Plan On Getting In Shape In 2021? We Asked 7 Experts What’s The One Thing To Focus On

We asked health and wellness experts what their one tip would be for those setting New Year’s resolutions. Here is what they said.

'Tis the season for New Year's resolutions. If you're overwhelmed by setting goals amid an ongoing pandemic, health and wellness experts provide their one best tip to getting started. Courtesy of the YMCA
'Tis the season for New Year's resolutions. If you're overwhelmed by setting goals amid an ongoing pandemic, health and wellness experts provide their one best tip to getting started. Courtesy of the YMCA

Plan On Getting In Shape In 2021? We Asked 7 Experts What’s The One Thing To Focus On

We asked health and wellness experts what their one tip would be for those setting New Year’s resolutions. Here is what they said.

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The end of the year is typically when New Year’s resolutions are made. After months of holiday parties, overeating and plenty of reasons to stay home, many promise themselves that it’s time to to hit the gym, eat better and get healthy.

However, this has been a year when hardly anything has been typical, and New Year’s resolutions are no exception. Even as the first round of COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out, the pandemic isn’t over. Gyms remain limited in the services they offer, social distancing efforts are still encouraged and many workers continue to plug away at makeshift at-home workstations.

Instead of setting the type of far-fetching resolutions that may be impossible to reach or maintain even without a pandemic, health and wellness experts across Chicago provided some alternative insights for setting New Year’s goals for 2021.

From a plant-based chef to a yoga instructor and personal trainers, WBEZ asked these experts for the one tip (yes, just one!) that they would give to resolution setters this year. Here is advice they gave, which has been edited slightly for clarity.

Bollywood Groove
Ajanta Chakraborty said her high-energy classes are all about having fun. She recommends finding ways to bring that fun to resolutions, even when at home. Courtesy of Ajanta Chakraborty

Ajanta Chakraborty

Co-Founder/CEO, Bollywood Groove

Chakraborty said she founded Bollywood Groove in 2008 as a way to spread “awareness about ethnic dance and fitness” with high-energy cardio classes.

Prior to the pandemic, the studio offered about 25 classes a week. Chakraborty said she “pretty much pivoted overnight to virtual classes” when the city shut down in the spring.

One Tip: Do What You Love

“Make sure you find something that is extremely joyful for you. Because the group brings in a level of accountability, which is very hard to imitate right now. So you have to make sure that you find something that you truly enjoy. And, you know, something might be super intense and it’s like kicking your butt and you’re hating it, trust me, it would be hard to keep going at it for a long time. So go for the thing which you think might not help you lose all the weight or whatever your fitness goal is, but that you truly enjoy. And I think that’s going to be very important and making sure that you can stick with it.”

Heather Stevens

Master instructor, Studio Three

Ever since her days as a Division I cross country runner, Stevens has been sharing her love of fitness with other people. Stevens started looking for ways to stay in shape after college, which eventually led her to Chicago’s Studio Three, where she now teaches a variety of yoga and fitness courses as a master instructor.

She said the studio now offers classes via Instagram live or Zoom.

One Tip: Be Flexible

“I just think this year has really proven to everybody that you have to be your own best ally in this world, right? And so if we’re busy setting incredibly rigid goals, I think sometimes then that turns into like beating up on yourself or just feeling unnecessary negativity, because there’s just going to be days where something can’t happen. And if your goal was that every day you get a workout in and then one day you don’t do it, like you’re setting yourself up for a little bit of heartbreak when in reality, you can still be successful in a year like 2020 it just has to be on a way more flexible timeline.”

Chicago Paramount Personal Training
Alex Nsiah-Kumi, a certified personal trainer, says his work is focused on helping people to “move better and feel better.” Courtesy of Alex Nsiah-Kumi

Alex Nsiah-Kumi

Owner, Chicago Paramount Personal Training

Nsiah-Kumi has been a certified personal trainer since 2004. Originally, he set out to work with athletes, but quickly found that helping everyday people meet their goals was more rewarding.

One Tip: Set Attainable Goals

“I guess if it was just one thing, I say make it a SMART goal, which is make your goal specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time based. I’d say emphasis on attainable. Some people will have either unrealistic expectations as to what they can do in two weeks or a month based on crazy stuff you see on the internet, so I’d say the overall SMART goals is huge and making sure it’s achievable or attainable.”

Katie Simmons

Personal chef

Simmons specializes in serving healthy meals for busy families, with a focus on plant-based diets. Now, instead of going into her clients’ homes, she provides contactless deliveries.

One Tip: Find A Community

“Find your advocate, find your community. I just keep hearing it over and over how isolated we feel. But for me, staying motivated and staying on track is always about telling people my goals like, ‘hey, I’m trying to eat healthier, I’m going to lose 10 pounds this year, I gotta drink more water, I’m not getting enough sleep.’ Whatever your priority is, find those people in your life that are your advocates and your coaches, your cheerleaders and the ones that are going to send you a text and be like, ‘how you doing?’ Find that little community and put energy into that as much as your goals.”

Josh Siroko

Strength Coach/ founder, LIFT Chicago

Siroko, who focuses on one-on-one training, said he’s more or less been able to continue helping clients with additional safety measures.

One Tip: Change Your Lifestyle

“You need to set yourself a sustainable and attainable goal and change your lifestyle. Find a gym routine that you can really actually get to. If your gym is too far away, try to find something closer. If you’re trying to work out at a time that’s really inconvenient for you, try to find a time it’s actually convenient for you — wake up earlier, whatever it might be. Don’t make it easy for yourself to make excuses that can get you out of it. And honestly, I say find a personal trainer.”

Bare Feet Power Yoga
Robin Samples, owner of Bare Feet Power Yoga, said she encourages people to set small resolutions for the new year that bring them some joy. Courtesy of Bare Feet Power Yoga

Robin Samples

Owner, Bare Feet Power Yoga

Samples has spent more than eight years building her West Loop yoga studio. When the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily closed the doors of their physical space, Samples quickly transitioned to virtual Zoom classes in an attempt to maintain a sense of community and keep her teachers employed.

One Tip: Focus On The Possible

“I would suggest, keep it light, and focus on what you can do, and then do that. One example that I have, and maybe this like is or isn’t related to fitness, but I love it is I tried to set smaller resolutions that bring joy into my life. For example, I’m going to eat dark chocolate every day. Like that’s something that I feel like is accessible is tangible, and it makes me feel good. And it’s good for me, there’s a lot of antioxidants. Or if you look at like yoga, OK, I’m going to do five minutes of yoga every day or five minutes of fitness every day, like some goal that feels like you can reach it, that you can achieve it, that it’s fun, and it’s light and it’s easy. And then we can continue on with those resolutions throughout the year versus setting these huge goals that are more challenging to meet every day.”

Kenne’quia Howell

Executive director, South Side YMCA

Howell oversees operations at the South Side facility that offers a wide-range of fitness and health services. In the new year, Howell is setting a fitness goal herself: get back into the pool more.

One Tip: Just Start

“My one tip would be to listen to yourself. Just start, honestly. It doesn’t matter where you start, but just do it, take that first step. And recognize that yes, it looks a little differently now, but your body will definitely thank you. And you know you, some people see the mask as a barrier, but think of it as a challenge to yourself. If you just start and as you start, listen to your body and if your body says, ‘OK, slow down,’ that’s not a defeat. That’s you acknowledging that this is OK. Then after you take the next step, come back in here and take another one.”