Ask the MisFits: Fitness Advice from Washington Post Experts

Vicky Hallett and Howard Schneider
Washington Post Health Section
Tuesday, December 16, 2008; 11:00 AM

He's a veteran reporter, digging up the latest fitness news. She's an irreverent columnist with a knack for getting people off the couch and into the gym. No exercise question is too odd or embarrassing for them to answer.

Vicky Hallett and Howard Schneider are the MisFits, The Post's fitness writers. They were online Tuesday, Dec. 16 at 11 a.m. to take your questions.

The transcript follows

Discussion Archive.

MisFits Archive.

Subscribe to this discussion


Howard Schneider: So I don't know whether we should kick off with New York's proposed obesity tax or talk about the great arm on the Iraqi shoe bomber... I am thinking the Nats should give him a tryout. I am convinced there is a new playground game in this somewhere...

Latest ideas for a

active Holiday

are in today's paper....

Meanwhile, what's on your mind?


Falls Church, Va.: Good morning to both of you, I'm wondering if you are willing to tackle an etiquette question for me. I've been taking various types of water exercise classes over the past few years and have really enjoyed them and benefited from them. I've noticed recently, however, that a few class members in a variety of classes have started talking incessantly during class. It's a bit like being trapped on the Metro with someone yammering away on her cellphone. It makes it difficult to stay focused. Others in the classes whom I've mentioned it to think that it's disrespectful to the instructor and inconsiderate to fellow students. Still, I don't think that it's my place to say something unless I actually can't hear the instructor. Finally last week I turned to the chatterer behind me and, pointing to the teacher, told her that I really couldn't hear. She looked at me blankly and then said "but we always talk in class." I replied that I was aware of that and that it was really annoying.

I realize that my attitude that one should come to class prepared to focus solely on the task at hand may be unreasonable to some, but don't you think that the compulsive talkers should stay to the back of the class and keep it down? Any suggestions for handling this? The instructors seem clueless.

Vicky Hallett: Holding them under water until they shut their traps not being an option, I guess I'd play this one teacher's pet style. Can't you just make sure you have a spot as close to the instructor as possible and let the rowdy kids misbehave in the back? And even if the instructors are unwilling to lay down the law, you can ask them to please speak up.

Or learn to lip read and invest in ear plugs. That's not a bad idea for the Metro either...

Howard Schneider: Or you might point out that if they can hold a conversation they might not be getting the most out of the workout...

But I'd go with giving the instructor a chance. Talk to him/her. Mention that it is getting hard to hear, and maybe ask her to mention that if people are going to talk they should at least keep it down...


Washington, D.C.: My question involves Pilates personal training. I am looking for studios that focus solely or primarily on Pilates. Translation, I am tired of the gym versions of Pilates that simply are not traditional Pilates or are taught my people with two days training. You get me drift. I live in the District around Logan Circle. Any Advice?

Vicky Hallett: Oh, we get you, D.C. In your neighborhood, you could consider Pure Joe ( --'cause, you know, Joseph was Pilates' first name), Simply Fit ( or B. Fit ( -- it's mostly Pure Barre, but they also do Pilates). And if you're willing to travel one circle over, Quantum Pilates ( is in Dupont.

Any chatters have Pilates advice for our frustrated Logan dweller?


Brooklyn, N.Y.: Good morning! I'm trying to justify going to my Saturday morning spin class. The thing is, in order to go, I need to wake up earlier than I would prefer and eat breakfast -- oatmeal or a cereal bar (130-180 calories). I can't imagine I burn a lot more than that in the class, and if I didn't go I wouldn't eat. I know skipping breakfast is bad, but I don't think this really counts because I would still eat not long after waking up, I'd just sleep until lunchtime. Is it really worth going? I'll add that I get to the gym consistently 3-4 times a week in addition to the Saturday class and am not overweight-- and I suppose I should mention that I'm not horribly sleep deprived during the week requiring massive catching-up on Saturdays. I just enjoy sleeping in on weekends. I'm sure I sound like a whiner who really just doesn't want to go...but I've gone every Saturday for months and will keep going if you say it's worth it.

Vicky Hallett: Hmm. I'm of the school of thought that if you really hate doing something, it's not the best form of exercise for you. So I give you permission to sleep in. (Do I have that power? Let's just pretend I do.)

