New Year’s resolutions tend to get a bad rap. Most people make them and break them just as quickly, but the chance to start anew is just too much to pass up for a lot of people. Even people who refuse to make resolutions have a hard time going into January without feeling like it’s a time to make changes.
Some of the most frequent resolutions are to lose weight and increase health, which also makes them the most frequently broken.
Unfortunately, losing weight and getting fit are some of the biggest commitments someone can make. It isn’t just about hitting the gym a few times a week; it’s about altering a lifestyle.
Cory Swearngin started working out several times a week and altered his diet starting in March 2012 when he joined Anytime Fitness.
“I was embarrassed to look in the mirror,” he says. He was working odd hours at the Polk County Jail and found himself stopping at convenience stores for quick dinners, usually consisting of microwave burritos and bags of chips, almost every night.
When he reached 290 pounds, he realized it was time to do something about it. He made a commitment to his health. To make sure he didn’t back down, he spread the word that he was going to be doing a triathlon at the end of the year.
“Everybody laughed at me,” he said, but that was what he needed to keep going.
He has since lost 116 pounds and is tone and healthy.
Swearngin has inspired others at the gym and works out regularly with fellow member Brett Freel who joined in October 2012.
“He’s one of my motivations,” Freel says of Swearngin, who admits to giving Freel a hard time on Facebook if he misses too many workouts.
Freel says he’s already seeing results in that his pants fit better and he feels healthier.
“I started running, and eventually I looked at the scale and it just started going down,” he says.
Physical appearance is often the biggest motivator for people to change their lifestyle, but the change is often overwhelming and people often don’t know where or how to start.
“Start out slowly,” says Jeannine Ringgenberg, owner and manager of Anytime Fitness. She suggests people new to exercise start by walking on the treadmill or using the elliptical. The stationary bike is a good alternative for someone who may have joint or health problems. She also suggests targeting the entire body rather than just picking and choosing areas to tackle.
“You don’t have to be a muscleman to do circuit training,” Ringgenberg says.
Her son, Ben Ringgenberg, is a certified personal trainer at the gym and offers assistance to new members to make certain they are on the right track to getting healthy and meeting their goals.
“The best thing to do is just to get acclimated to exercising,” he says. “Get on the treadmill three or four times a week. Start off simple.”
He emphasizes that as time progresses, the workouts need to get longer and more intensive to see results. Workouts will vary depending on health, weight and goals.
“You need to move more and eat less,” David Charleston, owner of The Orange Planet, says.
His facility also provides a certified trainer to help members who are uncertain where to start.
Charleston says the key is to get a plan and be accountable.
“Those two things equal results and when you get results, you’re motivated,” he says. “When you get defeated, you quit.”
He says it is crucial for new members to talk to staff about previous injuries or health problems to avoid possible injury. It is also important to fully understand how the equipment works and the proper posture to use when exercising.
Outside of the fitness center, Charleston states the biggest issue the member must be responsible for is eating habits.
“If they are going to get serious, they need to take accountability on food,” he says.
Altering his diet was a challenge for Swearngin.
He cut out alcohol, fast food and junk food. He is also introducing a reluctant Freel to healthier eating.
“The first month is a little hard, but after that you get used to it,” Swearngin says. “But you can’t out-exercise your diet. If you work out and then eat Burger King every day, you won’t see a difference.”
The United States Department of Agriculture provides graphics for recommended portion sizes on www.choosemyplate.gov. The website offers details on healthy eating, figuring calories, and recipes and tips to assist in keeping a balanced diet.
Jeannine Ringgenberg also suggests setting smaller weight loss goals. The point of this is making them achievable. While someone may have the ultimate goal of losing 50 pounds, losing five is a much easier task and gives the person a sense of accomplishment, which can go a long way in keeping them motivated.
Charleston also reminds members that just coming to the gym isn’t enough. To get results, the workout has to be intense enough to actually burn fat.
“Come with a purpose,” he says. “We call it ‘intentional intensity.’ ”
But trainers and managers can only do so much. The ultimate responsibility is on the person who wants to make a change.
