By Janna M. Hall
Every January, local gyms see a surge in new member registrations. Heading into the new year ready to become a newer version of themselves, we see men and women set goals to be leaner, or more muscular, or faster and stronger. You name it, they’re aiming for it. Unfortunately, by February, the new member registrations drop. The line for the treadmill returns to its normal length, and the walk from the parking lot and into the gym isn’t as long and frigid. Like clockwork, people give up on their resolution to make the gym a priority and reach new heights in their fitness journey. Why is this? Why do people who’ve set the goal to improve their lives through physical fitness throw in the towel so early on? This year, commit to living your healthiest life and sticking to the goals you’ve set for yourself. Find the gyms, trainers, and fitness regimens that not only make working out enjoyable, but will encourage a sustainable lifestyle change. Not sure where to start in your quest to make your life great and your body healthy? We’ve got you covered.
First, ask yourself: “What do I want to achieve?” Do you want to sculpt your body? Are you looking to lose weight? Maybe you’re being proactive in combating hereditary diseases like diabetes or hypertension. Whatever the reason, first establish your goal and then decide on a course of action.
For those looking to sculpt your body, personal training is an excellent option. The one-on-one, personal component ensures that your goals and individual needs are at the forefront of each training session, with an individual program dedicated to you and only you. With personal training, it doesn’t matter if you’re stepping foot into the gym for the first time or have limited mobility; your trainer develops a regimen that meets you exactly where you are and helps you hit your target head-on.
Calvin McIntyre, Owner and Personal Trainer at Bodies & Beyond Gym & Fitness Center, has served the Petersburg and surrounding areas for 16 years, assisting clients of all ages and abilities to live their healthiest lives through both personal and group training. Aside from the incredible bodily change it brings about, McIntyre believes personal training serves as the best educational tool when embarking on a new fitness journey.
“If you don’t have any knowledge about working out, personal training educates you about what’s going on,” he explains. “It’s very easy to get lost in the gym. There’s so much equipment that you’re eventually just grabbing machines and working on the same body part. Personal training educates you and helps you put together a routine for yourself. Gyms can get intimidating, so when it comes to those just starting out, personal training is the way to go.”
Another benefit of personal training? A built-in accountability buddy. Embarking on a more active lifestyle with a friend who’s also a complete novice can be a slippery slope; one person falling off can derail the entire operation. Personal trainers look for you to be there and keep you on track until you’re able to go off on your own. They’re training wheels, if you will, who teach proper form, provide vital information, and equip you with all the information you need to sustain the lifestyle long after your sessions are over. They also help you manage expectations while maximizing your potential.
For those who gravitate more towards group activity, group fitness classes are an excellent option, as members can enjoy exercising without the added pressure of being the focal point.
Donovan Woolridge, Ace Personal Trainer & Wellness Coach at the Manchester YMCA, notices that more introverted gym members prefer the anonymity that comes with larger group fitness classes.
“In my experience, more reserved members gravitate towards the group classes,” he says. “They’re able to disguise themselves among other participants without abandoning their fitness goals. Each person’s level of comfortability with being in the spotlight is often what determines whether they choose personal training or the group classes we offer.”
Classes are also a great option for those who prefer to work at their own pace. While the instructor typically sets the pace, most provide modified versions of the workouts. Regardless of the class type, you’re able to move at the speed and intensity you’re most comfortable with, and your overall health will improve thanks to a steady aerobic routine that keeps you up and active regularly.
Group classes also allow you to build relationships with members who share common goals and can hold you accountable. Exercising with buddies, whether inside a class or out, keeps you focused on your goals and keeps you a part of something bigger than yourself; you’re contributing to others’ success as they contribute to yours.
Once you’ve established your goals and chosen the course of action you’d best like to take, decide which gym is the right one for you. Are you looking for a smaller, more intimate center or do you think the larger facility is more your speed? Decide the type of workout atmosphere that would help you thrive best before committing to one. Both have their perks.
Smaller gyms provide a level of intimacy and attention that you may need to kick-start your workout journey. Like with Bodies & Beyond and other boutique fitness centers, the training is extremely hands-on. You often get the ear of the owner or—in their case—trained by the owner. Even better, everyone knows you by name and may even be aware of your goals; you’re so much more than a key swipe at the front desk.
At the same token, larger gyms provide a similar level of familiarity. While you may not have the ear of every staff member, your frequent attendance will render you a familiar face, and you’ll begin developing a tribe of your own, from front desk staff to wellness coaches.
Jalisa Johnson, M.S., Certified Personal Trainer serving the Chester and Colonial Heights areas, has years of experience training clients in larger fitness centers. She believes that while more intimate facilities provide undeniable perks, large gyms offer those same perks, plus more.
“In my experience, clients like large gyms because they prevent you from getting bored,” she explains. “After a while, you feel like, I’ve already done this workout. So if your program calls for a certain amount of cardio, larger gyms allow you to alternate between all the machines they carry. You need variety to spice it up. It’s like dieting—eventually you get to a point where you’re like, I can’t eat another boiled egg! I need more options!”
For example, if you’re in between sessions with your trainer, you can take a day to enjoy a Zumba class or step aerobics. You can cool down with the evening Yoga class. If you’re on a budget and would like to create your own program without a personal trainer, you have the equipment to do so.
Johnson has seen gym members over the years customize their own workout schedules, doing free weights on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and taking aerobics classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Above all, your workout program is about you, and should fit your schedule and abilities. Don’t fall into the thinking that there’s only one way to be active and a “one size fits all” approach to living a healthier life. You owe it to yourself to live a healthy life that you enjoy.