Pelitera's Powerful Plan to Keep Your Resolution

Canisius Fitness Expert Offers Five Simple Steps to Get in Shape for the New Year

In January, countless people flock to the gym after the first of the year. With their New Year’s resolution fresh in their minds, and the hope to look better by spring, they vow to lose weight and get fit. But by mid-February, most of them are gone.

“We used to call them ‘new leafers,’” says Charles J. Pelitera ’80, MS ’90, assistant professor of kinesiology at Canisius. “The new leafers, one by one, they fall off the tree. The reason it happens is because it is harder to stay committed to an exercise program then it is to begin one.”

How can you avoid becoming a ‘new leafer” this year and stick with an exercise program? Pelitera, a personal trainer for more than 30 years, offers five simple steps.

1) Set Realistic Goals. 

A diet and exercise program requires discipline, so don’t set lofty goals you can’t meet (such as “my goal is to lose 100 pounds.”) and set yourself up for failure. Opt for short-term goals followed by long-term goals, says Pelitera. For example, “I will lose 4-5 pounds this month.” is a more realistic goal. “You need to reduce your caloric intake by 3,500 to lose one pound per week,” he says. “It does take dedication, but if you can do it, you will lose one pound.”  

2) Find an Exercise That You Enjoy. 

Boredom is one of the other main reason people stop exercising, according to Pelitera. The best form of cardiovascular exercise, he adds, is “the one you are most willing to do.”

Health clubs offer dozens of classes to suit everyone’s interest, such as indoor cycling, TRX (bands that use body weight as resistance), kick boxing, Zumba and Pilates. But what if the gym isn’t for you?

Walking is the cheapest and most practical for most people, says Pelitera but “walk with a purpose,” says Pelitera, in order to get your heart rate into the cardiovascular range. In order to achieve improvement in your cardiovascular fitness level, Pelitera says you need to do a minimum of 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise three times per week. The more you do, the greater your benefit will be.  

If you add resistive training (which can include free weights, weight machines, body weight resistance, medicine balls, and rubber tubing) Pelitera says the added benefits include prevention of osteoporosis, increased joint flexibility, decreased back pain and better muscle symmetry.

For those who are getting started slowly, he adds, just get off the couch and find less structured ways to incorporate more activity into your everyday life. Take the dog for a walk, shoot baskets, park your car farther away from the store, and take the stairs instead of the elevator.

3) Make Exercise an Appointment.

The biggest excuse people often give for not exercising is they don’t have the time. “Everybody has time,” says Pelitera, “you just have to put it aside for yourself.” He recommends that you schedule your workout time into your iPhone, Smart Phone, or whatever calendar you use.

While Pelitera works out in the morning, that time might not work best for everyone. “There is nothing set in stone as to what time of the day is best to exercise,” he says. “I find that people are more likely to go (to the gym) right after work, before they go home, get comfortable, and do other things.” 

You might be more likely to keep that appointment, if you exercise with a buddy, or even hire a personal trainer, just to get started.  Pelitera says the benefits of working with a personal trainer include increased motivation and discipline in your exercise program and decreased chance of injury.

“If you decide to work with a personal trainer, be sure to seek out one who is certified, either by the American College of Sports Medicine or the National Strength and Conditioning Association,” he says. Pelitera adds that you are less likely to skip an appointment with a personal trainer because of the financial commitment. The same principle applies for working out with a buddy – you’ll probably show up for that morning workout because you don’t want to let your friend down.

4) Control Your Portions.

The biggest issue isn’t what people are eating, it’s how much they are eating, says Pelitera.  “The hardest exercise in the world is pushing oneself away from the table,” laughs Pelitera. “If you can do that, you will find that you are satisfied.”  

Proteins have four calories per gram, as do carbohydrates have four, but fats have nine calories per gram – almost double that of protein and carbohydrates. “Obviously stay away from saturated fats as much as possible, even though they provide what we call satiety, the flavor that they give foods,” he says.   

Another tip: don’t drink your calories.

“Alcohol has seven calories per gram, and it also affects our body’s ability to absorb other nutrients, so it actually has negative nutritional value.”  

5) Be Patient.

There is no quick fix, no magic pill, and nothing happens overnight. An exercise program requires discipline and commitment, says Pelitera, and results could take a few months for some people. “Don’t just measure how you look or how strong you are,” he says. “Think about how you feel, how flexible you are, how you feel doing everyday chores around the house. These are the parameters that let you know you are getting benefits out of your workout.”

And beware of “extreme” workouts, such as Insanity® or P90X®, that promise fast results in a short amount of time. 

“People are getting overuse injuries like crazy from these workouts,” says Pelitera. “Whether you are young or old, the biggest benefit you get from exercise is your ability to recover.  These exercises have people doing plyometric jumps all over the place. The body does not get a chance to recover.”    

Pelitera, assistant professor of kinesiology at Canisius College, served as strength and conditioning coordinator for the college’s NCAA Division I athletic teams for nearly 20 years. He currently teaches courses in wellness/fitness, nutrition, evolution of disease, and exercise testing and prescription. Pelitera is a CSCS*D (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist w/ Distinction) from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), as well as an NSCACPT*D (Certified Personal Trainer w/ Distinction) through the NSCA. Pelitera operates Pelitera’s Fitness Consultants at the Women’s Center in Williamsville, NY; where has designed customized fitness routines for nearly 30 years. His clients include professional athletes, women, children and individuals looking to lose weight. Learn more about Pelitera in the summer 2011 issue of Canisius Magazine here.