Fitness superstar Leandro Carvalho visited Mountainside treatment center in December 2016 to lead clients and staff in several energizing workout sessions as part of Mountainside’s First Annual Holiday Fitness Festival.
Carvalho is an expert in his field, and he was generous in sharing his fitness know-how with the Mountainside community. Our commitment to wellness is evident in its programming, and fitness is a key element in helping clients transition into recovery.
Wellness Program Manager Sheree Surdam interviewed Carvalho to learn more about a wide variety of topics, including his motivation to help people heal through exercise.
What interested you in coming to Mountainside today to do this event for our clients?
What interested me about coming to Mountainside today and teaching a class for the Mountainside employees and clients here was one of the things I did my master’s degree in New York in: recreation therapy. Dance therapy was my area and that was something that I never really used much. I always worked in health clubs, in fitness places for people with health conditions or people trying to look better, things like that. So when I had the opportunity it kind of hit that button that was missing: a special place where you have this special, different clientele, and I think they all want to gather to celebrate fitness, to make people feel better and enjoy life better.
That’s beautiful. So you’re so used to working with people that want to look good or lose weight, but this is about people feeling good about themselves.
Yes. I think my real passion in life was helping people, whether it’s helping them lose weight or get in shape – but helping them get better in another section of their lives is even more rewarding for me because I feel like I am helping somehow a little more than just the regular gallery of fitness clubs.
Right, that’s leaning right into my next question for you. So how will your classes today with the staff and especially the clients be different from what you would normally do, like with people that have just wanted to lose weight or fit into their skinny jeans?
I think the opportunity that excites me to open the doors and come to work with the clients here is the opportunity to make a difference in their lives, to make a difference in the world. So I think that’s priceless. That’s really my passion is to help people improve their lives, and I think that when you do fitness, you’ll feel better. You’ll feel good, and when you feel good you can do anything with your life. You can change your life. You can reach any goals because what’s important is to feel good, and that’s what people have to think about when they do it.
I’ve seen some of your classes on DVD and they look pretty hard, so how are you going to change up the classes, if at all, today when you’re with the Mountainside clients?
Yes. I used to teach at Equinox, a fitness club in New York City. And it’s very high energy and people are very fit so I always thought about creating something that’s very high energy with hard exercises and complicated choreography. That doesn’t work when you open your space. You have to go easy in the beginning with a new group in front of you and do some of these moves and see how they follow them, how they’re keeping up, and then move to the next level. You have to feel the crowd that’s in front of you and see what you can do. So the class that I taught in the morning, I cannot expect that experience for the afternoon because it is going to be a different group. I have to feel the room every time and go with the flow. I cannot plan too much and stick to one plan.
So you do a lot of improvising as you go.
It has to be improvised. I have to see how they’re following up. I’ve got to test their coordination, their movements to see how fit they are because I don’t know anybody.
So, you have a lot of moves. What’s your favorite exercise move?
I love burpees. I created a whole series of new burpees on Carnival. Carnival is my last video that I did this year in February and it’s a total body workout. It’s complicated how it’s choreographed because it’s not like a regular burpee. You turn to the side. You put your leg out. You do a push-up. You get up. It’s not like a regular burpee where you jump back and forth and then you jump up. I did a lot of different ones so I love them. It’s a full-body exercise that works the legs, the butt, the upper body. So it is an exercise that hits in many different areas.
So it’s sort of an all-purpose exercise, right?
Okay so you know we have a lot of people that have come through here and gone on to have wonderful lives. They’re our alumni group. But they’re busy and we’re all busy too, so if we could do a 20-minute workout every day, what would that workout look like?
Alright. I’m going to give you two things that are good. One that I love hits a large group of muscles. So you get the chest by doing a pushup or a chest press, and then you hit the lower body. You can do a squat to target the butt, that’s a large muscle. And then you can do a deadlift, that targets the hamstrings, another large muscle. And then you get the upper body, the back, another large muscle. To do that you can do exercises where you bend over with weights. You can do a pulley. You can choose exercises that are good for that large muscle. You can also do abs, another large muscle. But one small muscle that I like to include in this workout is the shoulder. The shoulder press is really a complete exercise because you’re standing and you really have to hold on with your core so it’s great for your abs. If you do those large muscles and you just include that shoulder press, the results are very good because in a short time you get a better workout. Twenty minutes.
The second option is what we call compounds. Compounds are exercises where you work the lower body and upper body together. So, let’s say squats and shoulder presses. You squat and when you get up, do a shoulder press. Or we can do a deadlift and a top shelf. In a compound, you combine the upper body with the lower body. You can do a plie with biceps. In this way, you make your workout more efficient because you have to put in more energy in less time and you get a better workout. So work on the large muscles and work on compound exercises.
So what do you want people that are in recovery to know about fitness? What’s your message to them?
My message is that fitness is about feeling good. Anything that you want to reach in your life, any way you would like to make a step ahead, any improvement you want to make, you have to feel good first. Fitness has that ability. When you’re dancing or doing any kind of activity, it just brings that adrenaline up, it just feels good. You have to find the right exercise for you. It could be swimming, it could be hiking. There are so many opportunities. It could be playing sports like basketball or volleyball, running, biking, aerobics class, anything. But fitness in general has that ability to make you feel good, and when you feel good you can reach anything you want to get. You can change your life, you can change your goals, you can do anything you want. It’s really a powerful thing.