Keeping those exercise resolutions


Published: Monday, January 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, December 31, 2006 at 12:40 a.m.
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Sheila Gardner is the director of Group Fitness at Gainesville Health and Fitness.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun

Facts

HOW TO STICK WITH IT

Sheila Gardner offers the following tips for beginners to keep exercising.

  • START SLOWLY: The biggest mistake people make is doing too much too soon. At worst, they risk injury. Making exercise too hard is discouraging. Warning signs are nausea, headache, and feeling faint. Gardner said there's a difference between muscle soreness, which is good after a workout, and debilitating pain.
  • USE THE TIME YOU HAVE: If you don't have an hour, walk on a treadmill for 15-20 minutes. If you don't have time for a shower, just stretch so you don't get sweaty.
  • VARY YOUR ROUTINE: Do different types of workouts to keep from getting bored and to exercise more of your body.
  • BE YOURSELF: Do what fits your personality. Try a group class if you want to be social. Try the treadmill if you work best on your own.
  • GET SUPPORT: Working out with a buddy, in a group class or with a personal trainer can provide that extra motivation some need.
  • FIND A GOOD TIME: If you're not a morning person, a 6 a.m. workout may not work for you.

  • As a result of all the promises people make for themselves today, the Gainesville Health & Fitness Centers will again have its busiest months in January and February. But most of the exercise newcomers will disappear after a month or two, deciding their resolution to exercise is too hard to keep as they console themselves with Pop-Tarts in front of the boob tube.
    The challenge for the club is to find ways to retain those customers, according to Sheila Gardner, group fitness director.
    There is a big focus on making the club feel welcome and comfortable, a place to meet friends, grab an apple and hang out - the "Cheers" of fitness, Gardner said, though she finds the reference is becoming outdated.
    She said they emphasize that exercise is fun so people say to themselves, "'I'm going to go work out. I'll feel great. See my buddy,' as opposed to, 'Crap, I've got to go exercise. What a drag.'"
    Gardner never had a problem sticking with exercise once she started. She noticed immediate rewards, especially in her self-esteem, but also stress reduction, higher energy levels, "not to mention the physical changes. Your body just starts looking better."
    "Once you start seeing rewards, drop a few pounds, it's harder to drop out."
    Gardner started working out at home, doing Yoga she learned from books and videos when it was the "hip" thing to do. She then got into the aerobic dance phase popularized by Jane Fonda, complete with the leg warmers. Not long after she started doing aerobics, she started teaching it at health clubs, beginning with Glorious Steven's Figure Salons in Chattanooga, Tenn.
    The burgeoning field was not at first regulated. Gardner speaks incredulously about the dangers - wearing ballet slippers for high-impact workouts - and the lack of concern for safety and health.
    "Anybody was going up and saying 'I'm an aerobics instructor' and people were getting hurt. Jane Fonda, she had absolutely no fitness credentials at all. Here she is standing there giving people nutritional advice, exercise advice. We all were doing that.
    "Nobody cared about their health. They just wanted to be thin. And weighing was a big deal. Thank God we got out of that. You'd get on the scales every day. 'Oh God, I gained a pound.' Health is the focus now."
    But the industry soon became certified and Gardner was a charter member of the IDEA Health & Fitness Association and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.
    She kept teaching and became an assistant fitness director at different clubs.
    Her degree was in theater from Foothill College in her hometown, Los Altos Hills, Calif. She said her background in entertainment comes in handy to keep people in group classes entertained so they keep coming back.
    But she realized that to get ahead in the field, she would need a different degree, so she earned a bachelor of science in health science education from the University of Florida.
    Gardner has been at Gainesville Health and Fitness for 13 years. She is responsible for the group fitness department of 200 classes a week and 70 instructors.
    Class offerings include yoga, T'ai Chi, pilates, step, cycle, aquatics, strength, abdomen, ab and glut, kickboxing, dance and hip-hop and circuits.
    She also keeps up with trends. A few years ago, the new thing was kickboxing, then cycle classes. The latest trends include pilates - which strengthens the core muscles of the torso, improves posture and is good for back issues - and fusion, a new word for cross-training. She said the club will soon offer Bodyflow, described as controlled breathing, concentration and a series of stretches, moves and poses to music.
    Anthony Clark can be reached at anthony.clark@gvillesun.com or 374-5094.

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