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By Lisa Browdy
Getting past those first gung-ho weeks of a new exercise program requires an elusive tool: motivation. There are no quick fixes in exercise, and it is not uncommon for some of us to give up when we don't loose weight or gain definition right away.
Making things harder still is prioritizing time for fitness when we are already juggling the demands of home, family and community commitments. Then there is that rotten catch-22 of exercise: we don't do it because we don't have the energy. And the reason we don't have energy is that we don't get enough exercise. What to do?
"I tried exercising on my own but it was hard to get motivated," said Michelle Eagher. She now works out four times a week with personal trainer Tommaso Sanna, owner of Oak Park Fitness. He often comes to her home to lead her through a workout in her finished basement.
"One misconception is you need a lot of equipment and a big room to work out in," Tommaso says. "With just a couple of tools and a good mat you don't need a lot of space." He brings some weights, resistance bands and medicine balls to his clients' homes, and utilizes whatever equipment they might already own.
Michelle's workout begins at 6:15 a.m., which is usually before her three children (ages 9, 5, and 4) are awake. The morning I visited to see Tommaso in action, all three were up and about, but Michelle stayed focused on her workout while the kids played nearby.
"Engage those muscles...right there," he directed her. "When you come up I want you to really exhale from the whole diaphragm." Michelle's routine included jumps, squats and weightlifting. There was one particularly challenging move that required doing push-ups with one hand on the floor and the other on a medicine ball, then rolling the ball to the other hand. Sometimes Tommaso would have her go back to an exercise she had done earlier, but this time with heavier weights.
"One set is to prime the body, then we go heavier," he explained. "We do circuit training, which activates as many muscle groups as possible."
In addition to providing guidance on the proper form for exercise, Tommaso also gives his clients a lot of education about food. "Fitness is so much about nutrition, it is important to eat to compliment the workout," Tommaso explains. "When you exercise you are breaking down muscle. You have to rebuild them with branch-chained amino acids."
After their workout, Tommaso accompanied Michelle and her kids to the kitchen, where she blended up a smoothie with fruit, ice, and a special whey protein powder that he endorses. A native of Italy raised in Barcelona, Tommaso has a background in culinary arts, and was once an executive chef in the prepared foods department at Caputo's. He teaches cooking classes and emails his clients recipes and meal plans.
After becoming a personal trainer in 1998 Tommaso studied to become a certified holistic health counselor at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in New York (the same program that I am in). This program trains us to help our clients make lifestyle changes that encompass nutrition, activity, stress reduction and even spirituality.
"Moms are the nucleus of the family, and when she improves her diet it inspires the husband and children," Tommaso explains. "And when the endorphins of exercise start her day, that is a natural drug like love, and the stress of that day will fly past her."
In addition to his home visits, Tommaso also sees clients at a fully equipped gym. This week Tommaso is moving his gym to Evolution Fitness at 711Madison in Oak Park. He recommends that his clients work out with him three to four times a week, and prices sessions in packages to encourage a commitment to fitness. "Every person will have plateaus, and it is important to keep things continuously moving forward."
Tommaso's website is www.oakparkfitness.com.