That said, your excuse is pretty darn lame. Assuming this Spin class is at least 45 minutes, you weight at least 100 pounds and you're working hard at all, you'll burn off that oatmeal and then some. Plus, being awake and going to class and moving around rather than being a slug in bed will also burn additional calories.


Southern Maryland: Ok, it's that time of the month: Christmas/holiday parties!!! Last Saturday, I started Weight Watchers and so far so good. Knowing my co-workers who cook wonderfully, I plan to eat a little and grab a Diet Coke. I encourage others to NOT WAIT until Jan. 1 to live and eat better. I figure starting now I will maintain or lose weight during the holidays. I am joining the gym cause I figure it will be pretty empty from Dec. 20 thru Dec 31.

Start today; the life you save may be your own.

Vicky Hallett: Yep, 'tis the season to test your will power! (We have our office bake-off tomorrow...uh oh...)

There's nothing wrong with a little indulging, but you're right, don't forget to balance that out with some exercise. We've hopefully given you some good activity ideas with our Holiday Challenge columns.

I did a piece for Express last week on surviving the holiday party food circuit. I'll get guest producer Michele to post a link in a sec.

_______________________ Fight Off Jingle Belly: Enjoy Parties Without Gaining Pounds (Express, Dec. 9)

Vicky Hallett: Here ya go.


Fredericksburg, Va.: How can I lose my good ol' college weight when I come home for break and all my family eats is junk food and I'm tempted to join them?

Howard Schneider: Howdy Fredericksburg...Are you home to Fredericksburg, or down there at Mary Washington?

Wherever you are going to college, I think the battle has to be fought there -- since that is where you will be spending most of your time the next few years. Play intramual sports. Make good choices in the dining hall. Take advantage of the gym facilities. Take a phys ed class and learn something new.

Families often celebrate around food. You can limit the damage over break (indulge in one meal a day, for example, not three... one piece of pie, not two, with ice cream... limit lunch to salad... etc.), but pulling an overnight switch from the kid everyone is happy to see to the family food nazi is just a recipe for stress all around. You don't need to match your relatives bite for bite, but enjoy the vacation, and focus on weight control back at college, since that is where you gained the weight in the first place...


Numb feet: I just wanted to give my two cents on the numb feet questions. I find that if I loosen the laces on my shoes (i.e., make my shoes fairly loose) that my feet don't get numb. Just something people who get numb feet might want to try.

Vicky Hallett: Another option for the numb footed out there!

People often forget about the importance of laces. There's actually a fascinating little piece on tying techniques in this month's Runner's World. I'll get that link...

_______________________ FIT TO BE TIED: Learn the right way (and the wrong way) to lace your shoes. (Runners World, Jan. 2009)

Vicky Hallett: Voila!


Bethesda, Md.: Hi Misfits! I just signed up for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler!! My question is, I'm a casual runner and I usually never run more than 10 miles a week. Is this a horrible idea or can I really build up to running 10 miles in a row by April?

Vicky Hallett: Lucky you! I just checked the race site and, as promised, the race filled by the time our chat started. People just loooove running around in those cherry blossoms.

Anyway, perhaps you also noted that the site has a virtual training program (actually, two: beginner and advanced). So there's help out there to get you up to speed by April. All progress is personal, so I can't promise anything, but if you already have some running foundation and follow the plan, I bet you'll be fine come race day. I mean, if Howard and I can do it...


Rockville, Md.: Hi. Do you know of any gyms that let you just pay a per-use fee for every time you go rather than a monthly membership fee? I'm considering dropping my membership, but would still need a gym for (literally) rainy days. Thanks!

Vicky Hallett: Many gyms will let you buy a one-day guest pass, but they're pretty pricey. And I only know of one gym locally that operates on a per-use basis (SomaFit in Glover Park), and that's not so convenient for where you are. Maybe you have a pal with guest passes to his/her gym who can bring you along every once in a while? I know I never use up mine...

You're probably better off taking a class at a studio -- yoga, Pilates, dance -- on those bad weather days.


no longer biking to work guy: All the talk of using your arms on the elliptical got me thinking. The main reason I use the arm function is to create air movement across my skin to cool me off.

