Mt. Kisco's Mike Cola Fitness Challenges The Mainstream

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Mike Cola Fitness in Mount Kisco is run by personal trainer Mike Cola, who takes a "contrarian" approach to mainstream fitness "rules." "If you eat right, as long as you eat a healthy diet, you don’t have to kill yourself in the gym," he said. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Mike Cola
Mike Cola posted a picture of himself at 49 on his personal fitness website Fitness Contrarian. His body here, he said, was achieved by training only three times per week. Photo Credit: Fitnesscontrarian.com

MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. — Personal trainer Mike Cola is a contrarian. A fitness contrarian, that is.

The Chappaqua resident and father of two set up a new studio in Mount Kisco last year, transferring the personal training business he started in 1989 in Bronxville, where he also grew up.

Cola, 50, got into personal training in the 1980s, just as the aerobics trend was taking off and Jane Fonda workout videos were becoming all the rage. After a stint at Hanson Fitness in Soho from 1987 to 1988, he decided to take the leap and start his own business back home in Westchester.

Cola is certified with the American College of Sports Medicine and has a bachelor's degree in exercise physiology, nutrition and biomechanics. In 2009, he started blogging at Fitness Contrarian, one of a number of health and fitness websites he maintains. With the site, Cola said, he hopes to dispel some of the most common and damaging myths that undermine many people’s efforts to get in shape.

First, he said, the most insidious misconception about weight loss is that it can be controlled merely by exercising. Diet, he said, is the most important element in a weight loss program, representing 75 percent of weight loss results.

“It's one of the hardest things for me to get people to understand," said Cola, who also does nutritional counseling.

"Most people think they're not working out enough," he said. “You can work out two hours a week total and still be in very good shape:” it just depends on a healthy diet and consistent habits. 

The exact opposite of his fitness philosophy, Cola said, is exemplified in the type of grueling workouts seen on TV’s “The Biggest Loser,” the extreme weight loss competition show.

It is possible to reach a point of diminishing returns with exercise, he said: instead of working out in the interest of calorie expenditure, he said, focus on other goals like increasing strength, getting a stronger heart or achieving a more shapely body.

Cola’s views on static stretching also go against mainstream fitness doctrine. Cola is a certified muscle activation techniques specialist, and conducts a muscle evaluation for all new clients. According to his philosophy of strength over stretching, the stronger you get, the more flexible your muscles will be.

In addition to training clients one-on-one at Mike Cola Fitness at 84 Lexington Ave. and in their homes, Cola likes to spread his fitness philosophy online. Along with his own YouTube channel for instructional workout videos, Cola has written hundreds of article for fitness websites and was recently interviewed for an article for popular men’s website Askmen.com.

Cola said he may also eventually market his own fitness e-books.

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