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Sun Jul 21, 2013, 03:02 PM

My tips on getting (and keeping) in shape

We haven't had a thread on this in a while so I thought I start a new one rather than resurrect one of the past ones.

This thread is really more about what I do and have done pretty much since hitting puberty, but I do have a lot of good tips on how to get started if you've never been serious about exercising or if you just want to get back into it after getting out of shape. From time to time I have a co-worker ask me how I stay in shape. The other day I had a colleague and good friend of mine ask, which started me thinking about posting what I told him here. The guy isn't much younger than I am and he has a 2 year old son. He's also obese and out of shape, but is concerned about being there for his son. So far he's doing a great job and I give him lots of encouragement. He's in a good routine now and I suspect he's going to be losing a lot of weight and greatly improving his conditioning and health.

The first thing I will say is the absolute hardest part about getting in shape is getting started. Once you get into a routine it's easy and I guarantee you will kick yourself for not starting sooner.

I'm not a doctor, nutritionist, or any sort of work out professional. I just know what works and I listen intently to those who do make a living out of such things. First and foremost I recommend GOING TO A DOCTOR! Every commercial exercise program recommends this for liability reasons, but I believe there's a much better reason for doing so. What you want is a full blood work up. Make an appointment to have your blood drawn, then go back to your doctor once the results have been received. Discuss the results with your doctor. Get recommendations on how you can improve things that fall outside of normal ranges. As you start to get in better shape, go back periodically for new blood work and see how things have improved. Take note of your blood pressure also.

If you want to lose weight, don't count on exercise alone to get you there. Dieting is far more important than exercise for losing weight. If you have a low to medium fitness level, you will be doing good to burn 200-250 calories in 30 minutes and even at that you will be doing hard cardio. For low heart rate exercise like walking, you will burn roughly 150 calories in 30 minutes of moderate pace walking depending on your weight. One glazed doughnut or one can of soda has about 260 calories. It doesn't take a genius to figure out where the most benefit for losing weight is. You must control your diet. I know this sucks, but it's not really as bad as you might think. If you have a smart phone, get an app that tracks your diet or if not get one for your computer and carry a notepad around. Keep track of everything you eat, including portion sizes. Learn to read box labels and check online for nutritional information for major restaurants. Once you get the hang of tracking calories, it becomes easy. I still do this even though I don't need to lose weight. When you start tracking what you are putting in your body, you will become far more conscience of it and you won't even really have to think about dieting. The easiest way is simply to eat whatever you want and control your portion sizes. Get a kitchen scale.

Even though exercise isn't as important as diet, it's still a big thing if you really want to get in shape. I recommend doing cardio. I realize some people can't because of health reasons, but for everyone else, you should. If you aren't getting your heart rate up, you aren't exercising your heart and your heart is the most important thing you want to keep in shape. When your heart is in shape, you will find yourself capable and willing to do a lot more things (yes including sex) than you did before even if you are still overweight. You will also feel better and your quality of life will improve.

I'm not big on lifting weights. I know many guys are and I'm not going to knock it. I think lifting weights can be an excellent way to improve muscle mass and conditioning, but I see it as a supplement to cardio rather than a replacement. The problem with lifting weights is although it's possible to lift weights and do cardio at the same time, most guys don't. When guys get into lifting weights, typically they want to lift heavier and heavier loads, but this doesn't necessarily exercise your heart at least not very efficiently. The way to exercise your heart is through cardio. By cardio I mean getting your heart rate up to a certain level and keeping it there. Two low of a heart rate and you won't be exercising your heart. Too high and you will blow yourself out in short order. I recommend working out between 70-75% of your max heart rate (more on this later). Deriving your max heart rate based on your age is really just an estimation, but for the vast majority of people it's going to be close enough.

Now for getting started on a cardio program. If you are out of shape, start slowly and build up your conditioning. Even 5-10 minutes per day is a great start. For getting started, I think exercise machines like bikes and elliptical trainers are great. They are low impact and the nice ones at the gym give you all sorts of data on how you are doing. Hard walking, running, biking, swimming, and strenuous hiking are also good options (some of which are higher impact), but you don't really get the data you get with the machines. Later on when you are working out all the time, the machines get old because you don't go anywhere and you don't really need the data as much, but at least you can watch TV or people at the gym. Start slow and don't try to do too much too soon. Set the machine on a low resistance level and keep up a moderate pace for about 2-3 minutes. Then check your pulse for 6 seconds and add a zero. If you are in the 70-75% neighborhood, just keep it up. If you are outside that heart rate, adjust the resistance settings on the machine accordingly. Don't try to get your heart rate up too quickly. Just gradually increase the resistance so that it takes you about 5 minutes or so to reach your 70-75% target. With practice it becomes easy and you'll know exactly what you need. After you've worked out for as long as you set your goal for, spend a few minutes cooling down by gradually decreasing the resistance. Track your time by the amount spent in the cardio zone, not total time. When you are just starting out, try to go every day if you can. Try to do this for the same amount of time every day (whatever that is). After a week or two, add 5 more minutes to your time. If you are going 6-7 times per week, aim for 30 minutes per day. If you are going 3-4 times per week, aim for 1 hour per day. As your heart gets in better shape, you will know it because it will take increased resistance to get you into the cardio range.

