Category Archives: Fitness

Member Profile: Gene Hetzer

by on September 29, 2015

gene hetzer pjcc

It’s a common refrain that people will often embrace any excuse to avoid exercise, ranging from a “painful paper cut” to a “can’t miss” episode of television’s Shark Tank. However, Gene Hetzer, Jr., doesn’t let anything stop him from his workouts at the PJCC, including the fact that he’s vision impaired.

The 63-year-old is on the treadmill at least twice a week with his guide dog, a Golden Retriever named Lynmar, waiting patiently at his side. Blind since birth, Gene lost his vision due to oxygen toxicity, a condition resulting from the harmful effects of elevated molecular oxygen that
burned his retinas. “In those days, if doctors thought there might be a problem right after delivery, such as illness or being premature, they placed the baby in an incubator,” Gene
explains. “I was born healthy, but the exposure to excess oxygen left me blind.” As a result, Gene can distinguish bright lights from total darkness but cannot see shapes or forms.

The Foster City resident, who joined the Center last year, has found the PJCC to be a pleasant surprise. “I’ve been very impressed,” he says. “One of the trainers, Herman Chan, helped show me how to use the equipment and arranged it so the pieces I’d use the most would be close to each other. Thanks to him, I can go through my routines without asking for help.” Gene’s favorite exercise is an aerobic workout on the treadmill, which is helping him reach his goal of completing a 10k run in under 75 minutes.

Seven-year-old Lynmar also helps Gene navigate his way through the fitness facility. “Often people try to help by pointing out that I’m going the wrong way or taking a longer route, but they don’t realize that Lynmar has noticed obstacles on the floor that they might not see, like mats or weights. My dog is trained to recognize all hazards even when people might not see them as such.”
When he isn’t working out, the retired IT consultant plays the piano and has made several CDs for friends. He also enjoys classical music and reading religious fiction, historical novels, and classic “whodunit” mysteries like Perry Mason and Sherlock Holmes. Online, he navigates the
Internet with the aid of a screen reader, a software program that allows visually impaired users to read the text that is displayed on the screen with the use of a speech synthesizer.
Gene’s positive attitude is one worth emulating.

“When something lousy happens, you can turn to your neighborhood pub to ease the pain, but that’s a temporary solution,” he says. “Or you can take a look at the cards you’ve been dealt and figure out the best way to make something of them. That’s what I do.”

Back Pain – the Bane of Being Human

by on July 7, 2015

back pain pjcc

Back pain can be devastating. Just ask my wife. Prior to our upcoming wedding my wife decided she wanted to get in shape. She joined a gym and, in her zeal, she repeated the weight routine three days in a row. The next day she suffered severe lower back pain which subsequently has besieged her for the past 38 years. (I know this because we just celebrated our 38th anniversary.) Guess who has been destined to be the luggage shlepper and primary grocery shopper in our marriage?

My wife has not been alone in experiencing low back pain. 80% of adults suffer low back pain sometime during their lifetime. In younger people, pain is mostly due to mechanical factors – the interplay of spine, muscles, ligaments, discs, and nerves in the way of they fit together. Low back pain can be triggered by repeated straining such as at a gym, or by a fall or accident, or by a sudden action involving lifting a heavy weight or twisting abruptly. Oddly, a herniated disc can happen spontaneously without a specific injury. In older adults, the most common cause of low back pain is spinal stenosis which means narrowing of the spaces of the spine. With aging, some people develop spurs in their vertebrae, and ligaments around the spine may thicken which together may cause narrowing (stenosis) where the nerves exit the spine. This typically results in pain while standing and walking, and relief by sitting.

Red Flags
While most causes of back pain are not life threatening, there are some warning symptoms that indicate immediate attention is required. These “red flags” include history of trauma, fever, incontinence, history of cancer, unexplained weight loss, long term steroid use, and intense localized pain with inability to find a comfortable position. Coincidently, the reason there why there was a position available when I was hired at Kaiser was because my predecessor had died of back pain due to an epidural abscess, an infection near the spinal cord. While I don’t know the details of his illness, he likely had fever with his back pain, and unfortunately did not appreciate the implication. Life threatening cases of back pain with fever I have treated include pyelonephritis (kidney infection) and endocarditis (heart infection.) Back pain with fever can be a lethal combination.

