Health & Fitness

Wintertime Workout: How to Burn Off That Holiday Cheer

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Stand by your New Year’s Resolutions this year with a wintertime workout routine. Learn how to craft a winning workout, and learn how one local gym makes it easy for the family to stay in shape.

Danna Krischke, a fitness instructor at Peak Fitness, in Loves Park, Ill., leads a CX Worx fitness class, which combines music with exercise. (Chris Linden photo)

It’s easy to talk about New Year’s Resolutions, and even easier to break them. But it’s also possible to achieve fitness goals by focusing on key factors like motivation, patience and consistency. And sometimes we all need a little help along the way.

With help from the experts, it’s easier to reach fitness goals and maintain a healthier lifestyle, says Jason Rager, certified personal trainer at Peak Fitness, 4401 Peak Dr., Loves Park, Ill.

“In January, everybody’s hard at it, and then, by mid-March, you see a lot of those people drop off,” Rager says. “But with a structured plan and goals, people get better results. When people actually see results, they tend to stick with it more.”

With two Rockford-area locations, Peak offers ample opportunity for fitness rookies and experienced athletes alike. Peak’s original State Street location has always offered 24-hour fitness with cardio equipment, a basketball court, fitness classes and locker rooms. But at Peak’s larger Perryville Road location, members can find more than 200 weight-lifting machines, three pools, a gym and an array of fitness classes. And, members at Peak’s Perryville location have access to both facilities.

Making Time

When it comes to an indoor workout, quality matters most, says Tony Teunissen, general manager. Rather than pushing hard with too-heavy weights and making your body sore, take your time, and design a workout that’s both efficient and consistent.

“The hardest thing is getting to the gym, and I think a lot of people struggle just getting here,” he says. “But once they know what their workout is going to be, and they come in, are productive, get it done and maybe go to a class, the workout gets hammered out and they’re not just bouncing around. Variety is good, but it’s important to know where you’re going and what you’re doing.”

Have an end goal in mind, like losing weight or getting into shape. Most people thrive when they set goals and maintain a consistent schedule, says Mark Banz, owner of Peak Fitness.

“Determine how many days a week you can get to the gym, and determine how much time you can spend, how you can work it into your schedule and around your lifestyle so you’re not forcing it on yourself,” Banz says. “If you get to the gym, you’ll get better results, and if you’re always fighting to get to the gym, it’ll be a little harder. It’s got to be a fun experience in the end.”

But that committment isn’t always easy. Attaining the right mindset is one of the biggest struggles Rager’s clients face, especially when it comes to healthy eating. It’s far easier to sit on the couch and eat Twinkies, or to grab fast food, than it is to think and eat in a healthy way.

“Doing your strength training and your cardiovascular workout is important, but if you don’t have your diet right, you’re not going to make big changes,” Rager says. “If you need to lose a lot of weight, or to get off your medication, we first need to get you on a proper diet. That’s not so much about restriction as about getting the right foods and avoiding the wrong foods.”

Especially during the holidays, it’s easy to splurge and eat too much. Avoid that temptation by eating before you attend holiday parties, says Rager. And limit the alcohol, too.

After the holidays, it’s still easy to eat too many sweets, and too much processed or fried food. Try to stick with natural, homemade foods, Rager recommends.

“One of the biggest tips I give my clients is that when they go into the grocery store, they should do about 90 percent of their shopping in the sections for vegetables, fruits and the lean meats,” he says. “Stay out of the aisles, because that’s where a lot of the processed junk is that we put into our bodies. That’s one big obstacle you can overcome. Then, the trick is to put it all together and make it taste good.”

So Many Options

As he stands in the cardio room, surrounded by stationary bikes, treadmills and elliptical machines, Banz smiles. He loves a good workout. He jumps onto a treadmill to demonstrate the bells and whistles.
“It’s called Virtual Active, and you can say, ‘I’m going to run through downtown Chicago,’ and actually see video filmed in Chicago,” he says.

As Banz pushes some buttons, a Google Maps-style street view video appears on a screen attached to the treadmill. The video navigates Chicago’s Loop neighborhood, while the machine takes Banz on a pre-arranged workout. If he likes, Banz can switch to another workout, with video, say, of the Swiss Alps or even the Grand Canyon. Around the gym, others are watching TV and blasting music through their headphones.

“We just try to keep up with the technology,” says Banz. “We want to make it fun, because if you can be entertained, it’s a lot easier to get your workout in.”

Without some excitement, most workouts are doomed to fail, says Rager.

“A lot of people will go gung-ho for six weeks and work really hard,” he says. “Then they burn themselves out. They’ll miss a month, and then they’ll start it again. It’s this process of starting over and stopping, starting, stopping, that hurts. People should just take their time and get into a progressive program. Start easy, and then work into it so you’re not so sore that you can’t even move. If you progress into it, you’ll more likely stick with it.”

