Cross-Training the Body


For Caroline Kohles, cardiovascular fitness is a vital part of both her career and her personal life. Kohles, 48, has been the Health and Wellness fitness director at the JCC in Manhattan since it opened in 2002. Both an athlete (she has participated in triathlons) and a dancer, she is known for her combined emphasis on mind and body in every workout, a trademark that specifically comes to life in her work as a Nia martial arts trainer and black belt teacher. In April, she says, the JCC will be hosting a free multi-sport triathlon symposium.

Q: What stands out for you when training fellow Jews at the JCC?

A: “Jewish people tend to want their workout to make sense – there is an intellectual component to working out. They don’t want to just do it for the sake of doing it – they want to do it because it makes sense to their livelihood and their spirit and their intellect, knowing that by taking care of their bodies they’ll be able to do other things in their life.”

Q: Does cardiovascular training at the gym translate well to outdoor settings?

A: “The trick with training is what are you training for? … If it’s heart health, then you want to have a component of cardiovascular fitness. The great thing about cardiovascular fitness via triathlon training is that you cross-train the body…Triathlon training appeals to such a wide variety of body types that we find people who are all ages, shapes, sizes and genders doing triathlon training.”

Q: How do you help JCCers to prepare for the New York City Marathon?

A: “For the Marathon we ran a program where we showed a film, and we had a running coach, a chiropractor that specialized in sports and running injuries, a nutritionist that specialized in running and triathlons and a massage therapist that specialized in training. … When we’re talking about heart rate and cardiovascular training specifically, there’s an opportunity for education to happen. There’s an opportunity for people to understand, ‘Wow, my heart rate is different everyday — and why wouldn’t I pay attention to that and adjust my workout accordingly?’”

Q: For cardiovascular workouts, is it important to alternate your daily routines?

A: “Absolutely. If you think about ‘cow paths,’ the reason there are deep grooves where grass doesn’t grow is because the cows always go in one path. The same thing will happen to your joints and your tissue — you’ll wear it in a particular way if you do the same thing all the time. So when you mix it up then the grass can still grow.

Q: Do you see an influx of gym-goers around New Year’s?

A: “Always. Does it wane? Yes. The trick for us in the health industry is to capture that interest and attention and get the education in there so people then have not just the inspiration for the start of a new year, but they continue it through.

Q: How are membership numbers as we enter 2010, in a poor economy?

A: “We’ve seen the most renewals we’ve ever had. …I think that what happened was that with the economy some people tried to economize, but they realized they needed the support of a gym."