PUYB Blog Tour: A Conversation with Robert Henry, author of ‘Age Re-Defined’

Robert F. HenryRobert Henry, age 56, is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, a Certified Personal Trainer, a Certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition, and a Certified Wellness Coach. His awareness of fitness and nutrition began at the age of 29. When Robert first started to exercise, it was mostly for the purpose of increasing body weight through the addition of lean muscle mass. However, more than 20 years later, at the age of 52, after years of being lean and enjoying good health, Robert’s experienced an undesired increase in body fat and his health profile changed in the wrong direction The loss of that body fat and the reversal of new and undesirable trends in his health profile became Robert’s new exercise goals. By re-booting his exercise regimen and further “tweaking” his nutrition, he successfully accomplished his new goals and, as he likes to say, discovered his “inner athlete”.

Although he had worked out for more than two decades, the journey he experienced in his early fifties ignited something within Robert and he voraciously sought to increase his knowledge and his credentials. It was then that he earned his numerous certifications and set about to share his passion for health and fitness with others.

Robert’s background extends beyond fitness. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from Southern Methodist University and worked for many years as an attorney. He also discovered a love of aviation early in his life and, while still a teenager, became a Commercial Pilot and a Certified Flight Instructor. After law school, he went on to become an Airline Transport Pilot and eventually earned three jet ratings. Now in his fifties, he values his health, fitness, and wellness very highly, and seeks to inform and inspire others.

Robert’s latest book is the health/fitness/ motivational book, Age Re-Defined.

Visit his website at www.RobertHenryFitness.com.

Connect with Robert:

TWITTER | FACEBOOK

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Age Re-DefinedQ: Thank you for this interview, Robert. Can you tell us what your latest book, AGE RE-DEFINED, is all about?

It’s about getting “younger”, not “older”. It’s about rejecting negative stereotypes for ages 40+ and 50+, especially in the areas of health and fitness, although readers of all ages can benefit. A premise of the book is that your state of health, how you feel, and how you look are more within your control than you think. The subjects include exercise, fitness, nutrition, and the mind-body connection. I share parts of my own journey and the positive results I have achieved through my own commitment to exercise and nutrition.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your book?

People over the years – over decades, really – have repeatedly told me that I look much younger than my chronological age, which will be 57 on April 30, 2013. At ages 51 and 52, I put on some unwanted body fat – not that noticeable to the casual observer, but I knew it was there. At 52, negative changes in my usually good health profile caused me to re-boot my commitment to exercise and nutrition. A doctor said to me, “You’re not getting any younger”, as if that was an explanation of or a justification for the health changes. I refused to accept that. Within a matter of months, I emerged healthier and with higher levels of fitness than before. I detail this in the book, but that’s a synopsis of the causal events.

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Q: What kind of research did you do before and during the writing of your book?

My research included studying for four fitness and wellness certifications in the three year period immediately preceding the period of writing the book, taking a Sport and Exercise Psychology course during the writing of the book, working with my own trainer, my personal experiences – including more than 20 years as a fitness enthusiast – and my own journey, consulting with an amazing Registered Dietician, sports nutritionist, and nutrition author during the writing  (we even have a few of her recipes in the book, along with many other contributions from her), many hours of online research, and reading some additional books, as well. 

Q: If a reader can come away from reading your book with one valuable message, what would that be?

Be proactive about your health, your fitness, and your wellness. The results are priceless.

Q: Can you give us a short excerpt?

Okay, so a new me emerged in my 30s and 40s and was still there on my 50th birthday (in 2006). I had a lean, toned physique and good general health, and I looked and felt younger than what someone my age was “supposed” to look or feel like. In my 30s, my weight slowly increased (from the addition of muscle mass) from 148 to 153 to 158 and into the 160s. I weighed about 170 when I turned 40 and remained in the 170s throughout my 40s.

Fast forward to 2007 and 2008: A combination of factors led to what was for me an unprecedented gain in body fat (and weight, but from fat, not muscle) at the ages of 51 and 52. (I don’t have any pictures, but, trust me, the extra pounds were there.) I believe this was due to the long-distance commute to my job at the time (which, in L.A. traffic, often took hours a day away from my free time), the staleness of my exercise regimen (which some weeks had gotten down to twice a week of not-so-high-intensity weights and no cardio), and paying less attention than I should have been to my late-night carb intake. In addition to my work as an attorney (which involved the long commute), I was also on call part-time as a co-pilot on jet charter flights. My passion for flying aside, this further disrupted my workout schedule at times.

Eventually, my weight reached about 194. My waist was inches larger than it had been two years before, and in fact bigger than it had ever been.

So, in October 2008 when I visited the doctor for a routine blood workup, I expressed my concern about my unprecedented body fat.

The blood workup showed some adverse changes in my health profile. The doctor said, “You’re not getting any younger.” My reply: “I refuse to accept that.”

