Episode 46: Building Energy Through Movement

As we kick off the New Year, do you find yourself wondering how to manage your energy or how to add fitness to your daily routine? DHG alumna Chelsea Witiak and her fitness guru husband, Nick Kenon, share their tips for staying active and building energy through movement.

Episode 46 Transcript:

AGH: Hello everyone and welcome back to another episode of our DHG Podcast Series. I’m Alice Grey Harrison, your host, and I love this venue, because we get to hear about the things that matter the most to us, flexibility, careers, and of course, our people. It’s a new year and I don’t know about you, but with a new year comes resolutions- to lose weight, to be more mindful, to begin exercising, to stand more, to run a marathon, to read more books. The list goes on and on and on and on. I believe I had learning to sew and learning to play tennis on my list for about 10 years, and I finally have removed those two things, because I’m not going to learn either one of those.

At DHG, we believe in Energy for Life, which does encompass exercising, movement, mindfulness, nutrition. Most everyone has gone through our Energy for Life program and we understand that while we can never have more hours in a day, we can manage our energy so we have optimal energy for the things that matter the most to us, like our new year’s resolutions, or in my case, my three-year-old who takes a lot of energy.

Exercise is a major component in building energy, and so today I have with me Chelsea Witiak and Nick Kenon. Chelsea is a DHG alumna, and as a bonus, she has a husband who is in the fitness industry, and he’s with us, Nick Kenon, he’s the owner of Queen City Movement & Bodywork. Welcome!

CW: Hi!

NK: Thanks so much for having us.

AGH: Super excited to have you all and a resident expert. I just picked his brain on a little injury that I have, but help me here. Nick, Chelsea tells me that a lot of the strength training that you recommend is built around body resistance. Can you tell me a little more about what you do? Portrait of Nick Kenon

NK: Yeah, absolutely. Just to give a little background of kind of where I’m coming from, I started in the fitness industry about 10 years ago. When I started out, I did basically the typical trainer thing, just going to the weight room, it started with a lot of weights and getting really excited about building muscle and that whole thing. As I went on though and I started with more clients, one of the things I noticed almost right away was that people needed, number one, more mobility work and they barely had any body awareness at all or any type of control over what they were doing. That’s kind of where I started with the body weight stuff for me and the way I look at it is body weight training is a really, really great way to build a solid foundation for what you’re going to be doing with your fitness.

Just to give a quick example, it’s like if you don’t have the basic stability to be doing a regular pushup with midline stabilization or even like a basic plank position, then what do you think is going to happen when you try to go to a gym and get excited and get a barbell and then you can’t control those basic spine functions and then you open the possibility for injury.

AGH: Or in every day, like when you’ve got to get your luggage off of the luggage wheel, you don’t have that inner core strength to move in the way that you’re supposed to when you end up with an injury.

NK: Exactly. Yeah. A lot of my philosophy is built around what I do with myself and also with my clients it’s based around basic gymnastic strength. I feel like the gymnastic strength especially at the foundational level gives people an immense understanding of how to use the small muscle groups in their body and how to control their core and their spine strength in different positions.

That being said, I try not to pigeon myself as like the body weight guy. It’s just one tool in your tool belt and you have weights and running and other things that you can enter in to that as well. Like I said before, I just think the body weight stuff is a really, really great starting point and a safe way to kind of get to know your body awareness.

AGH: Wow! That’s really cool. I’ve never really thought about it that way. Let’s start with some — Like people who travel or someone who perhaps that has a schedule that doesn’t enable them to go to the gym, but they might have an hour at 5 in the morning in their home. What are some things that people can do to ensure that they get a good workout even when they’re short on time or not able to go to a gym?

NK: That’s an excellent question. It kind of gets into a little of philosophy surrounding kind of the differences and similarities between fitness and the broader scope of just movement in general. I think it’s important to distinguish between the two, because fitness is certainly important and it’s such a broad term. Fitness could mean a bunch of different things to a bunch of different people. Fitness to you could be running, for example, or to somebody else could be lifting weights or doing yoga. There’s a million different things that fall under this kind of category of fitness and being “fit”.

I think it’s important to take a step back and look at it kind of on the broader scale of all fitting under this umbrella of movement. That’s kind of the direction that I take with my business with my clients, is we focus on the movement first, and whatever the fitness means to them, the movement stuff enables them to be able to do that better.

If we’re talking about someone who is traveling or someone who is short on time, I would certainly suggest that you focus on the movement first. I know for myself when I travel, a long day of travel, I get into the hotel, I want to just lay down in the bed, like turn on some tv.

