Tips for getting fit for the first time in 2013

Twin Valley Family Fitness personal trainers Tammy Graef (left) and Jim Bramhall are available to meet with those who are looking for a routine that fits a healthy lifestyle. Photo by Justin Finneran/Tri County Record.
Twin Valley Family Fitness personal trainers Tammy Graef (left) and Jim Bramhall are available to meet with those who are looking for a routine that fits a healthy lifestyle. Photo by Justin Finneran/Tri County Record.

With a New Year soon upon us, there will be countless people who make – and unfortunately break – New Year’s resolutions involving exercising and taking better care of themselves. As many are fast to learn, what seems to be a small undertaking can be quite overwhelming to those who have never before been fitness conscious. This is where a personal trainer’s skills and talents can prove invaluable.

Jim Bramhall, head personal trainer with Twin Valley Family Fitness, has been a fitness professional since 1997. Bramhall has been with Twin Valley Family Fitness in Elverson since it opened its doors (and had worked for the Twin Valley YMCA) and also works for Harrisburg Area Community College training police cadets. Bramhall became involved in fitness while recovering from a job-related injury which threatened his mobility, and his study of anatomy turned from an interest into a new career. He holds dozens of certifications, including AAFA and ACE, and is driven by a passion to help people.

Bramhall does not prescribe to the ‘no pain no gain’ mentality, but instead focusing on instilling those he trains with an education of how the body works and the confidence needed to accomplish fitness goals.

“The body has 600 muscles and 206 bones,” Bramhall explained, “the job of the muscles is to change the relationship between the two bones. It is important to understand how your body moves. If you are educated you get the most out of your workout.”


Bramhall said that people who are taking up fitness for the first time in 2013 should make a plan, one that involves setting both short term and long term fitness goals.

“Write down your goals and dedicate yourself,” Bramhall explained.

His suggested formula is for a plan with three components: Resistance Training, Cardiovascular Training and Nutrition.

“You should vary between resistance training and cardiovascular training while watching your nutrition. Preplanning goals lets you track your accomplishments.”

One common misconception people have is that there is not enough time in their day for a work out. Bramhall dismisses this myth.

“If you are a sedentary person you can start exercising in ten minutes a day or less,” said Bramhall. “No equipment or weights are needed. You can exercise almost anywhere – one good place is during the commercial breaks while watching television. You can do knee raises, and they will strengthen your legs and core even if you just do it for 30 seconds. Once you get committed to 10 minutes a day and you will realize that it’s not too bad.”

He suggests that beginners look to first build up to a simple routine of working out five times a day, for ten minutes a day, for four weeks.

“Then you grow from there. If you create accountability then motivation will come from your success.”

Bramhall said that it is equally important to make time for exercise and find an environment that is devoid of interruption and distraction.

“The best advice I have is to find a time that works for you. Take your time and set it aside and let those around you know that it is yours. Everyone in your life will benefit from this. You (also) need to concentrate on what you are doing. Distraction is very disruptive. If you focus and ‘put your mind into your muscle’ it increases the effectiveness of exercise. This is why you should avoid distractions such as TV, radio, and headphones.”

When it comes to diet, Bramhall again stressed accountability.

“Write down everything you eat, because then you begin to understand where the unnecessary calories come from. There are 3600 calories (to) one pound of fat, so if you are able to reduce 500 calories a day it can make a big difference.”

He said that smaller snack-like meals a great way to plan eating when compared to fewer and bigger meals. For a typical man, eating 400 calories 5 times a day is a good average and will make for more efficient calorie burning.

When you do exercise, Bramhall said, you will lose weight equally throughout your body rather than in ‘target areas.’ So it is important to not become discouraged if you do not immediately begin to lose weight in specific areas.

Bramhall said that there are three changes you will typically notice, in the following order:

1. How you feel. At first you will notice that there is a gradual increase in your ability to perform daily functions (going up stairs, lifting objects).

2. How you carry yourself. You will notice that your clothes will begin to fit you better. This is because you are toning your muscles, which means that your body will have less fat percentage.

3. Weight loss. Healthy tissue weighs more than fat tissue, so weight loss is not going to come immediately. You may actually see no change or even an increase in your weight, but that is because first you are building muscle.

While gyms and fitness clubs are certainly beneficial to a fit lifestyle, not everyone will be comfortable exercising in public, especially when first getting started. Fortunately, personal trainers do much more than help people who are in a gym. Personal trainers will provide assessments and develop routines which can be done in the home.

“I tell people who are getting started to meet me for an evaluation. We discuss their goals and concerns, become aware of necessary precautions and discuss what changes can be expected. We can also develop an exercise plan for those with physical limitations.”

A popular option for newcomers is to buddy up with someone – such as a friend or a spouse – when going to a gym for the first time.

“Find a partner who motivates you and share the accountability,” said Bramhall, “partners make for really good motivation.”

Bramhall also shared his thoughts on an excuse commonly given by those who may think that exercise is beyond them – age.

“You are never too old to start exercising,” said Bramhall. “Muscle adaptation takes place at all ages. I tell everyone that you must commit to be fit.”

Those interested in contacting Jim Bramhall can call Twin Valley Family Fitness at 610-901-3373. Twin Valley Family Fitness is currently offering a New Year New Me and Buddy Up fitness plan, which includes a free binder full of useful health information and tips, as well as tools for tracking your fitness progress. Visit Twin Valley Family Fitness online at