Yesterday, I shared A LOT of information about food. What you put into your body plays a huge part in losing weight - but it also has to be paired with exercise to really get the pounds and fat to melt away.
Exercise is another one of those words that make most people say..UGH!! There are very few overweight people I know that enjoy doing exercise. I know that I was one of them. I could barely walk from my car into the grocery store without being out of breath - why on earth would I want to do exercise? Well, the out of breath thing was the reason. I couldn't play with my kids, my knees would constantly hurt if I tried to push myself to do anything like walking around the mall, and forget about playing in a playground with 27 first graders!! As a mother and future teacher - these things are really important to me. I want to be able to take my kids to the park and play tag or soccer. I want to be able to take my students outside and have a good time with them on the playground....but how was I going to get myself to be able to do that? One simple word: exercise.
To effectively lose weight, you have to exercise. The best case scenario is to work out 6 days a week. You have to combine cardio (exercise that increases your heart-rate) and weight training in order to burn fat, and build muscle. Cardio increases your heart rate and gives your heart and lungs a good work-out. You increase air flow, oxygen levels, and burn lots of calories. Working with weights is what builds the muscle that is hiding somewhere under the layers of fat that have accumulated. As you increase the intensity of the weight training, you break down your muscles, and then the muscles repair themselves...each time getting bigger. As the muscles get bigger, the fat melts away.
Now, let's dispel some common myths:
Fat turns into muscle. That's ridiculous if you think about it. Fat is fat, muscle is muscle. One doesn't magically turn in to the other. As your body increases it's muscle mass, it burns fat at a higher rate. So muscle REPLACES fat.
Muscle weighs more than fat. Urm, how much does 5lbs of muscle weigh? How much does 5lbs of fat weigh? They both weigh the same!! Now, 5lbs of muscle takes up much less space than 5lbs of fat. So, as I've dealt with the past 6 weeks, there may be a plateau of how much weight you lose. That's because fat is burning away and muscle size is increasing - so the weight of the fat is being replaced with the weight of the muscle. I have still lost inches even though I wasn't seeing a difference on the scale - that's because the muscle takes up much less space than the fat that was previously occupying it.
Working with weights will make you look like a body builder. No, it won't - if you don't want it to. Weight training is imperative in gaining strength and muscle - and is the BEST way at blasting fat. Yes, your muscles are going to bulk up - but wouldn't you rather see the contours of the muscle replace the curves of the fat? I know I wouldn't mind seeing a 6 pack over the keg that I'm currently displaying. The more muscle you build, the faster your body burns fat. Healthier people burn fat at a higher rate, because they have a higher metabolism. Working with weights will help increase yours....so you need to do it.
So, what do you do every day? Well, just like I do for my meals - I make a work-out planner each week. I do 3 days of weight work and 3 days of cardio. I also do yoga 3 times a week, on the days that I do weight work - so I'm actually getting a little cardio in 6 days a week. Here's this week's schedule to give you an idea:
Monday: 7am- Yoga / PM: Weight work Upper body
Tuesday: PM: Cardio: Run @ Track
Wednesday: 7am - Yoga/ PM: Weight work Lower body
Thursday: PM: Cardio Blast DVD
Friday: 7am - Yoga/ PM: Weight work Upper body
Saturday: PM: Cardio: Run @ Track
Sunday: Rest day
Next week, I will rotate the weight days so that I do 2 days of lower body. I will also change my cardio and do the treadmill, stair stepper...or some other DVD.
Upper body weight work means I work my arms, shoulders, and chest. Lower body means legs, chest (technically not lower body, but I do this work-out with my lower body because it's easier on me) and abs. I alternate between days so that my muscles have plenty of time to rest and rebuild before they are broken down again. I use free weights and a home gym to perform all of my weight work. I start out doing a 2 sets of approximately 12-15 reps on a lowish weight to warm up (meaning a weight that is easy for me to knock out about 30 reps, but this is just to warm up). I then add weight enough to be challenging to do 12-15 reps. I then do as many reps as it takes until I can't lift anymore. I then decrease the weight, and do another set, and so on. I rest for one minute between each set. One thing to remember: don't limit yourself to a certain amount of repetitions. If you tell yourself that you're only going to do 12 reps per set - then that's all you'll do, even though you could do more. The point is to get to muscle failure - meaning you can't lift any more on that weight. You can count, but don't limit. If you are able to knock out 30 reps on a weight - then it's too low of a weight. You should have a hard time getting to 15..then you know it's the right weight. You start out with the heaviest weight you can manage, then slowly decrease each set...be sure to rest for 1 minute between sets. Depending on what you have to use will depend on what exercises are best. Some of the best are bicep curls (holding the weight in your hand and lifting your arm up towards you), dead lifts (having the weight on the ground and slowly lifting the weight up toward you), and side lateral raises (holding the weight and lifting your arms out to the side).
