Saturday, May 08, 2010
As time has gone on, I've come to understand that weight bearing exercise is more important than aerobic exercise.
Let me say it another way: If I have to make a choice between lifting weights and doing aerobic activity, I'll choose the weight lifting. Every time.
I didn't always feel this way. I used to think the opposite was true. I believed the heart was the most important muscle in the body (still do), and that the best way to condition it was through aerobic activity. I don't feel like that anymore.
Here are some reasons why:
- Weight lifting shapes your body like aerobics can't. Ever seen a body that is aerobically fit but not muscularly fit? It's missing shape and, in the case of women, usually curve. You can actually CHANGE the overall line of your body by adding muscle. All aerobics does to your body shape, at best, is make is a smaller, less-fat version of itself. I've never been able to add pleasing lines to my body with aerobic activity the way I have been able to with weight lifting. Through weight lifting I've been able to build my naturally-very-slight-shoulders up and tighten my abs, which has helped to give me a more hour-glassed shape and therefore make my hips look more balanced.
Therefore, muscle tone makes men look more masculine and women look more feminine.
- Muscle burns more calories at rest, so when you have more muscle on your body, your resting metabolism (how many calories you burn just to keep your body alive) rises. Additionally, the calorie burn from the actual weight-lifting exercises themselves can continue for up to 24 hours. On the other hand, aerobic activity burns calories while you are doing it, but that calorie-burning effect stops very quickly after the activity stops. So it's a better calorie-burning-investment over all to build muscle.
In a nutshell, weight bearing activities are more effective at helping you shed fat than aerobic activity.
-Weight bearing activities are more practical because they make you stronger for doing daily activities. You can't gain strength to lift heavy grocery bags or help someone build a fence with aerobic activity. I'm willing to bet that no one is going to ask you to run away from something any time soon. But help them lift a TV? That just might happen!
- Weight lifting makes bones stronger, therefore enabling you to be less prone to injury as you age. This is especially important for women, who tend to lose bone density much more rapidly than men, but is still a significant benefit for both sexes. In case you are wondering how this happens, the muscles are attached to ligaments that are attached to the bones. When the ligaments tug on the bone, the body reacts by making the bone stronger to be able to withstand the pulling. The more and heavier you lift, the more dense the bone becomes, therefore the less prone you are to bone breakage.
Pretty cool, huh?
- It is my personal believe that if you are really working out hard doing weight-bearing activity, it can very well become aerobic. Particularly if you add aerobic intervals, like sprints on the elliptical or bicycle or step-ups on a bench, between weight lifting sets. Besides that, have you ever seen someone who is weight lifting huffing and puffing? That's because they are using oxygen! And the word "aerobic" means "With oxygen". 'Nuff said.
I could go on, but the thing I want people to take home here is that if given a choice, lifting weights is more important to your healthy functioning over the long-haul than aerobic activity. Do I want you to stop aerobic activity? NO! It's still important, but weight lifting needs to be at the top of your priority list.
If your not sure if you have time to do both weight lifting and aerobic activity on the same day, take the time you need to do your toning/weight bearing first. Then with whatever time you have left, do your aerobic activity.
Likewise, if you don't enjoy weight lifting as much, do it first, so that it's over and done with and you don't have time to talk yourself out of it.
Trust me: The more muscle, the better!
Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Sometimes I get compliments on my posture. I do try to keep my spine in proper alignment, not only because it takes pressure off of my skeleton, but also because it makes me look thinner and more confident. Who doesn't want that?
So what is proper skeletal alignment? Glad you asked!
I have a little exercise for you- one that has come in handy and keeps me in check. And you can do it while you are sitting here reading my seldom-read blog. Ready? (This is so simple, it'll make you laugh!):
First of all, skooch forward a little, so that your back isn't in contact with the back of your chair anymore. Bend your elbows in front of your body, holding your arms at a 90-degree angle- like you are sitting in an arm chair. Now, turn your palms face up. Lastly, pull your thumbs back towards your body.
What did you do? Surprised? Yep! You sat right up strait, didn't you? THAT's proper spinal alignment, and the position you should be trying to achieve all the time.
It works equally well standing, also.
If you can do this little posture-check several times a day, sooner or later you will start to hold yourself in proper alignment naturally. Slouching will feel unnatural, and your body will thank you.
This, combined with conscientiously holding your stomach muscles in will help strengthen your core better than any ab exercise I can recommend.
This is also, coincidentally, the "proper alignment" and "neutral spine" people are talking about when they refer to exercising.
Let me know what you think!
Saturday, May 01, 2010
If you are overweight with no intention of reducing your calories and therefore losing weight, you are at an advantage for gaining muscle over those who are restricting their calories.
