(Editor’s note: The articles in our 2020 Health and Wellness special section were written prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. While some of the facilities and businesses referenced are now closed due to the current health crisis, they will be there when this has passed and we all return to our normal routines.)
BELEN — Every January, millions of Americans resolve to take better care of themselves in the new year through exercise and better dietary habits. In most cases, such resolutions don’t last very long.
Ryan Tafoya, a trainer at Elite Muscle and Fitness in Belen, who began working out at the gym as a high school student before becoming a personal trainer, highlights some of the simplest and most impacting changes a person can make in order to improve their health.
The easiest change anyone can make to improve their health is to get enough rest, Tafoya said. Adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep a night, which is a springboard that will allow for better physical and emotional health and set someone up for success throughout the rest of their lives.
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Personal trainer Ryan Tafoya said one way to feel more comfortable at the gym is to bring a friend or family member.
Cameron Goeldner | News-Bulletin photo
“Things that assist in leading a healthy lifestyle are getting enough rest, drinking plenty of water, exercising three to five times per week, consume nutritious foods and manage stress,” Tafoya said. “Those will have the most merit on the health of an individual.”
One of the biggest points Tafoya stresses is that physical and mental health aren’t separate from each other, but go hand in hand.
“If you manage your stress and are able to more clear-minded, it’s easier to make those food choices and manage your time so you can exercise,” Tafoya said. “It all works together; it’s about more than just being in the gym seven days a week. It’s about taking care of your whole self, the mind and the body.”
Tafoya advises his clients to do are to read, journal and, of course, exercise, which will help get a lot of the tension out of the body. Going for a walk, practicing breathing techniques are “four go-to’s,” and having a hobby and doing things that you enjoy are other good habits.
Healthy eating often feels unattainable for a variety of reasons, mainly the increased expense, but Tafoya stresses it doesn’t have to be expensive.
The primary foods he encourages his clients to eat are eggs, oats, a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish and potatoes and rice, which he describes as the good carbohydrates.
“People would be surprised to find that eating nutritious foods is cheaper than they anticipate it being,” he said. “Looking at it initially it may seem like it’s more expensive but it really depends on how organic you go.”
A less obvious way more nutritious foods can save money is because your body is not still searching for the nutrients it needs after a meal. Oftentimes, less food is required in order to feel full.
When asked to pick one food that people should look to cut down on in their diets, Tafoya said sugar is the No. 1 food that has the biggest effect. Long term, sugar can lead to high blood pressure and increased inflammation as well as other conditions, such as diabetes.
The most important point Tafoya stresses about exercising is that it is a progression.
“Many people set themselves up for failure by trying to start out going to the gym five days a week,” he said. “You don’t have to start out that way. Start out going once a week and get into the habit of making time for that. From there, you can start going two to three days a week and ramp-up to it.”
As for the gym anxiety many people face who feel its intimidating to work out in the gym — particularly when just starting — Tafoya said while it is better to be in the gym because of the environment it creates, there are plenty of online resources available that can help a person start to develop positive habits.
“Starting at home; start with body-weight exercises and utilize free resources for different exercises. In the information age, there is so much that’s available to us,” Tafoya said. “If you are able to make it to the gym, that would be better.
“There is something about the atmosphere change that puts you in the state of mind to make it easier. I would much rather see someone try to make it into the gym and try and conquer that fear,” he adds. “If you’re coming into the gym and knocking that out as well, it becomes a really self-enriching process. It definitely goes beyond the benefit of the body.”
Another way to increase the comfort level around being at the gym is to find a partner, either a friend or a family member to go work out with. In Tafoya’s case, it was his cousin, Paul.
“(He) started bringing me here when I was a sophomore in high school,” Tafoya said. “He helped me through a lot of things — anything I was going through in school I could talk with him about; we could hang out, we could lift.
“That really got me into the routine of it and is kind of why I do what I do now, knowing what that did for me at the time and the way it helped me,” he said.
It gave him insight into how to work with other people and how it could benefit them in a multitude of ways.