AGH: Yeah, eat some potato chips.

NK: Or Domino’s, right? One thing I try to do when I get into a hotel or wherever I’m staying is not get settled on the bed. I just put my stuff down, maybe take a shower, change my clothes and then I’ll head straight down to whatever it is, a fitness facility or whatever they have close by or I’ll head just outside somewhere where there’s a park or somewhere to kind of just ground myself.

One thing I found that is really important in fitness is environment and you just want to put yourself in an environment where you want to move. I think that’s one of the biggest struggles both in daily life and when you’re traveling. Like I was just saying, just when you get in to where you’re going, you just clean up real quick and just head out and just make yourself move right off the bat. Especially after traveling, you’re going to be tight. Just grab a bottle of water and head down to where you can and just start to move around.

If you’re short on time, one of the best tools available to you is just a stopwatch on your iPhone. Just set a clock for your workout, because if you don’t have somebody there pushing you, somebody motivating, you’re going to slack off. You’re going to grab a yoga mat and just lay on your back for 15 minutes.

AGH: How did you know I do that?

NK: We’ve all done that. Yeah, me too. Believe me. Just set a clock and I mean simplicity is key. I’m all about the simpler the better for people and there are a million and one workouts you can do that are just super simple and effective. Something as simple as just you want to do 300 air squats and you set a timer and see how fast you can do them. It’s probably only going to take you 5 to 10 minutes, but you’re going to be exhausted from that. That’s just something great you can do to just get the blood flowing. Just try to be creative and set a clock when you go down there, set your intentions, say, “I’ve got this amount of time,” and just set it aside and just do it, because then when you go back upstairs and you turn on the TV and you order Domino’s you don’t have to feel so bad about it.

AGH: Yeah. As a reminder, at Energy for Life we learned about the 7-Minute App by Johnson & Johnson — I think it’s called the 7-Minute Workout.

CW: Yes, 7-Minute Workout.

AGH: Yeah. For 7 minutes, you get in — It’s not like a power workout, but you get 7 minutes in which you could challenge yourself to do three 7 minutes. If you’ve got 21 minutes.

CW: I did air squats this morning before my shower. I had a dinner last night, I have a dinner tonight. I missed my workouts. So this morning I woke up and I was like, “Chels, you’ve got to do 100 air squats before you get in your shower. You’ve got to do something.” So I did it and I felt a lot better.

AGH: I never thought about the time or aspect of it, but I think that’s a really good tip.

NK: On that note just real quick before we move on. Just to add to that a little bit, going back to what we’re talking about, fitness versus movement. It’s like that’s one way to go down and get a quick “workout”, right? Say you’re not feeling great and you don’t necessarily feel like moving yet you’re stiff and tired and whatnot. It’s not to say that it’s bad to just lay down on the mat and just stretch for a little bit. It’s important to distinguish to make, like it’s okay to just go down and move around and it’s actually even better if you can do that and then you can get your quick workout, right? It’s important to kind of keep both things in mind.

AGH: Yeah. One of the apps that I use, it has this yoga workout and it’s called Guilty Pleasures, and it’s literally like those yoga poses that just feel so good.

CW: Yeah, it’s like deep stretch.

AGH: Yeah. So you’re just deep stretching, but still you’re doing something to help your muscles and to detoxify kind of what’s going on in your body.

What are some things that people can actually do in their office? You and I talked just a second about that, but what is the best thing you can do?

NK: All right. I love this question, because it’s kind of oversimplifying a really complicated issue, which is that we live in a society where people don’t move nearly as much as they need to, don’t exercise as much as they need to, all this stuff.

Again, going back to the simplicity, I think one of the most effective things that you can do in general with fitness is to try to restore your body back to these basic human positions that we’re supposed to be in. For example, the body weight squat. I don’t know for those of you listening, the last time you tried to just go down into a squat as deep as you can and just hold it there with your heels down. It’s a pretty difficult thing especially for most people if you’re — especially if you aren’t even working out. The squatting position is a natural human position. You watch any child and they’re able to just squat.

AGH: They can do it for hours.

CW: They hang out in that position if you watch them play. Yeah.

NK: Similarly, we look at cultures that never evolved into modern age, and they like were still squatting to do pretty much basically any activity. This is a position that we’re built for. We’re supposed to be down in a squat not necessarily under load, just in a resting position. I think my number one thing that I work with my clients on is to restore their squat and try to get back into this position that we’re supposed to be in. 30 minutes a day of squat accumulatively I suggest.

