The New Year will be a big year for Tracy Everett. It’s the year she will put to use all of the hours she has spent in the gym and the miles she’s hit the pavement to complete a triathlon.
It’s a feat that would not have been possible even three years ago. The now-43-year-old had neglected her fitness in her 20s and 30s. She had put on weight and admits she didn’t really care what she ate. French fries and several bottles of pop were common for her.
“I never thought twice about eating at fast-food restaurants for lunch and going out for lunch on a regular basis,” Everett says.
But about three years ago, a friend invited her to work out at Farrell’s in Beaverdale. She liked the class enough that she signed up for Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping 10-week program.
“I think it kind of lit a fire in me,” Everett says. “It’s helped me see that I can do more than I thought. I didn’t think I was a very physical person.”
After the initial 10 weeks, Everett says she had more confidence and joined for a year. Then she added more fitness activities to her workout routine. She took spinning classes and started running with a group of friends. She has since competed in three marathons in the past two years and feels like she’s reliving her youth.
Her mile time went from 12 minutes when she started working out three years ago to between an 8 minute, 35 second mile and an 8 minute, 45 second mile while running a marathon.
“I realized there was no limit to my physical capabilities, and it opened a door to me exploring new things,” she says. “It tested my limits.”
About a year ago, Everett hit a point where she wasn’t seeing progress in her weight loss or muscle tone. She had learned from Farrell’s the importance of nutrition in her fitness journey but had not changed her eating habits.
“I kind of cheated with it a little bit and didn’t really focus on (nutrition) as much,” she says. “It’s just that one day a light bulb went off and it was ‘OK, if I want to see changes, I need to make changes to my nutrition.’ As soon as I started doing that and being serious about the things I ate and portion sizes, it was amazing how my body changed.”
While Everett says she’s only lost about 20 pounds, her body shape has drastically changed. She went from a size 16 to a size 6.
She says the key to getting fit is that it has to be the person’s decision — both to exercise and to eat better. Personal trainers and dieticians agree that about 80 percent of a person’s weight comes from what he or she eats and drinks.
Everett says she now eats a diet of lean meats, usually fish or chicken, and uses lots of fruits and vegetables as fillers. She’ll go weeks without drinking a soft drink and can’t remember the last time she ate at a fast-food restaurant.
“It’s making those healthier choices, where every single day you’re substituting those things that really aren’t very good for you with healthier choices,” she says. “It really is up to you as an individual to motivate yourself to do it to your fullest extent.”
Holly Passick, manager and head coach at Farrell’s Extreme Bodyshaping in Beaverdale, says the 10-week program is a good choice for anyone but can especially provide a jump start to people who are looking to get into shape or return to exercising.
“We have people come in who can’t do one sit-up or push-up,” she says. “It’s amazing to see the results at five weeks, let alone 10 weeks.”
The 10-week program consists of 45-minute workouts six days a week that is a combination of cardio and strength training. Pre-program photos are taken of the participant, along with a health assessment to determine starting points and body fat and weight. There are three consultations throughout the program to discuss the participant’s progress.
Passick says one thing that helps participants succeed in the program is that person is paired with a coach who has already gone through the program. The coach works out with them and helps them with nutrition.
“They know the struggles, so they’re going to be able to help them forge through,” she says. “Making habit changes, especially when it comes to food, is really hard.”
Another option for those who are getting back into exercising is Farrell’s FitStart program. It’s a low-impact program that also meets for 45 minutes six days a week. However, it’s modified for people who don’t think they can do the Extreme Bodyshaping program, Passick says.
She says it’s for people of all ages and abilities including those who have had joint replacements or are extremely overweight and may have other physical limitations. For example, exercises are modified for those who are not able to get up and down off the floor to do push-ups and other exercises. She says sometimes people start with the FitStart program and are then able to move up to Extreme Bodyshaping once they start to get into shape.
Passick says she tells beginners if they want to make a difference in their health and bodies, to just get started. Farrell’s allows complimentary sessions for people to try out a class and see whether they like it before making a commitment. Current students also can invite a guest to workout with them.
Farrell’s next FitStart program begins Jan. 26. Extreme Bodyshaping’s next session starts March 23.
Regardless of what exercise program a person chooses, he or she should aim to get at least 20 to 30 minutes of exercise every day, says Wade Thompson, owner of Anytime Fitness in Beaverdale.
“I think that’s kind of unrealistic, but that’s really what you should do,” says Thompson, who is pursuing a degree in exercise science and fitness management at Iowa State University.
He also says a person should not work out the same muscle group every day. Experts recommend waiting at least 24 hours but not longer than 96 hours before re-working the same muscle group.
Thompson says most beginners need to work with a person trainer and receive a fitness consultation. During the consultation, they’ll talk about the person’s goals, why he or she is interested in exercise, and how they can reach their goal. The consultation also includes getting the person’s measurements, before photos, and talking about nutrition and creating a diet plan.
He says while most people need a combination of cardio and weight training, individual programs are necessary for people to be successful at losing weight and meeting their fitness goals.
“You can’t just prescribe that to every person,” Thompson says. “Different people need different workouts, and it all depends on what their goals are. Getting in shape, 75 to 80 percent is mainly nutrition. You’re not going to see results in the gym if you don’t take care of yourself outside of the gym.”
Thompson says he likes to have his trainers meet with members every six to eight weeks to track their progress. He says he checks in with members while they’re in the gym to see how their workouts are going.
He says the biggest piece of advice he has for beginners is not to get discouraged if they don’t immediately see results. Getting in shape takes time and will only be successful if good nutrition and a healthy diet are also part of the plan, he says.
Armando Rivera got back into lifting weights and working out last year.
He used to work out but felt like he wasn’t seeing any progress, so he lost his motivation and quit. He says it’s been difficult through the years staying motivated to work out.
“If I missed one day I wouldn’t go back for three or four days, and I would have to push myself to go back,” Rivera says.
He decided to try to change things in early 2012 when he realized he had gained weight.
“I was getting winded going up a flight of stairs and (wasn’t) able to fit into my clothes,” Rivera says.
He joined a gym and lost about 20 pounds. Then he came to Anytime Fitness about five months ago and says the employees have given him the motivation he needs to continue exercising. He has since lost another 25 pounds.
Rivera works out five days a week and often has a workout partner, which he says has also kept him motivated. He says he thinks the keys to developing a successful workout plan are finding something to help you stay motivated and a workout partner who will keep pushing you.
And finally, he says, beginners need to be patient.
“Even small progress is progress,” he says.