Have a Healthy New Year (And Maintain It All Year Round, Too)

How to make a new exercise/workout/get healthy program work for you in 2013.


"Too many people think they can go to a gym and take a leisurely walk on a treadmill and see the pounds melt away," says Dale Athanas, owner/manager of Snap Fitness of Clinton. "We can show them how to exercise but we can't control what goes into their mouths - therein lies the problem," he points out. 

While Athanas admits there is no real secret to good health, he does offer several great recommendations to achieve this goal:

"Avoid all diets - diets do not work, permanent diet change does. If possible eat a Mediterranean diet - lots of colorful vegetables, no white potatoes, rice, pasta (try artichoke pasta) - olive oil and vinegar for salad dressing - olive oil for cooking. If possible, avoid meat and stick with fish, beans, lentils, tofu for protein... If you must eat meat, eat chicken or turkey with no skin. Only multigrain breads and not too much," is his advice.

"As for exercise, you need to do cardio and strength training a minimum of three times a week - four is better. Strength training first to get the heart rate up followed by cardio. Although any cardio is better than none, you will only gain the most benefit by spending 30 to 45 minutes with your heart rate in the training zone - 70-85% of maximum output. This is particularly important for someone trying to lose weight," he added.

Most common complaint Athanas hears is: "I've been working out for (fill in the blank) months and I haven't seen any results." 

These are the people, he says, "who do little or no strength training, take a leisurely walk on a treadmill and than go out to dinner and eat a huge bowl of pasta. We do coach them but when we start explaining how they need to change their diets - they tune out."

"Restaurant food is the worst thing you can eat - it is loaded with salt, sauces and calories. It is virtually impossible to keep from gaining weight if you eat out all the time."

Athanas admits his last piece of advice is controversial: "Stop watching TV news and/or listening to radio news. It is totally negative, highly stressful and can lead to nervous eating, neck tension/pain, etc."

On the other side of town, Jeff Reyka of Shoreline Health & Fitness says at this time last year the fitness center kicked off a Body Transformation program.

"We gave them diet tips, we gave them a bunch of things, many worked with our trainers," he said.

The center came up with a goal that those in the program would lose a combined total of 3,000 pounds over six months.

"We knew that was a ridiculous number," Reyka said and added, "Well, we lost over 2,600 pounds in a short period."

This successful program will start up again for 2013 on January 14.

If you’re looking for weight loss, Shoreline Health & Fitness's Group Exercise Coordinator and Trainer Heather Theriault says the general recommendation is 30 to 45 minutes of cardio exercise three to five times a week.

"You also want to incorporate strength training three days a week. By strength training I mean dumbbells or resistance bands or anything that gets those muscles going," she adds.

After about two or three weeks, most people start to make it part of their regular routine.

"If you can stick with it, it becomes a habit and you start to feel really good. You may not start to see results weight-wise after two weeks but you will start to feel better and have more energy," Theriault finds.

But, if you take a week or two off, it becomes harder to jump back in.  

To increase you chances of success, Theriault says "accountability is the number one way of sticking with an exercise program or a weight loss program."

This can include logging your food daily with a food journal, working with a personal trainer, finding a group exercise class that you really enjoy or having a gym buddy – "something or someone that’s going to hold you accountable."

A food journal increases your chances of losing weight tremendously, she says, "because you have to physically look and be honest with yourself."

A "fun fact" posted at the center said that 85 percent of people who work with a trainer are successful compared with those who don’t.

Theriault explains, "Because you are accountable so you’re getting results better than someone who thinks they’ll get results doing it on their own."

It is, she admits, easy to drop the ball and put everything at the top of the list and put yourself at the bottom of that list.

While she doesn’t recommend a specific diet, she says, "You want to have a little bit of everything in your diet. I’m not a nutritionist but do know that Weight Watchers is a terrific program. I’ve done it myself after having both of my kids."

"Everything in moderation. Portion size is your biggest thing. Measuring your portions, reading the box and seeing what the portion size is is key," she advices. 

With the Body Transformation program, trainers create teams and team members weigh in every week.

"Last year we lost over 2,600 pounds, that’s 75 inches! We say we lost the weight of a Honda Civic!" she crows.

Those who join are given nutrition tips, exercise tips or a challenge for the week – something fun for the team. Or, it may be an inspirational quote or an assignment to check out something on YouTube.

Sounds like a fun way to get that needed support on what can be another short-lived New Year's resolution.


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