There’s actually — If people visit my website,, there’s a section on the website called a 30-Day Challenge, and I outline the squatting in that. I’d recommend 30 minutes a day or just getting down in a squat, and you can break that up throughout the day as much as you want, do 30 seconds here, a couple of minutes here. It’s always how I start my day. I start my day with like 10 minutes sitting in a squat, and it’s really amazing the benefits that you feel just mobility-wise and just the way you’ll feel. Everything is just more opened up and it just feels great. At first when you do it, it’s going to feel horrible. But kind of getting through that discomfort and restore it.

AGH: Like anything else, saves that curve of getting there.

NK: Work through the soft tissue. That’s one. One is the squatting and then the second one I would say the most important is hanging. As humans, we evolve from primates, and primates live in trees. We’re actually anatomically designed to be hanging and swinging with our —

AGH: We’re going to have jungle bars in our offices.

NK: Just stock up on the bananas because they’ll be hanging all over the place. This one is a little bit trickier, because you actually have to find a place to hang, which can be kind of challenging, especially if you’re at work or whatnot and you don’t want to be the one guy hanging.

AGH: Yeah, that might be an after work thing.

CW: Yeah.

NK: It’s important. Even if you go to the gym after work or you go home, go out in the backyard and literally just hang from a tree branch, hang from your door frames, grab gymnastics rings, throw some gymnastics rings up in the tree, hang from those, hang from a pull-up bar. Similarly on the 30-day Challenge, I recommend 7 minutes a day of accumulative hanging just to open up people’s shoulders.

CW: It’s insane how rigid shoulders get just sitting at a desk. It’s insane.

NK: It’s amazing to me. Even among fit populations, I work with a lot of cross-fitters who do a ton of overhead work, and these are insanely strong individuals and athletes. Even among this population, a lot of them can’t put their arms over their head in a straight position with 180 degrees of shoulder flection, and a lot of that comes from just — we don’t use that range, so we’re going to lose it. 30 minutes a day of squatting, 7 minutes of hanging.

AGH: Very cool. Those are two things that I have never heard, so that is really fascinating. Chelsea, she’s a total fashionista. If you don’t know Chelsea and you come to Charlotte, you will see — when you see the person who looks like they walked off the runway, that would be Chelsea. But she always has on whatever the lightest big heels are on her feet, but I’ve noticed that you keep flats sometimes at your desk or you bring tennis shoes. What are some of the things that you do throughout the day? Obviously, you’re not hanging from bars here in the c-suite in Charlotte.

CW: Not in the c-suite. I don’t hang —

AGH: Tell me what you’re doing.

CW: At work, I love heels and I wish heels were good for your legs, but they’re not. They’re just not. They look beautiful, but that’s about it. You are right, I have been bringing some flats and changing. I try to take a walk every day at lunch even if I’m not going to get lunch, I will walk to the mall to feed my addictions, but I’ll take a walk. I get some air. I stretch. Then in the evenings I go to the gym and I train with Nick.

My tool belt has a little bit more strength training in it, but all of his gymnastics movements that he’s been incorporating have helped me immensely. I highly recommend it.

AGH: You do the stairs.

CW: Yes! I also do the stairs. Yes. I have a colleague here and he and I have been working up to four or five flights of stairs two times. So it’s actually really exciting. We’re going to try to build up to doing it maybe 20 times in a row. That’s our big, big goal.

AGH: That’s awesome. Like I mentioned before, you sit here in the c-suite, so give us the inside scoop of what do you see our leaders doing throughout the day. They have so much energy. I often have to be like, “Oh my gosh! How in the world do they have this much energy?” Tell me what they do.

CW: They practice what they preach. It is no joke. My boss, Effin (Chief People Officer), she just completed her first triathlon this year. It was amazing. Actually, Nick and I went and saw her cross the finish line, and it was outstanding, because she went kind of from no working out.

AGH: She went no workout before Energy for Life, to doing Energy for Life in a year later.

CW: It’s insane. Matt Snow, our CEO, he is awesome. If we order take out, if Corissa and I are getting take out for our executive committee, no desserts, lots of salad and fruits. They are specific on eating healthy and eating often. Matt is always healthy snacking, Effin is always making a protein shake. Fitness, they really do practice Energy for Life. It’s awesome.

AGH: Food. You’re talking about food. Nick, food plays such a major role in our body and how we feel in our energy. What foods do you recommend eating before and after a workout? As a second part of this question, every fitness coach I’ve ever met has like their super fav that they think is like the best. What do we eat before and after a workout and what’s the super food?

