Preventive medicine during a pandemic

Ade Bakari on the dock of the Bay

by JR Valrey, Black New World Journalists Society

Preventive medicine is the best medicine, especially in a capitalist country where the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed long encrusted health disparities that have been in place for centuries. Presently, people have had their ability to move around freely curtailed under the guise of the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine’s shelter-in-place policy. 

People who were used to using their bracelets to count how many steps they take during their work day had to count the steps between the refrigerator and the couch during shelter-in-place. The quarantine has allowed some of us to get lazy and out of shape if we are not disciplined and creative about how we get exercise within the new restrictions, which includes gyms being deemed as non-essential and closed. 

I sat down with East Oakland-based fitness trainer Ade Bakari, the owner of Mind Body Fitness, to get a few tips to keep our health on point in this period where many are not as active as we once were. Check out some of the anatomical science that he drops.

Ade Bakari

M.O.I. JR: Can you tell people why having a fitness routine during the COVID-19 quarantine is important due to the fact that they are not as active? What happens to your body when you are inactive? 

Ade Bakari: Sure, let me start off first by saying thank you for having me. I appreciate you reaching out to me to take on this opportunity to help people at this moment. 

I believe that having a fitness routine is vital, especially during this COVID-19 shelter in place. A lot of people are not used to just staying indoors and only coming outside for essential reasons, so right there that cuts the activity level and daily routines of a person down by a lot. That activity could be anything, going out for that morning cup of coffee or tea, people want to hit the gym or fitness center (rock climbing, yoga etc.), clubs, lounges etc. 

So since people’s outdoor options are very limited on a social level, one routine that can stay in place is physical exercise. Daily physical exercise can help release dopamine in the brain – a feel-good chemical released when we do something of enjoyment. 

Especially with gyms being closed, society is realizing the benefits of calisthenics. It’s free and can be done anywhere. Staying active can help keep the body functioning at an optimal level with a healthy eating lifestyle, of course. 

Notice I didn’t say diet; I don’t like the term diet. Diet is temporary; we want long term gains! People being stuck in the house often get bored and the reaction to that is they start looking in the kitchen. 

Eating when they aren’t even hungry leads to an unwanted type of weight increase which leads to answering the next question. When a person isn’t active, that surplus of food they’re consuming will indeed turn into fat. 

It doesn’t matter how clean a person eats. If you consume more calories – which is energy – than you burn in a day, over time you will put on weight. You burn those calories through physical activity, something getting the heart rate up over a period of time, 30 minutes at minimum. 

If that person is inactive, that will lead to fat gain around the organs and under the skin which triggers other problems. Some of those can be depression due to not working, so a person doesn’t want to be active. It’s easy to put on fat, harder to lose, so people must be mindful of their activities and eating lifestyle. Abs are made in the kitchen, not in the workout. 

M.O.I. JR: Can you talk about some simple calisthenics workout routines for men and women?

Ade Bakari of Mind Body Fitness works out

Ade Bakari: I know they were separate questions but I joined together because both can be by men and women. You’d be surprised at some of the men I’ve seen in the gym deadlifting and bench pressing all that iron but can’t do 10 strict pull-ups – full range of motion, no half reps here. But a woman who doesn’t lift weights comes in and does 12-15 pull-ups. I’ve seen it done.

Also, men and women should aim for equal strength in all areas because we know and have seen in the fitness world men being strong at the upper body and women being stronger in the lower body. So for men and women, it would be push-ups, pull-ups, dips, bodyweight rows and Superman – the lower back is often forgotten – for upper body. 

For the lower body, squats, lunges, glute bridges – yes, for men also – and calf raises. To keep it simple: for abs and core, planks, crunches and heel taps. That would be a basic regimen. Going back to the upper-body – man or woman because I’ve seen men who can’t do pushups – there are progressions to reach that. 

M.O.I. JR: Can you give us one for seniors? 

Ade Bakari: For seniors, depending on the level of physical activity, a lot of those workouts would be the same and that’s the beauty of calisthenics. It’s not damaging or stressful on the joints or the whole body when sticking to basics. I’ve seen people in their 60s and 70s doing advanced calisthenics. 

I remember I met an OG by Lake Merritt and he was 73. He would do 500 pushups daily, bike ride and do 300 pullups and was well fit, lean cut and chiseled, making these young gym heads look like newbies.

