Chris Freytag

by Charles Platkin, PhD

Chris holds a BA in Journalism and is a certified Group Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer and Lifestyle and Weight Management coach. She has been teaching fitness classes for over 17 years, including such formats as kickboxing, step, strength training, spinning, Bosu, Yoga and Pilates to adults and kids. Over the years, Chris has written numerous articles on health and fitness. She is a national fitness presenter, motivational speaker and has over a dozen Fitness DVDs in the marketplace including Just Move to Lose™ Vol 1 and 2, Weight Loss Yoga for Dummies, Living Well Series with Montel Williams, and many Prevention Fitness Systems.

Her book, Move to Lose (2004, Penguin Press), gives practical tips, advice and guidance for keeping a positive mindset and incorporating healthy eating habits and exercise into daily life. Her second book, Shortcuts to Big Weight Loss, (2008, Rodale Publishing) is about 10 minute workouts that help shed 30% more weight. Her newest book, Choose This!, is a cookbook is full of delicious, nutritious, and easy recipes to cook for your whole family.

In addition to serving as the fitness expert for Prevention magazine, Chris keeps busy with her popular line of healthy kitchen electrics and fitness equipment at QVC and is the mother to three busy teenagers.

Diet Detective: How did you get started being a personal trainer? What was your trigger?

Chris: I’ve been into exercise my whole life. I am wired to be active and I think I subliminally connected that exercise made me feel good at a very young age. In college, I majored in Journalism. After college however, I started teaching aerobics for fun and became very intrigued with weight training, which was new for women in the late 80’s. I began paying more attention to what was happening in the weight room and started studying exercise physiology. I married soon after college, and decided to start a family. I thought Personal Training would not only be a rewarding career, but would also be a great job to have while raising a family — a little more flexible in hours. My kids, who are now teenagers, know that I am really focused on my career. I tell them all the time it’s a blessing to have a job where you get to combine your hobby (working out) with helping other people and hopefully bettering our world! I’ve also been able to combine my Journalism degree with my fitness background, and I love it!

Diet Detective: What do you think is the one most important thing that makes or breaks a diet/fitness program?

Chris: “Strive for progress, not perfection.” We are such an “all or nothing” society — people follow drastic diets and strict exercise programs hoping for miracles. Their expectations are so unrealistic that they can’t uphold them. People end up giving up and reverting back to their old habits, often times to a higher degree than when they started.

Diet Detective: What makes it so difficult for moms to keep to a diet and exercise routine?

Chris: Having no time. Moms put everyone else first before themselves, and there usually is no time left for their own needs. We moms often end up with less than 10 minutes a day dedicated to ourselves! Time management becomes one of the best skills needed to make it through motherhood!

Diet Detective: You have a book and DVD called Shortcuts to Big Weight Loss — can you tell us a bit about it? Why is it a “shortcut?”

Chris: Short Cut is meant to be a play on words. Everyone who knows me knows that I am realistic about exercise and nutrition plans. Short Cut means, “work smarter not longer.” The book teaches many short cuts or smart choices in time management, exercise intensity, food choices and goal setting. I cover “How to fit it in”, “How to make it worthwhile”, and “How to still enjoy your life”!

Diet Detective: Can you tell us a bit about some of the shortcuts — like the “Telephone Twist,” “Mall-Ercise” and “Car Pool Cardio?”

Chris: They all work with the theme of time management and multitasking. Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean that you’re doomed — find short pockets of time to think more activity minded! Do the twist while talking or walk around your house while talking on the phone. It’s important to move your body whenever an opportunity presents itself. Power-walk through the mall and take the steps instead of the escalator. If you spend tons of time in your car waiting to pick up kids (the basic story of my every weekday evening!) than do some Pilates while sitting idle. Pilates is all about alignment and getting in touch with your transverse Abdominus. Learn to contract your low abs and do your breathing exercises.

Diet Detective: You offer quick results in your book and DVD, claiming you can drop two dress sizes in four to six weeks — why the rush?

Chris: Five pounds of weight loss can equal one dress size. Losing one to two pounds a week is a very realistic weight loss goal. That means losing 10 pounds in 4-6 weeks can be achievable for those who need to lose a large number of pounds. Why the rush? Like I stated earlier, Americans want results fast — four to six weeks may not seem fast to some, but it is fast in the world of weight loss. The rush is to see some initial results and keep up your motivation for another four to six! Human psychology says it takes about 60 days to form a human habit.

