We know that being fit means more energy, increased confidence, a better handle on stress, even reduced risk for disease.
So why, then, is it so hard to put down that remote and move?
“You don’t have time. You have to go to work, and cook dinner. You don’t like to exercise,” said Dr. Kevin Prue, founder of Prue Physical Therapy & Sports Performance in Cary. “We let these barriers dictate our decisions. But it’s all about prioritizing what’s valuable to you.”
A bit of planning, say Prue and other local experts, can help us overcome the obstacles and set us on a path to improved physical and mental fitness.
“Your body was designed to move, so conditioned and nourished properly, it will thrive. And when your body is flexible and strong, so is your mind,” said Patty Geiger, owner of StudioVIBE in Cary.
“Today is the day, if you want to get fit,” added Alisa Wright Colopy, president of Cary-based nonprofit Fit & Able Productions. “Being ‘healthy’ is being able to do the daily tasks you want and need to do, with proper rest, and eating healthy foods that you still enjoy. The goal is simply being the best you can be.”
First make a plan, and set your fitness goals. Consistency, rather than duration of exercise, is most important when starting out, says Beth Blount, group exercise director at the Cary Family YMCA.
She recommends using the SMART planning tool to set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based.
“Figure out what time of day works best for you. Figure out what exercise you enjoy,” said Blount. “Spend some time each week making that plan for exercise and nutrition. Write it down, share it with your accountability partner or trainer, and the best part, check it off when you are done!”
Small, short-term goals help you stay motivated, Prue says, goals that are meaningful to you: Before you can easily lift that grandchild, learn how to safely lift 10 pounds. Before you set your sights on a marathon, master a mile.
“Make it something incremental, that you can do without a radical change in your life,” Wright Colopy said. “Walk for 30 minutes at local greenways and parks. That’s easy to measure, and being outdoors offers psychological benefits that reinforce your efforts.
“I highly recommend turning exercise into social time, with a friend or in a group setting,” she added. “It’s more enjoyable, and an appointment-style approach keeps you accountable. If it’s fun, you’ll do it.”
Ask a knowledgeable person to review your goals objectively, Geiger suggests, and place them in a visible location.
“Remember, everything in moderation,” she said. “If you want to make a change, take gradual steps and avoid getting obsessive about anything.”
Next, put your plan into motion.
Prue says a well-rounded fitness plan addresses mobility, strength and cardiovascular needs. For all ages, he recommends a mix of resistance training to build muscle, such as body weight exercises, exercise bands, Pilates, yoga or group classes. Variety is key.
“I was always active in sports growing up. (My wife) Anita is interested in fitness classes. It became increasingly challenging to find time to exercise ourselves when we were busy taking Marco to his practices and games. … Marco has become interested in running and has participated in a number of 5K races. … We saw an opportunity for all of us to spend time together as a family while also working toward our own fitness goals.
“The commitment we made to the (Fit & Able) team and having regularly scheduled practices works for us, because exercise is built into our family schedule. We’ve found an activity that works for the whole family.”
— Derrick Evans and
Anita Cardona of Cary,
and son Marco, 11
“Find something you like; if you enjoy doing it, you’ll make time for it and it will become part of your regular routine,” said Prue, who does mini-workouts throughout his busy day.
A critical point here is balance, notes Blount: “Do what you are supposed to 80 percent of the time and do what you want to 20 percent of the time. This will allow you to eat the foods that you want to eat, and allow your body to recover from your workouts,” she said.
Don’t forget the kids, says Wright Colopy, who produces all-inclusive events from marathons to the recent Cozy Toes Fun Run, through Fit & Able.
“Kids love that playful competition with parents,” she said. Body weight exercises like bending, squats and push-ups are also good, and in the middle school years start familiarizing them with free weights, keeping good technique in mind.
As the source of our energy, nutrition is also an important part of a fitness plan. Again, variety is crucial.
“Any plan that completely excludes something is not good, in fitness or nutrition,” Prue noted. “And too much of anything, even water or salad, is bad for you. We need those whole grain carbs, those fats and proteins.”
Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar steady and keep you feeling full. Eat fresh vegetables and fruits, lean chicken and fish, and whole grains.
Prep meals ahead of time, or cook multiple meals on Sundays to save time during the week.
And while weight loss is not synonymous with fitness, if it’s part of your goal, remember that one to two pounds per week is practical.
