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Thursday, Jan. 7, 2010 07:43 pm

Finding your way to fitness

Four tips to start the new year out right


An unidentified child shows off while playing basketball at the Boys and Girls Club of Central Illinois in Springfield.

Avoid the New Year’s resolution trap

January, 2010…you’ve been handed a proverbial clean slate -- another chance to shrug off your bad habits and reach for your dreams. It never fails to evoke feelings of hope and renewal, but is it really a trap?

In an attempt to bottle that New Year’s vigor, you’ve probably made a few resolutions. As a personal trainer I am a huge proponent of goal-setting. But before you get too far into the new year, you ought to know this:

It has been reported that 92 percent of all New Year’s resolutions end in failure.

That means that fewer than 1 out of every 10 people will successfully accomplish their resolutions in 2010. Ouch! Those statistics are brutal. Who in their right mind would take the time to make resolutions when failure is that imminent?

As a fitness professional with more than 25 years of experience in the industry, I’d like to coach you through this sticky situation. Yes, most people fail to achieve their New Year’s resolutions. However, I am going to clue you in on what the 92 percent do wrong and teach you what the 8 percent who succeed do right.

First up, the 92 percent who fail. These well-meaning folks share a common mistake that puts the nail in their coffin before they’ve even begun: they bite off more than they can chew. In all the excitement of becoming a better person and changing their life in the new year they make the crucial mistake of committing to do too much. But reality sets in, a few weeks or even days into their reformed life, and they give up.

The 92 percent give themselves an easy way out. They approach their resolution with an “all or nothing” attitude. Once the “all” becomes too tough they opt for “nothing.” And just like that, another resolution ends in failure.

Now let’s examine the 8 percent who succeed with their resolutions year after year. The key to their success is quite simple: They set realistic goals.

Instead of resolving to lose 50 pounds by June, they commit to exercise 3-4 times each week.

Instead of resolving to give up all carbs, they commit to bring healthy snacks to work instead of eating from the vending machine.

Instead of resolving to drop three sizes in three months, they commit to losing one pound each week until they reach their desired size.

Instead of resolving to never eat out again, they commit to eating healthy all week and rewarding themselves with one meal out on the weekends.

If you want your resolution to stick, think of something simple and realistic. Sure, it certainly won’t sound as cool as the resolutions that the 92 percent make -- but they aren’t going to keep their resolutions anyway.

Remember that the whole point of making a New Year’s resolution is to become a healthier, happier and more successful person. Small changes done consistently will make a big difference over time. And if your New Year’s resolution has to do with losing weight and getting into great shape (and whose isn’t?), studies show you can dramatically improve your chances of success by working with a certified personal trainer. A fitness professional can help you to set realistic goals, develop a fitness plan that fits your lifestyle, and enable you to avoid yet another New Year’s resolution disaster.

— Joe Thiel

Joe Thiel is a certified personal trainer and professional health and wellness coach.  He and his wife, Jill, own Fitness Together, a personal training studio in Springfield.  Contact him at joethiel@fitnesstogether.com.

An unidentified child shows off while playing basketball at the Boys and Girls Club of Central Illinois in Springfield.

Kids motivate kids to go from fat to fit

Glance across any schoolyard, shopping mall, restaurant, or any other public facility and you are sure to see countless overweight children. Studies show that a significant number of those children are destined to become overweight adults in danger of developing numerous health problems, and establishing a cycle passed down from one generation to the next.

With headlines screaming that today’s youth are more out of shape and unhealthy than ever before, one has to ask what can be done to help children go from fat to fit?

A group of Springfield youths believe that the responsibility lies with parents, schools and youths themselves, and that they all must work together to help children become physically fit.

“The only way that kids can become fit is by exercising and eating healthy foods,” says 12-year-old Calia Cole. “Some kids just want to lie around watching TV or playing video games all day, instead of being outside, enjoying the fresh air,” added Cole, a once-chubby child who began losing weight about a year ago after becoming a cheerleader.

“I think a lot of kids don’t exercise because they think it’s boring,” states 13-year-old Damaris King. “But there are lots of fun things that people can do to exercise, like dancing. Instead of just sitting around talking with their friends, they can get together and walk around their neighborhood while they’re talking,” she explains.

Like Cole and King, 14-year-old Mia Curtis knows that exercise is one of the keys to losing weight; however, she is less than committed to working out. “I don’t really like to exercise. I only do it during P.E. class,” states Curtis, who last month found out that she has diabetes. “I would probably exercise more if my friends exercised with me.”

“I think that parents need to help their kids find ways to exercise,” says 18-year-old Joel Cobble. “A lot of times parents tell their kids that they need to exercise or lose weight, but they are not willing to join them. You can tell a person a million times that they need to exercise, but a lot of them just aren’t going to do it, especially by themselves.”

King adds, “That’s why parents should set aside time where the whole family can exercise together. If the whole family is exercising together, then kids would have a lot more fun. After awhile some might even start exercising on their own or with their friends, too.”

