Ask the MisFits

Vicky Hallett
Washington Post Health Section
Tuesday, March 3, 2009; 11:00 AM

No exercise question is too odd or embarrassing for Post MisFit Vicky Hallett. She was online Tuesday, March 3 at 11 a.m. ET

Submit your questions and comments before or during the discussion.

MisFits Archive.


Vicky Hallett: My fellow MisFits -- I have good news and bad news. The good is that I won't be here next week 'cause I'll be on my honeymoon (at least that's good news for ME). The bad news is that we won't be chatting the week after that or the one after that or, well, you get the picture. Howard's left some big shoes to fill, and we're going to be focusing on finding his replacement, possibly with reader feedback, over the next few weeks. Keep reading the Health section for details on that...And once I'm partnered up again, there's a chance we'll come back...

Anyway, so I'm going to try to answer as many questions as possible today! Let's get started!


Accokeek, Md.: The reports are conflicting regarding the actual amount of exercise needed to lose weight and keep it off. I weigh 155 pounds and I'm trying to lose 6-8 the right cutting calories and exercising more. How often should I exercise (and for how long) to really see a difference in two months? Thanks!

Vicky Hallett: To maintain a healthy weight, adults are supposed to get at least a half hour a day. To lose weight, it's an hour to 90 minutes. But, of course, those numbers are dependent on what you're doing with that time. (And how you're eating...)


Arlington, Va.: Dear MisFit, I have been wanting to ask you this for a long time, but I forgot since I always go to the gym during your chat time. I have been going to the gym 3-4 times a week. I spend 20 minutes on the elliptical machine and then 20 minutes doing free weights or using other weight machines. I am fairly fit, but I am concerned that working out would make me look "flatter" across the chest. Also, is it possible to get rid of loose skin on my inner upper arms? Thanks so much.

Vicky Hallett: Here is the problem with breasts: they're made of fat. So when you lose weight, they shrink along with the parts you're hoping to target (thighs, tush, etc.). Life's not fair, and yep, you're right to be concerned. Sorry!


Washington, DC: I was reading a trainer's blog, and he recommended that a reader do two short runs and one long run a week. I pretty much only run. I do about three short runs (intervals) and then 1-2 longer runs at a slower pace. I know I should cross train, but honestly running is the only thing that gets me to the gym, and I figure I should stick with what I like. I really don't run very far -- 1.5 miles on the intervals and I'm slowly building up my longer runs. Right now they are only about 2 and a quarter miles. Am I running too much in a week?

Vicky Hallett: It doesn't sound like you're running too much to me. I'd be careful increasing your mileage too quickly, but you seem to be handling that sensibly. If you want more guidance, look up a training program for a 5k. Most of them will have you running at least five days a week, so you're well on your way...

As for cross-training, mixing in other forms of exercise would be healthier. But doing something is better than nothing -- and running is a very good something to be doing.


Gaithersburg, Md.: I can't possibly be the first one to ask about this, but couldn't find anything in the archives. What's your opinion about Curves? I've fallen way off the wagon, and based on what's worked for me in the past and what I've heard about Curves, I'm thinking of giving it a try. I want to tone up and lose about 15 pounds. Comments?

Vicky Hallett: For some ladies, Curves is the ideal workout experience. Since they tend to be small, they're often in convenient locations. There are no men to hit on you in a creepy way. They make circuit training really accessible for people who don't know much about exercise. And there are probably some other selling points I'm missing...

As I mentioned earlier, though, the guidelines for losing weight call for more than 30 minutes a day. So that's the downside. But, of course, you can always supplement Curves workouts on your own.

Any chatters want to weigh in?


DC Job Seeker: Is the Post looking to hire someone new to replace Howard? Perhaps a young person who is interested in fitness and has solid writing skills? Who could help start a Post Fitness Blog so the Post can keep up with the modern media wave? Yes? Maybe? Please provide details. Oh and you're awesome Vicky, keep up the good work, and congrats on getting married.

Vicky Hallett: They're looking internally at the Post, as far as I know. But that's not much...

And while we're on the subject of modern media, I'm just curious: What sorts of things would you like to see more of? Do you like the chat? Would you rather have a blog or a discussion group? Did you like our Olympic videos? Should we put together more traditional workout ones that you can do at home? Let us know! And maybe I can do something about it. (After the honeymoon.)


Lanham: Hi Vicky

Have you ever heard of a group that has sports-related activities for those dealing with mental health issues? We know there is the typical sports group or team, but we're looking for a bit more personal connection or interaction within the group or team. If you have any suggestions or ideas, that would be much appreciated. The idea is that like group therapy, there might be a similar situation but involving a physical activity. Over the years, I've know many athletic individuals that have been stricken with mental illness and their lives have been turned upside down trying to deal. Thanks for any comments you can provide. Have a good day!

Vicky Hallett: I don't know of any groups that do this specifically, but I've talked to therapists before about the mental health benefits of exercise. And they often recommend that depressed patients join sports teams. They have structured practices, they encourage socializing and the exercise is a great stress reliever...But you knew all that. Have you tried a traditional sports team? If that doesn't work, I'd talk to your doctors about seeing if they know of anything like this, or if they could help you arrange something. It sounds like a great idea.


Re: flat chests: To the chatter concerned that working out would make her flat-chested ... Yes, you'll lose fat, but you also said you're doing weight training. If you're doing chest presses, etc., as part of that, you'll gain a little muscle in your chest, which should help you look, well, perkier. So that might balance out the fat loss.

