January 20, 2022

‘A little bit every day’

Katie Keyser/contributing photographer

Ted Cooper gets into a rhythm with the punching bag recently at the Cortland Fitness Center. The Cortland man has made it a routine to visit the gym. He lost 120 pounds about 10 years ago and has kept most of it off with his new eating and fitness habits.

Ted Cooper said everything is harder when you’re overweight — bending down, tying shoes, picking up objects from the ground.

“It was hard to breathe,” said the Cortland man, a self-employed paver. “When I was raking blacktop, I felt like I was going to fall down.”

“I was 324,” he said of his weight. “I was in a 3X shirt getting ready to go into a 4X.”

He couldn’t take it anymore. He joined the Cortland Fitness Center and started exercising every day. Later, he tried new eating habits. He’s been able to keep 100 pounds off the last 10 years.

“Honestly, I went on it really hard,” he said of this change. “The last year, year and a half, I have put on 20 pounds.”

Today, at 45, he weighs about 220 and feels great. He’d say to others: “Start out slow.”

“Start out slow and be consistent,” said Ozzie Stephens, owner of the Cortland Fitness Center. “People jump out in January. They are going to do it all,” he said.

“But if they don’t see the results they want in the first couple of months, they get discouraged. If you do a little bit every day and not jump on some stupid diet, (you will be more successful),” said Stephens.

Area gym owners and fitness gurus emphasize making small, attainable fitness and eating goals as people think about changes in the new year.

Plenty of gyms in Cortland

Laurie Greene, a fitness director at the YWCA, said there are a lot of gyms out there. See which one fits you. Here’s a round up in the area:

• Anytime Fitness, 3939 Route 281, Cortlandville. Open to members 24 hours.
• Cortland Fitness Center, 64 Main St., Cortland. Variety of classes.
• Fitness Gap, J.M. McDonald Sports Complex, Fairgrounds Drive, Cortlandville. Offering 9th Annual Fitness Gap Challenge, 12-week wellness challenge. Sign up today for Jan. 3 start.
• Iron Mind Performance & Fitness, Corset Building, 75 E. Court St., Cortland.
• Seven Valley CrossFit, 50 Main St., Cortland. Has opening for new members Jan. 1.
• Vine Health & Fitness Center, 20 N. Main St., Cortland. New massage therapist, fresh new equipment and space.
• YMCA, 22 Tompkins St., Cortland. Free Thursdays for public in January.
• YWCA, 14 Clayton Ave., Cortland, Strive weight loss support, new tai chi class, strength training for seniors, new tap dance aerobic class.

Cooper started a new habit using the treadmill in the gym. Later, Stephens taught him to avoid certain foods: bacon, pepperoni, salt, white potatoes, pizza. Through the years, he’s also nixed fast food and processed foods.

Cooper is still a regular at the gym, mixing it up with other exercise machines, including the punching bag. He’s developed a host of friends at the gym and has made the fitness center a part of his routine.

“Start small,” agreed Margo Upson, membership and marketing director at the YMCA in Cortland. “If you come in here on Jan. 2 and spend two hours working out, it may last you two days,” she said.

Try coming a half hour two times in that first week. “Then build up from there,” she said.

She recommends having a workout buddy to keep you accountable. And the YMCA, for the month of January, is offering a free day every Thursday.

“Try out the facility. Try the fitness center … If there is open swim in Thursdays, yes, there is free swim,” she said.

Dana Murdock, owner of Seven Valley CrossFit on Main Street, Cortland, says to think hard about those wellness goals.

“Be realistic, honest and kind to yourself,” she said. “We encourage our members to make SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time bound).”

“If you are currently not doing anything for exercise, then making a goal of going to the gym every single day for an hour is nonsense. It’s going to require such a drastic change in your lifestyle, that you’ll end up overwhelmed and reverting back to old habits,’ said Murdock.

“Choosing something like exercising for 10 minutes a day or going once a week would be a more attainable goal. Set yourself up for success and focus on a little bit at a time.”

“I think the secret to success is trying to keep that positive attitude,” said Janine Franco, owner of the Vine Health and Fitness Center at 20 N. Main St., Cortland. “If they are putting in the hard work weekly, sometimes it’s easy to get frustrated when they are not seeing huge gains in the week. But it’s important for them to know they are making healthy choices when they are coming to exercise.”

The Vine has a variety of group exercise classes in a fresh and clean new space with high tech interactive equipment.

Aaron Newman owns Iron Mind Performance and Fitness in the Cortland Corset Building in Cortland, a gym for strength conditioning and personal training. He works with highly motivated people and school teams, to get them stronger and moving better.

Laurie Greene, assistant health and fitness director at the YWCA, says nix the marathon. Start out with a 15-minute walk a day if new to exercise. When that is comfortable, walk 20 or 30 minutes.

“When you are healthy you are going to lower your health care cost. If you are not taking care of yourself with exercise and diet you could have high blood sugar, become diabetic. You could injure your joints because you are carrying a lot of weight,” she said.

“The really sad thing is up to 50 percent of the adult population may be, if not diabetic, but pre-diabetic,” she said.

The YWCA is offering a FIRST class: Fighting Insulin Resistance Strength Training geared for people who are prediabetic. The class can help people reverse that trend.

At The Fitness Gap in the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex, Hal White and his team is offering a 12-week wellness challenge. It kicks off Jan. 3. Sign up by today (check to see if you can join after that).

Kristin White, personal trainer at the Fitness Gap and Ben Baskin, a master’s student at SUNY Cortland, are taking a well rounded approach to this year’s challenge.

They are emphasizing strength training, cardio exercise and want to see what people are eating. They will measure people’s weight, waist circumference, muscle mass and body fat. People may gain weight one week, but their waist circumference may go down.

And people will post their tricks of the trade on Facebook for support, which is new this year, said White. They want to build support and a sense of camaraderie.

Robyn Hesse, 29, of Cortland, has been a member of the Fitness Gap at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex for two and a half years. She joined because she wanted to be healthier. She is stronger, eats healthier food and has lost 100 pounds.

“When I first started working out, I couldn’t run five to 10 minutes without stopping. Now I can run a 5K without stopping.”

She did one Fitness Gap challenge but relies on her new habits: going to the gym regularly and better eating habits. She works one on one with personal trainer Kristin White.

Hesse says be realistic.

“When you say, I want to lose 100 pounds. It’s so unattainable. If you break it up into smaller goals, it’s more attainable. Go to the gym twice a week. Lose five pounds. Lift more weights,” said Hesse.