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Moving Crew: Staying on a Fitness Regimen

Christy Denardo
Fitness Manager, The Sports Club/LA
Thursday, January 6, 2005; 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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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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Craig Stoltz: Well, good morning, good year and happy '05 to guests of the Moving Crew.

Don't worry: We're not going to use the "r"-word (as in New Year's Resol----). But we are going to use the opportunity of another earthly orbit around the sun to take stock of what we accomplished (or not) in 2004 and look ahead to what we'd like our bodies to accomplish in 2005. For me? Keep the workouts fresh and regular--five a week.

For you? Happily, today we have Christy Denardo, fitness manager for the luxe-and-forward-thinking (if pricey) Sports Club L.A., located in D.C.'s West End. Ask her questions about your new regimen, how to stick with it, what's new out there that may help you. Heck, you can ask her about *her* regimen.

And if you don't have a question, please log on and tell us about your fitness resol. . .oops, nearly slipped out! Your plans to get or stay fit in '05. We'd like to know what Crewers are thinking as we plan our coverage for the year ahead.

Onto it, then. You ma'am, in the front? Question?

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Washington D.C.: Hey Crew,
I'm going to a lean out phase- up the cardio, lower weight w/ higher reps. Should my body react immediately- start buring more calories at a high rate, or does it take a weak or two for it to shift from bulk up mode?

Christy Denardo: Of course, all body fat loss takes time. If I were you I would take about 5 to 7 days off between phases, so that your body really reacts to the new routine. It is kind of a shock to the system.

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The Moving Crew: So you survived 2004, now what? Get ready for 2005 with only healthy thoughts.

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Springfield, Va.: I am looking for a facility that offers Pilates with the machine. I have done mat Pilates before and really liked it, but I am interested in trying something new and different. Where do I look to find courses?

Christy Denardo: I would recommend the Pilates Method Alliance website. I believe it is www.pilatesmethodalliance.com.

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Clueless: What are some good recovery drinks ? I keep hearing that drinking or eating something before and after a workout is good but have no clue what is good out there. Thanks!

Christy Denardo: It depends. While working out I would always recommend water. If you are doing an intense bout of cardio or for a long duration, your electrolytes will need replenishing, so I would choose Gatorade or Powerade or something along those lines. Post workouts- I would recommend a protein shake, bar, or some source of protein (if you can handle a meal after you eat).

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Washington D.C.: Hi Christy, I do cardio and lift weights using machines,but I can't get definition in my muscles. what am I doing wrong? I"m not really overweight, maybe 10 pounds. Female, 53.

Christy Denardo: The first thing to do is look at your diet. Are you eating 4-5 small meals per day. What does your water intake look like? How much sleep are you getting a night? There are many factors that go into building muscle. Remember your body needs rest and food for fuel.

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McLean, Va.: Best Wishes in 2005!

I hear that in order to really lose weight, one has to workout for 30-45 minutes each day. A 45-minute per session seems rather tough, especially for those who work til 6 p.m. or so. I do however have 20 min. to spare in the mornings. Will it benefit me to ride a bike and/or run in the morning and also work out for another 20 min. in the evening? My metabolism could use a boost in the morning.

Christy Denardo: Absolutely. If you start your day with 20-30 minutes of cardio you'll get your metabolism boosted and then again right before you go to sleep.

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The Moving Crew: Having a hard time getting motivated to go to the gym? You're not alone. Read this week's Moving Crew column "Working Into Working Out."

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Tampa, FL: Every year, I resolve to take up jogging, but I have never really enjoyed it. I'm not sure if it's because I don't give it enough of a chance or I just genuinely don't like it. I am a pretty active person - tennis, aerobics classes, weight training, biking - but for some reason, running just seems very difficult for me. I know it's probably the best way to burn calories, but will I be OK fitness-wise if I opt not to run? It seems like all the really "fit" people run.

Christy Denardo: Running is not for everyone. Have you ever tried interval training? You could do that on your bike, while walking, etc...But if you don't enjoy running, you won't stick to it. Find something you love- just keep moving!

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Arlington, Va.: Help!! I swim 5 times a week, and when the weather gets less cold, I run as well. I eat health; lots of veggies, fruit, and I do snack off and on. But I can't get rid of the beginnings of a small spare tire look on my sides and stomach. Would crunches help? I use to have a flat swimmer stomach until about two years ago, now I cant get rid of it.

Christy Denardo: Spot reduction is a myth. Crunches help to build strength in the abdominals, but they do not get rid of 'love handles.' Watch your diet and maybe try other forms of exercise to partner with your swimming program.

