Summer is creeping up on us all. We are getting closer and closer to that dreadful day when we bravely take a collection of bathing suits into a changing room to try them on. When I ran a women’s fitness club, the peak periods for women running in the door and joining were New Years and the coming of bathing suit season.
What follows are some simple, smallish steps you can take to make that changing room experience a happier one.
Don’t Panic! – I went walking the other day with a friend who is out of shape and overweight. She went from zero to sixty and insisted, her first day out, on walking at a fast pace for an hour. She was huffing and puffing and red in the face and would not heed my advice to start slowly. You can guess what happened. She injured herself and is on the fitness sidelines feeling frustrated and a lot annoyed. If you are planning to start an exercise regime, begin slowly. Walk for, say 15 or 20 minutes and see how you feel. Maybe you can manage another 5 or 10 minutes. Or maybe you can’t. If you are huffing and puffing, time to slow down or stop. Before you begin, invest in some decent walking shoes that support your feet.
Just moving helps. Get a pedometer and gauge how many steps you take in a normal day. And aim to increase that. I tend to park at the back of parking lots and walk stairs. Adding
another 60 minutes to your movement a day can burn nearly 200 calories
Have fun and dance. “Fitness Magazine” recommends “Dance off the Inches: Fat Burning Jam.” Do it in the privacy of your own home. It’s less embarrassing than rolling up to Zumba and being out of step the whole time!
Weighty Issues – I don’t know how many gyms I have been into. But invariably, treadmills and ellipticals are packed while the weight machines are used mostly by muscle bound men, who sometimes grunt and groan. People seem to think burning calories is enough. Not true. Let’s talk muscle and fat.
We start losing muscle mass in our twenties and by the time we are around 80, we have lost at least 1/3 of our muscle mass. Why does this matter? Well, a pound of fat burns a few calories a day, while a pound of muscle burns up to 10 calories a day.
Do the math. Let’s say you weigh 160 pounds and 40 pounds of that is fat. The fat burns maybe 120 calories a day or 1600 calories a month. Let’s reverse that and say that 40 pounds is muscle. That’s up to 400 calories a day burned and up to 12,000 calories a month!
If you belong to a gym, hit the weight machines. If you are a novice, ask advice from staff. They are usually happy to help. Tell them you want to start to build a total body workout. Start slowly at a low weight that allows you to do, say 15 reps without straining. You should aim to weight train 3 or 4 times a week for 10, then 15, then 20 or more minutes. What I like to do is work the lower body (say a leg press) and then go to an upper body machine (bicep curls). Then alternate upper and lower machines. Start with one turn on each machine you are using and aim to build to two times on each of the machines. And don’t forget the ab machines.
If you don’t have a gym membership and you don’t have a clue where to start with weight training at home, check out two DVD’s that “Fitness Magazine” recommends: ” Build Up Your Muscles” with Gin Miller and “Get Ripped: Slim and Lean”. Check out the clips on YouTube before you buy.
The “D” Word – Dieting is easy. No,really it is. The trick is not to go drastic on yourself. That almost never works. Start by giving up the sugary Starbucks and then move on to cutting down on the chips and beer. Make little changes that build on one another.
Don’t let anyone sell you a bill of goods on this diet or that “system”. Aim to eat small meals often, say 5 or 6 times a day. Eat as much fresh food as you can (as opposed to processed food).
And pay attention to the fat calories in your food. One gram of fat contains 9 calories, while a gram of protein contains 4 calories.
How many calories a day should you eat? It depends on the sex, weight and activity level. The American Academy of Sports Medicine recommends at least 1,200 for women and 1,800 calories for men a day.
WedMd (www.webmd.com) recommends that a moderately active woman needs around 1,800 calories a day to maintain her weight, while a moderately active man needs around 2,200. And if you factor in the fact that to lose a pound, you have to take in 3,500 fewer calories, a moderately active over 50 woman on a 1,200 calorie a day diet would be able to lose just over a pound a week (600 calories a day times seven days).
Make a beginning. Go out for a walk. Find a friend to walk with you or download music or a book and listen to it as you stroll. Spend more time in the produce and fresh food sections of the super market and less time in the chips and cookie aisles. Rake leaves instead of watching TV. Just making a start will make you feel better.