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11 Weight-Loss Secrets to Steal from America’s Fittest City

Minneapolis-St. Paul residents give us the scoop on how to get—and stay—in shape.


Congrats, Minneapolis-St. Paul!

The Twin Cities was just named the most fit metro area in the U.S. by the 10th annual American Fitness Index. The study looked at almost every health factor imaginable—rates of cardiovascular disease, asthma, and diabetes; nutrition habits and accessibility to local parks and recreational centers, to name a few. What the results didn’t tell us is how we can take these factors and act on them to create healthy, sustainable changes in our own lives. Here, a handful of Twin Cities residents share their secrets to a healthier, happier, and more active lifestyle.


First things first, start with a plan

When you outline specific daily goals and objectives for each of your workouts, even if you’re a beginner, those workouts are going to be much more successful. “In my experience as a personal trainer, I’ve learned that a calendar is the most effective thing for people,” Chris Freytag, 51, founder of, says. “We make so many decisions in our daily lives…people often get discouraged because they don’t know if what they’re doing is actually working. With a calendar, you’re allowing yourself to formulate a good, solid plan to keep you accountable and, ultimately, see results.”


Don’t sit on your bum all day

Staying active doesn’t always need to equate to long workouts at the gym. Reed Mosimann, 25, an associate brand manager for Alive Multivitamins at Nature’s Way, proactively fights the effects of being sedentary at the office by implementing small, deliberate activities into her daily routine. “I’ll use my standing desk or sit on a stability ball, walk to the farther bathroom, etc. Having a dog helps, too, because she gets me out into the fresh air every morning and evening for walks in addition to my regular workouts,” Mosimann says.


Ask friends to hold you accountable

We can’t always be our own biggest cheerleaders. “Pre-kids, I was a Vikings’ cheerleader, so working out was part of the deal. I could go before or after work, day or night, whenever. Now I have a family and a more demanding schedule so working out isn’t as easy to fit in,” Heather Krause, 38, says. “My workouts change constantly—that’s the season of life I’m in. I prefer working out in the morning after my kids head to school. I have a group of friends who help keep me accountable, which is my best motivation. It gives me time with them and if I know they’re going to show up (for a workout), I wouldn’t dare skip out.”


Map out a meal plan that works for you

If want a flat stomach, your meals aren’t going to be the same as someone who’s focused on improving their heart health. Nutrition looks different for everyone—the universal key is to stay disciplined enough to plan your meals ahead of time. “Every Sunday I do my meal prep. I sit down and write out what I’ll have for my lunches and dinners for the week,” Elena Katorosz, 25, says. “I’ll also plan if any of those meals will be eaten out. Then I give myself different snack options to have readily available throughout the day. My health is always in the back of my mind, whether it be a normal work day or when I have something social going on.”


Fuel yourself with as many plant-based foods as possible

Minneapolis-St. Paul will boast over 70 local farmers markets this summer, according to the Star Tribune. Find and visit your own local farmers market to grab fresh fruits and veggies before you start your weekly meal prep. “Eat as much produce as you can—it’s full of vitamins and minerals. Yes, you can take a supplement, but food should come first,” Freytag says. “If you eat a good variety of plant-based foods, you’re set—especially when it comes to weight loss. When your diet is mostly plant-based, you don’t have to count the calories. I’ve never heard anyone say, ‘I gained ten pounds eating apples or broccoli.'”


Turn your commute into a workout

Coffee is great, but the effects of waking up with movement are two-fold. “I love to start my day with some type of exercise—it gets my brain going!” Tina Bennett, 51, says. “My husband and I also enjoy exercising together. We both commute to work on our bicycles. I’m more of a fair-weather commuter but my husband rides to work year-round. We love the bike trail system in the Twin Cities.”


Switch up your workouts

Change up your routine by season or when you sense your body’s craving variation; you’re not only more likely to stick with it, you’ll also see better results. “I focus on one to three muscle groups each day,” Courtney Marshalla, 25, says. “On Monday I might focus on my legs, Tuesday I’ll focus on biceps and triceps, Wednesday my back and abs. I like to use weights and machines for different exercises. I do abs and calves every three days. I also do cardio three times a week, whether that be HIIT, getting outside and going for a run around the lake, walking at a high incline on the treadmill, or doing intervals on the StairMaster. I also really enjoy roller blading around the lakes in the summer! I love to switch it up.”


Shift your focus from your gut to your guns

It’s not all about cardio anymore. “I want to advocate for women getting involved in weight lifting and strength training!” Madison Spartz, 23, says. “I’ve been doing it for about six months now and it’s one of my favorite types of exercise I’ve ever committed to—I’ve definitely noticed muscle definition in my arms, shoulders, and back, which I love because I’ve never had that before. It’s also increased my confidence a lot. Weight lifting doesn’t have the same runner’s high that I might get from a long cardio session, but the changes in my body are so cool to see. I love how strong I feel.” Freytag agrees. “The idea that lifting weights will make you bulky—it’s so old school, but it still comes up. Here’s the reality: for 99 percent of us, lifting weights makes you smaller. A pound of muscle weighs less than a pound of fat. Pack in the muscle. You’re going to look and feel more sculpted, tighter and thinner,” she says.


Forget the myth of spot reduction and focus on the bigger picture

Holistic health and weight loss go hand in hand. “One of my wife’s friends recently asked me, ‘how do I get my butt bigger and toned?’ As a former personal trainer, I can tell you one thing—there’s no such thing as spot reduction, unless you’re going to invest in liposuction,” Steve Hawley, 41, says. (Hawley hails from 17 years of experience as former head personal training manager at Twin Cities-based athletic club Life Time Fitness.) “I showed her a few side lunges and exercises that would help her target that area—because you can definitely isolate certain muscles when you’re working out, but there’s no such thing as truly effective spot reduction.”


Don’t use cold weather as an excuse

There’s no reason why your fitness can’t and shouldn’t be a year-round commitment. Minnesota is known for its long, brutal winters—yet its residents refuse to use those chilly temps as an excuse for inactivity. “Yoga is something you can practice all the time. Hot yoga feels amazing when it’s cold out,” Brooke Toftoy, 37, says. “Our family’s also taken up Nordic skiing in the winter, so we don’t just dread going outside but actually enjoy it. My three-year-old son just got his first pair of skis in December! We also set up our bikes in the basement in the winter and have a treadmill. Before we had kids, my husband and I knew we had to make working out and staying active a commitment as a couple.”

Keep your eye on the big picture

“When I used to coach people, I would ask them to write down the top three most important things in their lives. I’d hear the same three things over and over again: job, family, and faith. Then I’d say, ‘okay, so, what is the one aspect you can change in your life to make all three of those things better?’ Your health. That’s the answer,” Hawley says. “Think about it. If you want to improve your relationships—at work and at home—guess what? You have to be around. If I want to be there for my kids, I need to be at their games, coaching, and staying active. I need to be healthy. If you want to improve your faith, you have to be able to pray, read, and think with intent. A healthy body is a healthy mind. Fitness is the golden nugget—it’s your answer to improvement across the board.”

Lauren Bettenga
Lauren Bettenga is an assistant account executive at Minneapolis and NYC-based public relations firm Spotlight Media Relations. When she isn't in the office, Lauren's passion for storytelling keeps her busy with freelance reporting projects. She is an avid runner and loves to spend any and every free moment with her treasured close friends and family. Lauren is a graduate of the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism & Mass Communication and New York University Summer Publishing Institute.

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