YMCA Wellness Director Shares Tips for Keeping Fitness Resolutions


While it’s only halfway through January, you may already be struggling to keep your resolutions for 2018. Teri Burgess-Brown, senior health and wellness director for the Mary Free Bed YMCA, said only 8 percent of people stick with their fitness resolutions. But don’t be discouraged. There are some things you can do to increase your odds of creating a lasting lifestyle change in 2018.

Burgess-Brown shares her knowledge with GR|MAG.

GR|MAG: Lots of people make the New Year’s resolution to “get fit” or “lose weight” each year. Do you have any idea how many people actually stick with those resolutions?

Teri Burgess-Brown: Unfortunately, only about 8 percent. That’s why it’s so important to make small, achievable lifestyle changes rather than trying for drastic and quick change.

GR|MAG: When do you start to see the biggest drop off happen?

TBB: Well, we see the end of February or beginning of March being the most critical time. If people making changes get to that point and can stay engaged until April or May, they probably have made a life-changing habit.

GR|MAG: Do you have any tips that can help people stick with their resolutions?

TBB: Finding both foods and exercise that you enjoy is key. Also, making sure to make both nutrition and fitness changes together – even if they’re small. One without the other typically never leads to a successful outcome.

GR|MAG: I’ve heard making concrete and measurable goals can be helpful rather than just vague resolutions like “lose weight” or “get in shape.” What kinds of goals do you think are effective?

TBB: You’re right. If you can’t name them specifically, then it’s hard to have a plan and without a plan, there is really nothing to achieve. Goals as simple as eating two vegetables every day or walking for 10 minutes a day can begin the process.

It doesn’t have to be lofty. Those types of changes are better than setting an overall weight loss goal, too. When we start eating better and moving more, we naturally lose weight. It’s a win-win.

YMCA members have access to free group fitness classes.
YMCA members have access to free group fitness classes.

GR|MAG: Also, what are some realistic expectations for someone who hasn’t been working out or eating healthy for a while but wants to create these habits?

TBB: The answer above it really sums it up. We have a lot of the Les Mills International classes at our Y’s and they recommend a concept called Smart Start. Basically, if you come to any group fitness class, only stay for about 20 minutes if you’re new and each time you come back, stay a few minutes longer and then gradually you’re taking the whole class. In doing this, adherence rate was 96 percent. Listen to your body and start slowly, staying consistent.

GR|MAG: What are the benefits of hiring a personal trainer or signing up for specific classes?

TBB: Hiring a certified personal trainer or registered dietitian can have a huge impact. We see that when our members do both, they have great success and are truly connected and meet their goals.

A trainer will help individualize a plan that is just right for you – no matter where you are on your journey. It creates accountability and a sense of a partnership.

GR|MAG: What are some of the programs people can sign up for at the YMCA?

TBB: All of our group fitness classes are free to Y members, which is a huge bonus. We have so many classes for members of all abilities and ages. We also have a Starter Pack with a personal trainer available to all new members.

For $99, a new member can meet with a trainer four times for 30 minutes. It’s a great way to get a plan, start feeling confident and perhaps even begin to correct some nagging injuries or muscle weaknesses. From there, members can purchase packages of sessions or just check back in occasionally with a single session to help them stay on track.

YMCA trainers work with clients to create a personalize workout plan.
YMCA trainers work with clients to create a personalized workout plan.

GR|MAG: I know there are a lot of fitness trackers and apps out there. Are there any you think are especially helpful and what things should people really be paying attention to when it comes to the data those programs track?

TBB: Fitness tracking is big business. Wearable devices are being seen on elite athletes, middle age fitness seekers and older adults. Are they making a difference? For weight loss, it doesn’t appear to really be having much of a long-term effect.

If you want to wear a device or use an app, do a search for the things that are important to you. You may have to try a couple different apps, but you’ll probably find one that will meet your needs.

What may be helping society, however, is the portability of working out. We partner with Les Mills for its on-demand program. Y members receive a discount and they can access their favorite classes wherever they are. These types of services are essential to provide to our members for accessibility. Kids get sick, we travel for work and snow days happen. If you’re a member of our Y, we don’t want that to interfere with your workout!

GR|MAG: Finally, what would you tell someone who has a rough week and is about to throw in the towel on their fitness goals?

TBB: Tomorrow is a new day. Sit still for a moment and breath. Remember what it is you want to achieve. Wellbeing, more energy and a healthier mind, body and spirit can be yours – one small step at a time. Come to the Y and take a pilates, BODYFLOW, yoga or mindful meditation class. Sometimes we go too fast and stress ourselves out more trying to get fit. Slowing down can be exactly what we need to do.

GR|MAG: Is there anything else you’d like to share with GR|MAG readers about achieving their fitness goals in 2018?

TBB: Don’t ever give up. My dad finished his first triathlon when he was 77. You’re never too old or too young to set a goal and begin the journey. Come and see us at the Y. We are ready to partner with you.

*Photos courtesy of YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids

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