Ushering in a new year often means ushering in a slew of New Year’s resolutions — get fit, lose weight, eat healthy. Sometimes getting started can be overwhelming. It’s a challenge to take on a ton of new habits at once, but just taking some baby steps in the right direction will lead to better health. Ankeny has a ton of resources available for those who are interested in eating better and being more active, so here’s to your health!
For many people, the hard part when it comes to getting fit is just getting started. For a lot of us, we aren’t sure where to start and the whole process seems overwhelming, so it’s easier to just keep putting it off ….and putting it off. Geneva Ross, group fitness instructor and personal trainer, says she tells people to just get going and take it one step at a time.
“We have all our new year’s resolutions,” she says. “People jump in and go hard and overdo it. If you try to work too hard and you’re not there, you get discouraged and feel like a failure and quit.”
Ross says start out easy, and then work your way up as you can. If you come in every day and do the same exercises over and over for the same length of time, you’ll stop seeing results. Your body will get used to the level of exertion, so it’s important to mix in new things. It’s important not to expect immediate results though, because it can take some time for the scale and body to reflect your effort.
“One week isn’t going to do it,” she says. “You plant a seed and you water it once, and it won’t spring up and become this huge plant. Take your time. We can focus on short term results like you’ll have more energy, be less stressed, sleep better and feel stronger after a few work outs.”
Ross suggests that people look into an exercise routine that incorporates all three of the main components of fitness — cardiovascular conditioning, strength and flexibility. Ross teaches group fitness classes like the popular Zumba and Kick Mix, a class that incorporates cardiovascular conditioning, resistance training and flexibility exercises into one workout. Group fitness classes can be a great way to stay motivated since the energy in a class can be more motivating than working out alone.
Another thing to consider when choosing a workout program or facility is convenience. Make sure it’s close and it offers flexibility. Eliminate the excuses of having to drive too far to work out or not being able to find a class that fits into your schedule.
“There are countless programs out there,” she says. “Do your research. Ask friends or family or neighbors where they’ve had success. Find something that fits your schedule. If you’re juggling it too much, you might just not go anymore. It’s an excuse to give up.”
For those who have been exercising, moving to the next level can be a challenge. Ross encourages people to think about duration of exercise, increase intensity, increase the amount of weight they’re lifting, add new variety, incorporate interval training, cross train or just add something new.
“If you’ve been swimming for three years, think about adding biking once a week,” she says. “Or start strength training. Your body will adapt to whatever load you put on it, and your results will stop changing.”
When it comes to staying motivated, it’s important to celebrate milestones. Find something you enjoy. You’re going to be more likely to stick with it if you like it.
“For years I did treadmill and weight machines, and it wasn’t until I started going to group fitness classes that I started doing it on a regular basis,” she says. “Another thing you can do is work out with a friend or group, and it can make it a positive social experience. If you get good support from family, friends and coworkers, they can keep you on track.”
Of course exercise is important when you’re trying to get more fit, but experts will tell you 80 percent of weight loss and being healthy is related to nutrition and diet. With so many schools of thought out there — only eat protein, don’t eat carbs, don’t eat dairy, only eat certain foods — figuring out the diet portion of things can also be a challenge.
A lot of people don’t realize that there’s a great nutritional resource nearby – at your neighborhood Hy-Vee. The Ankeny Hy-Vee employs a full-time dietitian who can help people meet their healthy eating goals.
“I usually recommend people go back to the USDA My Plate visual or image,” says dietitian Jenny Norgaard, RD, LD. “It should look like half fruits and vegetables, one quarter protein and one quarter grain or starch.”
Hy-Vee is trying to encourage healthy eating and make it easier to make good choices with its NuVal program. NuVal ranks the products in the store from 1 to 100. The higher the score, the healthier the product is. Choosing the higher scoring products from each category can be an easy way to make small changes to your diet.
Norgaard says though there are many fad diets out there, there is no quick fix. The best way to eat is a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean proteins with each meal.
