Physical Training Jan 2002

The Fit Kick

By Bill Whedon

High Intensity -- Kickin' Serious Butt

Hello, once again, and welcome to Bill's HIT Evangelism Show!

The Problem:  I Have Excess Fat
If you believe the Infomercials ("Big Famous Personal Trainer's 4-Minute Workout -- Buy It Now! 1-800-xxx-xxxx"), and the signs stuck along streets and highway ramps ("I lost 85 pounds in 3 weeks!  Call xxx-xxxx to find out how!"), then it shouldn't be too hard to convince you that the earth is flat, Florida has beautiful mountain views in the Everglades, and "X-Files" is a documentary.

If, however, you are tired of being lied to; if you've tried the Magickal Infomercial Machine route; if you've tried the Magick Fat-Dissolving Potion vendors, and what little fat did come off, went right back on; if you're actually serious about exchanging some of that bodyfat for lean tissue, and have a bit of determination, then you've come to the right place.

Now, we all recognize that some tiny fraction of the human population has a genetic tendency toward obesity.  I happen to be one of those - obesity runs in my family, particularly among the male population, and I've been well into the 30%+ Total BodyFat group, myself.  I've also managed to get myself out of that group, and into the 14-15% group, but I'm not about to tell you that it happened overnight, or even in a month or two, or that it was done with only 4 minutes of working out per day, and no watching of food intake.  I have nothing to sell you, so I have no reason to lie, or even mildly distort the truth -- it's as simple as that.

You can get rid of the excess fat.  Most of you don't need any special medication to do so.  If you believe that you're among that tiny fraction of genetically-predisposed-to-obesity folks, you can now get a test to either prove or disprove it.  You probably aren't, so I'd advise you to save your money (it's an expensive test), and get with the program, first.  Then, if, after eight weeks of determined effort, you are making no progress at all, it might be worth the test.

However, before we get to the description of the program, here are some other possible stumbling-blocks you might wish to use as excuses for why you can't do it.  I know them all, because I've used them all.  And I can tell you ahead of time, that they're pure pasture-pies... read on...

The Problem:  I Like To Eat
Liking to eat isn't a problem.  If you don't like to eat, that's a problem, but not one I'm qualified to address.  I like to eat, and, by golly, I eat pretty much whatever I want.  The key to success in cutting back on caloric intake, while still enjoying your food, is to stop believing in diets.  Stop believing in "low-fat/no-fat/high-fat/high-protein/whatever" nonsense, and simply believe in eating what you like, in reasonable amounts.

What defines a "reasonable amount", is pretty simple to determine.  If you're gaining weight in the form of bodyfat, then you're not eating reasonable amounts of food based on your level of activity.If, however, you're pretty much weight-stable right now, then you're eating just what your body is using.  In the first instance, you need to change what you're doing, to make it easier to get the intake down.  One of the best ways to do that, is to never allow yourself to become really hungry.  Here's how you do that:

1. Get some records of what you're eating, in the form of a "food diary".  Every bite that goes in, gets written down, for one entire week.  That will not only give a Registered Dietitian (there are a few free ones on this site, to help you, no charge!), a place to start figuring out what you need to do; it will also make you, personally, more aware of your own eating habits.  And that knowledge can make it easier to change those habits, as necessary.

2. Quit eating 3 meals a day.  Eat 6, instead.  (Make them smaller, of course!).  That way, you're never really starving, therefore never in a position where a huge amount of food looks quite as attractive.  It helps with will power.

3. Don't deprive yourself entirely of those "fattening" foods you like.  Like pizza, double-bacon-cheeseburgers, you know what I mean.  Just don't eat them every day, or even every week.  For example, I have my "Pizza-Night" once a month, and kids, I really pound down the chow that night!  The rest of the time, I may have a slice during the week, but not two, (and not a Really BIG slice, either!).  Just don't make a habit of eating really high-fat stuff every meal, and when you do eat it, keep the portion small.

4. Don't trick yourself into believing that "low-fat" means "low-calories".  It doesn't.  Read the package.  Some of those lovely "LOW_FAT!" brownies and cakes, are fine examples of extremely low fat, and calorie content that's just as high as their high-fat counterparts.  Yes, fat stores more easily as fat, but excess calories of any sort will also get stored as fat.

The Problem:  I Have No Endurance
Many people, and, apparently, lots of Americans in particular, don't get enough physical activity.  A hard day at work can leave you with little energy, and not much desire to do much other than sit on the couch and watch TV.  What you need to do now, is break that cycle.  You don't have to do it all at once -- in fact, depending on your own physical condition, it might not be a really good idea to just jump into cardiopulmonary forms of exercise hell-for-leather.  If you're really out of shape, you should see a physician before entering into any exercise routine!