The doctor went on to recommend more Omega 3 in my diet (no argument from me there) and said, “Lose five to ten pounds. Your numbers (triglycerides, blood pressure) should go back to normal after that.”

That alarm, that wake-up call, that unprecedented need to lose body fat

and the statement “You’re not getting any younger” (to someone who had always looked and felt younger than he was “supposed” to, and who always had a lower body fat than the general population) ignited something within me.

I had engaged the services of a personal trainer during my first year of working out, and again for six months during my eighth year of working out in 1994. Both of these trainers were great, but we lifted weights (free weights or machines) inside the gym and did not cross-train.

In January, 2009, I hired another personal trainer, who I had met months earlier at the gym. I said to her, “Take me outside. Make me climb stairs. Make me run. And show me some new stuff in the gym. The doctor said to lose five to ten pounds; I want to lose at least fifteen and be more fit than ever.”

And so, at age 52, I began this leg of my journey: the discovery of my inner athlete, my renewed and greater-than-ever commitment to my health and fitness. I reminded myself that I had flown a plane as a teenager, that I had always done well in school, that I had drawn upon my inner strength when my parents died less than four months apart when I was 21, and that I had gone on to complete law school and pass the California Bar. This was my health, dammit. This mattered more than anything.

My trainer and I started working together in January 2009. I climbed stairs. I ran track. I sprinted and performed various outdoor drills. We tweaked my diet and added to my gym regimen. By April, the weight was off.

In terms of waist size, I had been buying waist size 33 for several years before the weight gain. Fifteen to 20 years before, in my early to mid-30s, I bought size 31 and 32. In late 2008, my waist size was approaching 35. In April 2009, I bought some 33s as I had before the weight gain, only to find that they were too big. I began buying waist size 32, which fit comfortably. So, in terms of waist size, we had turned the clock back fifteen to 20 years in less than four months.

But this wasn’t just about waist size. I was more fit than ever, and more committed to and passionate about fitness (and nutrition) than ever. Mission accomplished. (For my 53rd birthday on April 30, 2009, I did a strong outdoor stair session by myself in the afternoon, adding push-ups as well, and then I lifted weights in the gym that evening. Celebrating fitness was the best way to celebrate my birthday that year. The more standard dinner celebration had already taken place a couple of weeks ahead of time.)

As I write this is September, 2012, I have just received blood test results which indicate a very significant decrease in “bad” cholesterol, a very significant increase in “good” cholesterol, and a very significant decrease in triglycerides when compared to my blood workup of October 2008. The 2012 numbers are as follows: HDL (“good” cholesterol): 52; LDL (“bad” cholesterol): 75; total cholesterol: 138; triglycerides: 57 (the 2008 number was 270). These numbers are reportedly very good for a 56-year-old male, and were achieved through diet and exercise, without any medications. These numbers are not the only measurements of interest. Body weight, waist size, body-fat percentage, blood pressure, and other data are relevant, too. However, these numbers are one group of data to look at, and they have shown dramatic improvement since that doctor’s appointment in October 2008. (My 2012 results also indicated the lowest possible results for the C-Reactive Protein test, which was not performed in 2008.)

This book is for people who have never exercised but would like to start; for people who would like to know more about good nutrition; for people who exercise but have not seen results; for people whose fitness level has declined and who want to re-ignite their fitness quest; for people who choose to be proactive about their own health, fitness and wellness; for people interested in the mind-body connection; and for people who reject negative self-talk and self-limiting stereotypes about life after the age of 50.

Because I’m well into my 50s, and because of my own recent history, in writing this book we have focused on persons over the age of 40. However, my own fitness awareness began at age 29 and continued to evolve throughout my 30s, 40s and 50s, and is still evolving. Fitness, good nutrition, and wellness benefit people of all ages. So, even if you’re in your 20s or 30s, you’re welcome to come aboard and to keep reading.

Q: In your own experience, is it hard to get a nonfiction book published today?  How did you do it?

My book is self-published through a publishing company. This is my first book (or eBook, to be more precise), so I have no basis for comparison. However, I notice that most reviewers and most blogs and such seem to be preoccupied with fiction. I’m biased, but in my opinion, good fiction provides transient entertainment. Good non-fiction can effectuate positive and long-lasting changes in readers’ lives. My category certainly has that potential.

Q: What’s a typical day like for you?

Atypical. I mean, my recent past includes employment or self-employment as an attorney, a jet pilot, a personal trainer, and an author. But I can say this: I make it a priority to eat right every day and I exercise most days.

Q: What’s next for you?

I would love to do more writing, more communicating in all forms including video, and do more in health and fitness, including working with individual clients. Flying jets remains a simmering passion, so that could re-surface to some extent, as well. But health and fitness is the sine qua non.

 

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