Yes, you read that right.
Let me rephrase: People who eat too many calories and lift weights have an easier time putting on muscle than those who are lifting and eating to lose weight.
You can't build a very big house on a wooded lot if you use only the wood from some of the existing trees on the property to build and ship the remaining wood to someone else. You can build a much BIGGER house by keeping your existing trees and bringing in additional lumber.
In the same manner, it's very hard for the body to build muscle while you are taking calories AWAY from it. So someone who is overeating and lifting weights is probably going to put on muscle at a faster rate than someone who is trying to gain muscle while reducing calories.
Doesn't sound quite fair, does it?
But here is the deal, you can build SOME muscle if you are losing weight, and the good news is that you will actually be able to SEE it as your weight comes down. While the overweight person who is lifting the same weight as the thinner person is more than likely putting on muscle quicker than the thinner person, they probably won't realize it since it's covered by fat.
Case in point:
I was lifting weights heavily when I was at my biggest, which was here:
And the fact is that I was in the process of using my excess calories I was overeating to build the muscle I eventually uncovered here:
Was I as healthy in the first photo? No! But at least I was doing something more with my calories from overeating than simply putting on a lot of fat.
And this explains why I was never in as big a clothing size as my weight said I should be: I was more solid under all that fat than even I realized.
Now, I still have a ways to go. My backside is NOT where I want it to be. My next goal is to build up those legs and glutes and make them something splendiferous. But in the meantime? In the meantime I'm very proud of the muscle I've worked so hard to build, and that I kept up the lifting, even when I felt like my body was almost past the point of improvement. I didn't know it then, but I was helping my future self out.
My point, of course, is that it's advantageous for even the obese to lift weights. The worst that will happen is that they'll put some of those excess calories to good use building something besides more fat. Never mind the other myriad of health benefits that come from lifting weights, to include improved balance and maneuverability, as well as stronger bones.
And the best that can happen is that one day they will gain the frame of mind to lose the weight, and what they uncover might surprise them.
It sure did me!
So if you are overweight and aren't lifting, START! As I like to say: Lift heavy, lift hard, and lift often. You never know how much you may appreciate your efforts in the future.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
How do I manage to keep up a 5-to-6-day-a-week exercise schedule? I make it a non-negotiable appointment with myself. If I didn't, I'd find every excuse in the book to not do it.
Exercise and self-care don't happen by accident. You have to be purposeful.
If necessary (and it probably is), write it down on the calendar, or your day-timer, or wherever you keep your appointments. And then make it non-negotiable. By this I mean that aside from an emergency (and by emergency, I mean an-ambulance-has-to-be-called-emergency), nothing is going to stop you from getting your workout.
There have been a few days when things happened and I couldn't get to the gym. For instance, one day this past winter we had a very unexpected snow storm here in Texas (THAT was weird!). Not only was the gym closed, but driving there was treacherous on untreated roads. So, I got up early before the family was awake, did step aerobics with a DVD in the living room, then lifted weights with my dumbbells in the bathroom. (In case that sounds weird, my workout equipment is in a closet in the master bath.) If I wouldn't have had dumbbells at home, I'd of made it work with body-weight exercises. But I sure wouldn't have done nothing!
The point is, I made it happen, anyway.
It's a difficult way to start thinking at first, but eventually it's a habit and something you can't imagine not doing. Your family gets used to it being important to you and eventually they adjust...... it all starts to fall into place.
But you have to take the first step: YOU have to schedule your exercise.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
I tried over and over again for years to lose this weight. I'd sometimes give up before I barely got started, and other times I'd lose some weight and either just hold there (got from 197 to 187 this way), or lose and then gain it back (went from 187 to about 174 and back I can't tell you how many times).
And you know what? Every time I lost without success, it was a valuable learning experience that began to put my head in the right place to lose for real. I learned what did work for me (Weight watchers, eating clean, having a ton of variety in my diet, varying my calories from day to day), and what did not (pre-packaged food diet plans, limited food choices, the same calorie level every day). And without all those false starts I'm almost certain I'd have weighed more than I did when I finally decided to get serious and make the real changes to improve my health permanently.
Plus, each time I took a few pounds off I gave my heart a break for a bit.
They say that most smokers who finally stop successfully have tried and failed multiple times. I'm thinking that making a permanent and healthy change in one's diet could very well be the same- Maybe that's just the necessary process of stopping any bad habit or addiction.
So if you have tried and quit multiple times to lose weight, or tried and lost weight and then gained it all back, don't count it as wasted time. Count it as a valuable lesson learned. Think about it, glean what you can from it, then get back to trying again! You never know when this try is the one that finally gets your head where it belongs to make it "for real" this time.
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