SEBRING - From the slow and steady to the "no pain, no gain" mentality, many are starting out the new year in a gym or fitness center with the goals of staying in shape, looking good and maintaining their health.
Watching the muscular Manny Espalda workout, there's no doubt that he falls into the serious no-nonsense fitness category.
At Fitness Factory 24/7 in Sebring, Espalda hit the weights in quick fashion Thursday, moving from set to set of triceps cable exercises to barbell curls, upright rows, a forearm rope exercise and alternating bicep curls.
"I'm hitting it hard at the beginning of the year," he said after a set in a forceful motivational tone. "Shocking the muscles, shocking the muscles." The 46 year old said he has been a fighter all his life, from karate and judo to boxing.
"Now I just keep in shape," he said. "Money comes and goes, but your health stays with you."
He works out most days, except Sundays, "that's God's day," Espalda noted.
When he wakes up in the morning he decides, according to how he feels, what body parts he will work on that day.
"Today, I said, 'I am going to do forearms, biceps and triceps.'"
Describing his passion for working out, Espalda said, "It's a fever."
Fitness Factory 24/7 owner Bill Westergom said usually by the third week in January he notices an increase in the number of people who want to get in shape after the holidays. Usually weight loss is one of the big New Year's resolutions.
Overall, he has noticed more people coming to workout in the last 12 months with an increase in memberships, which he attributes to an improving economy.
Seniors are the biggest growing sector at the Fitness Factory, Westergom said, as they try to keep themselves strong and healthy.
They don't do anything "crazy" with the weights, but they walk on a treadmill and do some cardio exercises and a little bit of muscle training, he said.
From the young to the seniors and the water aerobics to the leg press machine and treadmills, many were keeping active at the Highlands County Family YMCA.
After a set of barbell overhead presses, Lori Shellman said she is in her 40s and started working out in her 20s.
Her fitness endeavors include weight lifting, triathlons and obstacle course racing.
A couple a months ago she competed in an obstacle course race in Vermont, which included 15 miles up and down Mount Killington and a 35-mile course with obstacles.
It took about eight and a half hours to finish, Shellman said.
She was inspired to workout after seeing "the look" actress Linda Hamilton had in the movie "The Terminator."
Cousins Billy Sager and Luke Bateman, both 17, took turns performing alternate bicep curls at the YMCA.
Sager said they work out for "aesthetics."
Bateman said their workouts vary.
"Today we are doing biceps and chest then we do legs; Sundays we do triceps and then something else," he said.
Dave Scheck, 70, said he had plenty of "working out" when he worked for United Parcel Service in Michigan for 27 years.
Now a Sebring snowbird, Scheck said he got out of shape after retirement so he is back at the gym.
"I'm trying to stay fit and healthy for the rest of my life," he said.
He goes out dancing a couple nights a week with his wife at the Moose Lodge, which is good exercise along with his gym workouts, Scheck said.
He worked mostly on his upper body Thursday, noting that his legs are in "pretty good shape" from all the walking he did as a UPS driver.
YMCA Program Director Bill Mullen said the gym will "pickup" with more activity for about two hours starting around 5 to 5:30 p.m.
Commenting on fitness trends, Mullen said, "They come and go like spinning was big for awhile and then it kind of went to the wayside and now it seems like it is coming back in. The boot camps are doing good. The zumba is still pretty strong."
The Highlands County Family YMCA will have an open house 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday.