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Switching Gears

by Alicia DiFabio

Fall is the perfect time to change up—not hangup—your workout routine to prevent that dreaded fitness plateau.

Beach body season may be over but a focus on health and fitness should not coincide with summer alone. Between social sports clubs, group fitness training and outdoor activities, there are plenty of fun ways to stay in shape this fall, so don’t wait until Jan. 1 to jump back on the fitness wagon. Instead, fall into fall with a new spin on your old routine and keep the momentum going.

The key to fitness is to maintain a consistent level of motivation. Periodically setting new goals, avoiding exercise ruts, building social support and having fun will keep motivation high long after the swimsuits are put away. Sam Balducci, manager at Giant Fitness in Mount Laurel, sees fitness and health as a lifestyle, not something that ebbs and flows with the seasons. “It’s a mindset,” Balducci says. “Continue working out every part of the body with different types of exercises and a good routine. You also have to do a lot of cardio.”

Fall is the perfect time of year to come off of the machines and get your heart rate up in the great outdoors. Cycling, hiking, rollerblading, tennis, canoeing, kayaking and jogging are all ideal activities for the crisp weather. With all of the running and cycling groups throughout the area and various local 5Ks, mud, zombie and color runs, there are endless opportunities to participate in both fun and unique activities and even charitable events.

Change it up
Fall is a time of change and fresh beginnings—the perfect time to change up your work- out. Because the body adapts to an exercise program in six to eight weeks, modifying your fitness routine is paramount in order to avoid a fitness plateau. “Variety is the key,” states Brian Kosa, manager of Cherry Hill Health and Racquet Club. “You have to confuse the muscles.” He advises using a fitness club that offers a wide variety of sports and activities under one roof. “Some people come in and are fitness specific. Before you know it, they’re taking advantage of other things simply because they are available to them.”

This cross-training approach not only breaks through that plateau but it also keeps workouts from becoming stale and helps reduce the risk of overuse injuries. If you have been following one fitness routine all summer, consider trying something different. Maybe it’s something you have always wanted to do like mixed martial arts or Latin dance. Maybe there is a sport you played in high school and want to start up again.

Many gyms begin offering new class schedules in the fall, allowing you to challenge yourself with something new, or even slightly intimidating, like Bikram yoga, aqua bootcamp, spinning or racquetball. The most popular activities Kosa sees are yoga, tennis, and small group training in a “boot camp style.” Kosa believes the popularity of these particular activities are related to the inherent social support and camaraderie. “When you work out on a piece of equipment, there’s just yourself,” Kosa explains. He believes the group dynamic helps hold people accountable and motivates them to push harder.

Get with a group
According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends, group personal training is one of the hottest fitness trends in 2013. Group personal training, also known as semi-private training, combines the guidance from a personal trainer with the social support of a small group, all at a more reasonable cost.

The typical model is one coach and anywhere from two to four people. A variation of this can be found with group coaching classes, which accommodate four to 10 people per fitness coach.

Individuals who use any form of personal training tend to be more consistent, sustain fewer injuries, enjoy more convenience, and are better educated about fitness. As a result, some health clubs are placing more emphasis on group coaching classes and group personal training. Danielle Kane and David Duzenki at Evolution Fitness in Cherry Hill stand behind this more personalized, holistic model of fitness with passion because they see the results. Their boutique-style health club offers members a more intimate experience and a customized fitness plan. A functional movement assessment, group coaching classes and group personal training are all included in membership.

When it comes to the traditional model of a large gym, Kane says many people tend to fail. “They feel lost; there is no plan ... It’s not about mindlessly throwing weights around. [Here] you’re in a program, you’re on a plan, you’re with a coach.” Duzenki adds, “We empower our clients. We’re teaching them fitness ... it’s also more cost-effective.”

Set new goals
Goal setting is one of the most critical aspects to seeing real results from your workout.

Goals are most effective when they are highly specific, measurable, challenging but attainable, realistic, and have a distinct time frame. If the goal for summer was to look great by the pool, fall is the time to create a new goal. Perhaps it is to wear a smaller dress size by New Year’s Eve or to complete a road race in the upcoming spring.

Goals don’t have to be boring, lonely endeavors. Rather, goals are most effective when they are fun, social and attached to some type of tangible reward. At Evolution Fitness, Kane and Duzenki help keep motivation high by spicing things up with creative goals. “We do these mini-challenges regularly,” says Kane. For example, members and non-members alike can sign up to do an eight-week mini-challenge called Rock Your Jeans.

Each individual brings in a pair of jeans that are at least two sizes smaller than they currently wear. Then, they embark on a customized workout with group coaching or semi-private training. The personalized attention from a trainer, the social aspect of working together, and the built-in accountability encourages participants to work hard and succeed in wearing those jeans.

By setting new goals this fall, challenging your body with different activities and adding a social component to your workouts, you can enter the holidays in top shape and continue seeing real results through all four seasons. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle 365 days of the year is the optimal mindset. “There is no finish line,” encourages Kosa. “It’s not about starting in January and ending in May. It’s a journey.”

Published (and copyrighted) in the Art of Living Well pull-out section of Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 7 (September, 2013).
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