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.
This week, the Crew will explore resolutions and offer ways to overcome the excuses that keep so many of us desk- and sofa-bound in the new year.
Submit your questions and comments before or during today's discussion.
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.
John Briley: Yikes, folks, who turned off the heat? Hustle into the chat room and shut that door quickly, lest our fingers freeze to these keys. But, hey, what's the holiday season without a little arctic air? Besides, we all know the best way to warm up, right? No, not that (this is a family chat room). It's exercise, of course!
So now it's resolution and reflection time, and we'd love to hear what you have resolved to do, fitness-wise, in 2005 and how you feel about your 2004 performance. How many of you are consciously stating exercise among your New Year goals?
Fire away with all questions, comments, suggestions, quandaries, musings and any other thought related to getting fit, staying fit, returning to fitness, etc. To the board...
Silver Spring, Md.:
Why do some people "sabotage" themselves when they start to see a difference in themselves, i.e., they have lost weight and started toning up. Suddenly, they can't control their urges to eat things they have religiously not eaten for months and give up on their exercise programs. I am not talking about people who don't have will power, I am talking about people who seem to consciously undo the good things they have done for themselves.
Craig Stoltz: Hi Ho, Silver Spring: This for "a friend" of yours? Either way, here's my take on this common phenomenon:
People get sedentary and overweight because of the circumstances that accumulate around them: schedule, work style, family members' habits, availability of unhealthy foods, etc. For a period of time, will power (driven by fear, vanity, desire to feel better, etc.) can overpower those circumstances and result in weight loss, improved body, etc.
But will power can't be sustained for a lifetime, or even more than a couple months. The only way to keep the change, so to speak, is to change the cirumstances that led to the bad stuff in the first place. You've got to get rid of the bad food in the house, get an exercise buddy who'll keep you on schedule, eliminate TV from the family menu, change your schedule to allow for exercise, etc.
Ultimately the environment will overcome will power. You need to change the environment to make changes stick.
Others have thoughts about this?
What is considered "too much" exercise? More than 3 times a week? I ride a stationary bike everyday for at least 20-30 min. I'm trying to lose weight so I try to burn 3-400 calories per session. Eventually I want to get to an hour of cardio each day. Thanks and Happy Holidays!
John Briley: Hey Lorton - At your current pace you are not exercising too much, but there are drawbacks (and potential dangers) to sticking with just one activity: Burnout, boredom, over-concentration on one muscle group and, possibly over-stressing of said muscles/tendons/ligaments/bones.
I don't think a half-hour per day puts you at any of those risks, but something to be aware of. Maybe mix in some elliptical machine (if you are using a gym, vs. a bike-at-home), or brisk walking/jogging, roller blading, swimming, etc., and some strength training. I know it can be tedious and boring and doesn't always yield the same sweat factor as cardio, but keeping some muscle tone will help you with whatever cardio you choose, break up your routine a little, and help prevent injury (stress fractures, strained ligaments, etc.).
Back to your main question: Too much exercise will make you tired, listless, gaunt and decrease your performance. So it's a different limit for everyone. There is no risk to exercising daily - the CDC recommends it, in fact - if you do it wisely.
How can I stick with exercise this time? Every year I try in January and sometimes quit the same week. I need hlep, I want to do it this time.
Susan Morse: Hi Beltsville,
Got an exercise buddy? Someone to join you for a morning walk or gym session who can help keep you honest? That's a great motivator. It's a whole lot harder to just shrug off a session and burrow under the covers a little longer when you know there's another person counting on you. Craig will tell you this worked for him.
Other ideas: Start slow, keep your goals realistic. Consider keeping a workout diary so you can track your progress. A single session with a trainer is also worth considering: A good trainer will help you set reachable goals and get your started in a basic routine that you can modify as time goes on. Good luck! Let us know how you do.
I have a desk and chair in my own office and was wondering if there are any exercises I can do during the day to strengthen my abs (get a six pac) and muscular tone? Or do I need to go to a gym for that?
Craig Stoltz: Hey, Rock-hard-abs-ville,
Surely you jest. The only way to get a six-pack is to really exercise your abs and lose the fat that covers them. No way you can do that in your office.
