A 56 year old reader asks how to quickly get back into shape in time for a two-piece vacation:
Usually I’m in fairly good shape (for my age). I had a really hectic last year with a big work project and it threw me off my game (white flour and sugar became my boyfriend). I probably have about 30 pounds to lose. A normal fun day for me used to be a 25 mile ride followed by a couple of hours of kayaking. I did do a 12 mile hike at sea level a few weeks ago and did fine. I just started walking 4-6 miles, 3-4 times a week. I have access to a fabulous gym and am willing to do whatever there. I enjoy weight training and am familiar with most of the moves.
My eating is not too messy. I’m a vegetable and fruit junkie and am fine without meat. The bread I buy is 100% whole grain and I look for high fiber. Oatmeal or eggs with toast is my usual breakfast. I don’t drink alcohol, sodas of any kind, fruit juices or sports beverages. It’s only coffee in the morning and water the rest of the day. My one vice is coconut milk French Vanilla creamer. It’s almost non-negotiable!!
Kimberly, Lake Tahoe, CA of fiftyjewels.com
Alexandra: Wow, that is pretty detailed. You sound quite healthy, so perhaps it’s a matter of some tweaks to your exercise regimen and diet, not major changes.
Write down everything you are eating, and I mean everything, including 2 sips of wine, 1 bite of Ben & Jerry’s, and 3 almonds. Just the awareness of what you’re eating will create change. You need to find out where you are sabotaging yourself, as oatmeal and eggs aren’t the issue, and you already seem knowledgeable about the hidden sugars/ calories in fruit juice.
Once you’ve tracked your food choices for 3 days, look through your list to see what you can eliminate without obsessing or getting into a battle with yourself. Be aware that a 350 kcal Ding Dong won’t give you the energy, satiety or nutrients that two 390 kcal stalks of celery with peanut butter will. As your creamer is important to you, keep it. I suspect you will need to look at portion sizes more than food choices.
People who are successful at keeping weight off after weight loss aim for 1.5 – 2 pounds loss per week. Thirty divided by 7 weeks is 4 pounds per week. Probably not sustainable in the long run, but if you get a deficit of 14,000 calories per week, you can do it. I do not recommend or endorse this solution. As the possessor of an advanced counseling degree, I’m all about the positive, not the negative, and I’d rather see you feel successful about losing a realistic 15 pounds than unsuccessful if you aim for 30 and reach 15. Can you get a 7,000 per week deficit?
Kymberly: Well, Kimberly, not only do we share a name, but also a similar dilemma. Like you, I have always been active, am 56, and gained 30 pounds in the last few years even though I eat more healthfully than ever before. So I hear you … except that part about wearing a bikini! One-pieces are my friend.
My sister’s key tips are intake focused. My suggestions are output oriented. You need to sub in high intensity interval training at least twice a week and get busy with that strength training that you are fortunate to already value.
Walks are great, (and what I can manage while I await surgery for some knee issues). In your case, you need to change things up as you walk. Get specific cardio plans for weight loss here and here. Basically you need to alternate your long, steady state walks with shorter, heart pounding interval hikes that push your heart rate as high as you can safely tolerate for about 2-3 minutes, then level out. Repeat several times. Push yourself by climbing a steep hill, either outdoors or on cardio equipment such as a treadmill or elliptical. Pick up the pace for a power walk. Strap on a backpack that is loaded and walk hard and fast. If you are kayaking, paddle as if sprinting for a finish line.
Find routes, exercise modes, and paces that vary so you constantly force your body to adapt upwards to the new demands. Alternate the long, semi-comfy routes with shorter, harder ones.
As we age, strength training gets more, not less important. While overloading all major muscles at least two times a week is fantastic, you need to aim for at least three times per week given your time frame and goals. Instead of performing single joint, isolated moves (such as hamstring curls) do multi-joint, or compound exercises, such as squats or lunges.
Since you like resistance training, try this Tabata workout from our friend Tamara Grand. It’s a high intensity, low impact routine that will give your metabolism a calorie-burning jolt.
Alexandra and Kymberly:
Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Not only will you be sleeping instead of eating late-night snacks, you will also be giving the hormones leptin and ghrelin time to do their work. You already know about Sugar. Now you know about Sleep. The other “S” is Stress, which you discovered was an issue during that big work project. Consider listening to meditation music or words while you’re on those walks.
In fact, meditation has just been shown to help with losing weight– pretty exciting stuff, right??!! — so consider adding even 5 minutes of meditation or guided visualization to your day. Our meditation post was written before the recent research on meditation aiding weight loss. Click though, as you will find some good ways to begin a practice.
Alexandra: Choose from above the activities and methods that work for you and that you will actually do. Maybe you’ll enjoy a dance class. Maybe you’ll prefer to do high intensity interval training by yourself in the weight room. Maybe you’ll change the timing of when you eat that fruit.
And of course, take a look at a few of our previous posts that help answer your question:
Lose 10 Pounds in 4 Weeks
Best Workouts to Burn Fat
Do You Have a Stuck Metabolism?
