I like to think I’m a reasonably fit person. I exercise most days of the week. I run with my dog at least twice a week for three or so miles. I do Pilates weekly and I often go spinning or swimming at least once a week too. But lately I have felt like I am in a bit of a fitness rut. As I enter my mid-40s, my knees feel creakier and I am acutely aware that these are what I call the “make it or break it” fitness years. If I don’t up my fitness game now, I feel like I’ll pay for it later.
I exercise to relieve stress and yes keeping svelte and burning calories is a definite goal of mine but I know I should do more strength training to keep osteoporosis which runs in my family at bay. But I am at a loss of where to start. And that’s part of the reason why I asked Life Time if I could try out membership for three months to see if I could make any significant changes in 90 days and thankfully they obliged. We’ve all read those articles in women’s magazines with titles such as “Get Buff in 100 Days: Here’s How.” Luckily these 90 days happened to coincide with the holiday season when I am more apt to indulge and have my fitness plans fall by the wayside. This was just the kick in the butt I needed.
Although I just began my membership as we went to press, I like what I see so far. No let me rephrase that, I love what I see so far. Back in the day when I lived in London, I belonged to a very upscale gym. When you walked into the lobby, it felt like a hotel and they had services galore from spa massages, beauty treatments and an on-site nursery so parents could work out while their kids played. This has all of the above but on a more luxurious level. Dare I say that I would consider just coming to Life Time to hang out and write articles? It’s quiet, pristine and not crowded. Serenity now.
So here’s what I’ve learned so far in my first two weeks at Life Time. Stay tuned for part two of this series in our next edition.
1. Choose a gym with good energy.
Amy Williams, the PR Manager of Life Time tells me how “energy” is really our sixth sense. “It’s unbelievably important to have the right energy at the club- something you feel right when you walk in,” she explains. I can personally attest that this is true, from the lush greenery at the entrance, ultramodern lighting and front check in staff that seems more like a concierge at a hip hotel. They personally welcome me by name and no, this is not an editor perk. I see this with other guests too. I feel welcome here and when I leave they actually ask me if I had a good workout and they seem to genuinely care.
2. The little things count.
Life Time has a private nursing room right by the salon. I ask corporate headquarters if all Life Time clubs have this. They note that many moms would use the lounge space inside the women’s dressing room but they wanted to accommodate those who wanted more privacy so now all new Life Time clubs will have it. This shows me that they listen to member feedback and as a former nursing mom who brought my infants to the gym a lot, I love this. Also being under five feet, I am thrilled to see that their studio where barre classes are held has ballet barres at different heights. I’ve been to too many barre classes where I can’t even reach the barre and my short stature feels like a hindrance. I also love how their locker room features lockers that are big enough for me to store my bulky winter coat. I feel like I can easily get ready, shower and change into business attire after a workout without a wrinkle in my clothing. Too many times, I’ve felt like the lockers at other gyms aren’t roomy enough. Plus, they even have make-up remover in the bathrooms–say goodbye to runny mascara after a tough sweat session.
3. A personalized approach to fitness goals is key.
As I begin my fitness journey, I participate in an onboarding session with Liz Rodriguez, the Member Onboarding Manager. This is an important step that all members at the club must do and helps us both delineate what my fitness goals are. During this one-hour session, we go over some important statistics and discuss my weight (104) body fat percentage (29%) skeletal muscle mass (39.7 lbs) as well as my ECW/TBW which stands for Ratio of Extracellular Water to Total Body Water, an important indicator of body water balance which indicates how hydrated I am and any inflammation in my body which is .373 (ideal is under .370).
The number that surprises me most though is my body fat percentage. Although I am in the average range according to the American Council on Exercise, 32% is obese, so I know I need to up my strength training workouts. Rodriguez suggests I try to lower my body fat percentage and increase my skeletal muscle mass and the best way for me to achieve this is through strength training. She suggests my workouts consist of 50% cardio and 50% strength training and reviews a sample week of classes that fit my schedule. I also need to incorporate yoga for flexibility.
I also undergo an active metabolic assessment. This is a scientifically accurate method of determining my specific heart rate zones and how my body burns carbohydrates and fats as fuel. This is going to make my workouts more efficient so if I use a heart rate monitor, I will know exactly what zones I should be in and for how long to burn fat and build muscle.
4. Nutrition is responsible for 90% of your overall fitness.
While Rodriguez says I have a balanced diet overall, if I really want to change my body fat percentage, I need to watch my diet more closely. She wants me to have protein with every meal and increase my fiber intake to 30-35g /daily. I guess I better start eating oatmeal every day. They also have nutrition coaching if your diet needs an overhaul or just tweaks to maximize athletic performance.
5. Use technology to your advantage.
Life Time has an amazing fitness app where I can access the schedule, preview videos of classes, check out different workouts if I am unsure of what to do at the gym, sign up for small group classes, book much needed massages and even order food from their café so I can grab it on my way out of the building. They are constantly adding new features to the app and it is very user-friendly even for a Luddite like me.
6. Knowledgeable and friendly staff members are a huge motivator.
As mentioned, it starts with the check-in staff but also the instructors for the classes are top notch and have many fitness certifications. They watch my form in group classes and gently correct it when need be. They also play great music which for me is key. If I don’t like the music during a class, I know I will slack off.
7. Don’t ignore the core.
As someone who has been doing Pilates ever since my youngest one was born, I love that this club offers everyone a 30-minute Pilates session. There’s a reason why elite athletes even football stars incorporate this into their fitness regimen. Their Pilates studio is beautiful and guaranteed to make you stronger.
8. Break out of your comfort zone.
I’ve tried yoga a lot. It hasn’t been a success but Rodriguez urges me to give it another try so I do with a flow class. The gym has yoga classes at various levels of difficulty so there’s something for everyone. Plus, they even offer heated yoga for those bitter cold days ahead.
9. Personal trainers are sometimes necessary.
Since I hadn’t had any real strength training in years, I know I needed guidance and I also wanted to be sure that my form was correct. Enter Nick Cerone, my guardian angel. He’s developed a plan doing full body exercises to help me burn fat and build skeletal muscle mass. Plus, he also does nutritional consulting so I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot with him as my personal trainer.
10. Don’t feel guilty about your workout.
As a mom of three young kids, I often feel bad when I’ve had to tote them with me to the gym. But at this location, they have a play maze, a kids movement studio, classes ranging from toddler yoga to STEAM enrichment. They take children ages 3 months and up. With fun offerings like this, I may even get a facial or blow out at the onsite LifeSpa while my kids happily play in the Kids Academy.
I can’t wait to see what the next few months will be like at Life Time. Stay tuned for part two in the spring edition to see if I am able to achieve my goals and what the staff hopes all members are able to–a healthy way of life.
Publisher’s Note: You can also learn more with a visit and tour!