Written by Terry Saylor | Photography by Tony Wooten
As the holidays fade into a distant memory and the sunshine slowly increases, it’s time to put away your electronics, get up from the couch, step into the wide, beautiful outdoors, and start moving.
For many people, the arrival of a new year is the signal to hit the reset button on their health and fitness goals.
It’s time to raise the bar on your fitness routine, dust off long-neglected gear like trekking poles, running shoes, bikes, tennis racquets, and ring in the new year with fresh eyes and a new resolution to stay healthy. It may mean that.
Ben Fletcher recalls that his young daughter hated running until she discovered Girls on the Run, a nonprofit program based in the coastal Carolinas. The program focuses on “teaching important life skills” in a “research-based program.”
According to the Girls on the Run of Coastal Carolina’s website, “Small team meetings led by trained volunteer coaches inspire team members, with and without disabilities, and provide a dynamic, interactive experience.” Build self-confidence and other important life skills through lessons and physical activity.”
Fletcher’s daughter fell in love with the sport and now runs 5K races.
“Running club is a social outlet for her and she’s very energetic,” Ms Fletcher said. “She cut her run time by five minutes from last year.”
Fletcher, 32, an exercise physiologist at Cape Fear Valley Health’s Healthplex, says one of the keys to adopting a healthy lifestyle is to enjoy running, just as her daughter discovered running. He says it’s all about finding activities. He joined his fellow HealthPlex exercise physiologists in a discussion and shared tips for staying healthy in 2024.
“Find a new hobby or something you’re passionate about and do it,” Fletcher says. “If you like gardening, get outside and garden. If you like hiking, we have great places to hike right here in Fayetteville.”
Safia Haq, a 25-year-old exercise physiologist, noticed that children were spending more time in school classrooms and less time for recreation. She worried that this would lead her children toward an inactive lifestyle as they grew up.
“As we age, it becomes increasingly difficult to break out of sedentary patterns, which ultimately affects both physical and mental health,” she says. “Walking several times a week may improve cardiovascular health, but the mental aspect of it is greatly underestimated.”
Even the simple act of getting outside and taking a short walk can boost your energy and mood, she added. She points to mood-enhancing body chemicals called endorphins that are released during exercise and cause positive emotions and feelings of euphoria.
For many people, getting off the couch is the most difficult step on the road to a healthier lifestyle.
Exercise physiologist Jessica Wayment, 44, says creating an accountability plan, whether that means setting and maintaining goals or finding a partner to help you reach them. I am proposing that. She says she can rely on her friends, spouse, and even her dog to help her maintain a healthy lifestyle.
“I think the first step is to find someone to hold you accountable, even if it’s yourself,” said Wayment, who works at a healthplex. “Keeping a lifestyle diary and doing daily check-ins are two of his ways to hold himself accountable.”
Setting simple goals like exercising three times a week or walking 7,000 steps a day can help you stay on track.
“And once you achieve your first goal, set a new one and hold yourself accountable for achieving it, too,” she said.
Some people may feel like they can’t afford a gym membership or equipment, but developing healthy habits doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Fayetteville and Cumberland counties offer free or low-cost parks and sports facilities to residents.
“The Cape Fear River Trail and J. Bayard Clark Park and Nature Center are popular destinations for walking, hiking and mountain biking,” said James McMillan, assistant director of recreation for Fayetteville-Cumberland County Parks and Recreation. Masu.
Fayetteville also has 20 recreation centers throughout the city. Sixteen of the facilities are general-purpose facilities, and the other four are dedicated to special populations such as the elderly and people with disabilities who participate in adaptive sports.
“The recreation center allows residents to use the equipment free of charge,” McMillan said. “Classes require a fee to be paid to the instructor.”
enrich your social life
Pursuing a fitness adventure in the new year can expand your circle of friends and improve your social connections.
Linda Mack, 67, of Fayetteville, retired after a long career as an office manager, missed the social aspect of her job and looked for activities to get her out of the house. Although she hadn’t worked out in many years, she proved it’s never too late to start and last spring she made her way to the newly opened Bill Crisp Senior Center. is.
“I remember it was a Friday in May and the center was nice and quiet and people were exercising,” she said. “I felt like this was a comfortable place for me.”