Our gym has done away with towels and we now have paper towels to clean off the equipment. Makes it a bit harder to wipe your brow with paper now.

Vicky Hallett: Have you considered bringing your own towel? They're not all that heavy, and they certainly feel much nicer on the brow. Plus, you'll be more eco-friendly.


Confused....: Hey MisFits!

Question for you guys, because I find myself a little kerfuffled. I've been working out 5 times a week, a good habit brought on through physical therapy after knee surgery. My pants fit better, my clothes are all baggy, and everyone says I've lost weight, but... the scale stays the same! I have put on some muscle, particularly in that (formerly atrophied) leg, but would that really account for not losing any weight? At all?

Howard Schneider: That could account for some of it... How dramatic has the change been? Muscle is a lot denser than fat so replacing even a pound or two of one with the other can make a difference.... You are obviously getting healthier and looking better... The scale can be a lagging indicator...


Washington, D.C.: I just wanted to share my latest fitness discovery: A pretty complete workout that is a good combination of strength and cardio, can be done anywhere you have about a 8 foot by 3 foot area, requires no equipment and virtually no skill, and takes about 15 minutes. Simply do 100 burpees. A burpee is simply do a pushup, then standup. (Google for video examples.) It sounds pretty easy, but is actually insanely hard to do quickly. Some people can do it in 5 minutes; I thought I was in halfway decent shape, but it takes me about 17 minutes. The real benefit is that it is so simple: no travel time, no need to warm up if you start gradually, no need to worry about the weather, no need to learn a technique, no need to even put on shoes.

Vicky Hallett: I don't think most people would call doing 100 burpees "simple." I hurt just thinking about it. (Although in my mind, instead of standing up between pushups, I'm jumping up. Don't worry: Your way still sounds sufficiently brutal.)

They're very popular in CrossFit workouts, which it sounds like you might enjoy, if you're into discovering such things.


Washington, D.C.: I just registered for the Cherry Blossom 10 miler - yay! I've done the race before, running about 10-minute miles. I ran the Marine Corps in October so my endurance is pretty good now, but I did it run-walk in 5:25, so relatively slowly. Do you have suggestions of where to go to find a good training program to increase my speed? I've been doing intervals on the treadmill and it's helping, but I'd like maybe a web-based program or a book that could offer something more structured. Thanks!

Howard Schneider: There are tons of books on the topic. Check out the recent published Runners World Guide to Road Racing, which is all about getting down the time in distance events. You'll end up with a program of intervals, pace runs, and other workouts. The magazine's website has plenty of advice and programs designed to meet different ends....


Other 10 Mile Race: I stopped doing the Cherry Blossom Race a few years ago due to the stress of singing up. But the GW Parkway Classic is also 10 miles, just as pretty and just a few weeks later for those who still want to fit a 10 mile race into their spring training. They also have a 5k.

Howard Schneider: Nice advice. Thanks.


Arlington, Va.: What's a good cardio workout one can do in an apartment with very thin walls? I feel like when I bounce around, I annoy the neighbors, and my roommate.

Also, can you suggest a website that would have a yoga workout for beginners, that I could do without having to have a TV or anything? I'd like to do some exercises in my room, but discreetly -- it's kind of awkward to do in-home exercises with a roommate. Thanks!

Howard Schneider: I can think of some things you probably don't want to do behind very thin walls, but this is not the place...

Quiet cardio...Hmmm...Without suggesting you make a big investment in equipment (which you may not have room for anyway), you can at any of the big sports stores (Dick's, Sports Authority, etc.) get interlocking pads that you could use to create a bit of a workout surface. The padding should soften the blow to the people beneath you and work to your roommate's advantage as well. With that, you can get any number of home workouts going -- either DVDs (play them on your bedroom computer with the sound down, or use headphones), or other tapes that could be old-fashioned aerobics or dance-based -- your choice.

As to yoga workouts, there are several sites that show you the moves (here's one.).

But I'd recommend picking up a book that describes some of the principles involved with why one move follows another. There is a logic to that -- certain poses counter other poses; certain ones are used for warmup, while others comprise the 'meat' of the progression. You shouldn't just download a bunch of pictures and follow them without some sense of the proper progression.


