Working Out Together and Getting Stuff Done

Alone, humans often fail.  But teamed up with a friend or a loved one, beautiful things can happen.  This is one of those beautiful stories.

“My sister [Peggy Lawrence] has not only shown me what it means to be brave, but also has allowed me to love more deeply,” said Patti Biancardi Barth.  “What a privilege it is to be her friend, sister and exercise partner.” Doctors diagnosed Peggy with multiple sclerosis 23 years ago, when she was 37 years old. MS is an unpredictable, often disabling disease that disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body – potentially affecting functions ranging from walking to thinking. In an effort to build up her strength and minimize the effects of the disease, Peggy began exercising with Patti on a regular basis.

“When Peggy was first diagnosed we were rollerblading, bike riding and enjoying speed walking,” Patti said. Despite their best efforts, over the past 10 years, Peggy’s symptoms progressed, altering her lifestyle substantially.  She is challenged with balance issues, spasticity, leg pain and stiffness.

“I am heartbroken as I watch her struggle with her daily activities,” Patti said. “We feel we are at a crossroads.”

Pictured from left to right, Coach Nate, Peggy, Patti, Coach Demetrius

Fortunately, in the past few years, two big developments have given Peggy and Patti good reasons to remain hopeful.  The first was their decision, three years ago, to begin working out together at the Anytime Fitness gym in Merrillville, Indiana.

“We love the increased effort and enthusiasm when we partner during workouts,” Peggy said.  My growth in strength and stamina has increased greatly.” The owner of the gym, Feras Musleh, impressed both Peggy and Patti with his “compassion, acceptance and enthusiasm.”  And the sisters give credit to personal trainer Kevin Torok for dramatically changing their approach to exercise.

“He took the time to casually observe Peggy, to get to know us and to show us better techniques while working out, focusing on her challenges and targeting specific muscle exercises for her,” Patti said.  “Kevin’s humor, expertise and his genuine interest in our increased fitness level lit a fire in us.  We then scheduled three personal training sessions with him where he broke down three different workouts and was very detailed as to how – and why – we were doing these exercises.” Under Kevin’s guidance, Peggy and Patti learned how to maximize the efficacy of their workouts by pushing themselves out of their comfort zone.

“We currently rotate the three different workouts on a weekly basis,” said Peggy.  “Then Kevin convinced us to participate in group training.  It was at these sessions, we met personal trainers Demetrius Jackson and Nate Fowler.  D and Nate bring their game to the group workouts.  It is so much fun to work out in a group.  We love it.  D and Nate review exercise adaptions with me before class to ensure successful group participation.  The group atmosphere brings energy, competitiveness and comradery to our workouts.  Enthusiastic, educated personal trainers, music, and people who love working out together is the perfect recipe for success.”

The second big development that’s given Patti and her sister reason to be hopeful about Peggy’s future is a promising new treatment for multiple sclerosis:  a stem cell transplant procedure which has demonstrated impressive results in halting the progression of MS and, in many cases, reducing many symptoms related to the disease.

“What I know is that the progression of this disease needs to stop,” said Patti.  “We need this treatment to keep Peggy mobile and healthy.  I love my sister dearly.” Peggy is scheduled to begin the treatment in a few months, but it’s not cheap – $60,000 – and not covered by insurance.  More information about Peggy and the procedure that she’ll be undergoing is available on her YouCaring page.

Meanwhile, to prepare herself for the fight of her life, Peggy and Patti will continue to work out – together – three times a week at Anytime Fitness and once a week at a local swimming pool.

“Our weekly schedule fluctuates with family and work responsibilities, but we are committed to our health,” said Peggy.  “I like exercising with medicine balls, kettle balls, TRX ropes – any exercise, really, as long as the music is loud.  Our trainers have taught us a variety of workout strategies, targeting specific muscles repeatedly, to increase cardio and overall fitness.  We are definitely stronger.”

Patti concedes that she and her sister are both tired at the end of a workout, but it’s “a very good tired.”

“Our physical and mental strength is increasing with every workout,” Patti said.  “Peggy’s upcoming stem cell transplant is getting closer.  Her fitness level will soar once she is wiped clean of MS.  And that’s when she’s really going to shine.  I can feel it.”

