Looking for fun fitness

Local experts say to simply find an activity you enjoy

By Sue Vorenberg, Columbian features reporter

Published:

 

If you want to get fit, don’t make a New Year’s resolution.

That’s the wrong way to go about getting healthy, said Jana Beeman, owner of Balanced Life Today Health, Nutrition and Fitness in La Center.

“If you just make a resolution, you really won’t stick to it,” Beeman said. “People have to move with an exercise that captures some part of their imagination; it has to be fun or they just won’t do it.”

Gyms usually become crowded in January as throngs sign up after newly made New Year’s resolutions, but by spring, the numbers pretty much always drop back to normal, said Eddie White, executive director at Clark County Family YMCA, 11324 N.E. 51st Circle.

Rather than hitting the same old boring weights or treadmill, White and Beeman suggest trying to find something that piques your interest — like a dance class, bike rides or even firing up the video game machine with a fun fitness program.

“Exercise doesn’t have to be three sets of 10 on the weight machine,” White said. “It’s just getting out and moving. It’s going out and shooting hoops, playing catch, throwing a football. It can even be gardening.”

Kim Puyleart, who runs the Vancouver Mommy Fitness Playgroup, found her current fitness calling by creating the group on Meetup.com.

She used to teach Zumba dance classes, but stopped when she had her first baby 15 months ago.

After feeling isolated from spending too much time at home, she decided to build a set of exercise routines she could share with other new mothers — both for fitness and as a way to socialize.

“Being a mom is not easy, and it made me realize I really need to get out of the house,” Puyleart said. “So I started the group at the end of August. We do everything from circuit training to resistance training to cardio, but we use baby strollers so we can bring our babies along.”

In the winter, Puyleart brings her group to the Westfield Vancouver mall. The mothers incorporate their kids into the workout routine and break periodically for story time and other activities.

Sometimes the mothers will use their babies as weights and do squats or other exercises while holding them.

“It really is engaging, not just for the moms but for the kids, too,” she said.

Beeman, meanwhile, uses dance to stay fit.

She got very sick when she was young, and stumbled upon a belly dancing class as a means to regain her health.

“I just needed something that would keep me coming back, and after that first class, I was hooked,” Beeman said. “Belly dance is something that if it catches your interest and you relate to the music, it just takes over.”

Zumba, which is sort of a fast-paced Latin dance class, is a huge trend right now, but if you haven’t been all that active, Beeman suggests trying something a little slower to get you started.

“Some Zumba and dance fitness classes, they aren’t very careful about protecting people’s bodies,” Beeman said. “If you like the idea of dancing but you aren’t in great shape, why not start with something slower, like ballroom dancing, where it’s very carefully designed.”

If you have injuries or are just out of shape, restorative yoga is a slow, meditative way to let your body tell you what it’s ready for, she said.

“You expand into a pose slowly and your body tells you how far you can go,” Beeman said. “There’s even chair yoga, where you can actually do a full yoga routine while sitting in your chair.”

Swimming is another great, low-impact, easy way to start moving, White said.

“We do everything from arthritic swimming classes for our senior population to swim lessons for kids,” White said. “We also have counselors, and you can make an appointment and they can tell you what classes might be best and how to approach things.”

If you’re more of the stay-at-home type, things like Wii Fit or Dance Dance Revolution can help to get you moving, as can fitness video series like Crunchless Abs and Bender Ball, which Beeman recommends.

But if you decide to go that route, both White and Beeman suggest attending at least one class or consulting a fitness trainer first to make sure you’re doing the motions correctly.

If you rent a yoga program, for instance, and don’t do poses like downward dog correctly, you can actually end up injuring yourself, Beeman said.

One nice thing about community fitness centers is that they tend to have several options for classes, White said.

At the Clark County Family YMCA, organizers try to continually add new types of exercise to keep things fresh.

“A lot of our focus is on group exercise, whether that’s in the water or elsewhere, because people like that social or group atmosphere,” White said. “We have boot camps with different activities each week, dance classes. Our bodies quickly adjust and adapt to things so its a good idea to continually change things up.”

The YMCA also has a computer tracking program called ActivTrax that provides exercise and meal suggestions on the Web. It’s free to members and includes activities beyond the center like bike riding or hiking.

Even just going out for a walk is a nice way to get started — and if you have young kids, taking them on nature discovery hikes is a good way to encourage them to have fun while getting outdoors for some exercise.

“On discovery hikes, you can let kids veer off, pick up things like rocks or leaves and talk about them,” Beeman said. “Just doing something like that brings the attention outside, and it can be really fun fitness and really bonding at the same time.”

It takes about 21 days for a new habit to set in and feel normal, but if you do that by adding exercises that you enjoy, it becomes a much more easy task, she said.“If you make a New Year’s resolution and you go to the gym and just push yourself, you end up in pain,” Beeman said. “Your muscles are burning and your joints are aching and your detoxing your body too fast. Just start with something simple. Go for a walk, get outside. People just aren’t built to be happy doing repetitive boring exercises.”