OK, but you can strenthen your abs and core muscles at work:
1. Sit on an exercise ball instead of a chair. This forces you to engage your core muscles while you sit. It ain't like doing 200 crunches, but it's a start. It'll also improve your posture--no way you can slouch on a big ol' plastic orb.
2. Sally Squires recommends something she calls "executive crunches." Sit upright in your chair, suck your gut in and hold it for, say, a count of ten. This does engage your abs. Sort of.
3. Close the door and do The Plank: Get in pushup position, but balance yourself on your forearms and toes. Hold your back straight and keep yourself suspended for as long as possible. 30 seconds for starters, 3 minutes for Pro Level. This is serious core work.
Now: back to work, you.
My fitness resolution for 2005 is to get a personal trainer -- extreme times call for extreme measures.
But how do I find a good one?
John Briley: Start at your gym (assuming you belong to one). If not, look under 'personal training' in the Yellow Pages - numerous "gyms" provide ONLY personal training.
1. Make sure the person is certified with American College of Sports Medicine or National Strength & Conditioning Association or American Council on Exercise. There are others, but those are the top three.
2. Ideally, he/she will have completed a four-year college wit ha major in exercise physiology, kinesiology (basically the same thing) or physical education. There are good trainers out there who have not done this, but this is added assurance that the trainer knows his/her stuff.
3. Meet and talk with the trainer first to ensure you're comfortable with the approach - some trainers are better with novices or with people who have a specific focus.
4. Do one or two sessions before agreeing to/paying for a package.
5. Avoid trainers who recommend weight-loss or performance-enhancing supplements.
It should be fun, challenging and, to an extent, educational.
Please do report back periodically with your experiences, and good luck!
Are there any good motivational or exercise books that would help individuals stay true to their resolutions to get a bit fitter in 2005?
- Fairfax County Public Library
Craig Stoltz: Hey, Libraries! Glad to have representatives of the world of ink-on-paper literacy with us today. (Confession: This Crew Member was an English major in college about 1,500 years ago.)
Now that I've established my bookish bona-fides:
I've said it before and I'll say it again: The ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) Fitness Book (Human Kinetics) is one of the best starter fitness books you'll find. It tells you how to self-assess, how to begin with easy exercises, how to measure your progress and how to stay safe. For someone who is approaching fitness for the first time, or re-approaching it after years of sloth, it's an excellent motivation/organization tool.
For more advanced exercisers. . .that one's harder. I'm reading new titles all the time and it's hard to keep track. I'm currently reading Conditioning for Outdoor Fitness, by David Musnick and Mark Pierce. It's great for the many people who want to get in shape to *do* something instead of just get in shape. It also has one of the more lucid and compact explanations of exercise physiology I've come across.
How about it, Crewsters? Read any good books lately you think the patrons of Fairfax libraries should have?
I am a 33 year old man, 5'6 143lb. I exercise regularly and I am considered myself fit. That is being said I have a minor thing that bothers me. My butts are big so it is kind of embarrassing. Can you recommand an exercise I should concentrate on
John Briley: Hello Baltimore - Unfortunately, research has shown that you cannot spot-reduce fat, although your derrière size may be a muscle-bulk issue (?).
A couple of exercises tend to INCREASE buttock muscles, so consider avoiding these: The Stairmaster, especially if the user is leaning into the machine while cranking at high resistance; running uphill (outdoors or on treadmill; squats with weight; and certain settings on the elliptical machine (the little graph on many models shows what area of your body you are working).
Otherwise, if you have a weight issues elsewhere on your body (doesn't sound like it) try reducing caloric intake, maintaining your workout program and see what that gets you.
For Arlington, Va.:
If you belong to a gym, ask for the name of the fitness manager, as s/he has all the trainers' resumes on file and can tell you who might hold special certifications you in which are interested (i.e. Pregnant women, cardiac rehab, etc.)
Also -- a trainer might not be able to give you one or two sessions without paying if that is the gym's policy, much as they would like to. If you talk directly to the fitness manager, they might be able to pull a few strings to do that, but the individual trainer might just risk getting fired.
