Flex into a new comfort zone

By Makayla-Courtney McGeeney

Thousands of Americans set New Year’s resolutions each year but rarely follow through with them, especially those who set health-related fitness goals. It’s time to break that bad habit.

Commit to a new workout routine

Folks join a fitness facility for a number of reasons; to lose weight, to overcome an injury, or train for a long term goal. What keeps them going back? A combination of constant motivation, a variety of exercises, emotional support and camaraderie.

Instead of dreading hours on the treadmill attempting to achieve your spring body, level up with a new style of training. In Berkshire County and Southern Vermont, there are plenty of options for a variety of fitness facilities.

Whether it’s a group fitness class, challenging obstacle course race or a new exercise, local gym owners and personal training clients offer up what they believe are the best ways to get in shape for 2018.

 Debi Davenport lost 42 pounds since attending Sandy Stevens’ group fitness classes at Time for Yourself in Bennington, Vt. She said Stevens keeps her motivated to stick to her goals. Photo courtesy of Debi Davenport.

Debi Davenport, a client of Time for Yourself in Bennington, Vt., sought out Sandy Stevens for help with her weight loss goals after unsuccessfully attempting to lose weight and trying countless diets. Since March 2017 she’s dropped 42 pounds, two more pounds than her original goal.

“I feel like a new person. Sandy is my hero. I know I had to do the actual work but she has motivated me and guided me on this journey,” Davenport said.

She reached her goal by improving food choices and participating in Stevens’ TRX suspension training and tabata classes.

While a majority of Stevens’ clients are female, more men have started coming to her facility, as well as older teens and couples.

“That’s happening a lot with TRX and mud warriors,” she said. “They’re each getting their needs met. It’s nice to be able to work with your partner working toward a goal together… They also try harder when paired with other people in the class. It helps bring them to the next level. It’s been awesome to see the partners working together.”

Stevens’ focus, as of late, is the Spartan Race obstacle course that started in Vermont 10 years ago. She trained to be a Spartan coach earlier this year and now prepares some of her clients to participate in the race. In doing so she sets group challenges for each month. A plank challenge in October helped develop proper form for the 22 push ups per day in November and then 30 burpees per day in December.

“Each level is doable and the next month builds onto it,” Stevens said.

Clients are training together regularly working toward the same goal. Stevens said clients can do the challenges on their own and are held accountable via Facebook where other participants announce their success.

“We’re always trying to find ways to help them get stronger and get those goals while still being creative. You’ll see as the month goes on you’ll get stronger. You’ve been doing it for a month you should have some progress and if you haven’t been doing it consistently, I’ll see that and you’ll feel it,” Stevens said about how her clients progress during monthly challenges.

A challenge and a community all in one

While Spartan Fitness in Lenox, Mass. sounds like the proper training center for the aforementioned obstacle course, it’s not, but certainly transforms those who are looking for a challenge and community.

“Results favor the brave — you have to put the work in,” said Chas Gonnello, a nutritionist, certified strength and conditioning specialist and corrective exercise specialist at Spartan Fitness. “If you want to get really good at a sport, get really fit, stronger, put muscle mass on, etc., it all requires hard work … Just like someone who wants to recover from an injury.”

Spartan Fitness member David Pixley, 44, can attest to that. His workouts include strength and endurance training while striving for overall better health. He also noticed “a significant increase in strength and endurance” and finds it easier to reach a personal record (PR) while performing various weight lifting exercises.

“Chas has a unique ability to challenge and also respect limits,” Pixley said. “When I began I was slow, out of shape and wanted to avoid injury. I was encouraged for showing up and doing my best.”

Gonnello ensures his clients don’t overdo it in the gym by constantly changing up their routine.

“I guide people in fixing certain biomechanical issues,” he said. “The idea for me is to always be adapting workings… being versatile and using my creativity to change the structure of the workouts.”

He said no workout has been repeated twice in the past 10 years because he’s always finding new ways to challenge clients. “That’s what keeps us on our toes and keeps things fresh and, in a way, sort of entertaining.”

Last winter, Pixley was introduced to Spartan Fitness by his fiancee and has not only gained back stamina and confidence, but also gained a positive and healthy mental state.
“What [Chas] offers is a space to learn about how to take care of yourself, vocalize goals, express limits, realize failure without complaint or excuse and modestly accept success,” he said. “It is an approach to self learning and self improvement that lends confidence and abilities to all areas of life.”

Switch up the routine

Carla McComb, owner of Supreme Fitness in Brattleboro, Vt., mirrors Gonnello’s training technique of switching up exercises to keep clients motivated. She’s been a personal trainer for 30 years.

The most popular class at the gym is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), formerly a Crossfit class. The idea is to perform intense bursts of exercise in short, timed periods, followed by a short rest period.

“It keeps you engaged,” McComb said. “Some people like the stimulation and camaraderie with the classes.”

She said individuals of any fitness level can benefit from group exercise classes. Whether it’s getting through a new and challenging routine or gaining strength back in certain muscles, jumping into a group might be the best way to switch up your workout.

“It is simple: show up, be respectful, do the best you can, help others when you can and be mindful of the effort it takes to succeed and keep putting in the effort and keep an open mind,” Pixley said.

Words of advice

“Listen to your body. Take breaks. Never apologize for not being there or for not reaching any goal.”

— David Pixley, Spartan Fitness member

“Be accountable for yourself and be the best you can be. When you are really ready the change will happen, but you have to make it happen, you just can’t talk about it.”

— Debi Davenport, Time for Yourself member

“You’re only a beginner once, so stay active and keep moving so you don’t have to start over again.”

— Carla McComb, Supreme Fitness

“Step out of your comfort zone. Try something different. Do something that you enjoy. If it’s going to make you miserable, you’re not helping yourself.”

— Sandy Steves, Time for Yourself

“No matter what the goal is you have to apply yourself toward it.”

— Chas Gonnello, Spartan Fitness

Makayla-Courtney McGeeney is a former health and environmental reporter for the Bennington Banner and Manchester Journal. She’s from Voorheesville, N.Y., graduated from MCLA in 2015, and resides in North Adams acting as the communications director for Tunnel City Coffee.

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