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Resolved to stay fit

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Local fitness buffs share tips for starting, maintaining one of the most common New Year’s resolutions

Pam Wierenga of Medford has more balance and strength than many people half her age.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Kyle Rickard instructs Pam Wierenga as she works on a balance ball at Aspire Fitness Club in downtown Medford.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Pam Wierenga works out with free weights at Aspire Fitness.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Pam Wierenga lifts weights at Aspire Fitness.

Soon to be 65, Wierenga breezed through a set of squats on a half-sphere Bosu without a sweat then moved into deadlifts of more than 100 pounds during a workout Wednesday at Aspire Fitness in Medford.

According to her trainer, Kyle Rickard, who owns Aspire, Wierenga boasts personal bests that include bench pressing more than 100 pounds and lifting 235 pounds on the rack pull.

Wierenga works out at least twice a week with Rickard — and often as many as four times a week — as part of a fitness journey that began this month in 2016. January is the month when a lot of Americans begin similar journeys.

Rickard said that from his 12 years in the fitness industry, the strongest results start with a strong goal.

Many set a New Year’s resolution of losing weight, Rickard said, but they don’t stick with it because the goal isn’t specific enough. He tells those he coaches to “get past superficial.”

“There’s a reason why you want to lose weight, and that reason is more powerful,” Rickard said.

Some may want to lose weight to build confidence, but Rickard described weight and strength training as another way to build confidence, and a goal that may be more rewarding than watching for a number on a scale.

The biggest pitfall Rickard sees is people trying to do “too much all at once,” when plenty of studies show that new exercisers can start to see results with weight training a couple times a week, more walking and minimal diet changes.

“The goal should never be to beat yourself up every single workout,” Rickard said.

Rickard, whose gym often focuses on helping people with physical limitations reach fitness goals, said he’s helped other clients by focusing them on an event with a date.

For instance, one client wants to be able to walk around Disney World later this year without getting winded. In the past, he’s trained another client after hip surgery to be ready for a New Zealand hiking vacation.

Other times the goal is better mobility, such as being able to put shoes on again by themselves.

“They say, ‘It’s just part of life,’ and it doesn’t have to be,” Rickard said.

For Tess Ball, owner of Ashland Strength Studio, set to open Jan. 1, her fitness journey began a decade ago with a New Year’s resolution.

She was working in corporate advertising as a graphic designer in New York in 2012 when her art director invited her to a gym. She didn’t realize how stressed out she was.

She was teaching yoga classes a year and a half later, and went full time into fitness in 2015.

“I went, like, deep — it changed my life fast,” Ball said. “I discovered that I could take a deep breath for the first time.”

Ball said a common pitfall for people just starting out is getting hung up on trying to find the perfect plan or the perfect coach, when any movement toward their goal would help.

“The action itself will likely be enough to get you going,” Ball said. “Don’t get bogged down in the research.”

Ball and Rickard each recommended that those starting out focus on things they enjoy.

“Try something you want to do that sounds fun, that sounds like something you’d want to do as a kid. Start there,” Ball said.

“If you hate running, don’t run,” Rickard said, adding that there’s plenty of other ways to get the heart rate up.

Ball also recommended finding a community that will “celebrate your successes.”

“It’s damn near impossible to do it by yourself,” Ball said.

Wierenga started her fitness journey at Aspire in 2016 when she discovered a workout group at the gym for people 50 and older. Other gyms made her feel self conscious.

“I felt comfortable coming here. That was important to me,” Wierenga said.

She expanded her regimen to multiple group workouts and one-on-one training each week. She adheres to her scheduled workouts as if they were doctor appointments.

“I’m not a self-motivated person,” Wierenga said. “I just try to be consistent.”

She says her fitness regimen over the past five years has led to improvements in bone density, and she likes being strong enough for things such as easily hoisting her own suitcase in the overhead bins.

“To me, it translates into everyday things that people don’t usually think about,” she said.

For Wierenga, it’s not about numbers or competition, but about living and aging well. She also wants to keep up with her 77-year-old husband when they go kayaking, hiking and cycling together.

“He takes no medication,” Wierenga said during stretches. “My husband, I have to say, is my inspiration.”

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.