John Briley: Thanks for the tips, Arlington! And I was not suggesting one or two free sessions, just saying people should not pay up front for, say, 10 visits before they know if they like the trainer. Sorry if I confused.
Ann Arbor, Mich.:
It's been a little over a year since I became a Washington Post Moving Crew and LPC chat regular. I've lost nearly 40 pounds and enjoy aerobic exercise 4-6 times a week; have incorporated Marty Gallagher's Fitness Triad as my major fitness "discipline"; and I can't thank you enough.
I'm about 10 pounds away from my lowest BMI/ideal weight. I'm about to turn 45 and am in the best condition of my life. Middle age rules!
Biggest fitness discovery of 2004: the early-morning "fasting" cardio workout.
Biggest diet revelation of 2004: eating more "clean" protein helps you lose weight and preserves energy levels.
Must-have fitness-gizmo-discovered-this-year: foam fitness floor mats that lock together along the sides like a jigsaw puzzle. (Good for insulating basement floors, too.)
And ... Lance Armstrong's 6th TdF. Que annee!
Best to you all!
Craig Stoltz: Hi Ann, nice to hear from you again! Congrats on your incredible accomplishments, and thanks for the tips. I'm 47 and have battered myself into good shape too, and agree middle age rules--and that it's a heck of a lot better if you have more energy, less illness and pants that fit.
Stay the course, Ann, and let us know how you're doing in '05. . .
I'm against fitness resolutions? Why?? Because every year I, and everyone I know, makes these January resolutions to eat better and exercise. It's long forgotten by the time spring rolls around.
Shouldn't we concentrate on resolving to be fit ALL THE TIME? Shouldn't it be a daily resolution?
What say you?
Susan Morse: Hi Washington,
Well, yeah, sure. And we should eat healthy year-round...and not drink to excess... and read good books...and turn off the TV... and not yell at our kids...and show more patience with other drivers...and make a greater effort to please our spouses...and, and, and.
You're right, of course, though. Striving to be fit all the time should be the goal we're all after. And the only fitness resolution that's worth anything is not time-limited.
Unless.... you need that bit of self-deception to get yourself started. I exercise that way myself sometimes: When the ultimate goal seems too formidable, you tell yourself: Okay, I'll go a mile. Then, when you've done that, you say, hey, that wasn't bad. I'll go another. And so on.
But lifetime fitness is what we're after here--and all the rewards that come with it. Good for you for recognizing that..and doing something about it. Tell us what works for you!
re: exercising at work. If you have a chair that tips back, lean back in it, then lift your feet slightly off the ground while staying leaned back. You can rock back and forth a bit to do "crunches."
I do this in boring meetings all the time and figure I'm at least accomplishing some ab work!
John Briley: Good call, D.C. Just don't flop over in that chair (although that would make the meeting a little more exciting for the other participants).
I have substituted the stability ball for chair - as Craig suggests above - and it works pretty well. Also keeps me from slouching and keeps more alert.
I just got a pilates video -- 45 minute Denise Austin "Pilates for Everyone." I can't wake up in the morning to go running, can't go during lunch and can't go after work. Basically, I'm stuck to working out in my own home due to weather conditions and day light (or lack thereof). Should I just stick to the pilates... perhaps try it for a longer session or is there anything you can recommend for a workout (in the comfort of one's own home and without buying a treadmill or exercise bike).
Craig Stoltz: Hi Washington, I've done a couple of Pilates tapes recently (we get 'em all the time here for review), and can tell you that they can provide an excellent workout. The only tough part is, Pilates is very form-oriented, and you can't really police your own form very well. I've read about a lady who pays her kid $3 per session to be her "personal trainer" and tell her if she's holding her body properly.
I am a big proponent of variety--your body adapts to any exercise after only a few weeks and that sense of gain and momentum is lost. You plateau. Since tapes work with your life, I'd recommend changing both tapes and types of workout. There are some great tapes now for exercise ball workouts, for exercise bands and yoga. Mix it up and you'll be challenged and motivated. You'll also be in great shape.
More on videos: collagevideo.com, a site that previews and reviews fitness videos. It's a great site.
Let us now how it comes out. . .
