Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
K: So your girlish figure turned churlish on you and now it’s time to turn back? Fun and Fit like your attitude! First, let’s do some magic math. Assuming your girlish figure is hiding under some matronly (we could say “Rubenesque“) fat, I prefer 25% cardio, 25% resistance training, 50% good nutrition and 100% laughing along with Fun and Fit twice a week when we publish new posts. That adds up to rollicking times in and out of the gym!
Given your trainer budget, do cardio training on your own as often as feasible and tolerable. Avoid getting too hung up on numbers, including our magic ones above. Unless it’s a phone number of your girlish figure calling to say she wants to get together, then hang up. If you can afford the trainer a little while longer, make the investment in learning strength training as it will pay off. You can avoid more pain (and frustration) having a professional teach you upper body, lower body, and core exercises. If you cannot afford a trainer, hie thee hiney hence to group classes. So effective, so supportive, so affordable, so many ideas to keep you exercising!
A: Stop worrying about the pain as it will subside. Unless you live with Kymberly. Your muscles are adapting to the fact that you are asking them to pay rent after letting them mooch off you free for years. As long as the pain is not in your joints, you are fine. If your trainer is just the right combination of sadism and compassion, your muscles should be somewhat sore after every session! You wouldn’t pay him to let you lie in the sun would you? While we’re on the topic of numbers, I want to encourage you to pay less attention to your scale (at least for the first few months) and more attention to your clothing size. The speed at which you gain muscle strength (and mass) and lose fat is not exactly equal, so you might not enjoy the scale for a while. I mention this in a purely caring, I Hate Scales, kind of way.
As we are both group exercise instructors, we are mucho partial to that form of exercise. Read the class descriptions, choose one that does not have these words–advanced, extreme, high, super, energetic, or killer–and get in there. You can wear your baggiest shmatte so don’t worry about the clingy wear at all. Inform the teacher before class starts that you are a beginner. Say you are nervous. Say you want to be right in front so she or he can keep an eye on you. Allude ever so casually to your medical issues if they will affect your heart rate or ability to remain upright. Tell yourself you’ll do 20 minutes, then stay for 30. Let your teacher know with a smile and thumbs up that you are leaving early because you made it this far. We teacher types get nervous if we think people are leaving early so they can go pass out in the locker room. Oh, while you’re in the locker room, look in the mirror and say “Yay-ess! I did it. And will keep on doing it.” We have no idea what “it” is, but have gotten lots of entertainment out of seeing suckers students do this!
Pained Readers: Do you remember first starting out an exercise program? What do you recall about it? And do you like paintings by Rubens?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Dear Fun and Fit:
K: Not loving back fat and love handles eh? Trying to get a handle on them, eh? Wanting to get back at your back fat after all these years eh? Think I’m stalling, hoping a good answer will come to me, eh? Well, for a low low price apparently you can buy green tea which will solve all fat problems. I saw it on the internet so it must be true. I think you rub stinky leaves on yourself and food runs away from you. The skinny on back fat is that it’s fat like all other fat. And like all stored fat, you cannot nuke it or spot reduce.You must reduce overall body fat through cardio and resistance training. Where you hold extra insulation is genetically predisposed. So it could be that you are thin-looking everywhere else with your mom and dad having set you up for life with back fat as the preferred storage area.
Now if you want to get a rebate on those green tea leaves, for a medium to high price I will create advice that trains your back fat to move around to the front and enhance your cleavage. Or we can hire someone to stand behind you and shove any back fat forward and up. So Double D-elightful eh?
A: Time for some higher math to create lower fat. One pound of body fat equals 3,500 kcals (calories). To lose one pound of fat, you will have to burn 3,500 kcals. You can do this by eating less and/or moving more. Or you could just drive those extra pounds to a deserted country road and toss them out of the car. Sadly, they have a way of finding their way home! Back to math class–A realistic, sustainable way to get rid of that bad-girl back-fat is to create a 500-kcal deficit per day. 500 kcals X 7 days in a week = 1 pound of fat forever left in the country. That may sound slow, especially if you have more than one pound to lose, but it is still a lot quicker than it took you to put it on, am I right?
K: As you move to caloric deficit and therefore overall fat reduction, spend some dedicated time strength training your upper and middle back muscles. Not only will you develop lean, defined back muscles that will show through once the overall fat is lowered, but also you will no doubt enhance your posture. Good posture always drops a few visual pounds. Key word there was “visual.”
By the way, you can save yourself that lonely country drive Alexandra mentions if you simply give the back fat you found back to the ole’ lady. We’ll back you up that you are too young for old lady fat.
Readers: What is your secret source of fat frustration? Where is the first place you find fat and the last place you lose it?
