Category Archives: Wellness

New Guildelines for High Blood Pressure

There’s a great scene in my favorite show of all time, West Wing. From Season 3 “The Indians in the Lobby” the episode opens with Sam starting the day informing his boss, Toby, that on President Bartlett’s watch there are now 4 million new poor people – never good for an administration.

Check out the scene (you can stop after 1:15, but the whole 4-minute clip is worth your time):


This week The Wall Street Journal wrote that Nearly Half of U.S. Adults Have High Blood Pressure Under New Guidelines. So you can see the relevance of the West Wing clip – last week 135/80 wasn’t a thing and today it’s classified as high blood pressure.

Most of the people considered newly hypertensive—largely younger Americans—would be urged to eat healthier and exercise more rather than take medicine, according to the guidelines, published by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology.

It breaks my heart that even language as clear as “eat healthier and exercise more” will fall on deaf ears. Of course that’s just fine for me as and exercise specialist – I’ll always have a population of people who could use my services. But my goal is still to help people pursue a healthy and disciplined lifestyle. High blood pressure is not healthy, and there’s plenty we can do about it.

“If we want to really capture the risk from high blood pressure and effectively reduce complications from high blood pressure in the United States, at this time the evidence is strong we need to be taking that lower, to 130/80,” said Paul Whelton, chair of the guidelines and a professor at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

A large hurdle for many people is that we do not worry about what we cannot see. By that I mean “out of sight, out of mind.” We can’t see high blood pressure, we can’t see clogged arteries. Heck we can see excess fat and adipose tissue and we struggle to fight that (establishted link, by the way). The struggle is real and if I’m honest with myself and my readers I’m guilty of this also. One of the first steps is to talk about it and then we need to take action.

What is your blood pressure? Do you fall into the hypertensive category? What are you going to do to get into the healthy category?

What’s Next in Tech and Health

This post is taken from my weekly newsletter which turned into a nice blog post. If tech and health interest you, subscribe to the Training Desk of Hans Schiefelbein.)

This week I want to share a brief insight into my vision as a fitness professional. Anyone who has worked with me for more than a couple months knows that I gravitate towards and leverage technology whenever possible. While technology is only a small part of my training, it is essential. The articles in this issue got me thinking deeper this week about the future of my training modalities and the direction of health care and the allied health industry.

My contribution to people’s health

When I am working with a client, my iPad is never more than a hop, skip, and a lunges away. I have all of my workouts on it and I’m always ready to take notes or take a picture to add to a client’s file. It is far from a perfect system and too much still falls through the cracks. But I recognize that with devices and enough apps that are fully customizable, there is continually less excuse to not have everything perfectly documented. When I do orientations for new members I want to send them their PDF as soon as our session is done so that they can start planning their next workout. When I need to see what a client did last week, where they struggled, where they won, or how they did a workout three months ago to today, I have that all on my iPad. In summary, technology makes my profession more thorough and more efficient. Hopefully this leads to increased trust and better results for the client.

Once members have started their fitness routine, I wanted to provide additional tools to help with exercise adherence and progressions. I developed a series called Fitness Tracker 2.0, the idea being that many of us have and use these trackers but don’t use them to their fullest or aren’t getting the results that we want. Since starting this series in 2016, I’ve learned that simply wearing a fitness tracker doesn’t guarantee success or even compliance and adherence. A combination of the client’s motivation, my coaching, and group (training) dynamics all contribute to this equation. But still there is so much potential for technology to not only educate us but prompt us to make better decisions. These are just a couple ways I use technology at Pinnacle on a daily basis to make things go well for me and my clients.

Apple’s contribution to people’s health

Trainers like myself have figured out how to help clients at the micro level of the industry. But there’s a lot happening at the macro level also. As I wrote about in the healthcare issue, companies will soon take information from wearable devices and integrate it with a person’s medical history to make healthcare more efficient and hopefully more successful. What if Apple Watch was more than a $400 over-priced notification gadget and half-baked fitness tracker? What if it was 97% effective at detecting irregular heart rates?! That’s what a study from the University of California, San Francisco reported last week. To be clear, I fully expect Apple and the fitness industry to have trouble getting patients to be compliant in wearing these devices in the same way that not everyone at Pinnacle is jumping into my FT2 classes. One thing I learned in graduate school was that getting people into scientific studies is a lot like exercise adherence – you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. As a result I made it my goal to be a professional that bridges the gap between cutting edge research and science and the general public that needs (and wants) increased health. Regarding the irregular heart rates, Apple has provided the same bridge between consumer and the scientists. We now (potentially) have tools that mean we no longer have to go into a clinic to check for our heart health and that may even predict if a person is going to have a heart episode. Of course Apple and the clinics cannot advertise this but writing is on the wall that this is the direction of wearables and the health care industry.

