By Rich Adams
A New Outlook on Fitness
Health is the new fitness.
That’s how Sarah Fechter, owner of the 6,000-square-foot fitness center bearing her name in Saginaw, describes what people should understand about adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
It’s not a matter of simply working out to improve your body image. Rather, she said, it’s gaining the knowledge necessary to live a healthy lifestyle.
“I like to coach people in a way that I can teach them how to coach themselves,” Fechter said. “I want to help them create a bank of knowledge, so they understand why they are doing something. It’s more than learning to do something, it’s understanding the why.”
Fechter wasn’t always so concerned about health and fitness. She was an athlete in high school, but when she went to college she gained weight. She stopped exercising. She was sedentary.
During her first year in college, her mother was diagnosed with cancer, and passed away three months later. Fechter had to find a way to grieve her loss.
“I was in a very dark place. I was lost,” she recalled. “I tried going back to the gym, working out a bit, and that became a big part of my grieving period. It helped me get through.”
She went back to college, but instead of returning to her major in secondary education, Fechter was one of the first students in the new kinesiology major offered at Saginaw Valley State University. She excelled in the study of human movement and the physiological, biomechanical and psychological dynamic principles involved.
“So many people go through tough parts of their lives – death, divorce, other stressful events,” she said. “I found physical fitness was an outlet for me. It released my stress. It saved me.”
That outlet turned into a profession. She opened Sarah Fechter Fitness in 2005, operating out of leased spaces in Saginaw. In 2012 she purchased a building, a former restaurant, and gutted it to the studs. She opened in the fall of 2012.
Her fitness facility is not like the Planet Fitness-style subscription gyms, where people use whatever equipment might interest them with minimal guidance.
“Most people don’t know what to do in a gym,” she said. “People go into the gym alone and they are already coming from a lifestyle where they are unaccountable for themselves. It’s a great effort, but they are usually not very successful. They quit and then they feel guilty. It’s a very bad pattern.”
Fechter also thinks most online fitness plans are ineffective.
“There is not any motivation. People are just doing exercises – and if they are not doing the exercises correctly, they won’t get results,” she said. “When someone comes to me, I help them choose something they will enjoy so they’ll stick with it and get results. If people don’t enjoy the workout they’re doing, they are just waiting for it to end. It isn’t effective.”
At her boutique gym on State Street, Fechter and her staff take personal care to ensure their clients are not only improving their bodies, but their minds and vital signs as well.
“The very first step to change your lifestyle is to change your environment. A lot of people turn to plans that change how they are eating and cut down on carbs or sweets and work out twice a day,” Fechter said. “People should chase healthy habits instead of fat loss. Once they become healthy – a good blood pressure, good resting heart rate, learn about proper nutrition – the fat loss becomes almost effortless.”
Another misconception about being healthy is the drive to build a perfectly sculpted body.
“Fitness over the years has been defined as having six-pack abs. It has been all about aesthetics,” she said. “Health should be about improving your quality of life. You benefit from it by sleeping better and living well. Michigan has been a bit behind on that, but we are catching up.”
Fechter believes in going beyond the fitness that comes with group exercise activities or the outdoor boot camp she offers at her center. She has a registered dietician on staff and employs a trauma therapist to help people going from obese to fit make mindful food choices and attain the psychological tools to maintain those good habits.
Fechter could take her health business to another, larger city, as some people have suggested. She said that isn’t going to happen because she loves the sense of community in Saginaw.
“The people here are like family, like blood. They supported my business when I started it and have stayed by my side,” Fechter explained. “I stay here because of the people. I have met friends at the gym. We have had people propose at the gym.
“It truly brings me joy helping people find confidence and feel good about themselves,” she said.
A Full Menu of Fitness
Sarah Fechter Fitness is a drop-in boutique fitness studio with qualified, certified health professionals. Drop-in classes are $8-$10. Events and seminars begin at $8.
Strength and conditioning: This class focuses on a variety of strength training components.
Barbells: Continuous cardiovascular barbell resistance training using moderate weights.
SPIN®: Sarah Fechter Fitness is an official licensed Spinning® facility; all instructors are Madd Dogg certified. All SPIN® classes run for 50 minutes.
Abs and assets: Trainers use a variety of training tools and methods to isolate the entire core and activate glutes.
Boxing: Designed to keep a high heart rate in order to stay in fat burning mode utilizing various types of equipment.
TRX®: Bodyweight suspension training; great for athletes (sport-specific training) and exercisers of all ages.
Going the Distance
Matt Frazier decided to make a life change nine years ago. He was nearing his 30th birthday and his wife, Heather, was pregnant with their son, Corbin.
Frazier, of Midland, had been a pack-a-day smoker for 15 years. He was sedentary and out of shape.
“I decided it was time to make changes,” Frazier said. “We were expecting our first child, and I realized I wanted to play with my son in the backyard and not be out of breath. I needed to take up new habits.”
He quit smoking and began following a plan, training for a 5K (3.1-mile) race.
“I thought running a 5K was amazing” Frazier said. “I had a lot of fun doing it. From there I started doing more and more and decided to see if I could do 10K races and a half-marathon. I worked to get faster and moved on to a marathon.”
In the ensuing nine years, Frazier has embraced distance running and Ironman triathlons, which consist of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.22-mile marathon run, raced in that order and without a break. He has taken part in a triple Ironman competition (7.2-mile swim, 336-mile cycling ride and 78.6-mile run). He’s run 50- and 100-mile ultra-marathons. An ultra-100 involves running for, in Frazier’s case, 19 hours and 37 minutes.
