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Transcript

Women's Fitness and the Moving Crew

With Special Guest Melissa Johnson, Executive Director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness
Washington Post Health Staff
Thursday, September 16, 2004; 11:00 AM

You need to get moving.

Let's face it, we all do -- not to claim boasting rights in the gym or look good in a Speedo (you don't) -- but to boost our chances of staying healthy and energetic, regardless of age and athletic ability.

The Moving Crew is not aimed at health faddists, body builders or extreme athletes. But if you're a harried deskjockey trying to find creative ways to squeeze in exercise, a senior looking to stay active or a workout enthusiast whose routine's gone flat, you might find the answers here.


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Readers Are Talking About...

Each week the Crew will explore some facet of fitness from the inevitable new trends to the latest research and offer ways to overcome the excuses that keep so many of us desk- and sofa-bound.

A transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

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John Briley: Welcome to another edition of the Moving Crew. Today's chat falls serendipitously on the one-year anniversary of the Crew, so happy birthday to us, and many thanks to all of you for making this chat and our print column a success!

Aside from this week's featured hurricanes (Ivan and Jeanne) we are delighted to welcome a very special guest, Melissa Johnson, executive director of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. Melissa will field questions on women's fitness, federal programs to get and keep people in shape and - along with Craig Stoltz and yours truly - all topics fitness.

Let's get to the questions.

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washingtonpost.com: Read about the differences between her and him and the new research center in Georgetown in the article Finally, Women's Studies.

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Capitol Hill: Hi Crew!;

In my gym, when it comes to weight training, most women barely exert themselves.

They pick the lowest weight and do about a dozen reps with little visible strain. The weight looks too light to induce a boost in strength and the number of reps looks too low to burn many calories.

Granted, some women, for whatever reason, are not very strong. But that means they should pick a appropriate weight---not an easy weight.

Why does this matter? Well, people are busy. Gym time is valuable. Spending it lifting easy weights is ineffective and inefficient.

Worse, these non-exerting women won't see any gains and most likely will become discouraged and give up weights altogether.

John Briley: Capital Hill - Apparently you somehow hacked into my computer - this is the topic for next Tuesday's Moving Crew column (Sept. 21 Health section). The short answer: Your instinct is correct. A lot of people self-select weight that is too light to yield strength gains. Then they get frustrated and quit. The well-researched advice: You should lift 60 to 75 percent of your 1-repetition maximum (the most you could lift only one time) and do enough reps per set so that you couldn't do any more without breaking form (this is called "lifting to failure").

See the column next week for more details!

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Washington DC: Hello there,

I'm a 24 year-old female, 5'5'' and 112 lbs., and a lazy bum who doesn't like to exercise. However, I don't own a car, and spend at least an hour a day walking around the city, to work, class, etc., usually at a brisk pace. For someone who doesn't really need to lose weight, do you think this is a sufficient activity level to stay healthy? I eat a healthy vegetarian diet and am mainly concerned with cardiovascular health. What do you think, can I skip the stair machine?

Thanks!;

Melissa Johnson: Walking is a fabulous activity, and if you're doing an hour a day of "moderate" activity, that is definitely sufficient for health benefits. You should feel that your heart rate is somewhat elevated but that you're still able to maintain a conversation. I recommend using a pedometer and actually seeing how many steps you're taking. I bet it's at least 8,000/day, which is good. Remember, a balanced program also includes some strength training and flexibility, but the walking is best for cardiovascular fitness (which is your main goal. Keep up the great work.

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Centreville, Va: I work out with free weights, machines, eliptical at least 2-3 times per week. I also hike 7-8 miles quite frequently and play tennis on the weekends. Even though I consider myself to be active, I still have this rubber tire!; Do you have any suggestions as to reduce my problem area!; I am 5"4 and weight 150, age 53 female. I would love to lose ten pounds!;

Craig Stoltz: Hi Centre-gal,

Thanks for joining us this a.m. Your activity level, and variety of exercise, is impressive. For those who don't know, doing a variety of activities, even if not part of a self-conciously constructed cross-training program, is a great way to avoid overuse injuries and challenge your body in a variety of ways.

