The Moving Crew
Pick It Up, Sister
Tuesday, February 6, 2007
My sister's wedding is six months away. Like most brides, she wants to be in top shape when she says "I do." But like any budget-strapped young professional, she doesn't want to pay to get there. No $100-a-month gym membership. No $50-an-hour personal training sessions. In the grand scheme of wedding expenditures, we decided, this part would be free.
That's how I became my sister's maid of honor-cum-personal trainer. It was my idea: I exercise regularly, so I figured I'd take her with me on my daily jogs, get her lifting my 10-pound dumbbells and hold her feet while counting out sit-ups. Since she's already slim, it seemed easy enough -- and it would give me a chance to make up for the tantrums I'd thrown while trying on bridesmaids' dresses. (What can I say, navy just isn't my color.)
Our first run was on a warm Saturday in early January -- perfect jogging weather. I wanted to crank out five miles, maybe more. My sister wanted to head home at the one-mile mark. I wanted to run a 7.5-minute-mile pace; she wanted to run in place, or so it seemed. I'd assumed that since my sister had been a competitive runner in college, she'd easily jump back into stride. College, she huffily reminded me, was eight years ago.
The first rule of personal training, says Linda Rudd, owner of STS Health & Fitness in McLean, "is to provide a safe and customized workout" for the trainee. "You can't just expect someone to go out and run four miles if they haven't run in a long time," she says. "You have to work progressively."
Um, right. Oops. Experts say it's better to give a beginner a set of realistic goals, such as completing a two-mile run or a brisk 25-minute walk. Achieving those goals will help build confidence in the person's ability to exercise.
But must I compromise my own workout in order to help my sister? Not necessarily. J.P. Montalvan, director of FitnessWise in Bethesda, recommends hitching my exercise routine to my sister's. For example, I might run by myself for 30 minutes before picking her up for the last 20 minutes of my jog.
By that point, Montalvan says, "you're a little ragged out, and she's fresh -- so now your abilities are reasonably commensurate."
I'll try this approach next time -- whenever that may be. So far, my sister has rebuffed most of my workout offers, usually in favor of happy hour or dinner with her fiance or a movie -- in short, almost anything other than exercising.
"It's difficult to be active on a regular basis," says James Sallis, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University who studies exercise motivation. "Between fitting in time and deciding what you're going to do, there are a lot of details that have to be decided on."
As such, we need a specific plan -- including scheduled workouts. "If it's planned ahead and scheduled, you're much more likely to do it," Sallis says. "If you just wait for the willpower, wait for the inspiration, you'll just be sitting there, waiting."
This makes sense, of course. Professional personal training appointments are almost always booked days in advance; clients make note in their calendar and plan for it. Why should informal personal training be any different? Pick the days and times to meet for exercise -- say, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 6 p.m. -- and stick to it.
And yet, formalized personal training has one big component that informal training lacks: a financial incentive.
"When someone makes an outlay for personal training, they're financially committing to improving their health, to making some progress," Montalvan says.
Montalvan recommends setting up an alternate incentive system. For example, rewarding completion of a workout with a fun snack (think smoothie, not milkshake) or movie tickets. But I'm keen on the financial component.
So, sister, suppose we put $5 in the pot each time we schedule a workout -- at the end, we'll find something fun to spend it on. Like, say, snazzy accessories to go with my bridesmaid's dress? Just a thought. ·