It’s important to eat breakfast to get your metabolism going and also to give you some brain food to start the day. Skipping meals can lead to over eating later in the day and, therefore, lunch and breakfast are also very important meals. It’s also important not to be too restrictive.
“Sweets are a good example,” she says. “Everyone wants them. If they have one square of chocolate instead of three candy bars, it might be just enough to give them that sense of taking the edge off the craving, but not too much where they go overboard and start binging.”
Norgaard says that registered dietitians are your nutrition experts and will be your most trusted source for nutrition information. If you are ever questioning the nutrition information in front of you, check to see who the source is. She encourages people to check in and learn more about what Hy-Vee offers its customers who are trying to be healthier.
“One thing that’s really popular is our consultation services,” she says. “If someone wants to lose weight or found out they have high cholesterol, we can put them on a plan and help them with weight loss goals and meet on a weekly basis to help them with their goals.”
Grocery store tours are very popular as well. Norgaard will take people through the store and help them find healthy meal and snack ideas. Many of us get the same things every week know what our families like, but she can help with giving some new ideas and adding a little excitement to the menu.
Danni Harris is one of Geneva Ross’ personal training clients. She says her main motivation with getting started with personal training was something a lot of people can identify with — her work pants were getting too tight, and she wanted to fit back into them again.
“I didn’t only want to lose weight but tone some things up as well,” she says. “Since I’ve been doing it, I don’t get stressed in my neck as much, and I don’t get headaches as much. Geneva is really good at watching my form, and I was doing so many wrong, and that was leading to tightness so that’s been really helpful.”
Harris says her main issue with a workout program was finding time to do it and make it fit into her schedule. As a single mom and attorney, there aren’t a lot of spare moments for exercise. Ross is able to come to her house and coach her at a time that’s convenient for Harris. For Harris, staying motivated is about seeing results.
“I started seeing results quickly, and that was a big motivator,” she says. “And she makes it fun. She plays music. And if I tell her this has been bothering me this week, she’ll work it into our schedule. It’s really tailored to me.”
When Julie Russell went on her first bike ride in 2008, she had no idea she’d be averaging more than 3,500 miles a year on her bike a few short years later. But after biking with a friend a few times, she decided she likes it, and she got more and more involved in the sport.
She had some work friends who were already into biking, and she started riding with them. At first it was hard, and she was exhausted easily. But she kept going longer and longer distances. That year she finished her first 35-mile ride.
“I had stopped, and I met a biker along the way. And on the way back, he asked if I was OK, and he ended up riding back with me to entertain me and distract me,” she says. “Bikers are really friendly. I never saw him again, but it was so nice to have that support. That first season I rode about 600 miles.”
She doubled that number the next year, and she bought her first road bike. She also rode a couple days of RAGBRAI that year, and she’s since gone on to ride the whole thing three times.
Russell also met friends through the Ankeny bike club, and they encouraged her to start riding with them. She knew there was no way she could keep up, but she just kept trying. She says her competitive nature kept her going longer and longer distances, even if everyone else ended up leaving her behind.
For Russell, biking has become a big part of her life. She truly enjoys it, and she says that’s why she’s stuck with it.
“It was fun whether it was by myself listening to music or biking with friends,” she says. “It wasn’t just walking where you only go a few blocks. You can see more when you go miles. Then it became very much a part of my social life. But it was also exercise, so I was having a good time and having a good workout.”
She also noticed herself changing physically. She never considered herself any sort of athlete, but she was impressed by what she was now able to accomplish.
“I became more fascinated by it and what I could do,” she says. “Now I’m sort of redefining who I am, and I am pushing myself more than I thought I could achieve physically. I’m seeing myself change.”
Russell encourages people to find something they like if they want to get fit. If you don’t like running, maybe don’t start there. Also, find a way to measure your progress to keep yourself motivated.
“It doesn’t have to be weight or miles or whatever, but find a way to measure how you’re getting better and meeting your goals,” she says. “Find people you have it in common with. No matter what it is, there’s always someone who likes it and can be good motivation for you.”