Fitness center#039;s new workout plan

by Beacon Staff • March 19, 2008

Facing the prospect of working out again may not be easy, but the post-spring break period is as good a time as any to jumpstart a healthy exercise routine, says exercise specialist Jackie Morgan, of Emerson's Plus One fitness center.,Many buff bodies that went into spring break beach-ready have come back a little haggard, beaten by a week of pina coladas, chimichangas and Coronas.

Facing the prospect of working out again may not be easy, but the post-spring break period is as good a time as any to jumpstart a healthy exercise routine, says exercise specialist Jackie Morgan, of Emerson's Plus One fitness center. She suggests doing cardiovascular exercise, such as running, biking or circuit weight training with minimal rest, for 30 minutes at least three times a week. The workout routine helps to boost metabolism, produce feel-good endorphins and keep depression at bay.

"All it takes is one time to get back into it, especially if you were doing it the week before," said Morgan, a former strength and conditioning coach at Iona College in New York, as well as at Velocity, a national sports performance program.

As the weather improves, running outside becomes a more attractive option, she says, and pickup baseball, football and soccer games bring about heart-healthy, friendly competition on Boston Common.

Fair-weather runner Diane Meade, a graduate student studying speech pathology, said she won't work out outside unless it's 40-plus degrees with no wind. For now, she hits the gym four to five days a week to use the treadmill, Stairmaster or weights. A week back home in Clifton, N.J., however, knocked this fitness devotee out of her exercise routine.

"I did absolutely nothing," Meade said. "No physical activity all week, and I wasn't really doing anything else. I was just lazy."

Stretching out on her first day back in the gym, Meade describes the difficulty in overcoming a post-break slump.

"I definitely felt like I had no desire to come today," she said. "But I was kind of surprised that after the initial, 'I don't feel like going,' it wasn't that bad."

Even second baseman and right-hitting pitcher for Emerson men's baseball, Nick Hesketh, who spent spring break with the team playing 10 games in seven days in Fort Myers, Fla. said returning after a week away from weight training has hurt him.

"It's definitely tough," he said. "I probably can't lift as much as I could [before the break] .. It's like anything, you kind of go through stages." The important thing, Hesketh adds, is to be disciplined enough to push within limits and avoid injury.

For most college students coming off a week of lounging, however, overexertion is hardly a concern.

Morgan said fitness center attendance usually drops off in the end of March and doesn't pick up until close to May, when summer approaches.

But now is the time for anyone, she says, to either start or resume a workout routine. Those who have not worked out before should feel the burn more quickly because their bodies aren't used to the change, she said.

"I've had people come in three days a week for two weeks that already feel better," Morgan said, adding that everyday activities such as walking up stairs becomes easier.

"It may not be huge physical improvement, but they definitely feel better. It's inward physical improvement," she said, referring to muscle building and overall endurance.

To boost results, Morgan recommends morning workouts for a happier, more energized day. Doing cardio first speeds up metabolism, she says, and while any time is better than no time, sunrise exercise produces the best daylong effects.

Cardiovascular exercise to get the heart pumping can be done on any of the gym's machines, from the treadmills to the bikes to the elliptical cross trainers, and should be about time, not distance, Morgan said. Even a fast-paced walk at an incline on the treadmill is fine, she said, as long as the heart rate stays up.

For optimal results, Morgan said the treadmill is the closest thing to running outside, although most people avoid it out of intimidation.

"If you want to start with the elliptical, that's fine," she said. "But I'd recommend the treadmill because it's the most effective for both weight loss and heart health."

The cardio-culprits that people take it easy on tend to be the bikes, Morgan said, because it's easy to keep the resistance low and not work as hard while sitting. Recumbent bikes where body weight needs no support should be especially avoided, she says, unless using for post-injury purposes.

In the weeks leading up to spring break, she and Josh Bleau, another trainer, taught a 45-minute intense total body workout called Burn, which was held twice weekly. As a result of the class popularity, she said the fitness center might offer Burn again this semester.

If not, this circuit workout that involves about seven exercises separated by one-minute rests can be recreated. Morgan said fitness trainers can outline the same cardio, core, upper and lower body exercises, or provide an entirely new routine. Repeating certain exercises seven or eight times, as opposed to three or four, will increase results, she says.

Besides Burn, spinning and kickboxing are the next best fitness classes for cardio and weight loss, Morgan said. Those looking to tone, she says, should try more concentrated classes, such as abs or stability ball, and yoga, which improves strength and flexibility.

For a post-workout, relaxer, hit the sauna. Located in the fitness center locker rooms, the saunas can ease muscle soreness and eliminate tension, Morgan said, and they're mostly underused.

"Any kind of warmth relaxes your muscles, so 10 minutes in there is fine," she said. "No more than a half-hour."

So, no, Emerson unfortunately isn't Mexico, but being back in Boston doesn't have to be a drag. A little cardio mixed with some much-needed sauna-time could be the perfect combination for feeling upbeat again.