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Let's say you are 15 years old and life is not particularly easy for you. You have a lot of friends but it seems that everyone in town belongs to this one or other particular group of friends and that the groups do not get along together. Sounds familiar?

Oh, I forgot to mention that it is probably sometime in the 1700s and you are in Brazil. The only means you have to defend yourself is your agility, cleverness, and strength. Weapons are not allowed. You have also figured out that there is more satisfaction to proving your prowess in physical strength than demonstrating force in any other way.

What do you do then? You practice Capoeira. The more  you practice the better you become. Also, with time and practice you get to like it more as do all the others who practice with you, either within the same group or the rival one.

Fast forward to 2011: Capoeira is a great form of physical exercise, of bonding, and of getting to know yourself.  Have you tried it yet?



(Post by Thomai Serdari)

Resolutions and challenges


Here is a suggestion for parents, guardians, mentors, big sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles.


January is a time of resolutions.  These usually revolve around us: 1. This year I will have more fun; 2. I will lose weight; 3. I will learn a new language; and the list goes on. Enthusiasm builds up at the beginning of the month, reaches its peak by the third week, and sadly dwindles down from then and on. 


Most of our resolutions require effort on our part. They also require some type of method, or if you prefer a strategy, but generally speaking, a method of marking milestones of progress and accomplishments. According to advice found in popular magazines, it is better to set goals along with a friend so that both get constant support and motivation.


I would like to challenge this because it is usually assumed that your “gym buddy” is your contemporary (best friend, husband, girlfriend). I propose this instead: Choose one of your children, advisees, students, niece and nephews, anyone between the ages of 12 and 18, especially those who would benefit from physical exercise.


Agree to support each other and make a pact.  Articulate and define your resolutions. But each one’s resolution must be different. For example, you cannot both want to have more fun, or want to learn a new language. Since you will be motivating them to work out more, you should perhaps tackle another task, such as keeping organized tax records or fix the garage, anything other than losing weight.


Why is this important? Children are very observant and tend to be critical, particularly with those for whom they care. They will really be on your case if you promise to be organized. According to your agreement, they should be open to receiving direction and guidance from you on how to be more physically active and how to make healthier food choices. You need to come up with creative ways to motivate them and communicate with them the fun aspects of exercise. You are also their role model so perhaps you should mind your food choices as well.


I predict the following: You will both lose weight plus you (the parent/guardian/mentor) will get an additional project done. I truly challenge you to try this. I would also love to receive your thoughts and comments or your suggestions on how to make this idea even more feasible. I would love to hear from those who are parents or those who are close to children. Give it some thought. The irony is that even though you may resist, the young ones are always up for a challenge!


(Post by Thomai Serdari. Email us at:


The language of physical training

        While I mainly work out on my own, there was a time when I decided to hire a trainer to learn how to exercise properly with free weights. Before agreeing on our partnership (because it is a partnership), what I thought I would get out of it was skills in proper form when training, since this is so important. In addition, I was hoping to learn a repertory of exercises to rely on when I work out on my own. Even though this was accomplished, I knew by the time our partnership came to an end that having a repertory is not enough by itself. One needs to know how the muscles work and how to challenge them on a regular basis with new movements and a variety of weights. I would like to return to this discussion some other time. For now it suffices to say that what I was expecting to gain by hiring a trainer was only a small percentage of the real value a good trainer brings to the table.

        Lisa, my trainer at Equinox at the time, works as a freelancer now, which is why we stopped working out together. My exercise time is limited to the time I spend at the gym and my schedule does not allow for additional training time with Lisa, which I now consider a luxury. Not that I ever took her for granted. The trainer-client relationship is already difficult because a trainer is a service provider. The service, which is of course physical training instruction, is measurable only up to a certain point. At least 50% of it has to do with the chemistry between the two parties and mainly with the importance the client places on the relationship. For many people this ends up being very complicated because they think that since they pay they are entitled to results for which, alas, they are mainly responsible. No matter how many routines the trainer develops, if the client does not pay attention and if she does not give it all her energy and focus, results will be very slow to materialize.

