No More Excuses: 6 Fitness Pros On How To Actually Get Fit In 2013

UPDATE: This story was originally published on January 3.
Get in shape. It's the most obvious of New Year's resolutions, and those three little words have topped just about everyone's list of life goals at some point, especially around this time of year. After all, starting a fitness regimen seems extra-appropriate after a month of nonstop holiday feasting and indulgence.
And after adding that universal to-do to our own lists, we started to wonder if the city's exercise instructors, personal trainers, and yoga teachers were coming up with healthy living goals in January, too. So, we asked some of the DMV's coolest fitness professionals — from barre instructors to bootcamp coaches — to share their own New Year's resolutions, and their responses were downright inspiring. Plus, they spilled plenty of tips on how you (yes — you) can meet your goals this year. Take notes on their super-helpful advice, and we promise you'll want to lace up your sneakers, dust off your yoga mat, and get moving — and maybe stick with it past February, even.
Inez Sobczak, Fit-nez
Inez Sobczak taught her first group fitness class while she was still in high school. She now owns boutique studio Fit-nez, where she specializes in personal training, remote coaching and online training, boot camps, and personalized nutrition counseling. And when she has free time, Sobczak competes in marathons and trains for figure competitions.
What are your New Year's resolutions? Do you have any fitness or nutrition goals for yourself in 2013?
"As for fitness goals, I would like to turn pro in my respective sport, figure competitions. I will spend the next year focusing on becoming more conditioned, leaning out my legs, and continuing to bring a balanced physique on and off the stage."
For those who want to get in better shape, what are the most effective type of goals and resolutions to set?
"Brainstorm your goal, then narrow it down: A goal shouldn't be broad and unwritten. Get specific about your 'result goal' (to lose 10 pounds) and your 'action goal' (to exercise three or more times a week). Be specific and write it down.
Start thinking about the resolution: Process your goal now, so you can really think about measurable steps you need to attain the resolution. Perhaps start to journal, enlist a friend to be your buddy, or recruit a support system.
Line up support for your goals: Choosing a resolution isn't really hard — they're things we all want. But if you're planning on losing weight or paying off debt or quitting smoking, it's good to have support. Don't just tell others what you are doing — let them know what you need. It can be hard to lean on others, but finding those that can relate or want to lend support is helpful.
Share your resolution: Not only will it inspire [others] to start working on their goals, but it will also provide additional support. Let your friends know you have a plan to start training for a 10K; are dedicated to stopping your incessant nail-biting habit; or will be drinking eight glasses of water a day. And don't wait — get started now!
Download an app: There are plenty of mobile phone apps to help you track your progress. If you are losing weight or starting an exercise plan, try Lose It or Fitness Free.
What are some tips to help keep on track with fitness or healthy eating goals throughout the year?
"Avoid emotional eating. If you’re like many women who respond to stress by craving (and indulging in) fatty, carb-y comfort food, you’re not alone — but you do need to think about an alternative. Maybe it’s taking a walk around the block or taking a couple of deep breaths and not using food as the stress reliever. Munch an apple, celery, or carrots. Simply crunching these foods will help get some of your anxiety out without packing on the pounds. And plan ahead — this may seem obvious, but planning a week’s menu can make that week run much more smoothly. I sit down on Saturday or Sunday and pick three or four meals that I’m going to make throughout the week, go shopping, and have those ingredients on hand. Once I actually started doing it, my life was so much easier because I have my go-to meals. I know what I’m going to make."
Finally, do you have any New Year’s resolutions unrelated to fitness?
"I would like to spend more time with my family, particularly my nieces and nephews, and travel the world more. Nothing is more important than being a role model for your family members and getting to experience cultures from all around the world. Lastly, my resolution is balance — or what I like to refer to as equilibrium — in my life. I don't want to be just a great friend, business owner, or athlete. I want to find the balance at doing all things well in my life and maintaining a sense of contentedness."
Gregg Pitts, Sculpt DC
Gregg Pitts had the ultimate D.C. job, working as a White House staffer. But his passion for indoor cycling helped him lose over 60 pounds — and led him to a new career as a spin instructor. When he's not working as a consultant to a private jet charter company, he's teaching cycling classes at new F Street gym Sculpt DC, which specializes in both yoga and indoor cycling classes that incorporate core work and hand weights for a full body workout.
What are your New Year’s resolutions? Do you have any fitness or nutrition goals for yourself in 2013?
"For 2013, I'd like to diversify my workouts. I love cycling and could do it everyday; however, a balance is important. In the next year, I want to focus on CrossFit-type workouts and add in some yoga."
For those who want to get in better shape, what are the most effective type of goals/resolutions to set?
