Now that the holidays are over, it is time to implement your resolution plan.
Undoubtedly, many of you resolved on New Year’s Eve to do a whole host of things in 2013, some of which might include leading a healthier lifestyle through a change in diet, or losing weight, or both. However, without creating an actual plan to help you stick with your health-related goals for the new year, chances are your resolutions will fade in the weeks ahead.
Harold Otis, the 37-year-old assistant general manager at Gold’s Gym in West Des Moines, says January is a popular month for people to join or renew their memberships to a gym or fitness club. He says seeking help from a trained fitness professional is an important step in realizing your goal to becoming healthy in the new year.
Otis should know. Before he became an employee at Gold’s Gym, he was a member, having spent the majority of his life working out in gyms.
“We see quite a bit of traffic coming through the gym this time of year, probably 50 to 60 percent more than usual,” he says. “People are looking to get in shape because they made a New Year’s resolution to do so.”
Fitness experts advise new members that exercising is not a seasonal activity, but a year-round habit. They say that to accomplish healthy goals a person must make a lifestyle change.
Michelle Lopez of West Des Moines learned that about a year ago when she began working out at Gold’s Gym on a regular basis. She had been a member for two years but was inconsistent in her workouts.
“I joined because I wanted to drop a few pounds and get my body into shape, but that didn’t happen until I got motivated to come here regularly,” she says. “Now I work out six or seven days a week for about 90 minutes a day. I do something different every day to work on a different part of my body, and it keeps me interested in coming back.”
Lopez says she lost about 30 pounds in the last year or so. She was motivated to get in shape so she could compete in a bikini contest in Illinois that was sponsored by Gold’s Gym. Her hard work paid off as she finished in second place at the event.
“I started seeing results right away after I started working out daily,” she says. “What’s been fun is that I started at the gym the same time as a few other people, and we all look better now.”
Otis says everyone has a unique set of fitness goals when they join a gym. Goals range from medical, including lowering bad cholesterol, blood pressure and avoiding Type 2 Diabetes, to rehabilitating an injured portion of the body, to losing weight and toning up so they feel comfortable wearing a swimsuit or a wedding dress.
“The first thing we do is sit down and talk with them about their goals,” he says. “Is there a specific date that you have in mind to achieve your goals? Is it for a special occasion like a wedding? What’s the bottom line? Then we get an idea of what their focus is and whether they have ever been in a gym before. We get people who have never been in a gym, it happens frequently. Then we get people who are polar opposites and want help training for a body building competition or weight lifting competition. So we get all aspects, which is good.”
Otis encourages new members to invest in a personal trainer. He says the benefits include learning how to use fitness equipment properly, changing routines to avoid physical and mental burnout, and providing motivation.
“When each new member signs up, they get one free consultation and a trainer assists them in a light workout to show them how they can help them. Most people who are serious about making a change will then hire the trainer to work with them some more, which we encourage them to do. Often times people say they don’t need a trainer, and they don’t improve. We want to help people get the maximum out of the minimum time they need to invest to work out,” he says.
For most people, it is a matter of prioritizing their expenses when it comes to finding a rationalization to hire a personal trainer.
“People say, ‘I can’t afford a trainer.’ But I ask them, ‘Can you afford to pay for medical bills, medicine and doctor’s visits? Or fast food, cigarettes and alcohol?’ If you look at where your money is going, it is easy to see how spending the money on a trainer is a better deal than spending money on things that don’t make you healthy,” Otis says.
However, exercising is not the most important key to leading a healthy lifestyle. Nutrition, experts say, is the biggest factor in determining your success in the gym.
“If you want to have six-pack abs, you have to eat well. That means eating chicken, seafood and ground turkey and avoiding foods loaded with fat. We also encourage people to stay away from alcohol. Some people feel that they can drink and lose weight, but all they are doing is maintaining and not improving,” says Otis.
He says cardiovascular training is important, but at Gold’s Gym they encourage members to pump iron, too. Otis says using weights is a more efficient way to lose weight while getting toned.
“From what we have learned, strength training is beneficial because you burn more calories than you do simply doing a cardio workout,” he says. “The benefit is that you burn fat and build muscle at the same time and get tighter and firmer quicker.”
Lopez is a firm believer in using weights. She varies her routine so that she strengthens different parts of her body throughout her workouts during the week.
“I’m not looking to bulk up. I just want to get toned, and I like the results I get using weights,” she says. “At first it was kind of hard, but then I started seeing results I was hooked. I really believe that using a combination of weights and cardio has helped me.”
As it is for so many people who exercise regularly, Lopez says the benefits are more than physical, that they also are mental.
“I look and feel better and have more energy, which motivates me mentally to keep coming to the gym,” she says.
Otis says he likes it when people start seeing results, physically and mentally.
“When they see how their pants fit them a little bit more comfortably, they get excited,” he says.
“That’s one of the rewards of this job, helping people feel better about themselves.”
He recommends that people exercise three or four days a week for 45 to 60 minutes per workout. He also warns new members about not burning out quickly.
“When we see people fatigue early on, we talk to them about it because we want them to have some energy so that they incorporate weight training in their workouts,” he says.
Otis, a husband and father of two young children, says he understands how difficult it can be for parents to find the time and energy to exercise. But once they get started and see the results, they realize it is worth their time and effort. To help parents, Gold’s Gym has a Kidz Club that allows them to bring their children to the gym while they work out.
“The big thing I hear from other parents is that they have more energy to do things with their kids,” he says. “That alone is a great motivator.”
He also tells those who join the gym this time of year to beware of the pitfalls of warm weather in the coming months. Too often, he notes, people give up on their New Year’s resolutions in March or April and they spend more time outside than they do in the gym.
“They lose their motivation in the spring because they want to sit on the patio and have a drink or they have to take their kids to ballgames,” he says. “But they need to stay on the path.”
Lopez says the hardest part can be just getting started, but once you do it becomes routine.
“Once you get past the first two weeks, you get used to it. Now I love the gym, and I love working out, and I can’t imagine not doing it,” she says.
Otis reminds people who struggle to find the motivation to get started that they have the power to change their ways.
“It’s never too late, until you are six feet under,” he says.