Slow Down the Aging Process

Did you ever hear anyone say, “I swear I don’t eat more than I used to but I’m gaining weight,” or “I weigh the same as last year but I can’t fit in the same size?” What in the world is going on?

We lose between 1/2 to 1 pound of muscle each year as we age beginning at age 20, just as a natural part of the aging process. Here’s how that effects us: A pound of muscle burns roughly 50 calories a day. A pound of fat burns -2 calories a day, because it’s actually part of our fuel supply.

Now imagine what happens when we lose a pound of muscle. We now eat 50 calories a day more than our body burns. So naturally that extra 50 calories is stored as fat. That translates at 3500 calories a pound to a pound extra every couple months. Add more muscle loss and fewer calories a day burned and more and more fat storage. This leads to slower metabolism (your body burns fewer calories a day) and weight gain.

That’s bad enough but read on! A pound of muscle is about the size of a bar of soap. A pound of fat, however, is the size of a pound of lard. Multiply that by 5 and see how that effects your clothing size!

We lose muscle and replace it with stored fat and we get bigger and softer and flabbier. It sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Sounds like the “normal” aging process. The good news is you can change all that by strength training regularly.

By building muscle to replace lost muscle we can overcome the losses that seem inevitable with the aging process. Think about it. As we build muscle we burn more calories (faster metabolism). When we use more calories than we are taking is as food we start using our stored fat which slims us down. As we take off that layer of fat the tone and shape of our muscles show through and we look firm. Now think of exchanging fat the other way around. If you lose 5 pounds of fat and gained 5 pounds of muscle, there would be no change on the scale, but look again at the difference between a bar of soap and a pound of butter and imagine what would happen in the way your clothes fit.

Yes, aerobic exercise is essential, and it does help to burn fat, but it won’t maintain and build the muscle you need to keep your metabolism active.

The best news is that strength training is no longer the domain of only body builders and the young. It has been found to be the very most effective use of exercise time. Three times per week for about 20 to 30 minutes per session is all that is necessary to strengthen and tone your muscles.

Studies abound on the benefits of strength training; lower blood pressure and heart rate, more stamina, better circulation and general body functions, etc. It is never too late to start. Huge benefits have been achieved by men and women of all ages and ability levels.

Before beginning any exercise program, get your doctor’s approval. Then make an appointment with a certified personal trainer to get started on the right foot. Don’t wait another day. You CAN slow down the aging process!

Ski Conditioning Preparation

You don’t have to wait for the snow to start falling to get ready for ski season. Start your training now and you’ll be sailing past those other ski bums on your way down the mountain. Dusting the competition or showing off to friends are not the only reason to get in shape before the ski season. Skiing is an activity that requires a variety of skills; strength, endurance, balance, and coordination. Hit the slopes without developing these skills and you may be in for more than embarrassment – you might even hurt yourself.

This is where sports-specific training comes in. Generally speaking, sports-specific training programs involve focusing on the various skills associated with a particular activity. Depending on the sport, this may include health-related measures of fitness such as agility, balance, coordination, power, speed, and reaction time. Most sports require a mixture of these components.

Skiing is a sport that relies heavily on skill-related fitness. A traditional fitness program, which includes a combination of weight training and cardiovascular exercise, will only take you so far. A specific training program to develop specific skills for skiing will take you from the peaks to the valleys in record time.

There are several ways to begin a sports-specific training program. The simplest way is to include several new exercises in your regular workout schedule. For example, performing wall sits that require you to “sit” against a wall will help you build up the isometric strength needed for the tuck position in skiing. Squats and lunges will build lower body strength for skiing tough terrain like moguls. Exercises such as crunches to work your abdominals are essential in creating a solid “core” for balance and agility.

It is important to train your body to withstand and absorb the impact associated with skiing. Plyometric movements, such as hopping from side to side, develop muscle power and strength as well as improve agility.

A great way to integrate these elements into your existing routine is to create a circuit training program, which involves rapidly moving from one exercise to the next. You can set up a circuit in any large room or at your club’s aerobic studio. Many health clubs offer this type of class specifically for the ski season. Be sure and place all of your stations before beginning your workout so you don’t have to stop in the middle. Set a specific time limit for each exercise as well as a set period of breaks between each station. Thirty seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of rest are common interval periods. Then, simply turn up the music and make your way down the circuit. You might even want to create your own music tape with timed interval of music for exercise and silence for rest periods.