"In fitness, getting started is the key. Just start working out and eating healthier food. Set goals that are small, achievable, and measurable. If a person wants to lose weight, I wouldn't suggest setting a large amount. It is important to take things one step at a time and look at each workout and meal as a chance to improve your health. I lost 60 pounds five years ago (before I was a fitness instructor) and I started [in order] to 'just lose some weight.' Once I got going, I began to track and measure my results."
What are some tips to help keep on track with fitness or healthy eating goals throughout the year?
"Surrounding myself with healthy people is key. Plan activities and meals with friends and family who share your goal to live a healthy lifestyle. Also, with so many workout options, pick something that's fun for you!"
Do you have any advice for students who want to try cycling classes for the first time, but might be nervous?
"I remember that nervousness and intimidation, but eventually realized it was mostly me and not others. You are stronger than you think you are. You can cycle longer than you think you can. You can accomplish more than you think you can! Negative thoughts work against you — focus on what you can do, not what you can't. Don't be afraid to ask for help from an instructor; we are here to help!"
Finally, do you have any New Year's resolutions unrelated to fitness?
"To spend some quiet time alone each morning to clear my mind and prepare for the day."
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Photos: Courtesy of Johnny Khan Photography; Gregg Pitts
Natalie Davis, Embody Pure Fitness
As a co-owner of Embody Pure Fitness, certified personal trainer Natalie Davis does a little bit of everything. She teaches proper form for kettlebell workouts, heads up corporate wellness programs, works with personal training clients at FIT gym in Dupont Circle, and leads outdoor boot camps, including specialty programs to help new moms get back into shape. No matter what she’s teaching, she helps her clients build a strong core to prevent injuries — and all those lunges, planks, and squats lead to some pretty awesome legs and abs, too.
What are your New Year's resolutions? Do you have any fitness or nutrition goals for yourself in 2013?
"My New Year’s resolution for 2013 is to increase my cardiovascular endurance and potentially run a 10K, as well as improve on my work/life balance. Even though I am a personal trainer, I don't have the time to incorporate long runs and cycling into my schedule. I want to run or cycle at least three to four miles twice a week to improve my stamina to compete in a 10K."
For those who want to get in better shape, what are the most effective type of goals or resolutions to set?
"First, you want to focus on nutrition. You are what you eat! Even if you are exercising regularly, you can blow a workout with one slice of pizza or greasy French fries. You may want to make [it] a goal to do a weight-loss program like Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig. This is a simple way to take control of your caloric intake, portion control, and food choices.
Once you have the nutrition part under control (which is the hardest), then focus on the fitness goals. A great goal for fitness is to improve your cardiovascular endurance. Make a resolution to run a half marathon, or cycle a century, or complete a triathlon. Focusing on your cardiovascular endurance first will improve your heart and lungs and decrease risk for cardiovascular disease, or other chronic conditions. These goals will also take time to complete, which will keep you motivated throughout the year. Even joining a running or biking group will be a fun way to get in shape, while giving you accountability."
What are some tips to help keep on track with fitness or healthy eating goals throughout the year?
"Food and exercise journaling/logging has been proven to be an effective way to keep you on track with your fitness and eating habits. If you write down what you eat every day, or have a program that tells you how many calories and grams of fat/protein/carbs/sodium you are ingesting, then you will get that self-feedback system to help you make better choices. For example, there are empty calories in fruit juice, soda, liquor, and beer that we tend to forget about when trying to achieve weight loss. When you write down how many calories a margarita has, it may influence you to make a better choice for a lower-calorie drink, like a vodka tonic."
Do you have any advice for kettlebell or bootcamp newbies who might be nervous about trying something new?
"It’s good for your body to try new exercises. The idea of cross-training is used in many athletic and fitness programs, which prevents injuries and improves endurance, strength, and balance. But first, if you have any injuries, aches, or pains, get an okay from your physician or physical therapist before you begin any exercise program.
Kettlebells are the ultimate for strength, cardiovascular, and flexibility. But they can be intimidating, and form is key. The best way to start is by getting a certified kettlebell instructor to give you private lessons, so you can learn the proper technique before you join a class or train on your own.
Boot camps can range from mild to intense. You may want to pick a boot camp or small group class that can still give individual attention to each classmate. I teach many 'mommy' boot camps throughout Northern Virginia, and my classes have only four to five women. Each person gets to focus on their own strengths and weaknesses, and not get overpowered by the size of the class. Pick a boot camp that has a certified personal trainer who knows your personal goals."
Finally, do you have any New Year’s resolutions unrelated to fitness?
"I am seeking more work/life balance in my busy schedule and personal time. Since I work seven days a week at various hours of the day, I am trying to not to become so overwhelmed with my work life that I jeopardize my personal and social life. I would like to schedule some 'personal time' just like I schedule my work commitments, when I can visit different historical sites throughout D.C., museums, theaters, and new restaurants. I’d also like to acquire a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist [title] through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, which will allow me to become more proficient in athletic and performance enhancement training."