One of the biggest obstacles for Swearngin when he started was feeling out of place. He admits that when he first joined the gym, he deliberately went at night when no one else was there because he was embarrassed.
“I was always nervous about what other people would think,” he says. “But you just have to show up and keep going.”
Ringgenberg suggests doing an orientation when first joining a gym to ease some of that anxiety.
“If you know how to do it, you’re going to be more comfortable doing it,” she says. That level of comfort will help eliminate some of the excuses to quit.
Sometimes members just need a little incentive from the staff to stay on board with getting to the gym. Ringgenberg has a chalkboard wall next to the entrance of her club where she tracks the top attendees of her members.
Charleston agrees, saying that something as small as a high-five can motivate someone to keep going.
It’s never too late
“It’s just amazing who comes through these doors,” Charleston says of the variety of age and fitness levels of the membership at his facility.
Shari and Merrill Walkup, both senior citizens, visit The Orange Planet several times a week to attend group classes. The classes, taught by former physical education teacher Grace DeWitt, are focused on the needs of the elderly. The cardio and range of motion classes are intended to keep them moving and active.
“It’s lower impact,” DeWitt says. “But they get a really good workout.”
DeWitt encourages the students in her class to keep going so they can gain muscle and flexibility.
“They can do more than they think they can do,” she says of the seniors.
The things Shari enjoys most about the class are the socialization and working out with people her age. She knew she and Merrill needed to exercise in order to stay flexible and says it has been a great experience for them.
“We’ve seen a lot of improvement in ourselves,” Shari says of their health.
Merrill agrees, saying exercise has kept him playing golf.
“The problem,” he teases, “is now I hit the ball so far I can’t see it.”
Classmate Louise Hill says she couldn’t stand up from a chair when she began taking classes. She’s now worked with a trainer at the club to gain leg strength and has taken classes with DeWitt and feels she is doing much better.
“I retired in July 2011, and then I sat around and really lost a lot of balance and motion,” she says. When she found out she could use her insurance to pay for part of her membership, she joined and started taking better care of herself.
DeWitt explains that the body stiffens and weakens with inactivity, not just in the elderly, but in any age. However, it is the elderly that tend to become affected more quickly.
“Just to stay active and to gain strength is why I encourage them to do more,” she says. “I love seeing the progress that they make.”
Hill says she hasn’t just gained the ability to stand again, but she has also lost 19 pounds since starting the program.
People find motivation in various ways, but most fitness experts agree that seeing results is the best way to keep it. However, in order to see results, people need to stick with a regular and intensive program for several weeks first.
Jeannine suggests working out with a friend and setting a schedule to help stay on track, as well as working toward a set goal.
Goals are one thing that keep Swearngin going. After completing the triathlon, he decided it was time to add more muscle mass and plan for the next Des Moines marathon.
“There’s always another goal,” Swearngin says.
He also suggests that people keep in mind that stumbling on the path to fitness is inevitable and that people just have to get back on track and keep going.
“Don’t get down on yourself if you have a bad day,” he says. “It’s hard work.”
Ben Ringgenberg advises his clients to keep in mind the benefits of fitness beyond physical appearance to help with keeping the motivation needed to exercise several times a week. Regular exercise can lower blood pressure and help ward off bouts of depression and illness, and resistance training is proven to strengthen bones and joints as well as muscles. The latter can help prevent injury, carrying exercise beyond health and physical appearance.
“If you ever watch football players, they get crunched hard, but they always pop right back up,” he says.
Plateauing seems to be inevitable, and Ringgenberg suggests perseverance or changing up a workout to get over the hump.
“Just keep after it,” he says.
Charleston says he uses “brutal honesty” about members’ health and goals to keep people motivated.
“I think that’s what people want; they want to be real,” he says.
It never hurts to hear success stories as well. Whether those stories are of a young man losing more than 100 pounds or an elderly couple keeping young and staying active, leaning on others is a big part of the process.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Swearngin says. “We’re all here for the same reason.”