Try these stations to help you gear up for the slopes; use the slide for lateral training, perform one-legged squats to develop balance and strength, and use a step-bench platform to improve power. Try catching a bean bag as it drops off your forearm to improve reaction times or bounce two tennis balls to improve coordination. To improve agility, create your own slalom by running between two comes. In sports-specific training you are only limited by your imagination.

Do your lifting before you hit the lifts! BAC offers a killer Snowsport Conditioning Training Class as well as a class for Recreational Skiiers.

Nutrition Myths Debunked

Will eating jalapenos increase your metabolism? Of course not, but diet dogma has a life of its own. Even when science reveals the truth behind a diet fad, the myth often lingers. Here’s some popular nutrition myths and the real scoop behind them.

#1: Margarine contains less calories and fat than butter.

The truth: Both margarine and butter are 100% fat. All fats (olive oil, margarine, butter, etc) contain 9 calories per gram or 40 calories per teaspoon. Some “diet” margarines, however, are whipped with water, which cuts the amount of fat and number of calories per teaspoon.

#2: Chicken has less fat than beef.

The truth: Not necessarily. A skinless chicken thigh contains more than twice as much fat as an equal serving of an eye of round roast although the beef is slightly higher in saturated fat. Skinless chicken breast is a low-fat alternative to beef, as long as it is prepared without fat.

#3: Fortified foods are healthful.

The truth: Fortified milk is the only reliable food source of vitamin D, but fortifying some highly processed foods with vitamins and minerals is often a nutritional cover-up that mistakenly implies “more is better.” The products, including some cereals, are often no better but are more expensive and sometimes higher in sugar or fat than their less-fortified counterparts.

#4: Fiber gives foods a coarse texture.

The truth: You can’t tell a food’s fiber content by looks or texture. In general the less processed a grain, vegetable, fruit, or bean the higher its fiber content. Cooking may soften a food but has little effect on the fiber content.

#5: Natural vitamin supplements are more effective than synthetic ones.

The truth: The only difference between natural and synthetic vitamin supplements is the price (natural supplements cost more). The exception is vitamin E. The body uses the naturally occurring form more efficiently than the synthetic form.

#6: Foods labeled “natural” don’t contain preservatives and additives.

The truth: “Natural” on a label simply means that at least one ingredient remains in its natural form. The product may still be processed and contain a number of additives or preservatives.

#7: Athletes should take protein supplements.

The truth: Protein supplements generally are not a good investment. Athletes have the same protein needs as sedentary people – about 50 grams a day for a woman, slightly more for a man. Hard-core bodybuilders may need more protein than other people. Americans typically consume 2 or 3 times as much protein as they really need.

#8: If you feel like eating, you must be hungry.

The truth: Thirst, boredom, fatigue, anxiety, and a desire to avoid unpleasant tasks are often mistaken for hunger. Try a large glass of water, taking a nap, or going for a walk before heading for the refrigerator.

#9: Brown sugar & honey are better for you than white sugar.

The truth: All 3 supply 4 calories per gram (about 20 calories per teaspoon), provide insignificant amounts of nutrients & promote tooth decay.

#10: Yogurt is a health food.

The truth: Not always. Some fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts and frozen yogurts contain more sugar than a candy bar, while whole-milk yogurts are high in fat. Try plain, nonfat yogurt flavored with fresh fruit.

#11: Salad is a diet food.

The truth: A no-fat tossed salad is transformed into a high-fat meal when you add a generous helping of dressing. Potato and pasta salads are often laden with mayonnaise-based dressings, which contain 200 or more calories for each 1/2 cup serving. Use fat-free dressings to return these salads to their nutrient-dense status.

#12: Diet is the best way to lose weight.

The truth: As long as “diet” implies a short-term effort, it’s doomed to fail. A lifelong commitment to low-fat foods & regular physical activity is the only solution to long-term weight management.

#13: Sugar is a quick-energy food.

The truth: Sugary foods may temporarily raise blood-sugar levels, but extra insulin released often overcompensates, dropping them to lower than before. A starchy snack, such as a bagel with peanut butter, sustains a moderate rise in blood-sugar levels and is a better energy food.

#14: Skipping meals is a good way to lose weight.

The truth: People who skip meals bum calories slower, are more likely to overeat later in the day and store fat easier than people who nibble.

