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Bodies In Motion

Residents turn to fitness for holiday recovery

Photo by Curt Yeomans
Jonesboro resident, Debbie West (foreground), does some crunches during a fitness class at the Jim Huie Recreation Center, on Wednesday. Several local residents participating in the class were getting back into the groove of working out after a break for the Christmas holiday.

Photo by Curt Yeomans Jonesboro resident, Debbie West (foreground), does some crunches during a fitness class at the Jim Huie Recreation Center, on Wednesday. Several local residents participating in the class were getting back into the groove of working out after a break for the Christmas holiday.

Perhaps it is not such a bad idea to dangle the proverbial carrot in front of someone to keep them moving.

Or, maybe that should be the figurative turkey, pie, mashed potatoes, stuffing and black-eyed peas, in the case of 28 people participating in a post-holidays fitness class in Jonesboro.

Gwen Bennett, a fitness instructor at the Jim Huie Recreation Center, did just that when she began yelling out holiday food items to students in her total body fitness class, while they did step aerobics exercises on Wednesday evening.

It was just their second class back since the Christmas and New Year’s holiday period. Bennett was reminding them of what they have to burn off, now that the holidays are over.

“For this particular time, it’s [fitness] very important because you want to drop your holiday pounds, and its getting you started for the spring,” said Bennett, who is beginning her fifth year as a fitness instructor at the Jim Huie Recreation Center, and her ninth year of teaching overall. “If you don’t get started now, the warmer it gets [temperature wise], the harder it will be to get motivated.”

As the new year begins, the Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department offers a wide range of fitness options at its three recreation centers, and its Muscle Beach gym, at Clayton County International Park. Bennett’s class is an example of just one such option.

While a popular New Year’s resolution is to begin working out, the beginning of January is a time when just about everyone has some weight gain to address after a holiday period that included big meals at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day, according to Bennett.

She said many of her students are actually returning pupils, who have only been away from her instruction for a two-week holiday break.

“The only problem with this time of year is a lot of people start, but then they wane off, and don’t keep their motivation,” Bennett said. “It starts up here in the head. I don’t care how much you say you want it, if you don’t prepare mentally, and mentally say, ‘I’m ready,’ then you won’t stick with it.”

She said even people who work out during the holidays still gain at least a little weight, because of the sheer volume of food served at these big meals that seemingly come one after another in the span of just over a month.

“Between Thanksgiving, and Christmas, If they don’t work out, they can easily put on about 15 pounds ... but if you workout during the holidays, you’ll burn off [just about] anything you gain, so you won’t have that big number,” Bennett said.

She suggested that people try distance-walking during a holiday, “because you’re going to do that anyway.” Since people do walk as part of their everyday lives, Bennett said it also helps make it easier to start building fitness routines with distance-walking in a person’s neighborhood, or at local walking tracks.

The fitness instructor had her pupils doing a wide range of exercises during their hour-long class on Wednesday, including throw-downs, step aerobics, a variety of abdominal exercises, and some aerobic work with light dumbbells.

“You have the holidays where you’re just constantly eating, and then once you get to the beginning of the year, you don’t have those holiday opportunities where the food is pretty much put in front of you, so now, you can focus on this [fitness],” said Newnan resident, Karen Bohannon, who has been participating in Bennett’s fitness classes for a year.

Bohannon explained that she only gained about four pounds over the holidays, but added that she continued to walk around her neighborhood every day, while class was out of session. She said she hopes to lose the holiday weight within the next two weeks.

She added that she also went into a sort of fitness-class withdrawal during the two-week Christmas break. She said she regularly attends the class two times a week, but she sometimes also comes by for a Saturday class, and she walks around her neighborhood on the other days of the week.

“It’s very important, because you almost get addicted to it when you start doing it for a long period of time, and then you have a time where you’re not doing it, it’s like an addiction,” she said. “Your body gets used to it. Your mind gets used to it ... I couldn’t wait for those two weeks to be over with.”