EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — Lee Anne LeCouter, of Mays Landing, is a self-proclaimed gym rat.

But like many others who make New Year’s resolutions to improve on health and fitness, she, too, has goals she wants to reach in 2017, and experts say it’s all about preparation.

Doing your research, becoming mentally prepared for a lifestyle change and getting help from a certified fitness specialist from the get-go can make all the difference for people looking to get in shape, lose a few pounds and stay healthy this year.

“It was nothing new to come here and actually keep working out, but it helps having somebody who has a clue of what they’re doing to kind of guide you in the right direction,” LeCouter said.

The number of health club memberships grew 24 percent from 2009 to 2015, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association.

Jodi Piereth, an AtlantiCare certified fitness specialist, works with LeCouter two days a week. LeCouter, a graphic design teacher at Pinelands Regional High School, makes it to the gym an additional two days a week to work out on her own.

“For a healthy new year, hit all the doctors,” Piereth said. “Get a well visit, schedule your mammograms and colonoscopies, get all the numbers you need. If you work out at a gym, but don’t know what’s happening internally, you can’t benefit from what you’re doing.”

Next, Piereth said newbies should shop around for gyms and get a feel for the atmosphere’s at each one instead of choosing the gym that is closest to home.

Every person needs to find the gym that caters best to his or her own needs, she said, whether that be weight loss, recovery from illnesses like cancer or injury, diabetes programs, improving cardiovascular health, maintaining senior health and other health needs.

One of the biggest recommendations from experts is to get a fitness trainer, even only at the beginning.

Nicolette Walker, certified fitness coordinator and exercise physiologist at Inspira Health Network Fitness Connection in Vineland, said she regularly communicates with physicians for clients who need exercise routines that fit in with a health condition, recovery or personal goals.

P.J. Ragone, fitness connection director and certified trainer at Inspira’s center in Vineland, said reasons why people may not be initially successful in a New Year’s resolution is because they weren’t mentally ready to make a change or because they overwhelmed themselves with their exercise routine.

“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle,” he said. “All the pieces are in front of you and you’re saying there’s no way to put it all together. The first step is collecting and put the edge pieces together to get a border, and then you fill in the centerpiece. You can’t change eating, exercising and lifestyle all within one week. You have to start with the little steps first.”

Walker said that includes when people get baseline tests to see what they are capable of. It also means knowing their personal health before setting foot on the gym floor so they can know what’s normal and not normal.

It also means setting up a fitness routine with a trainer that may gradually get more difficult as time goes by.

Ragone said with the uncertainty of the future of health care in the United States, it is all the more important that people make health their first priority this year.

LeCouter’s 2017 health goals include losing weight, gaining strength and staying healthy in everything she does.

“I’m not a child, back in my 20s. I’m creeping up toward almost 50 years old and I’m just looking to stay healthy for the remainder of my life, however long that’s going to be,” she said.

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Contact:

609-272-7022 NLeonard@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressNLeonard

Previously interned and reported for Boston.com, The Asbury Park Press, The Boston Globe

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