Noah Gabriel-Landis, District CrossFit
Noah Gabriel-Landis was so taken with the strength and conditioning program CrossFit, he left his career in the financial sector to become a full-time coach at District CrossFit. Now he helps athletes achieve their fitness and personal goals through a series of pushups, sprints, burpees, and other interval exercises that will make you feel like a badass. Get started at District CrossFit’s New York Avenue NW location or the new SW location, a 10,000-square-foot gym that opened this fall.
What are your New Year's resolutions? Do you have any fitness or nutrition goals for yourself in 2013?
"For 2013, I'd like to snatch 270 [pounds], clean and jerk 335 [pounds], and hopefully send a team to the CrossFit games."
For those who want to get in better shape, what are the most effective type of goals or resolutions to set?
"Whatever your goal is, try and formulate it in such a way where you can measure your progress incrementally throughout the course of the year. Take my personal goal, for instance: I still have some room to go before I get to the weights and numbers that I listed, but it's easy to track my progress numerically. If I add a few pounds to my lifts this month, a few next month, and continue to climb the ladder, it's much easier to stay on track. And even if I don't quite get to that 270 snatch, say, I won’t be totally discouraged, because I can easily see how far I've come.
On the other hand, say your goal is to do a pull-up. If you're not tracking and training the right way, there really isn't a whole lot of room between zero and one pull-up. It's pretty easy to be stuck at zero for a while and get discouraged, which is when we tend to say 'screw it' and give up. For the record, I think doing a pull-up is a great goal, as long as you're working toward it in a way where you can measure your progress without ambiguity."
What are some tips to help keep on track with fitness or healthy eating goals throughout the year?
"The bottom line is it that you have to figure out a way so that you enjoy it. If you think of your health, fitness, and nutrition as a chore, you're doomed before you even get started. Have you ever heard of anybody that stuck with any type of fitness or nutrition plan despite the fact that they hated it? Of course not. It needs to be a part of your lifestyle, not something on a to-do list. This is exactly what I tell our members. If you think of your personal well-being as a burden, then something is wrong — period. Nobody that we work with comes in day after day out of a sense of obligation. They do it because it's fun, and because it feels great. Your body craves things that are good for you. Crazy concept, right? I realize that this may sound like hyperbole to anybody that's fallen off the wagon a time or two, so to speak. I'm not asserting that it's easy to find this type of thing in your life — I'm just saying that it's possible."
Is there any advice you can give to a beginner who might be intimidated to try CrossFit? What can CrossFit newbies expect?
"We answer this question a fair amount. I suppose the best that I can say is that the vast majority of what you see of CrossFit through the media and via reputation applies mostly to the very, very elite competitive CrossFitters. Of course, the athletes that you see on TV or in magazines are the cream of the crop, but that by no means implies that you must have a certain base level of fitness or competency to begin. While every gym operates independently, the vast majority of facilities are welcoming of everybody. At our gym, we have elite competitive athletes, beginners, children, grandparents, and everything in between. And frankly, that's far more representative of the CrossFit community than any portrayal you're likely to see through any media. There's probably nothing that I can say that will completely alleviate a feeling of nervousness. But hey, the greatest room for self-improvement lies just outside of what's comfortable anyway, so jump in!"
Finally, do you have any New Year’s resolutions unrelated to fitness?
"Well, in a round-about sort of way, not really. My perspective is that fitness, health, and even happiness are all intertwined with each other. Any resolution I set will be related to at least one of those things. So in essence, it's tied to all of them. But for something less directly related: I've been saying for a quite a while now that I'm going to learn how to can and preserve fruits and veggies. 2013 is the year."
Photos: Courtesy of Natalie Davis, Noah Gabriel-Landis
Christine Kontra, The Studio DC
Christine Kontra’s yoga practice began as a way to avoid running injuries, and blossomed into a love for yoga’s physical, mental, and spiritual benefits. As a yoga instructor, she is passionate about helping students build their own practices, whether that’s perfecting their downward dog or getting into a handstand for the first time. She currently teaches vinyasa flow, power yoga, and workshops on everything from arm balances to mindfulness at The Studio DC locations in Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle. And in case your New Year’s resolutions involve saving money, she's also teaching 90-minute free community yoga classes in Capitol Hill every Saturday from January 5 to February 2, and all levels are welcome.
What are your New Year's resolutions? Do you have any fitness or nutrition goals for yourself in 2013?
"I want to do my first triathlon. I love running and cycling, but the swimming is really intimidating to me! This is the year to find a training group, get in the pool, and sign up for a race. Another goal of mine is to practice many different styles of yoga — especially yin yoga. Yin classes focus on a handful of poses that are held for several minutes at a time. The person who first said, 'It's 90% mental, 10% physical' probably did yin yoga. It's a completely different challenge than a vinyasa or power yoga class, and I always feel like a brand-new person afterward."
