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Shape Up: Remember -- getting in shape is for life, not just a New Year's resolution

The start of January is usually the trigger for people to shape up and shift the excess pounds they've gained the previous year. It's often a rash decision, motivated by guilt at having eaten too many mince pies over Christmas!

So how will you go about achieving this goal? Perhaps you're one of the many who feel intimidated by the prospect of gyms. Maybe you think: they're not for people like me; they're too intimidating; they're only suitable for extremely fit or body-building types.

Well you're wrong. The reality is that all kinds of people go to the gym for all kinds of reasons. The fact of the matter is that everyone has different goals: to be fit, increase our energy levels, lose weight. Plus, at different stages in our lives, our goals will vary.

Sometimes we get knocked down, but each time we must get back up again and keep moving forward towards our goal.

In this article I want to introduce you to some of our clients at BFit4Life to show how fitness isn't only for a certain type of person or age group.

To show how the gym means different things to different people, below are seven ages of gym-goer -- teens, twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties and seventies.

These people are on the journey you are about to embark on and their goals, like yours, will vary depending on what decade of your life you are in.


Andrew Spring (15)

Our teenagers today are less active than they were 20 years ago thanks in part to the swing towards indoor activities like computer games. Yet their bodies are bubbling with testosterone and that is the perfect raw material for growing muscle and using pent-up energy.

One of our youngest clients is 15-year-old Andrew Spring. He wasn't enjoying playing sports at school and so was becoming fairly inactive.

While some large gyms do have special teen zones, putting a kid on a treadmill is like putting a hamster on wheel -- the equipment does nothing to enthuse them.

Children and young teenagers need variety in their training to keep them interested and so Andrew's mother recommended he come to us to give him some focus.

"Before I started training, shopping was no fun," Andrew says. "I could never find clothes for my age that would fit me; I also found that my fitness was very poor. I was sceptical about being able to fully commit to training regularly but so far so good.

"I've had to give up all flour-based products such as bread, pasta and biscuits. I lost about two stone in the first three months and I am continuing to lose weight as the time goes on.

"It's been hard but it is completely worth it when you get your results."


Damhan Scully (23)

Damhan has been training since 2006.

"When I first started I had one goal and it was purely cosmetic -- I was underweight and wanted to change that fact," he says.

"The longer I'm at it, though, the more I realise that changing your body shape really only comprises a fraction of the gym's worth. Other side effects include increased confidence and productivity, discipline, work ethic, strength of body and mind -- spending time training has taught me a lot about what I'm capable of."

Another impact it's had on Damhan is that he's now decided to redirect his career towards the area of health and fitness and is currently studying for a BSc in Nutraceuticals at DIT.

Because he is a student, Damhan's training can be affected by his workload. If exams are on then most of his free time is spent studying and prepping for the upcoming exams.

"When this is the case I'll train no less than three days and will sometimes do stretching twice a week to supplement my training.

"When exams are not on I'll train five times a week, sometimes twice a day."


Carmel McLoughlin (35)

Carmel is a project manager with Intel. She started training with us about six months ago in a bid to tone up, look and feel better.

"Prior to that I had been a member of a number of gyms, but never really pushed myself. I never did much more than short durations on the treadmill and spent a lot of time in the jacuzzi and sauna.

"I've now gone from sporadic visits to going four or five times per week. I've even surprised myself by getting to the gym at 6am on some week days and 8am on Saturdays -- times I never would have dreamt of going before, and I actually enjoy it.

"I thought I had a healthy diet! It included plenty of fruit, dairy, meat, sweet treats a few times a week. But I had a tendency to skip meals and replace them with something convenient on the go.

"I didn't concentrate on what nutrients were making up my meals or the frequency at which I ate or drank water."

Starting out, Carmel was unsure about whether she'd be able to stick to eating the right foods and train consistently.

"This was something really different for me. I had never done weight training before so I knew I'd find it tough.

"The biggest obstacles for me were planning and organising everything. This included food shopping for the right foods, organising to bring lunches/snacks to work with me and being really disciplined to attend training sessions given I've a busy job.

