The First Step

Right Mindset, Guidance Can Keep a New Exercise Program From Being Intimidating


When Nancy Hogan first walked through the doors of the local fitness center, she was just beginning to build the momentum to finally get on a regular exercise routine. 

The retired school teacher, who lives in Lake Wales, says she was a bit intimidated and overwhelmed by the equipment and stations.

That’s not an uncommon experience for those beginning a regular fitness routine or getting back to one after a long period of inactivity. 

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, less than 5 percent of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day and only one in three adults gets the recommended amount of physical activity each week. Overall, 28 percent of Americans, or 80.2 million people, ages 6 and older are physically inactive.

Hogan, 64, no longer wanted to be among those groups, so she joined Anytime Fitness in Lake Wales, a franchise of 24-hour health and fitness clubs headquartered in Woodbury, Minn. One of her goals was to strengthen her right leg, which she says has iliotibial band problems. She says getting back into an exercise routine hasn’t been difficult as long as she keeps the right mindset and has guidance from personal trainer Jacob Relation.

“I find Jacob to be pretty awesome. He takes you from where you’re at and sets goals for you and is very encouraging,” she says. “I’m already walking better and have much better mobility; those were my goals. Exercise makes you feel healthier mentally and emotionally.”

For folks who haven’t been as physically active as they’d like to be or those just getting into physical fitness on a regular basis, the staff members at the Lake Wales Anytime Fitness say getting back into the groove isn’t difficult – it just takes a bit of commitment. 

Kelly O’Neil, Anytime Fitness club manager who’s been with the company for seven years, says the staff strives to get to know new clients on both a personal and fitness level. The client is taken on a tour of the facility to find out if the gym has the equipment and staff on hand to help reach their goals.

“Beginner or not, we want to make anyone feels welcome here,” says O’Neil, 30, who has a background in dance and conditioning. 

Once someone decides to join, O’Neil says a movement and strength assessment is given with the guidance of a mentor-coach. Additionally, goals are set, exercise education is discussed, and a nutrition plan is formed. She explains that the purpose is to set up a feasible and attainable workout. 

“It all helps us find out how the member moves and maybe what are some of the limitations they may have,” O’Neil says. The idea is to ease their anxiety and give them more knowledge and understanding.” 

To do that, Anytime Fitness staff, mentors and trainers work to make getting into fitness a less intimidating or daunting experience. 

Relation, who’s been with the fitness company for two years, says when he first meets a client, he works to get the person’s “numbers” – weight, height, strength assessment, flexibility – to set goals. He says that shows where a person needs to improve

“Their goal is to gain some knowledge about the facility and feel comfortable with the exercise equipment,” Relation explains. “We’re just here to guide you in the right direction and give you a place to move forward.” 

According to Addicted to Success, an online empowering and inspirational motivational organization, there are many factors that can lead to discouragement and shelved workout goals. 

Some of them include:

  • A plan wasn’t in place
  • Goals weren’t set
  • Time wasn’t taken to get to know the exercise equipment
  • Physical conditioning levels weren’t accurately measured 
  • Exercise was abandoned when instant results weren’t attained

O’Neil and Relation say those issues are addressed when someone comes in to start a regular fitness routine. 

According to Anytime Fitness, the company suggests new clients explore the online Coach Care Connect first, which has healthy recipes, targeted workouts, and advice for those beginning or advancing in fitness. Second, clients should establish reasonable goals that encourage healthy habits.  Lastly, new clients should start small by committing to a minimum amount of days to go to the gym, with three to four days per week suggested.

O’Neil says Anytime Fitness follows all guidelines established by health officials to fight the spread of COVID-19. In addition, some exercise classes such as Silver Sneakers have been carried live online.

O’Neil says overall, she and her staff hope anyone who might be hesitant to get back to a regular fitness routine feel reassured that there is guidance and encouragement available. 

“The most satisfying part of my job is watching a new member take that first step to a healthier lifestyle,” she says. “Someone might feel like they’re not succeeding but they need the mentality to keep pushing and it can be done. The goal is for someone to walk away with a good program  in place that will allow that person to meet their (fitness and conditioning) goals.”

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