Now that the holidays are over, it is a great time to begin implementing 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.
Justin Elefson, the 35-year-old manager of Anytime Fitness in Urbandale, says January is a popular month for people to join or renew their membership 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.
“Everybody is looking to make a change and to get into shape this time of year,” he says. “Every health club is anxious to recruit new members this time of year, but the good ones want new members to realize that it is a lifestyle change, not a seasonal change.”
Stacy Byre, a 39-year-old Urbandale woman who works in the billing department for QHC Management LLC, is learning that good health is important year-round. She spends three of her lunch breaks each week working out with a friend across the street at Anytime Fitness, as well as another session or two on her own. She joined the health club three months ago after her doctor informed her that she needed to lower her blood pressure and bad cholesterol as well as change her diet and exercise to stave off the possibility of incurring Type 2 diabetes.
“I was forced into it in a good way. I have six months to prove to my doctor that I can make changes, and I’m excited because I’m going to show him I can do it,” she says.
While many people join a health club this time of year simply to lose weight, Byre is one of the many examples of people who join them for a variety of other reasons, including those recommended by doctors, physical therapists and other health experts. Because every member has a unique set of circumstances regarding his or her health, Elefson recommends hiring a trainer after you join a gym to establish positive habits in your workouts and diet.
“We want to help as many people as possible who walk through our doors with one-on-one training because it is so important,” he says. “A trainer can make all the difference.”
Elefson says he talks to new members about their health goals. That is the first step.
“We pick their brain and figure out what they are looking for from a gym. Is it more cardio or weight training? Or is it both? We get to know their health history. Is this their first time in a gym, or not? It is not uncommon to get people who have never been in a gym, let alone worked out,” says Elefson, who has been working out in gyms since he was 13 years old.
After helping clients establish a workout routine and schedule, Elefson encourages them to be persistent and patient. Results, he reminds them, do not occur overnight.
“Results will happen if you are dedicated. You didn’t become who you are overnight, so it takes time to reverse that. As long as you follow a good routine, it will happen,” he says. “Changes can also vary depending on the individual and what shape they are in or if they have any restrictions. Inherent characteristics can play a big role, too, depending on your parents.”
While being dedicated to working out is important, nothing trumps a healthy diet, according to experts.
“A lot of people say they know the right things to eat, but they don’t comply with that. The hardest thing for people to do is say, ‘I’m not going to have that cookie; I’ll have a vegetable or fruit instead,’” says Elefson. “People don’t have to go on a restrictive diet if they eat responsibly. You can enjoy the simple pleasures in life as long as you are smart about following a good plan for eating.”
Elefson says good nutrition can account for as much as 80 percent of a person’s success in the gym. Call it a “diet” or a “meal plan,” he says, just as long as you avoid the luxury of meals at fast food restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores.
“It’s tough because you can drive down the street and eat anywhere,” he says. “If someone is eating and drinking what they want all the time, and they still go to the gym, all they are doing is just maintaining. If that same person were to make a change in their eating habits, they would see significantly more results at the gym.”
Being healthier not only is good for the body, but it is good for the mind. Elefson says it is also is a source of energy, which can equate to being more productive at work and at home.
“Everyone notices when you look and feel better,” he says.
Byre can relate. She says she has dropped a clothing size since she began exercising routinely, and that it has boosted her confidence.
“I can see the physical changes, and mentally I’m more relaxed. I can get through the stressful stuff at work easier, and I sleep better,” she says.
Byre says she benefitted by hiring Elefson to be her personal trainer. She says he not only helped her learn how to use the equipment at the gym the proper way, but he keeps her workouts fresh by varying her routines to maximize results and he motivates her to remain dedicated to achieving her goal.
“It pays to get a trainer,” she says.
Elefson notes that he has been impressed so far by how dedicated Byre has remained, despite the fact that unlike most people who join a gym, she does not want to know how much she weighs.
“She is more focused on being healthy than just losing weight. To see her numbers improve without setting that obvious goal is neat to see,” he says.
Ultimately, Elefson credits Byre’s willpower for her results.
“We can do all the motivating we want, but it’s up to that person,” he says. “I can point out the facts because we are here to provide education, guidance and motivation, but you have to have some willpower, and you have to be honest with yourself.”
Elefson also warns clients about reaching physical and mental plateaus in their workouts.
“If you do the same exercise over and over without varying it or working on other parts of your body, you become stagnant,” he says. “The body is smart and will adapt. A few months after working out, people see fewer results, and they become frustrated and they stop. That’s why it’s important to shock your body by mixing it up so you can see changes.”
Making changes to your workout also stimulates your mind, experts say.
“Whenever you can make someone feel like it’s fun again to work out, it’s rewarding,” Elefson says.
Another temptation to stop exercising, Elefson warns, is warm weather.
“People don’t feel motivated to go to the gym as much because they’re busy with their children’s sports activities or they’d rather spend their time outdoors doing something other than exercising. A lot of people break their resolutions in March and April, which doesn’t make sense when they want to look good for the summer. In order to do that, they need to keep exercising through the summer,” he says. “Summer is when you want to look your best.”
Elefson suggests that people exercise three to five days a week for 30 to 60 minutes per session. There are 10,080 minutes in a week, and he says if you exercise just 1 percent of that time (100 minutes) you would see healthy results.
“Even if you broke that out into three workouts, it would be beneficial. If people look at it like that, it seems a lot more doable to them,” he says.
For many people, just getting started is half the battle.
“It’s scary to make a lifestyle change, but you’ve got to get the guts and do it,” says Byre.