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

 —————————————–

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.

Age Re-Defined banner

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.

 

Blog Tour + Interview: Whitney Stewart, author of ‘Give Me a Break: No Fuss Meditation’

* * * * *

Whitney Stewart began writing young adult biographies and meditating after she met and interviewed the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, the subject of two of her books, and lived with a Tibetan family in India. For her next biographies, she trekked with Sir Edmund Hillary in Nepal, interviewed Burma’s Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi in her Rangoon home, and climbed along China’s Great Wall to research the lives of Deng Xiaoping and Mao Zedong. In 2004, Stewart published a picture book about the Buddha, which contains a foreword and a meditation suggestion from the 14th Dalai Lama. In addition to nonfiction books, Stewart has published three middle-grade novels. In August 2005, Stewart was trapped in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and evacuated by helicopter from a rooftop. She returned home and volunteered as a creative writing teacher in the public schools. She discovered that her students suffered from post-Katrina stress. Using meditation, improvisation, and word play, Stewart taught her students to write about their lives.

Her latest book is Give Me a Break: No-Fuss Meditation.

You can find more about Whitney Stewart at her website at http://www.whitneystewart.com.  Follow her at Twitter at www.twitter.com/mindfulneworlns and www.twitter.com/whitneystewart2 and Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/New.Orleans.Kids.Author.

About Give Me a Break: No-Fuss Meditation

Whitney Stewart’s straightforward, non-denominational guide makes meditation simple. It covers the basics in a concise thirty-three pages: Why meditation is good for you, how to sit, how to let your mind rest, even what to do if you feel weird or uncomfortable during meditation. Most important, it provides sixteen accessible, useful meditations you can easily learn at home. Age ten to adult.

Stewart’s top reasons to meditate:

*To focus inwardly

*To slow down internally

*To develop awareness

*To understand your mind

*To increase tolerance

*To experience “BIG MIND”

* * * * *

Q: Thank you for this interview, Whitney. Can you tell us what your latest book, Give Me a Break: No-Fuss Meditation, is all about?

My ebook is a simple, nondenominational guide to meditation. I include a short introduction and sixteen meditation practices that will help focus the mind. I also include answers to common questions people have about meditation

I wrote this book to communicate the benefits of meditation to anyone who wants to reduce stress, improve health, develop inner wisdom, lead a happier life, and experience a natural state of mind.

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

I have been a meditator for over twenty-five years, and I see how it has changed my life. During Hurricane Katrina, my son and I were trapped in a building in downtown New Orleans. We had to wait five days for helicopters to rescue us. During that time, I used meditation as a means of staying calm, alleviating fear, and being mindful. When I returned to New Orleans, I volunteered as a creative writing teacher in a public school. I discovered that my students were often stressed, unhappy, and frightened every time the weather turned stormy. They could not concentrate on their work. I taught them to meditate before we did our creative writing exercises. Many of them told me how much they loved to meditate at the beginning of class. This gave me the idea of writing a nondenominational meditation guide that was easy enough for children and detailed enough for adults. My guide is meant for beginners.

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

I first learned to meditate when I was in high school. And then in 1987, I joined a meditation center and studied with several Tibetan Buddhist teachers. That led me to taking multiple trips to Tibet, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Japan, and India where I practiced meditation with teachers. I also have a full personal library on Buddhism and meditation.

I have written two children’s books on the 14th Dalai Lama, which were based on interviews with him. In one interview, he suggested a meditation technique that was simple enough to teach children. I included this technique in my picture book Becoming Buddha: The Story of Siddhartha. Readers asked me for more techniques like that one, so I wrote this book, in part, because of their request.

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

That meditation is a path to discovering your relaxed, open, natural state of mind.

Q: Can you give us a short excerpt?

Why Meditate?

Let’s face it. Life knocks you around. One minute

you’re happy. The next you want to scream. You don’t get

everything you want, and you don’t want everything you get.

You need a break. Meditation could be the answer.

Meditation calms you down. It helps you find your own

wisdom. It settles your nerves and fills your mind with

space.

 

Lots of people meditate——athletes, actors, dog

trainers, writers, and people like you. They do it wherever

they find a quiet spot——in the living room, in the back

yard, under a tree, in an empty classroom, in the library,

in a tent, on a mountaintop. You don’t have to join a

religious group to meditate. And you don’t have to change

anything about yourself. Meditation is about accepting

yourself with all the bumps and bruises.

 

So go ahead and see for yourself. This book gives you

different meditation exercises. You may not like them all.

That’s fine. Try them and see which ones work for you.

