Story last updated at 1/9/2013 - 2:21 pm
Hopefully, you like the way you are. But the way a lot of us are composed contains an element of challenge - a thirst for betterment. At least, in principle. The idea that we actively make an effort to be better at something rings no clearer than at this time of year. But really doing it - not just thinking about it? That can be something we address next year, when we think it again.
If getting into shape, or better shape, is on your list, there is the obvious bounty of outdoor recreational opportunities the region has to offer. Fresh air has its undisputable benefits. But what if you want to lift weights? What if you're injured? Intimidated by skiing? Maybe you just don't have the interest or ability to get outside. Maybe you really want to sport a dazzling new pair of shorts for an hour.
Joe Parrish, the general manager at Pavitt Health and Fitness, recognizes the benefits of both indoor and outdoor exercise.
"This community is really outdoor oriented, and a lot of people have reservations (about gyms)," Parrish said. "They want to get their exercise outside. Unless you're retired or rich, you're working. You're going to get outside and enjoy that (a few times) a week. If you want to enjoy that, you have to cross train in the gym too."
Parrish is armed with many tricks of the trade. His top advice was to make measurable and realistic goals.
"Instead of just, 'I'm going to work out more,'" Parrish said, "How about, 'I'm going to work out X number of days per week.'"
Corey Pavitt, who owns the gym with his wife, Ellen, added, "You're far better working out three days per week for the rest of your life, versus feeling like a failure because you couldn't hit five."
Though the two had different first steps to getting back into shape this year, (Parrish said it was to walk through the gym doors, Pavitt said it was to write "walk through gym doors" on a calendar or planner), they did share one piece of advice: be nice to yourself.
"Accept imperfection," Pavitt said. "You're not going to work out every single time you planned, and that's OK. You won't eat perfectly the whole year and that's OK and you can fall off the wagon and start again."
"It's important to be able to forgive yourself if you blow it a little bit," he said.
Pavitt made a point that he thinks health and fitness should be separated from morality.
"Being overweight does not make you a bad person," he said. "Eating unhealthy foods does not make you a bad person and missing your work-outs does not make you a bad person. They (do) have negative health consequences, so the important thing is to be kind to yourself as you try to do better."
The two also sided on their opinion regarding how a workplace that's encouraging of health and physical fitness is a key element to maintaining a routine.
"We spend most of our lives with people we work with, and if they're supportive of our health initiatives than you have a much better chance of being successful," Pavitt said.
Pavitt and Parish have a workplace wellness program that they offer through their gym.
"It can benefit both the employer and the employees," Parrish said. "The employer gets increased productivity, better morale, less absenteeism and the employees get better morale and better health. That translates outside of the workplace into their relationship with friends and family."
Lindy Carroll is the fitness manager at The Alaska Club's Mendenhall Valley location and has a less philosophical, more pragmatic approach to staying fit.
"A lot of people come in after they just bought a membership and don't know where to start," Carroll said. This is one reason why she personally meets every new member. "It's my job to better acclimate them."
Carroll said that each new member at The Alaska Club receives three half-hour training sessions, where the members learn how to use various weight machines, cardiovascular equipment such as treadmills, and how the group classes operate.
With years of experience, she also neatly outlined five steps to help those looking to elevate their fitness level.
Step one: assess your fitness level. Carroll said most people have some knowledge of how fit they are, "But assessing and recording baseline fitness scores can give benchmarks against which to measure progress." These parameters include recording a pulse rate before and after a one-mile walk; timing yourself on a one-mile walk; figuring out how many pushups you can do consecutively and what your body mass index is, (a measure of body fat calculated by weight and height).
Step two: design a fitness program. Carroll pointed out that a written plan - one that includes goals, a balanced routine between weights, cardio and flexibility training and allowing time for recovery - may encourage new members to keep on track.
Step three: assemble your equipment. "Be sure to choose shoes designed for the activity you have in mind," Carroll recommended. A gym bag, snacks and water bottle are also on her list.
Step four: get started. Carroll includes in this agenda suggestions such as starting slowly, being creative and listening to your body.
Step five: monitor your progress. "What's not measured is not managed," Carroll warned. She recommends retaking a personal fitness assessment six weeks after beginning a new program and then every three to six months thereafter.
Carroll added that variety is a key component to success. "Just like you need to eat a variety of vegetables, you need all kinds of exercise. You should develop a routine of working out regularly, but your work-out should not be routine."
Genevieve McLaughlin, the owner of Curves gym in Juneau, considers variety to be essential not just in the types of exercise and routines, but in components that form the base for a healthy weight management plan.
"Consider weight management as a three-legged stool: nutrition, exercise and motivation are the legs," McLaughlin said. "Without one the stool falls over."
When faced with the selection of choosing a gym, McLaughlin recommends considering a few factors. Atmosphere was near the top of her list.
"Our unofficial motto is: 'No men, makeup, or mirrors,'" McLaughlin said. "We are a multi- generational workout community. We have open arms of acceptance of every age, race, and size all working for a common goal - health."
Cyndi Isaak, the owner of Goals gym, had some insight on weight equipment.
"Most people don't feel comfortable with free weights," Isaak said, at least when they first start out. "It's easier for them to set a pin on a machine and sit down on it."
Isaak said her gym offers a comfortable "friends and family" atmosphere.
For people new to physical fitness routines, Isaak suggested starting slowly, listening to your body and setting goals. She said walking on a treadmill in combination with light resistance weight training is a good starting point. She also stressed the benefits of hiring a personal trainer. Her gym has one male trainer who specializes in weight lifting, and one female trainer who focuses more on overall fitness.
To Isaak, who has five children, the real benefit of exercise is not just weight loss, it's mental health.
"It sharpens you mentally as well as physically," she said. "It's a huge stress reliever and an escape."
Amanda Compton is the staff writer for the Capital City Weekly. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.