Resolve to get fit

Dr. Pamela Peeke and Vicky Hallett
MisFits columnist; author
Thursday, January 7, 2010; 2:00 PM

MisFits columnist Vicky Hallett discussed making realistic fitness resolutions and creating a plan for achieving them. She will be joined by Dr. Pamela Peeke, a Bethesda internist and author of "Fit to Live."

They will be online Thursday, January 7, at 2 p.m. ET to take questions.


Vicky Hallett: Good afternoon, gang! Hope you were inspired by our package this morning on four readers and their resolutions for 2010. (And thank you so much to everyone who wrote in with their goals! We're rooting for all of you!) We're lucky to have Dr. Pam Peeke with us today to help the rest of us got on track for the new year. Let's get chatting...


Arlington PIlates, Yoga and Tai Chi: Not sure if you can answer this question -- just moved to Arlington from Reston where I had a personal trainer. Great, but expensive. So trying to do my strength training on my own in my new home gym! :) (Although am in need of a great basic bench -- any thoughts on where to get in this area?) But my real question is, do you know of the best Pilates, Yoga, and Tai Chi classes in Arlington? r maybe chatters do. Thanks so much!!

Vicky Hallett: You should be able to score a bench at Sport's Authority. And as for classes, I'd definitely check out Studio Body Logic for Pilates. The owner, Karen Garcia, really know what she's talking about. And if you're trying to save money, you can do yoga at Lululemon in Clarendon for free every Sunday. Different local studios offer their services on a rotating basis, so it's a good way to check out which ones you want to visit later. I just peeked online -- this month, it's Tranquil Space.


Chapel Hill, N.C.: Dr. Peeke, A few years ago I heard you talk at UNC on Fight Fat After Forty. I have a straight forward question for you: If a 50+ year-old woman takes 7 months to lose 70 pounds while exercising an hour a day, will she have loose skin at goal weight? Please discuss the skin's ability to adapt to goal weight. Thanks.

Dr. Peeke: Hi there. Glad you liked the talk when I was there. It was a lot of fun. Skin elasticity is something that is very individual. The older you are, the more times you have yoyo'd up and down, and genetics all play a role. The best way to minimize the problem is to shed pounds gradually with good nutrition and excellent physical activity -- both cardio and weight lifting. Then, at the end of your 70-pound journey, have a look. Most women will have some skin hang, but the worst is from women who have dropped weight very quickly, which is not advised. Good luck to you and glad you're reading the Wash Post Living Well columns!
Dr Peeke


Raleigh, N.C.: Posting early. I'm a guy that gets fed up with the New Year's crowd at the gym, because I know they'll mostly be gone in two weeks. I've seen this dance before.

However, allow me to give advice to the New Year's Crowd (hope you stick with it).

1. Have a realistic work out. No, you won't be able to sustain a two-hour workout every day after work.

2. Have realistic goals. Probably not going to erase a year (or more, or whatever) of whatever you are resolving to change. Also, you won't turn into Brad Pitt or Angelina. And that's OK.

3. However, challenge yourself.

4. Ask questions. If you don't know how a machine works or what exercise to do, ask questions.

5. Be aware of gym rules beforehand. This means, wiping down equipment. Breakdown your workstation after finishing (put away weights). And, allow other's to work in. (AKA be considerate of others)

6. Realize that this is a lifestyle change. Living healthy isn't about fitting into a dress or getting ripped. It's about changing your way of living. You can't attain a goal and then stop the means that got you there.

Dr. Peeke: Hi guy! Great to hear from you. Many regular gym types call the Jan. crowd "Resoluters" and they're usually there for 30 -- maybe 60 days -- and then you never see them again, sadly. Thanks for imparting your wisdom, clearly born of many years of staying consistent. Well done. I'll add that i always use my MIND MOUTH MUSCLE elements -- look at mental motivation and be realistic. Know your stressors that tend to derail you. Nutritionally get help to know what you individually need to do. Stick with whole foods, whole grains and lean proteins. Run from refined sugar and processed foods. Finally, small steps literally for physical activity and build a strong foundation of activity. Increase your simple activities of daily living. Get up more!
Good luck to everyone and thanks for your input.
Dr Peeke


Washington, D.C.: A good friend of mine and I always talk about making fitness fun. She really likes her Wii and I have been Bellydancing for years now and it has inspired me to keep challenging myself and try new things.

I'm even starting a beginner class at Roda Movements in Takoma Park, starting on Tuesday, January 12. I don't know if anyone wants to come and try it out and have fun with us but if they do here's the link and number: Roda movements 301-920-0913

I also find that when I make a commitment to a class, I feel like I don't want to let down the class and always go.