Vicky Hallett: Good point! A little perkiness goes a long way...


Anonymous: Generally speaking, does a person in top physical condition for their age, weight, build, etc require more supplementation in their diet either through foods or synthetic vitamins?

Vicky Hallett: Generally speaking, people should get as much of their nutrition as possible through foods, not supplements. Much tastier that way and more effective!


Arlington, Va.: I am having trouble getting into an exercise routine I can stick with. Part of the problem is that I am not self-motivated; I need a class or an instructor to keep me going. I used to do a 5-day a week boot camp, which I loved, but money is tight now and I can't afford the steep prices. Any suggestions for exercise classes or programs in the DC area that don't carry such a hefty price tag?

Vicky Hallett: D.C. has more free exercise classes than you could ever possibly attend! Let's get started with the free yoga classes at Lululemon (there's one in Clarendon, so super convenient for you). There a free fun runs from almost all of the running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running in Arlington). And my personal favorite is the free abs class run by Mike Everts of FIT DC. It fills up quickly so it can be tough to nab a spot, but it's AMAZING. I did a column about all this stuff a while back. Hold on for the link...

Also! This weekend is Dance Bethesda. Free dance lessons and parties Friday night at three studios! See for the details.

_______________________ Can We Really Find You a Free Workout in Washington? Yes, We Can.

Vicky Hallett: More freeness.


"a chance we'll come back... ": Wow. That's really disappointing to read. I understand the need to find someone else, but I have to say: the only place where I think the Post beats the Times online is in the discussion forum.

If discussions start going away, I don't see me spending nearly as much time on the Post's Web site. And I'm already thinking of ditching the Post for the Times on the weekends.

I know these are tough times for newspapers, but I am really feeling let down by the Post.

Vicky Hallett: We really, really don't want to let you down! We're just in a period of transition and we're trying to figure out what makes the most sense for fitness coverage in the future. It might end up being a chat, it might end up being some other form of multimedia goodness. And we're very open to suggestions...


Washington, D.C.: I haven't gone to the gym regularly for a few weeks now due to a vacation followed by a cold. Symptoms are primarily some sniffles and a productive cough. I remember that the general rule is if symptoms are above the neck, you can keep working out, but you shouldn't if symptoms are below the neck (i.e. chest/lungs). With my cough, would you think it's ok to resume a regular workout schedule? I know it's best to check with a doctor, but it's been next to impossible trying to get an appointment and I haven't felt too ill besides the coughing.

My workout schedule is usually running 3-4 miles 3 times a week, a step class, a kickboxing class, and a long run on weekends in addition to strength training a couple times a week. I'm concerned about getting too deconditioned since I am training for a few upcoming races.

Vicky Hallett: Can you probably go back to the gym with those symptoms? Yes. Can you do everything in your regular workout schedule immediately? No way. Take it easy, make sure you can breathe (!) and if you feel like poop, stop.


Cleveland Park, D.C.: I would love to see the MisFits on Twitter, which would provide a similar format to these chats, but on an ongoing basis.

Vicky Hallett: Dana Milbank might make fun of us for it, but we could always beat him up...


Washington DC: Given the recent, unsurprising, news that the only real way to lose weight is to cut your calories, what's the best bang for my buck on that front at the gym?

Vicky Hallett: That was my favorite piece of "breaking news" ever. I was at the gym on the treadmill and about to finish up when CNN said, "After the break, the secret to weight loss." So, of course, I kept running -- only to find out it was eat less, exercise more. DUH. Anyway, you can burn more calories by using more muscles at the same time (compound exercises, they're often called). I just reviewed Jillian Michaels' DVD "No More Trouble Zones" and it has a ton of seriously brutal moves that are great examples of this.


About Curves: It worked for me. A few years ago, I joined Curves in May and had lost about 15 pounds (for me, that was significant) by August. I went six days a week and ate healthy, but not crazy-obsessed healthy. HOWEVER, after those initial months, I didn't lose more weight but just maintained. How much of that was due to my body type, I'm not sure, but I've heard from other people that it kind of stops working after awhile unless you supplement the exercise. Just my experience.

Vicky Hallett: Thanks for sharing!


Washington - Suggestions: Just wanted to mention that I would vote for a blog/chat format, like Kim O'Donnell does on the Post website. The blog allows for more in-depth reports or updates, and the chat allows the interaction and diversity of questions that is helpful to all of us. And for what it's worth, as somebody who is constantly struggling to stay on track with their workout routine, it would be a big loss to see this chat go away. I know you are probably swamped but if there's a way to keep even just you doing the chats, that would be great!

Vicky Hallett: I'll do what I can! And in the meantime, have you signed up for the "Lean & Fit" newsletter from It comes to your inbox every Tuesday with healthy recipes, links to stories and other helpful stuff.

Also, I don't know how many of you do the free fitness event things I post here, but they're often also in Express, which is FREE as well.

Hopefully that'll tide you over...


say it's not true!: i love the chat. i read the chat weekly. i need the chat. please bring the chat back as soon as humanly possible.

Vicky Hallett: And I love you! And everyone else who wrote in with similar sentiments! (And Haverford person, you too!)

But that's all for today. :(

If you have any other ideas/suggestions, please contact me at Bye!


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