Gaining muscle strength: So, every other day, I do biceps curls with a 15 lb dumbbell. Months ago, I started at 10, went to 12, and have been curling 15 lbs for at least 2 months now. The problem is that it feels like it's not getting any easier. I'm still getting muscle failure at about 15 reps. Shouldn't I be able to cruise through my 15 reps at this point and be feeling hungry for a heavier weight? If it matters, I'm a 36 year-old woman.

Howard Schneider: Under that logic, if you make a 50 percent jump in weight every two months, then by June you'll be using 50 pound dumbbells. Good luck with that.

A couple of things to consider:

Everyone has limits -- genes, hormones (estrogen is a limiter in the case of women), age, metabolism, etc., all conspire to determine how fast you can build muscle and at some point slows and, for practical purposes, caps further gains in strength.

Also, when you start a resistance training program, it is typical to see quick progress. Part of that is neural conditioning -- the muscle that is already there learns to work better and more efficiently, and thus can do more work. Probably you have tapped out that process and are now into the phase where further benefits will only come as new muscle fiber is created -- a much slower and more painstaking process.

So stick with it. A couple of tips: 15 reps is sort of the outer limit for building strength; at that point exercises start to become more aerobic as opposed to strengthening. You might consider moving to a weight you can only lift eight to 12 times.

Also, what's with the biceps fascination? What about the rest of your body?


D.C.: Mmmmm...nothin' says Christmas like Kale Cole Slaw. LOL! You forgot one of my favorite party coping strategies: gum! Eventually I get rid of the gum and get some food, but it helps keep the mindless piehole-stuffing to a minimum. Only when I actually think 'hm, I need some food, better get rid of this gum' do I start the eating.

Vicky Hallett: It's not as traditional as, say, fruitcake. But if you're into raw foods, maybe it's delicious? Anyway, gum! I'd say that's a good call if you flip the order around. Eat what you want and then stop yourself from extra snacking with the gum chewing. And it's not seen as rude to pop a piece of gum to freshen your breath after a meal.

Your way, doesn't everything in the buffet taste like fake mint? I'm not knocking it. Just asking...


San Francisco, Calif.: Good Morning - So, I'm about to fly home (VA) and to my future wife's family's home (FL) for the next 12 days. I will get out of my routine of going to the gym regularly, moderate alcohol intake, sensible meals/portions. What is coming is high alcohol intake, huge meals, no gym. I can't go for a run because of a knee problem. I use the elliptical/bike at home but will have no access to any of those. Is there any hope? I've lost 23 pounds since July and just want to maintain the next two weeks -- and not lose any muscle. Push-ups/sit-ups and find something to curl? Thanks!

Howard Schneider: You can't run, but presumably you can walk...right? Enchant the future in-laws and other assorted relatives with steady invitations to go for a stroll. Also, it may be too chilly here, but about renting bikes a day or two in Florida and touring the scenery? You can build your future relations along with building your metabolism. Good luck. And it is possible to be moderate without being a bore (at least I think it is...Anyone tried it?).


Day Passes for Gyms: To the chatter asking about gym day passes...

I'd check local gyms with basketball courts, they tend to have a daily rate for people coming in to play ball. If you can pass yourself off as a sometimes baller, you could get in and hop on the treadmill!

Vicky Hallett: Or just come in and play ball! Might be a fun way to mix up your routine.


Washington, D.C.: An answer and a question -- for the person looking for pay-per-use gyms, try your city or county facilities. In Alexandria they have memberships ranging from single-use to yearly membership -- and they range in price from reasonable to dirt cheap!

Question: Any tips for someone aspiring to do a pull-up? Setting aside the fact that I have a longer road to go given an extra few (dozen) pounds, any suggestions for a variety of exercises that will help me get there? I'm a regular gymgoer so I'm not starting from zero, but I'm using the maximum assistance on the assisted pull-up machine and finding it pretty challenging to do more than 3 reps...

Howard Schneider: If you have an assisted pull-up machine, stick with that. What type off pull-up are you trying to do? The widegroup military style or the classic chin-up (hands facing your face?) The former uses more upperback, the other more biceps..)

Rowing exercises are good for the upper back. If you have access to a Smith machine you can use that to practice pullups -- lower the bar, climb underneath it and do them from a prone position, gradually move the bar higher.