Frazier said while it took a lot of hard work to get into shape for ultra-distance running, anyone can make the decision to get off the couch and get fit.
“I try to get the message out that everyone is capable of doing amazing things,” Frazier said. “I was not a lifelong athlete. People have to get outside their comfort zones and find out what they are capable of. It is really cool to see people realize what they are capable of doing.”
Frazier suggests people who want to work their way into fitness start with a couch-to-5K plan.
“There are several plans available or free,” Frazer explained. “You can have an app on your phone that gives you progress updates. Once people experience a 5K, they realize they can take on a new path. Pushing yourself to do more is incredibly rewarding.”
Frazier does not currently follow a training regimen, as he did for his early races.
There’s an App for That
Matt Frazier says anyone can get in shape, and if that has not been a priority for some time, you might want to start with a couch to 5K app. Here are some of the apps available:
C25K (free version and $5 version)
This app spreads the training over eight weeks, with three workouts each week combining both walking and writing. You can play your own music while using the app, and C25K will instruct you when to warm up, walk, run and cool down. You can track your distance and calories burned.
5K by DayX ($2)
This is another app to get you off the couch and moving. The training involves three days a week of 30 minutes a day over an eight-week period. The training starts with more walking than running, and audio cues tell you when to warm up, walk, run and cool down.
Easy 5K with Jeff Galloway, $4
Olympian Jeff Galloway created an app with a seven-week plan that features tons of encouragement and other great tidbits to motivate you. The app has a beat-synch technology that matches the tempo of your music to your running pace. This app is only available for iPhones.
Taking a Dive
Scuba diving has become a popular sport and hobby in the United States, with nearly 3 million people certified to dive as of 2017, according to Statista.
While it would seem the constant movement involved requires exertion, scuba diving is actually a low-stress hobby because of the weightless effect of being underwater, said Keith Hintz, co-owner of Dive & Glide in Bay City.
Hintz, a National Association of Underwater Instructors-certified dive instructor, said while it helps to be physically fit, anyone who can successfully swim 300 meters wearing a dive mask, snorkel and fins can learn the joys of scuba diving.
“Diving is one of the top 10 sports in terms of burning calories,” Hintz said. “It isn’t through exertion but involves what your body has to do to stay warm. Water pulls heat away from your body, and you have to keep moving to keep warm.”
Another test of whether diving is a good fit is the ability to carry 60 pounds of dive gear. Hintz said an air tank weighs about 30 pounds and Michigan diving requires another 20 pounds of lead in a weight belt.
“That means you have to have the ability to carry 50 to 60 pounds of gear,” Hintz explained. “Of course, you won’t feel that weight in a dive because the gear is basically weightless when you get into the water.”
If divers feel their wet suits are a bit tight when they resume spring diving after a long winter, they shouldn’t worry that the gear shrank.
“By July or August your wet suit should fit better,” Hintz said. “You will be doing enough dives where you will lose weight and keep up a good activity level.”
For more information on Dive & Glide, visit diveandglideinc.com.
Prep for Scuba Diving
Along with having the proper and functioning gear for scuba diving, divers must also prepare with proper physical fitness training. Here are a few methods recommended by The Scuba Diving Resource:
Divers who maintain a good level of cardio respiratory fitness reduce the risks associated with diving and improve the overall diving experience. Examples of cardio exercises are walking, jogging, running, swimming, rowing and cycling.
Healthy body weight
Create a formula of calories in – calories out. This means eating the right foods – lean proteins such as chicken and fish, plenty of raw or steamed vegetables and a moderate amount of fruit. Try to consume 30 grams of fiber daily from high-fiber fruit like apples, bananas, oranges and strawberries. Also getting in enough physical movement from exercises like those listed above will help maintain a balanced weight for diving.
Divers often have to overcome obstacles to get into the water, and that requires muscle power. Resistance training includes weightlifting, working out with elastic bands and body weight movements such as calisthenics or Pilates.
Stretching is part of scuba diving, from putting on gear to putting on fins in the water. Exercises such as the standing hamstring stretch, lunges and shoulder squeezes will make it easier to zip up your own wetsuit without pulling a muscle.
Good-for-you-food straight to your front door
If you are too busy on the trails or at the gym to hit the grocery store, healthy food options are available from home-delivery plans that arrive on your doorstep.
Not all of the available delivery options are healthy. Shape Magazine and Well+Good found what are considered the healthiest plans among the crowd.
Best for vegetarians, vegans and plant-based athletes. Organic, non-GMO ingredients. Also includes information about the region from which the food originates.
Starting at $12 per person.
Offers Weight Watchers, Atkins and American Diabetes Association meal plans. Wide range of recipes to meet healthy, gluten-free or paleo needs.
Average cost is $15 per serving.
An on-staff dietician evaluates every meal to ensure a healthy balance. Veggie, USDA-certified organic, vegan meal plans available.
From $8.74 per serving.
Gluten-free, paleo, soy-free, dairy-free, and low-calorie options available. Emphasis on ethical sourcing of animal products.
From $10.99 per serving.
Healthy meals in two minutes or less. Meals are high in protein, low in carbs and contain no gluten, refined sugars or hormones.
Meals start at $11.50 per serving.
Some 95 percent of ingredients are organic. Their suppliers maintain ethical and sustainable practices.
Meals range from $10.49 to $14.99 per person.