Exercise programs: what do they accomplish? Are they right for you? How much to do? How often?

To start, here are some specific recommendations from a fitness expert (thank you April)!

Many people feel crunched for time, but there is a way to fit effective exercise into your life. Here are 2 tips to fit exercise into a busy schedule, but also get an extremely effective workout:

Circuit Train: Circuit training can help keep your heart rate elevated, while providing adequate rest for your working muscles. Here is an example that you can even do at home!

  • Complete 1 minute of each exercise, repeat the circuit 2-3x
    • Lower Body – Squats
    • Upper Body- Pushups
    • Core – Bicycle Crunches
    • Cardio – Jumping Jacks
    • Rest 1 minute before repeating circuit
  • All you need to do is plug in a lower body, upper body, core and cardio exercise, and you have a whole other circuit.
  • Ready, set , go!

Interval Training: This type of exercise is extremely effective, and only requires a commitment of about 20 minutes. Working in different intervals of intensity helps to burn calories both during and after the exercise, as well as improving the condition of your cardiovascular system. Here are a few examples:

  • Walk/Jog/Run outdoors – Walk for 1 minute, jog or run at a fast pace for you for 30 seconds and repeat 10-15x
  • Treadmill Hill Intervals – Walk or Run at the same speed, while having an interval of increased incline for a period of time.


Yours in health, 

April Chevalier
Wellness Director
Wheeler Regional Family YMCA
Health Fitness Specialist through ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine)

Here are some other popular exercise programs that can help you lose weight and keep fit. Make sure you’re not overdoing anything. Stretch before and after exercising (at least after). Check with a fitness professional to design a program that works for you.


A series of exercises which develop your core abdominal muscles, while increasing flexibility and requiring great focus, Pilates is a great way to build lean muscle and increase overall well-being.  A 150 pound person burns 250 calories in a beginner’s class and 450 in an advanced class. The latter is similar to what you’d burn on a one hour hike.


Invented in Colombia in the 1990’s Zumba is an eclectic workout combining dance, aerobics, belly dancing, martial arts, squats and lunges.  Not for the casual exerciser or for those with weak hearts, an hour of Zumba gets your heart rate up to 154 beats per minute and burns between 600 and 800 calories an hour depending on your weight and the intensity of your workout.  Zumba is fun (so they tell me), great for the easily distracted, and gives you a feeling of being part of a group.  I wouldn’t do it more than three times a week.  Mix things up and you’ll enjoy your classes more.


Derived from the ancient Sanskrit word for union with the divine, Hatha Yoga, traditionally the physical branch of spiritual practice, comes in many forms today.  One can find yoga classes that burn more calories; these usually involve more non-stop aerobic type activity like Vinyasa or Ashtanga.  Bikram-style yoga takes place in a very warm space (105 degrees!) and purports to be more effective at detox.  If you like it and you’re comfortable doing it, fine, but I recommend plain old normal temperature yoga.  Like pilates, yoga focuses and quiets the mind, makes us aware of our breath, and increases strength, balance, flexibility and self-awareness.

Plain ol’ elliptical/treadmill/bike

Nothing wrong with these more conventional workouts.  Elliptical tends to be a bit more efficient at burning calories than walking or biking.  The advantage of stationary biking is you can read while exercising!

Weight (resistance/strength) training

Weight training is a great way to build or retain muscle mass, raise growth hormone and testosterone levels (naturally, of course), and increase self esteem.  You can also burn calories lifting weights.  I would recommend consulting with a trainer before starting a weight training program.  Excellent trainers are available at all the local fitness centers.

Laboratory Tests – Revealing Hidden Obstacles to Weight Loss

Sometimes we do everything right but don’t lose weight at the pace we think we should.  I routinely order lab tests to identify hidden obstacles to weight loss. These can include anything from low thyroid function to high cortisol to food allergies.  Here are two other tests that can be very revealing:

Spectracell’s Comprehensive Nutritional Panel a blood test that looks at a broad range of vitamin, mineral and other levels in our blood, this test is different from a typical blood test in that it uses white blood cells to show a longer-term view of these levels, and can reveal deficiencies other tests don’t.  Some nutrient deficiencies can interfere with thyroid function and weight loss.  Contact the office for more info.

Metametrix/Genova GI Effects: this test uses DNA testing to reveal the presence of unfriendly or unbalanced bacteria along with parasites and yeast/fungi.  The test also measures inflammation in the gut, absorption and gut immunity.  An excellent test covered by most insurance.  Again, contact the office if you’re interested.

Finally, some words of wisdom about setting and meeting goals from two personal trainers:

Imagine Plan and Reflect
Moving toward and obtaining success in an exercise program is just like doing anything else successfully in life.

If you can imagine what an outcome would be like, you can plan out a good strategy for success. Taking steps to move forward and honoring your progression (no matter how little) will increase your motivation. Removing obstacles that block you will help you reach the prize.

Journaling is great ways to see your journey toward success unfold. Buy a notebook and write everything down!

Start with a Vision Statement; be very specific with what you want your outcome to be. Review this vision page every morning upon waking. Close your eyes and imagine you have completed your goal. Carry that proud, happy feeling with you all day long.

Write out a weekly “DO LIST” ahead of time. Schedule daily workouts and meals. Everyday do exactly what is on your list. Have pride in yourself as you check off the things you have completed.

Before bed every night, reflect on your progress honestly. Write down what worked well and what you might want to change to work even better. Change your “DO LIST” if needed. Congratulate yourself on completing a day toward your goal. Come back to your vision and smile. Tomorrow is all planned, you can sleep well.

A personal trainer can take out all the guess work out of fitness planning while providing encouragement and expertise throughout your journey to a new you.

Cynthia Griffin
Personal Trainer
CT Licensed Massage Therapist


Over the past 5 years as a personal trainer I have learned a lot about fitness, nutrition, and the process of breaking the cycle of “diet and exercise” and transitioning to a meaningful lifestyle change that includes regular exercise and proper nutrition. Listening to your personal trainer telling you to bang out 50 squats, 20 burpees, and 50 pushups is not a lifestyle change. Crash dieting with grapefruit to lose 10 pounds before your beach vacation is not a lifestyle change. I wish that I could give you the exact definition of a lifestyle change or tell you what it looks like. More than that, I wish that I could tell you exactly how to achieve it. What I’ve learned, however, is that a lifestyle change is different for each of us and that there is no plan that can be given to you by somebody else outlining the process for you. It is an individual journey that we all must take if we are to be truly successful in attaining it.

I asked some of my personal training clients to help me with a new weight loss program. These are women who have been regular participants in our fitness boot camp program for at least one year. They all had initial success with weight loss within their first year on our program. Many of them had hit a plateau and all of them believed that their diet was preventing them from losing any more weight. I placed them on a 6 week nutrition program that included food journaling, meal planning and eating “real food”. There were four of them who adhered to the program which resulted in a 20 pound weight loss for Nancy, a 14 pound weight loss for Cassie, a 10 pound weight loss for Christin, and an 8 pound weight loss for Pat over the 6 week period. They did not exercise any more than usual ~ they simply changed their diet ~ proving that it is absolutely true that “you can’t out train a bad diet”.

Nutrition matters and it is a significant component for those of us who are seeking that lifestyle change that I mentioned earlier. It turns out that it is also the most difficult habit for us to change. I have watched a group of amazing women get themselves to the gym by 5:30 in the morning for the better part of 3 years now and push themselves harder than they ever thought that they could. This is the easy part for them ~ changing their diet is what is most challenging.

Kristie Cahill
Owner Fitness Center for Women