Makayla Grijalva | News-Bulletin photo

Health specialist, personal trainer and manager of the UNM-Valencia campus Wellness Center Victoria Crawford Perez said realistic goals and consistency is the key to meeting New Year’s resolutions.

As the new year approaches, resolutions to be healthier have begun to brew.

Instead of having them fade by February, health specialist and personal trainer Victoria Crawford Perez said taking small, realistic steps is the key to overall health improvements, not only in the new year but whenever you start or restart a journey to better wellbeing.

“We all have a goal for ourselves, whether that is just to move better in our daily life, picking up our kids or nieces and nephews,” said Crawford Perez, who also works as the manager of the wellness center at the University of New Mexico-Valencia campus. “We want to be able to do that stuff and be able to play with them. Or, say someone is elderly and they are looking for more balance and stability, being able to walk up stairs a little bit better.

“Personal trainers can really help anybody in every area of their life. We are always looking to help people in any way that they need it.”

Crawford Perez earned her undergraduate degree in physical education and later a master’s degree in sports administration from Eastern New Mexico University. Throughout the years, she has collected a variety of certifications within the health and fitness field from personal training and nutrition to yoga.

She has been working at the UNM-Valencia campus wellness center for the past three years, first being hired as a personal trainer and since moving to manager. She teaches a variety of classes at the center, like weight lifting, yoga and introduction to fitness.

“Benefits are almost endless when it comes to fitness,” she said. “But, if we do get ourselves to the gym, working out with weights or some kind of cardio, of course, you’re going to have the physical benefits of just feeling better — better heart health as well, but also the mental benefits and even the spiritual benefits of working out. It just helps the mind and the body just feel a little bit better.”

When sticking to something like a New Year’s resolution, Crawford Perez’s recommendation for success is a given — consistently.

“If we are currently not doing anything, no physical activity, you don’t want to shoot for seven days a week, two hours in the gym,” she said. “You want your goals to be attainable and realistic. Start small and you can continue to build onto those goals.”

The health specialist recommended beginning with 30-minute movement sessions anywhere from three to five days every week, especially if the individual is just starting or restarting their health and fitness journey. 

“A misconception is that we need to do way more than we actually do,” Crawford Perez said. “Some people think that you need to commit like an hour every single day to working out, but really starting with 15 to 20 minutes — 30 minutes would be ideal — everyday, something small. Those slow consistent things add up over time.”



Five tips for a healthier lifestyle

While a personal trainer or in-depth health plan is not accessible for everyone, Crawford Perez gave five attainable life changes for anyone wanting to adopt a healthier lifestyle.


  1. 30-minutes of movement a day

Crawford Perez said not every workout needs to be an intense one, as long as the body is moving. This can even take the form of walking on the treadmill, stretching or any other type of movement which suits you.


  1. Avoid processed foods

While grabbing fast food, or some pre-made meals at the supermarket may be easy, Crawford Perez said a homemade meal is almost always healthier than one ordered in a drive thru. Instead of eating something with a long list of ingredients, some of which may be hard to pronounce, she recommended cooking more than you need and meal prepping with the rest.


  1. Drink water as your main liquid

While sipping on soda, iced coffee or juice throughout the day may seem appealing, Crawford Perez said swapping those for plain water is the way to go health-wise.

“Our body is 60 to 70 percent water, so if we are drinking things like Gatorade or sodas, you’re actually consuming a lot of unnecessary calories through sugar, or maybe even some artificial chemicals,” she said.

However, Crawford Perez said people shouldn’t fret about the occasional alcoholic drink during a night out with friends, or their morning cup of coffee as long as water is their beverage of choice throughout the rest of the day.


  1. Get eight hours of sleep every night

“The average person doesn’t get enough sleep and we have all different reasons,” Crawford Perez said. “Shoot for at least eight hours of sleep per day. That’s going to help with cognitive functioning, body functioning and should reduce stress levels.”

Since sleep doesn’t always come easy, she recommends meditation in order to meet our daily quota for rest.


  1. Keep your stress levels low

While it’s sometimes easier said than done, Crawford Perez recommends implementing stress management techniques, such as breathing exercises.

She said holding onto stress affects our health in more ways than one. Not only does prolonged stress deteriorate mental health, but it also causes the body to hold onto weight.

“I feel like a lot of us are stressed out in our daily lives, whether that is just with work or obligations,” Crawford Perez said. “Taking some time out for yourself is just so beneficial. Sometimes we forget to even work on ourselves everyday.

“If we take time out of the day to be in the gym, doing something for ourselves, that helps with our mental stability and overall stress relief.”

Even if working out to relieve stress doesn’t sound appealing, Crawford Perez advocates setting time aside during the day to do something which brings happiness. It can be a creative activity — like painting, journaling or drawing — or something more social — like spending time with people close to you.

“A lot of time we forget that when we are caught up in work and family and our daily obligations, we forget to take some time out just to do something that makes us happy, even if it doesn’t relate to fitness, something that you enjoy whether that is listening to music, watching the sunset or calling a loved one,” she said. “Those little things add up to our overall well being and just feeling good everyday.”


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Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history.