Special Features — 02 July 2015
Yes, there’s still time to look fit this summer

By Deborah Wilker
City & Shore Magazine

While bathing-suit season lasts year round in South Florida, summertime – when we have the beaches almost all to ourselves again – is a time to reassess. Are we sticking with the fitness plans we may have set months ago on New Year’s Day?

Fitness professionals know better than anyone: There’s nothing magical about a resolution when it comes to health and wellness goals. Feeling your best has to be a year-round endeavor.

Simple tweaks like parking your car farther from your destination, swapping the elevator for a few flights of stairs and surrounding yourself with like-minded people can jumpstart any fitness routine.

In other words: Yes, there’s still time to look great this summer.


Idalis Velazquez is a Coral Springs fitness trainer, a brand ambassador for Target’s C9 fitness line by Champion, and one of five finalists in 2013’s “The Next Fitness Star,” sponsored by Women’s Health magazine. The wellness website greatest.com just named her “ivfitness” Instagram account one of the 25 most inspiring fitness feeds – right up there with Nike Running, The North Face, Misty Copeland and GoPro.

A former high-level track competitor, Velazquez, 31, had hit a physical low-point in her 20s after being sidelined by sports injuries and a health scare during her second pregnancy.

Exhausted from endless doctor visits and “hating how unhealthy” she felt, the former top-ranked athlete set out to reclaim her well-being. She now posts her personal training regimen online every day – at-home exercises that most anyone can follow.

“I got tired of listening to everything I couldn’t do, so I educated myself and found my own way to get stronger and fitter than before,” she says.

Velazquez says the best decision she made was shifting her focus to “getting stronger” rather than fixating on how she looked.

Recognizing that our “personal best” will shift from day to day, particularly as we age, also helped Velazquez let go of unrealistic expectations – a surefire way to doom any fitness plan.

 Her favorite tips:


Instead of concentrating on weight loss, focus on skills. “Enjoy the process of learning,” she says, whether it’s how to use a new piece of gym equipment or mastering the perfect squat.

“Change can be hard. Not everyone in your life is always going to be supportive. Stay on track every day by surrounding yourself with people who have similar goals.”

“Get out of your comfort zone. Even if you are unfamiliar with certain workouts, or you lack confidence in your physical abilities, remember, the more you do something – the more you practice – the more your body will respond. You will get better every day, but only if you practice.”

“Workout outdoors whenever possible.” It feeds the soul, she says.

“Nutrition is always the hardest to change. Not enough people view food as fuel. Think of it like this: The way we treat ourselves reflects how we feel about ourselves. Don’t put junk in.”

“When it comes to weight loss, always look at the small picture,” she says. “If the plan is to lose 30 lbs., start with 10.” Stay on course by boosting energy and confidence with small achievements every day.

Finally, if emotional eating and bad decisions are out of control, Velazquez recommends viewing the take-no-prisoners documentaries about Big Food and processed junk, Hungry For Change, Vegucated and Fed Up. These films “make us reconsider just what we’re putting into our systems.”

We asked three of South Florida’s fitness pros how to get moving quickly, how they maintain their routines – and how we can, too.

Dennis Payton, a former high school athlete in football and basketball, is a Boca Raton-based fitness trainer who is buoyed by his clients. “I love to see that light in your eyes when you get your goal!”

Payton, 47, still boasts rock-hard abs and chiseled biceps. A former restaurant manager, he had just a single client when he gave up a steady salary years ago to venture back into the fitness field.

He still remembers how “terrifying” it felt to relinquish what was safe and familiar in favor of striking out on his own in a new career.

“Sometimes life takes us down paths,” he says with a smile. So he’s very much a fan of leaving one’s comfort zone when it comes to fitness as well.

 Payton’s favorite ways to get clients on track quickly – and keep them there – include:

New start, new you. “Begin by putting everything you did before behind you,” he says. “When clients come to me with too much baggage, myths or just stories they may have heard about fitness, they tend to be weighed down by it and it hinders their progress.”

“Start with a fresh commitment to your goal. Sit down and really ask yourself, can I commit to this? It won’t always be easy. Make up your mind to do it.”

“Focus, like a laser. I can’t stress enough how important it is to stay focused. There are three major components to staying fit all the time: Nutrition, cardiovascular health and strength, brought about by weight and resistance training. Find out what you need to do in each area, and focus.”

“Be consistent. Just as you plan meals ahead of time, plan workouts ahead of time, so there’s no guessing. Know what you’re going to eat; know what your workout is going to be.”

“Have fun.” Whether it’s rediscovering a sport you enjoyed as a child or simply pairing up with a friend and a trainer who creates quick contests such as relay races in the park, Payton says that doing something other than repetitive gym routines can be the answer for many.

Payton also believes in the classic “one day at a time” approach that has kept millions of people who overindulge in food, drugs and alcohol “sober” for life. “Take it all one day at a time – one meal at a time, and one workout at time.”

Barb Thomas, who has a master’s degree in exercise science and is co-owner of the Orange Theory Fitness studio in Plantation (the busiest OTF location in the United States), is a former NCAA swimmer and lifetime athlete. Her approach to keeping the rest of us fit is to keep it simple.

The Orange Theory model – interval training for 26 class members guided by a fitness pro – is easy to follow and leaves almost nothing to chance.

Hour-long sessions include running or brisk walking on a treadmill, weight training, rowing and other exercises for strength and balance.

Routines are explained in advance and during the workout – and are also posted on screens throughout the studio.

Heart rates are monitored so you can see whether you’re pushing yourself too hard, or not enough. Members are also monitored visually by trainers, who gently make form corrections as needed.

Occasionally there are high-performance training weeks, musically themed workouts, weight-loss challenges, rowing and running contests – even classes on major holidays, so there’s rarely an excuse to over-indulge and just sit around.

Thomas’s approach to keeping things simple extends to her tips as well. She is a fan of the easy-to-remember acronym “BeFit.”

B. “Believe” that it’s never too late to make a change to your health.

E. “Exercise” hard. Sweat every day, and get your heart rate up to an age- and fitness-appropriate level.

F. “Find” a program with variety that will keep your interest all year long. Liking what you’re doing in the gym and being interested in it will lead to results.

I. “Include” exercise as one of your daily priorities four to five days per week.

T. “Track” your progress for continued motivation.

Finally, the experts say, don’t compare yourself to anyone. Stay focused only on you. “These are your goals,” Velazquez says, “no one else’s. It’s a unique process, unique to you.”



For more information

Idalis Velzquez: ivfitness.com

Dennis Payton, thedman68@hotmail.com

Barb Thomas, orangetheoryfitness.com/plantation





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