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.
Christa Vander Leest, the new wellness director at the Walnut Creek Family YMCA in Windsor Heights, says January is a popular month for people to join or renew their memberships to a gym or fitness club.
“We see a lot of people in January who have made New Year’s Eve resolutions to get in shape. Our traffic picks up quite a bit during the holidays because they want to make lifestyle changes,” she says. “To encourage them to stick to their resolutions, we waive our joiners fee during the month of January. As a result, we see an increase in the number of applications for memberships and exercise classes.”
Vander Leest says the YMCA offers a plethora of benefits to its members including fitness and cycling classes, a pool, meal plans, and weight training and cardio exercise equipment suited to accommodate members of all ages and abilities. She says exercise classes and small group training are popular among YMCA members.
“People like the friendly environment of groups, and there’s a spot for everyone. You become close knit with other members of your group,” she says.
Like many exercise experts, Vander Leest says seeking help from a trained fitness professional is an important step in realizing your goal to being healthy in the new year. The YMCA, for example, offers new members the opportunity to meet with a wellness coach to discuss their goals and an exercise and nutrition routines.
“We encourage new members to meet with a wellness coach because they need to establish a baseline. The coach will ask them what they want to achieve. Is it to build muscle or to lose weight? Are they here because their doctor recommended that they exercise? There are many reasons why people join a gym,” she says.
Twenty-eight-year-old David Sitrick of Des Moines works out six days a week for at least an hour at a time at the Walnut Creek Family YMCA in Windsor Heights. He says consistency in exercising is key to getting and staying in shape, even if you only get to the gym a few days a week.
“Try not to get out of the loop. Make time for yourself and realize that you need to be healthy,” he says. “I put in more time at the gym now than I did when I was in high school because I understand how important it is.”
Losing weight is perhaps the most common reason why people join the YMCA, Vander Leest says.
“We hear that the most. Sometimes it’s because they want to lose weight or their doctor has told them to lose weight,” she says. “When people come to the Y to lose weight, we talk to them about what’s been successful for them in the past because if they know it they’ll stick with it. That includes everything from what time of day they prefer to come to the gym, to what type of training they enjoy.”
Others join a gym this time of year to train for an athletic event in the summer or to lose weight to fit into a wedding dress.
“Maybe they need more weight training or more cardio training. It depends on the person and their goals,” says Vander Leest.
When it comes to weight training, Vander Leest says the YMCA offers a variety of programs to follow and that all exercise routines, whether they are focused on weight or cardio training, should include flexibility conditioning.
“A lot of people don’t focus on flexibility and stretching, but they can pay big dividends and help you avoid injury,” she says. “Improving your range of motion is important, especially after an intense workout.”
To help guide its members, the YMCA offers a free, online fitness tool called ActivTrax. The Web-based technology offers customized exercise and nutritional guidance based upon the needs and goals of each member. For example, it accurately prescribes the appropriate weight and number of repetitions for members to lift on certain equipment. It also creates meal plans and analyzes the member’s performance and makes necessary adjustments to their next workout.
“Members can print off their worksheets every time they come to the Y at any of our branches,” Vander Leest says. “It helps keep them accountable.”
Accountability is an important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. That includes not only the work that occurs in the gym, but the meals that are consumed at home and at work. Good nutrition can account for as much as 80 percent of weight loss, experts say.
“We encourage members to have a balanced diet by following the requirements established by the federal government (www.choosemyplate.gov). Calories can add up quickly and even those who work out regularly but don’t follow a good diet are merely maintaining and not truly gaining,” says Vander Leest.
After establishing a healthy routine of exercise and nutrition, Vander Leest says it is important to add variety to avoid physical and mental burnout.
“The body makes adjustments as you go along, and results can be harder to see if you keep doing the same thing all the time,” she says.
Fitness experts also warn those who join a gym for the first time about the pitfalls of war
m weather in the coming months as New Year’s resolutions often fade in the spring when outdoor activities abound. They remind people that exercising is not a seasonal activity, but a year-round habit, and that to accomplish healthy goals a person must make a lifestyle change.
One of the best ways to stay committed to an exercise program is to join an exercise class.
“Our goal at the Y is to make people feel like they belong to something, so we encourage them to join a class. It provides a sense of community, and the instructor helps in making people accountable for their work,” Vander Leest says. “It also helps when you develop friendships with the instructor and participants because it is easier to become a part of your routine, and sometimes a little friendly push can help you physically and mentally.”
Sitrick says being in a comfortable environment is important when exercising. He has joined other gyms in the past but says that he enjoys working out at the YMCA the most.
“The staff and the members are friendly and willing to help, and that’s one of the biggest differences I’ve seen between the Y and other gyms,” he says, noting that he has been a member of the YMCA for five years.
Additionally, Vander Leest warns first-time gym users to be patient when awaiting results. She encourages members to start small and to establish a routine that they can fulfill at least 90 percent of the time during any given week.
“You might see results at first, then it can take time before you see more results,” she says. “That’s why it’s important to stick with it. Sometimes it means reevaluating your goals and changing your routine or diet.”
Sitrick, who plays golf and soccer, concurs with Vander Leest. He says the gym is one of the few places where hard work truly pays off.
“The more work you put in to it, the more results you see. You don’t always see that in your career or your personal life. It’s an adrenaline rush for me,” he says.
Vander Leest says she works out an average of 60 to 90 minutes six and sometimes seven days a week. She says that exercising not only benefits her overall physical health but enhances her life in other areas, too.
“It gives me balance, and it’s a peaceful time for me when I’m exercising,” she says. “My mood is always better after working out, and it’s a great reliever of stress.”
The wellness director says she particularly enjoys the camaraderie of the exercise classes that she teaches and has made exercising a healthy habit in her life.
“It’s something I need and something I enjoy,” she says.