With every new day comes a new diet plan, or that’s at least what it feels like to millions of us around the world. We are inundated with
diet and exercise options making it hard to find what works best for our bodies and our wallets. This is something that fitness expert Jessie Pavelka knows a lot about and created “The Program” to help you sort through that confusion. Instead of trying every new fitness craze and stomaching a quick-fix cleanse every other week, “The Program” will help you get stronger, lose inches, improve your mental well-being with mindful practices, maintain motivation, and cook your way to a healthier you.
Besides “The Program”, Jessie Pavelka recently opened his own gym, RETROFIT, in West Hollywood. If you live in the Los Angeles area, we highly recommend you start training with your trainer here or sign up to take a class. Not only is the gym a hidden industrial
gem in a sea full of modern venues but Pavelka is such a gentleman and very easy on the eyes.
“The Program” is officially available to purchase tomorrow so we asked him about each
of the four sections -Eat, Sweat, Think, Connect – so you can get access
if it’s a good fit for your lifestyle. We also asked him about his personal diet staples, if being in the spotlight has altered his personal fitness goals, and why mental health plays a bigger role in your life than most of us consider.
Do you find that a person’s trouble with weight loss tends to be their relationship with food or exercise, or does it depend on the person?
It depends on the person. If we’re looking at someone who has an extreme amount of weight to lose, food can be a bigger part of the issue. But the two work together very well. I hate to say that you need to focus more on food than you do exercise to anybody because those two come as a package deal. Food is important to make you feel good. If you’re wanting to change your physique in certain ways yes, but exercise does the same thing. If you can bring the two together then why not!
A lot of Americans still don’t read food labels and understand that low-fat or low-cal doesn’t always translate to weight loss. For those who are just starting out, what ingredients and preservatives should they avoid?
I think you should try to avoid anything coming out of a package. However, we have to understand that a large portion of the United States doesn’t have that luxury so you have to pick your battles. If you can get organic, raw, whole ingredients, then that’s what you want to go for. If something is in a package at a gas station that you’re just eating because you’re hungry, you should probably try to plan ahead; put some apples and almonds in your arsenal. The problem is we will wait until the last minute until we’re extremely hungry and when you’re extremely hungry you will eat anything to get rid of that hunger pain. Planning ahead is the big one.
[You should avoid] anything in a package that is high in sodium, anything that is going to be packed with simple carbs. If we’re talking about low-fat, in my book I did incorporate low-fat, however a large portion of low-fat [in a box] is compensated by sugar. Read the labels because it all converts into fat at the end of the day.
What foods do you consider staples in your diet?
I’m a big fan of fish, fruits, and vegetables, every single day. I wake up in the morning and I have a smoothie: I throw in a bunch of frozen berries, half of a banana sometimes, and almond butter.
How do you feel about veganism?
If you’re vegan, that’s great! It’s a lot less stress on the digestive system; if you’re trying to transform your physique, it can be challenging. But I’m a big fan of feeling good so I’m a big fan of the vegan way of living and eating.
You say that the workouts in “The Program”
are supposed to inspire both novices and experts alike. Was that a challenge to create workouts that interest and work for many levels of fitness?
It is and isn’t. As a trainer, you have to be ready on the fly. When someone walks in the door, you don’t know who they are or where they’ve come from, but they’re ready to train. You have to be quick on your feet. Through the years, I’ve gotten really comfortable with creating a program or routine for someone whatever their fitness level; and you can modify a move, and that’s the cool thing about exercise. Anybody can do a burpee. There are ways to work around things.
What kinds of workouts should we expect in the book?
There’s going to be a variety. There’s athletic training, strength training, metabolic training, and then there’s slow burn and flow. We try to incorporate a lot of different styles of exercise so everybody had something. On top of that, you have a soft sell to everyone of things that they weren’t used to, things that they could open to in someway shape or form.
I wanted this to be the least prescriptive as possible. I wanted to put the power in the individual because people don’t want to be told what to do. My goal at the end of the day is to make people think like they did it and not like it was another thing. They decided how to make it work in their life.
What are your favorite go-to exercises when you are limited on time?
I have a very limited amount of time. I just got into running again. I tore my quad so I took a big break. However if you’re going to go running, you need to run for an extended period of time. If I don’t have a lot of time, I’ll do intervals. I’ll combine strength training and resistance training. [For example, I’ll do] bent over rows with a stiff leg deadlift, then into burpees, then squat press, then a power jack. I do 30 minutes every single day.
What’s your favorite activity outside of the gym?
Hiking. I’ll do Runyon [Canyon]. I [also] go to the park a lot with my son. I’m teaching him soccer. I’m one of those dads that knows it’s supposed to be fun and that’s it, but let’s work on it a little bit, too!
A lot of fitness books only focus on diet and exercise. Why was it important for you to include a section on mental health?