You'll hate hearing this, Centre-v, but the solution in all likelihood lies on the other side of the dreaded input/output equation. By which I mean eating. If you track what you eat for a few days or a week--very carefully, measuring portion sizes (you may hate it, but you can bear it for a week)--you'll probably find that you're simply taking in more than, or at least no less than, you burn off.

If you can run a 200-calorie deficit per day, the "stored energy," as physiologists politely call excess body fat, will gradually melt away. But you gotta know the inputs and outputs to really monitor this. If you just try to "go on a diet" it's doomed to fail in the long term. It's just a matter of regularly taking in fewer calories than you burn off.

Sorry.

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Annapolis, Md: Thanks for taking my question.

My fear is that as my wife works out in areas like running, that the constant pounding might make her vulnerable to breast cancer -- is there any truth to this? Similarly, are there any exercises that she should avoid for this reason?

Thanks.

Melissa Johnson: You don't need to worry about risk of breast cancer being linked to running. There really is no truth to that. In fact, any kind of cardiovascular activity actually reduces risk of breast cancer (feel free to check out the National Cancer Institute website).

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washingtonpost.com: Read this week's Moving Crew column Fit Beats Thin, in a Heartbeat.

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Alexandria, VA: I wanted to share my latest exercise motivator - I'm allowed to buy all the trashy magazines I want, but can only read them while at the gym doing my cardio!; If I want to see the best and worst dressed, I better get on the elliptical and get moving!; Self-bribery works every time...

Craig Stoltz: Hey, Alex, that's a hoot! The Us Magazine Workout! (Maybe they should market that.) Whatever gets you coming back for more, that's the key.

(Do keep on eye on your heart rate, though. When reading, I've found, it's easy to get lulled into a barely-breathing-hard mode. Do try to keep your HR at least in what the machines call (confusingly, but that's for another time)Fat-Burning Zone. Sorry, that's my Moving Crew superego talking.)

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Washington, DC: Do you guys have any recommendations for a beginner's Pilates DVD?

Melissa Johnson: Two recommendations are Windsor Pilates and Denise Austin tapes. Windsor has a series of beginning through advanced, and Denise offers a DVD that includes a bit of yoga, too.

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St. Paul, Minnesota: I'm in my early twenties, played competitive sports in college and am generally in good shape, etc. My knees can't handle running the way they used to and I've taken to really brisk, high-energy walking for about 45 min. a day, since that's often all the time I have to workout. How useful is walking in terms of burning calories or being a good workout? Would you suggest I use my 45 minutes in a different way, considering I can't really do the running thing...thanks!; My goal is to fight back against the 'flab' that comes w/working long hours and not having enough time in the gym!;

John Briley: Hey St. Paul - Thanks for joining from the upper Midwest! Walking can be as useful as sprinting (or anything else) in terms of calories burning. How many calories you burn depends on a combination of the length of time you exercise and the intensity at which you exercise.

So if you are walking briskly for 45 minutes - and getting your heart rate up, which increases caloric demand - you are cruising through some calories. one way to learn roughly how many would be to take your brisk walk onto a treadmill one day, punch in your weight, and try to mimic your actual walk as precisely as possible. Good treadmills have incline control so you can even simulate the hills. see how many cals you use in 45 minutes. Tip: Don't go to the gym at rush hour (6 to 8 p.m. at most gyms) because you might get chased off the machine after 30 minutes.

The rest of your question: Some weight lifting will help build muscle to better support your joints, which *might* allow you to return to some light jogging. Strength training (weights, resistance bands, certain types of yoga, etc.) burns calories and fights flab by adding muscle tone, and is recommended (twice weekly, for most beginners/intermediates) as part of an overall fitness plan.

Good luck!