A: Legersizes? Legersizes? Is that a Dutch word or a leftover from a Jane Fonda video you have stashed away somewhere? Okay, relax your mind. You are growing sleepy, sleepy. You are traveling back to the early 80s. You are pulling on your leg-warmers and leotard. SNAP! Wake up and get moving, Miss Jackie Foxy Dutchy Brown! Time for your legersizes.
We’ll get to number three later. If your lower body and hip area are carrying any extra fat, you need to engage in regular cardio activity to use up calories. Power walking, biking, and ice skating along frozen canals are all popular and effective cardio activities.Tulip picking does not qualify unless you are running as you grab tulips. In this case you are probably running from the bulb growers who can’t believe you can move so fast in skinny, tight jeans carrying snatched tulips. Of course you cannot zap fat in one particular area through cardio (sometimes called SPOT REDUCING, which is bad English and worse fitness advice), but you can reduce overall fat if that is part of why the jeans are not fitting now.
In addition to reducing stored fat through cardio, you are right to want to do some lower body strength training as well. Not only will such training improve your metabolic rate (the rate at which you burn calories at rest) and help use calories before they get stored as excess body fat, but also you will define and streamline the leg muscles. The important thing is to distinguish between training for hypertrophy (bigger muscles, which you probably don’t want) and actual strength. The exercises Alexandra advises below are all perfect for your goal in that they mostly use your body weight against gravity as the resistance factor. That is, you are not taking on heavy loads as you perform the leg exercises, aka legersizes.
A: I would happily describe some actual exercises for you, but my fingers are all worn out from pulling on my leg-warmers and “tushy-floss” thong leotard. Since you say “do-it-yourself,” I assume you mean at home, no machines, right? Or do you mean you want to grab your leg and move it around a little? Come to think of it, hopping around on one leg, doing the “Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien dance-off” bit.ly/9zUzr3 would be pretty special. But I digress. Since we love happy readers, though, here is a link to some nice exercises that should do the trick:bit.ly/97ZqT2. Pay particular attention to the 3-legged squat, wide squat, single-leg dip squat, all-fours alternate arm/leg lift, lunge w/barbell or bar, alternating power lunges, prone leg lift, standing single-leg hip extension with knee flexion and (finally, I was starting to bore myself) the hip bridge. These are all great exercises, and there are many more, yet here is the most important thing of all…wait for it…wear your skinny jeans while doing all these exercises. That way you know for sure that they’ll fit.
K: Now that your jeans fit, let’s discuss that third aspect mentioned above: fashion tastefulness. If your skinny jeans can easily be imitated by spray paint or if when wearing them you suddenly develop Muffin Top syndrome, then what the heck are you thinking??!! Get some other kind of Euro pants that allow you to comfortably and tastefully cruise the achthondered achtentachtig grachten (888 canals).
Fashionista Readers (including foreigners who speak English): What outfit did you devote exercise time and effort to just so you could wear that special outfit?
K: Tip number one: Do not let age catch up with you. Run faster. Oh wait, with age the knees start to go so running might not be too comfy. And F and F LOVE comfy fitness. And dark chocolate. Tip number two: Retire super early from your full time desk job and do something that requires loads of outdoor activity. We do have our fitness priorities after all! Then I woke up….
A: You may not like this, but you might have to run faster just to stay in place. TAKE YOUR FINGERS OUT OF YOUR EARS. I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME! At 54, the rate at which you burn calories has slowed down, especially if you sit on your Bartleby the Buttolomus (lost Latin term meaning “butt”) most of the day. So, you are not burning the kcals quite as quickly — fat goes up, muscle mass goes down — the roller coaster of your BMR and metabolism goes zooming along. Good news, you don’t have to be the high bidder for a leftover “Gone With the Wind” corset. You do have to lift those weights a bit more. If you are currently doing strength training, you need to either do it more often or with heavier weights. Increase the cardio — either go longer or harder. And eat less! Shazaam 1, 2, 3.
K: Good news: cut back on the 200 sit ups. Remember, you cannot spot reduce. All the ab crunches in the world are not going to nuke any mid-section fat. You do need to expend calories to prevent fat and weight gain, so Alexandra is right to recommend the combo of cardio and weight training. Oooh, admitting her rightliness did not hurt as much as I thought. Or as much as 200 ab crunches per day with minimal results.
The short version of our advice is boiled down to three plain potatoes: eat fewer calories, or burn more through increased activity, or do both. Full disclaimer: Fun and Fit fully believe that movement is the Fountain of Youth, yet we must acknowledge that the Fountain is fed by “spring-in-the step pure exercise well waters” that require more pumping (iron) as we age.
The super short version of our advice is to say, “the heck with it. I needed a new wardrobe anyway.” But probably better to pump the Fountain Well.
A: The final words from me: Forget about Mr. (Eating) Right. Go with Mr. (Eating) Less. But marry Mr. (Exercising) Good Enough.
Readers: Were you aware that weight training is part of a good weight-loss program? Have you ever visited the Fountain of Youth?