By Steve Sears
James Berman, founder and owner of Denville’s Excel Fitness Personal Training, states flat out that it’s not about him, but about every person needing a change that walks through the front doors of his gym.
“What we offer people is the opportunity to change their lives,” he says. “Our general goal for someone who comes in is to get the most out of life. We offer the increased ability to enjoy the daily routine and grind of life, having that physical ability to do it.”
Excel Fitness Personal Training does work with athletes, especially ones that may be injured or need to get stronger so that they can perform better, but the prime client is the “everyday” person who needs to be better, even in the simplest ways. “A lot of people that come in here say, ‘I don’t want to get tired playing with my kids’ or ‘I don’t want to get tired playing with my grandkids’ or ‘I want to be able to go for a walk with my wife’ or ‘go for a walk with my husband.’ Very simple stuff. You don’t have to be an athlete to be fit and healthy.”
In addition to the physical fitness aspect, Excel Fitness Personal Training also offers nutritional guidance. People can log in and follow specific programs applicable to their needs, and the goal should be to make the best possible choice at the time you’re eating. “If you’re going out to dinner,” Berman explains, “instead of the bread order a shrimp cocktail to get food on the table.” He offers another example. “If you’re going to order chicken parmigiana, maybe get it with broccoli rabe instead of spaghetti. Try to make better choices. If you’re going to a party and they have hoagies, don’t eat the bread; just eat the meat inside the hoagie.” Fast food is also a no-no. Per Berman, instead of hitting one of those eateries, put the effort into visiting a place where you can get fruit or nuts and maybe leave some in your car for the hunger periods, defeating the bad temptation. “Most people out of boredom or because they’re dehydrated; they’re not eating because they’re really hungry.” Berman also suggests starting a physical regimen prior to focusing on nutrition. “If you start your nutrition before you exercise, unless you’re extremely obese you’re not going to see any immediate results, and you’re not going to be motivated to exercise and get stronger. But, if you exercise first, and you start to see that you’re getting stronger, it’s going to give you more motivation not to eat (poorly) because you’re realizing how much effort you’re putting in to doing those push-ups, and the only way they get easier is by you losing the weight. So maybe you’ll skip that beer or skip the donut or piece of cake, or you leave some of the spaghetti on the table.” Therefore, it’s an important psychological step as well.
A key component to the Excel Fitness Physical Training is their Free Physical Abilities & Health Assessment. It’s the first step every member meets prior to starting their program. The health portion is very general. “Have you ever smoked? Did you drink? Do you think eating flour is healthy, like bread and pasta? Just to sort of see where people are. Are you under any medication or a doctor’s care? Very basic stuff,” Berman says. The physical assessment is very different. “We look at the human body as a mechanical machine, comprised of pulleys and levers in your joints. We don’t care how strong you are. If we were to put you on a leg press machine and you were able to press 300 pounds, that’s not going to let us know that you have something wrong in your hips, not going to let us know that you have something wrong in your ankles, or something wrong in your lower back. We don’t care how much weight you can push, we’re more interested in how your body operates. So, we look at the mechanics of your body. We look at your ankles all the way up through your shoulders, like the range of motion, the stability of the joints. Can you hold your arms out straight, or are they hyperextended forwards or backwards? Can you bring your arms up over your head, can you bring your arms straight across your body without moving your body? Can you rotate your ankle without your leg moving? So, we do all these mechanical types of assessment to see how your body is moving.” From there, Berman and his team know how to approach and work with a specific client.
1 to 1 training is offered per individual, who can visit 7 days a week, Monday – Thursday, 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Sunday 8 a.m. to noon. Unique is the fact that all training is done minus footwear: socks or barefoot only. The reason? There are muscles in the bottoms of the feet, and when shoes and sneakers are worn, they do the work of the ankles and feet. Working out minus footwear reactivates the foot muscles in the bottom of the feet, and those muscles have a direct relationship to the ankles and calves, which has a direct relationship to the hips and lower back. “People,” says Berman, “really like that they can come in and say, ‘I don’t need shoes. At first, they don’t expect it, but 75% of the people say, ‘Oh, cool!’ The other 25% are like, ‘I don’t get it, but okay.’”
Berman and his trainers are top notch, certified and go through in-house training. “Including myself,” says Berman, “we have three full-time trainers here. I have Andrew and Max. Andrew, I worked with at other gyms and when he heard I had opened up a gym, he applied and said, ‘I’d love to work with you,’ so he came on board. Max came to a TRX (Total Resistance Exercise) seminar we held about 4 ½ years ago, and he is a professional dancer by trade. I asked if anyone wanted to apply for a job because I was looking for help, and Max applied, and he’s been working here ever since.” Excel Fitness Personal Training is also very accommodating time and trainer-wise. “They guys that work here – when they work here this is the only gym they work at. If you join our gym, we don’t assign you a trainer. What we understand is that you are a professional and you are busy, and that time is important to you. If you can’t make that appointment on Tuesday at 7:00 at night, you can come on Wednesday at 5 or 6:00 at night, you can access the app or go online and give us a call and tell us you need to change the appointment. Because we’re tight knit and it’s small, we’re able to communicate about different people. So, because we communicate about the client and there’s no drop-ins, you’re going to meet and know all the trainers.”
With regard to the 1 to 1 training, Berman feels it’s very important. “We have the ability to approach each individual and address their weaknesses. When you go into a gym and work out on your own, if you’re comfortable you’re not going to address your weaknesses. You don’t want to do that; you want to work out and say, ‘This is great. I’m going to build up my bench (press) but I’m not going to work on my shoulders or lower back because my lower back hurts and that’s a weak part. I’m not going to address that issue.’ Your body will always take the easy way out. Also, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re intimidated by going into a big gym, especially if you don’t work out or have some complication. You’re overweight, you have a hip replacement, you had a heart attack, if you have rheumatoid arthritis. You’re cautious of what you can do, or you don’t know what to do and you just want to get in better shape. So, we hold you accountable, we show you how to exercise properly, and we’ll want you to work through the strain and not into pain. We’ll stop you before the pain does.” Berman also mentions that, during the course of a fitness session, the trainer is always asking the person working out how they feel. “We need to know. If you don’t tell us, we don’t know if we need to lighten the load, change the movement pattern, make it easier or make it harder.”
For Berman, he wants those who exercise at Excel Fitness Personal Training, which opened in February 2013, to enjoy life. “Enjoying life isn’t sitting at home drinking or going to the bar and drinking or going out for a fancy dinner and eating all these bad foods. Enjoying life is being able to go for a hike in the woods, swimming in the ocean or a bike ride or play golf or do all these things life has to offer.” In his perfect world, the goal is to take a person’s fitness and apply it to their life. “We might get a 70-year-old lady who wants to be able to play with their grandkids, we may get the 30 or 35-year-old person who has put on a couple of pounds and wants to get in shape and be able to play with their newborns and kids as they get older, or it may be the 45 or 50–year-old guy who has a few teenagers and is not in the shape he once was and wants to be able to play catch with his kids or go down to the beach and do stuff. It’s all about whatever their goal is, for what they’re trying to do better in life, is our goal. We want them to be able to enjoy the activities they once did that they’re not doing or enjoy them more.”
Excel Fitness Personal Training is located at 38 Righter Avenue in Denville. Fees are $50.00 per hour session without a contract, but contract fees vary and there are unlimited packages. Visit www.excelfitpt.com to learn more, or call (973) 627-7879.