April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Writing UnGarbled-Tech is really inspiring and humbling. Continuously meeting readers—doctors, teens, seniors—all saying they read my column is my sincere honor. None of this would be possible without the guidance of Moshe Kinderlehrer and Elizabeth Kratz. I have spoken many times with each of them; their advice has been invaluable. It really makes my day that I am a columnist and I hope never to squander one moment of sharing what I love with my readers.

One reader told me that his favorite part of my column is when I make some personal or family reference. Many years ago, I wrote about how my 5-year-old daughter (now 15) first lost my iPad and I found it with a tracer app, but my genius plan backfired, because, during a presentation, Barbie dolls and My Little Pony games starting playing automatically.

So in honor of family stories, this week’s column is really about a personal journey, with a little tech thrown in. I did think about this deeply. I hope that the tech I use in my life can be shared with my readers who may have the same issues.

In my youth, I was never in excellent shape, but obesity does run in my family. I wasn’t a classic athlete and never really watched my health, but as a younger person I may have been five to 10 pounds overweight at most. Would anyone believe I spent some years on a skateboard (a whole column in itself)? After college, marriage and some years being a father, the weight crept up, and with forays into The Atkins Diet and Weight Watchers, I finally didn’t know how much I weighed because the pre-digital home scales maxed out at 300 pounds. Why bother then?

Trust me, I ate a lot and usually away from others who might take notice. My vice was night eating, or a form of sleepwalking. No matter what night, I would eat steaks, whole pizzas, boxes of cereal. Only to see the evidence with either heartburn or yells from my wife wondering who ate whatever huge thing it was she had just bought.

Every obese person has a moment. A heart attack, an embarrassing episode, some incident that means change must come. For me, it was getting stuck in my sports cart (a 2003 Hyundai Tiburon GT) after a huge Chabad bear hug at a vort, which at my weight caused some excruciating pain in my back. I had to pull over and then called Hatzolah in Crown Heights. Wow, the scene of an over 300-pound man stuck in his car—what a sight to see.

About 15 years ago I had lap-band surgery. I do not regret that surgery in any way. The first year I lost 100 pounds, which I have kept off. The last 30 to 50 pounds I have gone up and down. From the get-go, my doctors said I may need to hit the gym or get a trainer. The gym I have done off and on. But a trainer yelling at me? “Come on Shneur, one more rep!” Not for me; I had never even had a training session.

But, a couple of months ago I was getting these debilitating leg cramps in the middle of the night. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. I heard that trainer/gym folks know how to deal with these cramps, but I didn’t take action at that point.

I was walking my dog and I bumped into Nechama “Nikki” Bildner, a trainer. I know her family. On a whim, I asked her about what she would do about these leg cramps. She was very helpful but said, “You know, stretching is really the best remedy.” I agreed to do some training where she would teach me what to do. (Truth be told, I was going to maybe go to one session and get what I needed to resolve the leg cramps and then make up some excuse.)

The first training session, I was ready to run back to my car and hit the gas. I didn’t want to insult the trainer, my family friend, but we had just gone through 45 minutes that were surprisingly light for a workout. I learned about all the stretches.

I agreed to go back, but post-session I felt like I had just danced at 25 weddings. I WhatsApped the trainer, complaining, but she didn’t say, “No pain no gain,” like I expected; she replied that my body is adjusting, and to be patient. Sure enough, two days later, no pain.

I figured I would try one more session and could quit right after. Sure enough, I am about six months in. The sessions are at 8:00 or 7:15 a.m., can you believe it? Would you believe I never miss it and actually wake up looking at my clock!

So where is the tech side? Initially, I kept forgetting the session times, as I was committing to seeing the trainer at various times. To keep this organized and to handle cancellations or rescheduling, I showed the trainer my Google Calendar. I now get a Google reminder and can change or add the session to my Google Calendar.

I am a person who likes to know what I am doing or seeing; it’s my way of remembering things. So I keep asking Nikki, “How do I this, what does this do? What is this called?” Nikki was patient but asked if I had a way of sharing the session exercise. That day I shared a Google Doc and she now puts notes, tips and changes in real time. I have started to get caught with my own system. I ask a question and the trainer says, “I put the notes in the Google Doc already!” Ooops.

I can only see the trainer two times a week but I am supposed to go to the gym every other day for cardio. First off, THE GYM in Englewood has an app where you can view classes and make appointments. The machines all have apps. Actually, the bikes have an app that you can connect your device to. Get status, listen to the news, TV etc. My wife told me to try to watch a Netflix episode that’s exactly 45 minutes long. Great advice!

The rest all seems daunting and a bit intimidating. When I told this to my trainer she said, “Take videos of all the machines and send them to me, and I will tell you which one to use.” Amazing!

But here’s the real deal: All the Google Docs, Google Calendar, the gym apps, the video feedback, being able to pay the trainer in PayPal, it’s all very good. But none of that helps you when you hit the mats of the gym floor. No tech takes the place of the work. Every session is not easy and some of it is very frustrating!

But after the first month, I started to catch myself lifting a box! Taking three loads of laundry up the stairs? I think I can put my leg up on a chair!

When you’re serious, hiring a professional in any field is a must, and trainers are no exception!

I was fearful of writing about all of this. I also hope others will be inspired to do the same or at least hold me to my continued training. I always thought yoga was a lot of hmmming and awwing. Some of my training has turned out to be yoga, and wow, it’s no joke.

The tech I am using is very helpful, but having a trainer who takes her work seriously and is knowledgeable is really the success factor.

My wife of 23 years goes to the gym every day but Shabbos and really works hard at it. She has every excuse in the world; mother, full-time employee and married to me. Yikes. But she rarely misses. How can I skip the trainer with much fewer excuses? My wife has always been my rock and is really pushing and supporting me on this one.

I can’t recommend my trainer enough. Nikki’s approach is custom catered to each person. If you are expecting quick fixes I would find another trainer. But if you realize that this takes some time and discipline, I can’t recommend Nikki enough or trainers who are as dedicated as Nikki Bildner. Studio is by appointment only; her contact info is 201-705-2307 or [email protected].


Shneur Garb is the CEO of Tech Ungarbled Solutions, which services education, business and medical industries.

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