No one wants the symptoms of an irregular heart beat, but fluttering in the chest, chest pain, fainting, or dizziness are usually present and help determine when you need to seek help. What if there were no symptoms? That’s often the case with the silent killer: diabetes. If the body cannot turn blood sugar into energy, the result is damage to the heart, kidneys, and nerves. I am sure there is wonderful technology around diabetes management and in fact I know a couple friends who have blood glucose monitors. But Apple is testing continuous blood glucose monitors that are (or could be) connected to an Apple Watch that would communicate with doctors and diabetes educators. This makes me so excited! Yes, I know education and monitoring are only part of the equation, but if a program can demonstrate success with these tools we can fight the disease that affects almost 10% of our population. All of a sudden a $400 watch seems like a tool that opens the door to not only health measurements but prescription and coaching. I want in on that.

What’s Next?

I see myself always working one-on-one with clients and patients but increasingly I see myself putting systems and programs in place for population health causes like heart health monitoring and diabetes education. We need to get past the idea that tech is the solution; we can’t expect people to use these devices because they they will make them healthier. We need the human component in the form of group dynamics and coaching to help people use the right tools for the job. The tech is getting better, we are getting smarter and seeing the bigger picture, and coaches like me will continue to bridge that gap and help us realize a healthier society.

One week with Apple Watch Nike+

Two weeks ago a gracious client let me borrow his Apple Watch series 1 (since he had upgraded to series 2). It was a nice introduction to the platform since work had purchased a series 2 for me but it wasn’t arriving for a couple weeks.

I now have a full week under my belt with Series 2 Nike+ version and I’m loving this product. The general consensus among the Apple and tech community is that Apple “doubled-down on fitness” with this model. It boasts waterproof specs and has built-in GPS. Plus my Nike+ model has the Nike running app that I haven’t tried yet but I’m eager to jump into that community.

Breathe: my favorite app on Apple Watch

Breathe: my favorite app on Apple Watch

The Apple effect

For those of us in the Apple ecosystem, the Watch has been the best addition to the collection since iPad. From opening the box to setting up the device (more of a treat than I was expecting) to getting the first meaningful notifications, the Apple experience doesn’t disappoint. The screen is gorgeous. The navigation is perfect. And like the iPad, it’s allowed me to distance myself from my iPhone. At first I couldn’t believe how cumbersome the strap worked – tucking the band underneath itself seems as un-Apple as I’ve ever seen. But after a couple days it has grown on me. Regarding the form factor, I’m not a watch-guy so maybe my standards are different. But when I think of how it looks in relation to what it can do and the purpose it has in my (health and wellness focused) life, I couldn’t be more happy with this Apple product on my wrist.

Awesome sport band on Nike+ edition


Better tech for less tech

Many friends and family know me as a tech-centric person. I know the apps, the workflows, the tricks, the devices; I have a pretty good lay of the land. What people probably don’t know is that I view my technology like a world traveler views their luggage: with experience, less is more. People who passionately travel are often trying to make a trip with the smallest bag and the least “stuff” that they can. Less is more. Simple trumps complex. I absolutely love my iPhone (a 128gb computer in my pocket!). But my iPad gave me a device that was an extension of my phone while at the same time it was a work machine that allowed me to access messages and emails only when it was good for me. Apple Watch has taken this to a new level. It is not efficient to look at email on the Watch. It is not efficient to text people from the Watch. Reading the news should not happen on the Watch. But I’m learning how to lock down VIP settings so that only important notifications get through. And even throughout this process, I wasn’t expecting how easy it would be to see a message and not respond because it isn’t efficient on the device. It allows me to get more work done. Distractions derail me. Apple Watch has allowed me to keep control of my efficient work time yet still triage things that are being delivered to my desk.

