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Workout 101: Choosing right routine a challenging task

November 1, 2011
By JOHANNA BOYLE ( , Journal Ishpeming Bureau

MARQUETTE - Zumba, spinning, lifting weights, running, cycling, yoga high intensity interval training. Most people know that having some sort of exercise routine is a big step toward having a healthier lifestyle, even if they don't currently follow one.

But for those looking to start up such a routine, the task of choosing what to do and how often to do it can be daunting.

"It needs to be fun for you," said Barb Coleman, a certified exercise specialist and professor at Northern Michigan University. "If it's something you really hate, try something else. You work to stumble on what works for you, what feels good."

Article Photos

Michelle Maniko of Ishpeming works out at the West End YMCA facility in Negaunee. Beginning with low-impact exercises, such as an elliptical machine, cycling or swimming may be easier for new exercisers to adapt to before moving up to higher-impact activities. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)

The combination of group exercise classes, area gyms, exercise DVDs for rent or purchase and miles of hiking, biking and walking trails in the area mean there's almost no limit to the number of fitness activities available to area residents.

"You have to do stuff you enjoy," said Jenna Zdunek, senior health and wellness leader for the YMCA of Marquette County. "If you know you hate running, don't start a running program."

Before settling on one exercise program, Coleman suggested trying a variety of activities by dropping in on a group exercise class, getting a day pass or trial membership at a gym or just trying out an activity on your own.

Finding an exercise activity you enjoy will help you to keep with it in the long term instead of becoming a chore you don't look forward to.

"It can be as simple as going for a walk," Coleman said.

Adults wanting to improve their fitness levels should aim for at least a half hour of exercise most days of the week, Coleman said, but beginning exercisers, particularly those who have been sedentary for a number of years, should aim to start small.

"Getting off the couch is a big step," she said.

Zdunek agreed, adding that working in 10 minutes of activity at a time can add up over the course of a day by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or by going out for a walk around the block.

By starting small, new exercisers can adjust their bodies to their new activity and then build up to more time or more strenuous activities later. Doing too much too soon can not only cause you to lose excitement over exercising, but can also put you at risk for muscular and skeletal injuries.

Coleman suggested combining cardio (which raises your heart rate) with strength training and flexibility.

"Something as simple as walking has muscular endurance as well as cardiovascular," she said. Adding a quick stretch after a walk will also help.

In general, starting out with lower-impact activities, such as walking, cycling or swimming can be easier for beginners.

Finally, exercisers may need to look at their own wants, personality and finances to determine their activity.

Many exercises can be done at home with instruction from reputable books or Internet resources and using inexpensive resistance bands or weights. Cans of soup or jugs of water can even be used in place of free weights.

"You don't have to go to a club, you don't have to have a personal trainer," Coleman said. "If it's (finances) a barrier to you, you can do a lot of stuff at home."

Getting a gym membership does help to motivate some people and provides access to equipment and trainers.

"People just need to go somewhere where they feel comfortable and accepted," Zdunek said.

Shopping around at different gyms or with different trainers can help exercisers identify a facility they will not only be comfortable with, but also get the most out of their workouts, Coleman said. Issues such as affordability and qualifications of the staff should both be examined by potential members.

In particular, Coleman suggested visiting the gym at the times you feel you would like to exercise to see what the atmosphere is like and determine if you'll end up waiting to use the equipment you want.

"People need to remember they're buying something and they have the right to evaluate the product," she said.

Whether you ultimately end up deciding to join a gym or not, one tactic both Coleman and Zdunek suggested was finding a workout buddy. Having a regular "appointment" to exercise with a friend can help keep motivation going and help the time that you're exercising pass more quickly.

Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401.



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