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Richmond, Va.: I joined a gym and have gone twice. How do I make srue I don't quit working out? I want to stick wth it this time, but so far it's not much fun. It's hard to get excited about it.

Craig Stoltz: Hi, Richmond, congrats for doing the easy part: joining a gym. You've demonstrated your intentions, which is good. Here's my list of things that help keep me (and others I know) going to the gym:

1. Get a workout buddy. It really helps me when my co-worker pal and I arrange a time and I come by and knock on her office door. Neither one of us can squeal out of it.

2. I know you already joined, but I hope your gym is close to work or home. Proximity is everything. If you have to make a special trip, you're dead meat.

3. Keep track of what you're doing. Charting progress makes me feel good, or at least virtuous, on days when I feel like I'm accomplishing squat or flat-lining.

4. Try new stuff. I always thought medicine balls, stability balls and exercise bands were. . .strange, or not "real exercise." I started using them, now I'm a convert.

5. Studies show (I'm quoting Sally Squires here) that creating a habit requires about two or three dozen repetitions. That means a couple of months of every-other-day visits to the gym. Force yourself to do that, as if it's your job, as if a paycheck depends on it, and you should have changed your body and mind enough that you really do have the exercise habit.

Any Crew members have ideas/encouragment for Richmond?

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Not looking for an excuse, D.C.: For the last 15 months I have worked out four days a week at the gym and then another one or two days outside. At the gym I typically attend spin classes three days and then run on the treadmill (about 2 miles) on the other day. I also do some circuit training. Over the holidays I took off 10 days from the gym. During those 10 days I did, however, take some horse back riding lessons that I found to really, really, really work the leg muscles. Now I'm getting back into spin class & running on the treadmill & my legs (esp. my quads) are KILLING me. It's like I'm at half strength. Normally when I take a week or so off and adjust my routine a little I feel much stronger, but that's not the case now. Should I take more time off? Given the current post-Holiday overcrowding at my gym, this option is looking very tempting.

Christy Denardo: Have you done any type of stretching? Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is very common. Listen to your body and it will tell you what to do. Maybe lay of the spinning for a little bit, but I wouldn't give up the circuit training. You have a great thing going here and taking more time off makes it harder to get back into the gym.

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Energy Drink, U.S.A: Christy,

What's your take on energy drinks? Are they dangerous for your system? I read the ingredients and it looks like a cup of coffee on steriods...

Christy Denardo: What type? I would just be careful. The best beverage is water and you can't go wrong.

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Washington D.C.: Hi Christy- What do you think about calorie counting? If you are for it, what would you suggest for a 41 year old woman (5'2") who is looking to lose 10-15 pounds? I am working out with a trainer weekly and doing cardio several times a week.

Christy Denardo: I'm not big on counting calories, however watch your portion size. I would recommend seeing a nutritionist to see what your body type requires.

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Reston, Va.: Help! I've gained 11 pounds in the last 3 months. I'm in my first week back to the gym (3 times this week) but my body still feels like it's wearing a lead suit. How can I get out of this workout funk?

Christy Denardo: Find something you love to do or hire a personal trainer. Do you have a friend that would like to start working out? Remember, all your workouts don't need to be done in a gym.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Moving Crew. I have been maintaining my weight since 2001 with Weight Watcher's Maitenance. I have made sure I have get at least 1 mile of walking to subway each day. Since holidays, I have also been doing 1 mile additional on treadmill and 1/2 mile on elyptical trainer (it's harder because in the cardio workout you have to maintain a heart rate...mine is 146.) Is this a good maintenance plan?

Christy Denardo: I would still recommend some sort of strength or resistance training. Your body has gotten used to walking to the subway and you are on 'auto pilot.' You still need to introduce challenges to your body.

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Baltimore, Md.: I have a question about gym etiquette. My friend told me personal trainers were giving me sour looks when I was dropping the barbell from thigh height during deadlifts. The floor is rubberized and I was dropping up to three-hundred pounds.

For me it's the thrill of trying heavier weight that gets me going and I cannot slowly put down the kind of weight I like to deadlift.

Should I change my ways? am I doing something wrong - it is a fully functioning gym.

Christy Denardo: If you can't control the weight on the way down, you probably shouldn't be lifting it. The eccentric contraction is just as important if you want to continue buidling muscle and increasing strength. It is also a lot of wear and tear on the equipment, a safety risk, and can be annoying to other gym members.