I think that it’s easy to exercise the things we can see. It’s easy to go to the gym. The thing that gets them out of the gym is that they’re not working on anything up top. They’re not exercising that part of life. They wake up and it’s just food and exercise. There’s a massive part of life that’s going unnoticed.
I did some work in the U.K. that was very real and I got to work on the ground with people and doctors. Through that experience, really exercising a person’s day to day thought process, [asking] how do we change that, what are the things that we can put into their daily routine that can help them stay positive and engaged, .≤cause isolation is a big issue for people too that I work with. I put a few things together that are very practical and very simple and I hope people don’t pass that section because it’s THE most important section. Our egos get in the way when we start talking about things like breathing, meditation, and daily affirmations, especially for males. [They say] .≤I don’t need that’ but actually dude, you do. You’re not OK right now.
What are your favorite ways to keep yourself focused on your fitness goals?
My favorite thing, I think, is looking at my life. My son is a big reminder for me. I look for quotes, new songs, and I’m like a mad scientist on Apple Music. I’m always looking for a new song that I can work out with to push me that I can also use with my training with people as well. I’m always looking for things that keep me accountable. And working with people in the U.K. and here, that kind of work holds you accountable. My job is a blessing and a curse. I can’t go too far off the deep end. I can’t just say .≤My life sucks!’ I have to be here and be ready for people so there’s a massive amount of accountability in my life because of that.
Has being a public figure in the fitness world affected your mindset? Do you now hold higher standards for your peak physical fitness?
I’ve held higher standards for my physical fitness when I was in bodybuilding and sports. Now, my goal for myself is to live long, feel good, be good, and that’s really it. I don’t want to look at myself in the mirror and pick myself apart. I used to do that and it was dysmorphia. Now if I feel good, then that’s it. Here’s the thing, there’s something that comes along with that. Part of feeling good is pushing yourself and challenging yourself. When you leave the gym you know you put it all on the line. You say I’m going to go there today and just go all out. Not because I’m going to [look a certain way] because that will rule your world! Focus on how you feel, know that you’re pushing yourself, that it burns, and it’s a good burn.
It’s a known fact that we are the people with whom we associate. This also applies to lifestyle and fitness. How should we access our social circle before we begin on our fitness journey?
First of all, you have to look at your environment. What kinds of triggers set you off? What do people and things have on you? [You need to] recognize how people play different roles in your life and sometimes the person that’s the healthiest is the one you don’t want to deal with, and sometimes the one that is the most unhealthy is the one you talk to everyday. It is really important to differentiate between the two. Changes are tough but it’s worth it recognizing who’s who and what’s what.
How much are the relationships in your life a part of your fitness journey? Who are your influences to stay in shape, besides your family?
The people I work with, for sure. The work, it’s not a person, it’s a thing for me that keeps me accountable. I have to remember to show up everyday in some way shape or form. I’m a human being and I eat unhealthy food and drink beer at times, but I always go back to exercise and doing things a certain way so that I can be OK. It’s good to give your body a challenge, too!
For anyone that doesn’t have the support in their lives to get fit, how do you suggest they find their support system?
You have to pursue it. You have to find those people. You have to surround yourselves in environments like this here. You have to put it out there to people around you. You have to say to people that you’re going to make changes [and people that] you don’t think would support you might do so at the end of the day. Talking and putting it out there, that’s the first step.
This book is not for the elite. This is for people in that large percentage that I feel don’t have something to latch on to that’s practical, real, and sustainable. That’s something that I wanted to be apparent with this. [‘The Program’] lives in the in-between. You can do your Insanity or P90X but this is more of a way of living than anything else. It’s a base line.
When you wrote “The Program”, was there a particular purpose in mind?
The main thing was to give people a practical approach: something where they could bring in small changes. Nothing is massive. The exercises are 20 minutes, the food’s quick and easy. You won’t have to dedicate too much time.
We have four cleanse days that are soups and smoothies. You take the stress off the digestive system before you get thick into ‘The Program’ to get a fresh start. But number one is to give something [to the readers] that’s more than just diet and exercise and to bring people together. We have a community on my website. Everybody can come together, join, and show their progress. There’s journals, an exercise planner, and a meal planner. It’s free. It’s a way to bring it all together.
You now own your own gym in West Hollywood. What goals do you have for this gym? What do you love about this gym you built and why should everyone visit?
We ultimately want this to be a community. A gym is great. What I love about CrossFit, for instance, is everybody’s high fiving, motivating, and inspiring one another. The goal with this is to create a class set-up that people come to, they shut off from the outside world, and turn on into here and go for it.
We want to add technology where people can sync up to us, similar to what you get at Orange Theory. We can track their levels and the software will allow us to do different types of exercise [with clients].
What do you love about this space and what makes it different than others in the area?
What I love about this space is that it’s one of the older buildings in this area. It’s like a speakeasy. You go in a side door and walk in. It’s hard, it’s industrial, it’s distressed, it’s all I feel that is current. This place has an atmosphere that says I want to go in here and get it done and work.
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