Fitness experts give simple tips that lead to big change | VailDaily.com

Fitness experts give simple tips that lead to big change

John O’Neill
Daily correspondent

Exercise means suffering. There is nothing enjoyable about a diet. All to often shifting toward a healthier lifestyle is synonymous with utter frustration. But it doesn't need to be. Striking a balance between developing healthier habits and happiness is a fundamental key in sustaining any approach to a positive lifestyle change.

Through small and strategic steps, you can successfully introduce change, lose weight, sleep better, have more energy or simply forge a better relationship with your body. And it doesn't have to be a drag. Instead it can be a fulfilling process.

"Be patient, set goals and push yourself," said Christy Madison, a local personal trainer.

Step 1: Moderation

Madison is a newcomer in the local personal training world but has nonetheless been making waves with her progressive, refreshing approaches to personal transformation.

One of these approaches has been her Breakfast Club class at the Athletic Club at The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon. Each Tuesday and Thursday morning, the class gathers for a fun-spirited and challenging circuit routine. The group encourages one another through each exercise, and the morning ultimately ends with a nutritious smoothie.

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Madison's methods encompass not just athletic challenges, but also attitude, nutrition, competition and, ultimately, recognition and gratification — all key ingredients of a successful and sustainable path of personal transformation.

Madison also gives her class takeaways, so even outside of the gym they can continue toward their goals. The first is moderation. Not just in calorie intake or exercise, but in taking on a new routine in general.

"If you completely cut something out of your life, you are going to end up breaking down, freaking out and feeling lost," Madison said. "I see a lot more positive change with moderation, such as keeping an old habit as part of your life while introducing something else that is positive."

She compares this experience directly with food. If you are a sweets eater and you go cold turkey on the sugar, you are more likely to binge on it because you will miss it. It is better to introduce something like fruit alongside the sweets and make the shift gradually, therefore laying a better foundation for getting rid of the not-so-nutritious sweets.

Step 2: Focus on nutrition

She also preaches nutrition as a key to making an effort in the gym go farther. Hence the reason she ends her classes with a smoothie.

"I personally believe nutrition is by far the most important thing to focus on," Madison said. "You can work out all you want, but if you eat badly, you won't see the results. It's that simple — nutrition can be life changing."

Not only is she serving up the smoothie but also an education. She teaches her clients what components of food serve the body and in what ways. She discusses the difference between protein, fiber and carbs, and how to get enough energy without overeating or starving oneself.

She also factors in stress — what causes stress, how to deal with stress and how the very idea of undertaking new habits can cause stress.

"There is this common problem with people who want to lose weight, that they are stressed about losing weight," Madison said. "Sometimes that can cause someone to put back on weight they lost. It is a vicious cycle."

Step 3: Set goals

Her other key to success involves goal setting. She encourages her clients to look realistically at where they are and then where they want to go and how long they want to take to get there.

"It is great to have goals and approach them in a healthy manner," Madison said. "It is important to have small goals along the way. There is so much motivation and self-inspiration that help new patterns in their life come into play."

Madison's ability to trounce the negativity associated with a transformation toward health has been successful. During the first session, six of her clients lost a combined 52 pounds over six weeks. She started her second five-week session with 100 percent of the previous group signing up again, plus a number of new participants, forcing the athletic club to make more room for a bigger class.

Personal Transformation

Perhaps the popularity and success of the Breakfast Club class stems largely from Madison's own experience with personal transformation. She found an approach that worked, and stuck.

"After college, I was always self-conscious of my body even though I worked out a ton," Madison said. "My whole life I was bigger. I didn't have the education to realize what I was doing wrong."

Through her own studies of personal training, health, fitness and nutrition, she figured out how to exact the changes she wanted to see in healthy way. The self-consciousness was soon replaced by self-confidence.

She knew her own mistakes and also knew the mistakes that were plaguing others as they tried to lose weight, tone up, eat healthier or simply feel better.

"I went to the Athletic Club, and made a poster about my own transformation and that stirred an interest," Madison said. "People got so excited and motivated from that. You really can make a big difference in your own life. It helps a lot knowing the right ways to go about it, so you can enjoy it."

The Valley effect

Personal trainer and athlete Rife Hilgartner believes that everyone has the ability to make a change. Hilgartner has been in the personal training business for more than 10 years. Before that he taught spin classes and coached youth sports.

"Helping people move better, feel better and live healthier is the bottom line of what I do," Hilgartner said. "I try to help people live better."

Living in the Vail Valley, Hilgartner says, is a major part of that. Taking advantage of the valley's natural surroundings is a pivotal part of undertaking a healthier lifestyle and enjoying the process.

In a way, health and the valley's surroundings drive one another. Those who work out inside do so to go out and enjoy the running or riding on the trails, or swimming in the lakes, or rafting the rivers. In turn, recreating outdoors furthers that healthy lifestyle.

"We do our work inside so we can enjoy our time outside," Hilgartner said. "If you want to go for a little hike or go skiing, we have those opportunities every day. Getting outside and having new experiences is so encouraging."

Hilgartner encourages people to look outside the bubble and let the drive to be outside, to be fitter or to be healthier arise from the inside. He encourages people to recognize that while it may not be easy, it is worthwhile and that in and of itself is an enjoyable experience.