The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 2, 2013

Get lean in 2013

Tips for creating a healthier, skinnier, richer, better-looking you

By Karen Middleton
For The News Courier

— By the time you are reading this it will be several hours into Jan. 2, 2013. Have you kept your New Years resolutions?

So, okay, it usually takes about three months for most of us to totally blow those resolutions, especially when it comes to losing weight, getting fit or stopping smoking. But experts we consulted say give it time; slow and steady wins the race.

According to the Website, WebMD, about a third of New Year’s resolvers make weight loss their primary goal, and about 15 percent aim to begin an exercise program. But many of these resolutions fail because those making them expect instant results and give up when they don’t get them.

Cedric Bryant PhD, chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise, says people make the mistake of being too “gung-ho” and wind up injuring themselves and derailing their fitness plans.

“Start slow and then gradually progress,” says Bryant. “The thing most people forget is that they didn’t become de-conditioned and out of shape overnight. You shouldn’t expect to become well conditioned overnight.”

Local wellness options

Whitney Mooney, a manager at the Athens-Limestone Hospital Wellness Center, said there is a typical hike in membership at this time of the year.

“January, February and March are our busiest times,” said Mooney. She suggests that the public consult the hospital Website and link to the Wellness Center for an overview of services.

“We typically run a holiday special and a summer special,” said Mooney.

She said the terms of those specials can vary and advises those interested to stop by the facility off West Washington Street to speak with a staff member and get a tour of the center and a printout of specials and schedules.

“A lot of people do the specials and then do a cancelation, but others continue,” she said. “But I would say [new membership] begins to dwindle by the end of March.”

Caleb Pope, director of Sportsfit, said the company does not do holiday specials, but have a “member referral” special in which new members and those who refer them get a free month.

“We see a lot more people coming in January and February than usual,” said Pope. “Last year at this time I was at our Decatur facility; this is my first year at Athens. But, last year I would say (in Decatur) we had about a 20-percent spike in membership, and that’s a ballpark figure.”

Pope encourages people who are interested to come in an pick up a price sheet, get a one-time free “set up.”

“You can tell us what your target area is and we can suggest machines or if you want to go a step further, we can set you up with a personal trainer,” said Pope.

Whole-body workout

Jonathan Ross of Bowie, Md., a personal trainer consulted by WebMD, said when choosing a workout, concentrate on the whole body and not just one area.

A cardio workout improves the function and health of the heart, lungs and blood vessels. Weight-bearing exercises enhance the function and health of the bones, muscles, joints and connective tissues.

“It really doesn’t matter what you do, if it’s running up and down the stairs in your house if it’s sitting up and down in a chair 20 times, or running around the yard, or running around the treadmill, all (cardiovascular) exercise has to be is something that increases the demand for oxygen,” says Ross. “If you are asking your body to use oxygen more rapidly, that is by very definition, cardiovascular training.”

Ross said some activities could double as weight-bearing exercise, the other component to ideal fitness. This type of exercise involves anything that uses body weight against gravity. Examples include walking, jogging, playing basketball, yoga, martial arts, push-ups, weight training and free weights.

To get maximum benefits, focus on working larger muscle groups. Most of muscle mass is in the trunk, thighs, chest, back and abdomen. Ross suggests starting out with one set of eight to 15 repetitions of one exercise two days a week.

Cedric Bryant says to figure out of you are exercising at the right level, try the talk test.

“The goal is to carry on a basic conversation without being out of breath,” said Bryant. “If you find that you are too chatty, however, chances are you are not working hard enough.”

You can also assess your energy level after a workout. If you are still tired one hour after exercise, you probably overdid it, Bryant said.