Performing a proper winter workout requires careful planning, and that’s where Peak’s trainers come in. They regularly host introductory sessions for new members, so rookies can acquaint themselves with gym equipment, and learn how to structure a basic workout.

“I would say a majority of people work out incorrectly, to put it mildly,” says Rager. “It’s important to get with some of our staff or some of our trainers, or go to our free orientations, so we can show you how to adjust the equipment. It’s important to get that education, and once you have it, you have it for a lifetime.”
When he first meets a client, Rager likes to establish a baseline, determining where that person is physically.

Athletic trainer Jason Rager spots a client who’s performing squats. Professional trainers can offer advice, diet tips and guidance for any winter workout. (Rebecca O'Malley photo)

“Know where you’re at, and then we may have some composition goals,” says Rager. “If someone’s maybe at 30-percent body fat and we want to lower that, then we can test and measure where they’re at, and help them get to a normal, healthy range.”

Health goals vary from person to person. Most of Rager’s clients want to shed extra pounds. Some want the strength and energy that come with improved fitness; others want to wean themselves off a medicine. Still others seek core and functional training for an athletic competition. Whatever the goal, trainers can help.

“If you’re a new member, don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Teunissen says. “Feel free to come up and approach the staff with questions, even about location of machines, or what you can do with them. Write down resolutions because this keeps you more accountable. Start slowly and build.”

And be patient with yourself so you don’t get discouraged. On average, says Teunissen, early results aren’t visible for six to eight weeks. Better results take longer.

“Many beginners set their expectations too high. They expect a lot to happen in a short time frame, and they overdo it,” he says. “If they have a little more patience, and take their time, knowing results will come, they’ll be much happier in the end. Sometimes they want instant gratification.”

While it’s important to get to the gym regularly, spending too much time there isn’t a good thing.
“We want people to do their workout and not spend all day here,” says Banz. “If you’re spending too much time working out at the gym, you can get burned out. Come in and do your workout, but then get out of here so you can enjoy the rest of your life.”

To stay on track, Banz suggests setting a consistent schedule. Most Peak members visit immediately before or after work, when they’re most motivated.

Many find it helps to have a workout buddy – a friend or spouse – to help you with accountability and motivation.

“If you’re not feeling so motivated one day, they can be like, ‘Hey, let’s go do that one class today,’” Banz says. “That definitely helps.”

Something for Everyone

Because Peak is the sort of place where people make friends and spend time with family members, Banz has made sure there are opportunities and memberships for everyone. From single-person and couple memberships to single-parent, family and student memberships, everyone is welcome.

Inside Peak’s Perryville Road location, the swimming pool, climbing wall, gym, and fitness classes are family-friendly, offering all kinds of activities for parents and children.

There’s a game room for kids to play basketball or interactive games like Dance Dance Revolution. While parents work out, kids can exercise at the day care center, which serves children age 3 months to 10 years. Inside, there’s a complex jungle gym that stretches two stories high.

“We want to give the kids some activity,” says Banz. “They’re having fun, but they’re climbing around the whole time, so even just being in there, if they keep climbing for an hour, they’re tired. They’re getting a workout and don’t even know it.”

Both kids and adults can learn to swim. In the gym, children may participate in one of six basketball clinics for kids age 7 to 17. One court is dedicated to youngsters.

Upstairs, three rooms host a variety of classes, from tae kwon do and spinning to fitness-to-music and Pilates. Master Yong Shik Kim, a fourth-degree black belt, leads martial arts classes three days a week for children and their parents. Across the hall, a roomy Pilates studio is staffed by four certified instructors.
Outside, fitness enthusiasts can join the Peak Running Crew every Tuesday. Participants begin with 20 minutes of indoor core training before heading outside for a long run, in all kinds of weather.

“They meet here all fall and winter,” says Teunissen. “They go out and run around local subdivisions. In winter, they meet here and then go to Rock Cut State Park. They also use a local track and run there. And, we’re right on the Perryville bike path, where a lot of our running takes place.”

This winter, Banz expects to add even more opportunities for children and parents, such as parents’ night out and additional youth fitness courses. He’s also adding a new machine, similar to an adult jungle gym, which will offer the opportunity for more than 200 core and functional exercises.

Yes, it’s possible to get into shape and work off those holiday pounds this winter. But first, we need to get off the couch.

“The more you put in, the more you’ll get out,” says Banz. “The more serious you are, the faster you might see changes. The more dedicated you are to a healthy diet and the whole lifestyle, the more you’ll see results. But this is also a good place to come and meet people. It’s all about focusing on health in a positive environment.” ❚

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