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Apr 24, 2017 04:11PM

Get fit, be safe: Exercise caution at the gym, too

By Chris Cashion
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Brian Achenbach / bachenbach@qconline.com
Bethany Carbajal, of Moline, holds onto weights as she works out at a Les Mills Body Pump Express class Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, at the YMCA in Moline.
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We know the drill — Jan. 1 arrives, and we make our enthusiastic New Year's resolutions. We buy the gear, sign up for the gym and stock our refrigerators with healthy food.

But oftentimes, a few weeks in, the couch looks more inviting than the treadmill, and the sugary
snacks start calling from the pantry. Before we know it, we're staring summer right in its hot, sticky face, and we've made little progress on our resolutions.

If you're reading this with hopes of finding an easy, quick fix to your fitness woes, you won't find them here. After talking to some area fitness experts, we have found the general consensus is this: some things can accelerate your fitness results, but to reach your goals in a way that's safe and effective, you're going to have to dig up some good, old-fashioned determination and put in hard work.

There is no magic pill, and yes, it probably will be tough. But if you're still reading, that means you're up for the challenge — or at the very least, you're curious enough to want to learn more.

It may seem like common sense, but the first thing you need to do is determine what your goals are, and be sure they are reasonable.

"Maybe you want to be bigger and stronger; maybe you want to be smaller. Whatever your goals are, planning and consistency are important," says Josiah Lorentzen, owner of The Foundation, formerly Quad City CrossFit, in Davenport and Moline.

"And people don't always like to hear it, but losing anything more than one to two pounds a week is a lot, unless someone is really heavy."

Experts agree that safety must be one of your main concerns. If you injure yourself right out of the gate, your progress immediately will be slowed.

"It doesn't matter how much weight you can lift or how fast you can complete an exercise or series of exercises if they are done with poor form. Not only do you risk injury like this, but you don't get the full benefit of the exercise," says Jon Hunt, owner of 8 ONE 8 Fitness, Davenport.

"Also, an important side note, if you don't know how to do a particular exercise, don't just follow the first YouTube video that you come across, and don't just watch people at the gym. Oftentimes those people will not know any more than you and have just mimicked someone else. When in doubt, ask for help. Don't be too proud — there are plenty of people around willing to take the time to help. We are all in this together."

Lorentzen agrees. "Make sure your movement quality is spot on, no matter what your activity. A lot of people who start CrossFit get competitive too quickly. Until our clients can move extremely well, we don't even load our bars with weight. We need to see safe movement first," he says.

Whether your workout of choice is lifting, running or yoga, you tend to get what you put in, according to Kela Ganzer, who owns Backwards Yoga in Eldridge.

"Even in a slower, gentle, candlelight yoga class, you could receive a great physical benefit from that versus a power yoga class if your mind is right," Ganzer says.

The most resounding piece of advice among our experts is to avoid the "get fit quick" mentality, but if you are trying to get results quickly, they want you to do it safely. Often, that means turning to professionals.

They suggest looking for certification from coaches, trainers and teachers, checking to see how long they have been in business and finding someone who feels like a good fit for you — or, as Hunt says, "someone who is not just going to bark orders and count reps."

He adds that your coach should be someone who pushes you, challenges you and can take you out of your usual comfort zone — but with the right amount of encouragement and inspiration.

"Your coach should be your biggest supporter and cheerleader throughout the process," Hunt says.

Mixing up your workouts is another key. Lorentzen says that's one of the things that made CrossFit-style workouts so successful. "They specialize in not specializing; it's one of the greatest statements in CrossFit, but it's true. It's all about GPP, or general physical preparedness; it gets you in general good shape like nothing else," Lorentzen says.

Ganzer says mixing things up applies to yoga as well.

"You want your body to receive the full benefits from yoga and working out in general. Each movement is using different muscles, and you want to maximize the energy in those muscles. I would recommend if you go to the gym or CrossFit or you run, you should offset your usual routine with yoga at least twice a week. If you regularly attend yoga classes, you should offset your usual routine with a cardio workout at least twice a week," Ganzer says.

Rest also is key, but that doesn't mean sitting on the couch — especially if your end goal is to see increased results. "Proactive rest, like walking, playing a sport or playing with your kids, is good for a rest day," Lorentzen says.

And your best results aren't created just by moving your body — what you put into your body is just as important.

"Nutrition is probably the most important factor in achieving any real, lasting results," Hunt says. "And simply cutting calories to some arbitrary number is never the best or safest way to achieve a desired result."

Hunt's team includes a nutrition specialist as well as stand-alone nutrition services because he feels a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work for everyone.

"No amount of training and no exercise/training program will negate the need for proper nutrition," he says.

Lorentzen adds that it's not always about cutting something out of the diet, but adding something in.

"We're big on vegetables here," Lorentzen says. "If we could change one thing, it would be to cut back the sugar intake — there's way too much in the typical American diet — and (add) in more vegetables — two or three servings per meal."

Ganzer adds one more word to that advice: "Hydrate." It's great advice for all workouts, but especially in a hot yoga studio such as Ganzer's.

"Definitely hydrate before, during and after a hot class. Be prepared to sweat — it's good for you."

Above all, use common sense.

"Pick something that works and makes sense for you," Hunt says. "Don't follow trends or the latest fitness craze just because it may seem like the hot thing right now. Figure out what you really want to achieve, do a little research and find the best course of action for you."
Chris Cashion is a writer on staff with Radish.

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