Vicky Hallett: Totally agreed! I just got back from a class at The Post gym I like to go to every Thursday. If I skip, I know I'll see the instructor around the building. Guilt can be a very powerful motivator.

Although fun is probably an even better one.


Waldorf, Md.: I have two questions but they may have the same answer. I am looking for the best Pilates DVDs for at home use. I have Mari Windsor, but I'm looking for a change. Also, my husband has a bad lower back and needs to strengthen his core muscles. What should he use? Is pilates a good option?

Vicky Hallett: Men who think Pilates is just for the ladies must have forgotten than Joseph Pilates was a dude. So yes, it's just as good at strengthening male core muscles! And if you're doing the workouts together at home, that sounds like extra motivation for both of you.

As for DVDs, I like the Element series (which has both Pilates and yoga titles). But if you want to explore what's out there, I always recommend checking out, which is exclusively exercise DVDs. There are always tons of reviews, both from the staff and avid buyers. It's an amazing resource.

Also! I think a lot of folks with Netflix and OnDemand don't realize that you can get great workout videos that way, too.


It can be done!: I'm 15 lbs lighter than I was one year ago and I walk about 30 minutes nearly every day. I feel much better than I did a year ago at age 62 and plan to feel better a year from now than I do today.

Vicky Hallett: Amazing! I think a lot of folks out there get to a certain age and think it's too late to start exercising. But of course, that's nonsense. And walking really is exercise! That's one thing I had to convince Martha (from today's package). During her two 15-minute breaks at work, getting up and moving adds up.

And let me brag for her a bit: She managed to get in 90 minutes of exercise already one day this week. This is someone who thought she didn't have any time to exercise. So yay.


Potomac, Md.: How does one get an appointment with Dr. Peeke?

Dr. Peeke: Hi. Thanks for your inquiry. Call 301-407-0467 x 301 and Kimberly Gleason will help you.
Dr Peeke


Rockville, Md.: I'm a nurse and I walk around a fair amount for my job. That's good, but I was wondering if you or your readers had any ideas on "accessories" that may make it a little more of a workout. I wonder about the Skechers shape up line of shoes in particular. I tried ankle weights, but had terrible problems with them sagging and hurting me. Lead-lined socks aren't an option...

Thank you and Happy New year.

Vicky Hallett: Take a look at this article that ran in the New York Times last month:

It's more about those Reebok EasyTones, but the basic gist is it's unclear exactly how much benefit you get from these types of shoes. If they make you think more about your posture and how much you're walking, that could be a tangible benefit though.

And I just interviewed Denise Austin for a profile that's running later this month, and she's a Sketchers Shape Up wearer. So that's a vote for 'em.


Rockville, Md.: I just had a baby two months ago and still have 20-25 lbs to lose. Before getting pregnant I was very thin and always in good shape with healthy eating habits and exercise that I continued until my 7th month of pregnancy. Then I went on medical bedrest resulting in a gain of 45 pounds rather than the 35 recommended during pregnancy. Have just started to return to working out but I am confused as to what types of activities to focus on to get the maximum weight loss -- cardio or strength training? Also, since I have limited time to work out (only 2-3 times per week), I am not sure how to reach my weight-loss goals. Please help, as I really really want to regain my pre-pregnancy figure!

Dr. Peeke: Hi there, and congrats on your pregnancy. OK, the best way to drop the weight and achieve your best body composition is not to drop weight radically or too fast. Given your limited time, I would start out gradually since it's been a while, and then add more intensity intervals. Intensity is key, not the total time. If you can keep challenging yourself with intervals of intensity, you can burn more calories during your cardio session. Weight lifting is mandatory to seal the deal on weight reduction.
Be patient. Look to drop about 2 pounds of solid fat per week and see if you can build some muscle as well. You'll drop your body fat in no time.
Good luck! Dr Peeke


Washington, D.C.: I lost 80 pounds when I was in college by going to the gym early in the morning every day before class. Fifteen years and a child later, a lot of the weight has crept back on. As the working mom of a toddler, I've had a tough time balancing fitness and parenting. It finally occurred to me last week... why not do exactly what I did in college? I've been getting up earlier and going to the gym in my office building. I feel much better and I'm down 5 pounds since the new year. My question is... what can I do to maximize the time I have available (about 45 minutes)? I invested in a heart rate monitor, but I'm a little unclear on exactly what to do to ensure I'm working smart. Thanks!

Dr. Peeke: Well congrats to you for already being so smart by getting up earlier and hitting the gym. Make sure you're also reining in calories and eating whole foods and lean protein. During your 45 minutes, the key is intensity intervals. you want to be able to bump up the intensity and you can burn more calories and release more fat from the fat cells. Try to burn about 300-400 cals doing cardio (work up to it) and don't forget weight lifting. I'd lift two times per week and get that cardio in both at the gym. And also just increase your activities of daily living!
Good luck
Dr Peeke


About to turn 50: During my workday, I only have an hour to workout. What are best exercises to do on a limited time schedule??