Diet Detective: You also promise, “30% more weight loss than a 40 minute workout” — how’s that possible?

Chris: Again, this goes back to the idea that you will get better results with consistency and intensity. The statistics show that a large percent of middle-aged women just can’t stick with an exercise program for more than a few weeks. The key to the short workouts is that they are easier to mentally approach, and therefore, have more sticking power. If women follow my advice of picking up the intensity, knowing that it will only be for a short 10 minutes, they will burn calories at a higher rate. Psychology shows that it is mentally easier to do a few short workouts a day than one big long one — it’s perceived as less painful. Therefore, if you do two to four “short cuts” a day and stay consistent, studies have shown that you get better results over the long haul. Truly, it’s because you worked harder, and end up staying with it for a longer period of time. My message to beginners is, “calories in vs. calories out”. At the end of the day, it’s all cumulative. Therefore, if you are more likely to do the short workouts rather than that one big one, you will get better results!

Diet Detective: I saw that you sell a fitness blender. Why a blender? Is it the same as other blenders?

Chris: I have a sweet tooth and I’m a smoothie freak! In addition, being a “real food” advocate, it bothers me that all the health cafés and smoothie shops advertise “healthy treats”, but many of their concoctions have more calories than a personal pan pizza! Therefore, I love to make my own blender drinks and know exactly what’s in them. I also started my kids on smoothie’s years ago as a way to get more fruits and vitamins into their diets. Once they became teenagers, my boys wanted to build muscle, and starting asking me to use a scoop of protein powder. Another reason is that I just hated the big blender being dirty all the time and sitting on my counter needing to be hand washed. And my last, but not least, reason for the blender was that I tend to eat breakfast on the go in my car and I spilled one too many blueberry smoothies on my leather seats — a to-go cup with a top was needed.

I came into contact with a wonderful company, Back to Basics Products, and we put together a single serving, dish washer safe blender with a convenient drip free to-go top. What makes it different? The cup you blend in is the cup you drink from — a single serving and easy to use! It’s very reasonably priced as well, at only $19.95!

Diet Detective: Do you think that women need to exercise and train differently then men? If so, how?

Chris: Yes — men are from Mars, women are from Venus, remember? We are different in our physical makeup and our minds. Women tend to be the care-takers of their immediate and extended families, therefore they need different time management skills and types of workout, hence my Short Cuts programs. In addition, women experience many hormonal changes as they approach menopause, and often need to combat abdominal fat and extra weight gain. Typically, men are interested in increasing size, whereas women are interested in toning and firming without adding girth to their arms and legs. I set up different programs based on the desired outcome.

Diet Detective: How do you get someone motivated to stick to a fitness program?

Chris: Olympian athlete, Jim Ryan, said “Motivation gets you started. Habit keeps you going.” Motivation is the first step. I try to motivate through positive reinforcement. Passion means you really care about something; so are you passionate about getting motivated? I require goal setting and journaling for new exercisers. Many people find feedback to be motivating. When you can feel good about your commitment, and see how consistent you’ve been, you feel better about the chance for results. I am also a big fan of heart rate monitors — immediate feedback about your intensity and calories burned helps you feel confident that your exercise minutes are worthwhile.

Diet Detective: In all your years of training, what do you consider the best non-weight related exercise (e.g. lunge)? Can you also explain how to do the exercise?

Chris: Well, I’d say the lunge, but not because you just mentioned it! It works the legs and buns, as well as core body and posture. There are also so many variations of the lunge that can be used so the exercise doesn’t become monotonous, for example, forward, reverse, diagonal, and curtsy lunge. Good form for a basic forward lunge would be to step forward onto your right foot, lower down until your right knee is bent over your shoe laces and the left back knee is pointing down at the floor. You’re on your back toes, torso is upright and abs are tight. Then press back up through your legs and glutes. Repeat several times on each side.

Diet Detective: If you could only do one strength training exercise (using weights) what would it be?

Chris: I would do a multi-muscle group exercise — this will get you as much bang for your buck with only one move. Step left foot back into a reverse lung while holding hand weights, come back up to starting position pulling your left leg up to a balancing knee lift, while simultaneously pressing your arms into an over-head press, then lower left leg behind to start over. Of course do several on each side. You’re getting your glutes, legs, core body (with the balance) and arms (shoulders).

Diet Detective: What is the worst strength training exercise for women? Or one that is the most frequently done incorrectly?

