Health and Beauty by Jean Stratton

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Tone Up for Bathing Suit Season With Exercise, Exercise, Exercise!

"I just don't have time.... it's raining.... it's too cold.... too hot... I have a deadline....." Sound familiar? These are just some of the excuses people come up with to avoid exercise.'

Indeed, for all those dedicated gym enthusiasts, there are a lot of others who, if not actual couch potatoes, are nevertheless unmoved by the thought of exercise. But with bathing suit season upon us, even some of the most recalcitrant are looking for ways to get moving. Flattening that midriff, toning the abs, and contouring the thighs is clearly desirable.

If one doesn't have the motivation to go it alone, a variety of fitness centers, with qualified trainers, are ready to lend a hand.

Working out is not just for bench pressers these days. Looking and feeling fit is on the minds of many as we cope with the demands of a high tech, high stress society.

Along with a healthy diet, exercise is crucial not only to looking well, but feeling well.

Overall Health

"Exercise is most important to a person's overall health," says Gary Reidy, managing partner of Princeton Fitness & Wellness Center.

"It can have an abundance of benefits," adds Colleen Sulkowski, membership director of New York Sports Clubs. "A lot of people are geared more to preventing problems before they happen. Getting in more exercise can help to bring down cholesterol before it gets too high, for example. Also, many of our trainers specialize in diet and nutrition as well."

People join a fitness club for a number of reasons, points out Bill Zeltman, member services director at Momentum Fitness. "It's often a New Year's Resolution, or summer is coming and people want to get into their bathing suits. Back-to-school is a busy time, and also January and February when people traditionally get less exercise."

"Also, there are personal factors, including health. The doctor may have told them to get more exercise to lower their blood presure or cholesterol."

Whatever their reason, clients will find a fitness center to suit their needs. The centers offer an abundance of services, including state-of-the-art cardiovascular equipment, weight resistance machines, free weights, pools for aquatic exercise, and a variety of classes from yoga and Pilates to spinning and kick boxing. Many also include nutritional and diet information and instruction, as well as massage and aromatherapy.

The centers have varied membership programs, payment arrangements – some on a month-to-month basis, and with money-back guarantees. Free monthly assessments are often offered, as well as continuing evaluations. Hours are usually extensive, often from 5 a.m. to midnight.

Additional Focus

New York Sports Club, which has a network of 130 clubs in the eastern U.S. (Boston Sports Club, Philadelphia Sports Club, etc.) offers members the opportunity to work out at any club if they are in another location.

Princeton Fitness & Wellness Center provides an additional focus, since it is an affiliate of the University Medical Center at Princeton.

"We offer community education and outreach apart from exercise," explains Mr. Reidy. "You don't have to be a member to participate in these programs. It's part of the whole health system.

"Also, 50 doctors are on the advisory board and set the protocol. We have a nurse's station with a nurse on duty, and there is a defibrillator available. We also offer rehabilitation, including occupational rehab and physical therapy.

"When clients come in the first time," he continues, "they fill out a health questionnaire. Everyone meets with the nurse, and we do a fitness evaluation, including monitoring lungs, heart, circulatory system, and measuring body fat. When we get the data, we set up a program based on the client's age, bone structure, life-style, and gender. Their strengths, needs, and personal goals are taken into consideration."

Not all the centers have as strong a medical focus as Princeton Fitness & Wellness, but all emphasize designing a workout program to fit the individual needs of each client.

The instructors are all highly trained and certified, many with advanced degrees in exercise physiology.

At New York Sports Clubs, when a client comes in the first time, he or she has a free session, notes Ms. Sulkowski. "They will discuss the client's goals and history, and then set up a program. Clients can also choose to have a personal trainer, and many do. But at any given time, trainers are on the floor to help people and answer questions. Also, during the consultation, safety is always emphasized. There is always someone to help you out.

Excellent Response

This is also true at Momentum Fitness, and Mr. Zeltman points out that "We have a very professional staff, and many of our trainers are A.C.S.M./A.C.E. certified."

Mr. Zeltman adds that Momentum Fitness offers rehabilitation programs focused on helping people who are recuperating from injuries or surgery, and in addition, "We have a free cancer wellness program lasting eight weeks for people recovering from cancer. It has had an excellent response."

All the centers pride themselves on their sparkling clean facilities, including locker rooms, showers, steam room, sauna, and a variety of studios for classes. Some also have cafes.

In addition, Princeton Fitness & Wellness Center has a junior Olympic pool for laps and adjoining therapy pool for aquatic exercises. Momentum Fitness offers a heated resistance pool for aqua aerobics, continuous resistance swimming, and stretch and strength classes.

Cardiovascular equipment at all the centers includes treadmills, elliptical trainers, Stair Masters, recumbent/upright bikes, and rowing machines. State-of-the-art weight resistance machines are geared to improve muscular strength and endurance, and also develop muscle definition and elevate the body's metabolism by increasing lean muscle mass.

New York Sports Clubs offers the speedy Xpress Line for strength development. "You get a full body workout in 30 minutes, using a series of machines, supervised by a trainer," says Ms. Sulkowski. "The trend now is time-efficiency with the workout."

Mind and Body

Workouts geared toward mind and body are increasingly popular with clients, she adds, and all the centers offer a variety of programs, such as yoga, Pilates, and meditation classes which focus on mind, body, and spirit.

In particular, many styles of yoga, from gentle to power, are available. A neighbor, an enthusiastic yoga practitioner, has tried nearly all types of yoga, and is convinced of their benefits.

"I personally like to try them all. Why not? I have never been stronger or more toned. Plus, it has awesome health benefits on your immune system. If I skip a few days of yoga, I usually start to feel like I'm getting a cold. Once I go to class, it's gone! So, not only am I getting fit and toned, I'm strengthening my immune system at the same time."

Momentum Fitness also features Tae Kwon Do, a martial arts program, as well as variety of strength training, conditioning, and dance classes.

The centers' clients range in age from 14 to 90 and it is a very diversified clientele, indeed – high school student athletes training for their sports team to people in wheelchairs. They are all ages, shapes, and sizes, adds Ms. Sulkowski.

"It's really a wide array: kids training for athletics, those in their twenties and thirties who are maintaining, and people with kids who may want to lose a few pounds. Others may be in rehab after injury or surgery.

Comfort Level

"The nice thing here is that we have a very welcoming atmosphere, a real comfort level. Sometimes a lot of people hesitate to go to a gym because they are intimidated about how they look. That's not the case here. It's a real mix of people."

Mr. Zeltman points out that for some, the health issues are very important, including prevention of osteoporosis. "With the proper program, bones can get stronger. This has been shown in nursing homes when people start weight resistance."

Whatever their goal, clients can see positive results if they are willing to persevere, report the centers' spokespeople. All emphasize the need for regular workouts, preferably three times a week for an hour, combining cardiovascular, weight resistance, and stretching.

Changes can sometimes be evident in two to four weeks, or typically six to 12 weeks.

"In six to eight weeks, there will be positive internal results, cardiovascular benefits," notes Mr. Reidy. "In 22 to 30 weeks, you will really lose body fat."

Adds Mr. Zeltman: "You will have more energy even sooner. Your energy level definitely increases."

So, the idea is to get motivated and go! Whether as part of a couple, or with friends, or on your own, it is worth the investment and the time.

As Mr. Reidy says, "Most people want to live longer, feel better and have a better quality of life. It's not hard to get in shape in the right environment. It's making the commitment."

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