Vicky Hallett: Pam just answered a similar question, so definitely follow her advice on intervals. Another thing to think about is compound movements (exercises that use more than one muscle group). For example, lunges with a bicep curl. You can get double the work done.


Arlington, Va.: Hi there, I've always had a question about working out when you're tired, as in the I-only-got-4-hours-sleep-last-night tired. I'm pretty good at recognizing when my body is tired from working out and needs time to rest/heal up, but I pretty much only get 4-6 hours of sleep on average during the week, and I'm sometimes yawning tired when I roll into the gym. Usually start out slow, but then if I feel better I kick it up a notch. Is it irresponsible to work out when you're tired? I keep a busy schedule, so if I skipped the gym every time I felt too tired, I'd never make it there! Thanks

Dr. Peeke: Hey there. You need more sleep -- period! You need to get at least six hours of sleep in order to have the energy to do a great workout let alone keep up with your daily work in general. You need energy to do your intensity intervals to burn fat and keep lean and fit. You'll injure yourself if you're too sleepy. Also people with poor sleep are heavier. They can't stay mindful about eating when they're half asleep. Fix up your schedule and get more sleep.
You can do this!
Good luck.
Dr Peeke


More tips: I am one of those people who seesaws from working out 6 days a week for months at a time to doing nothing for weeks...It seems like once I get thrown off routine, it's so easy to stall. And most of it's mental.

Last year I started off the New Year with some very simple fitness resolutions.

1. Try something new. For me it was spinning and yoga. And once I got over the initial intimidation, it stuck.

2. Work out one morning before work, one evening after work and one lunchtime workout if possible. Add in that I usually weekend warrior it on Sat and Suns and that meant pretty regular workouts.

3. The 10-minute rule. Even when I do get to the gym, there are some mornings when I cannot motivate. On those days, I just try for 10 minutes. After the first 10, I can usually do 10 more. And so on. Or I will do 10 minutes and then alternate machines or activities.

I am a really hard case. It took me four years to try the spinning classes at my gym. I bought padded shorts in 2005 and didn't try to spin until 2009 so believe you me, I get how mentally daunting this all can be.

Finally, although I'd love to lose 10 pounds, I never make fitness be about weight. I just tell myself it's "for the heart"...that way I always get something out of it!

Vicky Hallett: Awesome advice. I think trying something new is a good tip for everyone just because it keeps things interesting. Boredom has been the downfall of many an exercise plan.

Also, it's a resolution that's doable! My resolution for 2010: Try skiing. I might not be good at it, I'll probably fall on my tush a lot, but it'll be different...And I figure I'll be able to relate to the Winter Olympics better. (For the record, I've tried curling before. I fell on my tush a lot. And it was certainly different.)


Midwest: Hi, thanks for taking my question. Over the past few years, I put on about an extra 20 pounds almost without realizing it. Last year, I began going to the gym and watching what I was eating, and as a result dropped most of that weight (about 15 pounds). But now I have the last 5 pounds to go in order to get back to where I was before, and am finding them really hard to lose. To top it off, I am getting married this spring, and would really like to be back in shape before the wedding. Already, I exercise for 60-90 minutes at least three times a week, doing a combination of strength training and cardio. I was wondering if either of you might have ideas about how to lose those last few pounds...whether by increasing exercise, cutting back on eating, or something else.

Dr. Peeke: Hi there. I'd recommend you get a body fat measurement done. Women ideally should be in the range of 20 to 25 pecent over the age of 21. Make sure that your workout includes intensity intervals in the cardio. It's not about the minutes you exercise but the quality of the exercise you're doing. Change up your weight lifting routine. You're probably stuck in a rut. Look carefully for hidden calories in your eating. Keep a carful log for at least 10 days and you may see ways to carve out 100 calories a day or whatever. Add that to your intensity workout and you're dropping fat. Also, bump up your activities of daily living all day every day. Watch out for alcohol at night. You can pack on the pounds.
good luck!
Dr Peeke


Exercise DVDs: Hi, I know you recommended College Video but I was wondering if you have any cardio favorites for working out at home? I usually run outside and I have grown sick of the kickboxing videos I have right now. I hate the gym so I prefer to do things at home and I would like a break from running in the COLD. Thanks.

Vicky Hallett: If you like dancing, there are a TON of DVDs that just came out that'll help you work up a sweat. I'm not the biggest ballroom fan, but "Dancing With The Stars" just released two pretty good ones (and "Dance With Julianne" is nice, too). And I adore "Dance and Be Fit: Hip Hop Cardio." It's really old school with moves like the cabbage patch. You can completely dork out, which I happen to enjoy maybe too much. But no one can see you in your living room, right?


