My Advice About Losing Weight: Thirdly, Exercise
This is a series of posts about losing weight. I broke them up so that I don’t produce an 8,000 word post you won’t read. Instead, it’ll be four or so posts that you most likely won’t read. I’m OK with that.
The first one had the intro and dealt with the basics. Read it first for a better feel for the context. The second one was about Calories Eaten. It also has invaluable parenting advice that is best ignored, like the rest of my advice.
A quick word about advice before I move on. All advice is pretty much worthless when taken in whole. My advice about taking advice is this: take what you like, chuck the rest. Chances are very good that you can take the exact opposite path of my advice here and lose weight, because the only truly useful advice I have is to Do What is Right For You. The rest of it is mostly stuff that worked for me and might be of use to you. Also, quit wasting money on diet books. Use that to buy a food scale.
Ahhh, exercise. The bane of many a weight-loss plan. Some people LOVE exercise. Most people dread it and hate it. Why is that? I think it’s because the people who love working out are – wait for it – doing something they honestly enjoy. And that in a nutshell is my advice about exercise. Find something you like to do that involves moving your ass, and you too will love to exercise. If you hate running, don’t run. Don’t listen to the people who tell you that you should run because running is the best exercise ever. They say that because they like to run. If you hate to run, then doing Couch to 5k is a bad idea. You will hate it, resent it, and stop doing it.
That’s the big fat secret to exercise. Find something you like. Do that thing.
Oh, and this is a big one. Don’t try to pull the “I’m soooo busy I can’t find time to exercise.” If you do, I’m gonna have to call you out on your utter bullshit. If you’re reading this, then CLEARLY you have time to exercise. Anyone can find 20 minutes a day to do it. Anyone. If your life is sooooo busy that you can’t spare 20 minutes because you’re running around all day working and taking care of kids and doing this and doing that, then you are also clearly too busy to eat and therefore you’re already in shape from that constant busy life. So don’t lie to me. Or lie to me, it doesn’t make a difference. Don’t lie to yourself, because that’s bad news. You can find the time if you want to (in a later post we’ll talk about the Mental part of it all). You can do it. I believe in you. Believe in yourself too. And don’t lie to yourself. Clear? Good.
Now, if all you can manage is 20 minutes a day, don’t expect a six-pack and buns of steel or whatever in a month. It’s going to take time to reach whatever goal you have. The more you exercise, the faster you will get fit (and to me, getting fit is WAY better than losing weight. Again, we’ll talk about that later), but you will make improvements if all you can spare is 20 minutes a day. Hopefully, since you’ll be doing something you enjoy, you’ll gradually find more time to do that thing. This is important. If you enjoy it, MAKE TIME FOR IT. Get someone to watch your kids for an hour while you do that thing, a spouse, someone. Hell, lock them in a closet if you have to. It’ll toughen them up. (Don’t do that. Seriously, DO NOT take any parenting advice from me.)
Oh, and now something about gyms. Do you like going to the gym? Then join a gym. If you think you’re going to wake up one day and say “Enough’s enough. I’m going to change all of my habits from the last 20 years right now and get up every morning and get dressed and worry about what I look like because there will be other people around and drive across town and feel self-conscious while I work out in front of strangers and go into a locker room and get naked in front of people who are doing the same and are WAY too casual about it and then shower and change and drive home and then go about my day and this’ll be AWESOME!” you are completely and totally setting yourself up for expensive, expensive failure. If you think to yourself, “Yes, but I’ll know I spent the money on it and it will be an incentive to not waste the money,” you are wrong. When you are in bed and comfy, the idea of wasting a day’s gym cost is going to be damn appealing. Then, not only will you feel guilty about not working out, you’ll feel guilty about the money you’ve wasted and feel even worse about yourself. Yay, exercise! Nothing like destroying even more of your self-esteem. So don’t join a gym unless you relish the idea of going to the gym and enjoy it.
I do not belong to a gym. I have joined many gyms over the years and didn’t go. You don’t need a gym. Again, IF YOU LIKE GYMS, go to a gym. IF YOU DO NOT LIKE GYMS, don’t join one.
OK, that’s out of the way. Let’s look at the 3 main categories of exercise: cardio, strength training, and everything else.
Cardio is importantly because blah blah heart blah blah lungs blah blah. You don’t need me to tell you that doing cardio is good for your overall health any more than you need someone to tell you that smoking is bad for you. You know it, so I’m not going to waste time talking about it the why. Instead, I’ll expound on the earlier Exercise Principle #1: Find something you like.
Do you like to run? Do that thing. Do you like to ride a bike? Ride a bike. Calisthenics? Cool. Dancing in your underwear to Pat Benatar? Whatever floats your personal watercraft of choice. The important thing is to find it and do it. If it’s fun, it won’t seem like work. This is key. If you are miserable while you exercise, you will not exercise. It’s not fun anymore.
Me, I hate running. I blame my knees and say I can’t, but it’s 100% bullshit. I just hate running for exercise. Seriously, if I got captured by some Enemy of America and they wanted me to spill my secrets of, well, comic books I guess, and they put me on a treadmill and told me that I was in for 45 minutes of jogging, I’d break down right then and there and give them everything they wanted. I hate treadmills with a passion. Running outside is marginally better, but it’s not climate controlled and that doesn’t thrill me. However, playing backyard football or a sport or something? I will run my ass off and have fun doing it. It’s not the running per se that I hate, it’s the pointless running that I can’t stand. I found, though, that I like elliptical machines and some exercise DVDs (like, say, Bob Harper). So I do those.