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Silver Spring, MD: I'm a total non-exerciser who's grudgingly come to the conclusion that I have to get moving whether I like it or not if I'm ever going to lose weight and be at my healthiest. I want to start walking and thought a pedometer would be an added incentive, how many steps a day does the average adult need to walk each day if they are trying to lose weight, and how accurate do I need to be when I program my "average" step length into it. Will an inch or two off in my measurements totally mess up the calculations?

Melissa Johnson: First of all, congratulations on deciding to "take the first step" in being healthy. If you enjoy walking, then that's the best bet. You always want to choose an activity that you enjoy to ensure consistency, as consistency is key for weight loss. A pedometer is an excellent incentive; we applaud you on your choice. Since you're a "total non-exerciser" (in your words), I would recommend trying to slowly work up to 30 minutes a day (equivalent to about 4,000 steps). Even if you don't do 30 consecutive minutes, try for an accumulated 30 minutes throughout the day. Slowly increase your # of daily steps by 500 each week until eventually you're up to 10,000 steps. 10,000 steps is roughly equal to 5 miles (remember, this is throughout the day) and could equal anywhere from 60-75 minutes. It's best to calibrate your pedometer to your stride, but I wouldn't get hung up on that too much. The best thing is that you're making a commitment to your health. Make sure your walking is brisk.

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Silver Spring Curlygirl: I have a question about spinning. I'm in above average shape (5 days a week in the gym, cardio 5 days, lifting three days) and have recently taken up spinning as my cardio two days a week. Any idea what the range is for calorie burn in a spinning class? I realize you can't tell me exactly how much I'm burning, but if my THR is 165-175 and I stay in it for 30 minutes, what's the likely range of calories I'm burning?

John Briley: Hi SS C-G: A lot of factors go into the number of calories you are burning - and the formula for max heart rate (and thus THR) is more individually determined than the standard formula acknowledges - but I'd guess you are burning 350 to 400 calories. Your THR of 165 to 175 sounds high, which to me indicates you're spinning "vigorously" (true?).

I do know that I stagger out of 45-minute spinning classes drenched and panting, and I feel like I use a LOT more cals there than I do self-pacing on a stationary bike.

Sounds like you're in great shape - spinning will help keep you there, if you keep pushing yourself.

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Centreville: Melissa,

Looking for some ways to spice up my thigh workout. I am tired of lunges and squats. Any new, fresh ideas?

Thanks

Melissa Johnson: I highly recommend a pilates workout for overall body toning. Pilates has a great series of exercises specifically for the lower body. A good Pilates tape/DVD or a class in a fitness center are good bets.

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Washington DC`: I am a forty year old woman, started with weights and personal trainer twice a week in May. I have a feeling they started me at weights higher than they should have, so I have been lifting the same weights for almost the whole time. When they increase the weights (for example from 50 to 60 lbs on a lat elliptical) I am so sore for one whole week it is miserable. I can do the 50 lbs, and get to breaking form at the end of 15 reps, so it seems right. But I have been doing the same weight amounts for 4 months. Is that okay?

Melissa Johnson: Great job on starting a weight training program. I would highly recommend you discuss this w/your personal trainer and express your concerns. A little soreness is normal when challenging the muscles with increased weight, but definitely not to the point of feeling miserable. Perhaps you did start out with weights that were too heavy. Technique and form are always more important than amount of weight when first starting out. What I mean is that the first week or so, it's best to just get used to the weights and what it feels like to move the muscles through different ranges of motion. Be patient though. Now that you're up to 50 pounds, breaking form at 12-15 reps means you're at the right weight. You'll start to see a change soon. We often reach plateaus and then break through them.

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Adams Morgan: Hi,
I just moved into the districts and am looking for places to ride my bike out of traffic within, say, 5 miles. Any suggestions or resources?

John Briley: Welcome to the city! Unrelated to biking (because you're new) if you've never heard of Marion Barry, now would be the time to do some homework.