Chris: Squats are by far one of the best exercises, but often done incorrectly. Women have a harder time with squats based on our biomechanics. Women tend to have a wider pelvis and a larger “Q” (Quadriceps) angle — the angle at which the femur (upper leg bone) meets the tibia (lower leg bone). Therefore, our legs don’t go straight down from the hips to the knees, then to the ankles like men’s, but rather our legs go in at an angle. Exercises like squats put more stress on women’s knees than on men’s knees for that reason. In addition, women push forward with their weight, pushing their knees over their toes, putting unnecessary stress on the knee joints. Women often complain about the pain in their knees that occurs from doing squats. The key is to push back into an imaginary chair, using your glutes, and think of your knees as a hinge. Keep your toes over your shoe laces. This requires strong legs and a strong core body, so I encourage women who are just starting to exercise, to ease into a full squat. Start with a smaller range of motion, but using good form.

Diet Detective: What’s your favorite “junk food” — I realize that you don’t believe there are any “junk” foods, but indulge us?

Chris:Ice cream! I love real ice cream especially with fresh fruit on top or with oatmeal raisin cookies mixed in.

Diet Detective: What’s your favorite healthy breakfast?

Chris: A blueberry smoothie — frozen blueberries and a half a banana, one scoop vanilla protein powder and soy or almond milk. Add a few ice cubes if necessary and blend! A cup of fresh brewed coffee is my vice also!

Diet Detective: What do you consider the world’s most perfect food?

Chris: Oatmeal! I love real oats — you can make cereal, mix into a protein shake in the morning, add to meat loaf, pancakes, cookies, muffins, or even bread. I make my own homemade granola with oats. It is one of the best complex carbs around. It offers heart health benefits and tastes yummy!

Diet Detective: Who do you respect most, or who motivates you?

Chris: There are many people who motivate me. I respect so many of the women athletes who are determined to reach new heights through their dedication to training. I also love celebrities like Oprah, who came from nothing, promote and care about improving the lives of others and reach out to make our world a better place. I am also inspired by working moms such as Maria Shriver and Katie Couric.

Diet Detective: If you had to choose a specific song or band to get you excited for your workout, what would it be? What other songs are on your iPod?

Chris: Music is my main motivator when it comes to exercise. I am totally jazzed by a new playlist to use when I teach my classes, or to listen to during my own workout. I tend to like pop and rock best, and I often download the extended dance remixes — they tend to be faster and have a great beat. My latest playlist includes Kanye West – “Stronger”, Christina Aguilera – “Candyman” remix, Finger Eleven – “Paralyzer”, Britney Spears – “Radar”, Rihanna – “Don’t Stop the Music” , Justin Timberlake – “Lovestoned”, and Timberland – “Apologize”.

Diet Detective: What do you do to reduce stress/relax/center your mind? Do you participate in an organized relaxation activity such as yoga, meditation or tai chi?

Chris: I teach both Yoga and Pilates, and I must say, if I am traveling and miss my classes, I really feel it. I need to do both at least once a week to keep my stress levels in check and to stay injury free.

Diet Detective: What’s the most bodacious chance you’ve ever taken?

Chris: From a career standpoint, making my first fitness DVD on my own. It was a huge financial commitment to create and pay for production without the backing of a good distributor. Thankfully, by being tenacious, I was able to get several channels of distribution through a few wonderful colleagues, and my first DVD really opened many doors for me. It was risky because I went into it knowing that there was no guarantee I would make the money back.

Diet Detective: What was your worst summer job?

Chris: I was a waitress from the summer I turned 16 until I graduated from college. I wouldn’t say it was the worst job, but it involved lots of hours and hard work. The worst part was cleaning up at closing time. I chose to waitress because it was the best hourly pay I could get. Good service usually equaled good tips!

Diet Detective: Define failure.

Chris: Quitting. Mistakes are learning experiences. Quitting is permanent.

Diet Detective: What’s the best book about health that you’ve read?

Chris: I’m a non-fiction junkie. I love reading about health, fitness, nutrition and human psychology. I recently read Wisdom of Menopause by Dr. Christiane Northrop, which I found extremely informative and very useful for my clients and myself. I also just picked up a little book, The Cult of Perfection, by Cooper Lawrence. I listen to her radio show and enjoy her light-hearted nature. The book explores the subject of overachieving women and how constantly being competitive can be harmful or helpful depending on its intention and mental spirit. It is an easy read and very thought provoking as to what makes women tick. After all, mental health is a big part of our overall health!

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