The benefits of cardio are two-fold. First as previously mentioned, you are exercising your heart. That's the way you need to look at it. The second thing is you can burn calories far more efficiently through cardio and there is some evidence that it improves your metabolism, which means you will be burning more calories even when you aren't working out.

After you have been working out for 6 months or so, go back to the doctor for more blood work as previously mentioned. If you have problems like high cholesterol, triglycerides, and/or blood pressure, I can almost guarantee those things are going to be vastly improved. On my last doctors visit, my doc told me I have the lowest cholesterol she has ever seen for any of her patients not on cholesterol medication. My blood pressure is also typically 90/60 and I enjoy watching the techs check it multiple times all the while scratching their heads wondering if they did it right because they rarely see guys my age with that blood pressure. Getting in shape will improve your life expectancy, but more importantly it improves your quality of life (yes that includes the sex part). There are other benefits to a good cardio program. There's also evidence that it improves your mental health as well as your physical health. I generally try to work out soon after I wake up and it makes me feel better emotionally compared to days when I don't work out.

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Arrow 12 replies Author Time Post
Reply My tips on getting (and keeping) in shape (Original post)
Major Nikon Jul 2013 OP
Denninmi Jul 2013 #1
Major Nikon Jul 2013 #2
Denninmi Jul 2013 #5
Major Nikon Jul 2013 #6
Denninmi Jul 2013 #7
Major Nikon Jul 2013 #8
Denninmi Jul 2013 #11
Major Nikon Jul 2013 #12
LeftofObama Jul 2013 #3
7962 Jul 2013 #4
lumberjack_jeff Jul 2013 #9
Major Nikon Jul 2013 #10

Response to Major Nikon (Original post)

Sun Jul 21, 2013, 03:14 PM

1. What a great thread.

It obviously took a lot of time and thought. Wish I had more time now to reply. Be back later after the yard work is done.

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Response to Denninmi (Reply #1)

Sun Jul 21, 2013, 03:16 PM

2. I've been intently reading your posts on getting in shape

How are you coming along with that?

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #2)

Sun Jul 21, 2013, 05:43 PM

5. Thank you for asking. Pretty damned well, if I do say so myself.

Still a work in progress, but I am almost at my weight goal, and I do feel like I'm picking up steam again, after a bit of a rough patch. Strength and resistance training is still a bit of a struggle, I seem to have reached this plateau where I can't move on. BUT, I had a change of trainers, the one I had worked with since last year moved on. The new guy they assigned me to is absolutely fantastic, really knows what he is doing, and has a fantastic personality and attitude, which helps a lot IMHO.

So, I do a lot of things - three hours a week of dedicated group cardio with trainer - treadmill running mainly, some weights and bands; two hours of strength and resistance training one on one with the new trainer. Swimming. Cycling on my own -- trying to get in at least 4-5 good, 20 mile plus runs a week. See my Lounge thread yesterday -- yesterday I did close to 60 miles in a great early AM ride. Then, I also try to put in about 3-4 extra hours a week at the gym on strength/resistance or swimming.

Then, there is the diet component. High protein, high "good" fats, low carb, almost no starchy carbs or simple sugars. Limited to 2 servings of fruit a day because of sugar. Mostly, I eat milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, tons of eggs, chicken, beef, pork, turkey, seafood, peanut butter and humus and all kinds of non-starchy vegetables.

I take quite a few supplements. This was originally per the dietician, then I switched that responsibility to an integrative medicine doctor I see fairly regularly.

It has all helped dramatically. I'm a much happier, much healthier boy than I was a year ago.

And, I have some real goals for the future. First one, by next year, I intend to be in a beginning triathlon training program. I also want to be able to do all of this on my own in a sustainable way, without the "crutch" a trainer provides -- it's great, but it also is "easy" because you have set times to be there, you've paid for it, so you show up. And, I would like to join a cycling club as well, more for the social aspect of it than anything. Finally, another crazy thing for the longer term future -- I always wanted to play softball, so I want to find a team I can get myself on in a recreational league, probably through the local parks department.