The inability to find a position of comfort typifies a patient who present with an abdominal aortic aneurysm. For this reason alone, I routinely examine any older patient with back pain for the presence of a pulsating mass in the abdomen. During the course of my career, I have detected two patients with aortic aneurysms. They both were ex-smokers and were overtly grateful since delayed diagnosis is almost always fatal.

A patient with a history of cancer always raises a red flag to me even if the cancer occurred decades prior. The most common types of cancer that spread to bone are breast, prostate, lung, kidney and thyroid. While most doctors have been well educated about not doing unnecessary imaging studies, a patient who has a past history of cancer especially with any history of recent weight loss deserves x-ray evaluation.

When back pain is not spine pain
During the fifteen years I spent working part time in spine clinic at Kaiser, I was amazed the number of times a patient was referred for back pain actually had something other than a spine condition. Two of the most common conditions that can be confused with a spinal disorder especially in older adults include osteoarthritis of the hip and peripheral artery disease (PAD). Hip osteoarthritis can usually be distinguished by performing a hip examination during the visit and by getting hip x-rays. A person with good range of motion of hips does not likely have significant hip arthritis. PAD can usually be determined by checking all the pulses in the legs and feet. The other feature differentiating PAD from spinal stenosis is that patients with PAD do not have pain while standing, while spinal stenosis patients generally do. Sometimes, though, a patient might have more than one condition causing back and/or leg pain in which case more sensitive testing is indicated to evaluate circulation competency and neurological function.

Other causes of low back pain outside the spine include kidney stones, acute pancreatitis, herpes zoster (shingles), endometriosis, and fibromyalgia.

What is the scoop about MRI’s?
A common question from many people with back pain is whether they should get an MRI to pinpoint the cause of their problem. The problem is that most people even without back pain will have an abnormality on an MRI exam. Falsely alarming MRI results in patients who have back pain explain why back surgery in the U.S. is more than twice as high as in other countries. Yes, surgery corrects the problem seen on the MRI but this may be unrelated to the cause of the pain.

Treatment of low back pain can vary depending if it is acute or chronic (more than 3 months). There are no hard and fast rules, but generally ice packs are advised for pain within 2-3 days of injury. Heat can help ease subacute or chronic pain. Bed rest after acute injury tends to delay recovery, and it is important to resume normal activity as soon as possible. Physical therapy can help strengthen core muscles that support the spine, but an interesting study from UCLA a few years ago showed that walking three hours a week was more effective than three hours of physical therapy a week. Epidural steroid injections can be given for low back pain associated with sciatica, but a recent NIH study showed that in patients with spinal stenosis who received epidural injections had worse long term outcomes than those who did not receive them. Surgery may be considered in serious injury situations or if there is progressive neurological deterioration. While there appears to be short term benefit in patients who have undergone surgery, long term benefits going out four years and ten years appear to show no clear advantage compared to those who have not had surgery. Although I am not fond of many of the medications advertised for low back pain, sometimes they serve a purpose in helping someone to become more active and exercise once again.

Regular exercise is the best way to keep one’s back healthy. My wife has found walking at least 60 minutes a day helps to lessen recurrences of low back pain. She also stretches regularly, and does not wear high heeled shoes. When she is sitting in the car or a chair, she uses a lumbar support called a Sacro-Ease or an inflatable travel pillow. She avoids any significant lifting, but if she does lift something she lifts with bent knees, carries the object close to her, and does not twist. For me, running, biking, and doing yoga at the PJCC keeps my back in shape, but everyone has to find a regimen that works best for them.

While back pain can be disabling, it can also be managed with regular activity and awareness to prevent further damage. Three months ago my wife injured her back again when she missed a step getting out of an elevator while holding one of our granddaughters who impeded her vision. To avoid trauma to our granddaughter, she sacrificed herself by intentionally twisting her spine as she fell. I am happy to say that granddaughter and “Nana” are back in each other’s arms once again.

For further information about low back pain, visit the NIH site.

