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Transcript

Workouts: How Hard?

Mitch Batkin, Vice-President of Personal Training and Fitness at Sport & Health Clubs
Washington Post Health Staff
Thursday, September 30, 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: Greetings Chatland!

If you are as weary as we are of pundits, polls, prognosticators and white guys in suits prepping for a debate, you've come to the right place. Here at the Moving Crew we offer you casually (OK, sloppily) dressed fitness
enthusiasts armed with advice, truisms, opinions and smart-alec remarks about exercise, and absolutely no discussion of politics - domestic, international or intergalactic.

If that's not enticement enough, today we feature a guest expert: Mitch Batkin, vice president of fitness and personal training at Sport & Health Clubs. Mitch has a masters degree in physiology and a B.S. in nutritional
biochemistry and has worked in the fitness industry for more than 23 years. He will take questions on all fitness topics--about working with trainers, designing regimens, dealing with injuries and limitations, how to get
six-pack abs (kidding), and how to design a fitness regimen for chat participants who hope to make the roster for D.C.'s new baseball team (kidding, I think). We are delighted Mitch could join us today (not kidding).

To the questions...

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washingtonpost.com: Trying to figure out the intensity level of your workouts? Feel the burn and read this week's Moving Crew column The Fact-Burning Zone.

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Fairfax, Va..: Just a comment that I am a generally satisfied member of LifeTime Fitness in Fairfax, and find that this club is very open and welcoming to older members, those with a lot of work to do to get in shape, and people with disabilities. This is important to many of us. I was a Sport and Health (Annandale)member for a while, but quit when my job location changed and it was too long a trip to get there after work. It was fairly welcoming to people like me, also. There are a lot of us out here!;

Craig Stoltz: Top o' the morning, Fairfax, and thanks for the comment.
Two key points you make:

1. Yes, clubs gotta learn to be more open to, and useful to, older, less able and "deconditioned" adults. This crowd is the wave of the future, and they represent a major public health need--and a huge potential market. Good to hear LifeTime is doing a good job.

2. Yes: Location, location, location. I'm not privy to industry research, but I'll bet you data shows that a club's being close to home or work is the primary driver of memberships. If getting there takes too much time or trouble, you just won't go.

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Georgetown: Hi there-

I'm a 30 yr. old female with about 20 lbs to lose. I have just started to workout more regularly, and have 30-40 minutes to exercise in the mornings 4x/week. How would you suggest I divide that time between cardio and weights? I just want to make sure to use the time that I have in the most effective way possible. Thanks!;

Mitch Batkin: To get the most efficiency, start with 20 minutes of cardio each of the 4 days followed by 20 minutes of weight training. Both cardio and weight training are vital to succeeding in a weight loss program. Gradually build up the intensity in your cardio program to where you're working up to 70-85% of your maximum heart rate. For the weight training choose exercises that use larger muscles and several muscles at once. Some good examples for lower body are leg presses and lunges are basic movements that are very effective. For upper body, chest presses, seated rows and shoulder presses are good choices. Please see a fitness professional for learning the correct form for maximum safety.

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Rosslyn, Va..: I've lost 15 lbs recently. I'm trying to keep it off and hopefully lose the last (annoying) 10lbs. I'm running a couple of times a week and going to beginners' pilates class once a week. Somehow this doesn't seem enough. I'd like to add one more activity to balance it out, do you guys have any suggestions? Thanks!;

John Briley: Nice work so far Rosslyn. A common refrain here: To lose fat, calories expended must exceed calories consumed, preferably by at least 200 cals per day.

I'd recommend at least a little strength training (pilates provides some of that, but you could strength train more efficiently with weights) and - since you seem to like classes - a beginners' spin-cycle class. This will hit some muscles you don't use running, add variety to your week and, depending on how much you push yourself, incinerate a lot of calories.

Don't be intimidated: Spinning welcomes a wide range of fitness levels and you can do the class more or less at your pace. Just make sure you bring a bottle of water.

good luck!

