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Tips from the trainer
Tips from the trainer
An exercise reality check
Wendy Fortino, M.S., the former coordinator of Recreational Fitness Facilities and Fitness Programs at Stanford, uses everything she knows to help others find success with exercise. A competitor herself in figure and fitness competitions, Fortino holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology and is a certified personal trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine. BeWell recently talked with her about how all of us can set and keep more realistic exercise goals and plans.
What common mistakes should I avoid when beginning a new exercise routine?
When it comes to exercise, people often have unrealistic short-term expectations. The focus often goes straight to the scale, and when people are not seeing numbers they would like, they beat themselves up and potentially sabotage their success. It is important to realize that creating long-term results is the key; fitness must be acquired at the pace of the individual and pounds should be dropped at a slow, steady pace to ensure a change in one’s bodily “set point” and an improvement in health.
Is consistent exercise simply a matter of willpower?
If someone has had a relatively sedentary lifestyle, it can feel impossible to be consistent at first. In fact, willpower has to be strongest during the first few weeks. However, when people make it past the first 3-4 weeks, it becomes much easier to stick to a routine. Even a formerly fit individual needs to get past the initial phase to get to a more comfortable consistency if he/she has taken too much time off from exercising regularly. These individuals usually have it easier, however, because they understand the concept of overcoming the initial “hump.”
I am coming off a season of indulgence, which started with Halloween candy and ended with too much food at holiday parties. I am highly motivated to make a change, but want to it to last. What do you suggest?
To make a change, you need to embrace the fun you’ve had with food over the holidays and not beat yourself up over it. It was delicious and fun, and now it’s time to move on. Oftentimes, people go straight into an extremely calorie-restricted diet, as a form of punishment, which is impossible to maintain: not a good plan. After undergoing a high-calorie diet, the body has gotten used to consuming more calories than normal. Shocking the system with too much restriction can lead to an extreme, short-term loss in weight that the body does not like at all. Ease off of the junk food slowly and introduce a balanced diet of wholesome foods that have not been processed, have no added sugars and no added salts. Such a diet will help clean the system, and aid your digestion, too. Also, drinking more water will help flush out toxins and extra salt and sugar. A slow, gradual change will help the body become a more efficient machine for the long term.
Besides weight loss, are there any other advantages to regular exercise?
There are so many benefits to regular exercise beyond just weight loss. A regular routine of cardiovascular activity, strength training, and stretching produces especially healthy results:
- With regular cardiovascular activity, the body becomes more efficient at delivering oxygen and blood throughout the body; circulation improves, and we become more efficient at regulating body temperature. Exercise aimed at helping our hearts to pump longer and stronger should be done at least 3-4 times per week, a minimum of 20 minutes at a time.
- With regular strength training, the body will build bone density to help fight osteoporosis, and lean body mass to speed up metabolism. Such exercise will also improve posture and assist in balance and stability. Body awareness will improve, resulting in a stronger, more powerful “you” — a quicker-to-react, more balanced and more agile individual. Strength training should be done 2-3 times per week (for an individual who is just beginning), targeting all major muscle groups.
- With regular stretching, the muscles in the body will receive the oxygen they need for better circulation, and balance and posture will improve when the muscles are more pliable. Stretching should be done daily, and there is no limit to how often.
What is your best suggestion for choosing a new exercise routine?
I advise talking to a professional who has experience working with a variety of individuals. In some cases, it is a good idea to join a beginning group exercise class so that you have access to an instructor for questions. If you have never done strength training before, definitely seek advice before beginning to lift. Form and technique can make all the difference. Also, keep in mind that if you are beginning something new, the body is not used to exercising certain muscles, so time should be taken at the beginning to master movement patterns and isolation of muscle groups. Skipping this step can lead to frustration down the road: ineffective workouts leading to disappointing results.
Interview conducted by Julie Croteau and edited by Lane McKenna Ryan.