Jerry Saliman, MD is a volunteer internist at Samaritan House Medical Clinic in San Mateo. He retired from Kaiser South San Francisco after working there more than 30 years. While at Kaiser SSF, Dr. Saliman was also Chief of Patient Education. He received the 2012 “Lifetime Achievement Award” given by the Kaiser SSF Medical Staff.

Editing acknowledgement: Ellen Saliman

Neither the PJCC or our guest columnists provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please make your health care decisions in partnership with your health care provider



Is Pilates The Secret To Youth?

by on June 29, 2015

Audrey / Pilates


I usually don’t ask people their age, especially if it is a woman. When I met Audrey Guerin I was surprised when her age came up; she is 81. She has such a youthful appearance. I told her I needed to know her secret–and we’re sharing it here with you!

Q:  Audrey, I was surprised to learn your age after seeing your picture and then meeting you in person. What is the secret for how you stay so young?

A:  Age just seems like a number and that number does not define me. I listen to my body to Continue reading

Shape Your Body In Just Minutes A Day

by on May 21, 2015


Get In Shape Now!

Busy schedules and obligations sometimes make it a challenge to squeeze in a full-body workout. But devoting even 10 minutes a day to just one move can help shape and tone your body. PJCC Personal Trainers Chris Nash and Molly Stenhouse share their favorite Continue reading

Warning: Nature Hikes Can Lead to Radical Amazement

by on May 14, 2015

By Deborah Newbrun

Nature Hikes Jewish twist
I have been leading a series of Jewish-themed nature hikes for the PJCC as part of their Jewish Wellness programming for several years. Often the first question on the hike is: What makes a hike Jewish?

Jews have a blessing for what Abraham Joshua Heschel calls radical amazement, when you stop to notice something in nature that is not created by humans and you want to mark the moment with a blessing of thanks.

Baruch Atah Adonai, Elohienu Melech Ha Olam, oseh ma’asay bereshit
Bountiful are you, the one we call ruler, creator of the universe who makes the wonders of creation.

A Harvard Medical School health publication confirms what we already know. Those people who cultivate a practice of gratitude, like writing thank you notes or saying prayers of thanks, are the happiest. “With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power. In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

On the PJCC Jewish-themed nature hikes, we enter the woods or fields or ocean-side trails prepared to give gratitude for the world’s bounty. Gently, I create opportunities to stop, take notice and give thanks for the beauty we see around us. These hikes, which are on the shorter side (1.5-3 miles), are a wonderful way to connect to the outdoors, to Jewish teachings, to new and old friends, and to yourself! Sometimes we learn about trees in Jewish texts, and other times we learn about the blessings of the senses. But with each hike, if we are lucky, we connect to what Abraham Joshua Heschel calls radical amazement.

“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement . . . get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”

Join us on one or all three free nature hikes led by Deborah Newbrun in 2015. Earn 100 JCC Rewards points per hike for pre-registering and attending. Pre-registration required.

Deborah Newbrun is a Jewish environmental educator and author of Spirit In Nature: Teaching Judaism and Ecology on the Trail.

Your New Workout: Interval Training

by on April 23, 2015

interval training pjcc

by Torre Pusey, PJCC Personal Trainer

Ready to take your workout to the next level? Want to burn more calories, burn more fat, see faster results, and be constantly challenged? Consider Interval Training.
Often referred to as HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training has become a powerful tool for the everyday gym user. HIIT workouts evolve around a simple concept: alternating bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter training, such as taking a brisk walk injected with quick jogs.
HIIT workouts can be done anywhere and at any time. It isn’t necessarily about the exercise, the equipment, or the location. Just like the name suggests, the intensity must be high to receive Continue reading

Improving Your Memory

by on March 23, 2015


“Memory is the mother of all wisdom.”

With advancing age, many adults worry not only about their health, but also about their memory. First, let us examine why we value our memory, and then look at some of the latest research in how to improve memory.