Work Out With A Buddy

For some, starting an exercise program may be a daunting prospect. Even if you get started, there are always those days when you just don’t feel like going to the gym or out for that run. And once you skip that first day, it sure is easier to skip the next. How do you stay committed to your fitness program? Try finding a workout partner. If there is someone who will be let down by your no-show, you will be a lot less likely to skip exercise.

Numerous studies have shown that there is a high dropout rate in workout attendance within the first six month – approximately 50 percent.

In my experience working with fitness enthusiasts, it has become evident that to achieve maximal gains in both muscular and cardiovascular fitness, there must be a specific goal in mind that will motivate you to be consistent in your training efforts. Ultimately, this motivation is often best provided by a training partner.

Although many of the positive aspects of having a training partner relate to strength training, most apply to cardiovascular conditioning as well. Here are some ways training with a partner can benefit you…

Safety

One of the most important functions a partner can perform is spotting. A spotter ensures the safety of the person lifting the weights. A good spotter is the cornerstone of good, productive workouts. Proper supervision should be one-on-one. By knowing the lifter’s workout style, the spotter will be better able to “push” the lifter to achieve more repetitions, in good form, that he or she would have been able to do alone. Your spotter can help you attempt that extra repetition as you approach momentary muscular failure – whereas you might have prematurely ended the set for safety reasons if you were lifting on your own. Proper overload will lead to a faster and more efficient progression.

Motivation

Motivation is the key to success in any facet of life. Before you can motivate someone else, you must be highly motivated yourself. By having particular goals in mind, you will be more able to motivate yourself and your partner throughout your training program.

Motivation must be practiced daily, both psychologically and physically, through verbal encouragement. A spotter can encourage his or her partner while reinforcing proper form and technique. Physical motivation can be achieved through actual workout results. Motivation leads to maximum effort that, in turn, leads to maximum gains.

Consistency

As previously mentioned, continued commitment to exercise after the first six months is particularly low. Having a workout partner, however, will make you far less likely to skip days or arrive late for training sessions. In the end, you will become more dedicated to your exercise habits if you establish a consistent training program that you and your partner adhere to.

Social Interaction

For some people, the social aspect of working out in a gym is just as important as the exercise. When two or more people train together, loyalty, trust, and friendship develop between partners. When your partner is your spouse, time spent working out can be quality time together. No matter who your partner is, conversation can help your training become less monotonous and help it flow more smoothly.

Friendly Competition

Friendly competition between partners can add fun to working out. For example, if you both share a common goal, you may want to see who is the first to achieve it. It leads to better workout adherance and a higher level of awareness of your short-term and long-term goals.

Understanding

A training partner often knows your eating habits, exercise habits, attitude changes, and level of commitment. At any level, the more educated you are about your partner, the more you can help him or her achieve personal goals.

A partner will allow you to progress to the next level, while supporting your efforts. If your goal is a higher level of fitness, a workout partner can effectively provide the necessary tools, motivation, and positive outlook for your workout efforts.

First Steps to Fitter Life

We all have our own individual reasons for beginning an exercise program.

Now more than ever before, there is a growing emphasis on feeling good, looking good, and living a longer, healthier life.  Increasingly, scientific evidence tells us that one of the keys to achieving these ideals is fitness and exercise.  But if you spend your days at a sedentary job and pass your evening as a “couch potato,” it may require some determination and commitment to make regular activity a part of your daily routine.

You’ve surely seen enough how-to-do-anything-in-just-a-few-easy-steps lists to know they’re a bit too simplistic to be true.  The following guidelines I will be talking about are not intended to condense everything there is to know about healthy living advice into a few bite-size chunks; nor are they black-and-white rules about what you absolutely must or mustn’t do.  Instead, they are intended as guide to help you get started and achieve you goals.

I want to give you a solid, sensible, smart foundation for overhauling your attitude toward exercise.  And believe me, your attitude is everything when it comes to meeting goals of any kind.

First of all, before starting your exercise program, you should try to establish what your goals are.  Do you want to lower your blood pressure?  Lose some weight?  Be able to walk a few blocks without feeling winded?  Reduce your risk of heart disease?  These are all wonderful reasons to get moving, but wanting to exercise for these reasons doesn’t necessarily mean you will get out and do it.  You need to have the attitude that you’re ready to get started, and take it one day at a time from there.