If you don't have weights - don't worry!! There are lots of exercises that you can do that use your body weight. Exercises such as sit-ups, push-ups, lunges, etc. all use your body for resistance - and help build muscle. If you have any questions, or need ideas on exercises - PLEASE POST A COMMENT!! It's hard for me to go into too much detail, as each person will have different equipment to use.
Cardio exercise is any exercise that increases your heart rate. Running, swimming, jogging, and walking are all forms of cardio. If you're starting out like I did, then the perfect exercise to get you started is walking. Yep, that's it, walking. Now, I don't mean stroll around like you're out enjoying the scenery - I mean putting everything you have (no matter how much you don't think you can) and power walking. What I did was go to the local track - it's about a 1/4 of a mile track (a little less, but close enough). I took my iPod, loaded it with fast paced tunes, and walked for about 20 minutes as fast as I could. In the beginning, that wasn't very fast. By the first lap, I was extremely out of breath and sweat was pouring off me. I didn't let myself quit, though, I just pushed myself. The number one thing to remember with exercise: PUSH THROUGH THE PAIN!! I would come home and feel so tired, my knees would hurt...but I felt a sense of pride that I had accomplished something I didn't think I could do. That was 6 months ago - and if you've read my blog, now you know what I'm capable of doing. If you haven't read it - then I'll get to that in a little while.
OK - so how long should you work out? That's going to also depend on your fitness level. Six months ago, I started out with 20 minutes of cardio three times a week. I really didn't do much weight work back then, but that's only because I wasn't properly informed about weights. If I had of been, I would of been doing them. Once I got to the point where walking for 20 minutes became easier, I increased it to 30 minutes, then 45 minutes, and then an hour. The key is not doing the length of time that's easy for you. You have to gauge a level that gets you to the point where you feel like you can't do anything else - and then add 5 minutes. Now, I try not to time myself - I just go until I can't do anymore...and then push myself that little bit more.
Oh, I hear it already... "I just don't have time to fit that much exercise in each week!" Yeah, I said the same thing. I get up at 6am, have to be out of the door by 7am. I would work all day or be in school all day and not get home until 5pm - then I have dinner, help the kids with their homework, do my own homework....who on earth has time to fit more stuff into that schedule? YOU DO!! I come back to my favorite words: routine and schedule. I never had time to work out, but I always seemed to have 30 minutes to an hour in the evening to watch TV...weird, huh? If you really don't watch TV in the evenings - then guess what....you have time in the morning. In three short weeks, I will be going back to a schedule that literally has me up at 5:30am, out until about 5pm, and then I will have homework, kids, all that jazz on top of it. How am I going to do it? Get up at 4am!! WHAT?? AM I CRAZY?? Maybe - but I gotta do what I gotta do. There is always time to work-out. If you are thinking "there's no way I can get up that early"...that's only because it's not your routine - and it's another excuse. If you don't want to get up that early, then stay up an hour later at night. YOU HAVE TO BE IN CONTROL!!! Remember me talking about the motivation and dedication you need? This is where it comes into play more than anything else.
That's it folks - your introduction to exercise. Want to hear how much it's made a difference in my life?
I started out barely being able to walk 20 minutes. Now, I am able to jog for 30+ minutes. I have participated in two 5K races since starting my journey. My first, I had to walk to whole way and was in pain for 2 days after the race....to the point where I couldn't get off of the couch. The second one I did two months later. I was able to jog more than half of it, and when I was done - I felt like a million bucks!! I spent the rest of the day after the race walking around shopping. I had no knee pain, no leg pain - I felt great!! Six weeks ago, I started a bootcamp workout class. Starting the class I couldn't do a single push-up, could barely knock out 10 sit-ups...and hardly had any strength. Six weeks later, I'm able to knock out 9 push-ups in a minute, 23 sit-ups in a minute, and knocked a minute off of my time of running a mile. I don't remember the last time I've had to ice my knee or felt any kind of knee pain. My knees were ALWAYS hurting...not any more!! Now that I've taken some of the extra load off of them - they are thanking me everyday. Exercise WORKS!! Not only does it burn fat and help you lose weight - it builds muscle, makes you stronger...and will help you live longer!!
Remember - every little bit counts. So, you might not start out doing 6 days a week...that's OK. Just do SOMETHING. Walk, do an exercise DVD, get on the treadmill for a while - something is better than nothing. If you have questions - ask them!! If you post a comment, and don't want other people to see it - just let me know. I moderate all the comments before they're posted - so you can ask me in confidence, if you choose.
Tomorrow, we'll take a break from "information overload". I will post some of my favorite recipes - to help get you on track with the types of foods you can, and should be eating. On Thursday, I will discuss suppliments - and how they can help.
Till next time. ;)