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Washington D.C.: Sports or gym? I have long wondered what is better for you? I play several team sports but am wondering if playing some sort of sport or activity has the same effect as going to the gym several days a week?

Craig Stoltz: Hi Washington,

First, a useful bromide: The best exercise is the one you do regularly, ideally because you enjoy it. If team sports keep you moving, go for it. Especially if a gym workout isn't as much fun for you.

But: if you want to find out what benefit the sports are providing in terms of cardiovascular fitness, get a heart-rate monitor, strap it on when you play basketball, racquetball, doubles tennis, whatever you do, and see what happens to your heart rate. My guess is it'll move between low (so called "fat-burn" range and near anerobic "cardio workout" range. It'll show you're getting the equivalent of doing interval training while having a blast. Hard to beat that.

And: Your performance in nearly any team sport will benefit from some strength-training, flexibility/balance/agility work, and more cardio work. If you can work in a gym workout or two each week to supplement your fun 'n' games, you'll be a monster on your team.

I'm assuming, of course, that you *want* to be a monster.

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Christy Denardo: For all the beginners out there, I would just say put yourself first- a healthy you is a better you. Try to avoid excuses and really make yourself a priority. Know that you are going to get sore, you may sweat a little, but it will get better and hopefully become a healthy habit and a way of life.

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re:Energy Drinks: I was looking at the ones for instant energy that are loaded in sugar and carbs. Gatorade doesn't do it for me. Usually, I do drink water as you suggested but some days I need that extra boost for something Im doing.

Christy Denardo: Sugar is something I would avoid prior to working out. You'll have a spike in energy, but the low will be a lot worse than where you started. Look at how often you are eating to maintain a steady energy level. 6-8 hours of sleep might help a little too.

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Arlington, Va.: Hi, Christy -

About 6 months ago, I decided to get no-nonsense about sticking to regular workouts. All I can seem to squeeze in is a 2-mile run a day, about 5 days a week. I've run the same stretch near my house every day, which is actually pretty hilly. I kept telling myself that I would up it to 3 miles as soon as I felt like the 2-mile thing was getting to be too easy, but that hasn't seem to have happened yet. It still wears me out and I'm still out of breath. Should I just got ahead and push myself to up the distance at this point? By the way, I'm a 25-year-old non-smoking, vegetarian female. I'm trying to lose weight (maybe 15-20 pounds) and get in as best shape as I've ever been. Thanks for your help!;

Christy Denardo: Don't think you need to increase in mile increments. Maybe start pushing yourself to one more light post-make small goals which will lead to bigger gains. I would also start incorporating some sort of strength program in there to help you with your weight loss- add push-ups, pull-ups, lunges, etc...to your program and you will see a lot of success.

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Ann Arbor, Mi.: This is for Richmond:

You need to invest in -positive reinforcement- strategies. Rewards!; I LOVE to treat myself to the UnderArmour (can I say a brand name in this chat) gear made famous by the tv commercials. Pricey, but you -feel- better than Tom Brady!; Get a blog going, or chat with us here at washingtonpost.com. Forge a letter to yourself from an athlete you admire, inviting you to do something cool. Whatever it takes.

I think online "encouragement chats" are sorely needed, just for this very reason.

Thank you, Moving Crew!

Susan Morse: Hi Ann Arbor, thanks for this idea. How true, how true. Starting a new exercise program (or stepping one up) is challenging. It's really important to recognize your achievements and give yourself a pat on the back. And I love your suggestions for some possible ways to go about it. Go Richmond! You can do it. We're rooting for you.

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Rockville, Md.: Not a question, but a response to the question about dropping weights. As a gym-goer myself I have this to say: when people are dropping and clanging weights it is extremely disruptive to other people working out. I have almost fallen off ellipticals and treadmills before from the sudden, loud noises. Not only that, it leads many people to the conclusion that the weight is simply too heavy for the person and they are just trying to show off.

Craig Stoltz: Thanks for the feedback, Rockville. This sort of speaks to the cultural difference between the minority of serious weightlifters/bodybuilders and the usual weight-control, general-fitness, fend-off-death crowd that dominates most clubs. There are specialty gyms that cater to the serious movers of metal; my guess is at those places dropping weights from deadlift position would be less disruptive.

Can anybody out there recommend a "serious weight-lifter's" gym?

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Weights: Hello
I am in my mid-30s, female. How importnat is weight training to ward off osteoporosis later? I do lot of walking and climbing stairs, some yoga...but no weights. How do I incorporate weights in my regimen without going to a gym (have no time, have a toddler). Thanks

Christy Denardo: Yoga is a form of resistance training because you are working with your own body weight..however, strength training does help in reducing your risk of developing osteoporosis. Push-ups, squats, lunges can all be done at home...check out www.performbetter.com to possibly get a stability ball, tubing, etc...and build a small, inexpensive, home gym.