To your question: Long stretches of Rock Creek Park (Beach Drive) are closed to motor vehicles on weekends and holidays, making for great riding on well-paved roads in a beautiful setting. It can get a little crowded on really nice days, and there are almost no hills (could be plus or minus for you). The closed sections start a few miles north of you, where Beach Drive hits Broad Branch Road.

Many serious cyclists start rides there and continue well past the park and into Kensington and Rockville Maryland on some fairly light-traffic roads. You can go into the park on any given Saturday - even in lousy weather - and find a cyclist to ask about precise routes.

Across Connecticut Avenue from your 'hood is a beautiful but somewhat limited neighborhood of embassies and monster homes - and not too much traffic. Bordered by Massachusetts Ave, Florida Ave and Conn. Ave. Some good hilly pedaling there.

Across the river in Virginia (and pushing your 5-mile limit) is the Mount Vernon Trail, which is managed by the George Washington Memorial Parkway: Long rides on paved trail adjacent Potomac River, but few hills and the trail is thin in places, making for stop-and-go passing at busy times.

Anyone else out there have other advice?

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Washington DC: I am starting a walking program (40+ female). What is most important, I know I need quality shoes, a pedometer with time, do I need a heartrate monitor?

Craig Stoltz: Hi Washington, congrats on your resolve to start mindful moving! The order you've put the three in is a good one.

You gotta have shoes that don't abuse your feet (though of course it's very easy to get excessive in shoe purchases, something I'm afraid retailers encourage. If you spend more than $50 for beginner walking shoes, you're likely spending for fashion, unnecessary features, etc.

A pedometer is the easiest/cheaptest way to keep track of your progress; add a timer and you can use that figure too. (Compare time/distance to see if you're increasing/maintaining pace, etc.) That shouldn't cost more than $20.

I'm a big fan of a heart-rate monitor; I love the feature that tells you if your current HR is in your ideal zone, and the one that reports back the time you've spent in the zone. This helps you control your pace. It's another area where you can overspend; you should be able to get a good model by Polar (the standard-setter in quality HRMs) for $60-$100. Above that price you get techno-toys like ability to download to your computer, etc.

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Arlington, VA: I am about to buy yet another fitness machine. I am really convinced that the Total Gym 14000 is going to be a great investment. Do you agree or can you shake some sense into me? Thanks!;

Craig Stoltz: Hi, Arlington,
The words "yet another" machine concern me--suggesting you've had this feeling before that a machine will do the trick.

A few thoughts:

It's expensive (for the rest of the gang to know, it's a $1,200 multi-exercise machine that uses your body weight, maneuvered along a glide board. It says some exercises are "Pilates." It weighs 450 lbs and appears to be well-constructed (price and weight are often good indicators of engineering quality). If money matters, there are likely better multi-station values out there. I'd recommend going to a retail store that specializes in fitness equipment and seeing what else you can get in that (or lower) price range, and getting your hands on the metal. That matters a lot.

Also (but you knew I was going to say this): The key question is, will you like it enough so that you look forward to doing it? If you don't, it'll never prove valuable.

The best program is the one you enjoy and will stick with. If a machine helps you do that, great. But if you go back to square one and ask yourself What Do I Enjoy Doing for Exercise? and Do I really Think I'll Still Be Using This Around Christmas '05? you may get the right answer.

I use a balance ball, a set of dumbells, exercise bands and two sizes of medicine balls. Total cost: Around $200. I don't offer myself as The World's Fittest Man by any means. But I do stick with it (recently!) and enjoy it.

Craig Stoltz: techno-glitch! My bad. Reply is above.

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new york, ny: The trainer at my gym told me that women are physically unable to "bulk up". He said I shouldn't worry about lifting very heavy weights because my muscles would never get big and bulky, unlike men's. Is this true?

