There’s nothing like a crisp, fresh new year to inspire us to make commitments to our own wellness in mind, body and spirit.
Local fitness experts Meredith Aragon of Quincy and Andrea Murana of Portola have some terrific advice for making positive goals to improve your health and — more importantly — they offer valuable tips for sticking with those goals to get you where you want to be.
Focus on attainable steps
First, write your goals down and do this more than once, says Aragon who is in her sixth season as head softball coach at Feather River College and manages the Feather River Fitness gym in Quincy. She’s also a busy mother of one, 7-year-old Marco, and her husband Marco Aragon serves as FRC’s assistant softball coach.
“Make sticky notes and put them on your calendar, your fridge, your bathroom mirror and in the car,” she says. “We use this a lot in sports training because it helps you remember what you want to focus on. It motivates you and reinforces the desire to achieve your goals.”
Aragon suggests that when people are “just thinking about going to the gym, taking that walk or heading out for a run,” writing the goal down makes that cognitive process more concrete, more than an abstract idea (of something you’d like to do).
“Even doodle on your notes, use bright colors, make it stand out,” Aragon suggests. “Our female athletes often like to put quotes and pictures of family and friends in their lockers to motivate them.”
The power of staying positive
Second, Aragon recommends keeping a positive mindset. Once you decide on your goals, frame them in a positive way. Whether it’s about losing weight, getting in shape, living a longer and healthier life or whatever you choose, make sure you set them up as something very positive in your life and focus on the benefits.
“People make it harder than it has to be when they form new goals and start working toward them,” the coach advises.
So her third recommendation is to divide each goal up into small, attainable steps. Don’t decide you’re going to run 5 miles a week or lose 20 lbs. this month and then become discouraged if that doesn’t happen right away. You’re way better off starting out in small chunks, like running for 20 minutes a day and working up to the bigger goal.
“The key thing is that you need to evaluate and reevaluate your success and progress every week or as often as you need to,” Aragon stresses. “Your goals can change and evolve as you go, weekly, monthly or otherwise. For instance, say you want to lose weight. You might break that overall goal of feeling better and getting healthier into small sections of activities.”
Break big goals into small ones
Aragon offers specific ideas for breaking big goals down into smaller ones that are reachable, doable and fun.
She recommends setting a goal to exercise, start walking, or go the gym one or more times per week, whatever is realistic for you.
“Start with something manageable and attainable that you know you can commit to doing,” she says. “Don’t even begin with a time limit of minutes, etc., because I find people get discouraged when they fall away from a hard-set plan. Just plan to go and do it. You can work up from there in terms of days and minutes.”
Adjust and add to goals as you go
Next, set a goal for healthy eating. Write down your new, additional desire to add good nutrition choices and meal planning to your list, after you’ve established a good habit with exercise and activities.
“Start with a simple goal like I’m going to eat vegetables of some kind every day or week,” the coach explains. “Once you’re off to a solid start, evaluate where you are, how you’re doing. Then think about adding additional goals like cutting back on soft drinks or sugar in your food plan. This is an ongoing process and you can do it.”
Dealing with setbacks and delays
Aragon’s training has given her plenty of opportunities to see that people have setbacks and they get discouraged because they don’t reevaluate their progress as they go. They might not make it to the gym four times a week, as they originally planned, so they start to view the plan as a failure. But she has an answer.
“The best thing to do is to keep evaluating and give yourself credit for what you HAVE done so far,” she says. “Stay positive and focus on your strengths and successes, not any shortcomings or setbacks. This is a about having a totally different mindset — be proud of what you ARE accomplishing.”
As a fitness specialist, Aragon advises everyone, no matter what age they are or what level of health and fitness they may have, to make their own wellness a priority. Start now.
“Overall, when you work on your own wellness and workout doing something you enjoy, it benefits your whole body,” Aragon says. “The important thing about setting new goals to get healthier is that it’s a self-paced process. You work at your own pace and any little bit you do is going to benefit your whole health situation.”
She advises individuals, families, busy career folks and everyone in between to not be afraid to start a new fitness plan.
