Successful long-term lifestyle changes include healthy eating and frequent movement. But as we age, our bodies change, so flexibility, movement, and impact affect us differently. And while it’s important to change up physical activities to keep muscles engaged, it’s also critical to be aware of potential injury as you build strength.
As a teen, Jason Burgoon was in an accident that doctors thought would leave him handicapped. But with determination and support from family and friends, Burgoon rehabilitated himself to full mobility. In 2012, he was awarded bench press champion of the world. Today, Burgoon, the owner of Bodies by Burgoon and Torque indoor cycling, strives to help others achieve success: “The only thing more discouraging than starting a goal is not reaching it because you’re injured,” he says.
Fortunately, more gyms and fitness facilities are offering cycling [also called spinning] classes, which offer a great cardio workout while keeping the impact on joints, muscles, and bones low. “In the late ’90s and early 2000s, running and plyometrics [high-impact exercises] were popular, and over time people were injuring their hips, knees, and lower back,” says Burgoon. Cycling, which Burgoon used recently to heal a knee injury, is trending because it’s a recommended rehab activity for certain injuries, and people who can’t or don’t want to run can get the same cardio benefit and burn fat, without the harsh impact on their bodies.
Kristin Procopio, a physical therapist and senior pilates instructor, says re-injury after physical therapy is so common, it’s why she founded Studio U. “Once we feel better, we stop doing what was recommended by physical therapists and just go back to what we’ve done before, forgetting that the area we just rehabbed is still vulnerable to injury,” Procopio says.
Whether or not you’re injured, paying attention to your body and how much it can handle is crucial. “As you start building [your strength], reserve how hard you push. Start at 25 to 50 percent and see how your body responds. If all is well, push to 75 percent until you hit 100,” Procopio says. Being able to complete a workout isn’t enough, she adds, because you’ve got to be able to recover from it without excessive pain and soreness.
Finding motivation when you’re used to a sedentary lifestyle or your goal seems far away can be difficult. “Nutrition is key to success for someone who has a lot of weight to lose,” says Procopio. “They’ll need to cut calories but also find a healthy balance of foods to fuel their bodies. I highly recommend consulting a nutritionist.”
Next, think slow and steady. Schedule activity time into each day and increase the time and intensity gradually. “Once someone can tolerate a 20- or 30-minute session of activity, I would want them to start strength training, which builds muscle mass, leads to higher calorie burn, and strengthens the muscles to support the bones and prevent injury,” she says. With a devotion to getting healthy comes the need for a support system at home and the gym.
For Burgoon, building a successful fitness routine is “having a place where people feel comfortable with a well-educated staff. The more comfortable you are, the more you push harder than you ever have because you don’t feel weak—you’re getting stronger, and that keeps you motivated,” Burgoon says. And, if you’re not comfortable with your trainer, Burgoon says it’s perfectly fine to find someone else you click with so you can stay motivated.
Name: Elizabeth Cannon
Occupation: Stay-at-home mom, retired former manufacturing company director
Starting body fat percentage: 28 percent
Current body fat percentage: 19 percent
Gym of choice: Steele Fitness
“I don’t worry about aging . . . I continue to look and feel better every day. How many 53-year-olds can say that?” —Elizabeth cannon
Elizabeth Cannon, a local wife and mother, always struggled to reach her goal weight. When she retired, she made a commitment to prioritize her health to be stronger and leaner to enjoy more of her life with her husband and now-teenage daughter.
When did you realize you wanted to make a life change?
Prior to turning 50, I worked really hard to get back to my driver’s license weight. I would reach the milestone for a day or two, then quickly put on 10-plus pounds. I also intermittently suffered from back, hip, knee, wrist, and shoulder pain. I realized I needed to address my lack of strength, balance, and flexibility. It wasn’t enough to look healthy, I wanted to be healthy.
How long did it take for you to start seeing and feeling changes in your body?
After a few months, I noticed my legs getting firmer and started seeing bicep definition. Now I can see muscle tone without the right lighting and angle! Within about six months, I was performing what I consider miracles in terms of the weight I could lift and exercises I performed.
What made you keep going back to the gym and not give up?
I clicked with my trainer Shelly at Steele Fitness. Since I had always worked out at home, I didn’t want to be in a large facility with lots of strangers, and Steele has a comfortable, non-crowded environment. They helped me with food choices, nutritional supplements, and other aspects of healthy living for the other 23 hours a day I wasn’t working out.
What three things can you do now that you couldn’t before?
I can wear almost anything now and feel confident—like bikinis, skinny jeans, and sleeveless dresses. I am able to do things at home that I used to leave for my husband—like moving mulch bags. And I enjoy sports, from biking to golf, because I am so much more confident in my physical capabilities.
Name: Wesley Musgrove Age: 35
Occupation: Firefighter, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport
Starting body fat percentage: 24.8 percent
Current body fat percentage: 15 percent
Gym of choice: Life Time Fitness
“As a young firefighter, I should be a leader, not the guy always out of breath.” —Wesley musgrove
Two years ago, while exiting a burning building, firefighter Wesley Musgrove’s body was exhausted, and he was gasping for air, despite wearing proper gear. The fire wasn’t the cause of Musgrove’s distress—he was out of shape. That’s when he knew he had to make a lifestyle change.
How did you get started on a fitness plan?
For about six months I wasn’t sure how to start, then I saw a poster about a 90-day fitness challenge at the gym, and decided to try it. That’s when I saw results.
What is the biggest change you had to make to your lifestyle?
Nutrition and figuring out what foods my body needed was the most important—and coolest—takeaway. I know how my body reacts to different foods. I couldn’t believe how sodium affects the body. The nutritionist and trainer gave me the breakdown of nutrition for my body, and as I researched and read about fitness and bodybuilding, I learned how to change my body.
How long did it take to see physical changes?
The first month, I could tell right away my body was changing from eating a strict diet—I dropped 18 pounds. It was awesome! After about a month and a half, I started noticing changes in my strength and endurance. I think nutrition played a role in that, too.
What is an important lesson you learned throughout this process?
Stick to a plan and trust it. My trainer gave me this plan, and I trusted him and followed it. I would suggest people sit down with a nutritionist, talk about their goals, and then set a goal and stick to it. You may have a few bad days and get discouraged, but keep trying. Stay positive and motivated. And give yourself a cheat day; you need to let yourself have a break, too.
What tips do you have for someone struggling to see results?
You need a good support system—that is mandatory. Stay focused on your goal and your support system will help you. Nutrition is the biggest component and probably most overlooked, but what I’ve seen in the 90-day challenge is that it’s all about nutrition and eating right for your body type. I also take pictures every week or two weeks, and that’s where you will definitely see results.
Saturday, April 23
8 am – 3 pm
University of Minnesota Recreation and Wellness Center
Early-bird tickets: $35
Featuring special guest:
national health and fitness expert Chris Freytag