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Laurel: How do I check for my "resting heart rate"?

Craig Stoltz: Hi Laurel,

Easy. When you wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed, grab a watch with a second hand. Use your fingers (not thumb) to find the pulse on your neck (the carotid artery, for Gray's Anatomy fans). Time it for 30 seconds and double it, or 15 seconds and multiply by four. That's your resting heart rate (rhr).

It's important to do this before you start moving around, doing your morning toilette, listen to Eliot in the Morning on DC 101, etc. Those things can get your ticker moving faster beyond its "resting" rate.

A lower number's usually better; well-conditioned athletes have rhr's in the 50s; most mortals are in the 60s. If your results are well into the 70s and beyond, you may want to talk to your doctor or degreed fitness professional. (70-plus doesn't mean you're sick or anything--lots of healthy folks have high rhr's--it's just a good reason to talk to someone. . .)

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Arlington, Va..: I'm interested in building muscle mass in my upper body (pecs, arms, back). Is there a formula, or advice, for determining the best weight to sets/reps ratio?

Mitch Batkin: There really is no perfect formula because everyone's body is different. However, the best advice I have learned is to work out at an intensity where you can maintain good form but you get muscular failure at around 8-12 reps. The first set recruits approx. 85% of the muscle fibers within the muscle you're working. Each set thereafter adds a little more recruitment and so will help to build more muscle. The key is not to do so many sets that you overtrain that will result in injury.

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New York, N.Y.: I've recently taken a job that has upset my usual exercise pattern. I typically try to run/jog 3-4 miles about 4-5 times per week, mixing it up with elliptical crosstraining to protect my joints.

I'm still managing somewhere between 3-4 times a week, but now with my new job I end up with a longer commute. Fortunately, I am commuting by bike (I always do, but now instead of the usual 6 miles each way, I am riding about 14 miles each way). While I know that my bike commute in no way mitigates the loss of the running, does it give me anything that I can include in my exercise for the day?

I'm sure it sounds lame to ask about such exchanges, but the loss is totally frustrating. I'm trying to get up earlier, too, but I figured I'd ask about the benefits of biking.

Thanks.

John Briley: Hey New York - I'd have to disagree with your premise that the biking doesn't mitigate the loss of running: It certainly can, especially if you can get - and keep - your heart rate up. 28 miles of biking a day is strong, especially if you hit it pretty hard (I guess that depends on whether there's a shower at your office).

Running definitely burns more calories because you are fighting gravity with each step (versus riding the rolling wheels of a bike). But I would say the biking could replace your elliptical work and you could use the former ellip time to strength train at the gym.

If you hit a lot of traffic lights and get a cardio burn going with the bike commute, try cranking into a slightly higher gear to force your body to work harder.


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washingtonpost.com: So you've learned a few things about workout intensity. Now what? Read next week's Moving Crew column on designing a fitness program for middle age, and discover a program that's right for you.

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Oxon Hill, Md..: Mitch,

I'm trying to maintain my weight while also satisfying my cravig for sweets and cakes. I work out at least 3-4 times during the week, so I want to know if there is a website that could tell me how long and/or hard I have to work out when I have a slice of carrot cake or something like that.

Thanks.

Susan Morse: Hi Oxon Hill,
I know, I know. For you it's carrot cake, for me it's chocolate. But you've got the right idea in wanting to know how hard you have to work to burn off your treats---or, if you prefer, how big a treat you can reward yourself with, without forfeiting the benefits of your workout. There's a site called caloriesperhour.com that's good at computing how many calories you burn in Va.rious activities, depending on your weight, your gender and how long you're doing whatever you're doing.
It doesn't, of course, take into account the caloric load of the particular goody you're eyeing. It probably goes without saying (but I'll say it anyhow) you could eat a whole lot more slices of red pepper without working so hard for it. But you knew that.
Let us know how you find it. And good luck.