Teamwork.  It’s a beautiful thing – and a powerful force.

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Forget Valentine’s Day – It’s all about the Galentines!

Participant warrants represent and agree that he/she is in good physical condition and that he/she has no disability, impairment or ailment preventing him/her from engaging in active or passive exercise. Participant further warrants that he/she has consulted his/her physician and has not been diagnosed with and is not aware of any medical condition that may place the Participant at increased risk of injury or death from engaging in exercise at the level consistent with the intended participation in this Event. I herby give Healthworks Group the absolute right and permission to publish, copyright, and use pictures or videos of me in which I may be included in whole or in part.

Keep Your Resolutions Moving with This February Calendar

The holiday rush is over, and right about now, New Year’s resolutions are often losing their steam—but don’t let them! The hardest part is getting started, and the second hardest is pushing forward even if you haven’t seen the results you’re working toward. It takes time. Have faith in the process and long-term plan to build a stronger, healthier life. Tools like this can be helpful to keep your momentum going.

Simply download this wellness calendar and fill in the days, ensuring you stay active and organized. Don’t forget to fill out the goals and measurement sections, and maybe add in a personal adventure or two. This shouldn’t be all work! Good luck.

Download Blank February Calendar     Download Full 2018 Calendar

Want more direction?

Try our beginner Get Started Plan with recommended workouts and times to get moving during your first 30 days of fitness. If you’d like to personalize these plans more to your personal abilities and needs, you can visit your nearest Anytime Fitness to work with a certified personal trainer. We also have more detailed, goal-oriented fitness plans:

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What You Should Know About Melatonin

Sleep is a tricky thing. Some of us are naturals—we easily wake to light and sleep with darkness like gold medalists, as if sleep were an Olympic sport—while others are not. The American Sleep Association estimates that 50-70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. And according to a 2017 article in the Journal for Neurological Research, individuals with sleep disorders can spend an average of $2,000 more a year in medical expenses, compared to those without sleep interruption.

Anyone who has suffered from too little sleep knows it adversely impacts much of life, like emotional and physical well-being. People who don’t get enough sleep are more vulnerable to delayed reaction times, depression, obesity, and maybe even heart complications. So, how do we fall and stay asleep when counting sheep and other common tactics just don’t work? The answer may be a dose of melatonin.

What is melatonin?

Simply put, melatonin is a hormone your body naturally produces. It’s a chemical messenger, per say, that responds to some sort of stimulate (in this case, darkness) that affects other parts of the body. Melatonin is synthesized and released from the pineal gland, located in the middle of the brain.

How does it work?

Actual darkness signals the pineal gland to awaken and release melatonin into the bloodstream. While the clock may indicate it’s bedtime, bright light (natural or fluorescent) may inhibit the production and release of melatonin. Therefore, avoiding bright screens before bed or pulling the shades may help you get more Z’s.

When do you use it?

Knowing when to ingest extra melatonin will require a conversation with your medical provider. However, the National Sleep Foundation says intervention may be needed to aid sleep when behavioral changes have proven ineffective, completing daily tasks become difficult, or when lack of sleep is leading to stress. Also, melatonin may do the trick to improve sleep onset, duration, and quality, when other pharmaceutical interventions have proven ineffective. And it does it with less measurable side effects (yay!).

Melatonin Supplementation

Increasing consumption of melatonin-containing foods may promote healthier sleep cycles. Cherries, nuts, mushrooms, fish, and eggs are good dietary sources. However, if you’re looking for a quick and easy route, you can also get melatonin supplements without a prescription. According to an article in the Nutrition Journal (2014) titled “The effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature,” it’s the most frequently requested over-the-counter sleep aid because evidence has shown its effectiveness getting individuals to sleep more quickly, and resetting sleep cycles.