Just as Cole, Curtis, King and Cobble are knowledgeable about exercise and its benefits, they are equally aware that in order to lose weight, exercise should be accompanied by a healthy diet. While they say getting lessons about eating healthy starting in elementary school, they admit that staying away from junk food is difficult for most youths.

“I love junk food,” says Curtis. “But once I found out that I have diabetes, I began paying a lot more attention to what I eat. I used to drink lots of soda and eat a lot of candy. I don’t drink soda anymore, and I really try to avoid candy.” Curtis reports having lost 10 pounds, even without exercising, since her diagnosis.

While all of the youths believe that children are ultimately responsible for the food that they choose to eat, they also believe that it is equally important for both parents and schools to assist kids in eating healthier.

All of the children we spoke with say that their parents cook healthy meals and stock their cabinets with very little junk food. “But I know a lot of kids whose parents feed them lots of fried foods, and fast foods,” says 16-year-old Aairyn Blue.

And when it comes to schools, Blue says that having vending machines stocked with junk foods makes it convenient for youths to eat unhealthy foods. “What’s funny, is that we sit in class listening to teachers talk about eating fruits and vegetables, and avoiding carbohydrates, sugar and fat, then at the end of the day, a lot of kids head straight for the vending machines, where there’s chips, soda and candy. Blue, who attends Lanphier High School, acknowledges that taking the junk food out of the vending machines would not stop kids from eating junk food, but it may “cut down on the amount.”

“We no longer have vending machines at my school,” says Cole, who attends Washington Middle School. “Now, instead of getting junk food from the vending machines, a lot of kids just bring it to school with them.

“When adults talk to us about eating healthy and exercising, a lot of kids let it go in one ear and out the other. But it’s important that they start paying more attention to their bodies. Once I started exercising and eating better, I saw that I was losing weight. And that makes me want to continue,” states Cole.

— Jolonda Young


To stop smoking, lend me your ear

Brenda Matheis started smoking when she was 14 years old.

She quit when she was 40, going cold turkey during the inception of the new no-smoking policy at Horace Mann. The now Illinois Times business manager stayed away from cigarettes for 10 years before picking them up again during the millennium New Year’s Eve celebration.

Matheis decided to quit again four years later, but this time, she says, she couldn’t do it on her own. She heard about the Leslie-Cam Stop Smoking Center, a clinic in Chesterfield, Mo., that offers a stop-smoking method called auriculotherapy. The unique treatment electrically stimulates specific points on the outside of the ears to stop addictive cravings.

After visiting the clinic, which has treated 60,000 patients since it opened in 1991, Matheis says she recommends the procedure.

“Auriculotherapy will help them get through that really gnawing need at the beginning when you quit — wanting to get through brick walls just for a smoke,” she says. “And it’ll help get them through moodiness and depression.”

Auriculotherapy has roots in ancient Chinese acupuncture, but morphed into the modern practice of using painless stimulation without needles in the 1950s. It has grown in popularity in larger cities like St. Louis and Chicago, and in the past few years, has spread to Springfield.

Dr. Roman Corso, a chiropractic physician, offers the treatment at Naturals Health Foods, 916 W. Laurel St., as well as at the Christian County Chiropractic Center in Taylorville. He treats an average of 20 patients each month for smoking and chewing tobacco (as well as for weight loss) in Springfield, and as many as 40 each month in Taylorville.

Corso uses a hand-held electric stimulation gun to stimulate five points on each ear, that in turn stimulate cranial nerves that extend directly to the brain. Stimulating these nerves, he says, causes a release of endorphins and enkephalins — natural painkillers and relaxers — that shut off the brain’s physical need for nicotine. The gun doesn’t penetrate the skin, Corso adds, and only stimulates each point for 10 seconds.

Corso, who’s offered every other stop-smoking method from acupuncture to magnet therapy, says auriculotherapy has given the best results with a nearly 90 percent success rate.

Dr. Steven Sitko, a full-time chiropractic physician, has also offered auriculotherapy for the past four years at the Springfield Chiropractic Plaza, 205 N. Grand Ave. West. He’s treated nearly 30 patients, most of them referred by doctors from the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine.

He uses methods similar to Corso, but instead of just one treatment, he offers a series of 10 treatments over one month. He’s also seen a high success rate, but reminds new patients that as with most self-improvement programs, they need to be ready to change.

“You have to want to quit,” Sitko says. “Just like you have to want to lose weight. There’s no magic point that you touch, and you don’t eat anymore. I’ve had patients who have quit smoking before, and they say this made it a lot easier.”

Corso agrees and explains to patients that auriculotherapy helps the physical part of smoking, but they need to address the mental part by changing their habits and routines. He suggests that they chew on toothpicks, gum, ice, sunflower seeds or licorice to alleviate the oral fixation and take 5,000 milligrams of Vitamin C for a week after their treatment to help flush nicotine out of their system.

Corso also tells them to reduce or stop activities that accompanied their smoking, like taking breaks at work or drinking alcohol.

“The biggest thing is to break those routines,” he says. “Stay away from other smokers. Throw away ash trays and cigarettes. Stop anything that makes you want to smoke.”

After her first auriculotherapy treatment, Matheis avoided smoking for two years. She returned to the habit, she says — not because the treatment didn’t work, but because she made the conscience decision to start smoking again. She went for another treatment eight weeks ago and hasn’t smoked since.

“It still takes a lot of determination and will on your own part and it always will,” Matheis says. “You’re not going to magically not smoke the next day. You have to want it and do it for yourself.”

— Amanda Robert

Exercisers use stationary bikes at FitClub to strengthen their legs and hearts while reducing joint impact.

Ring in the new year by going to the gym

We’ve all been there. The office Christmas parties, family get-togethers and other events that pop up during the holidays are characterized by good company, great food and grand overindulgence.

Meanwhile, waistbands around the nation strain to contain bulging bellies full of delicious but innutritious food. For many of us, it’s a ritual of sorts: plump up during the holidays, swear off sweets for a few weeks and then forget all about fitness once the hustle and bustle of our busy lives sweeps us away.

Fortunately, New Year’s celebrations wrap up the holiday season, providing the perfect opportunity for a new start. To help you keep your New Year’s resolution to get back in shape, we’ve previewed exercise programs at a few of Springfield’s biggest gyms – programs geared toward getting you moving, keeping you motivated and seeing results.

Plenty of people start the year “gung-ho” about their fitness, says Caleb Pierce, assistant fitness director at FitClub West, one of FitClub’s three Springfield locations. However, he quickly adds that few people stick with it through the muscle aches and the rush of modern life.

Pierce says the Art of Strength program at FitClub is helping to change that.

Art of Strength is a group exercise program that can be adapted to fit everyone from the beginner to the hard-core athlete, Pierce says.

“The classes are a good way to have a group to motivate them to achieve their goals and keep going,” he says. “It’s good aerobic conditioning, good strengthening, just good total body everything.”

To track progress and keep you on the right track, FitClub uses a system called DotFit; an armband tracks your daily caloric needs, while trainers guide you through everything from stretches to diet choices.

“You have that guidance to make sure you’re doing everything correctly,” Pierce says. “And if you fall back, you have somebody to say, ‘Hey, it’s okay. We can still get this.’ Their hearts are in the right place, but the expert guidance is what a lot of people are lacking.”

FitClub – www.fitclub.net

Gold’s Gym
One of the hardest parts of hitting the gym is keeping motivated, says Molly Suhadolnik, director of group fitness and wellness at Gold’s Gym in Springfield. Boredom can easily rob you of the will to work out, Suhadolnik says. That’s why Gold’s Gym offers Crossfit classes – strength and conditioning workouts that change each time, so your body never falls prey to monotony.

“It’s highly varied, so you never ever get bored with it,” Suhadolnik says. “Every time you come, it’s something new. There are some familiar things thrown in there, but it never gets boring.”

Suhadolnik says Crossfit not only keeps you moving in new and challenging ways, but it provides pointers on nutrition, so all that hard work isn’t wasted. There’s even a Crossfit Kids Methods class, so children as young as four years can stay active and learn at the same time.

“You get out of it what you put in,” says Ashley Hooker, sales director at Gold’s Gym. “It’s about becoming a machine rather than using one.”

Gold’s Gym – 789-4653; www.goldsgym.com/springfieldil

Springfield YMCA
If you’ve got a little more than just holiday fat to lose, the Springfield YMCA has got you covered. They offer numerous exercise classes – swimming, yoga, pilates, dance and tons more – but now there’s a new way to get fit at “The Y.”

Coming in February, the Ramp it Up program will feature intense workouts meant to cut fat and add muscle. YMCA’s fitness coordinator Cindy Krupid says the classes will be a “major challenge to the body,” with noticeable results.

“We really take it to the next level,” Krupid says. “There are lots of different workout types, and we really get outside the box.”

If you need some help staying on the bandwagon, Krupid recommends YMCA’s Lose Big program, which tracks participants’ weight loss and keeps them accountable for their exercises. More than 100 people participated in the program in 2009, and the 12-week program returns for 2010 with big expectations. The regular sign up date has passed, but latecomers may still sign up by Jan. 10 for an extra fee.

Springfield YMCA – 544-9846; www.springfieldymca.org

Cardinal Fitness
If all of these classes and programs seem intimidating, or you’d just prefer to work out by yourself, Cardinal Fitness may be a good fit for you. There are no classes with catchy names – just a comfortable exercise environment at a low price. It’s a straightforward, no-frills gym, but personal trainers are available to help you start out right and track your progress if you still need some help.

“We just try to interact with people and get them familiar with everything,” says Artie Nolan, sales manager at Cardinal Fitness. “If it’s something people aren’t used to, they can feel intimidated at times. We try to make sure they’re comfortable here.”

Cardinal Fitness – 546-4600; www.cardinalfitness.com

— Patrick Yeagle

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