Melissa Johnson: Listen to your trainer. The majority of women don't have the amount of testosterone to "bulk up." Of course, there are those women who do have more (and you see them in body building gyms), but the majority of women don't have to worry about this. I see too many women doing multiple reps to avoid "bulking up" when they could just save time, do fewer reps with higher weight, and get stronger faster. More effective and time efficient.

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Clifton, VA: Centerville,

You might want to consider running hurdles at a local high school track to add to thigh workout. Do a google search for hurdler's workouts!; 110 meter. You can set them lower but not to low want to get the bennies of the workout. Run a 110 meters of hurdles walk back repeat. Will build muscle and tone and stretch your thighs.

Craig Stoltz: Great idea, Clifton. Hurdlers have awesome thighs.

And yes, if you're entirely new to hurdles, start low, lest you wind up sampling that chewy rubberized track surface with your chin.

And do some stretches first to prepare your quads/hamstrings for that range of motion.

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washingtonpost.com: Looking for a good workout to get you going? Serious about going to the gym? Check out Marty Gallagher's discussion Strength and Fitness, Tuesday's at noon, ET.

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Arlington: I am a recovering couch potato. Can you give any advice on the gyms in the area? Curves seems expensive for what it offers, and has limited hours. Golds is the same price, with lots of locations, but I'm worried about being the fat girl in a gym full of buff and fit people. I used to belong to Bally's years ago, but their location is a negative.

Suggestions?

Craig Stoltz: Hi Arlington. I'm a former member of Fitness First. It's priced very competitively--which is to say it's cheap--so it draws a wider range of folks than some of the places that draw the Buff and the Beautiful (isn't that a soap opera? Shouldn't it be?). It also has more variety than Curves.

But most important is location. If it's not right nearby, or in a commuting path, you won't likely use it enough to make it worthwhile. I just switched to a (far more expensive, alas) club right near work and I go there 4 times a week; when I had a four-block "commute" to Fitness First, I rarely went more than one time a week.

Anyone else have a club to recommend?

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Washington DC: Hi!; I started swimming a few months ago, and have worked my way from 10 laps in a 50-meter pool to 20 -- my goal -- by adding one lap every week. I do half breast stroke and half freestyle. My question is what should I do now so that my body doesn't become TOO accustomed to the same workout? Add a few more laps once 20 becomes easier? Add more variety to my strokes? The only constraint is that I don't want to add too much more time to the pool workout, and the pool only allows laps.
Thanks!;

John Briley: First, DC, nice job on setting and reaching your goal. My mom is a lifelong swimmer (swam Olympic trials in 1956, in fact) and she swims almost every day. She mixes it up with some kicking, which (to me) can be frustrating because it seems to take so much effort to make it up the length of the pool. But if you do it right you will really help your ab muscles, hips and thighs. Try a mix of freestyle kicking (flutter kicks) and breaststroke kicking.

And the inverse: pulling. Many pools provide those styrofoam devices that look like two coffee cans tied together - you squeeze them between your knees and propel using only your arms.

If you kick, don't focus so much on the number of laps. Just kick hard and you'll feel the muscles and lungs working.

hope that helps.

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Washington, DC: Sort of an odd question, but I got a free week pass to the YMCA and was going to try to go tonight for the first time. I currently go to Curves 3x/week, and am wondering what you would recommend I try at the Y -- maybe this sounds defeatist but if I can only go for a week, I'm not sure I see the point in using the weight machines if I'm only there for a week? Maybe I'm thinking too hard about this. I'm also a little intimidated, this is the first time I've been to a "real" gym...

Craig Stoltz: Hey, Wash, you are indeed thinking too hard--or at least about the wrong thing. Don't focus on what you can "accomplish" during one week. (The answer: squat.) Instead, use the week to answer two questions: (1) is the Y worth joining?, compared to Curves? and regardless of that answer, (2) are there other different kinds of exercises you enjoy doing that you can benefit from, regardless of what venue they're offered in?

