Editor’s Note: One in an occasional series of stories about fitness and recreation programs in the Ann Arbor Public Schools Community Education and Recreation Department, also known as Rec & Ed. This story focuses on Mark Harris, a personal trainer and fitness instructor who shares a lifetime of fitness experiences and why he feels having a fitness routine is important.
By Casey Hans
Personal trainer Mark Harris says getting in shape and staying fit is no more difficult than any other goal in life: take it in small bites and eventually, you will make it to the finish line.
He suggests that people just start at the beginning and move at their own pace. But, getting started is what’s important. “People are always looking for an excuse: It’s raining out. It’s Tuesday,” jokes Harris.
But on a serious note, Harris said he works hard to help his clients build the confidence they need to get started and keep going with a fitness program. “A person wants to feel confident in what he does,” Harris says. “We’re all in the same boat. You are what you are, you do what you can and you take these steps and you get better.”
“Everyone has a comfort zone – to improve, you have to go out of your comfort zone,” he added.
Harris owns MAH Fitness and does personal training sessions for Ann Arbor’s Community Education and Recreation Department and is also known around the area as a fitness instructor for Washtenaw Community College programs, as well, teaching at a number of senior and community centers.
On this day, he is working at Community High School, where staff member Chris Hicks has signed up for three personal training sessions with Harris.
Hicks works as the secretary to Community High Dean Jen Hein and she and Harris have a bit of camaraderie: He is a former Community High parent and Hicks knew him – and his daughter – when she attended there.
“I decided I’m getting too old to mess around anymore,” said Hicks, who has come to Harris to get in shape and find a new fitness routine for her life; she is in her second of three sessions with Harris. “I’m pretty happy about it – it’s putting me in the right direction,” she says.
Hicks says she also has teamed up with a Community High senior and they work out together at school. “We plan to walk in the spring,” she adds. “We’re kind of encouraging each other.”
As he does with all of his clients, Harris is showing Hicks how to work out on an exercise ball – all of his stretching exercises, and any “homework” he gives are done with this simple tool, which teaches strength, conditioning, flexibility and balance.
“I can work with a 92-year-old woman on the ball or with an experienced athlete,” Harris says. “It’s not complicated stuff. Your body has to find out what it can do. With the ball, the more you use it, the more your body will know what to do.”
Harris grew up in household where his dad was a football and basketball coach and he was the oldest of five children. “Exercise was just part of our daily routine,” he explains. “My goal with fitness is to teach people a physical activity you can do at home.”
Personal Training is a popular offering through Ann Arbor’s Community Education and Recreation Department. Rec & Ed offers the class for beginners through intermediate-advanced levels and makes it available for private, semi-private and in small groups of 3-4 people. The fee is $149 for three sessions ($179 for out of district residents.) visit www.aareced.com or call 734-994-2300 ext. 53233.
Fitness wisdom from Mark Harris:
“We all need to work out. It should be like taking a shower or brushing your teeth, like breathing and eating.”
His motto is “Life’s a journey – travel well.” Harris applies the analogy of moving a mountain one stone at a time to reach the goal. “It’s okay to start small,” he says.
“Learn who you are and work with what you have. Be honest with yourself. If there’s a goal you want to get to, work toward it.”
Don’t look at what others are doing – don’t compete and compare, Harris says. “You have to learn how to pace yourself. Do what you can realistically. The thing is to get going. Keep going.”
“Everything comes from the core… You strengthen that core and you will be set.”