Ultimate fitness device

In my first week with Apple Watch, my favorite app has been Breathe. This native application couldn’t be more simple: press ‘start’ and pay attention to your breathing for one minute. Slow down, Hans. That’s the point of Breathe: meditation, relaxation, margin, pause, be still. Will I continue to listen to my Watch when it tells me to stop and breathe? I certainly hope so. Interesting story: a Twitter friend said he had just read an infuriating political story (imagine that) and the next moment Apple Watch told him to Breathe. Kinda cool! Just today, something happened at the house that got my blood boiling and as I retreated to the couch to get away, buzz buzz buzz Apple Watch told me to Breathe. Does it sense the quick spike in heart rate? Not sure, don’t really care. All that matters to me is that I have tools, including a coach, in place helping me pursue wellness throughout my day.

Nike branding FTW

As an exercise specialist, the main reason I bought Apple Watch was for the fitness features. It has built in GPS and it’s waterproof. I’m learning how to leverage as the main hub for my wellness. I’ve given all the fitness apps permission to write to so that it’s all in one place. While a dedicated triathlon watch may offer more tri-specific features, I believe it could be done with Apple Watch and for most people, Apple Watch is the perfect fitness device. Now it’s not for everyone, but for all my iPhone friends, if they wanted a fitness tracker I would certainly point them to Apple Watch. Which brings me to my last point.

Just another tool

As much as I love my Apple Watch, it’s just a tool. It’s my job to use the different running and fitness apps. It’s up to me to listen when it tells me to Breathe (that’s the name of the app and why I capitalized). It will send me as many or as few notifications as I allow it – so I must master the platform. But it’s a blast to use and I see it as my primary health and wellness device. Moving forward, I think about tools like this for my industry. How can we use tools like this to help people get healthier? Can we build apps that are easier to use? Improve communication between clients and trainers, patients and medical staff? Can we use technology so efficiently that it actually gets out of the way so we can live healthier and more disciplined lives? That is my goal.

Compare Yourself to No One

As a trainer, you can imagine I work with all kinds of clients. You name it, I’ve probably worked with them. Each client has different history with injury, different goals, different availability to train, and a different drive to compete and succeed. One clients is a 28 year old young professional who hasn’t been physically active since high school and needs to get back into shape. Another client is a year into retirement, has some extra time on her hands and would like to do the activities of daily living with more ease. As a personal trainer, I assess all of this information, compare it with their injuries and goals, and put together a program to help them pursue their health. This is what makes personal training so personal.

One criticism of personal trainers is their cookie-cutter approach to exercise design. Clients see a trainer doing an exercise (or a group of exercises) with multiple clients and think, “well that’s what he has me doing. Why is he doing that workout with him/her also?” The answer is pretty simple. It’s because most people need to be able to do a squat really well. And a chest press and row are excellent exercises, too. And battle ropes challenge your cardiovascular system without the pounding of box jumps or Bosu bunny hops. You see even though clients are doing the same exercises, they probably aren’t doing the same workload (weight, reps, sets).

Think about it this way. When you show up to watch the start of the Madison marathon, you see a lot of runners with a lot of training. On average, they all ran at least three to five times per week runs ranging from three to twenty miles. Many of them followed Hal Higdon’s training program. For argument’s sake, let’s say they all did Hal’s beginner program. Did they all do all the runs? Did they all do the runs at the same pace? Did they any of them add strength training? Did any of them do yoga or Pilates on their off day? It’s easy to see that the answer is obviously “no.” But if every person at the start line did Hal’s running program, the vast majority of their training consisted of running the same miles with very similar days of rest. In the same way if all my clients did squats, chest press, rows, and battle ropes, the only thing we can say about them is that they all have the same needs (namely more strength and cardiovascular training) and now they’ll see similar results.

Persoanl training is a science and an art. It takes me awhile to figure out each clients’ approach to their training. I learn what they’re good at, where they struggle, how they respond to my coaching. As our relationship grows stronger, I can push harder in some areas and change approach in others. And even if the exercises are the same, the individual challenge is always appropriate to each client. I don’t go through the motions with any of my clients. I want the challenge high and the results to be pleasing to everyone involved.

My job as an exercise specialist is to help you pursue your health and fitness. My goal is to get you to look inward at yourself and where you want to go. I’ll bring the tools, you bring the effort, and together we’ll accomplish whatever goals we set.