You can also build the muscles by doing a "negative" version of the exercise: using a stool or other step, assist yourself to the top of the motion, then lower yourself slowly, fighting gravity on the way down. Repeat that as you can (and you could presumably do it with the assisted machine....).


Springfield, Mass.: Do sit-ups get great ab definition? I've been doing 200 a day on a slant board; I do feel the stomach working when I'm done. I'm also trying the Adkins diet. I'm hoping just to respectable for the coming summer at the beach, I don't want to be embarrassed anymore. Hope I'm on the right routine. My girlfriend, who is very thin, is giving me a lot of encouragement. Thank you.

Howard Schneider: Magazine-quality ab definition is not just about muscle, it's about body fat. No amount of muscle will be visible through flab, and a little goes a long way if you boil yourself down to 10 percent body fat (or have the genetic predisposition and will to get down there and still eat healthily).

You seem to recognize this in referencing the Adkins diet. But here is the thing: If you work out a lot (and I assume you are not just doing 200 sits up and calling it quits), Adkins may not be the best nutrition plan, because you are depriving your body of its basic fuel supply -- carbohydrates. That's not a good recipe of getting into good shape.

In addition, sit-ups tend to work the upper part of the outermost abdominal muscle, but wont do so much for the lower abs, the obliques, or the deeper muscles. So you need to round out that program -- planks, bicycles, twists (in a sitting position with feet crossed in front of you and off the floor, tap your hands on the floor from side to side...make it harder with a medicine ball)...Concentrate on building a strong core. Vanity comes second.


Bethesda, Md.: Hi all! How can I avoid overheating during cardio exercises, or after them? I sweat a lot when I run (thanks, genes!) and my face gets really red, but it doesn't stop until at least 30-40 minutes after I've stopped. As in, I have to sit still for half an hour if I want to stop feeling as if I'm still on the treadmill. I work out in an air-conditioned gym and dress light. I don't have a light workout at all, but I think this is crossing the breaking-a-sweat line. Thanks! I feel gross...

Howard Schneider: If you are actually overheating, the symptoms wont be just a red face -- there will be faintness, nausea, headaches, so watch out for that. If you are only getting red and sweating a lot -- and working out really hard -- that would indicate your body is doing what it is supposed to. Sweat is a cooling mechanism. If the red face takes a while to go away, that may be a skin condition like rosacea. I have a bit of this and while I don't have a red face 40 minutes after the fact I do get pretty red in the middle. Check out some of the rosacea sites; talk to a dermatologist if it is really bothersome. And if there are any symptoms other than a red face, be really careful and don't push things to that point....Remember to drink plenty of liquid. If you are a heavy sweater, that needs to be replaced.


RE: Muscle Strength: Different poster, similar question. I've been developing a lot of muscle mass in my kickboxing class, but lately I've been running out of "juice." My muscles don't feel maxed out as much as they feel weak, as though they don't have enough fuel to keep going. I've always had a diet that's pretty low in protein (I'm a vegetarian), but now I'm worried that I'm not getting sufficient nutrients. How much protein and fiber/carbs should I be trying to intake to sustain muscle growth (and not fall over during class)? Thanks!

Howard Schneider: If you are running out of gas, it's the carbs you want to focus on -- that is what gets broken down for fuel in aerobic activity. Protein can be used for fuel, but under duress -- it is harder to break down and a much less efficient fuel. Make sure you eat a good, carb-heavy snack an hour or so before the class, or down a Gatorade or a cliff bar, or a banana -- dealers choice. Just make sure you have some fuel in the system before you start kicking...


McLean, Va.: For the person who wants to do yoga without a TV, I got around that by searching for yoga podcasts on iTunes. One I found called yogamazing has video so you can see the poses, and the archived podcasts are also free so you can choose what you want to focus on. Hope that helps!

Howard Schneider: Thanks for the tip....


Orlando, FlA.: Why do the experts insist on breakfast? It has always made me gain weight. Almost every morning, without breakfast, I walk on the treadmill moderately for an hour, burning about 400-500 calories; and never eat until noon. I have NO problem with morning energy. I am a 5'11" 49 year-old male, who needed to lost some stomach fat. I have lost about 15 pounds since July, down to about 177. Of course, I count the calories in lunch and supper. I feel great, thankfully, and my wife is pleased at my fitness. Would I be better off eating breakfast? I can't imagine so.

