Ease into an exercise program to counter holiday calories

Personal trainer Carrie Stewart, right, instructed Robertson on one of the exercises that is part of the group workout she leads.
Personal trainer Carrie Stewart, right, instructed Robertson on one of the exercises that is part of the group workout she leads. Photos by Mary Meehan

Any time now, sugar plums will be dancing through your head, and all sorts of other holiday treats will be finding their way into your life at the office, at holiday parties and at home.

And it's likely that any effort to get fit will be postponed until the first of 2011.

But why? Even the least fit among us can start to improve our health in some way now, even in the midst of the sugar cookies and cheese balls.

Let Megan Robertson of Lexington be your inspiration.

Carrie Stewart, Robertson's trainer at the North Lexington YMCA, said that when Robertson started exercising early this year, shortly after a car accident, she could barely do a sit-up. Now Robertson is working out twice a week for an hour and is back at the roller derby rink with her team, Rollergirls.

She achieved that level of fitness after being paired with three other women — Barbara Sherrot, Diane Goodnight and Dorothea Turner — who were strangers when they started exercising but have since become friends.

The group workout with a certified trainer "has been perfect" and has helped her stay on track, Robertson said.

Here are some tips from local experts for how you can get started even if your current exercise routine consists of walking from the couch to the refrigerator and there are holiday parties in your future.

■ Get a measure of where you are so you can accurately measure your improvement. You can calculate your Body Mass Index, or BMI, with an online widget. Find it by searching for "CDC" and "BMI" on the Web.

■ Take some time to consider why you want to get fit. Is it to lose weight? Are you interested in improving your health so you can be more active with your children? Are there health problems that run in your family, such as high blood pressure, that you'd like to avoid? A clear focus will help keep you motivated.

■ Consider what you are eating. Meeting your basic daily requirements for proteins, carbohydrates and fats is important. Check your requirements at

■ Schedule a time to exercise, just as you schedule a meeting at work or a night out with friends. Try to make it the same time every day so it becomes a habit.

■ Find a friend who wants to start a similar program and use each other for support.

■ Make a commitment, perhaps in the form of paying for a class or a personal trainer. People are more likely to stick with something if they have some sort of accountability or investment.

■ Realize that you don't have to make a huge financial investment. The YMCA offers scholarships, and several area churches offer inexpensive memberships to their recreational centers. Calvary Baptist Church offers a $10-a-month membership. Lexington-Fayette County Parks and Recreation operates six community centers that offer classes and access to fitness equipment.

■ Look for an activity you can enjoy, whether it be walking or swimming or a group exercise class or one-on-one work with a trainer. Find an atmosphere that is comfortable. That will keep you coming back.

■ Whatever you choose, don't overdo it in the beginning. Ease into the new exercise routine. If you start walking for 20 minutes the first week, make it 25 minutes the next. If you do too much too soon, you will burn out.

■ For expert guidelines on how to start an exercise program, look for tips on the Web from the American College of Sport Medicine or the National Training Association.

■ Keep track of your success. Keep an exercise journal. Write down what you do each day.

■ Set a goal and reward yourself. For example, if your goal is making it to the gym three times in a week, reward yourself with a nice long bath, rent a movie that you've wanted to see or have a nice lunch with a friend.

■ Relax and know you are in for the long haul. If you are just starting out, anything you do is an improvement on where you began. Give yourself credit for making an effort, and build from there.

(These tips were supplied by Rachel Gleason, program director in the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences; Ruben Perez, physical activity health educator for the Lexington Fayette-County Health Department; and Chris Andrews, wellness director, North Lexington YMCA.)