To get started, develop your plan of attack.  You need to set realistic goals and track your progress.  I am going to offer some strategies for sticking to your plan so that your workout program is as successful as possible.

Before you embark on an exercise program, clarify why you want to get fit.  Once you do that, make sure you’re doing this for yourself-not simply to please your spouse, your doctor, or anyone else who would like to see you feeling your best.

Now it’s time to start setting your specific goals.  Research shows that goal-setting works.  In typical studies, scientists give one group of exercisers a specific goal, such as doing 50 sit-ups.  Meanwhile, they tell a second group of exercisers simply to “do your best.”  The exercisers with specific goals tend to have significantly more success than the comparison groups.

Next, you need to go out and buy yourself a nice notebook or journal.  It can be easy to set goals and rewards, but it’s even easier to forget what they are.  You can keep yourself honest – and motivated – by tracking your goals and accomplishments on paper.  Start each day by reading your exercise goals and re-affirm your reason for doing it.

Whatever your goals are, a training diary can help you get the best results.  You can look back at the end of each week and say, “I did that?”  And you may be inspired to accomplish even more.  Keeping a log shows you whether your goals are realistic and gives you insight into your exercise patterns.  If you’re losing weight, building strength, or developing stamina, you won’t have to wonder what works, because you’ll have a blow-by-blow description of everything you’ve done to reach your goals.

My recommendation for getting started is to find a friend or neighbor who shares your enthusiasm to get out and get moving.  When you commit to exercise with a buddy, your chances of sticking with it go way up.  The support you give one another will motivate you to get out for that scheduled walk even when you really don’t feel like it. If you’ve always wanted to join a gym, or attend an exercise class, it’s nice to participate with your workout buddy who shares your vision.  You can push one another, laugh and joke as you learn the ropes, and motivate one another to get out and get the job done!

When you get in from your work-outs each day, write in your journal the exercises you did, how long you worked out, and most importantly, how it made you feel when you were through. If your workouts include walking or running, don’t forget to look up at the beauty that surrounds you – feel the fresh, crisp air you’re breathing, enjoy the experience.   Each time you go out to exercise, try to go do at least as much, if not a little more than you did the last time.

Exercise doesn’t need to be painful, but if you’ve neglected your body, don’t expect to get a free ride.  Despite what you might hear on those infomercials – “just five minutes a day”, doesn’t cut it.  Exercise is a serious commitment.  You can’t get into shape without exerting some real effort and, perhaps, without experiencing some (but not a lot of) discomfort at first.

So…your “get-started” homework for this week is:
1.  Set realistic goals for the week.
2.  Buy a journal for recording your workouts.
3.  Get out for a workout with a friend or spouse 2 to 3 times this week.
4.  Write down your workout stats every day.
5.  Have a good attitude!  You’ve just made one of the best decisions of your life!

Ideal Body Weight

It is quite evident that everyone can not, and should not, be as thin as some of the movie stars and models you see on the covers of magazines these days.  These pictures are not only commonly airbrushed, but most certainly unattainable for the standard adult.  Common sense and sound nutrition and exercise principles mandate that you should avoid setting “hard and fast” body weight goals.  Rather, you should strive to achieve a body weight that is compatible with a healthy lifestyle by combining both sensible eating, and regular exercise.

To determine ideal body weight, you shouldn’t rely solely on a bathroom scale, height-weight measurements, or body fat percentage measurements.  What represents a safe, realistic, and perhaps even more importantly, attainable body weight for you will depend (to a large extent) on the following factors:

1.  Medical History: Your current medical history, to include a thoughtful review of your personal health risk factors, should be taken into account when attempting to define your ideal body weight.  For example, if your blood pressure is elevated, a modest weight reduction could be quite beneficial.  Extra body mass means that your heart must work harder to pump blood through miles of extra capillaries that feed that extra tissue.  People with diabetes are examples of medical conditions that can be positively affected by weight loss.

2.  Family History: Body weight, like most other physical characteristics, is strongly influenced by genetics.  If your parent and siblings are extremely heavy, it is highly unlikely that you will ever be really thin.  As unfair as this may appear, such a limitation should be kept in mind when establishing your ideal body weight goals.

3.  Body Composition: Leaner bodies are more effective calorie burners.  The more muscle or lean body mass you have, the more calories you burn.  Men naturally have more muscle mass than women, and as a result have higher metabolic rates.  Furthermore, individuals who exercise on a regular basis tend to have more muscle mass and higher metabolic rates compared to non-exercisers.  Add a strength-training program to your fitness regimen and build the muscle needed to raise your metabolic level.