Howard Schneider: If it works for you and you are getting adequate calories through the day, why fight it? I think people recommend it because for most/many people, the hunger that develops through the day after skipping breakfast causes them to way overeat at lunch and dinner. If you have conquered that and don't feel fatigued, count yourself lucky...


Houston, Texas: Okay, moved in with my fiance recently and gained the stereotypical 10-15 lbs. (depending on the day). This is particularly upsetting because I lost 75 lbs. 3 years ago. Gotta get my bum back in gear. I have been exercising on and off for the last 6 months, but nothing steady. I was thinking of trying to run a 10K at the end of March. I have only run one 5K a couple of years ago. Do you think this is realistic? I plan to start training after Xmas (12/29) since I'll be out of town all next week. Thoughts?

Vicky Hallett: How quickly you're able to progress is a very personal thing, so it's impossible for me to say whether you'll be ready for a 10K in March. But are you willing to walk part of it? You can always train to run as far as you can and then walk to the finish. You may end up surprising yourself...

If that goal is what'll get you moving, go for it.


Baltimore, Md.: Hey folks, I need some help! In the last three months, I've put on 10 lbs. I'm still working out daily, though not quite as strenuously as the summer, but I really think it's the food that's killing me. Over the summer, I kept a food journal striving for 1400 low-fat calories 5-6 days a week. Now that it's winter, I'm having problems focusing on food, I'm dying for more sweets and fats and I am constantly hungry. I'm not looking for a magic bullet, just help me get back on track, please! Thanks and happy holidays.

Howard Schneider: It's often said that we crave what we need. If you have really boiled the fat out of your diet, you may need it. Fat's important to brain and some other functions, so you it should not be eliminated from the diet. It's a key macronutrient and should probably be around 15 to 20 percent of your calories.

Also, how did you come up with the 1400 figure? Did you get that from a nutritionist or one of the online calculators or just grab it off the top of your head. Depending on your weight, height and gender that might be a good figure, or way too low, even for weight loss. hard do you work out? That has to be factored into your calorie/nutrition estimates. If you are exercising aggressively, and have underestimated your calorie needs, you may have put your body in the state where it was clinging viciously to calories, started demanding things it had been deprived, and now thrown your weight control efforts off track.

So rebuild from the ground up: take a realistic look at calorie needs, subtract no more than 300 or 500 to account for gradual weight loss, and divide what's left reasonably among carbs, protein and fat (mabye 50-30-20 or something like that...remember that a gram of carbs or protein accoutns for about 5 calories...a gram of fat for 9)...

And don't kill yourself for gaining weight over the holidays. It happens to everyone...


Washington, D.C.: I am addicted to the treadmill, and thinking about cutting out the middle man (the gym) and just buying one myself. The problem? I live on the top floor of a condo building, and have wood floors in the main room where I would put the treadmill. I can hear what the people who live below me are doing most of the time, so there's not much soundproofing. Is it possible to put down pads or anything to muffle the sound? I'm willing to spend well over a thousand dollars to get a treadmill that will work for my place, but I don't have a lot of extra space. Please help. Thanks!

Vicky Hallett: I'd go to a fitness equipment store (Fitness Resource, Gym Source) and talk to them about what you can do to muffle the noise as much as possible. But I think I'm going to feel bad for your downstairs neighbors...

Also, realize that the treadmill you're addicted to at the gym is probably worth several thousands of dollars, so for something of a similar quality, you'll have to pony up a lot of dough.


Pilates: I've had the same frustration with "gym" pilates classes and absolutely love the mat classes and one-on-one training at Quantum Pilates.

Vicky Hallett: A vote for Quantum Pilates...


Rainy Day Gym Workouts: In Prince George's County the MNCPPC (Rec. Dept) offers membership to their county recreation center weight room for about $150 or less a year. The bonus is that you can use your pass at ANY rec center weight room. One center has the heavy free weight crowd. Another focuses on machines with minimal free weights. All of them appear to have treadmills, elliptical trainers, stairmasters and basic machines, e.g., bicep machine, etc. Each one has its own vibe. It's not a private gym experience but for the price and the convenience, it can't be beat. Check out your local MNCPPC rec center in Montgomery County.

