Start the New Year off right: Resolution to exercise can lead to a better you

Mirror photo by Patt Keith Dustin Yoder, right, wellness center coordinator at Blair Regional YMCA in Hollidaysburg, talks to Fauzia Aslam of Altoona about her routine as she works out on the treadmill.

As the over-indulgences of December reach a crescendo, a New Year beckons pristinely like a sparkling, undisturbed, snow-covered mountain — 364 days of hope and promise untarnished by regret. For many, January signals an ideal time to eat healthier and exercise.

Alison McMullen 43, of Claysburg started training Dec. 28, 2017. A New Year’s resolution to reduce stress overload and muscle pain. She trains with three other women 20 years older than herself.

“They push me to do more,” McMullen said. “I look at them and think ‘if they can do it, so can I.’ This is the best thing I’ve ever done for me. I have so much more energy, feel less stressed and my mind is so much clearer.”

She’s also lost 20 pounds, but what she is most thrilled about is she’s lost those aches and pains, especially those in her neck and shoulders — a consequence of working with her hands and arms as a hair stylist.

“The gyms get super busy in January and February,” personal trainer Celeste Bohn of Altoona said. “By March they are a little less crowded and by April nearly empty.”

In reality, the best day for a fresh start is today — now.

“Getting started is the biggest challenge,” Bohn, owner of Love, Sweat-n-Fitness in Altoona (2900 Beale Ave.), said. “Many people make a New Year’s resolution to exercise but the accountability isn’t there. I’m the same as them. I work all day, have dinner to get for my family and other responsibilities and it’s easy to make excuses not to exercise.”

What helps her and others make healthful changes stick for life is to reframe the challenge — view healthy eating habits and exercise as an investment in oneself.

Fauzia Aslam, 39, of Altoona joined the Blair Regional YMCA in January 2018 after her family moved to the area.

“It’s me time. I enjoy working out,” she said. She joined the Y’s TRX training class upon a friend’s recommendation and has been going for three months.

“It’s awesome. I love it because at the end I have body aches. It’s a sweet ache to me because it proves to me that I did something,” Aslam said.

Dustin Yoder, wellness coordinator at the Blair Regional YMCA in Hollidaysburg, calls Aslam “a fantastic success story. She has shown such diligence in learning (TRX). It’s exciting to see someone stick to (fitness) and be so successful.”

Yoder and Bohn said they push themselves to continually work out. Yoder finds his motivation in being a positive example for his clients.

“If I didn’t work here I can see how I’d let other things get in the way and I’d stop,” he said. “If you don’t (exercise) you are going to suffer a lot.”

Bohn boosts her workouts by taking group classes with other instructors.

“People think nothing of spending money on a new name brand purse or expensive shoes,” she said, “but they often don’t want to spend money — make an investment — in their health. It’s making yourself a priority and to do it.”

She suggests people make a firm commitment to exercise for at least 30 days.

“Once people get started exercising, they feel the benefits immediately. Exercise releases all these feel-good brain chemicals and they sleep better and feel better. It’s a natural mood booster. Nothing makes you feel any better than a good workout. The benefits last for hours,” Bohn said. “Even when I’m exercising, I think in my head about all the other things I should be getting done. But afterward I feel so much better and I still get everything done — and I feel better doing it.”

Yoder agrees.

“I have a lot of my clients call exercise their ‘happy time,'” he said. “Taking the time to workout is not selfish. It’s quite the opposite. With exercise you find you have a lot more patience with people. You have to make a greater investment in yourself.”

Too often, the resolve to stick with a New Year’s resolution to exercise fades, Yoder has found, and it’s something he has thought about a lot.

“Too often they start at a very high exercise intensity and have very skewed expectations because of what they see on TV,” he said. Exercising at too high an intensity leads to burnout, illness and, possibly, injury. Another downfall is boredom. Varying exercise routines helps alleviate fitness boredom but he’s also discovered another road block to fitness commitment: Burnout and injury from exercising too hard.

“Variety is key,” Yoder said. “I don’t want to be bored and I don’t want my clients to be either. They come and jog on the treadmill and do the same thing every time.”

To counteract burnout and boredom, Yoder plans to start a new program in January designed to teach individuals how to exercise at the proper intensity using real-time heart rate monitoring.

“It’s all about periodizing your exercise,” Yoder said. “So for the first month or two, I teach people what is an appropriate exercise intensity for them. My first goal is to build aerobic capacity and then increase intensity from there.”

Group classes can also boost exercise sustainability.

“I am all about building relationships. It helps people be accountable. I try to build connectivity among people,” Yoder said, explaining how if a member misses a class the others ask about him or her. Finding the “trigger” that keeps people exercising is unique to each person.

An individual measures exercise success differently. For some, success is measured by pounds lost, mastery of a new fitness activity, or exercising five days a week without missing.

“The satisfaction that comes from accomplishment, that’s a powerful tool,” Yoder said.

Bohn, 41, discovered exercise’s benefits 13 years ago.

“Exercise got me to where I am today. It really helped me jump over many hurdles and improve my life. Exercise gave me a gift and now I’m able to give it back,” Bohn said. “This is a judgment free zone. I’ve been in their shoes.”

Athletic all his life, Morley Cohn, 80, of Altoona, has been seeing a personal trainer for 15 years.

“It’s an added level of discipline,” Cohn explained. “When you have an appointment and you know someone is waiting for you it helps. I find it very motivating.”

Altoona resident Louise Lobre-Riley said, “I know how important exercise is to my overall health (she’s a two-time cancer survivor) so (my health) keeps me motivated to exercise. That, and Celeste (Bohn) is an awesome person and motivator. She pushes me to my limit. If I was at the gym by myself, I’d spend a lot more time talking.”

McMullen expressed similar thoughts: “When I worked out by myself I didn’t push myself to the extent Celeste does. She knows what your are capable of and pushes you to that extent. I’m proud of myself when I’m done.”

Staff writer Patt Keith is at 949-7030.

Coming Thursday: Pilates strengthens the core.