By September, she was totally fired up. Currently she is signed up as a volunteer as well as joining her on line for her dance, aerobics and chair her yoga, and a week she works the front desk at her desk twice.
Brian Gaskill, 37, assistant recreation supervisor at the Bill Crisp Senior Center and certified personal trainer, loves helping local seniors stay fit and healthy. .
“I feel passionate about working with my seniors,” he said as he led a tour of the facility.
“I see our people becoming more sociable and cheerful. As they learn how to use exercise equipment properly, they are also seeing positive changes in their bodies,” he said. said.
Open to residents age 55 and older, the center features an indoor lap pool and equipment room equipped with state-of-the-art fitness equipment, including treadmills, exercise bikes, elliptical machines, and weightlifting machines.
It’s also a place to find like-minded people and make new friends.
“Some people have lost a loved one, others are struggling with anxiety or depression and need to get out of the house and be close to others,” Mack said. “We feel this could be the lifeline they need.”
She says she understands how difficult it is for people to start an exercise routine because they are afraid of being embarrassed to exercise with others who may be healthier than them.
“Here at the Bill Crisp Center, there is something for everyone, no matter their level,” she said. “Most classes meet where you are, so you don’t have to feel like you have to follow everyone else or go home hurt.”
She added that the center can make a difference for those who want to try it, and there’s no better time than now.
“Don’t be afraid to explore new things and step out of your comfort zone,” she said. “We’re here to help you feel comfortable.”
it takes time
On a warm December afternoon, the pickleball courts at the GB Myers Recreation Center are a hub of energy as players of all ages line up for their turn in the center’s regular pickleball pickup matches.
On some days, you might see Monique Gilbert on the court, even if it took her a few years to get started.
As recreation supervisor at the GB Myers & Massey Hill Recreation Center, Gilbert has always been on the sidelines watching people enjoy pickleball. Pickleball is a very popular sport, sometimes referred to as a combination of tennis and table tennis.
One day, someone convinced her to lace up her sneakers, pick up a paddle, and join in on the fun.
The 53-year-old was instantly hooked and now plays every chance she gets, even during her lunch breaks. She can’t believe it took her this long to get started.
“It’s a simple workout and very relaxing,” she said. “Once I play one game, I feel a lot better. I’m focused on the game, so I’m stress-free.”
The game of pickleball can become your favorite sport within minutes of stepping on the court, but for some people, the results can be immediate and difficult to notice right away. And that can be discouraging for those who want a faster return on their efforts.
Tracking both your fitness activities allows you to notice progress that is invisible to the naked eye.
Wayment suggests keeping a fitness diary on a notepad, smartphone app, or watch so you can measure your progress and see improvements in your health in real time. Recording your steps and increasing them little by little each day will give you a sense of accomplishment.
Staying active can also lead to healthier nutritional intake, she added.
“Let’s start simple,” Wayment says. “Drink an extra glass of water at lunch instead of sweet tea once a week, then twice a week, and before you know it you’re drinking water instead of sugary drinks every day.”
Adding a few more vegetables to your daily diet and tracking what you eat can also lead to a more balanced diet and a sense of well-being.
“By day 14, you may start to notice that you have more energy and are sleeping better,” she said.
Consistency is important, but it’s not the end of the world if you fall off the health wagon.
“If you’ve fallen into old bad habits, give yourself a little mercy. There’s always a tomorrow to get back on track,” she said.
“Building healthy habits requires continuous effort.”
“Doing something is better than doing nothing,” he said. “Starting with a goal of running one lap, he could also set a goal of running one mile in a month. Then next month he could do one and a half miles and slowly build that foundation. .”
Before you know it, those healthy habits will influence your friends, acquaintances, and even your loved ones. And those around you may start pursuing a healthier lifestyle, too.
Ms Fletcher’s family is off to a good start this year thanks to her daughter’s breakthrough on Girls on the Run.
Now, her newfound passion has passed on to her mother, who is now training to be part of the mother-daughter duo for their next 5K.
And both are getting there one lap at a time.
This article first appeared in the January 2024 issue of CityView magazine. Terry Saylor is a freelance writer living in Raleigh.