Arlington, Mass.: I've been using the treadmill at the gym, but there is something that really confuses me. When I maintain the 'cardio' target heart rate I feel like I am working a little at 3.5 mph and I have a bit of a sweat. It's fun.

However, when I set the treadmill for the 'fat burning' scenario, it slows down so much that I feel like I am taking a walk with my grandmother. The 'fat burning target HR for my age and weight is something like something like 118.

Can you please help me understand why the 'fat burning' scenario is so sloooooow? I want to lose weight, but my goodness, this is a little ridiculous.

I guess I'm asking for the scientific explanation of why the 'cardio' allows for a faster pace but the 'fat burning' makes you go slower.


Dr. Peeke: Hi there. I don't tend to use that fat burning program. Instead I just do manual and hit it up and down with intervals of intensity that you can control. So, do a warm up for five to 10 mins, then crank it to 3.5, then after a few minutes bump it to 3.6 or 3.7 for a minute or two and then down to 3.5, then up to 3.8 and down to 3.6 etc. Play around. Also, hit the hills by increasing incline carefully as well. Just do it yourself!
The thought with the fat burn is that you cook fat calories with slower intensity. It's relative to many people. What's slow to a beginner is different than slow to a more advanced person. That's why you customize.
Good luck!
Dr Peeke


Arlington, Va.: My 2010 vow is to do more yoga, but I'm also an avid spinner (three times a week). How do you recommend I incorporate yoga without ruining my cardio schedule - and how long will it take before I feel bendier?

Dr. Peeke: Good for you wanting to do more yoga. Well done. It's a gret way to cross train with your spinning. There are actually books out there that recommend ways to functionally incorporate yoga into specific sports like Yoga for Runners. What I'd recommend is to add yoga poses to your typical stretches to give more depth to your workout. You can do yoga anytime throughout the day as well, so get up and stretch and even strengthen as you do your activities of daily living. All in all, yoga is a terrific way to maintain strength and flexibility especially in your core and back which get hammered with the bike work. Add a little pilates for core as well. Yogalates is what we call it.
Good luck .
Dr Peeke


Diet, IN: Hi MisFits,-

At this time of year when many of us are evaluating fitness and general health goals I think it useful to keep in mind realistic targets. Along these lines I mention an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this week (by Katan and Ludwig). It didn't contain earthshattering news but it does address what I think is a common belief.

The authors consider the hypothethical situation of an individual who maintains their regular dieting habits except that every day they eat 60 fewer calories than they otherwise would (skip eating a cookie). The question is how does this daily reduction in calories affect weight over time.

A common belief is that cookie weight loss may be approximately linear over time and that based on 1 pound = 3,500 calories the individual might lose 6 pounds over 1 year and over a decade as much as 60 pounds. The authors indicate this is inaccurate because our bodies adjust themselves to permanent changes in diet and that skipping the cookie forever only leads to a 2.7 pounds change over a lifetime.

The take home message for dieters is that expectations of weight loss based on counting calories not consumed/burned are likely to be overly optimistic.

In a similar vein, the recent book by Gina Kolata (science writer for NY Times) supports the notion that BMI and weight are largely hereditary and that each individual has their own natural predispositions or trajectories that our bodies fight to follow. Obese individuals who lose great amounts of weight through extreme diets and maintain the loss often show physiological and psychological manifestations of starvation though their body weight would put them in a 'normal' BMI category.

Though weight loss is an important health goal for many of us we should have realistic goals and be kind to ourselves as well.

Dr. Peeke: Hi, and thanks for your posting. The bottom line is that the real goal is not a number. Instead it's the change of a behavior, from one that is not conducive to health, to one that is. The better behavior will lead to the ability to achieve whatever healthier number range someone seeks. That is why total lifestyle and not just counting calories is so key.
People can realistically identify mental, nutritional and physical activity behaviors they can begin to change now. It should be done gradually to build a strong sustainable base of lifestyle living habits.

Again, thanks for your posting and good luck to you.

Dr Peeke


Rochester, N.Y.: I just had my 64th birthday this week. Since the end of May, I've lost 67 pounds by walking 4.5 miles every day and eating right......Now that the weather has gotten bad, I'm walking 1 or 2 miles on my treadmill. I feel absolutely wonderful!

Vicky Hallett: Another vote for walking! (And that's great news! Congrats.)


Vicky Hallett: That's it for us today. Thanks, Dr. Peeke, for helping out! And stay tuned for updates on our resolution foursome in Local Living. We'll be following up to see if they actually stick with their plans.


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