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Let's get physical

Most of us fall off the fitness bandwagon as soon as the going gets tough, but Kerry McKittrick talks to five people who just can't stop training

By Kerry McKittrick

It's around early February that many of our New Year's resolutions start falling by the wayside. That healthy-eating programme may be marred by the occasional cheeseburger, the vow to stop smoking may falter with the occasional crafty drag on a night out, and for many people, that new gym membership may not seem as desirable as it once was.

Figures show that most people will stop going to the gym within a week and 70% of users will quit the gym entirely within six months. It's estimated that two-thirds of those with gym subscriptions never use them.

However, that's not the case for everyone. We talk to five gym-goers who have stuck with it, and found it's changed their life.

Carly Bell Age 23: 'I wanted to look good for wedding'

Carly is the owner of Bellaire hair and beauty salon and she lives in Belfast with her fiancé Ryan Hoey. She says:

I used to be a dancer, and I even toured with musical. However, since I was 17 I haven't stuck at any fitness regime. I've been to trainers who gave me extreme diets and I gave up quite quickly.

I got engaged in April last year and realised that I wanted to shed a few pounds for my big day. I asked around about personal trainers and a friend recommended Ian Young from MyGym in Carryduff.

Ian holds Monday and Thursday night classes called iFit involving high intensity work out training. I do those twice a week as well as a weight session with Ian. He also gives me a homework session.

I've been doing that for about four months. I've lost a stone, 10% body fat and two dress sizes but the funny thing is I'm eating like a horse. Ian gave me a guide to follow – he doesn't believe in diets – and because I'm following his training, I'm eating more than I ever have. Ian doesn't believe in depriving yourself of the things you like but he does show you the best things to eat and the best times to eat them.

I still enjoy myself and have chocolate and wine. I love the gym now and can't wait to go every time. I'm not even sore anymore because I train so much my body recovers faster.

I'm getting married in August and now I don't want to lose anymore weight. All I want to do now is get more tone. I'll certainly keep going after my wedding, I love feeling so fit and strong."

Kevin Kahan Age 55: 'It has changed my life'

Kevin owns and runs the Kevin Kahan hair salon in Bangor and lives in Donaghadee with his partner Paul. He says:

I trained a lot in my 20s and 30s but I never really got the results that I wanted. In my 40s I let my fitness levels slip. I was reaching my 50th birthday and I realised that if I made a few adjustments – just four or five hours of exercise in a week – then I could go into my 50s feeling that life wasn't too bad.

My posture was deteriorating because I was leaning over all the time in my job, so I started doing classes at the Pilates Studio on High Street in Bangor. That really improved my posture so I moved on to do weight training after about a year. I started off by myself initially but I then realised I needed someone to help me understand the art of weight lifting and make sure the effort that I was putting in was effective.

I started training with Neil McTeggart about three years ago at the Crossfit MCI gym in Bangor. He showed me that if you spend one hour a day focusing on certain muscle groups that can be very effective.

At the moment I see him three times a week as I want to challenge myself too. I've also added a bit of gymnastics like hand balancing into the mix.

I'm happy with the way things are – it keeps me focused and has changed my whole life. I think it's given me lots of positive energy which has helped me become Northern Ireland Hairdresser of the Year three times and I'm also in the Hairdressing Hall of Fame."

Ciara Maitland Age 29: 'I've dropped two dress sizes '

Ciara lives in Lisburn with her husband Stephen. She works as a practice manager for a quantity surveyance firm. She says:

I've always tried to be fit and healthy, so since my early 20s I've had four personal trainers who always gave me cardio based workouts such as running and cross-training. I never had much success from it and never felt particularly fit but I just kept plodding along. I did a few 10K runs too.

I always struggled with my weight and tried to keep that in check but never had much success. I never enjoyed exercise, I just did it because I had to.

My last personal trainer was just before my wedding and I did loose a bit of weight doing lots of cardio stuff. When I went back after my wedding though I wasn't very focused and my personal trainer suggested I take a break to think about what I really wanted to do. I told a friend of mine about this and he suggested I go and train with Rory Girvan at Hench fitness centre in Belfast.

I'd never thought of weight lifting before but I decided to give it a go. Rory suggested I come in for a chat and to find out what I wanted from the gym. I think the success of this form of exercise is due to the really good coaching – I would never have walked into the gym and tried to do it by myself. I see friends on Facebook saying that they have the DOMS – delayed onset of muscle soreness – that you get from using weights but that's never happened to me. Rory is a world champion power lifter so he really knows what he's doing.

I trained with Rory for about a year and a half and even entered some competitions. I came second in one dead lift competition.

