Aside from eating right if you want to get healthy you’re going to have to exercise. This can take different forms but I’m just going to share a little bit about the things that have worked for me. The first time I lost some weight in 2003 the only exercise I did was run around Lake Elizabeth. I started walking of course and built up running bit by bit until one day I made it all the way around the lake. The next day I met Janelle and never did it again. That time I got down to 190 but right now I weight about 190 but am way healthier than I was in 2003. That’s because running isn’t the only thing I’m doing.
If you just lose fat that isn’t going to necessarily make you optimally healthy. It just means you have less fat, and are healthier than you were. An important thing to consider is your body fat percentage. When you lose weight you’re not always necessarily losing fat – you can also lose muscle. I wanted to lose fat and gain muscle; I’ve succeeded so far and this is how I did it:
First, I started running with the Couch to 5k Program. This is an incredibly simple program that’s designed to get you from the couch to being able to run a 5k (or 30 minutes solid) in 9 weeks by walking/jogging/running 3 days a week. I started it when I was still above 230 pounds. I was almost insulted by the first day – it said something like “walk for 3 minutes, jog for 1 minute, walk for 3 minutes, jog for 1 minute” up to 30 minutes. As I stepped out my door I thought “this will be too easy, but maybe next week I’ll get some real exercise.” I was wheezing and my heart was pounding at 30 seconds of jogging. Sweet mother of pearl. I stuck with the program though and improved greatly. This really helped me lose some significant weight and get into some better cardiovascular shape. I didn’t stick with it, though. In July of 2008 I switched to something that is even better for losing weight.
Lifting weights. I was surprised to learn this, but if you spend 30 minutes lifting weights or 30 minutes running, over the course of a 24 hour period you will burn more calories from the weights (provided you’re working hard). Running does not build any muscle, but lifting weights obviously does. Muscle tissue burns calories at a greater rate than fat; so as you build muscle your body becomes better at burning calories throughout the day. You build your body into a more efficient machine as you build up your muscle. You actually get stronger and feel much better.
It can be hard to figure out what to do when it comes to lifting weights. The gym can be intimidating and the free weight room, full of bros working on their broceps, can be a strange and frightening land. After looking into different routines, I decided on a modified version of the Starting Strength workout. Follow this link for the information on that workout. (That link is to a forum that is not for the easily offended. If you stay just in that thread you should be okay, but venture out of there at your own risk. There is profanity in there if that bugs you too.) If you want to lose weight and not be skinny-fat, I really encourage you to look into lifting weights. It is way more fun than cardio and more effective. It will also help you look and feel better as you lose weight.
An important note: make sure you get proper form down for the exercises. I hurt my knee in October because my squat form was bad and my knee still isn’t back to the way it should be. You can hurt yourself if you do weights incorrectly but really it’s not that hard to get proper form down and it feels so good to get it done. Don’t let a fear of bad form prevent you from doing weights, but don’t neglect good form either.
Women should lift weights too. Here’s a website specifically talking to women about lifting weights, and letting you know you won’t become mannish and disgusting by lifting. It gives good info on how to do lifts and gives you a workout plan to follow.
This doesn’t mean cardio is worthless – it’s good for building endurance. But lifting weights has been a revelation for me and it will help you in so many ways. Just find a legit workout plan (like the one I linked above, it’s a great beginner workout) and get going. Do not just go in and do curls or randomly do stuff. Get a workout plan and make your time in the gym efficient. Few things are more discouraging than putzing around in the gym feeling like you’re wasting your time and not getting any results. Few things are cooler than seeing yourself get stronger and feeling more vital.
Finally, read this long post here about diet, nutrition, and exercise. Don’t follow that link if you can’t handle profanity and vulgarity (there’s a lot of it there). But it gives some great information on a lot of topics related to what I’m talking about and has helped me tremendously. If you are serious about getting healthy you should read and re-read that post. It is pure gold. Really. I credit the information and resources in that link with my success up to this point.