Howard Schneider: Thanks for the advice. It is suprising how many public resources are available. Always good to check that out.


But it IS simple: All exercise is simple -- just expend energy. The problem is that it isn't easy.

Vicky Hallett: So wise! Thanks for the advice.


gym question: I've heard that running on a treadmill doesn't mirror running outside unless you run at an incline. Is a 1 or 2% incline enough to make up for that gap, or does it need to be higher? Thanks!

Vicky Hallett: A 1-percent incline is pretty good at replicating running on flat ground. Obviously, outside also has hills, so if you're looking to prepare for a rolling course, you'd have to play with the incline to match that.


Too much chatting in the workout place: Going back to the first question: what if the chatter is the club owner? I go to Curves and it seems the owner doesn't like silence. Last time I was there, I got to hear all the newspaper headlines from the Internet. Ignoring the owner or just grunting in response doesn't seem to help. The owner doesn't get the hint. Any ideas?

Vicky Hallett: I have a hard time criticizing anyone reading newspaper headlines...

Have you ever come right out and said you don't appreciate the chit chat? This person doesn't want to lose your business, so it's hard to imagine the yapping will continue.

And if it does? Put on headphones and act like you actually can't hear her.


Alexandria, Va.: I found these on the ebay internets: Stationary Bicycle Bike Foot Peddler to use under my desk. What do you think? And Ross had the exercise rubber bands you suggest to stay in shape in cubeville.

Howard Schneider: Get the bands. Skip the peddler. There has been one sitting in an unnamed editor's office for months. Never gets used. I played with it a few times -- they slip and don't peddle smoothly. Waste of money.


Pay-Per-Use: The firefighters pay-per-use at Gold's. Just walk in with a handlebar mustache and a walkie talkie over your shoulder and you'll fit in. Sans 'stache for the ladies.

I think its $5 per visit.

Vicky Hallett: Are you encouraging dishonesty? Howard's the only one who condones that sort of behavior on this chat.


Thin Walls Suggestion: Kettlebell DVDs. Great excercise without any noise other than the audio. No jumping, running, thumping or whiring but a good workout.

Vicky Hallett: Indeed. But make sure you know what you're doing -- without supervision, heavy kettlebells can mess you up.


DC: For confused: who cares about the scale? You look better, you feel better, yay! The fit of clothes changes a lot just from some firming and flattening...

Howard Schneider: Good advice....


NLBTW Guy: I could bring my own towel, the ones I forgot to toss in the gym bin by the door and accidently brought home.

Hey Fredericksburg, you should've seen the MaryWash weight room back in my day. You had to count the weights on the (rusty because weight room was next to the heated pool) dumbells because they had no numbers!

Howard Schneider: Maybe recyling the towels would keep in the spirit of giving...


Centreville, Va.: Do you know of any indoor tracks where I could run? Sometimes it's just too cold out and a track would be a break from the treadmill.

Howard Schneider: Way out there, I don't know. I know the downtown Y has an indoor track and some of the local clubs do, too -- but if you belong to a gym you'd probably be using a treadmill... Do any of the county or local governments have basketball court? Maybe you could do laps as an option.


Alexandria, Va.: Can you recommend a good web site where I can plan meals for a specific calorie count?

Vicky Hallett: Doesn't SparkPeople let you do this? It's getting a bit late in the chat, but if anyone out there has suggestions next week, let us know!


Anonymous: I just signed up for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler. Yay. I've never run more than 4 consecutive miles before and I have plantar fisciitis. I'm trying to work my way back into shape to be able to run 4 miles by January 5th and start the half marathon novice training I found on Hal Hidgeon's website. Is that a good program? Other suggestions? I plan to do spinning class and work on the elliptical to cross train, and would like to find good strength exercises to incorporate.

Howard Schneider: Don't know Hal's Web site specifically, but the cross training ideas are good. Good luck.


Vicky Hallett: Like the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler registration, we're closing up for the day. Eat your kale coleslaw, do "Johnny's Mambo" and we'll meet you back here next week.


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company