Holly O’Brien “30 over 40” Fitness Guide Exclusive Interview

Bill Spetrino Jr. Interview
Book Title: “30 Over 40” Fitness Guide
Author: H. O’Brien

Bill: What prompted you to write this book? (available HERE)
H. O’Brien: Yikes, this will be long. [laughs] I actually had no intentions of writing a book – hardly. I just wanted to go buy one and hand it to clients but couldn’t find what I was looking for. I came across a unilateral problem that seemed to affect many and I was stumped by it.

Bill: Stumped why?
H. O’Brien: Well, I found that folks were absolutely destroying their own metabolism single handedly and it wasn’t isolated to one group either, we’re talking teenagers to 65 which was even more alarming to me.

Bill: What do you think the cause is?
H. O’Brien: Well it wasn’t so much a cause as a “reason”, at least from my end. The main trip wire was simply the lack of understanding in nutrition along with how the body actually responds to training in general. Like anything else if you don’t have the basics it’s near impossible to go forward. It got to a point where I felt that this subject all by itself was not only inhibiting my own client’s ability to progress but even for myself as a trainer to bring them to where I knew they could and should be physically.

Bill: Why did you feel you needed a book rather than correct this in the gym?
H. O’Brien: I was spending a lot of time during training sessions on the subject of nutrition rather than exercising and it was cutting deep into their session time. I think “time” had a lot to do with it. I couldn’t really follow them home. It became a repeated comment of a simple mindset; “I’m fat and I hate myself” – the end. Trying to remedy that as a trainer is a bit tough. There is only so much you can convey during a training session and the answers don’t always follow all the way home. I actually hunted around for a book to maybe give to clients but just couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for.

Bill: What kind of book?
H. O’Brien: I wanted one that matched precisely the current issues tripping people right now. I also didn’t want four books I wanted one. I didn’t want a text book and I didn’t want a book that was so detailed on one subject that you’d need to read three more for it to make sense then yet another one to look up glycemic levels and yet one more to review weight sets. I wanted one that hit the issues squared like a trainers “hand book”.

Bill: So did you go from not finding one straight to deciding to write your own?
H. O’Brien: Not exactly, no. In conjunction with my self inflicted witch-hunt for such a book I was answering huge amounts of e-mails with the same set of questions. It became rather obvious to me that there was an area of fitness training completely neglected and I refused to believe I was the only trainer facing these issues. Sure
enough conversing with other trainers found they too were facing similar, if not exactly, the same scenarios. So by this time it occurred to me that maybe if I condensed my own years of information and broke it down into pieces and somewhat fun it might make my job as a trainer easier and help others at the same time – in or out of the gym.

Bill: So that was it – couldn’t find one write one?
H. O’Brien: Sort of. The actual “concept” needed a better handle to make absolute sure it wouldn’t be boring – I hate boring [laughs]. I thought I had it in my head but before I actually wrote a single word it hit me during one of my own training days that maybe if I could give them my, well, “brain” [laughs] exactly as it is when I’m right smack in the middle of training myself maybe they too could train themselves and that possibly that concept might even be more useful for folks to go off on their own. I still get what I wanted as a hand book just constructed a little differently. Gun shy that I might not be able to enhance that mission I actually test drove a few chapters on a friend to make certain it would hit the nail. She e-mailed me one day with “Oh my gosh, thank you I can’t believe it – I actually understand this now…..!!!” I was thrilled and kept writing. [smiles]

Bill: What do you hope folks will get out of this book?
H. O’Brien: A few things actually. The first to understand how their own body operates with food and exercise and how both are interlinked at a constant in and out of the gym. When people have clarity it makes everything else sort of settle in their minds and therefore the approach in general becomes far easier. I think most people start a program filled with gumption at the beginning but not really sure what the outcome will be because they do not have all the pieces in place to pull it off. Deep down I think they know there’s a void and it creeps into a stance of; “I wonder if this will work”, or “should I push further or is this too much”, or the one I hate most, “forget it I give up” then they get depressed about it. None of these thoughts should be anywhere near someone’s mind when training. When people give up it absolutely breaks my heart. I believe that everyone on this planet has a physical talent and simply haven’t tapped into it; they’re too busy fighting things they don’t fully understand. I hope to help change that.

