It’s that time of year again: You vow to lose those 10 extra pounds, make the gym a daily occurrence, and eliminate junk food from your diet. New Year’s resolutions, however well intentioned, are often short-lived mantras.
Gym memberships tend to increase in January, giving the fitness industry an annual boost, but often, new members set themselves up for failure with unrealistic expectations, rather than setting healthy lifestyle patterns that stick, local trainers said this week.
“People go in full force. They have this resolution to go to the gym five, six, or seven days a week, and then they just burn out too fast,” said Mike Bahel, a trainer and owner of Body Tech Health and Fitness in Amagansett and Montauk. Bahel instead recommends a moderate regimen that is a lifelong commitment.
People need “30 minutes a day of aerobics and weight training,” he said. Trendy boot camp classes, spinning, and yoga might be overwhelming for a beginner. “I think a lot of people jump into all that stuff and they don’t have a foundation of strength with their ligaments and tissues. They get injured, pull muscles, and get discouraged. . . . People in general should get a nice strength base. A lightweight training workout four times a week builds up slowly, instead of jumping right in to these crazy classes.”
Making it to the gym can also be a struggle. Bahel suggests thinking about exercise as one would think about getting up for work. “If you schedule it into your day, you can do it; it’s a matter of commitment and being true to your commitment. It’s your health. It’s your livelihood. It’s your longevity.”
Kimberly French, a yoga instructor at Body Tech in Montauk and Arthur Murray in Southampton studied martial arts for 12 years. “To me, New Year’s resolutions are like you’re starting something new without any negative energy put into it,” she said. When she trained in martial arts at a dojo, she learned how to empty her mind before class. “We would say, ‘Empty your cup.’ You drained your cup. I’m going to drain myself of past history, old knowledge, and I’m going in with a clean slate. That’s pretty much how I get people started, especially with New Year’s resolutions. Let’s leave all the old assumptions behind,” she said.
An open mind-set is half the battle. French also encourages people to find something they like to do. “Don’t make your workout work. If you hate to run, don’t run,” she said. According to French, some people get along better with certain instructors. “If you’ve gone once or twice, and you don’t like the class, it might not be the right instructor for you or the class is too competitive.”
When you find something that works for you, do it several times a week. However, French also suggests making time for muscle-tone or cardio activities twice a week. “Most of the time I do what I love to do, but then I know there are benefits from other things that I do for myself,” she said.
Carolyn Giacalone, an instructor at the Y.M.C.A. East Hampton RECenter, and of tai chi and pilates at Hampton Library in Bridgehampton, among other places, recommends that exercise newbies start with stretching. This way they can “See where their body is and its symmetry. Notice if one side is tighter. We want symmetry, otherwise the body starts to compensate,” she said. Stretching is fundamental to the strength of the core, which protects the back. “So many people have back injuries or back pain, and they work from their back instead of their abdominals,” she said.
Giacalone also recommends exercising in the water, which gives people “a whole different range of motion because of buoyancy and resistance. There is a stretch, something for the core, and it’s aerobic,” she said.
She reminded those who have resolved to be more fit this year that results do not happen overnight. “Just like it took awhile to get out of shape, it takes awhile to get into shape,” Giacalone said. “There has to be consistency over time.”