I am not an athlete by far, but I like a good intense workout most afternoons. My gym is my haven. What I hate about this time of the year is the influx of new members who crowd the place. Typically most are gone within three months but it's three months of reminding folks that the limit is 30 minutes on the cardio machines, to put the weights back on the racks, that towels don't go on the floor and to please wipe your sweat from the benches!
There should be a moratorium on new memberships this time of year, if only to keep the old ones.
John Briley: Now, now, D.C., let's not cast aspersions on those who are trying. I certainly see your point - and it was raised during our gym survey a few months ago - that gym management needs to do a better job of, well, managing their facilities. As a paying member, you should feel authorized to raise this issue with managers.
In an ideal world, all those new members would stick with it every year, and the gyms would use the money to upgrade and add machines, and everyone would be fit and happy.
For now, try to be patient and understanding with the newbies, and/or try to hit the gym an hour earlier than normal - I'd bet the crowds are thinner then (pun intended).
We are planning to buy a stationary bike for home. We are looking at a LifeFitness bike that is around $2000. Everyone at work here tell me it is too much to spend for an exercise machine. My thinking is that it makes a difference how good a machine is (it is less motivating to ride a clunky, poor-interface machine) and also that LifeFitness bikes would have good resale value a couple of years down the line.
Your thoughts, please?
Craig Stoltz: Hey Herndon,
Your inclination toward high quality (and resale value) is right on. A machine that clanks and tips and feels cheap is very hard to stick with.
To advocate on behalf of the devil: $2,000 is a lot of dough to put in one fitness basket. As I've written above, and many times earlier, your body adapts to any type of exercise in a matter of weeks, and you face a plateau unless you change modes.
If it were me, I'd consider the $1,800 model and buy a pyramid of light dumbbels and a stability ball with the extra money. You can keep your workouts fresh with the weights and ball (a zillion varieties of exercises) and get your cardio with the bike. A small TV in sight of the bike will likely help too.
Let us know what you wind up with.
Falls Church, Va.:
What are good exercises to strengthen the thighs, after reaching a plateau on the leg curl machine?
John Briley: Hola FCVA - I've got a couple for you:
1. Lunges: Step out in front of you to a point where your back knee is almost touching the ground and your front leg forms a 90-degree angle from thigh to calf. Keep your back straight (this is hard sometimes). Hold for a few seconds, and alternate legs. No burn? Try it holding dumbbells.
2. Put a stability ball between your lower back and a wall and gradually sit down until your legs are at 90-degree angles. Try holding that for 30 seconds. Repeat a few times (if you can). Feel you thigh muscles with your hands while you're holding that one - they will be hard as granite.
Anyone else have good thigh-crushers?
Hey Crew - love these chats!
I just re-started my low-fat diet and exercise regimen again (I'm already down 5 lbs in one week!) and this time I've decided to incorporate weights into the mix to get my metabolism going (I've been doing Kathy Smith's TimeSaver - Lift Weights to Lose Weight DVD 4 x per week and it's great!) but because of this, I don't have time to do as much cardio as I used to. So I'm wondering if doing 30 minutes of a higher intensity workout is as beneficial as 45 minutes of a less intense workout. Thanks!
Craig Stoltz: Arlington, you're a worker-outer after my own heart. I recently began a program with light dumbbells and lots of big, twisting, up-and-down moves that's great for the core and really gets my heart whamming. I put on my heart rate monitor and found my HR bouncing between 120 and 150 the whole time of my workout (about 20 minutes). I add 15 minutes of cardio and I've had a great cardio workout plus my strength work. On days when I have limited time, I just do the strength work and still get 20 minutes of good cardio in the deal.
So: If you have an HRM (I recommend one for everyone), give it a try and see if your HR is in your cardio zone. If so, that "counts" as your cardio work for the day.
Congrats on the great start. Five lbs. in a week is extraordinary--and unsustainable. Aim for 1 to 2 lbs a week; that'll be safe and healthy for the long term. What matters is what you weigh/what you can do in six months, a year, two years, not in the next couple of months.
Best of luck. . .
washingtonpost.com: Trainer Wanted: Must Fit (Post, July 27)
John Briley: and our story on trainers...
washingtonpost.com: Putting a Trainer to the Test (Post, July 27)
John Briley: and anoter...
washingtonpost.com: On the Lookout for a Personal Trainer (Post, March 23)
John Briley: and yet one more...
