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Fit for All

Cape native—and nationally recognized fitness pro—Rebecca Pacheco says it’s never to late to shape up with exercise, diet, and healthy living choices.

Before she could even drive, Cape Cod native Rebecca Pacheco—Om Gal to some—attended her first yoga class in an old firehouse in Woods Hole at the age of 16. At 20, she started teaching others while studying abroad during college. For more than a decade, Pacheco has been spreading the benefits of yoga and a healthy lifestyle to a variety of folks, from Olympic athletes looking to prevent injuries to busy CEOs hoping to stay focused and energized.

Fit for All

Pacheco is a master-level yoga teacher and leads classes, workshops, and retreats in Boston and beyond. She has experience with Ashtanga, Iyengar, and Vinyasa yoga, has appeared in national ad campaigns for Reebok and New Balance, and is a brand ambassador for lululemon. An avid runner, Pacheco ran the Boston Marathon in 2009 and never misses the Falmouth Road Race. “It always falls around my birthday, so I call it my 7.2-mile party,” Pacheco says from her home in Boston’s South End neighborhood.

Beginning, or returning to, a healthy lifestyle is no easy task. Being productive at work, taking care of a family, and balancing a social life can push fitness and personal well-being into the background. To put fitness back in the forefront Pacheco offers some advice:

set goals. Make them manageable and measurable, and be sure to give them a deadline. For example, “I will run a 5K by April 30, 2013.”

seek support. A workout buddy, coach, trainer, or online forum can work wonders for your motivation. Someone with whom you interact face to face is best, but you can also feel invigorated by connecting via phone, text, e-mail, and social networking.

celebrate small successes, but not with food. Reward a tough workout or big milestone with a healthy indulgence like a massage, a piece of gear such as a GPS watch or heart rate monitor, or a fresh playlist to enhance your runs.

Nutrition and fitness go together—without one you aren’t getting the most out of the other. For Pacheco, the equation is simple when it comes to diet: eat fresh foods as close to their natural source as possible. “Always err in the direction of fresh food over processed and packaged stuff. Eating local and organic tastes best, and is most ideal for our bodies and local economies, but it’s not as readily accessible, so use your judgment and know what you are eating,” says Pacheco. “Get the cleanest foods available with the least amount of additives, potential toxins, and empty calories. And STOP drinking soda!”

Pacheco notes that a healthy lifestyle can begin at any age. For young people, finding a fun, social element can be the best way to start. Recreational sports leagues, a gym with a good vibe, or pick-up basketball all offer communal elements without drudgery. “A sense of community can be very empowering,” says Pacheco.

For seniors or people who have been inactive for a long time, it’s important to start gradually. “As the body ages, it endures more wear and tear, so it’s important to choose a style of yoga or a workout approach that builds fitness while preserving the body,” says Pacheco. One way to do this is by integrating nature, exercise, and routine. Walks on the beach or hiking through the woods are perfect ways to stay healthy while enjoying the beauty Cape Cod and the Islands have to offer.

Above all, Pacheco emphasizes, it is never too late to start. “Certainly, there’s a shorter window of opportunity for marathon running, but with lower-impact exercise, especially yoga, there’s a style that’s suitable for everyone at any age or level of fitness.” Exercise helps boost immunity and mood, learning new things keeps our brains young and agile, and for seniors, exercise can add a higher quality of life to later years.

Looking forward, Pacheco sees two emerging trends in the fitness community. First, she expects there will be a big increase in boutique fitness. More businesses are emerging who customize and specialize in very specific styles of fitness. These kinds of workouts are offered in an environment tailored toward that experience, rather than a health club or fitness studio offering diverse experiences under one roof. Leaders in this field include cycling studios, like the SoulCycle and Flywheel brands that began in New York City, and the latest influx in ballet-inspired barre classes.

Second, a greater emphasis on culture and community is emerging in the fitness world, where an exercise regimen doubles as a lifestyle or social outlet, which informs behaviors, eating habits, buying trends, and more. The yoga industry is one example of this, along with Crossfit and obstacle course races such as the Warrior Dash and the Spartan Race.

In the end, what matters most is finding a routine and level of commitment that works for you. “I am a huge proponent of finding what genuinely, authentically works for the individual,” says Pacheco. Whether it’s training with someone like Pacheco, or popping in a fitness DVD, workouts can fit into any schedule. New moms may have to sneak in a workout DVD while the baby naps, and a busy executive who travels a lot may have to get skilled at mini-workouts in a hotel fitness center. “A personal trainer, coach, or yoga teacher is an amazing resource, but the truth is that life may require you to get creative.”

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