4.  Body Fat Distribution: Body fat located in your upper body region is very risky in terms of your health.  If you have a high amount of upper body fat, you should consider losing weight (specifically body fat) through a combined program of sensible eating and exercise.  One accepted method of determining whether you have an excessive amount of upper body fat is to look at your waist-to-hip ratio.  This is determined by dividing the waist circumference by the hip circumference.  Measure the waist at the smallest point, the hips at the largest.  Men with WHR values exceeding 1.00 are considered to have an excessive amount of upper body fat, while those with less are deemed to have an acceptable level.  Women with WHR values above 0.80 are considered to have an unhealthy amount of upper body fat, under 0.80 is acceptable.

5.  Functional Ability: If your existing body weight inhibits your ability to effectively and efficiently perform your activities of daily living, and comfortably engage in the recreational activities of your choice, it is probably not an ideal level.

To whatever extent genetics determines how you store and lose fat, the body you’ve been given wants to be appreciated and treated well, even if being thin is not in its future.  Exercise and low-fat eating are two of the most important ways that you can help to make your body healthier.  Focusing on pleasurable activity and nutritious foods helps you feel good for who you are, not what size you wear.

There are simply two rules to getting in better shape, and losing body fat.  If that is your goal, why not start every day with this affirmation to yourself…”Today I will eat a little less, and move a little more.”  Tape it to your bathroom mirror, and repeat it throughout the day.  Then get out there and DO IT!!!

Cardio Crash Course

When you’re hanging out with people who exercise a lot you hear the word cardio all the time.  Cardio – which in medical jargon  is short for cardiovascular exercise, means “for your heart.”  It is the kind of exercise that strengthens your heart and lungs and burns a lot of calories.

There are literally dozens of reasons to pursue this sort of exercise – everything from eliminating that spare tire, to lowering your stress level and blood pressure.  Once you understand the basic concepts involved in cardio exercise, you can better design a workout program based on your goals.

How hard do you need to push yourself?  Maybe not as hard as you think.  No, you will not benefit much from walking on a treadmill at the same pace you stroll down the store aisles; they don’t call it working out for nothing.  On the other hand, exercising too hard all of the time can lead to injury and make you more susceptible to burn out.  Also, the faster you go, the less time you can keep up the exercise.  Depending on what you’re trying to accomplish, you may gain just as much, if not more, from slowing down a little and going longer.

To get fit and stay healthy, you need to find the middle ground: a moderate or aerobic, pace.  You can find this in a number of different ways.  Some methods of gauging your intensity are extremely simple, and some require a bit of arithmetic.  Here are a few of the most popular ways to monitor your intensity.

The talk test.  This is the simplest way.  You should be able to carry on a conversation while you’re exercising.  If you’re so out of breath that you can’t say, “help me!”  You need to slow down.  On the other hand, if you’re able to belt out your favorite song at the top of your lungs that’s a pretty big clue you need to pick up the pace.  Basically, you should feel like you’re working hard enough to breathe hard, but not so hard that you think your lungs might explode.

Perceived exertion.    This method uses a numerical scale, typically from one to ten, that corresponds to how hard you feel yourself working – the rate you perceive that you are exerting yourself.

An activity rated 2 would be something that you could do forever, like sitting on the couch watching the rain fall.  A 10 represents all-out effort, like the last few feet of an uphill sprint, about 20 seconds before your legs buckle.  Your typical workout intensity should fall somewhere between 6 and 8.  To decide on a number, pay attention to how hard you’re breathing, how fast your heart is beating, how much you’re sweating, and how tired your legs feel-anything that contributes to the effort of sustaining the exercise.

Measuring your heart rate.  This is a more precise way of monitoring your pace.  Your heart rate is called your pulse, and you can determine this number either by counting the beats at your wrist or neck or by wearing a heart rate monitor.

Your heart rate can tell you a lot about your body – how fit you are, how much you’ve improved, and whether you’ve recovered from yesterday’s workout.  But how do you know what heart rate to aim for?  There’s no magic number.  Rather, there’s a whole range of acceptable numbers, commonly called your target heart rate zone.  This range is the middle ground between slacking off and knocking yourself out.  Typically, your target zone is between 50 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate, the maximum number of times your heart can beat in a minute.   