Hi Moving Crew -
I recently started reading your archives and wanted to offer some advice to a chatter on your gym gripes chat in August, who said a member at their gym suffered a heart attack and no one on the gym's staff was CPR certified.
If you haven't already, I urge you to go back to that gym, even if the incident was a few years ago and you are no longer a member, to address this with the manager. That is serious and not even in keeping with national standards.
I am a nationally certified personal trainer, as such I have to keep AED and CPR-certified every year, as well as maintain continuing education credits. In addition, in order to apply for fitness certification, you have to present a current CPR card; this has been a national requirement at least since 1996 (when I first started in the fitness field.) Many gyms - like NW Sport & Health in Tenleytown, where I used to work --- require CPR-certification of sales staff, desk receptionists and housekeeping staff as well.
Craig Stoltz: Thanks, New York; you're right, staff having basic CPR should be a requirement.
What's the best way to lose unwanted stomach flab? Crunches, running, pilates? thanks!
John Briley: Hi Ross - As I noted above (buried in another answer), you cannot spot-reduce fat. Unfortunately, the stomach is one place (the first, for many) where the extra fat cells like to congregate. What you can do is tone the ab muscles with crunches - but make sure you also do lower back exercises to balance it out - and, yes, burn more calories overall through moderate- to high-intensity cardio (heart rate at 65 to 85 percent of your max).
This always returns to the discipline issue: How much dietary frugality and workout consistently are you really willing to apply to fend off those last few pounds? I've cut a deal with my extra baggage (three to four pounds, depending on the day) - I'll let it hang around if it promises to insulate me next time I'm stranded in the arctic. For now, we're both happy with the arrangement.
Thanks for taking questions from normal folks like me.
As the song goes, Brother its cold outside! I'm 46, have heal spurs, a bad lower back, and tendonitus in one arm. I still want to get fit.
I want to get 1 piece of equipment for cardio workouts. I would like to know what you would recommend: An exercycle or a treadmill? If an exercycle, recumbent or straight up and down?
Craig Stoltz: Man o Manassas, this is a tough one. Hard to thread the needle between all these limitations. My $.02:
* A recumbent bike will protect your back (because it has a seat back) and avoid your heel spurs and tendonitis.
* A high quality treadmill offers a belt with some "bounce," which may permit you to walk without pain in your heels. (Running may be out of the question.) But I'd go to a fitness store in your workout shoes and give it a try for 15 minutes to see if you can use it without pain. The bike's a safer bet.
* You don't have to give into a "bad lower back." If you get clearance from your doctor, and get assurances that it's not a serious problem with a disc or bone, very often bad backs can be "healed" with core exercises. Simple abs and back exercises can really change your life "down there."
A stablity ball and a core fitness book is all you need for that.
Let us know how it comes out. . .
Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.:
I used to be pretty fit, then with the pressures of a new job have gained over 25 very unwanted pounds in 6 months. My job is pretty much 9-dawn, and doesnt allow me to work out after work or during lunch like I used to, so I've just started early morning workouts and it's so much harder. What's a good way to make sure I keep getting to the gym while everyone else keeps sleeping?
John Briley: Hi Cap Hill - I once worked the vaunted "mid" shift that you reference and I, too, put on a few pounds that summer (mine was only a two-month stint). So you have my empathy.
But to the solution: If this is your permanent shift - as it sounds - your circadian rhythms should adjust enough to let you do more than stagger home and crash after working all night. And, lo and behold, most gyms open by 6 a.m. during the week. So, no matter how tired you think you are, try to get into the gym after the all-night shift, even if just for 30 or 45 minutes.
Or, perhaps, the hours before work? Surely you don't sleep ALL those hours between shifts, so get creative and make the schedule work for you.
The other thing: If you do go home and sleep right after work, try to avoid a big meal between work and bed - those otherwise calories will haunt you.
Does this help at all? Or had you already considered all my points?