Fourth Week

Forgive me one last time if I’m a little cynical about new year’s resolutions. That’s why I’m always encouraging clients and friends to establish a SMART goal and use that as your road map. If you haven’t made at least one goal for 2015, there’s still time. In fact, I’m writing this to challenge you (whether your goal is in hand or yet to-be-determined) to examine your approach. Is it working? Is it still a relevant goal? Is it realistic? You’ve had some time to think about it and now is the time for your first gut check. There will probably be more throughout the year, but after the initial buzz to resolve aspect-X of your life is over, today we find ourselves four weeks into the new year and most likely back to our normal routines.

If you played football at Pewaukee for Coach Lecher, you can hear him . “Life is a series of adjustments!” He’s not yelling like he’s mad. But he’s firm because you’ve gone astray, something happened that knocked you off course and you need a redirection. Maybe your goal was too big; you bit off more than you can chew. Maybe your goal was too small; progress is rolling and you need an extra level of challenge. Maybe you need to adjust your schedule because family needs came up and now the workouts need to happen before work. What happened? How’s it going? Can you be honest with this conversation and make your adjustment?

Pursuing our passions and pursuing our health are difficult tasks. Are they worth it? I believe they are. It is the cognitive, thinking, reflective, strategizing person who can look at the last few weeks, make adjustments, and then put a new plan into place to reach those goals.

Is there any way I can help? You can find me on Facebook or Twitter – I’d love to hear from you.

Art Everyday in November 2014

Today I read the following tweet from Jim Woods.

The blog post he was referring to talked about Nanowrimo, which is a campaign to write a novel in the month of November by writing every day. Anyway, Brad’s take on it is that he wants to create art every day. Well as I wrote a a few weeks ago, I want to pursue my art, I want to develop my writing style and voice. I want to tell my story.

So my take on this November challenge is to use my two favorite publishing apps, Pressgram and Desk, to publish my story. Through pictures and various amounts of words, I’ll take every day in November and tell my story. The theme is very defined: fitness. It’s my new job, it’s my passion, and I want to tell the story well.

Training at Pinnacle

Pinnacle Logo

Click image for my profile!

Two weeks ago I accepted an offer as a personal trainer at Pinnacle Health and Fitness. I am excited for this opportunity, especially after meeting a few of my new clients and experiencing the culture and business model at this facility. I’m finishing the current session at the YMCA teaching TRX, kettle bell, and worksite wellness.

The one big question

One of the big questions I’ve asked myself in this new role is “What is my area of expertise?” Our director has challenged me with the same question. This mentality is consistent with a popular mantra of Jim Collins: What can you be the best in the world at? Similarly, Andy Stanley challenges leaders to “only do what only you can do.” I get distracted very easily. I want to be a jack-of-all-trades. I want to be all things to all people. And that just doesn’t work. Clarity and focus are essential. So this fundamental question needs an answer if I am to succeed here at Pinnacle.

I am a runner. I’ve been running half and full marathons for over eight years. I’m starting to get into triathlon, but my expertise is in cardiovascular training for runners and supplementing this training with TRX and kettle bells. Also my training specializes in establishing short and long-term goals for maximal motivation and performance. Lots of people talk about goals. I have a slightly different take. I believe most people need a specific goal on the calendar to give their training context. As a runner, my goal has always been a race. So I’ve developed my training philosophy to put a performance on the calendar so that my clients can feel their training has purpose. They are preparing for an event. They are building with an end in mind.

There is a ton of potential at Pinnacle. I just had a great ad hoc meeting this morning in the lobby where we discussed some promotional ideas for my TRX/kettle bell class. I have a lot of freedom to create things and build my own business within the club. Lots of the members have found community there. It feels good.

Wednesday Mornings

Disclaimer: I’m a morning guy. I love mornings alone, I love being disciplined and getting up early to read, write, and pray. In the summer I like those early morning runs. But it’s been a long winter and (a) I can’t imagine early morning runs and (b) my workouts in general are significantly behind where they usually are at this time of year. Which is why Wednesday mornings have me completely jazzed.

You see I’ve been teaching these TRX-kettlebell fusion classes. One of them is at 5:45am on Wednesdays. I need my coffee and light reading each morning, small breakfast for the road, travel from McFarland is about 18 minutes, I have to set up for my largest class, so it requires a wake-up time of 4:30am to make it happen. Yes, since I’m teaching I have a back-up alarm just in case (haven’t needed it yet).