Risks Associated with Melatonin Supplementation

Melatonin is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so there may be some risks associated with taking the supplement. For example, the dosage listed on the package may not accurately reflect what is in the pill. You must also be mindful of when and how much you take, as supplemental melatonin increases the body’s level of the hormone higher than what’s naturally occurring. This may cause a reset in the body’s natural clock to an undesirable rhythm. That said, there have been no cases of toxicity or overdose on melatonin recorded at this time, according to the National Sleep Foundation. More research is still being conducted regarding its long-term effects. It’s always best to consult your healthcare provider prior to starting supplementation.

Disclaimer: The statements made in this article are NOT intended to diagnose, treat, or cure disease. Always check with your medical provider or registered dietitian before making dramatic shifts in your lifestyle.

Sources: American Sleep Association – Sleep Statistics / Journal for Neurological Research (2017) – A Review of Sleep Disorders and Melatonin / National Sleep Foundation – Sleep and Melatonin / Journal of Nutrients (2017) – Dietary Sources and Bioactivities of Melatonin / Nutrition Journal (2014) – The effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature

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How One Man Lost 130lbs And Now Coaches Others

My story may sound familiar. I started off like so many others. I had been a big guy my whole life. On the day my fitness journey started, I was 23 years old, and honestly, couldn’t remember a time where I wasn’t big. Heck, the smallest pair of jeans I owned were 36″ waist—which didn’t fit, and hadn’t since 8th grade. But that was my reality, and I had come to accept it. Or rather, I was resigned to my fate.

Efforts to succeed… didn’t.

Throughout my adult life I tried and failed a number of times to lose weight. Nothing really stuck. There were so many factors I could attribute to my lack of progress. There was little health and fitness knowledge and direction, for one, which was an unstable foundation to build my hopes on. Then there was my general laziness and constant procrastination from going after what I really wanted! And of course, there was the ever-pervasive sense of discomfort, inadequacy, and embarrassment I felt when I set foot in a gym, which led to my general lack of motivation to actually do it.

Motivation is a funny thing, though.

I learned, one day, that motivation is not the same thing as needing to do a thing or wanting to do a thing. Motivation is not “I want to lose weight.” It’s what drives that feeling and your actual action. Motivation is different for everyone. For me, it was a deep, powerful inability to remain as I was for another moment. One day—at work—I wore through the inner thigh of yet another pair of pants due to my thighs rubbing as I walked, and something snapped. I simply could no longer be like this anymore—overweight, unhappy in my own skin, uncomfortable, and embarrassed with myself. I had to do something.

And so it began.

My wife (my girlfriend at the time) and I  began working out together. We started at home, in the basement or spare bedroom, with one of those at-home workout DVDs I borrowed from a friend. At the time, I was too embarrassed, intimidated, and overwhelmed to go to an actual gym. So, we did it on our own. We had each other, and we made it work, but I look back now and realize how we made it pretty hard on ourselves. Why didn’t we ask for help? A year later, I found myself 130 lbs. lighter, significantly more confident and comfortable in my body, and I had even become a runner! So the work was definitely worth it. But I learned a lot along the way.

What did we do? What can YOU do?

We did strength training workouts, high-intensity interval training workouts, we ran, and we even did yoga. A balance of ALL these things kept things interesting and helped support our success. We used dumbbells, kettlebells, resistance bands, and even bodyweight to power our workouts.

It wasn’t just workouts though. The other key component was nutrition. We completely changed not just what we ate, but how we thought about food. Food became a fuel source, not a way to pass time or deal with emotions. We cut out things like soda, weaned ourselves off some not-so-great choices, and focused on healthy, whole foods. We didn’t do a crash-course 30, 60, or 90-day challenge, or fad diet. We made small, progressive, lifestyle changes. And ultimately, that’s why we succeeded and why the weight has stayed off over lots more time.

Life is very different today than it was Day 1.

As a result of my transformation, I found a new passion for fitness. I became a runner, and used it as an outlet to push myself, to see just how far I could go. I’ve completed not just marathons, but ultramarathons. I’ve even completed a 100-mile endurance run (yes, all in one shot—29 hours)! I also discovered a newfound passion for helping others navigate their own health and fitness journey. Having been there myself, I knew how hard it could be. I think back to my own fitness journey, and wish it didn’t have to be so hard. All the work, the research, the trial and error, the struggles—it was a lot. And I’ve realized it didn’t have to be that hard. Not if we had reached out to more experienced people along the way. So now, I share my story, and even work as a personal trainer at Anytime Fitness, to do just that. People often feel (or are) alone, but don’t need to be! If I can help ease the journey and answer a few questions for even one person, I know I’ve made my day and theirs.

