Jennifer in Austria:
Building Muscle and Burning Fat

Jennifer (Franklin) Oberth fitness and exercise advocate.

Jennifer (Franklin) Oberth is my daughter living in Austria. She is 44 years old and the mother of two children. The following is my interview with her. — Logan Franklin

December, 2008 —

Q. What was your first sport or type of training?

A. That’s easy. I started gymnastics when I was 5 years old. I competed until I was 17, when an injury took me out of it for good.

Q. What other sports or training have you done?

A. Our family belonged to a long distance running club, so I did that throughout my childhood. My brother played soccer, so I did that too, briefly. I played softball for my elementary school team. But gymnastics was my main focus and took up most of my free time.

I taught aerobics during the ‘80s aerobics craze, and gave classes to the football team at my college. I found Muay Thai kickboxing in my late 20s, which morphed into teaching group kickboxing classes at various gyms. And of course weight training was always a constant. I was introduced to it in the college weight room.

Q. Has living in Austria and being a mother changed the way you train?

A. I just read this question to my husband and he laughed and said, “YES, you work out more.”

But that’s an interesting question because I want to say no because exercise has become so habitual for me that it only changes in the sense of time management. Being a mother has taken away the free time I had to get my workouts in, so now I have to be more efficient. I mainly weight train now and do HIIT [High Intensity Interval Training – LF] indoors and outdoors. Since I have to get more bang for my buck, I have adopted this short but intense style to my training. I would compare it to Craig Balantyne’s Turbulence Training. I generally do full body workouts or sessions split into lower or upper body, consisting of compound exercises. Years ago, I did the classic splits, but I don’t enjoy it and I don’t have the time. I feel I am the better for it too, since I practice more functional exercises.

Q. What advice would you give parents about keeping their kids active, healthy, and of normal weight?

A. Turn off the TV and video games. Lead by example. I think it is great to participate in sports as a kid. And let’s not forget the food. Convenience foods and processed junk have got to go. I know it’s tough with both parents working and the busy lives we lead, but you can make small changes that will give your kids the habit of living healthy.

Q. What are your dietary habits? And do you take supplements?

A. I have tried most generic bodybuilding type eating programs over the years. Until recently, I stuck to a Body-For Life style of eating, 5-6 small meals a day, with the occasional free day.

I like to peruse the Internet for fitness information. Through Turbulence Training I discovered intermittent fasting. The program is called “Eat Stop Eat.” Without getting into too much science, the program incorporates 1-2 fasts a week. I found it a great way to lose body fat without the traditional “diet.” It may not be for everyone, but it is worth checking out. There are many health benefits to fasting and Brad Pilon, the author of Eat Stop Eat, explains the science supporting fasting, and the misconceptions and myths that are prevalent in the health and fitness world.

As far as supplements, I take fish oil and a multi-vitamin. I have never been big on supplements.

Q. Are gyms and health clubs in Austria like the ones in the U.S.?

A. Yes and no. The fitness clubs in Austria boast all the same equipment and classes, but there are some BIG differences. I rarely see women in the weight room. It appears they still think that elliptical machines are going to change their body composition. Of course, there are a few women that lift heavy, but at this time it is more of a sub-culture. And then there is the smoking. Smoking is permitted in the club! Naturally most smokers limit themselves to the lobby, tanning area and cafes. But it is not unusual to see a very muscular man sipping an espresso and smoking after his workout. Yuck.

Q. Do you train outdoors at all?

A. Yes, I love to train outdoors. I do wind sprints, hiking, plyometrics, and even weight training outside. In the winter, I snowshoe for my cardio.

Q. As a Californian, I must ask: Do you live anywhere near where our Governor grew up?

A. In fact I do. I live very close to Arnold’s birthplace. He is from a small suburb of Graz, called Thal. I live 20 minutes from Graz. They dedicated a sports center in his name, but changed the name when they thought that he should revoke the death penalty in California. But Austrians are very proud of him, regardless.

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