“Start walking or running with a friend, stop in and see us, anything you can to put your health at the top of your list,” she says. “We have people here all day long who can show you around, answer any questions and encourage you to get started. FRC and its students are really involved in this fitness center and it’s a cool partnership with the community.”
Making wellness a family affair
Andrea Murana co-owns two Healthy Bodies Community Gym locations in Portola and Quincy with her husband Bobby Yegge. The Portola couple has an active 5-year-old son, Jojo Yegge, who loves to do his own self-designed circuit training routine and Bobby’s mother, Corky Henson, helps staff the sites.
“Many times, we don’t take the time to do this with our children (focus on being active), but we can make fitness a family affair,” Murana says about the value of New Year’s resolutions and goals for good health. “I’d love to see more of that!”
Murana is a fitness trainer, a real supporter of having dreams and goals, big or small, and working to make them come true. Her philosophy about achieving goals is something she lives herself.
For 15 years, she was a dedicated officer with the Plumas County Deputy Sheriff’s Office. Now, with the opening of the two gym locations since 2017, she loves her new career, too.
“The health and mental benefits I see every day in my work are beautiful,” Murana says. “People are investing in themselves and everybody owes that to themselves. It’s easy to take care of everybody else first. You’ve got to take care of your body because it’s the only place you have to live. Your loved ones will thank you for it.”
Dream big, choose your path
Everybody has something they want to accomplish, Murana says, advising you to make a plan, have a goal and stick to it.
“Don’t give yourself an exit strategy,” she notes, “Tell yourself that failure is not an option.”
She says there are ways we sabotage ourselves and our goals, like skipping workouts, or that new walking routine, cancelling a family bicycling outing or a running date with a friend.
She also emphasizes the importance of planning when it comes to your personal eating style and choices.
“Nutrition plays such a big part in our wellness goals,” the trainer explains, saying s he doesn’t use the term “diet” because it implies a temporary approach.
“Don’t think short term, as in you’re going to lose 10 lbs. and then you’re done because then you’re likely to gain it all back,” Murana suggests. “To be successful with your health and wellness goals, think about your nutrition as the lifestyle that you’ll continue over the long term.”
Begin in the kitchen
A healthy body truly begins in the kitchen, according to Murana. She tells her clients they can make a fairly easy new goal to eat greens at every meal, even breakfast.
“A lot of people don’t realize putting green peppers and spinach in your eggs or adding kale to your smoothie are great ways to get extra greens into your eating plan,” she says with a smile.
As a fitness and wellness expert, Murana recommends we all start our health-goal-making processes by focusing on our fridges and pantries.
“If you don’t have a refrigerator or pantry that is well-stocked with healthy foods, when you get home and you’re tired and hungry, you’re going to eat what you do have in there,” Murana states. “So, if it’s junk, you’ll eat junk.”
She advises everyone to set an important goal to drink more water — more than most people currently do.
“Hydration is a big key to feeling better and making progress on any wellness goals you set,” she explains. “We all need to make it a priority to drink plenty of water to keep our organs working properly. Many people don’t understand that all of their organs, their guts, play a very important role in how they feel. We’re an interworking system and sodas, coffee and even tea can cause dehydration.”
Successful goals include buddies
Murana is also a big fan of the buddy system in any successful goal achievement plan.
She highly recommends finding yourself a workout partner because it will keep you accountable.
“In our society, we underestimate the value of community in terms of our overall wellness,” she says. “If you have a walking buddy, a running friend or a fitness partner who is getting up early to meet you at the gym by 6:30 a.m., you don’t want to leave them hanging.”
With a chuckle, Murana explains that the thought of standing up a friend who has committed to help you with your wellness goals (and you’ve committed to help them, too) is one reason why group classes are so wildly popular — everybody encourages everybody else.
‘They become our ‘fit family’ and they want to see us succeed,” she says.
As a trainer, Murana wants people to focus on what they CAN do, not what they can’t.