You have to believe.

There are going to be days it feels like “too much,” “too hard,” or altogether like an insurmountable challenge. In those moments, know that you can do it. I’ve come out the other side successful and can tell you, you can win. Lean on your friends, your family, and a coach to see you through to victory. You’ll get there—in time, with work, and belief.

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5 Ways to Stay on Track With Your New Fitness Goals

Staying committed to an exercise regimen is hard work. There’s no way around that. But it’s about much more than physical resolve. Designing the routine that’s best for you is key. We want to help you reach your goals, which is why we’ve put together five tips to help you design a routine you’ll want to stick to! If you need more direction and assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to a local Anytime Fitness staff member. We’re ready and eager to help!

Push yourself. 

When it comes to personal fitness, you are the biggest factor in the success of your program. Ultimately, you’re the one who decides to hit the gym or run that extra mile. As you begin a new routine, being your own cheerleader will go a long way in making your desired results a reality!

Keep a fitness journal.

When you think about exercising, journaling probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, recording your progress in a dedicated place will make a big difference as you develop your routine. Whether you choose a physical notebook, an app, spreadsheet, or our monthly wellness calendar, giving yourself a handy place to record your exercise will help you keep every week productive—and be a great way to reflect on how far you’ve come! 

Reward yourself.

There’s a reason why every store seems to have some form of a rewards program—they’re extremely effective at gaining repeat customers. In that same way, creating a rewards program around your workout plan will help to make you a “repeat customer” of the gym! Set a goal for yourself and choose a reward you get once you meet that goal. It doesn’t really matter what you set as your reward, but try to choose non food-related rewards, like a massage, a new outfit or a movie. Whether your goal is to lose weight, lift a certain weight, or exercise consistently for a period of time, knowing you have a new outfit, trip or treat at the end can do wonders to get you there!

Introduce variety.

People who are new to a fitness routine often burn out after their first few weeks because their workouts start becoming boring. Mixing together different workouts will keep your mind and your muscles engaged! Try a variety of exercises as a great way to discover things you enjoy, which will ultimately help keep you motivated and having more fun each time you hit the gym. 

Get social.

Whether you’re a Chatty Cathy or prefer a solo exercise sesh, there are plenty of ways to involve others to help keep you motivated. If you’d like to get moving with other workout enthusiasts, check out your gym’s group fitness schedule or local event pages to see what groups are around you. From distance running to weightlifting, chances are someone in your area enjoys the same type of exercise and would be thrilled to buddy up!

If you aren’t interested in having a gym buddy, but still want a sense of community, online communities  like your gym’s Facebook page, where you can chat about progress, are great ways to cultivate that same sense of support.

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2018 Wellness Calendar for Active Planning & Progress

Every day is a fresh slate to make good choices. But it’s not always easy! In fact, usually it’s not. There are temptations around every corner and seemingly continual reasons to celebrate and “treat yourself.” The trick is establishing a plan, a routine, that lets you enjoy life but also reach your wellness goals. And then, stick to it! Use this simple tool below to stay on track. You can download it, print it, and then fill in the calendar with the exercise and activity—and even meal planning—that will help you get there.

How to Get Started:

  • Set some goals, big and small.
  • Determine your healthy rewards.
  • Take your measurements.
  • Test your squats, push-ups, and plank.
  • Schedule your first month’s activity!

If it’s hard to think big, start small. Set a plan for this week, and then this month. Small steps really do lead to big rewards, you just have to get moving—and believe in the plan. You’ve got this!

2018 Calendar Preview:

Download a Blank PDF to Print:

Download the 2018 Calendar (PDF) January 2018    February 2018    March 2018    April 2018    May 2018    June 2018    July 2018    August 2018    September 2018    October 2018    November 2018    December 2018

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