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Washington D.C.: I haven't exercised for some time and have noticed I'm flabby in my arms and legs? Is there a way to build up muscle tone? (age: 55) Thanks.

Christy Denardo: Strength training, strength training, strength training.

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Arlington, Va.: I have recently gone back to the gym after taking the holidays off. I've never consulted a trainer about my fitness regimen - 15 min. warmup on treadmill, 30 minutes of weight training, 15 minutes of light stairmaster, but I overheard a trainer saying that cardio and weight training should not be mixed in the same workout.

1. is this true?

2. where does yoga fit in? I love yoga (beginner), but does it "count" towards my fitness goal of losing pounds, or it is more a stress reliever? My abs certainly get a workout wiht yoga.

Thanks and Happy New Year!

Christy Denardo: #1 - definitely not.
#2 - it depends what type of yoga you are doing. Yoga will help with your strength, body awareness, breathing, etc..don't give it up!

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Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.: Our health club in the Watergate Hotel just closed and I'm shopping for a facility close to Foggy Bottom. On Dec. 31 I visited your Ritz Carlton 22nd Street gym and thought it was quite nice. However, It was really crowded - and on what might be considered an off week. Is the place always this saturated with people? Would you tell me what you charge for membership? Thanks.

Christy Denardo: The Sports Club/LA is the club you are referring to and no, it is not always crowded. We have over 100 pieces of cardio equipment and over 100 group exercise classes per week, so I promise you can always get a workout in. On December 31, we closed early so everyone was trying to get a workout in before the New Year. You could speak to a membership director for prices. Hope to see you in the club.

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Falls Church, Va.: Have been working out for a year, I am a 53-year-old male. Got a heart rate monitor for Christmas and yesterday was trying to stay in my zone (141-155, which seems awfully high) on a ski machine when I got really dizzy after 30 minutes. Stopped and went home.

Now I'm wondering how I should approach my next cardio workout. Any suggestions?

Christy Denardo: Are you used to that type of training? Heart Rate training can really take a toll on the body if you haven't trained properly for it. When had you eaten last? Listen to your body and maybe start with a shorter duration.

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Washington D.C.: Can you please tell me where I can get a listing of personal trainers in the Washington D.C. area?

Christy Denardo: www.nasm.org, www.ace-fitness.com and www.nsca.com are three organizations I can think of. They normally have a trainer locator link.

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Atlanta, Ga.: I dabbled in martial arts when I was younger and am about to start up again with T'ai Chi. I really want to study an art that uses a cane as a weapon. Do you know of any art or class I can take?

Christy Denardo: I would call a dojo to see what type of martial art they would recommend or check it out online. I'm not really sure.

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Somewhere, Md.: I received a pedometer for Christmas. I love it, because it seems as if I'm getting 10,000 steps each day-- it helps that I walk sveral blocks each day. It seems to count the steps correctly, but it's not converting the distance-- I've checked it versus GPS and on a track. It's off by more than 50 percent and lengthening my stride doesn't seem to be working. Any thoughts?

P.S.- Thanks to you & the Lean Plate Club-- I gained about 40 pounds during pregnancy and have lost all but 5 pounds since my baby was born 5 months ago.

Craig Stoltz: Hey, thanks for the feedback, Somewhere, and congrats on losing all that baby fat.

I've had precisely the same problem with pedometers; they are usually good at counting steps and lousy at measuring distances. My solution: ignore the distance info. The best use for a pedometer, I've found, is to let you know when you've had an inert day (this often motivates me to take an evening walk). It's also useful as a way to measure whether you're increasing your activity rather than just flatlining. (i.e., aim for 10,500 steps tomorrow, 10,600 next day, etc.).

But as a distance measurer? I wouldn't bother.

Any other ped users have thoughts on this?

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The Moving Crew: Just finding a personal trainer is tough. Finding one that fits your needs is even tougher. Read Trainer Wanted: Must Fit.

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Baltimore, Md.: I'm looking to start my workout regiman again so that I can get back the fit and muscular look. The problem is that I'm 5'5" and 100 pounds and I'm trying to avoid the skinny look. What kind of diet and exercise will help me stay in shape but not too thin?

Christy Denardo: I would seek out the advice of a nutritionist or registered dietician to really meet your body's needs. They will monitor your caloric intake and figure out your resting metabolic rate.