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G'burg, Md..: I walk three miles most days and in the beginning my body responded with weight loss. Now it seems that maybe my body has gotten used to the routine. How do I step it up? I have knee problems so I can't run. Also on the days I don't walk I do weight training.

Mitch Batkin: Hi Gburg! The amazing thing about the human body is that all exercises work to get you in shape but you have to Va.ry the routine to keep improving because your body adapts so well. If walking is your exercise of choice, try some interVa.l type of training. By that, I mean walk a minute at a faster pace followed by a minute of your normal pace. The idea is to push yourself for a short period of time, recover, and then push yourself again. I love the fact that you're weight training in addition to walking, so keep up the good work. If your knee hurts when you run, you can try biking or one of our elliptical machines.

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Fairfax, Va.: I am bummed my trainer at Lifetime Fitness in Fairfax is TDY with her Army unit for three months. Gen was the best trainer I have ever had. She would show me how to the exercises and she wasn't on her cell or talking with coworkers. Was never intimidated by the fact she was a competive bodybuilder. All business and I felt comfortable since I am female. Lost 37 lbs over last year. Gen would answer my questions and not make me feel stupid like other trainers. She knows training. She has me thinking seriously of competing in Fitness contests.

Craig Stoltz: Hi Fairfax, another endorsement for Lifetime. (I hope this isn't a trick by Lifetime PR people. If so, we will rat them out later.)

That is great that someone who is a competitive bodybuilder can help you at the level you were at. In my obserVa.tion, and hearing complaints from others, trainers who are engaged in competitions and have a very high level of fitness can easily forget what life is like for the deconditioned. Most complaints about trainers I hear are just that--treated me like I was lazy or dumb, didn't seem interested in people like me, etc.

And say, why don't *all* clubs ban cell phones already? Especially trainers? Yeesh.

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Arlington, Va.: Question about spinning classes. I've been taking spinning classes four days a week for about 1 year. Over the past three weeks I've developed a persistent cramp in my left foot that tends to hit me about 3/4 of the way through class (classes range 45 min - 55 min). I wear the appropriate shoes, I drink a lot of water during the day & Gatoraide during class & I try to keep my heel pointed down. Someone suggested new arch supports in my shoes or just new shoes. Someone else suggested just taking time off from the class for a while. I'm loate to take time off (I had to take a few weeks off over the summer because of a test). Any other suggestions or comments?

John Briley: Well, four days a week of spinning is quite a bit. Are you using toe clips, or the pedals we cyclists call "clipless" (where you click in)? The upward pressure on a toe clip could be an issue. Also, you may be favoring your left - and thus working it harder.

This is the time when fitness and health experts tell you to listen to your body: Something isn't right, so you might just have to dial back on the frequency to make it go away.

If you absolutely cannot pull yourself away from the class, try to lower your intensity for a session or two and see if that helps.

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Washington, D.C.: I read John Briley's article on Tuesday about the relationship between workout intensity and fat-burning. I did not understand it (and I consider myself to have above-average intelligence). Please try again.

John Briley: Hi D.C. - What I was trying to convey was that you can burn as many calories exercising at lower intensities that you can at higher intensities, if you exercise longer.

That is: If you sprint a mile in 6 minutes and I walk a mile in 18 minutes, we will burn the same number of calories (provided we weight the same).

AND - important point for a lot of people - we will burn roughly the same number of fat calories. I was trying to clear up confusion people have about the "fat burning" zones denoted on so many cardio machines. That is, that zone doesn't matter so much: What matters is that time exercising x intensity = number of cals burned.

Does that help? Sorry for the confusion.

