This is the first in a series of stories about getting fit and staying fit. Each story will highlight a different way local residents are choosing healthier lifestyles.
Sunrise was still two hours away when Kurt Jerner slid on his goggles and prepared to enter the Brenda Athletic Club pool on Thursday for his daily swim routine. The Turlock resident is regularly the very first person to dive into the gym's pool.
To Jerner, regular exercise is a personal commitment to his health - and one he takes seriously. Along with 20 minutes of swimming laps, Jerner also rides his bike and lifts weights six days a week .Rain or shine, no matter what.
Five years ago Jerner's doctor sent him to pre-diabetic training at Emanuel Medical Center. It was a wake-up call to the retired sheet metal worker and small business owner.
"He must think a problem is on the horizon," Jerner thought of his doctor's orders.
Before the diabetic class, Jerner had not exercised since having a hip replaced 11 years ago. He was carrying 375 pounds on his 6-foot-1-inch frame.
"It was a gradual change," he said of his exercise routines. "I started with just the bike... I just rode it as far as I could and then increased the distance. It felt so good, I added weights and then two years ago I started swimming."
Now when he goes to the doctor all he gets is good news. In fact, Jerner said, his doctor now teases him for being a boring patient. All his numbers are good - blood sugar, good and bad cholesterol levels.
It isn't always easy for Jerner to keep up the six-day-a-week exercise routine.
"I have hit plateaus. That's when I change (my routine) up," he said. "I've found that when you mix it up a little, it keeps it fresh."
The improvement he's seen in his health is what keeps Jerner on track with his fitness goals, but others find that they need something else to give them the motivation to keep on exercising.
Small groups mean more accountability
For Sherrill Hillberg and Penny Godwin the personal attention of working with someone trained in physical fitness and nutrition, along with the motivation and accountability of a small group environment, is the recipe for success.
Both Hillberg and Godwin are regulars at The Studio, located on Main Street in downtown Turlock. The Studio offers small group and private training, along with metabolic testing and nutritional training.
"I was not working out at all. I was very overweight and needed a good workout," said Godwin about why she started at The Studio. "It's kind of like getting private training with a lot of accountability. I needed that smaller group. They'd notice if you were gone."
Hillberg is an exercising veteran who remembers taking step aerobics classes.
"I've always worked out," said Hillberg. "I decided to try classes. At The Studio I get personal and individual attention in a class setting that's not intimidating."
Another thing Hillberg likes about working out at a studio is the frequent change in routine. Over the past two years, she has done indoor cycling, a triathlon class, TRX Suspension Training and Indo-Row.
Helping people stay motivated to make healthier lifestyle changes isn't just about exercise routines.
"Right about now, Carrie (Vilas, one of the owners of The Studio) starts doing these nutrition classes and seminars on sugars and all of a sudden I'm motivated again," Godwin said. "We recently went on a shopping tour of Raley's on how to read food labels."
Because The Studio mixes personal and health training with small group exercise classes, the business also draws in people looking for just the right component to compliment their personal fitness routines.
Ken Bethel has been a regular at The Studio since it opened in Turlock three years ago. He comes solely for the expert instruction in the Reformer Pilates class.
"I like the routine," Bethel said during a 5:30 a.m. Pilates class on Wednesday. "I can do this, go home and walk the dog, and then go to work. It's a good combination of strength and flexibility."
Bethel mixes the Reformer Pilates classes in with working out at a CrossFit gym.
"They're totally different styles," he said.
Whatever exercise routine one chooses, the important thing is to stick with it.
Prepare for workouts, bring a friend advises gym manager
Brenda Athletic Clubs' Turlock area manager Jesse Davis is used to seeing a sharp decline in gym attendance come March. This is a common occurrence in the fitness industry. Those who join a gym as part of a New Year's fitness resolution sometimes fall off on maintaining that goal.
This year is different, however - at least at Brenda's Turlock gyms.
"Both our gyms are still as busy as they were in January and February," said Davis. "People are just being more health-conscious this year."
Davis does have some tips for those who are teetering on keeping up with their exercise routines:
• Bring a buddy
"The best thing you can do is refer a friend. If you are exercising with a friend, you'll stick to it."
• Get a trainer
"If you never got an opportunity to meet with a trainer, do it now."
• Plan for workouts
"People don't prepare for their day. If you plan on going to the gym, pack a bag with workout clothes and put it in your car, you're more likely to go to the gym after work rather than go home and get distracted."