Now that we have consumed enough bad food over the holidays to last us the rest of the year, it is time for the usual resolutions to lose weight and get in shape. I am always amazed at how many new faces are in the gym, even on a Sunday afternoon, the day after New Years. Every year the machines are over-flowing with bodies but usually by February or March it is back to the same core people who are there all year long.
The Big Leap
One problem I see is people trying to do too much too fast and they burn out or get hurt. If you haven’t been working out consistently all year, vowing to exercise for an hour a day, 6 days a week is only going to set you up for defeat. Try 10-15 minutes of some type of exercise 3 times a week to start so that you can just get into the habit. In the beginning, developing the habit of exercise is even more important than what you do. Move the body but don’t abuse it and you might start to enjoy the new activity.
In our quest for losing weight, we are told to exercise at a pace that allows us to carry on a conversation or we are training too hard. Not true. Yes, huffing and puffing is not as cool as gliding effortlessly on our elliptical machine or stationary bike but it will get you nowhere fast in the fat burning battle. Sprinting at 30-95% of your capacity on any of the machines for bursts of 10-30 seconds will get your heart rate up and you panting for air. That is good!!! It helps clean out your lungs, strengthens your heart, and makes your body burn fat for the next 16 hours after you stop exercising. Keeping that nice aerobic pace, where you can chat about last night’s TV shows without getting winded, will burn fat for the 20-60 minutes you are exercising but then makes your body store fat for the next 18-24 hours. It also makes your heart and lungs smaller over time because you are training them to be more efficient which means smaller.
Marathon runners are built for distance and have a slender body, small chests, thin less defined muscles in their arms and legs. A sprinter is built for speed and has a large chest filled with powerful lungs and a strong heart plus large well defined muscles in the legs and arms. Losing lung capacity and muscle mass are two useful indicators of how you are aging.
Up the Intensity
Warm-up for a few minutes on whatever exercise you like then increase your speed for 10 to 60 seconds watching your heart rate monitor. After that interval, slow down or stop exercising completely. If you were working hard enough in your intensity interval, your heart rate will continue to increase for a few seconds before it peaks and then falls. Now this program is meant for people who are healthy enough to exercise so no hopping out of the hospital bed for wind sprints down the hall! Start slow and work-up gradually in your intensity.
You should slow down or stop for at least three times as long as your intensity time. If you went hard for 30 seconds then slow down for 90 to let your heart rate come back down then do another set. Your goal is to work up to 8 sets of increased intensity in your workout. If your heart rate doesn’t come back down very much then rest longer. The key is to get that heart rate up and down over and over. If you are doing it correctly your heart rate will drop 10-30 beats in a minute after you finish your intensity cycle. The better shape you are in the faster your heart rate will drop.
If you are short on time you can get a good workout in 4 minutes doing any exercise as fast as you can for 20 seconds…rest 10 seconds…exercise 20 seconds, etc. Do 8 cycles of these 20 seconds on and 10 second rest and you will get a good workout done in 4 minutes. There is no need to spend 60 minutes in the gym. Only do your sprinting/high intensity workout 2-3 times a week and you will see a difference in a few weeks. You must use a heart rate monitor to do this correctly.
Why Exercise at all?
We all know about the high prevalence of osteoporosis in this country and that weight-bearing exercises help to reverse bone loss. There is another disease that also highly prevalent but rarely mentioned called: Sarcopenia (from the Greek meaning "poverty of flesh") is the degenerative loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength associated with aging (0.5-1% loss per year after the age of 25). Sarcopenia is a component of the frailty syndrome. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarcopenia)
You do not have to succumb to this if you continue to work out. My lean body mass in 1977 was 143 lbs. In 2004 it was 170 and in 2011 it was 177. That means I have 34 pounds more muscle at age 56 than I had age 23. Seven of those pounds came in the last 6 years in my 50’s. So when you hear someone say that adults lose muscle mass every year, know that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Diet is as important for getting fit as exercise and rest are. My favorite book on what are the proper foods for you to eat is the Metabolic Typing Diet by Dr. Wolcott. He wrote that we are all either Protein types, Carb types or a Mixed type. Based on a questionnaire about how you react to certain foods, we can determine what your Metabolic Type is and how you should eat. Protein types do well with fats and proteins like dark meat and fatty fish but not with grains. Carb types handle grains better and need low fat proteins like white meat and fish. Mixed types can switch back and forth between these two groups based on what they feel like eating. Your metabolic type can also be determined via hair analysis. We have the questionnaire at the front desk if you want to get one.
After too many holiday parties and too much holiday food you may feel toxic and need to cleanse. Many cleanses are not recommended during the cold of the winter but you can do the Repair Vit program for 10-30 days with no problem. It will help heal up your digestive system from all your past dietary indiscretions and aid your post-holiday weight loss. We can check you to see if you would do well with such a program.
We will be open for holidays like Martin Luther King and Presidents Day. Since it is ski season I may block a few half days here and there to get some skiing in. But we aren’t going on any big trips this month so call us and we will get you in.