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Experts give tips on how to keep a fitter 2011 in sight

Another new year, another ― fill in the blank ― doughnut ditched, gym membership bought, resolution made, cute workout top purchased.

A few weeks into January, though, resolve has a tendency to subside. Even those with the best of intentions sometimes stand at the foot of the fitness mountain. Unused gym cards remain in sweaty little hands, price tags are still attached to moisture-wicking fabric shirts. Clouds of doubt and confusion block the once-clear summit.

About 80 percent of people make New Year’s resolutions. Of those, maybe 20 percent keep them. Maybe some get bored or impatient. Maybe some get injured or burned out, either of which can happen when you are working out too hard or incorrectly.

In the name of defying the odds, we have asked some experts for help with these: knowing some basics; beginning an exercise program; buffing up; running a marathon.

Knowing the basics

Expert: Lindsay Lookingbill, membership services coordinator for campus recreation at the University of Texas at Arlington.

In a nutshell: Get enough sleep; use common sense, don’t be afraid to ask.

Her props: Patience; moisture-wicking clothing; notebook to record goals.

Her tips:

1. Wear the right clothes.

Cotton absorbs sweat, keeping moisture next to your skin. Wicking fabric, though, pulls sweat away so you stay more comfortable. “It doesn’t absorb moisture itself, so it dries quickly,” she says. “It can make you feel drier and more comfortable when you are active. It is not very warm, but it doesn’t lose warmth when it becomes damp.”

2. Learn your heart rate.

The basic formula is 220 minus your age. Multiply that number by 0.65 to determine what your pulse should be for most workouts (at least initially). That’s how you’ll burn fat; eventually, you can ramp it up on some days to zap more calories.
One key to sticking with exercise is finding a workout that you enjoy, says Lori Johnson, working out with client Elaine Taylor at Snap Fitness in Dallas, Texas. (MCT)
One key to sticking with exercise is finding a workout that you enjoy, says Lori Johnson, working out with client Elaine Taylor at Snap Fitness in Dallas, Texas. (MCT)

3. Breathe.

That may sound a bit obvious, but she’s seen people (usually lifting weights) who turn red in the face because they’re holding their breath. “You can have a heart attack when you’re holding your breath like that,” Lookingbill says.

4. If the weight’s too heavy, don’t lift it.

We’ve all seen (or more likely, heard grunts from) people whose weights are just way too heavy. “My office is under the weight rooms, so I can hear them dropping to the ground,” she says. “It scares me. I just hope one day they don’t fall through the ceiling.”

5. Ask for help.

We’re not born knowing how to stay fit. So ask, please. Lookingbill has seen way too many people using poor form, which can cause injury or keep you from using your energy most efficiently.

Bottom line: “If you mess up, it’s OK. Working out is not an all-or-nothing type mentality.”

Getting started

Expert: Lori Johnson, personal trainer through various Dallas gyms, including Snap Fitness North.

In a nutshell: Begin at a realistic starting point; be consistent; measure progress periodically.

Her props: Straight-back chair; porch step; pair of walking shoes.

Her tips:

1. Have a baseline.

Stand facing a step. For three minutes, go up and down the step. At the end, measure your heart rate. After four to six weeks, do it again. Chances are, it’s come down, which is a sign you’re getting more fit.

2. Start from where you can.

If you can just walk to the corner and back, so be it. Day after tomorrow, do it twice.

3. Be patient.

When you don’t see results, remind yourself why you’re doing this: To lower blood pressure, live longer, stave off disease, feel better, have a better outlook.

4. Use what’s available.

Instead of relaxing during a TV show, stand in front of your chair, facing the TV. Holding your arms out straight, start to sit. Before your bottom hits the seat, stand up. Repeat. When you’re standing in line, go up and down on your toes.

5. Eat more healthily.

“I’d say diet is 75 percent of the reason people don’t get results,” Johnson says.

Bottom line: “It’s never too late to start. Find out what you like to do. If you don’t, you won’t stick with it.”

Toning up

Expert: Billy Young, personal trainer and instructor at Dr. Peay’s Booty Camp.

In a nutshell: Form, cardio, nutrition.

His props: A 10-pound kettle bell, foam roller, resistance bands and your own body weight. With those, he says, you can be in your best shape ever.

His tips:

1. Balance cardio with weight training. “If you’re out of shape and overweight, before those toned muscles shine through, you gotta lose that girth.” An hour of cardio will burn more calories than an hour of lifting weights. Exercises like running will help tone your legs, butt and midsection.

2. If you don’t like running, don’t.

Power walk, trot up and down stairs, jog up a hill and walk down. Jump rope. Do calisthenics. “Confuse your body. Don’t let it figure out what you’re doing.”

3. You won’t get toned by starving yourself.

One of Young’s boot-camp participants lost 13 pounds ― of, oops, healthy muscle ― in a week on a cabbage-soup diet. Younger clients wonder why they’re not getting more toned. He knows; he reads their Facebook posts about the bars they went to over the weekend.

4. Think time, not numbers.

Instead of doing three sets of 12 reps, Young suggests doing three sets for a certain time; 30 seconds, for example. Run 30 minutes instead of three miles.

5. Put in the hours.

“I’m a firm believer in a minimum of six hours a week, some form of physical fitness,” Young says.

Bottom line: “I don’t believe you can go into a gym and work out with free weights and become fit. I’m a firm believer in cardio. When I’m in my best physical shape, I rarely work out at a gym. I don’t even belong to a gym.”

Running a marathon

Expert: Marcus Grunewald, executive director of the Dallas White Rock Marathon and a veteran of 25 marathons.

In a nutshell: Believe in yourself.

His props: Good pair of running shoes; training group; goal.

His tips:

1. Have a checkup.

Tell your doctor your plans and undergo the tests necessary to make sure you’re healthy.

2. Talk to people with similar goals.

You’ll be going through the same thing for a long time and can support each other through highs and lows.

3. Research training groups.

Ask around; get recommendations. See what fellow and former marathoners think about their coaches. Classes usually start in July; get ready for them by walking, then by running a block at a time. “If you can run a block,” Grunewald says, “you can run a marathon.”

4. Invest in a good pair of shoes.

Go to a store with staff trained to watch you walk and find the right pair for you. Bring the pair you’ve been exercising in so they can check the wear and tear.

5. Remember that most training is mental.

“I did my first because someone told me I couldn’t do it,” Grunewald says. “I got a computer program to print out a huge sign that said ‘You can do it, Marcus!’ when I’d come in from a run.”

Bottom line: “Running a marathon is a mindset. You can do anything you want to do if you want it badly enough. It proves you’re capable of doing something that most normal people wouldn’t consider trying. Less than 1 percent of the population ever finishes one.”

By Leslie Baker Garcia

(The Dallas Morning News)

(McClatchy-Tribune Information Services)