As Corporate Director of Exercise Physiology at Canyon Ranch, Mike Siemens has dedicated his life to exercise science, specializing in strength and aerobic conditioning, metabolic exercise testing data and custom exercise program design. After almost 30 years with Canyon Ranch, Mike says he still goes home every evening feeling excited and fulfilled by the work he does.
WHAT MAKES YOU A CANYON RANCH “WELLNESS ARCHITECT”?
I remember being 22 years old, training seriously for triathlons and feeling as fit and vibrant as a human can feel. I was visiting my 90-year-old grandmother who had just had a debilitating stroke in a nursing home and feeling a deep calling to help people do everything they can to avoid the problems of sedentary aging. At that moment, I dedicated my life to learning all I could about exercise science. Much like an architect plans how a building’s structure can be designed to endure the stresses and forces of gravity, I design exercise-testing experiences for Canyon Ranch guests to identify key aspects of physiology such as, body fat percentage, amount of lean muscle mass, cardiovascular fitness, strength and flexibility, that will determine how the human body ages. Architects also provide specific instructions on construction techniques and practices – this is mirrored in my one on one work with guests in which each exercise program is built and demonstrated uniquely for them.
HOW DO YOU FIND TIME TO EAT HEALTHY AND EXERCISE?
When I compare how great I feel when I eat healthy and exercise versus how crummy I feel when I am not doing these things – my dedication and energy to make the time comes easily. We all have the time in our day to eat right and exercise – it is simply a matter of prioritizing. Some tips I would share include:
Having a specific plan for most of your exercise workouts. Example: do not just plan to do “cardio” – specifically plan to do either intervals or a steady state or long steady cardio type workout. Second, plan to work out with a buddy at least twice a month – most of us find it easier to let ourselves down than someone else. Finally, when grocery shopping, do NOT bring low nutrient density food into your home. This sounds so simple – but if the stuff is not around to tempt you, it is much more difficult to eat it.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE A FOUNDATION OF WELLNESS?
Wellness provides us with the buffer of resilience. We need to train our bodies and minds and be ready for the “storms of life”. I see this phenomenon all too frequently – people have allowed themselves to age in a sedentary way with no real exercise plan.
Their aerobic capacity and muscle strength deteriorate to a level where they can still do daily tasks of living but they have very little to no reserve. When that time comes and they have either an injury, illness or surgery that requires bedrest – which causes a dramatic and significant loss in muscle strength – they lose that ability to walk or even rise from a chair without significant effort. Do not let this happen to you – build up your foundation of wellness so you can weather the storms of life.
HOW DO YOU HANDLE STRESS IN YOUR OWN LIFE?
For me exercising is a huge recharger. The single-minded focus and escape exercise provides from the flurry of thoughts and tasks is very restorative for me. When I am exercising, I find my mind escapes to the simple beauty of focusing on my breathing, my foot placement, my execution of the exercise AND NOTHING ELSE. We create stress in our lives by worrying about the future or regretting the past. While working out I find I automatically focus on the present moment and that in itself is a huge stress buster.