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FIT(ISH): Someone who loves the idea of being fit, but equally loves food


Fitness trainer Mary Ann Zandbergen teaches turbo kick and Piyo classes at Lynds Den Health and Fitness Centre in Bridgewater. The mother of three teenagers says she is in better shape at 45 than she was in her 20s.
Fitness trainer Mary Ann Zandbergen teaches turbo kick and Piyo classes at Lynds Den Health and Fitness Centre in Bridgewater. The mother of three teenagers says she is in better shape at 45 than she was in her 20s. - Peter Simpson

A regular at the Lynds Den Health and Fitness Centre, fitness enthusiast Mary Ann Zandbergen believes that what is served for supper is just as important as an energetic workout at the gym.

“It all starts in the kitchen. Paying careful attention to proper nutrition and what a person accomplishes in the gym go hand in hand,” said the 45-year-old married mother of three teenagers.

Zandbergen teaches turbo kick, a choreographed kickboxing exercise, and Piyo, yoga for people who can’t stand still, and who prefer movements a little faster than more conventional forms of yoga.

“The ages of the women in my classes range between high 20s to late 60s. All my ladies are fit. Some have been doing this forever, and all of them don’t want to become a burden on the province’s health-care system,” said Zandbergen, a Bridgewater resident.

Growing up in Chester, Zandbergen was involved in many individual and team sports, including gymnastics, soccer, track, karate and basketball. If a score was involved, she was likely into it.

Zandbergen was once a Level 2 volunteer firefighter in Chester and ran her own fitness studio before closing it last year when she returned to nursing school to refresh and upgrade her skills.

“I was a career nurse before, but I left the profession when I got into fitness training 14 years ago when my youngest son was born. My daughter was three and oldest son was five, so setting my own working schedule was better for my young family at that time,” said Zandbergen.

“I would like to work with the Victorian Order of Nurses and also do something in foot care, an area where there is a growing need on the South Shore, particularly among seniors,” she said.

Zandbergen said the stark reality is people lose muscle mass as they age, so we all need to do everything we can, including regular exercise and proper nutrition, to minimize the impacts.

“We must be able to at least perform basic everyday tasks and navigate stairs without assistance.”

Zandbergen said she enjoys teaching classes and working out at the Lynds Den.

“Teaching at the gym is much better than worrying about all that is involved in running my own business,” she said. “I come to the gym, teach my classes, then go home. It also allows me to focus on my own fitness level. I believe I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been, even during my 20s.”

Regarding my own fitness journey, I hit a stumbling block last month when the realization hit that my workouts were being completed in the wrong order.

Upon arriving at the gym I would immediately hit the treadmill, where I would walk slightly more than five kilometres at various speeds and inclines. Elapsed time would be 55 minutes.

I would then go directly from the treadmill to the pin-loaded weight machines. One day I would work on arms, shoulders and chest, then switch the next day to legs. But I found it somewhat tiring.

Following a conversation with Lynds Den co-owner Mike Lynds, I adjusted the order of my workout. Now I walk just 25 minutes on the treadmill when I arrive at the gym, but I have increased speed and incline. With half the treadmill minutes, my calorie burn is not much less, and I still work up a sweat.

After I complete the rotation on the weight machines, I have the option of going back on the treadmill, or the elliptical, for 10 minutes, followed by a cool-down period, before I head for home.

This seems to work as I am not hitting the weight machines fatigued, and can now do more reps.

During a recent interview, Lynds offered these helpful tips on weight training:

  • Begin with a positive attitude. Stress will negatively affect your goals and performance.
  • Set realistic short- and long-term goals. Anything that produces results takes time, often months.
  • Make a schedule and stick to it. Pack your workout bag the night before, so you’re ready to go.
  • It’s not how long you are in the gym, it’s the quality of your workout. Working in groups provides motivation, but too much socializing steals time and concentration from your workouts.
  • Instead of free weights, begin weight training with pin-loaded machines, which allow you to get the proper movement pattern with minimal risk for injury.
  • Warm up to prevent injury. It gets the blood flowing. If cardio is not your thing, try jumping jacks or light weights with more repetitions. Carry a water bottle with you and stay hydrated.
  • Listen to your body. Increase intensity only when you feel things are getting easier. If you are unable to complete the weight set properly, quit the set. Don’t count reps, go until your form breaks. That’s your body telling you you’re done. Don’t push yourself into the injury-prone zone.

Lynds elaborated on Zandbergen’s take on nutrition, saying this is an essential element to consider seriously during anyone’s journey to improved health and Fitness.

“Proper nutrition is key. Set a meal plan, and write it down. Prepare a nutritious breakfast before you go to bed. When you wake up in the morning, your breakfast is ready to eat, no excuses,” said Lynds.

“Muscle is your body’s furnace, so you have to feed it. More muscle means a bigger furnace, which results in more calories burned. Focus on building muscle first, then work on losing weight.”

Lynds said most people know their shirt and waist sizes, so if your shirt is getting tighter through the shoulders and your pants are feeling a little loose around the waist, that’s a direct result of training.

“Muscle weighs more than fat, so don’t despair if you notice the numbers on the scale are staying the same or increasing slightly,” he said.

Next up for me are exercises to strengthen back muscles, glutes and core. I would love to bid adieu to the unsightly and unhealthy spare tire a somewhat sedentary lifestyle deposited around my middle.

NEXT MONTH: Interviews with two young athletes, and an update on my fitness journey.

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