        My relationship with Lisa was wonderful. If she is reading this entry now I hope she agrees. Admittedly, we had a slow start because when I begin a project I want to know what to expect, what is the overall concept, what are the goals, and what is the strategy to achieve them. I like having the “big picture” first and then break it down to measurable and easy to accomplish tasks. I know that other people prefer taking it minute by minute because the “big picture” is something they cannot fathom. Be that as it may, I felt particularly challenged through my workouts with Lisa and eternally grateful to her for having pushed me to my limits. I felt the same gratitude twice a week and every time we trained together. I particularly felt it when I received a holiday card from her, six months into our partnership, in which she praised me for certain character traits I posses but also motivated me in a most personal way to keep it up.

        You may be wondering what is so special about that. Well, for those who know me it is noticeable that I don’t talk much and certainly not about personal matters, certainly not about myself. During a conversation, I am much more interested in finding out about the other person. One question that comes up therefore is how did Lisa know so much about me? The other issue to consider is that she really worked me very, very hard and even though we were doing weight training my heart rate was so high that I regularly felt out of breath and not able to keep up with any sort of lengthy conversation. This is when I realized that exercise is a form of language and that the way we perform it reveals a lot about our personality and our point of view. I also realized that Lisa was a keen observer of her clients as any good trainer should be and fluent in the language of exercise. I benefited tremendously from this relationship both on a technical level in perfecting my routine and an emotional one in connecting with my own body and challenging myself through my own self-discovery.

Post by Thomai Serdari 

Diets and Emotions

A Frenchman who lives in New York City with his family, Olivier joined our board to offer his legal expertise. In the meantime, he has expanded to other areas, including searching the French headlines for interesting pieces on exercise and fitness. A couple of weeks ago he sent me an article published in the French daily Le Monde on Dr. Pierre Dukan’s diet. A primarily protein-based diet, the Dukan nutrition plan differs significantly from Dr. Atkins’s, which includes too much fat. On the contrary, Dr. Dukan’s method seems to develop around the concept of four phases, the combination of which is a structured but simple long-term, real-food regime that ensures one’s metabolism works flawlessly.

I am not interested in diets. I am not trained to understand whether they are good or bad for one’s health. But the Dukan diet’s popularity in France piqued my curiosity and I decided to read about it. I discovered one fascinating fact. Dr. Dukan dismisses calorie counting, mainly because it sets “quotas, doses, and portions but it forgets that the people having to follow it are flesh and blood, made up of emotions and instincts.” (Louise Atkinson, “The Ultimate Diet: The French have kept it a secret for years. Now the protein rich Dukan Diet is coming to Britain,” The Mail Online, April 19, 2010)

Emotions and instincts are our motivators for mostly everything we do in life. While dieting usually makes us feel “bad” when we cheat (and therefore stirs up feelings of worthlessness) exercise makes us feel “good” (and worthy) because we are able to achieve something, to reach a goal. In fact, thinking back at my numerous short trips to the gym when my schedule gets way too heavy for me to handle long workouts, I remember stepping down from the treadmill and feeling sad because I have to go. This comes as a surprise every time considering that I, like everyone else, develop my enthusiasm for exercise while I am at it and not beforehand—but I do have my rare moments of pure athleticism when I simply cannot wait to leave the office and go to the gym. Other times, I recognize the feeling of slight annoyance when I must set my dumbbells down and leave the floor just when I could try a new routine. When I exercise the only quota I set are those of time. Time is the only constraint that is measurable. I never measure how many calories I burn to compensate for my eating. But I always measure how many loops I can climb in 30 minutes at a certain incline, and how many new exercises I can learn when I weight train. This is what I retain from Dr. Dukan’s regime: don’t count calories, allow yourself to feel the need to eat and experience your emotions. If you have not allowed yourself the pleasure of a challenge during physical exercise you are depriving yourself of a broad range of emotions, all positive, all inspiring, and all propelling you forward to an ever fearless version of yourself. As for Olivier, he is a fearless cyclist.

Post by Thomai Serdari. (We welcome guest posts. Email us at:

Welcome to Work Out – Work Up Inc.








Work Out – Work Up Inc. is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to building confidence in teens by subsidizing their gym memberships.


Our goal is to help teens who cannot afford a gym membership receive a gym subsidy.

We aim at using regular exercise to teach young people about setting goals, focusing, and succeeding in life.

We aim at seeing them healthy, improving their grades in school, graduating from high school, and getting into college.



Our vision is to turn young people’s lives around through regular physical exercise.