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Response to Denninmi (Reply #5)

Sun Jul 21, 2013, 08:40 PM

6. That's pretty damn amazing

IIRC I believe you said you were fairly sedentary before you started, right? It sounds like your trainer has you doing all the right things. One thing you will find with weight loss or conditioning of any kind is you will hit plateaus from time to time and you will think you are doing something wrong. However, if you just stick with it and keep doing the right things your body will eventually come around.

I dabble in a few things, but cycling is my preferred method for cardio. I get in about 100 miles in per week and sometimes more. I've never been into competition or even riding with others. I prefer the solitude of riding by myself. It gives me a lot of time to think and take in the world around me.

Getting a lot of protein and staying away from the simple carbs is a great idea. One thing that you find when you are highly active is sometimes you have to force yourself to eat just to keep from losing weight when you don't really want to. I make my own yogurt and eat a lot of that. Yesterday I posted my method for making yogurt in the cooking and baking group. I also do eggs quite a bit, mostly soft boiled and go through about a dozen per week. I eat a lot of legumes and green vegetables for my fiber and carbs. I eat a lot of fish and chicken. I do eat beef and pork, but not as often. I've never been big on supplements, but I know some are. I just try to eat well and get my nutrients that way.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #6)

Sun Jul 21, 2013, 11:54 PM

7. Pretty sedentary overall.

Total desk job, so about the most exercise I get there is grabbing a file from the file room 20 feet away, or running something a couple of hundred feet to the mail drop, I hadn't done any kind of intentional exercise for probably close to 20 years. I got a point back then when life was just too frantic, and it was an easy thing to give up. So, for all of those years, the only activity I had was yard work, house work, etc. Nothing intentional or planned as physical activity - got to the point I didn't even walk the dog further than necessary.

So, yes, it has been a dramatic change. Brought on by a lot of things that happened. I feel like I have been let out of prison - I am doing all of the things I always wanted to do but was not allowed to as a kid, and then basically denied to myself as an adult. I love every minute of it in a way I didn't even know was possible.

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Response to Denninmi (Reply #7)

Mon Jul 22, 2013, 12:03 AM

8. That's an excellent way to describe it

I have a few good friends that are overweight and it's sad because they will decline to participate in some of the activities the rest of us do, and I know it's because they feel they can't or that it's too difficult. I've helped a few guys get back into shape and they all tell similar tales about experiences opening up to them that weren't there before. It gives you a good feeling knowing you helped changed their life for the better.

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Response to Major Nikon (Reply #8)

Mon Jul 22, 2013, 04:39 PM

11. It is a damned good feeling.

Ran like Hell this morning on the treadmill, a good solid 45 minutes minimum speed around 5.2, maxed it out at 6.6 for a few 2-3 minute sprints. NOT anything a serious runner would be proud of, but I am, it is a lot of progress for me.

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Response to Denninmi (Reply #11)

Mon Jul 22, 2013, 04:50 PM

12. I don't take it as seriously as some do

My goals are just to stay healthy so I can live an active lifestyle. I just take a somewhat scientific approach so that I can maximize the benefit from my workout time. Sounds like your trainer has you doing some sort of interval training which is a very good idea. At least once a week I take a ride to my 'hill of doom'. It's a fairly short, but very steep hill which I hit at max output till I make it to the top, then I coast down the switchbacks on the other side and do it again.

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Response to Major Nikon (Original post)

Sun Jul 21, 2013, 03:27 PM

3. Excellent advice!

Cardio cardio cardio! I can't stress it enough to people who want to lose weight or boost their metabolism.

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Response to Major Nikon (Original post)

Sun Jul 21, 2013, 03:49 PM

4. Just WALK, people!! Get off the couch (i'm about to)

I've never been a fan of running, but if that works for you and gets you going, fine. But something as simple as walking can make a big difference in your life.

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Response to Major Nikon (Original post)

Mon Jul 22, 2013, 12:30 AM

9. +1 on the relationship between weights and cardio.

When I ran, I used to lift weights to strengthen my knees and allow me to run without pain.

I've gotta get back with the program.

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Response to lumberjack_jeff (Reply #9)

Mon Jul 22, 2013, 12:51 AM

10. I broke my ankle when I was younger

I have osteoarthritis in it which pretty much forces me into low impact exercise for the most part which is why I prefer cycling. I think most guys are going to have trouble with high impact exercise when they get older and this is particularly true if you are heavier. The guys I know that are still jogging past middle age tend to be short in stature and not weigh very much. I know a lot of guys that are older of various sizes that still are able to cycle without any significant issues although some have to move to recumbent bicycles due to back pain.

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