Chapel Hill, N.C.:
Re: women 'can't' bulk up - or can they? I started lifting weights - very low weights - a few years ago and my chest size increased to the point that I had to buy a bigger bra (I mean the measurement around my chest, not my cup size). Am I just a female anomoly, or can there be another explanation for this unwanted bonus? I tend to yo-yo up and down about ten pounds during a year, but am otherwise in decent shape and not overweight.
Craig Stoltz: Hi Chapel HNC,
You may be the exception that proves the rule. But it's easy to work around areas that are getting too bulky: Do exercises that engage other muscles. If your chest is getting big, focus on legs, abs, glutes, triceps, etc. Or do body-weight exercises (push-ups, crunches, wall squats, etc.).
Other ideas: Pilates and yoga, which make you strong but don't build bulk. In fact, Pilates is well known for lengthening and strengthening.
Good luck. . .
A while back, while talking about riding to work, you said sweat doesn't smell. Please explain.
Craig Stoltz: Are you sure we weren't saying "rust doesn't sleep"? It could be an allusion to a 70s record by Neil Young. . .
But seriously, folks: Here's the deal, as I understand it. (Did I mention that I'm not a doctor, don't play one online, and haven't formally studied anatomy and physiology?)
Sweat doesn't smell, it's the bacteria on the skin that, when moistened, releases its distinctive aroma. This is why the sweat on your brow doesn't stink, but the sweat under your arms does. Ditto the sweat on your back, compared to the sweat on your feet. Dirty body parts, smelly sweat.
At least that's my story, and I'm sticking with it.
Response re: heart attack at gym:
I am the one who wrote in about that in a previous chat. Thanks for the advice, but I have since moved to another city and will not be able to go back to speak with them. I am lucky that my apartment building has a free 5000 sq ft. gym with amazing equipment,
Craig Stoltz: Thanks, responder. Be careful out there. . .
Can you talk about outdoor wear during the winter? First, is it good for you to be running outside in the morning when it's pretty cold and second, do you have any running wear that you can suggest?
Susan Morse: Hi Vienna,
The key word here is "layer." Better to dress lightly with two or three layers. For comfort in cold weather, the layer closest to your skin should be a fabric that wicks moisture from the body--like polypropolene. (Cotton won't do the trick and will leave you feeling miserable as you sweat.) On top of that first layer, you'll want a second or third (depending on the cold) thin layer that you can peel off as you warm up with exercise.
A knit hat and gloves will add to your comfort.
As to exercising in the cold: Unless you have asthma, which can be triggered by cold, running outdoors in winter won't hurt your lungs.
Thanks for taking my question. I know this is probably a silly question, but what is the advantage of using a rowing machine? I'd never used one until today, and I'm not sure what muscle groups its supposed to work on. It sure can't be for cardio.
John Briley: Well, Bethesda, I respectfully disagree: the rowing machine most certainly can get your heart rate up and provide a heck of a cardio workout, if you set the appropriate resistance and get in the rhythm of the machine - where you are pretty much in constant motion.
Muscles worked: Upper back (mostly), thighs, lower legs (a little bit), shoulder, lower back and arms (more triceps than biceps).
It's a good all-around workout. Try it a few times and see if you can find that rhythm to get the cardio benefit. Might turn out you just don't like it, and that's fine too. Pick something you do enjoy and stick with that.
Arlington, Va. (again):
Thanks Craig for your reply! The Kathy Smith workout definitely does get my heartrate up but I guess I never considered it cardio because I'm so concentrated on working my muslces. Do you recommend I stay with that workout but move up to heavier weights eventually?
Believe me, I know from experience my 5lb weight loss is a first-week only event but I usually only lose 3lbs in the first week if I don't exercise, so those extra 2 really made my day!
Craig Stoltz: Arl: Heavier weights raise risk of injury. If it doesn't hurt you, and you enjoy the workout, keep at it. But if you hit a plateau, get bored or hurt yourself, do try a different tape. Familiarity breeds plateaus, and plateas lead to quitting. You don't want to do that!
John Briley: Well, guess what, Crew? We just gabbed right through another hour and almost all the way through 2004. You all have been great this hour and this year, and we hope we've been helpful and inspiring. Have a splediferous holiday and join us here again Jan. 6, same time, different year, for more fitness discussions.
All the best to you,
The Moving Crew