On target!


To lose weight and get in shape, start off by setting small, attainable goals

ontarget.jpgSo you made a resolution to lose weight and get in shape. You probably thought about it while you were working on your second helping at the office Christmas party and repeated it all the way to New Year’s Day.

On January 2—hey, you needed a day to recover—you hit the gym early in the morning with the enthusiasm of a Little Leaguer. More than a month later, you’re frustrated. You’ve only lost three pounds—you could have done that in a day in high school—and you’re hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock much more often than the weights at the health club.

You aren’t alone. Every year, “getting in shape” tops most New Year’s resolution lists. In January, new memberships at health clubs soar and for about a month it’s hard to find an empty treadmill or a free machine at the gym. By February, though, the gym regulars are mostly the same folks who were there the year before. All those people with great intentions only a month earlier are back to their old habits while paying for a membership they don’t use.

Don’t despair. Your resolution can still work even if you’ve put it off for a few weeks. Armed with advice from some of the area’s most knowledgeable fitness experts, you can beat the odds and finally get back into shape this year.

Starting out right
Tavis Piattoly, training and wellness manager at Elmwood Fitness Center, says it’s essential to see a doctor before starting a regular fitness regimen. According to Piattoly, not only will this tell you what kind of shape you’re in, but it will also provide important measurements—waist, hip, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and body fat—that you can use for later comparison. Remember that weight loss is not the only way to measure your progress. Piattoly stresses that it’s critical to have reasonable expectations. If it took 10 years to gain those 40 pounds, why should it take only five months to lose them? Take your time; this is about a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. Set some attainable goals, find the area of the health club you feel most comfortable in (such as the weight
room, the cardio machines or pool), and realize that you can slowly but surely reach your objective.
“Exercise,” Piattoly reminds us, “is a progression.”

Get specific and make it a habit
Too often, people only have a vague idea of what they want to get out of their workouts. Larry Gibas, manager and trainer at Uncle Joe’s Pilates Studio, says to narrow it down. Your goal has to be measurable and not abstract. Instead of wanting to simply increase your flexibility, aim for something tangible like touching your toes. After you’re able to reach your toes, create a new goal.

All beginners start with a high level of motivation, Gibas says, but the ones who continue on and succeed are those who develop discipline and then turn it into a habit. Discipline kicks in when the motivation has bottomed out—you’re sick of working out, you’d really rather be eating pizza, but you work out anyway.

Discipline leads to routine. Exercise is no longer something you think about doing; you just do it like you would take a shower every day. “It becomes like brushing your teeth,” Gibas explains. “It’s not something

Let a professional help
No matter how long you’ve been at it—just getting started or entering your tenth Iron Man Triathlon—everyone can use some professional guidance. Mark Thonn, a personal trainer at Temple Gym, on Magazine Street, says figuring out what kind of workout person you are will decide how much guidance you need.
Some people only require a little instruction on how to do an exercise or use a machine correctly; others, such as busy professionals, will only make a workout if it’s scheduled and they’re paying money for it. A third group of gym rats needs a fair amount of guidance, so they don’t hurt themselves and stay with the program.

Even Thonn uses a trainer when he’s trying a new exercise to ensure his form is correct. “Everyone should get a trainer when they’re starting,” he points out. “For instance, just changing the angle of an exercise lets you can hit that target muscle much more effectively, and a trainer can show how to do that.”

Thonn couldn’t be more right. After all, sticking with that New Year’s resolution is all about change and trying to hit your targets; this year and in years to come.