Cabin Fever? Decorated Personal Trainer Paul Kostas Weighs in On How to Get Your Sweat On During a Pandemic

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Paul Kostas; Photograph by Catalina Kulczar; @catalinaphotog.

As retail shops, restaurants, and gyms shutter to prevent the spread of COVID-19, countless fitness fanatics have bemoaned the idea of missed workouts. Thankfully, there are many effective fitness routines to engage in from the comfort of your own home. To get a better picture of how to keep active, we sat down (virtually) with Paul Kostas, the Director of Personal Training at Brooklyn Athletic Club (BAC), for some insight into how he is keeping his clients, the BAC community, and fitness lovers healthy.

A highly decorated personal trainer, Kostas’s certifications and continuing education include: USA Olympic Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach; Certified Clinical Weightlifting Coach; Bio-Signature Modulation; Catalyst Athletics Level 1 Weightlifting Coach; and Functional Movement Specialist—just to name a few. And while the Williamsburg, Brooklyn-located BAC serves the purpose of every other gym—it is quite unique in its make-up—infrared saunas included. A fitness gem amidst the ubiquitous chains lining every other street corner, the BAC not only has an inspiring community of people determined to lift each other up, but every fitness instructor at the gym boasts a wish list of certifications, awards, and more. For now, enjoy Kostas’s tips and tricks, but don’t forget to place BAC on your list of gyms to hit—let’s hope that time is soon!

Paul Kostas; Photograph by Catalina Kulczar; @catalinaphotog.

Downtown: Now that every gym in New York—and various other states—are mandated to close for the time being, what steps are you taking to continue to advise your clients on exercise routines?

Paul Kostas, Director of Personal Training at Brooklyn Athletic Club: As soon as we decided it was for the safety of the community to close our doors, we immediately went to work creating workout programs to be done at home. We are using social media and email lists to alert our members that we are posting workouts on the Train Heroic app.

Downtown: We love the idea behind TrainHeroic! When and how did that originate?

PK: We’ve been using Train Heroic for our Semi-Private Training sessions for about 4 years now. It’s fantastic—we can create training programs that can be accessed remotely. The app also allows us to include detailed instructions and link demo videos. The feature I most appreciate right now is the message board where everyone can comment on the workout.

Downtown: How many workouts do you plan on posting a week? Can you share an example of one legs or arms workout?

PK: Right now I’m posting a workout everyday except for Sunday—everyone should rest once a week. As demand increases, I am thinking of posting two different workouts a day—a cardio-based one and a strength-based one.

#6: Legs- perform all exercises for set numbers or reps back to back. Rest 2–3 minutes between sets. Repeat for 3–5 rounds.

  • Forward Lunge + Squat Jump x 20 total reps
  • SL RDL + Reverse Lunge x 10 reps per side
  • Squat Jacks x 20 reps
  • Hip Thrust or Bridge x 20 reps

#7: Arms and Back 10–1 For Time

  • Triceps Push-ups
  • Tote Bag Hammer Curl (use a towel)
  • Bent Over Rear Delt Fly (use a wine bottle)

Downtown: What has the response been like? Can anyone join in? If so, how?

PK: I’m blown away by the response. Over 225 people have joined in the last 48 hours. There has been constant interaction with all the members and everyone really appreciates it.

It’s free and open to everyone. Download the Train Heroic app (ios/android)—team name is Stronger Together and the access code is bactogether.

Downtown: What have you learned about the importance of a workout community? How can you continue to share with a community while apart during these times?

Photograph: Jon Johnnidis.

PK: Our community at BAC has always been so special and amazing. It was heartbreaking to close our doors and the ability to still stay in constant contact with everyone through the workouts and social media is getting me through the day.

We’re encouraging people to record and post their workouts to IG and tag @brooklynathelticclub & @paulkostas so we can repost as well so everyone still feels like we’re all doing this together.

Members are commenting on the workouts in the app, and on IG, and we’re using that to try to facilitate interactions and continue to cultivate community.

Downtown: Can you share with our readers what is so particularly special about BAC and its trainers + members?

PK: I really think it starts with our coaching staff—everyone is incredibly knowledgeable and personable and that helps to attract and retain an amazing client base. Everyone truly gets along and respects each other. We take fitness very seriously but we have a ton of fun doing it together.

We’ve been hosting competitions and parties throughout the years and Tasha Hunter, (coach and digital communications director) has started hosting Ladies Night workouts, so we now have the strongest and most badass group of women in NYC.

Downtown: What is your advice for those who have never been into home workouts—what tips would you offer to self-motivate?

PK: Now more than ever we have to keep a routine of self care and health a top priority. I personally am not a fan of home workouts, but having 30 minutes a day to move, and knowing over 200 others are doing it with me, is going to keep me sane. We’re taking what we have right now and making the best of it while trying to stay positive—keeping a workout routine is a huge part of that. I do think this is as much or more of a practice in mental and emotional health then physical health right now.

Downtown: Why should we not underestimate a low-impact workout?

PK: We’re managing reps schemes, tempo, and rest intervals in order to keep the low-impact workouts challenging.

Downtown: What kind of low-impact workouts are great for legs?

PK: Avoid jumping if you need to keep it low impact. Focus on slowing down the movements and maintaining tension in the target muscles. Squats, lunges, step-ups, and of course, stretching.

Downtown: How often would you advise someone who took frequent workout classes to participate in a high-impact workout?

PK: This varies to the individual but start with 3/week and build from there.

Downtown: How possible is this with minimal equipment?

PK: Get creative! We have tote bags full of canned goods in the training program as a “weight”, wine bottles, jugs of water, a backpack full of books, etc.

By using higher rep schemes, slower tempo, and short rest periods we’re able to make the workouts effective.

Downtown: My only exercise equipment right now happens to be a resistance band. What can I do to exercise my core, legs, and arms?

PK: Join our team Stronger Together on Train Heroic and let us take it from there!

Downtown: For those of us with studio apartments, how can we get our cardio in with minimal space?

PK: All the workouts are designed with exactly that in mind.

Downtown: What have your favorite workouts been?

PK: I have seven workouts published and I really like how they work together in a unit—each targeting different muscle groups on different days and the variety between them.

Honestly, my favorite part about writing these workouts is the challenge of being creative and not making things complicated.

Downtown: What will be your first workout when you are able to head back to the gym?

PK: Put a barbell on my back and squat as heavy as I can!