Hench now do Crossfit classes, which are a mixture of aerobics, gymnastics and weight-lifting. I'm doing those which I'm really enjoying as you train with a partner which gives you more incentive.

I've dropped two dress sizes, which I wanted to do. I didn't realise how good feeling strong really is. It really carries over to your day to day life. I feel more confident and sleep better.

I started off training two to three times a week but now it's more like four to five. I look more carefully at what I eat but not in a diet sense. Instead I now look at food as fuel. I eat things that are going to make me strong.

I think more girls are doing this kind of training and everyone who has started it has really enjoyed it. My husband was worried that I would get really big and muscular when I first started but not anymore because he's seen me get smaller and toned. I have a totally different body shape than I ever had before."

Peter Cole Age 39: 'I joined gym to battle stress'

Peter lives in Greenisland and has three children. He works in construction. He says:

It all started three years ago when a new gym, Simply Class, opened in Whiteabbey. I had done a bit of cycling over the years but not on a regular basis. When the gym opened I tried some of the classes and that was it, I became addicted to it.

With the recession, things have not been easy in the construction industry in recent years. I used the gym to deal with the stress I was feeling. I found out very quickly that exercise left me more able to deal with stressful things and made me a better person.

Before I knew it I'd lost nearly three stone in weight. I feel so much healthier and it's a way of life for me now.

I do about nine classes a week – some days I do one early in the morning and then three in the evening. There's body pump, body attack, body balance and CXworx which is a 30 minute core workout. It's addictive but I just want to have as much fun as I can while everything still works.

It's a very mixed gym for guys and girls but they've just introduced a bodystep class and I'm often the only guy in the class.

One benefit of going to the gym is finding a new social circle of people who share your interest. Because of that you end up eating healthier and making healthier lifestyle choices. There are also lots of articles on social media about different types of foods. At the moment I'm trying to cut out sugar.

Quite a few people start off by joining the gym and then become instructors either part-time or full time. However, I'm happy just feeling stronger, both mentally of physically."

Michelle Morter age 41: 'I became Pilates teacher'

Michelle is a research manager and lives in Belfast. She says:

I didn't start going to the gym until I was 33. I had previously signed up to fitness centres for a year, then given up for a couple of months. Then I was asked to be a bridesmaid for a friend of mine who is a lot taller and a lot slimmer than me. I knew I couldn't do anything about the height but I could do something about the weight.

I decided to join a local leisure centre – I lived in Carrickfergus at the time – and started doing 10 minutes on the rower, 10 on the cross-trainer and 10 on the treadmill and gradually built it up from there. I was quite happy building up my time on the cardio machines and sometimes lifting a few weights. I then decided to start going to Pilates classes too which were available at the time.

I originally joined for three months as the centre had an offer on. I then took a year's membership out when I moved back to Belfast. The gym I found there had lots of classes like yoga and Pilates. It also had a gym and swimming pool so there was plenty to do.

I noticed a change quite quickly. After six months I had lost over half a stone. I was looking slimmer and definitely felt fitter. At that point I had gone from running for 10 minutes on a treadmill to running for 45 minutes. I had a gym buddy at work which was great for motivating each other. I also started going to yoga, body combat and Pilates classes which I love.

I then got a personal trainer. I knew I was getting fit by going to classes but I knew I could look better and more toned and that a trainer would push me much harder than I would push myself. The trainer would also tailor a work-out for my body and make sure that I did everything correctly. I trained with him twice a week and also did Pilates and yoga twice a week as well.

I don't know why the gym started working for me all of a sudden as I had never stuck at it before. Pilates became a firm favourite and the instructor, Neil Healy, was so good he made me want to learn how to be an instructor. That was not because I wanted to teach, but so I would learn how to do things better than I was doing them in class.

The course took me five months and included everything from method to anatomy and physiology. I'm now a level three Pilates instructor and have been teaching for about a year and a half. I now have one or two classes a week of my own but I still go to the gym for three or four classes a week. I think it's worked for me because I've been able to change what I do and I also enjoy all the training and exercise."

Don't turn gym into sweat shop

* Always wipe down machines after you use them. It's not polite to leave them covered in stale sweat.

* Complete an induction before you start using a gym. You'll be shown how to use the machines. They may be different from other gyms you've been in.

* Don't lounge on machines talking to friends – if you're not using them move on.

* Don't use your mobile phone, it's anti-social and can distract other gym users.

* Keep the sound effects to a minimum. Grunts, growls and throwing weights about doesn't make you seem strong and macho, it just annoys others.

* Wear appropriate clothing and wash it after every session. You might get used to the smell of gym gear that hasn't left your bag for a week, but the person on the next treadmill won't.

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