The Journey to Good Health and Fitness
After a lifetime of being overweight, starting a weight loss and fitness journey was daunting. But the road to wellness starts with both knowledge and determination.
I’ve been overweight my entire life, starting out as a chubby child and eventually ending up an obese adult. I’ve dieted endlessly over the years, sometimes with success, but I always gained the weight back. I’m a chef by trade, so being surrounded by food at all times only compounded my weight problem. As the years flew by and I was rapidly approaching age 40, the realization that my health and wellness were of utmost importance finally sunk in. It was time to lose the weight and get healthy, for good.
I’ve been on my weight loss and fitness journey for just over a year now. I’ve lost 57 pounds and gained strength, endurance and confidence. But getting started wasn’t easy, particularly the fitness portion. As a chef I have the knowledge and tools to create healthy, delicious meals that allow me to be satisfied and nourished while losing weight. However, fitness was an entirely different animal. I’m definitely not the athletic type and in the past I avoided getting out of my comfort zone. Gyms have always been highly intimidating and overall I lacked the motivation and confidence to build a strong fitness routine.
For my own journey I knew that I needed the help and guidance of a professional, so I turned to Chad Singleton, Fitness Specialist at the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, home of ABC’s Extreme Weight Loss. I decided to work with a trainer primarily because I knew that I needed the accountability. I struggled to get myself to the gym on my own. But equally important to me was having professional instruction that would allow me to get maximum results and minimize the risk of injury. I was concerned that I wouldn’t do exercises properly and only end up hurting myself, and also that the confusion of wandering around the gym not knowing what to do would be too intimidating.
I signed up for a small group strength training class with Chad, and it has proved to be the ultimate game-changer in my journey to good health and fitness. Like many women, I had this notion that I did not want to lift weights because it would only make me “bulky.” Through this class I’ve learned the many benefits of strength training, and more importantly, that fitness doesn’t have to be intimidating. Even at age 40 and believing that lifting weights is only for twenty-something body builders, I’ve discovered that I CAN do it, and successfully!
If you’re still concerned that strength training isn’t for you, or that it’s dangerous or will make you gain weight, don’t worry. To achieve the kinds of results that you see on the cover of body building magazines takes a very, very long time with hours of intense training and an extremely strict diet program. Instead, focus on the benefits, which includes:
- Reduced stress
- Improved sleep habits
- Increased lean muscle mass
- Decreased body fat percentage
- Elevated mood
- Builds confidence and independence
- Stronger bones, joints and muscles
- An overall better quality of life, particularly as we age
- Reduced risk of injury
When it comes to strength training, Chad says, “The best exercises are those that target multiple muscles and imitate everyday movements.” For example, deadlifting is a very important exercise because we do it so much in day to day life; lifting boxes, groceries and children, or moving furniture when cleaning. When creating a strength training routine Chad says it needs to include these six basic movements:
- Lunges or step-ups
If you’re just getting started with a fitness routine Chad offers this advice:
- Evaluate your current status. Before you start you need to consider your goals, your current fitness level, age, and any existing health concerns or previous injuries. Don’t forget to factor in your schedule and availability so that you can make the time for workouts every week.
- Start with the basics. Practice strength training twice a week, doing a full body workout that incorporates the six basic movements listed above. Cardio can be done three days a week on your non-strength training days, 30 to 45 minutes a day. Don’t forget you need one to two rest days a week.
- Have a plan. This will help decrease the intimidation factor at the gym because you’ll be prepared. Having a specific plan in place will keep you focused and ensure you’re doing what’s right for you.
- Keep it simple. Overly complicated workouts can leave you discouraged and ultimately may not be very effective. “Having a simple program with simple movements will ensure your success,” says Chad.
- Consistency is key. Whatever workout program you choose, you have to be consistent. Chad is a firm believer that fitness is not a fad, it’s a lifestyle. Make the commitment to stick with your routine and you’ll enjoy the rewards.
- Track your progress. It’s important to know how far you’ve come. Keep track of what you’re doing, how much weight you’re using, as well as your sets and reps. It feels great to see how much more weight you can lift, or how much further you can run, even just after a month.
- Know how and when to change up your routine. According to Lou Schuler and Alwyn Cosgrove, the authors of The New Rules of Lifting, “Everything works, but nothing works forever.” As your body builds strength, you must alter your routine so that you don’t get bored and quit, but also to get the maximum benefit from your exercise. But don’t change it too often. Stick with a routine for 6 to 8 weeks, and then make smart changes as needed.
- Ask for help. Whether you decide to work with a trainer or alone, always ask for help when you need it. The trainers and floor staff at any gym should be able to answer your questions, show you how to properly use equipment, or demonstrate the correct form and technique. Don’t try to work in isolation, reach out for help when it’s needed.
- It’s not just about exercise. A well-balanced routine not only includes strength training and cardio, but also plenty of sleep and proper diet and nutrition. The secret to good health isn’t found just in the gym, but in the home as well.
While my weight loss journey isn’t over yet, now that I’m armed with the proper fitness routine, professional support and encouragement, and the motivation to reach my goals, I know that it won’t be long before I get there! I encourage all women, of all sizes and ages, to take that first step outside your comfort zone and find your path to wellness!