Exactly, says certified health coach Louis Vitiello Jr. of Cary, who lost more than 220 pounds without surgery, reversed chronic illness, and achieved a healthy lifestyle.
“The best way is to start is with your end goal, and work backward into smaller, achievable goals,” Vitiello said. For instance, losing 200 pounds is a daunting goal. But broken down to 100 pounds a year, 8 pounds a month, or 2 pounds per week, it’s doable.
“Have conversations with your doctor and collaboratively set up realistic goals,” he said. “If you haven’t stepped into a gym in the last five years, maybe your first goal is to go twice a week for 30 minutes and work up from there. Be creative, and track your success. Keep your goals simple, yet challenging and easy to integrate so you can sustain them long-term.”
Vitiello is active 45 minutes a day, five days a week, watches what he eats and changed his mentality to reach his goals.
“The most successful people have a strong reason for why they want to lose weight and get fit, which goes beyond looking good or fitting into new clothes,” he said. “The more personal your reasons, the more determination you’ll have.”
The bottom line, says Prue, is that there’s no time like now to get fit.
“Set your goals, do your research, and put a plan together on how to get there,” he said. “Don’t wait to jump into this new phase.”
“Allow yourself the time and space to make changes, and to be successful,” added Wright Colopy. “I love seeing people take control of their destiny.”
Or as Vitiello says, “Take the first step in your journey of becoming a better you.”
“I was never a runner, but it gives me more energy and I feel good about myself. My kids and I also do 5Ks, core exercises, swimming … a good variety makes it fun. The kids love it too, being active and spending quality time together. We’ve learned how much fun it is, and how important it is. Being able to participate in exercise with them, rather than dropping them off or sitting in the bleachers, makes it great.”
— Mark Peterson of Cary,
with son Bryce, 13, and daughter Kaycee, 10
“I have always been very physically fit and value exercise as one of my favorite stress relievers and ways to enjoy life. My kids, as a result, have grown up seeing an active mom who shoots hoops with them, takes them biking, and insists on family walks. They have absorbed the importance of fitness!”
— Kristy Wynns of Cary,
with daughters Zoe, 13, and Logan, 10
Group vs. solo exercise: Try both! Groups add accountability; try multiple sites and instructors.
Mom time: Try mommy-and-me or stroller classes; ask Grandma to watch the kids while you exercise; work out at home with a YouTube video.
Kids: Workouts are good for kids! Done correctly, they address coordination and flexibility and reduce injury risk. Take kids with you to the gym, or find one with equipment scaled to their size.
Over 60: Good movement helps you maintain your function and independence; look for a trainer who specializes in working with older people.
Want to eat smaller portions? Buy smaller plates!
Bonus points: Parents who eat healthy and exercise tend to have kids who develop these same mindsets.
— Dr. Kevin Prue
$$: Invest your money in quality shoes that you wear only for training.
Trying to lose weight? Watch your por
tion sizes and don’t eat after 7 p.m., unless it’s something healthy, like an orange or banana.
Water: Drink throughout the day, rather than chug later to meet your quota.
Pre-exercise: See a doc if you’re older or have health issues. Otherwise, your yearly physical counts.
— Alisa Wright Colopy
Choose: Group exercise classes that leave you feeling challenged, but successful.
Post-baby workout: Pull in your abs and hold for 10 seconds, several times a day. After a few weeks, add in planks for several weeks, then start crunches or sit-ups.
60 is the new 40: Recovery may take a bit longer, but you can still do it. Make dynamic and static stretching part of your fitness routine, and keep moving!
— Beth Blount
30-day commitment: Show up. Plan a variety of exercise so you don’t get bored.
Traveling? A 20-minute circuit workout using just your body weight counts.
Take turns: Swap child care with other moms so you can exercise; jog beside the kids while they ride their bikes; create stations to do a playful circuit workout together.
Don’t bite: Avoid helping kids clean their plates by taking that final bite of their PBJ. It adds up.
— Patty Geiger
Like nature? Hike trails. Ultra-busy? Be active 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes at night. Set goals that fit your lifestyle and support who you are.
Get personal: List the reasons you want to be healthier. The more personal the better, for mustering daily willpower.
Remember: It’s not about immediate results. It’s about results over time.
— Louis Vitiello Jr.
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