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Washington, dC: I am 150 lbs, 5'5" and age 29...and getting ready to leave for the doubtlessly stressful and intense life on the campaign trail. Consider freetime is very rare & therefore valuable, food selection is grim (fattening fast food all the time), but i don't want to gain weight (an inevitability) do you have some "quick work out" fitness & nutrition guidelines for people "on the road?"

Melissa Johnson: First of all, I commend you on your desire and willingness to stay fit on the road. You're right, the campaign trail is a stressful place, and it's difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle with the long hours. You're making it a priority and thinking ahead. If you could get at least 30 mins/day (even if it's 15 mins in the a.m. and 15 mins at night) of calisthenics in your hotel room, jump roping, quick workouts in hotel gyms or pools, or walks/runs around the parking lots(!), that would help. You could also take along some surgical tubing or Therabands for resistance training (again, you can do this in your hotel room or on the bus). Also, be conscious of what you eat. Bring along some of your own food for snacks (fruit, almonds, nutrition bars, etc.), and order the "best of the worst" in restaurants. There are always options. And share this info w/your fellow campaigners, so you can all help each other stay healthy on the trail!

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North Carolina: Hello!;
I am concerned about the damage running and
other physical activity can do to women's breasts.
How can women best save their breasts from
"flopping" while running and thus stretching out
the muscles in this part of the body? Any good
bras out there to keep us "packed in" so to speak?

John Briley: Hi NC. As a guy, I can confirm your fear that i have absolutely no expertise in this. BUT my wife does and she recently switched from doubling up running bras (which occasionally chafed) to using tight-fitting tank tops instead of bras. She wears a shirt over the tanks.

I emailed her for specifics, but have not heard back yet. I know that not all brands are equal, so perhaps try a couple different lines. If she emails back before our hour is up, I'll post more info.

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Arlington, VA: Regarding women in the gym lifting useless weights: I find a lot of women think they are going to get huge and bulky if they lift weights. They don't understand that very few women ever get "big", and that we're just not built like that.

And I would be concerned with a personal trainer who keeps the same weight routine for 4 months. Your body is too used to your routine. You need to do something different to get off your plateau. For example, lift heavier weights with less reps. You should change routines every 6-8 weeks.

John Briley: Excellent points, Arlington! Thanks.

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Dupont, Washington DC: I just joined the Joy of Motion Dance center. You can buy a set of 10, 15, or 20 classes and drop in on the classes that fit your interest and skill level. As someone who tends to get bored by gyms, this is a great option. It's a total body workout and a lot of fun. Just a suggestion for those of you leary of gyms -- try dancing!;

Craig Stoltz: Thanks, Dupont. An excellent reminder that "exercise" is way more than stuff you do in a gym. If it's fun and you're moving, do it!

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Arlington, VA: My workouts tend to take me above the suggested heart rate range. I am a 37yo female. Is this okay? I can't run and stay in this range.

John Briley: Yes, its OK. As mentioned in an answer above, the *suggested* ranges are based on a generic formula (max heart rate = 220 - your age) but research has shown that the formula does not apply to everyone. If you are in good fitness - or maybe just based on genetics - you could blow past your target cardio zone without feeling like you're working too hard.

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Alexandria, VA: For the swimmer, the best way to improve your workout is to add intensity. Start with a moderate 5 laps, then do 2 fast laps, then 3 moderate, 2 fast, etc. That way you won't add any more time to your workout, and you will definitely see results.

I used to drive the 10 miles each way from Alex to Fairfax to Lifetime Fitness because it was such a great gym. The drive finally got to me, and I've heard recently that it's become really crowded. But I always enjoyed going there because it was such a nice gym (except that they didn't keep the pool very clean).

John Briley: great advice, alexandria. thanks.

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Washington, DC: What is your opinion of the women's fitness centers like Curves which are sprouting up all over. Can you really get any value from working a machine for 30 seconds and then jogging on a platform for 30 seconds? It seems that doing this cycle for 30 minutes could raise your heart rate and give some value but I was looking for a more knowledgable opinion.