Bill: Do you think other trainers might be miffed that you are to some degree promoting “Self Training”?
H. O’Brien: To the contrary. I hope they might hand a copy to their clients and say, “Do me a favor, read this it’ll make both our jobs easier”. I also discussed my intentions with other trainers who were very supportive. Trainers work incredibly hard to help others reach towards being their best and they truly do want people to succeed and progress. So I view this as simply a tool that I’ve tossed into the arena. If they get “miffed” I would have to question that trainer’s intent in the first place.

Bill: Why the name “30 Over 40”, is it a concept or just a name?
H. O’Brien: Both. Although a friend says it’s sounds like a heart rate. [laughs] There is a concept to the name actually. When we are in our 30’s we have a very different outlook on life. We’ve survived our teens, had fun in our 20’s then in our 30’s we look forward with such vigor towards life in general. Our careers, raising a family, etc all have sort of confidence built into them. Yet when we hit our 40’s, 50’s or 60’s we tend to start looking backwards and while there is nothing wrong with reflecting on memories it somehow infects our fitness training. It’s as though we’re looking through the rear view mirror instead of the windshield. We begin to look at ourselves to be something of the past. To change that in our mind while approaching a fitness program we do sort of have to look at it with the same outlook we had in our 30’s. Example… when a little kid is asked to go clean their room suddenly they are too tired or don’t feel good or some other mood they didn’t have 12 seconds ago. If you ask that same child if they would like to go out to play ball or go to the park suddenly they have more energy than they know what to do with. Adults are no different. [laughs] If you understand the principals and create an environment that makes you happy while doing it you’re going to look forward to it rather than dread it. So the stance is simply this; turn around and focus like you truly are 30 when you hit any age after 40.

Bill: Does this mean the book is only for people over 40?
H. O’Brien: No. To the contrary. I hope this will get the 20 and 30 year olds to avoid falling prey to the psychological age trap headed their way! The information is the same for any age we’re all, um, human. [laughs] If you think of it as though you are swapping out the age factor and replacing it with an “ability” or “level” you are applying the exact same principals just altering them at an “ability” level rather than an “age” level.

Bill: What do you feel the biggest trip wire is in fitness training today?
H. O’Brien: There’s a couple. I think that’s why there are so many struggles, it’s a combination of things. Our culture in general hasn’t helped much either; fast food, electronics, long work hours – you name it. Yet I think understanding the basics is the big one. I think once you understand something – anything – you feel more confident and the big black clouds of doubt fade away. I also know that many folks might not have ever in their lives done a sport or exercised and tend to shy away from even trying thinking it’s too late. I could not disagree more. In fact, I think it’s much more fun when you’ve never done something – it can be twice as rewarding. The human body is an amazing machine – it will do so many things most are completely unaware of. Can you
reverse your metabolism – yes. Can you learn to run a mile – yes. Can your body learn to lift weights – yes. Can you lose stored body fat – yes. But for some goofy reason people have talked themselves into thinking otherwise. I hope to help change this outlook, better yet get them to prove to themselves they can do it.

Bill: Why is your book different than others?
H. O’Brien: Well, I haven’t read every book on the planet so maybe it isn’t? [laughs] Generally speaking there is only so much information in existence and in many cases simply re-configured but the information can be spread out either too far or in many cases too detailed for one person to wrap it all together and actually apply it to their own environment. To some degree I started out in the beginning with completely selfish motivations – literally. I wanted my own hand book for my own usage condensed, simple, easy and fast then just hand it off to clients. As a trainer you find yourself doing a lot “explaining” to help folks sift through details so there is a great deal of translation that goes with the territory. You find yourself wanting to follow folks home so that you can answer the questions that pop into their minds when they walk into their own kitchen. Most people do understand pieces of it, that is right up until they suddenly stop and think, “dag nab it, what did she say again, this with this, no wait, that with this, no wait…”.  People today are really busy keeping their own lives on track and simply do not have the time to study every day – no one does. The approach I hope I’ve tackled is much like learning how to use the new cell phone you just bought; once you learn it you actually “use” it. At the same time I hope readers will feel like they have a trainer right there with em – me! [laughs]. The base foundation of fitness is without debate nutrition long before exercise, an area I believe is the main culprit towards failed fitness plans. The first portion of the book is indeed a crash course in nutrition, the second how to apply it and
third how to implement an exercise routine. So to answer how is it different? It’s easier to understand than a few others and I think we tend to bring a bit of our own personality to whatever we write, so this is simply told with my personality accompanied by my own style as a fitness trainer. That’s just the style trainer I am and I hope always will be. So I guess what I want to say is; my book is more fun! [laughs]

