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Staying fit: A year-around effort

Tammy Schuh lifts weights with personal trainer Michelle Orton monitoring for safety and proper form. (Linda Sailer/The Dickinson Press)

Tammy Schuh likes to walk, jog and swim, but when it comes to strength training, she consults her personal trainer, Michelle Orton.

“I want to maintain a healthy weight and a healthy heart, but more than anything I want a healthy lifestyle,” Schuh said.

She  does cardio exercises on her own, but works with Orton three times a week on the strength training.

“I’ve always been a cardio person,  but I didn’t understand strength training,” Schuh said. “I didn’t know how to use it. I didn’t know how to put the sequences together. Instead of doing the same thing over and over, Michelle makes it so I get the most out of 30 minutes. It’s very addicting.”

Jan. 1 marks the beginning of a renewed round of New Year’s Resolutions, but Orton offers a different  perspective.

“As personal trainers, we always encourage you not to wait until the New Year -- why not now?” said Orton, who works at the West River Community Center. “I always recommend getting into the gym with a plan -- that’s where personal trainers can help. The chances of meeting your goal and having more success are greater if you have a plan to follow. Training in the gym alone can be intimidating, especially for new people, and it's very common for beginners to start out with bad habits or become discouraged to continue.”

A personal trainer will counsel her clients and develop a personalized program for them.

“We sit down and talk about goals -- everyone is different,” she said. “We take a look at any areas you want to improve. When I develop a plan, my goal is overall wellness.”

Orton’s plans are designed to be 8 or 12 weeks in length.

“You start with small goals, leading to long-term goals. If you want to lose 100 pounds, we take it step by step,” Orton said. “Take Tammy for example, she started with no running. I convinced her to work up to a 5K and from the 5K she decided to think of a half marathon. She was able to accomplish that in June on the Mickelson Trail Marathon at Deadwood, S.D. The results aren’t going to happen overnight. it’s going to take time and patience in order to see results.”

Orton helps clients of all ages, from the very young to high school athletes, young adults and seniors in their 70s.

The program must fit the individual’s needs and abilities. Some people prefer running, or treadmills and ellipticals. Others may enjoy the Community Center’s group activities like spinning, she said.

Orton  encourages clients to step out out of their comfort zone, but she makes sure the techniques are done correctly.

“I watch their exercises for proper form and keep count,” she said. “I’m here to prevent injuries and make sure you’re getting the full effect of exercise and doing it correctly. Sometimes the heavier weights need another person -- a partner to help with the weights.”

Orton also recommends a client come into the gym several times a week on their own.

“Some people meet their trainer to hold them accountable. Tammy likes the motivation and accountability,” she said.

The training is as varied as the clients. She referenced one individual who likes to play racquetball.

“He kicks my butt once a week,” she said with a smile.

Her female clients are more concerned about toning muscles rather than “bulking up.”

“My older clients, especially, are not looking to bulk up, but to perform daily activities -- they want to play golf, play with the grandkids -- that’s what is lifetime fitness,” she said. “The most important goal is to make a lifetime commitment to a healthy lifestyle -- it's not a quick, easy fix, but a lifetime commitment.”

Orton has a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education from Southwestern College, and earned a master’s degree in exercise physiology from Adams State college in Colorado. She is certified as a personal trainer by the American college of Sports Medicine, and is certified as a human performance coach by the Edge Institute.

She has worked with a wide range of ages in the coaching field. She taught basketball and track and coached at both the high school and college levels. She moved to Dickinson with her husband, Ty, from Nebraska nine years ago.

As a personal trainer at the West River community Center, Orton said her goal is to make a positive impact on others’ lives by creating a memorable experience in the gym.

“I believe this is accomplished by designing fun, education and effective personalized programs for a fit lifestyle in and out of the gym,” she said.