When you're ready to start exercising, begin at a reasonable pace, for you.  The simplest way to begin is to walk.  Listen to your body.  While you exercise, try to talk.  If you find that you could carry on a conversation with someone, but would have to pause every few words to take a breath, then you're doing just fine!  If you need to gasp for every word, you're going much too strong, and are anaerobic.  If, on the other hand, you could sing a song, then you're not working nearly hard enough and need to quit doggin' it!

Try that out, and get used to the way it feels.  As you progress, you will find that it takes longer to get to the desired level of exertion, and that will be your cue to increase intensity.  Walk faster, jog, maybe run.  If you don't like walking, then cycle, go take a low-impact aerobics class, whatever you like!  If you like it, you'll continue -- it's as simple as that.

The main thing here is, if you want the endurance to exercise, you have to exercise to build the endurance.  It's not a "Catch-22", but a simple fact of physiology.  No matter how out-of-shape you are, if you can move at all, you can exercise a bit.  And if you can exercise a bit, and do exercise a bit, then before long, you'll be able to exercise more!  It's a self-fuelling cycle.  And the more you do it, the more fun you'll have, because you'll do it better and better, each time!

The Problem:  I Have No Strength
Again, long periods of inactivity do little for maintaining, much less, improving, strength.  And oh, you sure do need strength!  But more about that, later.

To get stronger, you have to exercise, just like in the "Endurance" part.  However, for strength, the exercises are a bit different.  You must move objects which are a significant fraction, sometimes even a multiple, of your own bodyweight.  Here, just like with endurance, you can start at a "walk".  Work on your triceps, shoulders, and back, by doing pushups against a wall.  As you progress, get your feet farther and farther away, until you can eventually do pushups on the floor.  Do squats, first with no extra weight, then with a gallon jug of water in one hand, then with a gallon in each hand.  Do these exercises until you are very fatigued!  You'll be mildly to medium-sore the next day, if you're doing it right!

Believe it or not, when you are trying to get stronger, you want to be sore the morning after your workout.  Mild or medium soreness tells you that you've done the workout properly, and that your muscles are going to get stronger because of it.  Don't hurt yourself, though, especially not your joints.  Actual pain is a signal to immediately stop what you're doing and get some professional assistance!

Remember, also, that you don't have to strength-train every day, for it to work.  When you're just starting out, 3 times per week for about 30 minutes per session, will probably work just fine.  Go to real fatigue, though, not just "well, I think I've done that enough".  In fact, if you're working long enough to get to that point, then you're probably not working hard enough, and need to increase your load so you'll hit that real fatigue sooner.

Here's the part you may not believe -- once you get stronger, understand what you're doing, and can exercise more effectively, you won't need to strength-train as frequently!

The Need For Strength
First let's get it clear:  I'm speaking to non-handicapped people in "normal" health:  If you don't fall into that category, this is certainly not meant as a value judgement about you.  The handicapped folks I've known, by and large, put a much higher premium on attaining what strength they're able, than many "average" folks.  I respect and admire that.

However, if you're among that "average" group, this is for you:

If you have a blowout late at night on a desolate highway, can you change a tire?  Can you even lift one?
Are you totally blown away from having to lift the baby and car-seat out of the car at the store?
Do you have to pay the sacker to carry your groceries out of the supermarket?

If you don't mind saying, "Oh, I can't do that!  I'm too weak!", then none of the above should bother you.  But if you want to be able to participate in life fully, then you need to get as strong as you can.  Strong means being able to do more work, like the little tasks above, but it also means being able to have more fun.  You open up a whole new world of sports, for example, by becoming strong enough to participate.  If you can't lift the kid, chances are you'll never blast a baseball out of the park, downhill ski on anything rougher than the "bunny slope", or crew a 2-hand sailboat to Bimini.  And maybe you don't want to, but that's not the point.  There are things you want to do, or would simply like to do, which require strength.  Getting strong isn't as easy as sitting on your butt in front of the TV watching "infomercials" about fitness, and wishing, but it can be a lot more fun and rewarding, in the long run.

So, get off your butt and get on with it!  And have fun!

Bill Whedon is the owner of World Fitness. He has been a Certified Personal Trainer since 1994. He presently teaches aerobics at several sites, trains individuals who have a need but little money, and programs computers for a living. Bill lives in Lawson, MO.

This article was previously published at the World Fitness Organization website:
Free fitness information and counselling. Fitness Trainer certification programs

Physical Training Jan 2002