East County residents share their tips for ways to achieve a healthy life.
When Lakewood Ranch’s Amelia Lyons first stepped into a group fitness class at the Lakewood Ranch YMCA in early 2017, her biggest goal simply was to be there.
Four months earlier, she’d had brain surgery and, until then, had not been allowed to lift anything heavier than 5 pounds.
Lifting too much could cause the post-surgery complication of a spinal fluid leak and force another surgery.
“It’s important to set goals where you currently are in your life, not looking at your past. You can’t let (the past) define where you can go. It’ll make you frustrated.”
Lyons worried something could go wrong, even after being released from her physician’s care in January. She was afraid to pick up her children, Callum, now 2, and Cecelia, now 5.
“I had gone from doing running races to not doing anything,” she said. “My muscle weakness was extensive. My goals became completely different. Initially, it was lift a gallon of milk. The first time I picked up my son — he’d continued to grow during that time — he felt so heavy and I felt so hesitant. He was 28 pounds. I had the freedom to pick him up, but it was scary and sometimes I couldn’t pick him up.”
Lyons wanted to be fearless. She wanted to feel strong. She wanted to do something for herself.
Her goal couldn’t be to run a marathon. Her goal started with lifting Callum and changing his diaper without fear or re-injury, and to take care of household chores without relying on other people.
This month, she became an instructor of the YMCA’s Les Mills SPRINT class, a high-intensity training on an indoor bicycle.
“Goals need to be so personal that only you can reach them,” Lyons said. “You’ve got to find your inner grit — what are you going to get out of it? Seek progress, not perfection.”
A motivated you
Whisper Bend resident Marc Simms’ motivation for improved health came from jumping into his own swimming pool. He didn’t like how he looked in his bathing suit, even if he was alone. He’d gained an extra 40 pounds on his 5-foot-6-inch frame by mid-2016 and learned he was considered “obese” when he measured his body mass index.
“That was a wake up call for me,” Simms said. “I never thought of myself as obese. My cholesterol and blood pressure were high. I was taking eight medications. I was tired of it.”
He knew what he needed to do. He started incorporating walks into his daily routine and chose apples instead of candy when selecting food at the grocery store. He only purchased healthy foods he knew he would eat.
“You have new life every day,” Simms said. “There are days when you fall off, but don’t beat yourself up. The next choice I make will be a better choice. If you do that often enough, you start making better choices.”
East County resident Dallas Rosenthal, needed to find something she enjoyed.
She fell in love with 9Round, a kickboxing gym that offers a nine-station kickboxing workout, after trying it on a family vacation in Texas about three months ago. She’s been more health-focused on improving her health since being diagnosed two years ago with ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune condition. The medication she takes for it can cause fluctuations in her weight. Plus, she’s “lazy” by nature and enjoys eating, already.
“You have new life every day. There are days when you fall off, but don’t beat yourself up. The next choice I make will be a better choice. If you do that often enough, you start making better choices.”
The 22-year-old always hated exercise, even though she’d completed two half marathons, tried weightlifting, video classes and CrossFit. She eventually learned she liked dancing, hot yoga, hiking and horseback riding, but they didn’t have the intensity she wanted. And hiking, she preferred the mountains.
“The 9Round kickboxing struck a chord for me. It brought me intensity that I can modify to my levels to help me achieve my goals,” Rosenthal said. “Because I enjoy kickboxing, I am more willing and more likely to continue it. When I used to wake up to run early in the morning, I would dread it the night before. Now I look forward to my early morning workout. It jumpstarts my day.”
Rosenthal prefers completing her workouts in the morning because she finds that helps her feel more motivated and make better lifestyle choices throughout the rest of the day.
“Pick and choose activities that suit you and that you will be likely to continue,” she said. “Consistency is key to achieving any goals.
“Once you’re motivated, you can accomplish anything,” Rosenthal said.
For Sarasota’s Zach Hlavac, a registered nurse, finding motivation came, in part, from investing financially in his health. He had a cool sculpting procedure done in 2016 to help make his lower stomach look more toned, and funding it has kept him motivated to stay in shape. For others, he said, it might mean signing on with a personal trainer or joining a gym — something with some sort of financial or person-to-person accountability in place.
Baby steps first
Lyons said a key to staying motivated and reaching goals is making sure goals are small enough, at least to start. It’s OK to dream big — like run in a marathon — but the steps to get there have to be part of the vision.
Each little goal reached should be celebrated as a new milestone. For example, when Lyons first started exercising, attending a group fitness class at the Lakewood Ranch YMCA was her first goal. Then, it became adding weight during her exercise routines.
Rosenthal called those baby steps progressive goals.
“For instance, once I can do one chin up then my next goal is five in a row,” Rosenthal said. “Keep moving forward. Do not get stagnant.”
Simms set small goals, but broke them down in more attainable ways. He may not be able to do a full workout, but while working from home, he can do pull-ups on the bar on his doorframe. He tracks that each day until he hits his goal of 100, for example. He also gets up from his desk every hour to walk around.
The steps seem simple, but contribute toward his bigger picture of health.
“Pick and choose activities that suit you and that you will be likely to continue. Consistency is key to achieving any goals.”
Unlike Simms, who started his exercise and health routine more-or-less from scratch, Hlavac already was exercising and didn’t eat terribly. However, when he learned in April he had Type 1 diabetes — his body no longer produces insulin — Hlavac had to adjust his eating and exercise regimens to accommodate his condition.
“Being diagnosed made things interesting,” Hlavac said. “Now, I had to figure out not only how to meet my fitness goals, but also take care of myself as someone with a chronic disease. There is so much importance in placing small goals. If you only set large goals, you can find it easy to get lost and lose your motivation.”
He sets daily exercise goals, as well as goals for his blood sugar levels, which he helps control by reading nutrition labels when dining out, eating breakfast and packing his own lunches.
Goals also should be realistic and individuals should be willing to modify their goals to be workable for them. Having a goal of exercising 45 minutes a day, four times a week may be too lofty. Instead, they can exercise 2 minutes during a television show’s commercial breaks.
“It could be something as simplistic as eating snack on way home so you’re not famished when you get home,” said Heidi-Jo Kaplan, a registered dietician and certified diabetes educator for Sarasota Memorial.
“These baby steps have the best (impact) for your money,” Kaplan said. “They give you the ability to control your appetite. These baby steps ultimate lead you to obtaining your larger goals.”
Although many times people focus on weight as their health and fitness goal, Lyons and other goal-setters advise against it. With weight, especially, you are bound to hit plateaus or obstacles. Instead, consider how you look and feel and decide how you personally can measure whether you’ve reached a goal.
For example, Rosenthal said she has a lazy disposition, so her goals aren’t as quantifiable. She doesn’t want to keep track of what she eats and how much. She makes her goals ones she can meet without having to go out and do anything special. For example, she can run up a flight of stairs without being out of breath, do a chin-up or do a certain number of pushups or sit ups.
Or, at dinnertime, she only selects foods that are OK for her to eat, like fresh vegetables, so that she does not have to focus as much on portion control. Such steps help her achieve her health goals in ways she can measure.
Lyons also advocates making goals specific for each day.
“It’s important to set goals where you currently are in your life, not looking at your past. You can’t let (the past) define where you can go. It’ll make you frustrated,” she said.
Counting each success is important and having small “milestones” to work toward help encourage you to achieve your larger goals, she said.