For those who want to get in better shape, what are the most effective type of goals and resolutions to set?
"Build upon things that you are already working toward. If you've been setting your sights on a particular goal over the past few weeks, months or even years, use the new year to add an extra degree of clarity or accountability to it. Lay out the next few steps you need to take, as opposed to focusing only on the end goal. Getting started is the toughest part, and once you are on your way, you'll be motivated to keep at it.
If you know you want to get in better shape or eat healthier, but aren't sure what to set as a goal, just start trying new things. Check out a new class, cook a new recipe, or say yes to something a friend has been trying to get you to do together. Commit to opening yourself up to new experiences, and you may find that the best resolutions will be the ones that find you.
Find a way to make it social and have a community to support you. If you know that you are going to see friends when you come to the mat, head out for a run, or make a trip to the farmer's market, you'll be way more likely to go. Having awesome, motivated, and supportive people around you makes a huge difference. I know that when I'm supposed to log five miles when it's chilly outside, or get myself to the yoga studio when it's easier to sit down and watch a TV show, exchanging a text message with a friend is all I need to get going. Make it your resolution to find a yoga or workout buddy, and you will have someone to help support your goals. Most people want one of these anyway, so they will probably be glad you asked!"
Do you have any advice for newbies to yoga who might be nervous about trying something new?
"My best advice is to have an open mind and go into it with the goal of having fun. It's easy to have a lot of expectations when we come to the mat for the first time — for the class, and for ourselves. Start with a beginner's class to learn some basic alignment and build confidence, and if you lose your balance in tree pose — it's okay! It’s not about being perfect, but rather about listening to your body and honoring what it needs that day.
For those who like a tough workout but aren't sure if yoga will be challenging enough, I would offer the same advice. I used to have this mindset years ago, but yoga has made me stronger than ever and introduced me to muscles I didn't even know existed. I recommend starting with some beginner's classes and working your way up. Doing power squats in the weight room is a great workout, but knowing how to do them properly allows us to get the most out of them and reduces our chances of getting injured — the same goes for yoga. Get a good foundation and you'll be rocking a Rocket class before you know it."
Do you have any new year's resolutions that are unrelated to fitness?
"Become street-savvy with my bike. Cook more at home and buy more fresh fruits and veggies. Do more writing and journaling — it's always so eye-opening to see what you were thinking days, weeks, months, or even years ago. Take time to sit around and listen to music. When I'm deciding how to spend my time, to ask myself if I'm spending it doing something I love and with people that mean a lot to me, instead of doing something just because I feel like I should. Be a good listener."
Christie Yang, Xtend Bar DC
Been wanting to hop on the ballet-barre bandwagon this year? Christie Yang teaches a high-energy class at Xtend Barre DC, a new studio located in Blagden Alley near the Convention Center. Xtend Barre DC is an offshoot of the the barre program at Georgetown’s Fuel Pilates, and Yang’s classes pack in strength, cardio, and flexibility training to help you get the most of your 55 minutes at the barre.
What are your New Year's resolutions? Do you have any fitness or nutrition goals for yourself in 2013?
"My nutrition goal is to not eat in front of the television. It's such a deathtrap! I am also trying to increase my protein intake during the day, and I have to admit that I would love to achieve six-pack abs by summer."
For those who want to get in better shape, what are the most effective type of goals or resolutions to set?
"Consistency and cross-training are key. I firmly believe in switching up your routine to avoid mental and muscular boredom and scheduling your workouts like they are any other appointment. Personally, in addition to Pilates and barre, I go to a great boot camp run by Ambitious Athletics with my husband in the early mornings. It's helpful to work out with a buddy who keeps you accountable. I also think tiny changes make a big difference: walking to work, walking to a colleague's office instead of sending an email, and trying to stand when you are using the computer are all great ways to improve your health."
What are some tips to help keep on track with fitness or healthy eating goals throughout the year?
"I think the biggest challenge people have is balancing a healthy lifestyle with the demands of work. I recommend trying to work out in the morning before work or, if you are working out in the afternoon, signing up for a class. It's just too easy to tell yourself that you are going to use the elliptical on your own — then you get distracted by your email or a happy hour invitation, and end up missing your workout!"
Do you have any advice for students who want to try barre classes for the first time, but might be nervous?
"Try it! It's a really fun and friendly environment. All the Xtend Barre instructors are Pilates-trained, so you can be sure you are getting a safe and effective workout. At Xtend Barre, we encourage all levels, and I love it when I see a new face in class."
Finally, do you have any New Year’s resolutions unrelated to fitness?
"I have resolved to be more 'in the moment,' which to me means making the best of situations and being thankful for everything I have, especially my awesome family and husband!"
Photos: Courtesy of Christine Kontra, Christie Yang

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