By Liz Otero
Whether because of holiday indulgences or the quarantine 15, many people are ready to get into shape and take control of their health. However, even as we resolve to eat better, exercise more, and make positive lifestyle changes in the new year, we often find it challenging to stick to a plan without professional help.
Omar Negrete, director of operations at medical gym New Heart Fitness and Health in Albuquerque, said setting foot in a gym is sometimes the most challenging part.
“Some of our members are reluctant to go to a regular gym because they feel uncomfortable,” Negrete said. “The key is getting started. Our members don’t feel intimidated here because they work out with people just like themselves. … Some of our members are here for cardiac rehabilitation; others are looking to prevent heart disease and pulmonary issues.”
Since New Heart Fitness and Health is a program of the New Mexico Heart Institute Foundation, most of its 400 members are referred by cardiologists and pulmonologists for medically-supervised exercise, and a doctor is on site at least three times a week. However, referrals are not required.
“We work to design a program based on the member’s needs,” Negrete said. “Our programs help people who are trying to prevent issues in the future, and we make sure to design a program that teaches them good lifelong habits that they’ll stick to.”
U.S. Air Force Ret. M.Sgt. Edward Otero, 73, has been building good exercise habits since childhood.
“I remember as an adolescent growing up in Barelas and walking past my aunt’s clothesline and cranking out chin-ups,” said Otero, who is, in full disclosure, related to the reporter of this story. “I also recall running along the ditch off of 10th and Pacific Street for about 45-minutes to an hour. My friends and I would ride our bicycles for several hours each day.”
To keep his youthful vim and vigor, Otero said he watches his carbohydrate intake, drinks plenty of green smoothies made with mixed vegetables and protein powder, and hits the gym regularly. He believes it’s the best way to get a full-body workout due to the diversity of exercise available.
“I work out at Defined Fitness about five times a week, where I swim laps, do free weights and weight machines. I also do my cardio workout on the elliptical machine. Even when my schedule becomes busy, I make time to get to the gym to work on my fitness routine.”
Otero didn’t miss a beat even when gyms were closed during the pandemic, choosing to lift weights at home and ride his bike.
“I like to aim for at least one hour of physical activity each day. Although I prefer to workout at the gym, sometimes everyday activities are an excellent opportunity to be active.”
Indeed, gyms aren’t for everyone. Many people feel as if they are on display during a workout and prefer more privacy; for others, getting to a gym takes precious time out of the day; and of late, risk of catching the novel coronavirus or other illness has some seniors unwilling to go to a gym, especially those have underlying health problems that may make them more susceptible to illness.
“Gyms are great,” said Sonja Boles, 64, of Albuquerque. “I’ve been a member of many, but they don’t factor into my lifestyle.
“This has nothing to do with Covid; it’s about making the trek to a gym, which takes up valuable time for me. … I live in the foothills, so I have many options as far as trails to run or walk, which is a better choice for me than driving to the gym.”
Boles said her fitness regimen consists of running, light weight training, walks with her dogs, Coco and Jack, and eating a healthful diet. She tries to drink a good amount of water, eat few animal products, avoid processed foods and those that contain high fat or sugar, and consume a good number of healthy grains.
She also prefers to exercise alone: “When you work out with someone, it tends to become a visitation, and I like to focus on my workout,” Boles said.
Boles ran her first marathon at the age of 48 in the Las Vegas (Nevada) Marathon, where she lived for 30 years. Since then, she has completed 12 marathons, including the Duke City Marathon. Boles even placed first in her age category in the Susan G. Komen 5K Runs for five consecutive years.
The bottom line, said New Heart’s Negrete, is “if you find something that you enjoy, you’ll stick to it – if you don’t like it, you won’t. Find something you like to make it fun.”