Living well in 2012

Published 12:12 am Sunday, January 1, 2012

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Emily Maxwell instructs an aerobics class at the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center. A new fitness program called Perfect Fit began having classes there just before Christmas.

NATCHEZ — As all those chocolate muffins consumed over the year become “muffin tops,” Miss-Lou eaters are considering weight loss as a New Year’s resolution.

Local fitness professionals said while plenty of folks start the year right with gym memberships and commitments to healthier diets, it takes long-term focus on specific goals to maintain a healthy weight.

Jennifer Lessley performs exercises during the aerobics session of a sample class.

In 2012, there are plenty of options to get in shape and stay that way. One new way is Perfect Fit, a group fitness studio, which opened at the Margaret Martin Performing Arts Center in December. Instructors said the variety of classes offering modern fitness regimens can break up the monotony of a treadmill while forging new friendships at the same time.

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“With New Year’s coming up, people are resolving to make changes, and we are giving them the opportunity to do that with a variety of classes,” said Tracy Henry, who started Perfect Fit with Caroline Hungerford and Emily Maxwell. “Typically a New Year’s resolution will last one, two or three months.”

Aaron Kelly, manager at Anytime Fitness in Vidalia, said his advice to resolution-makers is consistent — set realistic expectations. Instead of setting drastic goals that might include long daily workouts and diets of water and broccoli, Kelly said success is much more likely when you start off slowly and develop a routine that works.

For others, helping Miss-Lou residents stick to resolutions and achieve a healthy weight is all about communication.

Carla Allgood, who manages Curves in Natchez, said at the beginning of the year there are many women making New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. Fitness professionals at Curves communicate with women to identify their goals, and then help them stay focused.

Perfect Fit instructors said their answer to staying focused is in the variety of classes and accountability of the group, which will help folks keep their resolutions.

“I am more likely to exercise if it’s a group class,” Hungerford said. “If you don’t see your friend there, you can badger them until they come back.”

Henry added that the varied class times also offer the “perfect fit” for the schedules of busy people. Classes include PiYo, toning, mat Pilates, aerobics, cardio and core. Future exercise classes might include the booty bar and hula-hoop Pilates.

“One of our goals is to offer classes that are not being offered anywhere else,” Henry said.

Kathryn Nutter attended a sample class on Dec. 22 that exposed a roomful of potential clients to classes offered at Perfect Fit. Nutter said she came to the sample class because she was interested in seeing the different formats. She liked the PiYo workout.

“It combines yoga, but adding more motion,” Nutter said. “I think making a commitment to this — especially with so many classes — it will be easier to keep a resolution because you can try something different every time.”

Instructor Emily Maxwell said the classes are not just about fitness.

“You also come for your overall well-being to improve a healthy state of mind and life in general,” Maxwell said. “And it’s fun. We are prepared to help people of all ages and abilities. Anything can be adjusted for all fitness levels. We tune (the workout) to how the class responds to it.”

Allgood said at Curves they think it is important to change up a routine because progress tends to plateau, which can be discouraging. The variety of activities — exercise classes, treadmills and exercise machines — can help women continue to see results, she said.

“We have 10 machines and you go around for 30 minutes which is ideal for those on a timeline who can’t go to the gym and stay for hours,” Allgood said. “A good workout can burn 500 calories in 30 minutes.”

Kelly said one Anytime Fitness client who resolved to lose weight lost more than 100 pounds by taking the advice to develop an achievable routine.

“She realized it was a process,” Kelly said.

Anytime Fitness offers use of cardio equipment, like treadmills, elliptical cross-trainers and cycles, and machine circuits and free weights for strength-training.

Kelly said he believes the biggest reason for first-quarter fitness dropouts is fear and intimidation, especially in a region where everyone knows everyone.

“In our market locally, I think there is an intimidation factor,” Kelly said. “People automatically think if they enter a gym in Vidalia or Natchez, there is insecurity that everyone knows they are out of shape. Or, they walk around, look at the machines and get scared.”

Kelly said he can understand why this happens, but he added that everyone goes to the gym for the same reason — to attain fitness goals, whatever they may be.