Bill: You talk about the “style” of trainer you are – tell us something about yourself, something people don’t know about you.
H. O’Brien: Hym. There is something that could be labeled as the root of my style but this is a tough one, I don’t usually like to share this one….it’s still humbling even now [pause] but I guess if I am to be honest I have to do this. Here goes…. It stems way, way, way back to high school when I was a rather “confident” swimmer on a team. Things came easy to me in that sport so you could say I was a bit “too” self confident. One year I had somehow made my regular gym teacher very angry by being, well, “cocky” I guess. As punishment she said I had to do after-school service with some junior students to give swimming lessons. She didn’t tell me a whole lot only that I was to teach a few junior classmates how to swim and to be at the pool center by a certain time. When I showed up the students were from the special education unit. I was a bit stunned and no clue where to begin. One of them had down-syndrome. I gave it my best shot and tried teaching them with instructions fully clothed from the pool side edge. It was somewhat of a disaster. After a few days of my “dry dock teachings” one of the gals, who happened to have down-syndrome, was a bit “forward” with her comments towards me and had finally had it with me. She said, “If you’re so great at this – why don’t you get in the pool and show us!!” I made some excuse why I couldn’t. She shot back, “What’s the matter – don’t wanna get your pretty hair all wet… are you too good to get in the pool with us, afraid you’ll look uuuggleeee”. I was stunned. Truth is she smacked me right between
the eyes with that one. I stewed all day about it – I was furious. The next day after realizing she was spot on; maybe I really was this conceded little snot who just didn’t want to get her hair wet. I was so angry I quickly became most determined to redeem myself. The next day I showed up with my swim suit on and dove into the pool. They were stunned. I changed the lessons to “showing” them rather than “telling” them. It was a rather quiet lesson that day to say the least. Then a few weeks later guess what – they did learn how to swim the “width” of that pool. I get all mushy just thinking about this event because truth is when some of them did actually learn to swim, including the gal who put me in my place, it mattered – boy did it matter. When she reached the edge of that pool the look of achievement on her face was so beautiful it made me tear up. Still does. She was beaming. When someone else reaches an achievement they are trying so hard to accomplish and you are somehow privileged to be a part of it – it’s beautiful. It no longer mattered what her handicap was, no one cared any more – she certainty didn’t – she did it! Tough to describe what that day was like. So the premise for me is still, “Get in the darn pool Holly”. That event to this day stays with me in every aspect of training. Wish I knew where this gal was now I owe her a thank you. Such courage, a gal with down-syndrome to take on a bratty high school snob like me and put me in my place and as a result I still “get into the pool” so to speak rather than bark at the edge of it. [Long pause] Yeah… that’s the one that stays with me.

Bill: So after we read this can we contact you for questions?
H., O’Brien: Sure, just tell em to contact you first…[laughs] Kidding … I have a Facebook page “30 Over 40” by H. O’Brien all are welcome. I do respond as often as I can. What I really hope is that folks will reach out to each other with it to make some new friends, share ideas. It’s more fun when you have “buddies” to learn with. Sometimes folks are quite shy about what trips them in a fitness program but I think saying it out loud helps. “People” are inspiring. The term used often is motivation but it’s not my favorite, I prefer “inspire” as it seems to last longer and tug at our heart strings a little deeper. I hope folks will share stories of crossing bridges even if they had to crawl because it might help some one else cross their own bridge – or build one. [smiles]

Bill: Last word…
H. O’Brien: I think maybe it’s simply this; allow yourself to learn the details with real focus then just have fun and enjoy it! [smiles] 

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