With the externalization of memory by cell phones, computers, digital photographs, books, and pencil and paper, one can wonder why we need our brains to remember anything at all. However, thousands of years ago the major way we passed along information was orally, which required focused attention and memory. Dating back 2500 years, the Iliad and the sequel, the Odyssey, were transmitted orally by the rhythm of the words. It is said that the Torah, or Five Continue reading

Functional Training: Taking Your Workouts To The Next Level

by on February 24, 2015


By Chris Nash, PJCC Personal Trainer

As a fitness professional for more than 15 years, I’ve witnessed many changes in the fitness industry. It used to be that gyms were limited to traditional equipment, such as bench and leg presses, that worked just one or two muscles at a time.

But in recent years, a growing trend is functional training. This is a classification of exercise that Continue reading

Half My Size: A Weight Loss Journey

by on January 28, 2015


By Randi  Reed, PJCC Assistant Camp Director

Everyone asks me what happened. How did I do it?

As a teenager at age 16 I weighed 350 lbs. If that sounds like it would be hard to overcome, it was.

I had PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome) and I knew if I kept going and growing the way I was, I would have died. With help from my doctor to get the PCOS and hormones under control I Continue reading

Strategies For Reinventing Your Resolutions

by on December 31, 2014

new year resolutions

Making, and then breaking, the same promises every year can be exhausting. Jeannie   Solomon, PJCC Wellness Coach, uses helpful strategies to help clients stay on track. Here, she shares her “tools of the trade” to help you reinvent your resolutions and—ultimately—yourself.

Define Your Wellness
Relationships, sleep, exercise, work, and spirituality (to name a few) are all forces that can cause great joy as well as great stress, feeding our energy and vitality. To achieve long-term wellness, Continue reading

PJCC Personal Trainer Trade Secrets

by on November 18, 2014


By Herman Chan, PJCC Personal Trainer

A fitness professional since 1989, PJCC Personal Trainer Herman Chan works with all ages, shapes, and types, motivating clients that range from stroke survivors to athletes in training. How does Herman help inspire all levels to maintain their enthusiasm for exercise?

Fitness Novice

  1. Evaluate your goals. Are they realistic? Create goals you can actually achieve.
  2. Celebrate small victories. Each one brings you closer to your big goal.
  3. Find a workout partner and hold each other accountable.
  4. Establish a routine and stick to it. Even professional athletes have a set routine.
  5. Change your attitude! Approach workouts as fun, not a chore.

Continue reading

Pink & Powerful

by on October 21, 2014

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Everyone is wearing pink to bring attention to a disease that will touch over 280,000 women per year in the US alone.  Odds are high that everyone knows at least one person effected by breast cancer. While fighting and beating cancer is  the main goal when one is diagnosed, there is a long road of rehabilitatation following surgery that is so important to regaining strength and mobility.

In the following video, we hear a few inspirational stories from women who have taken on breast cancer and come out the other side with more strength, courage, and lust for life than before.

The PJCC is doing its part on October 19-25, 2015 for Pink Week.
We invite the whole community to come and support a great cause.


Pink Ribbon Program @ PJCC  - Postoperative workout designed to enhance recovery



Cultivating Good Health

by on October 10, 2014


Any time is a good time to cultivate good health by developing a wellness plan that will help you flourish. Don’t know where to begin? Draw inspiration from your garden and apply the same concepts to your health.

Planning your garden is the first step to its success and the same holds true for your health. Buy a notebook and name it your health journal. Begin by writing down two goals that are attainable and aren’t overwhelming. For example, start preparing your afternoon snacks to bring to work instead of buying from the vending machine. This action alone can save you 200 Continue reading

Looking for a Low-Impact Workout? Try Battle Rope Training

by on July 28, 2014

by Christopher Nash, PJCC Personal Trainer

Kevin, a fit software engineer, wanted to pursue cardio training. However, the 50-year old was concerned that running would be hard on his already-bad knees, the collateral damage of a 30-year love for soccer. He had also had a hip replaced the previous year. When Kevin asked me Continue reading

Strength Training For Healthy Bones

by on May 12, 2014


by Kim Knapp, PJCC Personal Trainer specializing in Strength Training and Osteoporosis Prevention

Did you know…

• Women can lose 3-6% of bone mass annually for the first 5 years following menopause.
• 50% of women over age 50 will have an osteoporotic fracture
• Within a year, 25-30% of hip fracture patients die or end up in a nursing home. This is preventable! Continue reading

How Do You Like Them Apps?

by on April 25, 2014


Compliment Your Fitness Routine With Online Apps

The marriage between technology and fitness isn’t new. Professional athletes have been using computer programs and data for decades to get into the best physical shape for their particular sport. It is only in the last decade or so that the rest of the population has been able to tap into some technologies that make it easier to get and stay fit!

