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Operation Skinny: Exercise Program

Updated on January 2, 2011

Everyone knows exercise is an important part of any weight loss strategy, but for some of us it can be a real struggle to be consistent with it. I grew up playing a lot of sports as a kid – softball, soccer and even reluctantly cross country (it was a requirement for soccer preseason training) – all the way through high school. When I entered college, I worked part-time at jobs where I was walking 8-10 miles per shift in addition to walking everywhere else I wanted to go as I had no car. With so much activity and the bustling metabolism of youth, I generally didn’t worry about how I got in my daily exercise. Exercise had never been a chore or something I had to do – it was simply built into my lifestyle. Now as an adult in my 30s, hours of after school soccer practice or part-time jobs walking 8-10 miles are no longer part of my lifestyle. I realized that I needed to formally exercise and figure out a way to stick to it. Easier said than done.

Weight Training. An essential part of my exercise program will be weight training. The more lean muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn while resting. Therefore, if you build muscle, your metabolism increases and will help melt off the fat more quickly than cardio exercise alone. This is one of the reasons men generally have an easier time losing weight than women as they have a naturally higher proportion of lean muscle to fat than women do.

Luckily for me, my boyfriend is well-versed in weight training and has offered to help me with integrating weight training into my exercise program. He has one of those metabolisms that women covet and men dread – he can literally eat anything and doesn’t put on weight. It’s not a struggle for him to take weight off, but to keep it on. He has to constantly remind himself to eat or he’ll lose weight. He has a natural runner’s body -- he was 6'3" and a mere 150 lbs. Growing up a guy in the Midwest, this was far from the ideal body type.

In college, he ran into a body builder in the gym that told him that he too once used to be a very thin, scrawny guy. After hearing his story, he was inspired to do the same. With the help of a lifting partner and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Modern Body Building Encyclopedia (it’s his Bible!), he embarked on his own journey to develop the physique he wanted. Within 6 months, he’d packed on 30 lbs of muscle onto his 6'3" frame. Within 2 years, he peaked at about 200 lbs—these days he tends to stay between 185-190 lbs. Yep, that’s his picture there. Trust me, it’s pretty hard to be the 40 lbs overweight girlfriend of a guy that looks like that.

My Weight Training Plan. We plan to do a minimum of 2-3 sessions of weight training every week almost exclusively with free weights. Generally, free weights are the most effective way to build lean muscle because in addition to working the major muscles during a particular exercise, you also have to master balance and coordination to produce the correct form. This works “stabilizing” muscles, increasing your workout and improving your results. Plus, it just feels good to be using the real weights rather than the little pink girly dumbbells in the corner.

We may do upwards of 5 sessions per week, but I’ll feel good about staying on track if we get in2- 3 sessions per week. Session 1 focuses on the chest and back, Session 2 focuses on the shoulders, triceps and biceps and Session 3 focuses on the legs and butt.

Cardio. Weight training is important, but cardio will be the greatest way of getting the fat to melt away. I plan to get in at least 3 pure cardio sessions per week. I’m not a big cardio-in-the-gym fan. I’ll do the elliptical, but it’s boring. Therefore, I’m going to try and mix up my various cardio routines as much as possible so I won’t get bored. At the moment, I’ll probably just mix up various machines at the gym – the elliptical, treadmill and perhaps even stairmaster or bike on occasion. I also hope to check out a few of the group classes – spinning and zumba look like they could be fun. When money isn’t as much of an issue, I’d like to introduce Bikram yoga into my routine as well. I really enjoy it and it has so many benefits beyond just a great cardio workout and increasing flexibility.

Xander - Morning Walk Buddy

Early Morning Walks. In addition to machines at the gym, I plan to walk a good deal. Each morning, before I eat anything, I take my German Shepherd, Xander, for a walk – it’s about 2 miles and takes me 30 mins. Light cardio exercise first thing in the morning before you eat has been shown to aid in weight loss and fat reduction by boosting the metabolism – even more so than the same cardio exercise later in the day. For more detail on how this works, please read Walking First Thing in the Morning Boosts Your Metabolism. In addition to these shorter early morning walks, I may take longer walks later in the day as my chosen cardio exercise – 4-6 miles. Down the line, I’d like to run, and even participate in a 10K or eventually a half marathon.

Argentine Tango.   I also love to tango.  I don’t get to do it that often, but it’s a pretty good workout.  A few hours of dancing can burn some serious calories and improve your core muscles as you really need to have a strong core in order to make such precise and controlled movements, especially when walking backwards!  I don’t think tango will be a staple of my exercise regime, but just a nice bonus from time to time.

Realistic Goals.  Right now, I plan to be exercising rather seriously, either in the form of weight training or cardio 6 days a week.  That’s a pretty heft goal.  It’s what I’ll be aiming for, but I realize that a 4 day/week routine is probably more realistic.  Therefore, if I make it to the gym or some other exercise at least 4 times per week, I’ll be satisfied, but I’ll be thrilled if I make 6 sessions.  Either way, I’ll report my activities in my weekly progress hubs.

Photo Credit (Red Dumbbell) - Graur Razvan Ionut -


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