“Fitness and well-being are an option no matter where you’re at physically,” she says. “My goal is for people to feel healthier, fitter and younger next year. If you have some form of mobility and exercise in your life, you will find that many facets come into play: your heart is healthier, you have better joint health, you enjoy more energy and you sure sleep better.”
Make time to complete goals
With our busy lives, we often run ourselves into the ground and our nutrition doesn’t always support and supplement our lifestyle (or wellness goals), according to the gym founder who says one of the best benefits of having a regular exercise routine is that our brains release serotonin and improve our mental well-being, our optimism.
“There aren’t any quick fixes in life, but I know from experience that I immediately feel more productive when I’m active,” Murana says.
She’s quick to point out that goals should fit you. That way, you have the best chance of completing them and moving onto new goals for yourself.
“Being active doesn’t mean you have to become a marathon runner,” she says. “Maybe your knees aren’t up to that! But there is definitely something you can do to improve your overall health, like walking a dog, taking the stairs sometimes instead of an elevator, or parking further away from the door to the store. No movement is wasted.
Other advice she’s happy to share for those with busy modern lives:
Take standing breaks at your desk, every hour is good. Rest your eyes, stretch and help prevent those repetitive-stress events that are so common in our lives today. She recommends setting a timer on your cell phone and standing up every hour to do even simple joint-mobility movements.
Make your wellness a priority
Murana’s best advice at New Year’s and anytime is to start somewhere and make yourself a priority.
As a working mother, wife and member of her community, she understands how easily people can put themselves and their own wellness on a back burner, but she cautions that if you don’t take care of yourself, you might not have much left to give to your family, friends, career and other priorities.
The secret to setting and achieving your wellness goals is as much about what you DON’T do as it is about what you actually do, she explains.
“A big one is about not getting overwhelmed,” Murana says. “Do something you love. For instance, don’t choose a goal that requires you to do things you don’t like. If you don’t like working with weights, don’t set a goal to learn to dead-lift 200 lbs. in a month. Pick something you like, such as walking or dancing and go for that in terms of sessions, days, times, etc.”
She notes that the same guidance applies to food planning and nutrition goals. Choose what you love.
For instance, Murana says she’s not really a fan of being a vegetarian, so she would not set herself a goal like that.
“Eating a totally plant-based diet would be great for some people, but being a vegan wouldn’t make me happy,” she says. “I don’t love tofu and, as healthy as it is, I wouldn’t stick with it, it would not be sustainable.”
Also, she suggests we not become slaves to food plan fashions.
“Just because your friend is losing weight on the Keto diet or something else like two shakes a day with a small, healthy dinner doesn’t mean the same will work for you,” she advises.
Feather River Fitness
332 Crescent St.
Highway 70, Quincy
Monday-Friday 5 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Weekends 8 a.m. – noon
Classes range from lunchtime fitness sessions to group workouts, yoga, spin cycling, Zumba and low-impact classes for seniors. Racquetball, indoor pickleball, strength training and cardio are also popular. In the spring and summer, water aerobics and swimming will be available.
Three personal trainers are available to help you start or upgrade your fitness program.
Rates begin at $25 to $45 a month and special discounts are offered for first responders, families, seniors, corporate groups and students. Guests are welcome to try out the gym by the day or week.
Healthy Bodies Community Gym
73815 South Delleker Road Portola
54 East Main St., Quincy
Open 24 hours, seven days a week
832-5599 or 228-0311
Classes range from yoga and lunchtime-crunch fitness sessions to boot camp mixes for all levels with stretching, joint mobility, cardio, light weights and body-weight movement exercises. Jiu-jitsu for kids and Brazilian jiu-jitsu for adults are also popular classes and the gym. Other offerings include Circuit training and combat cardio, a fun mix of punching, kicking and much more.
Five personal trainers are available to help you with a jump-start or to upgrade your fitness program at the Portola location and two trainers are on staff in Quincy.
Rates begin at $27 to $35 a month and special discounts are offered for first responders, military, couples and groups. Guests are welcome to try out the gym on a drop-in basis by the day or week.