Craig Stoltz: Hey Wash,

Never having been in a Curves--being a guy and all--I don't have personal experience, but I'll tell you what chatsters, friends and experts have said:

1. If it clicks for you--if you like it enough that you do it regularly--and it gets you breathing hard and developing your muscles--it's a great value. Some folks don't like the lack of amenities, the sameness of the workouts over time, etc. But many folks love it as is.

2. Many have said that it's an ideal entry point for the "deconditioned"--a fancy way of saying people who haven't exercised since high school. If you stick with it and get in shape, you may well find yourself wanting to move on after 6 months, a year, whatever. Make sure you don't sign a long-term contract (I believe some but not all Curves are month-to-month deals.)

Any Curveurs out there care to (har!) weigh in?

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Alexandria, VA: For thighs--spend a couple of hours hiking up a mountain on the weekend. The ultimate thigh burner!;

John Briley: Very true, especially if you're carrying a pack.

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Silver Spring, MD: Is Pilates appropriate for someone who needs to lose weight, or a better bet for someone already relatively healthy and active?

Melissa Johnson: Pilates is good for everyone, since there are many levels offered from beginning to advanced. It's a wonderful overall toning, strengthening, lengthening workout and really works the core muscles (trunk, abdominals, etc.).
I would suggest incorporating some cardiovascular activity to your routine in addition to Pilates (e.g. walking, cycling, cardio machines, etc) for optimal fat loss and to ensure you have a balanced fitness program.

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Silver Spring, Curlygirl: Yes, I am spinning vigorously. That's an accurate assessment. I would like to get a Polar HRM (for use in spinning and elsewhere), but want to buy on an auction site. Any ideas (not asking for an endorsement here) of what Polar models would be good for a beginner HRM user who's pretty fit?
I don't need bells and whistles, but I cannot tell on an auction site which models would be best for me, because the prices are so far below market. . .can't judge on price.

Craig Stoltz: Hey, Curly,

I got the Polar a5--just what you're talking about, pretty full-featured but not silly.

Other ideas out there from HRMers?

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Arlington, VA: To the Person in Arlington Looking for a Gym to Join: I'm a fitness instructor at Gold's Gym in Arlington (Ballston, Rosslyn, S. Arlington). Do not be afraid of either of these chains -- you will not be the 'fat person' in a room full of buff-bodies. These gyms are for EVERYONE. We want you there. A lot of the buff bodies at these gyms were not so buff when they joined (including myself not so long ago!;!;!;) No one is there to judge - everyone is really focused on their own workouts!; Come and try it -- you can usually work it so you can work out at a gym 1-2 times for free to see if it's right for you!;

Craig Stoltz: Thanks for the good words, Goldy! Great to hear folks in the business encouraging all to come forward. I think Gold's may suffer from residual thoughts about the chain's roots--if I recall, Gold's was there before fitness went mainstream, and In the Old Days catered to serious movers of large metal plates who grunted a lot. But it's diversified significantly since then. Do I have that right?

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Rockville, MD: I am submitting this quite early because I know I'll have to read the answer after the discussion. Wondered if you all could give me some suggestions/tips on appropriate workouts for the situation. Have arthritis in one hip and a bad small of the back (tiny curve at end). Been going to a Sport & Health using ellipse (30 min.), treadmill (30 min.) and some weights and weight machines. Orthopod advised not a big advocate of ellipse for back since hard to do 'cause hard to do w/o twisting back even a tad. OK, guess that's true. Just wondered if you all had any suggestions outside of the treadmill, weights, walking, and perhaps a non-recumbent bike. Arthritic hip doesn't "like" to push on the recumbent very long at all. I'm going to keep "moving" on something, but thot there might be some very useful suggestions I had not thot of. Thanks much,

John Briley: Well, swimming is usually good for anyone who has issues with impact activities. Aside from the exercise, swimming tends to stretch you out (using the term loosely, not literally), which can make arthritic hip fell a little better.