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Washington D.C.: Every once in a while, immediately after shoulder workout that includes shoulder presses and rear delts, my upper traps seize up and it becomes painful to move my head. I think my form is okay, but are there particulars I should look out for? It doesn't happen every time but it sure stinks when it does. Thanks!

Christy Denardo: It is very common to for the shoulders to elevate during shoulder exercises. Think about pulling the shoulder blades down and in/back during your workout and it should relieve some of the tension in your upper traps. Also, look at yourself in the mirror if you can.

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Craig Stoltz: I would add to Christy's excellent recommendations on sites to help find a trainer this one: ideafit.com. Click on "personal trainer locator." I stuck in a few local cities and zip codes and found at least short lists of names. No more info than names, numbers and certification level, however.

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Alexandria, Va.: I'm in the market for a personal trainer to come to my home. (Thanks for the websites; They are very helpful). What questions should I ask to make sure they're qualified? Certain certifications?

Christy Denardo: Well I would ask about their experience, what specialities they might have, if they have a degree in the field. At The Sports Club/LA we require all of our trainers to be certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine, but we also allow ACE, ACSM, NSCA, and NSCF. The trainer should ask you a lot of questions regarding your health history, goals, current activity level, etc...They should want to know just as much about you as you do them.

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No.Va.: What type of exercise can I do to maximize weightloss. I am 35 years old and need to lose 75 pounds. I have been eating enough to lose 1 pound a week and really would like to exercise enough to lose an additional pound or two each week. I have most equipment I might need at home (treadmill, weights, stability ball, heart rate monitor).

Christy Denardo: I would recommend hiring a personal trainer for variety, commitment, and expertise. You may want to consult with a nutritionist to make sure your eating strategy is effective for your goal. Definitely keep with the strength and cardio training incorporating full or total body exercises.

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The Moving Crew: Okay, you have some leads on a trainer, now how do you make sure that they are qualified? Some help is available. Read Putting a Trainer to the Test. Not enough information? Read even more about finding a trainer in Trainer Training, Simplified.

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Riverdale, Md.: What are some good ideas for small meals since the suggestion is for 4-5 per day?

Christy Denardo: You want a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat in each meal. Tunafish and wheat crackers, cottage cheese and fruit, a trailmix (dried fruit included). Does that help?

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Susan Morse: It's a real alphabet soup out there when it comes to trainer-certifying organizations. The groups that Christy mentioned as having some of the strictest credentialing reputations are the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and the National Council on Strength and Fitness (NCSF).

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Craig Stoltz: A note to NoVa about adding exercise to weight loss. An excellent idea, and it's nearly universally agreed that trying to lose weight and keep it off without exercise is futile.

But: A pound equals 3,500 calories. When I absolutely bust my butt during a workout I burn 350-400 calories (per my heart rate monitor, whose calculations take into account my weight, height, age, etc.). That means I have to do 10 killer workouts to lose 3,500 calories, or one pound. That's a lot of movement to lose one pound.

As the Crew has written, a big benefit of working out is the fact that muscle burns more calories than fat, so that as you get fit your body will consume more fuel just living out its day. And post-exercise "burn"--a lifted metabolism that follows a workout for an hour or several--burns some calories too.

My point: exercise, and do it a lot, and love it. It'll help you lose weight. But the harsh arithmetic of calories suggest you'll get more bang by continuing to control your inputs than you will from trying to gin up the outputs.

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Clifton, Va.: If you are employing a personal trainer who does not work for a gym please make sure they have liability insurance. If you should suffer an injury that is your trainers fault you need to be able to have recourse. My girlfriend is a personal trainer and she fiound many of her colleagues were not carrying insurnce. Dumb move. A trainer not affiliated with a gym should also incorporate. Protect yourelf from lawyers.

Christy Denardo: A lot of trainers do not carry insurance- that is a great point!

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Riverdale, Md. again: Yes that helps. Where can I learn more about proper portions for these meals?

Christy Denardo: Again a nutritionist.

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Clifton, Va.: Just because a trainer is certified does not mean they know what they are doing or have a clue. Ask for references and ask around at your gym.

Craig Stoltz: Good point, Clifton. It also helps to observe a trainer at work to see how they relate to clients and how they use their knowledge. Far too many I've seen are just muscley workout companions.

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Craig Stoltz: Well, gang, we're out of time. Christy, thanks for your time and the great advice. All of you: Good luck keeping yourself moving in 2005. Join us in two weeks to tell us how you're doing.

Crew out.

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