Today even fitness novices like me can access some pretty incredible information with a simple application (app) download. You can tap into just about every type of fitness activity that you can think of from your smartphone or tablet. Continue reading

Fitness Tip: Bosu Squats

by on April 7, 2014

Utilizing a BOSU helps to engage a number of muscles that might get overlooked in a normal workout. Standing on the BOSU requires balance which works your core. Add in the squats to work your upper legs while giving your core a good workout.

This fitness tip is presented by PJCC Personal Trainer Cynthia Newman.

Video by Teddi Kalb

Mastering The Perfect Shot With Joe Ellis

by on March 13, 2014


It’s that time of year again!  March Madness is sweeping the country, which means rivalries are heating up and fans are reaching new decibel levels.  To celebrate this charged period of competition, why not lace up your sneakers and hit the court yourself?

We spoke to former NBA Golden State Warrior, Joe Ellis, who gave us some tips to mastering that perfect shot:

  1. First up, make sure you have the proper shooting stance.  Have your feet evenly placed about shoulders width apart with your knees slightly bent.
  2. Continue reading

Fitness Tip: Single Leg Dead Lift

by on March 10, 2014

Whether you are a competitive runner or you are just trying to get your buns in shape, personal trainer April Montgomery shows us a move we can all do to work on our glutes and hamstrings. April is a competitive runner and specializes in track and field training at the PJCC.

Video by Teddi Kalb.

Bone Up!

by on March 4, 2014


On May 12, 1990, I was speeding on my mountain bike down an unfamiliar mountain trail.  All of a sudden, the trail veered sharply to the left while I kept going straight. I went flying over a short wooden fence down a steep mountain hillside, and rolled and tumbled like I was in a bad dream.  When I finally came to a stop, I was surprised I was still conscious.  My bike helmet and glasses frame were cracked, and with the awareness of sharp pain emanating from my left wrist, I feared my wrist was cracked too.  After I was transported to the ER, I found out that I had a broken wrist bone and derangements of the surrounding ligaments.  I needed to have surgery if I was ever to play the violin again.
Continue reading

Rule No. 1 – Warm Up

by on March 3, 2014

We all should know the importance of warming up before a workout. Your body needs to prepare your muscles and joints to withstand the added pressure and to avoid injury. Get your body ready for your workout with this multiple joint warm-up.

This fitness tip from PJCC Personal Trainer, Herman Chan.

Video by Teddi Kalb

Your Heart Loves You. Love It Back!

by on February 4, 2014



February is American Heart month. It represents an opportunity to think of hearts other than in the context of Valentine’s Day.

During the course of my career as an internist, I have cared for hundreds of patients with heart disease. Believe me, it is better to make some simple interventions in your life now than to wait until you have severe problems. Let me give you one example of a patient of mine I cared for about 20 years ago. Roger (not his real name) was in his late 50’s when he sustained his second heart attack. He was an ex-smoker, worked hard every day in his stressful job to support his family, and had little time to exercise or to take the time to eat healthy. After his second heart attack, he could not walk even half a block before he developed chest discomfort. I sent him for various cardiac tests with the hope that the obstructions in his coronary arteries could be
Continue reading

Are You Ready For Ski Season?

by on January 27, 2014

Side Lunge
Prepare to hit the slopes (once we get some more snow) by working those thighs and glutes. One way people generally get injured when skiing or snowboarding is by going to the mountains after a long summer and autumn with likely no pre-conditioning. Avoid muscle fatigue and potential accidents by preparing yourself and your body.  Monique Molino, PJCC Pilates Coordinator, shows us one fitness tip to help you prepare.