Keeping your healthy resolution

By ReminderNews Staff
Region - posted Fri., Jan. 4, 2013
- Contributed Photo

January is the time of year when countless people recommit themselves to living a healthy lifestyle as part of a New Year’s resolution. But we all know that the many challenges of everyday life can lead that optimistic resolution to become just a distant memory by February.

To help resolution-makers plan out realistic goals and do their best to stick to them, the ReminderNews staff writers have gathered tips from health experts across eastern Connecticut, including doctors, nurses, coaches, personal trainers, gym owners, parks and recreation directors, massage therapists and more.

Smokers resolved to quit might need to "put their money where their mouth is," as they are required to do at William Backus Hospital's smoking cessation program. "The group dynamic is what makes it work," said Alice Facente, RN, who runs the Norwich program, which is facilitated by respiratory therapists who are former smokers themselves, and gets underway Jan. 8. Any smoker hoping to kick the habit for good may find the going easier if they enlist support.

"If you work out a contract with at least one other person, you can form your own support group," Facente said. Members of that group can help fight off the urge when it hits and offer praise and encouragement for goals met. A tangible reward for meeting the goal can also be a powerful motivator: Backus refunds the $50 registration fee if all eight weeks are completed. When the program was offered for free, she said, "people didn't have any skin in the game." Potential quitters can also tap into the free statewide 24-hour smoking cessation hotline, 1-800-QUIT-NOW, which is staffed by Department of Public Health coaches and offers help in several languages.

Few are more qualified to give advice on quitting smoking than Dr. Saud Anwar, a pulmonary physician and member of the South Windsor Town Council. “One's commitment and resolve is critical for success,” Anwar said. He suggests using nicotine replacements to help wean you off the physical dependency of cigarettes. But smokers have a psychological dependency, as well. If smokers use cigarettes to overcome stress, they should replace the unhealthy habit with a healthy one – even munching on baby carrots could help. Anwar suggests asking friends for their help to stay committed, and place a photo of a loved one on your last packet of cigarettes, to remind you why you are quitting.

Many people choose to join a gym and get in shape as their New Year’s resolution. In East Hartford, Kelly Senetienne, a representative from Gold's Gym, said that the gym experiences an increase in new members in January. “Normally, we get 130 new members a month,” she said. “It goes up to between 160 and 175 in January, and then slows down around March.” Senetienne said only about a third of the members who join between January and March ultimately wind up sticking with a workout routine.

Matt Mund of Mission Fitness, LLC, in Glastonbury said that for people who haven't exercised much recently and are trying to get back into it for the new year, setting realistic but challenging short- and long-term goals is the key to easing back into working out, but also for sticking with resolutions.

“A lot of people overshoot what they can do,” Mund said. “With kids, their job, etc., they say they're going to work out five or six days a week. They end up not doing that, then they get disappointed and fall off track. You need to set something up that fits your lifestyle.”

As for keeping one's resolutions, making specific goals is key. Keeping records is a great way to keep yourself accountable. “Log everything,” Mund said. “Log your food, log your exercise, log your diet. That way you have that accountability factor… If you're logging it, and keeping a journal, you have a way to look back and say, ‘This is why I'm not succeeding.’”

Jimmy Byrnes – a personal trainer at Body by Design in Woodstock who also takes on private clients – suggests that people make their New Year's resolutions attainable by focusing on one small change at a time. By changing one aspect of your life, whether incorporating fitness into a schedule or trying to eat healthier, you start building a foundation that will grow over time. “I tell my clients to change little things,” he said. “Join a gym and go once a week. When you're comfortable with that, go twice a week. When you're comfortable with that, talk with a trainer. When you're comfortable with that, ask about diet and nutrition and how you can eat healthier."

Dave Rojas, co-owner of Tri-County Fitness in Hebron, said there are three basic steps to staying committed and achieving your New Year goals. The first step is the hardest: committing to your health and fitness program. “Eating small, well-balanced meals throughout the day and performing a physical activity (a combination of both strength training and cardiovascular activity, for at least 30-45 minutes per workout) at least three times a week, to start, is your goal and commitment,” he said.

Second, persist with your programs. “Once you've laid the foundation and have taken that first crucial step to a newer, healthier, fitter you, persistence in achieving your goals is next,” Rojas said. Third, strive to stay committed, and success awaits you, sooner than you may think, he said.

“Remember, always consult your physician before starting any regular exercise routine and get the proper training on any program you start,” Rojas said.

But hitting the gym or dieting are only small portions of the larger picture when it comes to being truly healthy. Lifestyle changes are most necessary to raise the quality and longevity of life, according to Michael DeVries, director of coaching at Enfield’s Healthtrax Fitness and Wellness Center.

To improve your health and wellness for the year, DeVries suggests a slow and steady approach, noting easy ways to improve your lifestyle include staying hydrated throughout the day and making it to the gym three to four days a week, to work out anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. When you use the gym, he said, work on exercises and movements that you will use in your everyday life. The bench press is great for improving your pectoral muscles, but in real life, you will not be lifting from that position all too often.

The first few visits to the gym will likely leave your muscles painful and sore, but there is a way to reduce and minimize these annoyances: massage therapy.

Jaqueline Simard, owner of Windsor’s Therapeutic Solutions, says that lactic acids build up in the muscles during workouts, and massage therapy is a great way to flush the acid out. The painful sensation from the acid is created to stop the body from overworking and forces a recovery period. Simard says that a massage will relieve the tension quicker, while also allowing muscles to become more supple during workouts. She noted that other benefits include increased range of motion and flexibility, as well as reduced stress.

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