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New year, new you: Strategies for keeping your resolution alive

This is the time of year millions of Americans make ambitious commitments to get in better physical shape for the new year, but many end up back on their couches by February. We spoke with a fitness expert on how to makes sure you're still hitting the gym this time next year.

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Membership Support Manager Ethan Ladbury helps Club Manager Annie Littleton demonstrate how to do a proper squat at Anytime Fitness in Dickinson. Ladbury said proper hinge movement is important. "When we go to squat, it's getting your hips to go back first rather than just dropping straight down right away," he said. (Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press)
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Ethan Ladbury is the membership support manager with Anytime Fitness. He helps manage several of the chain's locations in this region such as Dickinson, N.D.; Sidney, Mont. and Pierre, S.D.

Ladbury said they tend to see an increase in memberships this time of year with people making New Year’s resolutions, and a subsequent drop off in the months that follow as many give up on their commitments. Much of it is attributable to setting the bar too high or a lack of accountability. He recommends having a workout partner, personal trainer or someone who will check in with you periodically to make sure you’re sticking with it

“A lot of it comes from either hitting it too hard right away, or they don’t see the results as fast as they think they should… They almost pay attention to the scale too much. There are many non-scale victories you can accomplish,” he said. “The best advice is making it part of your routine, scheduling it out… Set a plan, have something to follow rather than just saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to workout tomorrow.’”

For strength training, gym class style warm ups such as butt-kickers and jumping jacks will prepare one’s body for the workout. Foam rolling is also a useful pre-workout exercise. Ladbury said it’s actually best to do the most thorough stretching, such as toe touches and thigh hugs, after the workout.

“It’s kind of a wild thing. If you stretch your muscles, you’re losing a lot of the tension and strength within the muscle,” he said. “It’s more beneficial to do it after the workout.”

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He said this recommendation is a relatively new development. Much like other fields of medical research, the physiological science behind strength training is constantly evolving.

“I talk to people on a daily basis about how they might have worked out and been super consistent in the gym 15-20 years ago. Exercises, those movements and science behind a lot of it has changed so much,” Ladbury said. “The grand scheme of it is still the same, but there’s a lot of things that have changed.”

When working with clients on nutrition, one of the first things he typically does is help them with a plan to boost water consumption because most people don’t drink enough of it. He said the human body is about 75% water.

“A lot of times that will help if people are suffering from knee pain or joint pain,” he said. “Most of the time as well, what I see is we’re not eating enough protein throughout the day. So we are coming in and lifting or running or whatever we’re doing; but we’re not fueling our body with the right nutrients to help fix, repair and strengthen those muscles. So we don’t see the results as fast as we should.”

A common mistake he sees is only focusing on protein consumption directly after the workout. He prefers clients to get their protein from natural foods as much as possible by supplementing each meal with more than usual.

“If your typical breakfast is you make two eggs I’m like, okay let’s throw three in there,” Ladbury said. “Then if it’s still falling short, then I’m usually having people throw in like, a mid-morning snack and a mid-afternoon snack that has some sort of protein in there as well.”

Regarding changes to caloric intake, he tells people to do what they're comfortable with and gradually ease into any major shifts.

“I always tell people, do what works for you and what you’re most comfortable with. I have seen great success with intermittent fasting. It’s just what works with your schedule, what works for you,” he said. “I usually bump people up slowly… It’s easy to find 1,000 calories in McDonald’s or some fast food. But if you need 1,000 calories of home cooked nutritious food, that quantity is much higher.”

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To prevent injuries in lifting, he recommends starting light and drilling proper technique until it becomes natural.

“My biggest thing is having someone else who does know the proper form, what to do, coaching cues — things like that. Have someone actually watch you do those lifts, like coach you through them… and start light,” Ladbury said. “For example if it’s a squat, don’t work on form by throwing 225 pounds on the bar.”

Sufficient sleep is also important to making and sustaining any significant gains in the gym.

“If you’re not getting enough sleep throughout the day, your body isn’t getting into that recovery stage so your results and progress will suffer from that as well,” he said. “Try to hit bedtime at the same time and wake up at the same time every day. Getting into that routine is huge.”

Jason O’Day is a University of Iowa graduate, with Bachelor’s Degrees in Journalism and Political Science. Before moving to Dickinson in September of 2021, he was a general news reporter at the Creston News Advertiser in rural southwest Iowa. He was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. With a passion for the outdoors and his Catholic faith, he’s loving life on the Western Edge.
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