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

Yes, it is hard to get any book published by a reputable publisher. I started publishing twenty years ago. I researched what publishers wanted and submitted selectively. I also researched my books thoroughly. I started by writing biographies of Nobel laureates and adventurers. If they were still alive, I interviewed them and people who knew them. I tried to find both a narrative hook and a marketing hook; I wanted to give my readers something they had not read before.

Q: What’s a typical day like for you?

I wake up, meditate, and exercise (yoga and cardio) in the early morning, and write for the rest of the day, every day. Sometimes I take short meditation or movement breaks while I am writing, but I don’t answer the phone or chat with friends until my day’s writing is done. I work at home and often have to wear headphones and listen to ambient music to block out the noise of construction and lawn mowers in the neighborhood.

Q: What’s next for you?

I just finished revising a middle-grade novel set in New Orleans and sent it to my agent. It’s the story of a 14-year-old boy who is accused of a crime he didn’t commit. I look forward to the sale and publication of that book. I also have a picture book coming out with Windy Hollow Books in Australia. It’s a companion book to my Becoming Buddha and will be illustrated by the same illustrator, Sally Rippin. Last Spring I started writing an edgy young adult novel, and I hope to return to that manuscript in January.

Thank you so much for this interview, Whitney.  We wish you much success!

 

A Conversation with NeonSeon, author of “Life of Shouty: Food and Fitness”

About NeonSeon

Creating Shouty Mack as a comic strip for a high school newspaper, NeonSeon developed Life of Shouty as a book series for children in 2010. NeonSeon grew up in Chicago’s Hyde Park community and currently resides in Atlanta. Honors include a Mom’s Choice Award for Life of Shouty: Good Habits.

For more information, visit www.SHOUTY.com.

The Interview

What is your favorite quality about yourself?

My ability to relate to others and see life through multiple perspectives.

What is your least favorite quality about yourself?

I can be too critical of myself.

What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” attributed to Robert H. Schuller. I love this quote because it frees me to think about a wide-open future.

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?

I’m most proud of my ability to learn new things and acquire new skills year after year.

How has your upbringing influenced your writing?

My home was filled with positive and motivational books, and these themes are found in the Life of Shouty Series. My upbringing was also very creative, and without that, I probably wouldn’t have volunteered to be the cartoonist for the high school newspaper, and thus create the comic strip Shouty Mack.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Certain books gave me so much joy that it was natural to want to elicit that in others through writing. I read Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” in eighth grade and it blew me away.

When and why did you begin writing?

I wrote short stories for fun when I was younger, and I had several writing internships in college. I was an English major so I was always writing papers. I have always enjoyed writing.

How long have you been writing?

The Life of Shouty Series came out in 2010, but I’ve been writing since I was able.

When did you first know you could be a writer?

I’ve always known I could be a writer.

What inspires you to write and why?

The human condition inspires me, and the journey of growth. Laughter. Play.

What genre are you most comfortable writing?

Non-fiction comes easiest but rhyming is fun.

What inspired you to write your first book?

My character, Shouty. I knew I had to write and develop a series for him. He is relatable, lovable and imperfect.

Who or what influenced your writing once you began?

I like to let the story unfold so I would say it’s more of a stream of consciousness process guided by rhyme. “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron helped to get me out creative blocks, as well.

Who or what influenced your writing over the years?

What has helped me the most over the years is looking at other people’s edits or suggestions of my work. For that moment, I get to see how their brains work and in so doing, it expands the possibilities I see in the act and process of writing.

What made you want to be a writer?

I didn’t necessarily want to be a writer or set out to be one. I just wanted to tell a story and bring a character to life, and writing was the medium I chose.

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?

Getting over your own doubts to realize the project and developing a good arc for the story.

Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?

I’ve struggled with making healthy choices most of my life and writing Life of Shouty: Food & Fitness taught me you can still contribute something of value in an area you’ve yet to conquer.

About Life of Shouty: Food and Fitness

Life of Shouty Food and FitnessShouty returns with a new challenge: his health. The second book in the Life of Shouty™ series by award-winning author and illustrator NeonSeon shows Shouty’s ups and downs on the path to wellness.

Like many of us, Shouty places a premium on being a productive person, and crossing items off his daily to-do list. While healthy food and fitness don’t make his list of priorities, Shouty is unaware of the impact this has on his declining health. Over time, Shouty becomes painfully aware that he must make lifestyle changes to improve his health, quality of life, and self-esteem.

Touching on themes of overeating, obesity, and inactivity, Shouty’s journey is illustrated in a way that captures his despair, as well as his ultimate triumph.

Debuting on Child Health Day, it is NeonSeon’s hope that this book affirms the importance of making healthy choices in one’s life and helps readers envision healthier versions of themselves. If you’ve ever found yourself on either end of the health spectrum, or are making your way somewhere in the middle, Shouty hits several notes on his path that will surely sound familiar.