"I also have a tendency to do things that I like doing and am good at, so learning new exercises that were tough and that I wasn't so good at was a challenge.

"For the first few weeks, I really didn't like it. Just when I thought I was getting good at something, it got tougher. I've lost 10kg of body weight (64kg to 54kg) and reduced my body fat from 28pc to 16.4pc -- just 0.4pc from where I want to be," says Carmel.

"Honestly, this is probably one of the best things I've done in the last few years."


Jan Kelly (47)

Jan is a chartered accountant and is also a personal trainer.

Jan was active during her teenage years and in her 20s she kept fit by playing hockey. However this came to an end when she was 29, when her first child was born.

"This was the end of my hockey career and the beginning of my gym life," she says.

Jan went to the gym between pregnancies but became quite ill on the birth of her second child. This meant that the gym didn't really feature much throughout her thirties and it wasn't until she hit 40 that she picked up the reins again.

"I was about two stone overweight, constantly tired, with very little energy to work and look after my three kids. My eating habits were poor and my hydration levels terrible.

"I decided that personal training was necessary to get me back into shape. I had tried it on my own, slogging it out on the treadmill. I lost about half a stone and then nothing.

"I had never weight trained before. When Damien first introduced me to weights I found it hard to believe that this type of training would help me lose weight. I fought many a battle with him on this issue but anybody who knows him understands that there are some battles you will never win.

"I used to work out six times a week," says Jan, "but now I probably train four to five times a week -- I have learnt to train smarter.

"Seven years on I am an avid fan of weight training, so much so that I have completed a host of fitness qualifications and I now work with Damien in BFit4Life as a personal trainer."


Lucy Moloney (50)

Lucy was a competitive athlete in her twenties. A few years ago she got vertigo, which left her insecure, anxious and unable to do basic tasks such as shopping and collecting her children from school.

"I got recommended to go to Anthony Geoghegan, a neuromuscular therapist, who after a few months of very intense treatment suggested I get to a gym and get strong again," she says.

"I overcame my anxiety as Damien and his team was always on hand to help and encourage me. My life suddenly changed and every day I looked forward again to getting out and training.

"Damien said how important it is to have a goal and when I said my dream would be to run a race again he said brilliant, let's do it.

"I've since run in three, which I really enjoyed and even got a bit competitive.

"I turned 50 last May and never felt so healthy and good about myself."


Tom Metcalfe (62)

Tom works as a project director for an American engineering and construction company, a highly stressful environment.

"My involvement in fitness started in school and continued through my late teens and early twenties where I played ice hockey at national and international level.

"Learning to swim in my early forties gave me the opportunity to start doing triathlons.

"Most of the sports I was involved with required an overall fitness level, which drew me into the gym, where I took part in spinning classes and some initial weight training."

Tom took up skiing when he was in his early fifties, and soon realised that if he wanted to progress he'd need to get stronger, "which led me to Damien".

Since then Tom has had a combined heart-valve replacement and liver transplant surgery, so now his focus is to rehabilitate his body and rebuild his strength.

"Training has given me greater confidence -- life after a transplant is no different to anyone else my age."


Tony Twomey (76)

Tony is a retired solicitor.

"As I was reared on a farm, physical activity was the norm and in the absence of TV and cinema, recreation consisted of football, hurling and other outdoor activities," says Tony.

"From secondary school onwards rugby took over until, at the age of 38, professional and family considerations nipped a promising career in the bud.

"Jogging then filled the exercise void and there was a wonderful four-mile cross-country circuit around Belfield (before the university spread its wings), which many of us enjoyed on a regular basis.

A normal week for Tony these days involves "about five gym sessions with a bit of walking and some bad golf".

"Gym work consists of 50-60 minutes of mixed exercises which gives a great feeling of physical and mental well-being (not to mention self-righteousness) and helps one cope all the better with one's workload and the challenges of everyday life, particularly in the current climate.

"I believe exercise is one of the main ingredients of a healthy existence and helps to keep advancing years in check. In that spirit I hope to put a few more miles on the clock!"

Health & Living