Now, if all you like to do is walk, OK. Just remember that you’re not going to see huge results fast. The more intense you can make your activity, the more calories you’ll burn, the faster your body will change, and the faster feedback will make you want to keep going and pushing harder. But walking is better than nothing at all. I do advise, though, that you challenge yourself. Push your limits. You are capable of more than you think. Again, that goes back to the Mental thing which is coming up. But I just want to include it here: challenge yourself. If you fail, you tried. If you succeed, sweet, sweet victory. If you don’t try, then you’re guaranteeing your own failure. Fuck that. Do this shit. You can do a lot more than you think.
So find what you like and do it. Now, we’re still talking about Calories In < Calories Burned, so it is helpful to have an idea of how many calories you are burning. There are places online that will give you estimates of how many calories you burn doing certain activities. They’ll be estimates. They’ll be wrong. But they’ll be a place to start. You can also get a heart rate monitor that tracks your calories based on your heart rate and height and weight and all that shit. That’s cool too. I use one every now and again when I am doing something new or want to make sure I’m still burning what I think I’m burning. Since your body burns anywhere from 1600 to 2300 calories a day on it’s own (you’re burning calories by reading this! Woot!), you can then add the amount of calories you’ve burned by doing cardio and compare that to the amount you’ve eaten. As long as you’re burning more than you’re eating, you will lose weight. Generally speaking. Over the long haul.
To me, strength training is just as important as cardio. Everyone talks about how if you want to lose weight, focus on cardio. Well, whatever. You need to do what you like to do. If you like lifting weights or doing pushups better than pure cardio, do that. Personally, I like to mix them together. Many exercise DVDs (like, say, Bob Harper) combine light weight lifting with cardio – cross-training – and in my opinion that method is the best. It saves time, gets your heart rate up really fast, burns a load of calories, and makes you stronger.
Why is being strong good? What is the point to it? Well, because being strong is a big part of being fit. It’s not about being Conan strong, it’s about being fit enough to do the shit you need to do in life. Picking up kids. Carrying groceries. Helping a friend move. Carrying buckets of water upstairs while you’re bailing out your sump pump by hand during a hurricane when the power goes out. It feels good to be able to do these things without hurting yourself. And being strong isn’t just for dudes. On the contrary. Being a strong female is awesome. My wife has given me a run for my money arm-wrestling before. That’s cool. She can carry heavy shit and not worry about being a helpless waif while Big Strong Man comes and saves the day. Fuck that, she’ll do it herself. Maybe not every guy feels this way, but strong females are hot. I like seeing the curve of a muscle in a girl’s arm when she picks something up. She doesn’t have to look like Chyna – please, don’t look like Chyna, unless that’s your thing and you want to look like Chyna, then more power to you, look like Chyna. You’ll need horse testosterone to do it, but more power to you.
Oh, and for the ladies: lifting weights is NOT going to make you bulk up unless you have a lot of testosterone floating around inside. So don’t worry about that. You can lift heavy weights, light weights, whatever. It’s good for you. You will like it. Unless you don’t, in which case don’t do it.
Anyway, there are a lot of ways to strength train. You can lift heavy weights. You can lift light weights with a lot of repetitions. You can ignore weights and do things like push-ups (I love push-ups) and dips and crunches and pull-ups and other stuff that uses your body weight. They will all make you stronger. They will all build muscle. Studies suggest that there is no difference in the building of bulk between those who lift heavy versus light weights. You will get just as strong, provided in both cases that you lift until you can’ts lift no more.
Maybe you like lifting heavy weights and then standing in front of the mirror and making Hulk noises while you flex. Do that. Maybe you want a 10-pound dumbbell to do curls and tricep extensions and stuff while you watch American Idol. Do that. Maybe you want a 10-minute circuit of push-ups, pull-ups, dips, and crunches. Say it with me now – DO THAT.
Personally, I like lifting weights. I do an exercise DVD in the morning and then lift weights and do pushups and things like that at lunch (because I pack my lunch and we have a little gym here at work. If I didn’t have access to it, I’d do that at night at home). It helps reduce my stress considerably, and I get to stand in front of the mirror and pretend to be the Hulk. Don’t judge me.
Then there is the Other Stuff, stuff that doesn’t quite fit in the other categories. Yoga. Pilates. Stretching. These things are good. I like yoga. Flexibility is fun and good. I’ve always been the least flexible person ever, and doing yoga has made a huge difference in that. Plus it helps core strength, which is HUGE. Back problems? Work on your core. Don’t want back problems? Work on your core. It makes a big difference. The whole stretching thing also really helps with muscle soreness and can be really relaxing and fun. Try them. If you like them, do them. If you don’t, then don’t. Let your muscles become hard little knots. See if I care. Seriously, though, try them. You might enjoy them. And that’s the whole point of this shit, right?
OK, to sum up what we’ve talked about:
- Find something you like
- Do that thing
- Don’t join a gym unless you enjoy feeling like you’re being judged by strangers, who actually don’t care about you at all and are dealing with their own feelings of self-consciousness
- Strength training is for everyone, not just dudes in tank tops
- Yoga is cool
- Yoga pants are hot
- Seriously, yoga pants rock
Next up: it’s all in your head. Seriously.