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Washington, DC: Regarding an earlier poster's knee problems: to have this in someone's early twenties is suspect and needs to be checked out from a number of perspectives. It might simply be they need proper running shoes and/or orthotics. This solves many knee problems. I see it all the time in runners I coach. It could also be a medical condition or scar tissue from an old injury.

John Briley: Thanks, running coach. Good points.

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Carlisle, PA: For the person who wants off-road biking: The towpath along the C & O Canal is a wonderful place to bike. Lovely scenery along the way, too!;

Craig Stoltz: Thanks, Carlisle. Yes, the towpath is excellent, especially as you get to the parts closer you your woods-neck, which is to say, the parts farther west than Great Falls. It's a 2-3 percent grade going up (if you're headed outbound from D.C. area) and can really challenge you at length. I rode from Lock 8 to White's Ferry last summer and was nearly hallucinating by the time I got there.

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re: gym recs. : I am member of Golds and TRUST ME - the people there come in all shapes and sizes. But I recommend finding a place that works for you. When the people are givin you a sales pitch - ask for a free week pass or something so you can try it out and see how it fits. IE: will you go? do you like the locations? Am I comfortable here? I have been a member of Ballys (blech), Sport and Health (which was nice, but no Downtown locations at the time and it was just too much money), and have settled on Golds. I have been to many of the locations but mainly use the Midtown and Glebe road and have been happy with both. But you need to the one that works for YOU!; Good luck.

Craig Stoltz: Thanks for the input, Undeclared Geographic Origin.

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Chicago, IL: Can you give me some suggestions of types of cardio exercises that would be good for me (a 5 months pregnant, 28-year old woman who used to do 5 days a week of Bootcamp-style workouts before her pregnancy and finds herself missing them)?
Thanks!;

Craig Stoltz: I know so many women who have turned to swimming when pregnant--relaxing, relief from bearing the extra weight, no fears about impacts, etc. Even the swimming-averse have found it works for them during that period of time. Best of luck--and finding time/energy for fitess once the bundle 'o joy arrives. . .

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DC: For the arthritis suffer, I've found physical therapists to be a great source of information on special exercises if you have an injury or limited movement.

Craig Stoltz: Thanks, D.C.

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Washington DC: RE: same routine for 4 months. It is not the same routine, it is the same amount of weight. large variety of exercises and several machines, equipment, resistance exercises, etc. they also think i should move to higher weights, but the higher weight (has to be in 10 lb increments) kill me. i am still working to failure with 50 lbs, so still getting benefits.

John Briley: Are there no machines with 5-lb increments? And what do you mean by "kill" - you can't get through even a few reps? Or it hurts to get through your normal 10 reps? Or you're super sore in teh days after a heavier workout?

You should be trying to increase weight over time - that should reflect your strength gains from months of working out - but if your muscles aren't ready, they aren't ready. And if you're happy with the muscle maintenance you're getting from your workout, that's OK too.

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Washington: I do several weight machines a few times a week, and I try to do as heavy a weight as I can do for 10-12 reps. But I only do one set, mainly because of time. Is that OK?

Craig Stoltz: See The Moving Crew next week for a full answer. Short version: You get most of your benefits from one set, but get worthy added boost from two. Three sets will maximize the benefit, but if time is the question--it is for me and, I infer, for you--skip the third set. You'll get most of what you need from 1 and 2. Really time-pressed? One'll do ya.

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John Briley: Late breaking for the NC woman with the running bra question - This directly from my wife:

"Given the dearth of good bras for well-endowed women on the market, doubling up bras is a good option. You could say you wife wears a tank top bra with a more supportive bra on top of that to reduce both bounce and chaffing."

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John Briley: Thanks folks for yet another busy and interesting session. And thanks to Melissa Johnson for joining us and pitching in today.

We're back here in two weeks for more of the same. In the meantime, stay active, stay fit and above all, have fun.

- Your Category 3 (and strengthening) Moving Crew

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