The most time-honored method for determining maximum heart rate is for men to subtract their age from 220 and for women to subtract their age from 226.  Keep in mind that this formula gives you only an estimate.  Your true max may be as many as 15 beats higher or lower.  Also, this formula is generally used for activities during which your feet hit the ground.

Using that easy formula to find your max, find your target heart rate zone by calculating 50 percent and 85 percent of your maximum.  Here’s the math for a 40-year-old man:

220 – 40 = 180 (this is his estimated maximum heart rate.)  180 X .50 = 90 (This is the low end of his target zone.  Below this number and he’s not working hard enough. 180 X .85 = 153 (This is the higher end of his target zone.  If his heart beats faster than 153 beats per minute, he should slow down.

Okay, so now you know how to figure out your target heart rate zone.  But how do you know if you’re in the zone?  In other words, how do you know how fast your heart is beating at any given moment?  You can check your heart rate in two ways: taking your pulse manually or using a heart rate monitor.

When you’re just starting to work out, you may not have a good sense of how hard to push yourself.  And you may be working out harder than you actually need to.  Actually, this happens to advanced exercisers and athletes all the time.  Left to their own devices, they try to out-do themselves every day.  The smart ones use a heart rate monitor to remind them to slow down.  However, for most of us the problem is getting into a higher gear.

Finally, why can’t we work above the higher end of our aerobic zone?  The point at which your extra oxygen supply runs out and you slip into the reserve mode is referred to as your anaerobic threshold.  When you’re in poor physical shape, your body isn’t very efficient at taking in oxygen, and you hit your anaerobic threshold while exercising at relatively low levels of exercise.  As you become more fit, you’re able to go farther and faster, yet still supply oxygen to your muscles.  By monitoring your heart rate, you can be careful not to become anaerobic (gasping for air, feeling that burning sensation in your legs) and forced to stop exercising.

Exercise Adherence

Your decisions been made, you’re pumped to get started, this time you’re really going to shape up for good!

But did you know that more than half of those who begin an exercise program drop out within the first 6 months?  That’s a staggering statistic, especially when you consider that these same people will eventually start and stop again and again.  But once people realize the reasons they stop exercising, they can implement new behaviors to make exercise a way of life.

There are a variety of reasons people drop out of exercise.  They run out of time, workouts are no fun, or they’ve tried to do too much too soon and are dissappointed in the lack of results.  Someone who stops exercising for any of these reasons, and then starts again without alleviating the initial problem, is very likely to continue to drop out.  Luckily, there are techniques that you can adopt to increase your adherence to an exercise program.

How can you avoid being an exercise drop-out?  First, you should choose an activity that you really enjoy.  Don’t force yourself to take up body building, for instance, if you really can’t stand the weight room.  Enjoyment itself is a powerful motivator.

Second, choose an exercise program that fits your schedule and meshes with your lifestyle.  When you choose an exercise class, for example, find one that fits your time schedule and is in a location that is near your home or workplace.

Next, choose the class that’s right for you.  The type of class, step, low impact, dance or circuit, should fit your exercise capabilities.  If the class is too difficult or too easy, you’ll be more inclined to drop out quickly.  If you’re new to a class, be sure to let the Instructor know.  He or she can tell you what to expect, what level the class is working at, and show modifications if you’re just getting started.

Once you select the facility, time and class you want, make sure your Instructor is motivating to you.  They should be knowledgeable and enjoy teaching.  You should feel that the instructor is concerned with providing you with the best workout possible.  You should also enjoy the environment you’re in and the other members around you.  A huge reason people do group fitness is because it’s social, fun and motivating to be in a group of like-minded individuals that not only enjoy each others company, but enjoy the element of fun and comraderie.

There are several other techniques to help you keep exercising.  Schedule your workouts so a friend can accompany you to class.  Make sure you have the support of your “significant other” so they can reinforce your efforts.  Choose a class where other participants share your exercise capabilities and workout goals.  Pack your clothes the night before and leave them in front of the door.  This way, you must pick them up to leave.

Probably the best way to guarantee that you don’t become a dropout is to set goals for yourself.  I know, I preach this one often.  But you have to make sure your goals are reasonable, achievable, measurable, personal and set within a respectable time frame.  For example, you may want to progress from an intermediate class to an advanced class in 3 months.  This would mean attending 3 or 4 classes a week to build your fitness level.  They key in goal setting is to make certain that you experience success along the way.  Rememeber…Success breeds success.

