Personal trainer monitoring a client's movemen...

By Theresa Schieffer
GateHouse News Service
Posted Dec 09, 2011 @ 12:26 PM

If fitness expert Tricia Cross were to create a motivational poster for clients who want to make healthier lifestyle choices, it would contain the message, “People don’t plan to fail; they fail to plan.”

“No. 1 is have a plan,” advised the fitness director for FitClub West and South in Springfield, Ill. “That’s what most people fail to do, and that’s why they fail.

“It’s like a trip,” she continued. “You know where you want to go, but it’s probably going to be a stressful trip if you just jump in the car and don’t map it out first. Fitness is the same.”

There are many reasons people don’t hit their fitness goals. They don’t have a plan. They get bored quickly. They don’t know how to get started, or they are intimidated by people who appear to be experts.

Get good advice, be patient

Tricia Cross, fitness director, says people who have failed in the past to get in shape should consider hiring a personal trainer who can help them develop a plan.

“The people who yo-yo a lot or always start out with good intentions but fail quickly are the best candidates for getting a personal trainer,” she said.

A personal trainer can help people avoid mistakes, such as setting yourself up for failure. A common example, Cross says, is setting an unrealistic goal, such as trying to lose 20 pounds in a couple of months to look good for a class reunion.

“People use exercise all the time as a temporary fix, but it’s a lifestyle change,” she said. “The 10-year class reunion can be the drive behind people making that decision, but they need to plan far enough ahead so they can make those changes into a lifestyle change they can live with. Then it doesn’t flip their world upside down and put them in an uncomfortable zone where something has to break.”

In her work as fitness director, personal trainer and fitness-class instructor for the Lincoln (Ill.) Park District, Jacki Pavlik advises people to “take baby steps” as they begin their journey toward a healthier lifestyle.

“A lot of people say they want to run a half-marathon by a certain date,” she said. “You have to make sure your goals are feasible so you can actually meet them.”

It will also take time.

After many years of being on what she describes as a weight-loss roller coaster, Shawn Cox, of Lincoln, Ill., decided she and her husband needed to get in shape to prepare for scouting backpacking trips. When she didn’t experience the desired results, she sought Pavlik’s services as a personal trainer.

“It took one year for me to get down to where I felt like I was fit and healthy,” said the 46-year-old mother of four who lost more than 40 pounds. “I have to say my 40s have been the best years of my life.”

Fear factor

Many newcomers are intimidated by the gym scene. Jacki Pavlik, fitness instructor, says she tells clients that picturing a room full of toned, Spandex-clad bodies is an unrealistic image.

“I let them know that, for the most part, the people are going to look like them,” she said. “There’s not going to be a whole lot of perfect people there. You see all shapes, sizes and ages of people.”

Pavlik also makes sure her clients know that exercise apparel made out of form-fitting fabrics is by no means a gym requirement.

“I tell them to wear comfortable clothing, not jeans or anything tight-fitting, and we’ll go from there,” she said.

A personal trainer also can increase the comfort level of gym novices by familiarizing them with the equipment. Not only will this keep them from feeling clueless about how to operate the equipment, but it will give them an opportunity to learn proper technique in order to avoid injury.

Exercising with a partner and attending group fitness classes are other recommendations for people who might have difficulty sticking with an exercise regimen on their own. Both can help with motivation, accountability and inspiration, Pavlik says.

Variety is the spice of life

To maximize results and stick with exercising, people need to add variety to their workout.

Cross training is so important,” Jacki Pavlik said. “If you do the same thing over and over and over and never mix it up, you’re going to see results at first, and then your body will plateau out. You may continue to see a little bit of results, but not as great as you did in the beginning. That’s why it’s important to do different things to keep it mixed up so you’re not constantly using the same muscles.”

Tricia Cross says getting adequate sleep contributes to achieving desired results from a fitness routine, too.

“There is relatively new research that shows a direct correlation between sleeping patterns and weight loss,” she said. “If people aren’t sleeping well or getting much sleep, a chemical goes up that causes them to store weight, specifically around the belly area.”

You are what you eat

Consulting a nutrition expert also can help people get on the right track toward a healthier lifestyle.

Becky Charlton Smith, a registered dietitian and licensed dietitian nutritionist with Memorial Medical Center in Springfield, Ill., routinely works with people who have failed in previous weight-loss efforts because of a poor approach.

One of the first questions she asks is how a person tried to lose weight in the past.

“It gives us an idea that maybe they tried fad diets in the past that were too restrictive, which is one of the things that can set someone up for failure,” Charlton Smith said. “Any kind of diet where they’re eliminating the food groups, like the no-carbohydrate diet or the fat-free diet, we are concerned about that.”

Eating also requires a lifestyle commitment to be successful, Charlton Smith said.

“You want to make permanent changes,” she said. “You don’t want to just do something for three months and then stop.”

Long-term success also hinges on getting everyone in the household on board, Charlton Smith said. For example, everyone needs to agree on certain dietary changes, such as switching from whole milk to a lower-fat milk.

“I always say try to have something you all can compromise on,” she said. “Maybe it’s only 1 percent milk, but that’s something.”

To get started, people can make small changes, such as drinking fewer sodas, switching from regular to diet soda, using skim milk instead of cream in coffee, adding fruits and vegetables to their diets, eating more whole grains, choosing leaner meats and decreasing serving sizes.

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