The class is going great but it’s 7:05 that really makes my day. By 7:05am, I’ve taught, worked out, showered, and made my way to Barriques on Monroe street bright-eyed and full of energy. Yes, I’m a morning person but I guarantee that non-morning people would do this for two weeks and feel the same energy for the morning as I do. The science backs me up here. That workout improves blood flow which makes the mind significantly more alert. The stress on the muscles from 5:45-6:30 transitions to relaxation and recovery soon afterwards. Maybe I’m more in tuned with my body that others. Or maybe you should just try it and see if I’m wrong (spoiler: I’m not).

Mornings aren’t for everyone, I get that. But I do a lot of reading on exercise and productivity and business stuff. There’s a lot out there on habits of successful people and morning workouts often find there way into people’s schedules. Of course that’s not true – they don’t find their way in, they’re intentionally put there by the people who want to succeed and are willing to set their alarm for 4:30 and 4:35 to start the day off right. I only do this one day per week. Maybe you could do it more, maybe you start with one like me.


Published Goals Require Execution

I love to execute. I love to jump into something where I know how it works, I know what’s going to happen, I see it through and get the results I expected. I love to execute. But what about when I’m executing something new? What about executing a goal I’ve had for a few years and I’ve failed just as long? Execution on tasks like this is a different bird. Execution is uncertain. If I’m honest, execution doesn’t even get a fair shot.

So what needs to change? I’ve published my goals for 2014 and I know they are important. They will get me where I want to go. They not only benefit me, they benefit my family. As it sits right now, I’m motivated to make these goals a reality. The reality, though, is that some of these goals are pretty big. Big enough that I failed in the past. I don’t want that to happen again. What do I do differently? execute

Instead of the mountain of a goal in front of me, I need to think about President Jed Bartlett. What? You’ve never heard of him? He’s the main character from the West Wing, a show that enjoyed seven seasons of Emmy award-winning honors and a cult following. President Bartlett was famous for saying, “What’s next?” He had big decisions in front of him, he had big meetings to conduct, big conversations to navigate. But he understood that the fundamental question to ask when big things need to happen is this: what’s next?

This week at church Matt Metzger was talking about living our lives in such a way that we pursue rules for Godly living. This is not a religious post, though. It’s a post about taking steps. Watch this video from 32:55-36:22.

Step one of this blog series was to identify the big goals for the year. Step two is to understand that we reach these goals by executing a number of small steps. What are those steps? I can’t launch my wellness program until I survey the employees to determine their interests. I can’t compete in an olympic triathlon until I train for a certain number of days in the pool, on the bike, and in my running shoes. Every project, every goal has a next step. Not a finished product, a fast track. But a next action step (as David Allen would call it) to move closer to the end game.

It’s a big task, but this week I’ve drafted every project (all the big ones, most of the small) and figured out the next action step on each project. This helps focus our daily efforts which in turn helps us conceptualize our place in the bigger picture of accomplishing these goals, finishing these projects.

As Jim Collins says, great work requires great discipline. This week I’m finishing a disciplined process to convert my big goals into manageable next action steps.

The Next Season

This week is my final week as a full time arborist.  For various reasons I haven’t used this blog as a forum to discuss my career.  But right now I’m at liberty to discuss the next season of my life.  I’m happy to report that a proposal I submitted to Transform Wisconsin was accepted.  I’ll be working under contract three days per week to create a platform for teachers to use resources which I’ll be coordinating from the Department of Public Instruction and the Department of Health Services.  I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity.

start new job

You’ll be hearing a lot about this process in the next couple weeks.  It started when I was invited by my friend Jon Hisgen invited me to come to the Best Practices conference.  I met a Jen Walker who then recruited me for this project.  But the story here is so much more than this new role.  The next season of my life has so many layers and moving parts.  I’m excited to process it here both to document my story but also to possibly encourage others in their journey of faith.

For now, I’m excited to get this job started.  There’s a lot to organize at the house so I can be successful right off the bat.  There’s a lot of tools to line up so that I can feel confident from day one.  And frankly there’s still a lot of praying to do because this is a temporary contract; this needs to be a monumental stepping stone.

Here’s to a wonderful fall season this year!