Another method for improving your adherence to exercise involves relaxation and imagery training.  When you are relaxed, imagine yourself fitter, thinner, stronger or more toned, feeling better and thinking more positively.  All these images will condition your mind to help you exercise over longer periods of time.  Like I always tell my class participants, “you gotta want it!!”  That is why you take the time to show up in a class.  No one takes time out of their day to show up and slack through an hour of exercise.  Remember, you showed up because you want results.  And the only way results are made, is with determination and attitude.

There are many “tricks of the trade” to help you stick to your exercise program.  The key is to really enjoy what you are doing.  When people are having fun together, they will persist in doing it longer.  I realize that I do a lot of preaching about persistence, but it is only because I really want you to succeed.  I want your goals to be met, and I want you to feel good about the person you are.  You need to know that it isn’t all about the way you look on the outside, but exercise can dramatically help the way you feel on the inside.  The first results you get  are not going to be on the scale.  But they will be in the way you go about the rest of your day, or the release of stress you feel after a day at the office.  Exercise is the magic pill that can turn a frown into a smile – and give you the energy to be a better co-worker, parent or friend.  It is a gift you have to give yourself – and it takes a long-term commitment.  So what are you waiting for?  Get out there – and get moving!

A Fitness Consumer Checklist

With the wet and cold season upon us it’s time once again to take our fitness activities indoors. Unfortuately, people know little about how to select the health and fitness center that is right for them. The solution? Learn the important characteristics to be considered before joining a fitness program.

Based on research and experience in the health and fitness industry, a checklist was developed to help the public evaluate health and fitness centers in order to make informed decisions.

It should be noted that this checklist has not been standardized, and there is no set score that assured facility excellence. Rather, the checklist identifies program features available in the industry and allows individuals to rate each component themselves. Answering “yes” to the majority of the following questions about a particular health club should be one given the highest consideration. Though choosing a specific center is subjective, people who use the checklist should feel more confiedent in their decision and, as a result, experience greater program satisfaction.

In addition it is a good idea to discuss the health and fitness centers you are considering with current or past members, This may provide additional insight into whether the program is right for you.

FACILITIES AND EQUIPMENT

  • Is a variety of equipment available (i.e. cardiovascular machines, strength machines)?
  • Are no “out of order” signs visibile on the equipment?
  • Are the facilities clean?
  • Are the facilities being only moderately used during the time you plan on exercising?
  • Are locker rooms available and clean?
  • Does the equipment appear to be well maintained?
  • Is the ambiance of the facilitiy comfortable?
  • Is adequate security provided for personal belongings?
  • Is the facility conveniently located?
  • Is the temparture of the facility comfortable?
  • Is the dress code acceptable to you?
  • Are there time limits on the equipment?

HOURS OF OPERATION?AVAILABILITY

  • Is the center open at convenient times (including weekends, evenings, mornings?)
  • Is the center open when you want to use it?

STAFF QUALIFICATIONS

  • Are floor instructors available to help with your programs?
  • Are floor instructors “experts” (denoted either by professional certifications or degrees)?
  • Are staff available to greet and assist entering clients?
  • Are all staff trained in CPR and is first aid available during all hours of operation?
  • Are staff enthusiastic fitness instructors rather than salespeople?
  • Was a physician’s clearance (in accordance with the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines) discussed by anyone on the staff?

COST

  • Were you offered a pass to try out the facilities before you joined?
  • Is the membership fee affordable?
  • Does the cost of dues include the classes, lockers, towels, membership cards, pool, etc?

SERVICES PROVIDED

  • Are daycare services provided? If so, do they offer programs to keep your kids entertained and fit?
  • Are periodic clinics or seminars provided?
  • Are fitness assessments conducted before you begin and periodically throughout your membership?
  • Does the club work with the community to endors the importance of fitness?
  • Are fitness assessments used for developing an individualized exercise program?
  • Are towels provided for wiping down the equipment between patrons?
  • Does the club provide nutritional services or guidelines?
  • Does the staff care enough to call you by your name?

I hope this questionnaire will help you in your search for a quality health club. Most importantly, I hope you will achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself and continue your exercise program. If you’re just getting started, please start slowly and stick to your program. Positive results don’t happen overnight.