M.O.I. JR: What made you gravitate to calisthenics more than weights? What are some of the benefits? 

Ade Bakari: Well, when I was lifting weights and every time the month of Ramadan came around, I didn’t always have time to go to a gym to work out. That was because I had to work out an hour after breaking my fast. 

So what ended up happening was that I would stop hitting the weights for a month. After not lifting additional weight for that long a few negative things happen. Loss of size and strength, meaning I had to always start at a lower weight, build that muscle memory back up, which was irritating. 

One day I came across a calisthenics athlete, named Hannibal for King. When I saw what him and some other cats were doing and how their physiques were built just through using only body weight, I was sold. I didn’t need to even do research on it right away. 

That was the initial reason, but to dig even deeper into the matter, it’s free and you don’t need a gym. You can literally do it anywhere, especially if you have an imagination. 

I also love the fact that any exercise you do with weights, you can do with your bodyweight – even the deadlift. With proper progressive overload, the muscles can reach a stimulus. 

Take the bench press, for example, vs. pushups. There are more pushup versions than bench press for sure. 

Now, every calisthenics exercise you can do can’t be substituted for lifting weights. Muscle ups, just to name one. It’s easy for a person to just slap two and a half pounds to the barbell every week. A person can just jump into it. 

What’s not easy is doing a handstand pushup or a muscle up. That takes a gradual progression, and some weight lifters don’t like that. 

We live in a society where people want things quick, and gains from calisthenics don’t come quick; but when they do, it sticks. Some benefits are it’s injury-free. 

The exercise I recommend is the plate push exercise. You push your plate away once you’ve eaten enough.

I’ve never injured myself doing calisthenics because it’s your own bodyweight. It’s free and you can do it anywhere. So when the gyms shut down I was koo – no gym, no problem. I’ll go harder since I’m in my natural environment, the concrete jungle!

M.O.I. JR: How often do you work out? How intense are your workouts? 

Ade Bakari: Outside of Ramadan, I work out six or seven days a week, a different muscle group or a different type of calisthenics every day. After so much trial and error and finally finding out what works for me, my workouts are very intense. Training on gymnastic rings is no joke!

M.O.I. JR: Can you talk about some of the different muscle groups in the body that you like to work out?

Ade Bakari: For leg workouts, I really enjoy the pistol squat aka single leg workouts when I don’t feel like doing a high number of regular squats. These work the quadriceps. 

Training on rings doing full dips to really hit the chest and triceps has been essential. Of course, for back, I love doing close grip chin ups, which work the biceps primarily and the latissimus dorsi (back muscle). 

M.O.I. JR: How could people get rid of common belly fat? What exercises would you recommend?

Ade Bakari: The exercise I recommend is the plate push exercise. You push your plate away once you’ve eaten enough. It all comes down to calories in vs. calories out. 

Workouts play a role, but if one’s nutrition isn’t in check, the workouts don’t mean anything. People get lost trying to find a quick fix. You can’t outwork a bad eating lifestyle. You want to get lean, you got to eat clean.

M.O.I. JR: How often do you run? What kind of impact does running have on your body?

Ade Bakari: To be honest, I don’t run. I sprained my knee a few years ago so after running 1.5 miles, it starts to hurt. So my go-to for cardio is weighted jump rope or a speed rope. 

I jump rope almost every other day or I’ll walk the lake. Running can have a negative impact on the joints if always running on concrete due to the force on the joints. 

A positive impact is that it works the cardiovascular system, the heart! Pumping blood through the body and higher heart rate can lead to burning calories, aka energy. 

M.O.I. JR: Can you talk a little bit about your fitness company? What is it called? And what is it that you specialize in?

Ade Bakari: The name of it is Mind Body Fitness. I specialize in calisthenics aka bodyweight workouts. The aim is to teach people to master their bodyweight first. I see so many people who can lift weights but can’t lift their own bodyweight. 

I heard a guy say he loves bench press but hates push ups. That doesn’t even make sense. If a person can’t push or pull their own bodyweight, why would they lift external weight? Don’t skip the fundamentals, I say. 

M.O.I. JR: How can people keep up with you online?

Ade Bakari: They can check out my Instagram, mindbodyfitn3ss.

The People’s Minister of Information JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of the Black New World Journalists Society, can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com or on Facebook. Visit www.youtube.com/blockreporttv. All stories written about COVID-19 were partially made possible by the Akonadi Fund #SoLoveCanWin.