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Tricks to keeping that New Years zeal at the gym

You've said it before and you're saying it again -- this year is the year you're getting fit.

As gyms across the country see an influx of people with all their good intentions at the turn of the year, the reality is, most of that enthusiasm will fade off by mid-February to the beginning of March.

That's according to fitness experts at the Detroit Lakes Community and Cultural Center, where membership spikes as of Jan. 1.

So how can you beat the odds and keep your steam past March?

The answer could be much simpler than you think.


For most, it's not hard to laugh, gab or complain.

And according to Leslie Johnson, who runs the Silver Sneakers program and water aerobics at the DLCCC, that's the key to getting in shape.

"The hardest part is just getting yourself there (to the gym)," said Johnson, "once you get there, you're going to meet people who are there for the same reason you are, and pretty soon it becomes a reason to go in -- it becomes a fun, social event."

Johnson says if she doesn't have people around her when she's exercising, it becomes a burden.

"And that's when you stop doing it," said Johnson, "We have to want to go. If you make yourself go and you're dreading every minute, it's not going to work; you're not going to keep going. People need people."

Don't get crazy

Having a big start-date of Jan. 1 (or for partygoers, Jan. 2), can often cause an over-zealous surge of self-destruction, especially if losing weight is also a goal.

"Since you're starting a new physical activity, combining it with a restricted calorie intake can cause you to get that starving feeling," said DLCCC Fitness Instructor Bobby Smith, "you won't feel well and you'll start to get cravings -- that's when it's easy to quit."

Smith, who is obviously fit as a fiddle, says she has never had to diet because she eats healthy -- for the most part.

And if you go on a diet, eventually, you'll have to go off.

"Instead of greatly restricting calories, just gradually start eating a few more fruits and vegetables," said Smith, "then add some whole grains here and there, but you don't have to cut out cookies and things like that. Everything in moderation."

Smith adds that just like easing into healthy eating, it's equally important to ease into physical exercise.

"It's not getting on the tread mill and going six miles; it's more like ... sweat a little every day," said Smith, "get your heart rate up a little every day so that you feel like you've done something."

You're never too old,

and never too broken

"There are no excuses," said Johnson, who has seen her Silver Sneakers program (for ages 65 and older) grow by leaps and bounds in the past 10 years.

"I do deal with older people, but the Arthritis Foundation says 'motion is lotion,' you need to get in," said Smith, "I hear people say, 'I can't. I'm so sore. I hurt.' But that is why they're sore, because they're not moving. The body is designed to move with all the ligaments and muscles and blood, and when you don't, it hurts."

Johnson says regardless of age, shape or disability, people are best off in motion, and for people who've undergone surgery or just starting out, the best way for them to get their feet wet, is to get their feet wet.

"It's a good way to get back into things because the water is equal," said Johnson, who has seen her water aerobics class jump from three members to 50 since starting the program, "you can't baby one side or the other, and as you move in the water, you're using the resistance of the water like a weight."

Johnson says the key to sticking with it (especially for beginners) can lie within mixing it up, finding what's enjoyable to you and tailoring the workout for your own needs.

"For instance, some of us can't get down on the floor for yoga because of age or circumstance," said Johnson, who says instead of opting out, people should find another way.

"We use chairs to get the same stretches and build strength and get a better range of movement," said Smith.

But not everybody can go to the gym, and for those people, Johnson says walking can be the easy, feel-good way to exercise.

"Whether it be a 10-minute walk away from your house or walking at the mall, it can just make you feel good," said Johnson, who adds that everyday movement can also be purposefully increased to count as a work out.

She says a good house cleaning can get the blood pumping and muscles working, as well as becoming involved in kid's groups.

"When you work with kid's activities, it forces you to bend, walk, stand ... and you maybe don't even realize it," said Johnson, who says bowling, volleyball or any type of game can also count for a fun workout.

Do it for your mood

Both health experts say the very best perk of exercising the body is what it does for the mind.

"It's such a mood elevator," said Smith, "Even if you haven't exercised much and you go and do something for 30 minutes, you will feel like you've accomplished something, and it will make you want to eat better."

Smith says the feel-good feeling is amped up even more a couple of months after keeping at it, when that day comes and those old jeans fit again.

"You just start to get a better mental outlook with everything. It helps with diabetes and blood pressure," said Smith, "but it doesn't happen after a month and it's the sort of thing that is so easy to find excuses for, but you have to want to do it for yourself -- you have to want to be happy and healthy and make it a priority."