a client or I have a question about diet and nutrition. Check them out here! She is a wonderful speaker, passionate humanitarian, powerful woman, and my favourite… someone I am fortunate enough to call my friend.

I encourage you to check out her website, follow her on Twitter, and Facebook, and any and all other social media platforms that you can find her on, like YouTube.

My next blog post will be about Michael Greger, MD.

Until next time, be well.

~ James