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Metro Center: I'm 5"4 and 127 lbs. For ten years, I remained the same weight (115lbs) until my late 20s and have been trying to lose the weight. I do 20-30 mins of running 5 times a week, weight training 3 times a week, 45 mins of boxing class 1 day a week, and can't lose the weight!; It's been over 6 months!; I count my calories, which only total to about 1,300-1,500 per day. I've tried mixing things up w/ my cardio: running fast 30 secs/running normal pace 1.5 mins; doing the stationary bike one day...but nothing's worked!; Any advice?

Mitch Batkin: Congratulations! It sounds like you're very diligent in your exercise program which is wonderful! I think one of the best things for you to do is to speak to a trainer/fitness professional and reeVa.luate your weight training program and the intensity of your cardio program. Additionally, I'd love for you to speak with one of our nutritionists to eVa.luate your nutrition program. You're doing so much right that I think it's important for your program to maintain a high level of intensity for you to reach your goals. In order to do so without chance of injury you may be at the point where a personal trainer can help give great advice.

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Gaithersburg, MD: As a fairly new S&H member, I'd like to say that I'm pretty delighted with the clubs. I actually visit 5 locations pretty regularly -- Lakeforest, Rio, Rockville, Ballston and Skyline.

If I might, though, I'd like to put in a plea for seated leg curl machines at clubs that don't have 'em (Lakeforest and Rockville). I am recovering from back surgery and have just returned to the gym, carefully getting back into my weight routine. The lying leg curl machines are just not good for back stability, in my experience, and I feel much more comfortable (and can handle a greater weight stack) in the seated machines.

Thanks!;

Mitch Batkin: Thanks for the feedback. I am currently eVa.luating the equipment at all of our locations and the seated leg curl machines will be added at most locations. For your information, the lying leg curl can be used very effectively while keeping your back safe. The key is to maintain a neutral spine during the entire movement. Have a fitness trainer watch you perform the exercise to enure you are doing it correctly.

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Laurel Maryland: I'm 55 and workout every day - walk 2 miles, an hr. on the basketball court, or bicycling. On the court, my pulse rate usually is around 140-155. I have to rest every 15 min. when my pulse gets around 165. Would jogging increase my ability to play longer with a lower pulse rate?

Craig Stoltz: Hi Laurel, good question.

The pulse rate during exercise you report is excellent for your age (refresher: a rough estimate of your workout heartrate is 220-your age, multiplied by .60 to get your workout "floor," by .90 (or .85) to determine your "ceiling." For a 55-year-old, your floor is about 100, your ceiling is about 165. These are rough numbers; your mileage will Va.ry.)

Your on-court hr is about 85-90 percent, which is an excellent rate for a sustained workout. Congrats.

While jogging instead of walking will indeed improve your cardioVa.scular performance, one thing to consider, especially for someone with knees in service for over half a century, is doing interVa.ls:

walk or jog lightly for, say, two minutes, then run harder for 30 seconds. When your hr returns to around 100 (.60 of your maximum), run harder again. Or just go by the clock: run easy for two minutes, harder for one, for instance.

This "interVa.l training" has been proven to produce more cardioVa.scular improvement compared to similar time spent doing "steady state" training (where you keep the same pace throughout). Doing too much steady-state training can be bad for aging knees (trust me, I speak from experience).

You can do interVa.ls on your bike, or a treadmill, track, or any aerobic machine in a club or in your home. Getting a hrm (heart rate monitor) will make it easy to manage your workout.

Good luck; let us know how it goes. . .

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Dallas, Texas: How do you motiVa.te a depressed adolescent, who hasn't had a history of exercising, to begin a regular exercise regime? Believing of course, that this would be beneficial to them both physically and psychologically?
Thanks,
CWH

John Briley: Eeesh, Dallas, this is tough. My advice is fairly basic, so apologies if this sounds patronizing: Find something - anything - the child enjoys and translate it into activity.

If he/she loves the video motorcycle console at the mall, try to get him/her on a mountain bike. Pick a nice day and forgiving terrain, and see if you can start with some downhills (to show the thrills before the uphill work!).

If the child is into military stuff, go out into the forest and invent some games that involve bushwhacking. If there's one sport they watch on TV all the time, gravitate to that. If he/she has mountain pictures all over the wall, go to climbing gym.

The key things:

1. That YOU do it with them (or, if they're in that "I-hate-you" phase, find someone they like to play with them), and

2. That the child enjoy the exercise.

Try - hard as it is - to think like the child, to put yourself back in teenage land.

Good luck.

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dc: I came down hard from the sidewalk and jolted my back about 3-4 weeks ago. It hurt for 1 week, then went away. Since then it flares up. NOt sure why. What should I be doing?

Craig Stoltz: Visiting a doctor. You want to be sure you don't have something serious going on; you don't want to fool around with a back problem.

Assuming you don't have a bone or disc problem, your doc should be able to recommend exercises that will relieve muscle spasms (which may be the source of your problem). The doc can also tell you if a nerve is involved; some medications can help with that.

Let us know what you find out.

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Arlington, Va.: Thanks for answering my Q about building muscle mass!; Can I ask a follow up? I'm thinking about engaging a Personal Trainer to help guide/motiVa.te my workouts. If my gym just assigns someone to me... how can I be sure they're qualified? What questions should I ask a PT to make sure I'm working with someone who knows what they're doing? Thanks!;

Mitch Batkin: You're welcome. Speak to the fitness director at the club you belong to to learn more about each of the trainers. Make sure the trainer has a national certification from a reputable organization such as NASM, ACSM, NSCA, or ACE. Ask them how to build muscle without injury, their training philosophy, if they have past/current clients that would give them a recommendation. You may want ask for a 30-minute trial workout to see if you enjoy working with each other.

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Silver Spring, Md.: I belonged to a Gold's Gym down in TN and found that you didn't have to worry about being the only out of shape person there. There were person's at all levels of fitness and the staff were helpful to all. And once you get exercising you don't notice if anyone else is noticing you, and they aren't, because they're focused on their own routines. Stand firm though when you are negotiating any contracts, they push hard to get you to sign long-term memberships

John Briley: Sound advice, Silver Spring!

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Arlington, Va.: Hi Mitch. I'm a woman in my late twenties and I do cardio and strength training workouts. I don't feel like I'm exceeding my ability in the strength training - I don't "max out," I just do enough to break a sweat, but I'm usually a little sore for 3-4 days afterwards. I recently read in a health magazine that you shouldn't be sore for more than 2 days; that longer periods of soreness mean you're pushing yourself too hard. My diet is pretty good; plenty of greens and protiens, and I take a multivitamin, so it's not a nutrition deficiency. My question is, am I doing too much? I like the results I'm getting, and I've been at it for nearly 10 months now. Is it possible that I just heal a little slower than some people? Thanks.

Mitch Batkin: Hi Arlington! What I need to know first is how often are you working out? Typically, you should be performing resistance training 2-3 days/wk with a day or two of rest in between.

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Germantown, Md.: Hello!; I have just the opposite problem.. I am 25, mother of 2 and have trouble keeping weight on. I goto the gym 3 x a week (try to atleast) and start with 5 mins. warm-up and then lift weights for the enitre next 40 mins. Am I making this worse on myself because I hear you burn more with lifting?

Susan Morse: Hi Germantown,
Lots of folks would love to have your problem, but that's not to say it's not a real one for you. About 2 percent of the population is underweight and, as a result, more susceptible to problems like osteoporosis.
You can get an idea of whether you really are underweight by checking where you fall on the Body Mass Index, which you can find at a site from the National Institutes of Health. Anything under 18.5 on the chart does qualify as underweight. You should check with your doctor before going further to discuss your diet and rule out any possible condition that might contribute to the problem.
Once you've done that, it's time to look to your workout. Exercise is important for maintaining health and building appetite, but I don't think anyone would recommend your spending (or anyone's spending) nearly all of your workout time each week on weight lifting. You need cardioVa.scular work too. Consider asking your gym if there's a dietitian on staff who can advise you. Good luck.

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washingtonpost.com: Read about the call for a new initiative to fight childhood obesity in today's article An Unprecedented Fight Against Childhood Obesity.

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Falls Church, Va., but usually in the air: Hi. I'm 50 years old, and I exercise regularly when I'm home. I am an cycling enthusiast, and usually put in around 130 miles a week. In the last six months I've had to tralev a lot for my job, and it distupts my workout schedule. Any suggestions on how to keep fit when you're in the air almost as much as on the ground? Thanks.

Craig Stoltz: Hi, airborne,

I've had periods of lots of travel too. Three things (you'll hate this one):

1. check *all* your bags or stick 'em in a locker) and then spend time walking around the airport (assuming you have time, of course). Get a pedometer and you'll be surprised how many steps you can get in walking briskly for 20 minutes. (Besides, everybody walks briskly at an airport so you won't look like a dork.)

2. I travel with exercise bands: easy, light, use 'em anywhere. I know, I know, it seems like a wimpy way to workout. And it's no way to get an aerobic workout. But you can do a lot of flexibility and strength work with them. Most makers' Web sites have good exercise suggestions for curls, tricep curls, presses, upright rows, etc. I use bands in my at-home, at-gym workouts, and trust me: they will give your muscles a buzz. Plus help balance, flexibility, etc.

3. Walk, at least part of the way, before you cab. If you drive, park a few minutes' away to sneak in some more steps on the ol' pedometer.

I assume you're already traveling with workout clothes and shoes so you can use whatever gym or fitness facility your hotel may have.

Any other frequent fliers have suggestions?

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Arlington, Va.: Since the water offers so much resistance in lap swimming, does it work the same as weight-lifting for upper body benefits?

John Briley: Generally speaking, Arlington, yes it does. But the resistance offered by pulling your arm through the water would equate to a pretty low weight. That said, in swimming, say, for an hour, you are doing a whole bunch more "reps" than you would with a weight, so you will get benefit.

Are you seeking to bulk up, or quickly tone up your muscles? More targeted strength training may be a quicker route. But swimming is GREAT all around - so I'd recommend keeping it as a part of your regimen.

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Washington, D.C.: I have just started exercising again after almost two years away due to some surgeries and a broken foot (not related). My doctors have cleared me to do whatever I want; what I want to do is lose about 50 pounds and most importantly combat the heart disease that is rampant in my family. I know how to exercise and am familiar with proper form from before my illness hiatus; however, the healed/broken foot is new to me. How essential is it to have a personal trainer, and how often do I need to work with a trainer vs. on my own? I've joined a gym and take aerobics 5x week but know I need to add strength training to lose the weight. Thanks!;

Mitch Batkin: Hi D.C.! A good personal trainer is inVa.luable for keeping the motiVa.tion high, making the workout safe and effective for reaching your goals. The average for most people is to work with their trainer 2-3 days/wk.

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Huffin & Puffin...Stuff: hi, I'm trying to intensfy my basic walking. Thoughts on a weighted vest vs. belt...? thanks

Craig Stoltz: Hi, Stuff:

I've heard, and read about, both belts and vests creating problems (you hold your body different and can get crampy, spasm-y, funny back and hip things, etc.). Others are enthused to use them. Vests distribute the weight over a larger surface, and then (supposedly) less likely to cause such problems.

But I'd consider something that has no risk and many rewards: Get yourself a hrm (heart rate monitor), and watch what happens to your heart rate during your walk. By adding interVa.ls (as described elsewhere in this very chat), you can boost your cardioVa.scular capacity. A lot. Many people plateau with walking because they keep a steady state and similar distance. Better to gin up the intensity, using a hrm to monitor your workout.

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Rockville, Md.: I re-joined my health club yesterday. I got sick with a painful bone disease, but I'm better now and I am ready to start working out again. My membership comes with 2 free 1-hr personal training sessions. I get VERY intimidated by these people, ESPECIALLY male trainers. How do I let them know what I need and not let them run the show entirely? I am overweight and I don't want them to think I'm lazy. I'm not. I used to work out 3 hrs a day before I got sick. I am not in shape anymore and need time to ramp back up, not a "tough-love" approach....

Mitch Batkin: Hi Rockville! There are different trainers that fit well with different personalities and goals. It would perfectly acceptable to speak with a few of the trainers in the club and ask them a few questions about their training philosophy to see who fits your style best. No need to be intimidated because trainers work with people who have similar concerns every day. You can also ask the Fitness Director for their recommendation.

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Wilmington, Delaware: Do you recommend using weights when doing side bends. I have read many times that doing side bends with weights increase the size of your waist instead of decreasing. Some people say doing the weights will cause you waist to look bigger.

John Briley: Hi Wilmington. Thanks for joining us. Doing side bends with weights will strengthen - and increase the size of - your oblique muscles, which are on either side of of your abs. Technically, that isn't your waist - it's just above the waistline.

Do note that you cannot "spot reduce" areas of fat with exercise. You can tone up muscle in specific areas, which might mimic fat reduction, but your body does not grab fat cells from, for example, your waste every time you do sit-ups.

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Arlington, Va.: Two things:

A couple weeks ago, a woman was asking about sports bras for larger cup sized women. I recommend the Enell. As a DDD+, I can assure you it works wonders. About $50, and they can be custom ordered if you don't fall into their size set up or want special colors. www.enell.com. Some stores carry only the smaller sizes, but they are made for plus sizes as well.

Also, I had also asked about the area gyms. Went to Golds, and as I expected there were a LOT of muscleheads there, prancing around in front of the mirrors. But, other than being annoying in their self adoration they stayed to themselves and didn't bother anyone. I might even go back.

Craig Stoltz: Thanks, Arlington. I'm sure this will help some women.

We get this comment on Gold's often. It was founded as a serious muscle-building place--I believe the young and vulgar Arnold S. was a patron. But it's become a much more mainstream club, attracting the same broad swath of humanity as other clubs. Local conditions vary, of course, but there's no reason to think Gold's is more full of hard-cores than others.

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Arlington, Va.: I just joined a gym about a month ago after taking about 2 years off. I have been mainly focusing on cardio this past month---swimming and cardio machines. I need to implement weights into my routine to actually see some results. What is a circuit that I could do in the weight machines that I could do after cardio---There are so many many machines at the Sport and Health in Skyline, i just don't know where to start.

Mitch Batkin: Glad to hear you're back! The basic routine should consist of chest press, seated row, shoulder press, leg press, leg extension, leg curl, abdominal crunch and lower back extension. The make of equipment that you select is less important than your form. If you need further assistance with the equipment, please ask any of our fitness professionals.

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Onancock, Va.: What do you think about the Curves workout, if it is done daily and hard?

Susan Morse: Hi Onancock,
First off, any exercise you enjoy enough to want to do regularly is, by definition, good. So if you find the Curves atmosphere (relaxed, pretty much women only, half hour in and out) to your liking, go for it. The only criticism some fitness experts have voiced about Curves is that, after an initial period, the workout intensity may not be enough for some people because the equipment at some clubs has a single resistance setting. Once you've reached that, it may be hard to challenge yourself further.

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Arlington, Va.: I'm a 44-year old man, 5-8, 165 lbs., and am trying to push myself to lose about 10-15 lbs. Tell me if this is strange. After a strenuous lifting session, I will feel fine the next day, but 2 days later the muscle pain will set in. Have my nerves gotten so old that it takes pain longer to travel.

John Briley: Good question Arlington. The pain occurs as the body works to repair the "torn" muscle fibers (lifting tears muscles fibers; the repair work makes the muscles stronger).

What happens as we age is that the body slows its lactic acid metabolism - which is integral to the muscle repair process. So when you were 25 the soreness would come within 24 hours; now it takes twice as long.

So its not nerves, and you're not losing your mind.

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Waldorf, Md.: Do you have any experience with the Nautilaus Treadclimber which is being advertised on TV and in magazines? The so-called free trial requires shipping charges both ways so it's not a free trial at all, more like $398.It claims to be a much better fat burner than a treadmill.Is it aVa.ilable in any of your clubs?

Mitch Batkin: Hi Waldorf! We do not offer this machine at any of our clubs. We offer treadmills, bikes, and elliptical cross trainers for the safest, most effective cardio equipment. When selecting which equipment to use, is to first do something you enjoy and second, something that raises your heart rate to the recommended level of 60-90% of your maximum heart rate. The treadclimber is not necessarily better, just different. We offer cardio machines that are equally effective at burning fat.

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South Yarmouth, Ma.: I am a 79 year old male and my exercise consists of hand digging the garden,keeping up the house doing odd spots of woodwork and all the painting etc. plus most of the housekeeping including cooking and baking etc. plus every other day on either 30 minutes of high speed walking or the treadmill plus doing some training on an indoor rowing machine. Is this enough exercise or should I be doing more and if so what type and how much more.......Harry Walker

Susan Morse: Hi South Yarmouth,
Wow. I know lots of 40-year-olds you put to shame. The Centers for Disease Control recommend at least a half hour of moderate exercise (walking counts) a day. On the days you're not doing the high-speed walking or the treadmill or the rowing machine, I think the trick would be to try to see that you take in a walk or get digging in the garden. If you're doing that, you're fine. Heck, you're an inspiration to the rest of us. Keep up the good work.

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Vienna, Va.: I walk a treadmill each day whether I am at home, or travel, on all kinds of top edge machines. I weigh 204 lbs. I walk at 3.3 speed and a 4.0 tilt for 30 minutes and cover 1 and 1/2 miles. At these measures, I use generally a total of 215 calories. I read where I should be burning 204 calories per mile on a flat surface. At a mile and a half I should be burning 300+ calories on a flat surface. Why the discrepancy?

Craig Stoltz: Good morning, Vienna, and thanks for checking in with Da Crew.

The short answer: Those calorie estimators you find on machines are notoriously--and by design inevitably--approximate. Even unconnected to reality, depending on lots of stuff, including your unique metabolism.

The best use for those figures is to ignore them; distance and time are more useful measures that tell you how much work you've done. Or use the calorie figure as a way to compare your workouts on different days--a 180 day, a 240 day, etc. Just know it doesn't really count calories burned.

For a more precise estimate, go to caloriesperhour.com. It at least will take into account your weight, age, gender and other stuff that will make approximation more accurate. It also lists all kinds of activities, so you can estimate calories burned on household and work activities, too.

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Vienna, Va.: I walk a treadmill every day, at home or when I travel, on top notch machines. I walk at 3.3 speed and at 4.0 tilt for 30 minutes and cover 1 and 1/2 miles. I weigh 204 lbs. I read where I am supposed to burn 204 calories per mile on a flat surface- regardless of speed, for each mile covered. I find I am burning about 210 calories with the machines set as described after 1 and 1/2 miles. I should be burning 300+. Why the discrepency?

Mitch Batkin: Hi Vienna. The 100 calories per mile per 100 lbs is a guideline but not a perfect formula. Your body composition is a contributing factor and everyone is different.

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G'Burg, Md.: Why doesn't Rio have yoga???

Mitch Batkin: Rio does offer yoga on Thursdays at 12 noon. Hatha/Ashtanga.

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John Briley: Thanks for playing today, folks! Great batch of questions.

Thanks especially to Mitch Batkin for joining us and lending his expertise. Come back for more in two weeks. In the meantime, email us at: move@washpost.com

- The Moving Crew

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