NK: All right. Just a disclaimer. I’m not a dietitian, a nutritionist. I recommend this stuff obviously.

AGH: No, but you have to have some tools that you use.

NK: Right. Anything I recommend is just based on my personal experiences.

AGH: We’ll happily put a disclaimer on that. Don’t worry.

NK: On that note. Going back to what I was saying before about just simplicity. I like to just keep it as simple as possible for people, and the number thing that I’ve noticed that made a difference, the biggest difference with my clients and myself is just cutting out the sugar. Really, just taking out the sugar.

CW: It’s so hard. It’s in everything.

NK: It’s a hard thing and you don’t want to do it, because we’re all addicted to it. But once you make that change, the difference that you feel, it is just amazing.

Chelsea and I have been following for quite some time a paleo style template, and there’s a great resource online, if people want to look it up. It’s called A Whole 30.

AGH: Yes, I’ve done the Whole 30. Yeah, painful.

NK: Yeah, it just basically takes you from your current diet to like eliminating most things that are bad for you. You just kind of — I use that as just like a constant guideline, and we’re pretty good about it.

CW: There are cheat nights.

NK: On that note, it’s important to let yourself have the bad stuff too. You try to follow 80-20, 80% being good and then 20%, splurge on that stuff that you really want, because it’s really —

CW: That’s worth the calories.

AGH: I know. I agree.

NK: It’s important to let yourself, psychologically, just take a break for like a night, but try not to get into that kind of “cheat meal” mentality, because that’s how you really slip backwards. The way I think about it is I stay on my diet 6, of 7 days a week. I have the one meal where I’m like, “All right. I’m going to let it go on this meal,” or the one food or the one occasion. You try to just kind of limit yourself, 80-20, and just keep it simple.

AGH: Do you have a super food?

NK: I think if I were to recommend one thing for people to incorporate into their diets more, I think it’d be coconut oil. I think it’s really great. You can use it for so many different things. It tastes great and there are so many health benefits with the healthy fats. I’ve almost completely replaced cooking oil in my house with just coconut oil.

CW: Even with eggs. You would never think, but it is absolutely divine.

NK: Really great for my fried eggs, like fried eggs and then you put on potato. Really, so many uses for it, and I’ve even replaced olive oil with coconut oil in most instances and I find it to be a great substitute.

AGH: And it’s good for your hair.

CW: Yes, and your skin.

AGH: Yes. Okay, doing the one thing, we’ve got a theme here. What’s one thing that you think everyone should begin doing today to take a step towards greater energy in fitness?

NK: Oh, wow! It’s a tough question. I don’t know if can narrow it down to one, but I’m going to try to keep to two. I think number one, and this might sound a little bit cliche, but seriously the most important thing that I’ve found in my experience with people is find what you’re passionate about in regards to fitness. Find what’s fun, because if you’re not having fun doing it and you don’t care about it, then there’s not going to be any reason for you to do it. Find what you enjoy doing. Is it mountain biking? Is it yoga? Is it dance? Is it running? Is it lifting weights? Find what you do that is the center point of what your fitness is going to be, the thing that you’re going to be able to anchor the rest of your health to and just find that thing and do that. Once you’re doing that, then expand from it. Find out, really take a closer look at what you’re missing. Say, for example, if you’re a runner and that’s what you love to do and you’re doing that, then what’s missing from that running? Do you need a little bit more pulling? Do you need a little bit more stretching? What do you need? That kind of brings me in to my next point, which is get a coach.

Obviously, I’m biased in this situation, because I’m a coach. Even us fitness professionals, like if you look at the ones that are serious, we all have coaches too. It’s really, really important. Just to have that outside perspective, someone who’s just going to call you out and say, “You know what? You’re doing great, but you’re lacking in these areas here,” and someone who’s just going to be able to help you get to that next level. Because if you try to do it all yourself, you’re just doing yourself a disservice, because you’re always going to ignore your weaknesses and focus on what you’re strong at.

AGH: Yes, of course.

CW: No one wants to do that.

NK: Number one, find a passion. Number two, get a coach.

AGH: That’s awesome. You guys, this was so fun. Let’s just keep doing this all day.

CW: I know. We can talk all day long about this.

AGH: Thank you all for being here. We appreciate it.

CW: Thank you so much for having us.

NK: Yeah, thanks so much for having us.

AGH: Yeah, and thank you for listening to Life at DHG, our premier podcast series. If you like what you just heard, we hope you’ll tell your friends and colleagues. Be sure to check out our DHG blog for more great stories about our Life Beyond Numbers.

Join us next time for another edition of life at DHG.

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