Keep us posted on your progress, as we’d love to help you celebrate your successes. Besides, research has proven that making your goals public increases your chances of success. Okay, I just snuck Accountability in as bonus Tip #7.
Now we’re off to locate our swimsuits for all those hikes we’ll do in Hawaii when we sneak ourselves along on your vacation.
Call to Action: Take your own vacay twice a week when you subscribe to our blog. Enter your email in the right column or above and start reaching your active aging goals starting …. whenever you take our advice!
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Basal metabolism: The minimal energy expended to maintain respiration, circulation, peristalsis, muscle tonus, body temperature, glandular activity, and the other vegetative functions of the body.
zzzzzzz snork. What did that just say? In Fun and Fit translated style, that says, “If you want to burn kcals at a faster rate (helps with weight loss and maintenance), speed up your basal metabolic rate.”
There are 11 variables that affect your metabolic rate. According to the Oct. 2012 issue of ACE Certified News, “exercise is easily the most adjustable variable (of these 11) in total daily energy expenditure.” Current research indicates that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the most effective method for raising your metabolic rate and losing weight, so we’ll be super thoughtful and define it. Essentially, it means alternating your workout into two speeds – very intense, and rest. The intervals can vary, such as 60 seconds work/ 60 seconds rest, or the very popular Tabata style: 20 seconds work/ 10 seconds rest, which our colleague Tamara Grand explains in this Tabata Training radio episode.
By the way, standard bodybuilding won’t work for your goals, as it doesn’t burn enough calories or have the required after-effects. What DOES work is sprinting, biking, boot-camp moves such as burpees, stair-climbing, weight-lifting, and many other moves where you can push yourself to a 9 or 10 level of intensity on a 1-10 scale. High intensity doesn’t have to be high impact, though, in case you’re not into “jumpy” moves. You could do spiderman push-ups, which are very low impact.
We were once asked about “amping up my old ass metabolism” by a reader, so you might like to read what we told her (hint: we didn’t call her “old”). In addition to HIIT, you definitely want a weight training component. Our post about the caloric benefits from the metabolic spike explains the advantages of combining cardio and weight training, but in case you’re too exhausted to click the link, it essentially says that “with cardio, you can burn 10-12 kcals a minute; with weight training it’s only 8-10 kcals per minute. But due to a magical thing called the metabolic spike (not a volleyball term), you will continue to burn kcals efficiently for about an hour after you finish working out, even if you’re sitting on your
old ass donkey doing nothing.
As to your digestion…the word “metabolism” specifically refers to the breakdown of food and its subsequent transformation into energy your body needs. The best way to make sure you are breaking down and using the kcals/ energy from your food is to do two things: 1) eat food that’s a good balance of protein, complex carbs and healthy fats; and 2) eat at regular intervals. An abrupt calorie-reduction or starvation diet can severely reduce (i.e., slow down) your basal metabolic rate (BMR) by up to 30%, and a restrictive, low-calorie diet can decrease it by as much as 20%.
Basically, we just said, “Don’t skip meals. Don’t eat crap.” You’re welcome for that memorable translation!
We hope we’ve answered your question. If we have, go do 10 spiderman push-ups! If we haven’t, go do 20!
Readers: What high intensity, low impact moves have you discovered that we can share with other readers , especially
me those with bad knees?
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Citation for diet stats: http://www.disabled-world.com/fitness/metabolism/#ixzz2DfacauSZ
Kymberly: We hear your cry, louder than a baby’s and are here with good news/ bad news. The good news: we wrote a post called Wave Bye Bye to Baby Weight on this very subject that is loaded with help for your exact situation. Start by reading that and trying those exercises. More good news: We created a video with a super tummy tightening abs exercise that is a waistline definer plus all-over core strengthener. Try the Side Lying Plank Rotation Move and feel the challenge right away.
As for the bad news: You’ve got to get a move-on as summer is fast approaching. You are going to need to add more mid- to high-intensity cardio activity to your routine to burn the extra fat you may still be carrying.
Alexandra: Your tummy weight is probably two things – muscles that haven’t paid rent in a long time (possibly with stretched skin on top), and extra fat. The muscles can be toned via the video we made just for you, as well as via these other posts: Fab Abs 1, Fab Abs 2, and Fab Abs 3 (do those sound like 3 seasons of Absolutely Fabulous)?
As my sister mentions above, you will need to do some intense cardio to burn off the extra weight. I don’t know if you gave birth via the Big C or the Just Right V, but if it was the latter, you probably don’t like jumping activities, right? I pushed out two big-headed boys and hate to jump ‘cause it feels like I’m going to pee my pants. (Men, don’t read this bit…jumping actually does make me pee my pants. I hate that, and yes, I do my Kegels. And my kids are teens now. They had BIG heads). We have a post called “Move Your Duff if You Want to Get Buff,” which goes into the “short time frame, big fitness goals,” but you might wish to do your high intensity in the pool or stick more with moderate-intensity and lose the excess weight a wee bit slower. Me, I prefer that path to buff glory! Try Step, stroller-based classes or our group fitness classes.
Readers who have given birth and fought that “baby” weight after at least a year: What worked for you?