Friday, February 1, 2013

Going to the gym!

I am very amazed at what I see at the gym these days.  Personally, I did not start going to the gym until I had already lost most of my excess weight (about 60 lbs.).   I began to go to the gym to help make my body leaner and stronger to promote my running.  It is a great way to cross train and build up my fitness.  I have gained about 8 lbs. of muscle with no change in my overall size in about 6 months.
First you have to decide why you want to go to the gym, is it for weight loss or bodybuilding / strength training?  If you are overweight, then you must understand that lifting weights will not help your overall weight loss effort.  I am not trying to downplay the significance of strength training, but if you are overweight, losing the fat should be the most important goal.

For weight loss and heart health, you must workout aerobically (with oxygen)!  There is a lot of science to this but I am not going to go in the details about it here.  Think about it this way, you must raise your heart rate to the point of sweating after 5-8 minutes, but still be able to carry on a conversation, i.e. not out of breath.  If you cannot talk to the person next to you while working out then slow down, if you are not sweating then go faster.  Do not think you can add 3 layers of clothes to help you sweat off the fat, the clothes make you hotter but it does not raise your heart rate in a healthy way.  You must go for at least 20 minutes; however, 30-60 minutes is better because it trains your body to burn fat after the glycogen has started to deplete from your body.
Heart rate monitors are great, especially if you are training to go for ½ or full marathons or training for long distance cycling events.  Get smart about how to use them and how to stay in the zone for maximum benefit.  You can find more about this online.

Weight Lifting: If you plan to lift weights then you should take the following advice (this is not about becoming a body builder; I am not qualified to speak on that).
Make sure you are able to do 8-12 reps, 2-3 times.  Varying this on routine on different days can be helpful, i.e. more weight with fewer reps, then more reps with less weight.

Rest muscles for 2-3 days, alternating workout areas each day.  You could do chest muscles one day and arms the next.  Do the same thing with the legs.
Focus on overall core muscles, very targeted workouts have little benefit, so for toning the stomach, hundreds of crunches will not give you a six pack, only proper weight loss can do that and overall strength building will do that.

Do not believe that protein shakes, powders or whatever the gym is trying to sell you will help.  The only effective way to build muscle is proper nutrition at the dinner table.  As Americans, most of us eat too much protein already, too much protein makes your body toxic, and your kidneys have to work overtime to get rid of the excess amounts.
I am amazed at how many people sit on a cycle for 10 minutes then go straight into the weights or core exercises. Many of them are overweight and you must understand that the weight lifting will build some muscle (that will stay hidden under the fat) and muscle burns more calories than fat, but the best thing to do is to lose the fat first!  Body Builders can be some of the unhealthiest people out there because they do not work out aerobically.  Their hearts are weak and I cannot even imagine what their blood work is like.  I am not trying to be stereotypical here, but you cannot always take what the muscle magazines say as being a good healthy option.

Keep in mind that exercising will not fix bad eating habits!  The more you work out the more you will eat.  If you eat bad food then you will just eat more of it!  You can see big people running all the time and not get thinner, only food choice will fix that ailment!
My disclaimer – before doing anything go to a Doctor to verify you are healthy enough to exercise!

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