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You only get one body

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You only get one body

Group exercise instructor and marathon runner Joan Tilton.


POSTED December 31, 2011 2:11 a.m.

Joan Tilton takes her own advice to heart.

“This is the one body I have,” Tilton said while talking fitness in one of her favorite environments - the group exercise room at California Total Fitness.

That understanding has helped commit Tilton to staying fit and healthy.

And taking care of that body is exactly what the 50-year-old group fitness instructor who also serves as Manteca’s city clerk has been doing for the past three decades.

Tilton’s mantra isn’t the typical lingo one might expect from a fitness buff. She doesn’t pepper conversations aimed at encouraging people to pursue an exercise routine with words such as “reps”, “muscle twitch”, and “VO 2 max.” Instead she concentrates on what really counts.

“I would tell people they’re worth it,” Tilton said of the time and the commitment needed to start an exercise program and then sticking to it.

Tilton will tell you there are times that she is feeling a bit miserable and doesn’t really want to exercise. But she does anyway and every time the end result proves her point.

“After I exercise it always feels great,” Tilton said. “The endorphins kick in and it clears your mind.”

January is the biggest month of the year for people to consider starting an exercise routine. To help exercise neophytes succeed Tilton has some advice.

• First - and most important - find something you like.

“It can even simply be walking,” Tilton said.

•Ask to try things first. Tilton noted all of the health clubs in Manteca provide orientations of equipment and facilities and often even provide the opportunity for brief trial memberships.

• Find something you can and will do at least three times a week for at least 20 minutes at a time.

“You’ve got to be practical,” Tilton said. “I’d love to exercise every day but there are other things I need to do.” At the same time, a minimum commitment is essential in order to derive benefits both physically and mentally.

• Give it three weeks.

“If people end up doing it for three weeks, they keep coming back,” she said. It has as much to do with your body adjusting, and getting comfortable as it is with starting to notice little signs of improvements in your health and fitness.

• Gyms are great ways to get encouragement.

Health clubs in general - In Shape, 24 Hour Fitness, Cross Fit,  and California Total Fitness - offer the camaraderie of other people working out either using weight or cardio rooms or else in group exercise classes.

• If you are more of a “loner” still try to find someone else to be an exercise buddy.

Tilton, as an example, suggests finding someone who keeps the same pace as you do if you’re walking or running.

Tilton even has advice for those who have been exercising for awhile.

“Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself,” she said.

Her two personal examples revolve around running marathons and taking advantage of a Cross Fit Gym trial membership she was the high bidder on at the Police Chief’s Ball and rolling it over into a paid membership.

She was taking a team marathon for the first time to raise funds in the name of a friend. Her training was under the mentorship of Charlie Johnson of Oakdale. The experienced marathoner laid out a training regiment which Tilton essentially ignored. She thought she could push harder and ended up getting frustrated.

“Are you ready to give in?” Johnson asked her one day.

By then she was.

“I figured since I exercised I pretty much knew what I was doing,” Tilton said.

Tilton followed the training regimen that Johnson has laid out. Not only did she finally start noting more endurance and mileage results, but she got hooked. She now has nine marathons under her belt as well as a number of half marathons.

Cross Fit is an entirely different experience. They pair members or combine them in teams to hit a circuit to build strength and flexibility.

Again, Tilton figured with 30 years and being an instructor “she knew it all.”

“It kicked my butt,” Tilton said of her initial workouts.

Tilton said it was worth it. Today she’s discovering strength she never realized she had because she challenged herself to try something different.

Johnson is one of two people who are an inspiration to her. The other is Dorothy Olsen.

“He (Johnson) ran marathons for years but then he got a degenerative nerve disease,” Tilton said.

That didn’t prevent him from entering a marathon with a specially designed “walker”.  He completed the marathon and beat a number of people including Tilton.

Olsen was a student who was in her mid-70s at the time.

“Dorothy would do everything you asked of her,” Tilton said. “Whether it was cardio, push-ups or burpees.”

Tilton used her as an example not just for new students who felt they could never do any of the exercises as well as for herself.

“She would always try everything and do it to the best of her ability,” Tilton said. “She never complained.”

As a result - Tilton noted - Olsen was stronger, healthier, more flexible, and fit - than most people 20 years younger.

And that is what she means by reminding folks they have only one body and that they’re worth the effort.

— Dennis Wyatt

managing editor

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