The Connection Between Home Repair and Our Health

chimney by RacineurBy Janice Enloe

You know you’re in for an unwelcome surprise when you look out a second floor window and see the neighbor and his contractor standing on the roof pointing at your house. And when said contractor appears at the door and “has something to show you,” that sinking feeling can mean only one thing: your Christmas gift is going to be really, really practical.

Like many Oak Park homes, mine is over 100 years old. It was already showing its age when we moved in 26 years ago—asbestos siding, windows that would spontaneously fall out, and a sagging back porch. With advice from a home remodeler, windows were replaced, shiny new siding installed, and the back porch was lifted and tightened. We basked in our new curb appeal.

That’s how it went for fifteen years. Sure, we’d find the occasional piece of siding in the yard after a windstorm. An incredible hulk of a squirrel took his giant man-mitts and peeled back soffits and fascia for some frisky afternoon fun. And that new back porch isn’t technically attached to the house. But still, it looks pretty good.

As they say, looks aren’t everything. Turns out, the chimney was incorrectly constructed so carbon monoxide has been leaking into the house for fifteen years. The amount was small enough not to trigger the carbon monoxide detector, but enough to cause concern.

In spite of looking pretty, my house was sick—from the inside, out.

During the winter months, many of us feel sluggish, tired, and just plain run down. But it may not just be the cold temperatures or a cold virus—as with my chimney, you may find that some restructuring will make a big change.

Instead of waiting until the slush melts, rework your fitness routine now. One way you can do that effectively and safely is by meeting with a personal trainer.

What you see is not always what you get, whether rehabbing a home or building a fit body. Hiring a fitness professional is really about improving your health and wellness, so do some homework before you commit. If you belong to a gym, chances are you were assigned a trainer for a session or two. Never feel obligated to hire that particular trainer for additional sessions unless you feel it’s a good fit.

A great place to begin is the “Find a Trainer” service at Simply type in your zip code and scan the list of nearby trainers. You’ll see their specialties and certifications and have the opportunity to contact them directly through the website. You’ll also be able to verify that their certifications are NCCA-accredited. NCCA accreditation is the gold standard for the majority of allied healthcare professionals and is an independent, nongovernmental agency. The most well-respected and popular NCCA-accredited fitness organizations are ACE, ACSM and NASM. All three have their own “find a pro” search engines as well.

The certification process offers only a baseline of knowledge; the prospective trainer should also be staying on top of current trends and research by reading and attending professional conferences and workshops.

The direction now in personal training is toward specialization. If you have a medical or orthopedic condition, be sure that the prospective trainer has proper training and/or experience in the area. It’s easy enough to put you through a workout that makes you sweaty or fatigued. But working with a fitness pro who has the ability to tailor an exercise program to your specific situation can be the factor that truly improves your health and enjoyment of life.

The trainer should ask you questions, lots of questions. In fact, your first session should include more talk than exercise. If you leave feeling like you just answered the Pivot Questionnaire on “Inside the Actor’s Studio, you’re on the right track. As award-winning personal trainer Jonathan Ross says, “To make changes that last, a trainer must know the obstacles and opportunities for exercise in your schedule and all of the many non-workout factors that will determine your ability to absorb a fitness routine into your daily life.”

This Christmas my present wasn’t flashy or fancy. It was, in fact, a newly reconstructed chimney. These days though, we all have a little more pep in our step—less drowsy and headachy inside the house. And outside? It’s a pretty sweet-looking chimney.

Janice Enloe is a personal trainer, running coach, and owner of Weights + Measures Fitness Community at 18 Chicago and RUN Oak Park.

Photo by Racineur/Flickr