If you’ve ever been to Jazz Festival in New Orleans—or if you’ve ever spent time in the great state of Louisiana, period—you know it’s all about food and fun. For the second straight year, IDEA membership director Annina Torri and I took a quick vacation down South to visit our friend and IDEA member Charlie Hoolihan, personal training director for the stunning Pelican Athletic Club (PAC) in Mandeville, on Lake Pontchartrain’s north shore. (Charlie and me, below) We arrived on Wed night, April 29, drove across the causeway to our home away from home and the calorie fest began almost immediately. Charlie, who is a terrific cook, had a delicious one-pot meal of chicken and noodle stew simmering on the stove. We dove in and didn’t look back, except for maybe where the next glass of wine was coming from.We spent most of Thursday and Friday kicking around the Fest sampling as much great food as we did music. I can’t even begin to talk about the many delicious dishes I ate or I’ll spend the rest of the day drooling on my keyboard as I remember the delight of it all. “The air is deep fried down here,” as Charlie is wont to say. I don’t even eat fried food, but they do this stuff up right. It’s “slap yo’ mama” good, and a once-per-year splurge into it—especially when tempered by exercise—is certainly not a crime. Here’s where the fitness aspect comes in. In order to eat like the strapping Southern boy that seems to control my appetite, each day I made it a point to earn my calories before I consumed them. Thursday and Sunday I got up early and ran 6 miles before breakfast; Friday I went up on the roof of Charlie’s house (an expansive deck that overlooks the beautiful Tchefuncta River) and concocted a grueling circuit for myself using 1.5 liter club soda bottles for weights and balance props, and a bathroom rug for a mat. Side note: If your clients still think they need anything other than body weight and imagination to work out on their own, then you’re not doing your job as an educator! Here’s an idea: Challenge your clients with a homework assignment to come up with a 1-hour workout (including dynamic warm-up and cool-down) using only 2 props and see what they come back to you with. You’ll know whether your lessons are getting through or not. They have to be able to take the “tools” you’re giving them and apply them when you’re not around (which is most of the time). The highlight of my fitness-for-food extravaganza was when Charlie invited us to his spinning class on Saturday morning. Our little group piled into the car, got a quick tour of the beautiful PAC (which looks like a plantation house—see photo), met some members and got into the saddle to sweat out the previous day’s damage. Charlie has his cycling group, who are mostly regulars, on a 6-week periodized plan. He customizes intervals for sprinters, middle distance and “enduros” (the unfortunate Type I fiber people like me), cuing intensity and rest as needed for each. It was an awesome way to start the day. The sweaty glow of our little group, which included IDEA member and PAC personal trainer Mary Beth Simmons, says it all (see the PAC, below and Charlie, Mary Beth, Sandy Todd Webster & Annina Torri). From there, famished, we headed straight for the grocery store to provision ourselves for a big breakfast, our pool party that afternoon and a chicken tamale dinner that night. Fitness-fun-food: it really is the circle of life—or at least it’s my little slice of heaven. Charlie—we need to start planning next year’s menu!