Sunday, July 12, 2009

Ask Raphael: Starting a Fitness Program


My name is Andrea, and I am having a problem losing weight. I am 130 lbs. and trying to lose at least 10 lbs. I don’t know where to start. What should I do first to accomplish my goal? Thank you. - Andrea


One of the reasons I like your question is because a lot of people can relate to it. There are many people who want to lose weight and get in better shape, but they simply don’t know where to start or how to design a plan that makes sense. I’ve found that what a person will do is start eating less and working out.

However, a haphazard approach to lowering calories and increasing activity backfires in many cases because what people tend to do is lower calories too much and work out excessively. So energy gets zapped, the body burns out from too much exercise at once, the process feels overly regimented and soon the person gains more weight then what they started with due to frustration.

There is a right way to start and a wrong way, and I’m going to outline the right way for you.

There are three components that will be instrumental in reducing your weight from 130 to 120. Let’s take a look at each and how to best add them to your program

1. Cardiovascular exercise – In many cases, I’ll begin with a person’s diet and total calories, but in your case I want to simply get you moving more and focused on the most effective type of exercise. You didn’t mention anything about your current exercise plan, so I’m going to make an assumption that you’re not very active.

I want you to add three days of cardiovascular exercise per week for 30 minutes per session. Your intensity level should be moderate in the sense that you’ll feel somewhat challenged but can still carry on a conversation if you needed to – but would choose not to. The key to cardiovascular exercise is finding an activity that you enjoy such as walking, cycling, cardio classes at the gym or cardio tapes that you can pop into your DVD and get a workout right in your living room.

You may want to browse a site called Collage provides many types of fun DVDs, and you can watch a demo of any DVD you may be interested in. One very good beginners program is Leslie Sansone’s Walk Away The Pounds. Remember, the key to cardiovascular exercise is finding something you personally enjoy.

2. Strength Training – Working out with weights is an excellent way to tighten muscles so that when you lose 10 pounds you’ll have a much leaner and well toned body. People who avoid strength training don’t look as tight and lean as those who strength train consistently. You don’t have to fear getting bulky because bulk is simply the combination of body fat on top of muscle or it’s simply all fat. Once you lose those 10 pounds, you’ll look even leaner from an effective and intelligently designed strength training program.

The following is a schedule you can follow:

Monday – Cardio for 30 minutes
Tuesday – Strength Training for 20-30 minutes
Wednesday – Cardio for 30 minutes
Thursday – Rest
Friday – Cardio for 30 minutes
Saturday – Strength Training for 20-30 minutes
Sunday – Rest

After two weeks on the program, try to progress by adding another cardio day or increasing time on your cardio to 35 minutes. Also, increase a set or slightly increase weight poundage on your strength training program. By the way, I also add flexibility exercises on my program, which I encourage you to perform as well.

3. Nutrition – Even if you strength train and perform cardio with a vengeance, it will not produce effective results without proper nutrition. Food can help stimulate the metabolism. As I mention in most of my articles, you must be in a slight caloric deficit to lose body fat.

You have to consume enough food to provide energy for your workouts, but they must be just low enough to produce a fat loss. Unused calories are turned to fat, regardless if they’re from protein, carbohydrate or fat.

I don’t know what your current nutrition consists of, but I recommend that you follow these guidelines:

-- Begin with a calorie level of your weight multiplied times 15 calories per pound then subtract 500 from that number. So in your case it’s 130x15 = 1950 calories. Then we subtract 500 from that and we have a starting amount of 1450 calories. This is merely a starting point! The accuracy can only be determined based on your height and by a more thorough analysis by our registered dieticians.

-- Consume 4-6 meals and snacks per day spread every 3 hours or so and make sure there is protein and carbohydrates (and some monounsaturated fats) in each meal. I recommend following one of eDiets meal plans to make this a whole lot easier for you. The work is already done for you! If you follow one of our plans, I recommend the Glycemic Impact plan because it’s marvelous at helping to control blood sugar levels, which in turn will help you to lose fat.

OK, Andrea, you now have a starting point to lose those last 10 pounds! Trust the process, maintain consistency and if you decide to join eDiets, please know that we can make this process easier for you. As a member, you can stop by my Exercise and Fitness support board.

Best of luck,

Make NOW your time to do something about your weight. eDiets can help make weight loss a little easier. Let our nutritionists and fitness pros guide you!

A drug-free competitive bodybuilder and winner of the prestigious WNBF (World Natural Bodybuilding Federation) Pro Card, Raphael Calzadilla is a veteran of the health-and-fitness industry. He specializes in a holistic approach to body transformation, nutrition programs and personal training. He earned his B.A. from Southern Connecticut State University and is certified as a personal trainer with The American Council on Exercise (ACE). In addition, he successfully completed the RTS1 (Resistance Training Specialist) program based on biomechanics.

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