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Building healthy habits key to keeping on track in 2021

News Photo by Darby Hinkley Bay Athletic Club staffers Lara Torres, Jennie Handrich, McKayle Carter, Sarah Morrison and Amanda Freeland pose for a positive pic promoting healthy fitness habits in 2021.

ALPENA — Setting goals is a good thing, but having a plan to reach them is the only way to succeed.

That’s why creating healthy habits is the key to keeping your New Year’s resolutions, according to Bay Athletic Club staff members, who coach members about healthy eating and fitness practices.

“Here at BAC we definitely believe that resolutions work if you do the work,” said Amanda Freeland, membership and nutrition director at BAC. “So if you put in the work, and you come and you create a plan that works for you,” positive results will follow.

She noted that all new members get set up with a personal trainer to come up with a fitness and nutrition plan together.

“So that’s really getting you started off on the right foot for success,” she said.

Sometimes sticking with a plan is the hardest part. Freeland cautions against an “all or nothing” mentality, noting that moving at any pace in the right direction is progress, even if it’s slower than you had imagined.

“So much of success with fitness and nutrition is mindset,” Freeland said. “And so many people have fallen into the unfortunate mindset of ‘all or nothing.’ Where, ‘I’m on a diet, and if I do eat one piece of chocolate, I’ve ruined my whole diet so then it’s not even worth trying anymore because I’ve ruined it.’ Or ‘I’ve started this fitness plan but I missed one day … I might as well not even try. I’ve failed myself.’ That’s really an ‘all or nothing’ mindset, and we really try and get away from that here at BAC.”

Consistency leads to positive progress, Freeland said.

“It’s more showing up consistently for yourself,” Freeland said.

Lara Torres noted that resolutions can and should be made any time of year.

“I like to think of it more as setting goals,” said Torres, BAC general manager. “And it doesn’t have to just be done in January. You can do them all year long.”

Starting fresh is always an option if you fall short at first, Freeland noted.

“Having a New Year’s resolution is great, but, if you do fall away a little bit, it’s OK to come back in March or April and say, ‘OK, here are my new goals,'” she said.

Setting new, smaller goals to reach each month is another way to keep your fitness fresh, she added.

Some goal ideas would be learning how to use a new piece of equipment, trying out a new fitness class or exercise, learning how to meal prep or cooking up some new healthy recipes.

Getting yourself a new water bottle is a fun idea for staying hydrated, which is a key component to overall health, Freeland said.

“The importance of hydration goes so much beyond nutrition,” she said. “Water impacts your mental clarity, water impacts digestion, water impacts your energy level. It definitely goes beyond, ‘Oh, I need water.’ You do, but for a lot of reasons — maybe more than people realize.”

Setting specific fitness goals is better than just saying something vague, such as, “I want to lose weight,” Freeland noted.

Building healthy habits and keeping them year-round is vital, she explained.

“Small changes add up to big results,” Freeland said. “We really just want to keep people moving in all seasons … Someone can have a weight loss goal, and that’s fantastic. Everyone has their own goal, or something in mind that they want to work on with their health and wellness, and that’s wonderful. But until it becomes a habit and until your mindset is more focused on, ‘This is my lifestyle now,'” the goal will be harder to achieve.

Consistent daily habits and routines are important to keep throughout the year, such as going to the gym even in the summer months, she added. Because keeping that habit will keep you on track.

Accountability is another key to success, Freeland said.

“We have a system here where we help people get started with a personalized workout,” she said. “Then we do a check-in three to four weeks after that to see how people are doing, and we find that that helps keep people on track, too.”

Another tip for keeping with a new routine is to make an appointment with yourself to go to the gym or attend a virtual workout class, and keep that appointment as you would keep a doctor’s appointment or work meeting.

“Keeping that promise to yourself, keeping that appointment for yourself, falls into creating those daily habits,” Freeland said. “The more often we can keep promises to ourselves, the more established our routines will become.”

As for nutrition, focus on the quality of what you are eating instead of just the calories, Freeland said, adding that she is not a fan of the term “diet” because it often leads to the “all or nothing” mindset. Establishing healthy eating habits such as adding more fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, is more viable than trying out the next fad diet.

Limiting treats to a few times a week will go a long way in achieving weight-loss goals, she said. And sprinkling cinnamon on your oatmeal or fruit can actually trick your brain into thinking you’re eating something sugary.

For Jennie Handrich, healthy is the only way to live. She lost nearly 100 pounds in a year, and now she works at BAC helping others stay on track with their health and fitness.

“Back in November of 2018 I started eating differently and just taking control of my health in that way, and then in December, shortly after I started eating healthy, I discovered BAC,” Handrich said. “And I started working out up here.”

She was new to the gym atmosphere, but she said the staff and members made her feel right at home in a new environment.

“From the first moment I came up here, everyone was so helpful,” Handrich said. “Everybody would introduce themselves and just made me feel welcome from day one.”

At first, Handrich was nervous to start working out at a gym or fitness club.

“Going into working out for the first time in a public setting, I was very nervous that I would, you know, have judgment,” she recalled. “I was 100 pounds heavier at that time, and just really uncomfortable and unsure of even how to work out properly.”

She came to the right place.

“The instructors were amazing,” she said. “They showed me how to modify different movements and after that, I was hooked. I came to group fitness classes daily.”

Shortly after that, she was chosen to be a “60 Second Inspiration,” which is a segment on WBKB-11 that highlights BAC members who have reached health and fitness goals.

“And then I started working here,” Handrich said of her journey.

She encourages others to start by taking small steps in the right direction to improve their health, just like she did. Small things like drinking more water and eating your veggies factor into overall health, as well.

“It’s been quite an experience,” Handrich said. “I’ve lost almost 100 pounds and, with the encouragement of everybody up here, just kept going. There’s no looking back.”

Eventually, the hard work pays off if you stick with it. And it won’t even feel like work at all if you make it fun by working out with a fitness buddy or taking virtual fitness classes at BAC for the time being while the COVID-19 pandemic lingers on.

“Getting plugged in with a community of like-minded people that were working out and seeing the results right alongside of me was very helpful,” Handrich added.

Currently, the fitness club, located inside MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena, is open with social distancing precautions in place (machines are at least six feet apart) and masks are required at all times while in the building.

“We are so grateful for the base of members that we’ve had through the tough times of 2020,” Freeland said. “We’ve had so many people show so much gratitude for keeping classes virtual, for helping keep the community moving. And it’s been fun. It’s definitely different — it looks different than it did before, and we miss not having people live in classes right now, but we’re hopeful that, moving into 2021, that will change and we will be able to have our live classes back. But the cool thing is we will plan on keeping virtual as an option because so many people love it.”

She said BAC has kept moving forward throughout the pandemic.

“Change can be challenging, but I feel like BAC, from the first day of (the mandatory shutdown because of COVID-19) — the very first day we had our first virtual class, and we haven’t stopped since,” Freeland said.

She added that the community aspect of coming to BAC, whether in person or virtually, is an added benefit to overall health, including mental health.

“There are no downsides to taking care of yourself,” she said.

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