Monday, November 24, 2008

In these bad economic times, should you cancel your gym membership/Personal Trainer?

As a Personal Trainer, I’m touching on a very personal topic here. Am I going to lose business because of the economic downturn? Is the gym I work for going to lose memberships? Is the average person wasting his/her money by paying for a gym membership every month?

Maintaining your health is a lifelong investment in the sense that it takes your entire life to maintain your health and that you’ll reap the rewards of health throughout your entire life. Since it takes your entire life to maintain your health, yes, you do need to exercise. However, you don’t need to spend money in order to exercise. You can run, walk, hike or bike outside, and you can spend a mere $10 on a resistance band to do strength-training exercises at home. How many of us do this? Unfortunately, most people don’t have the self-motivation to exercise consistently, especially in the winter. Therefore, if keeping the gym membership or trainer, especially through the cold, dark winter, will keep you in shape, then that is a worthwhile expense for your lifelong health. How many times have you felt guilted into using your gym membership? It’s not a great reason to go, but it works.

Some of the long-term savings and rewards of maintaining your health are: saving money on insurance premiums, healthcare costs, prescriptions, doctor visits, tests and exams, larger-sized clothes, etc. How much do you (and your insurer) pay for these items per year? You don’t have to if you maintain your health. My doctor called me “medically boring” because, besides my annual exam, I never see him. He doesn’t make much money off me. Strive to be “medically boring” by living a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Do everything you can to be healthy. Besides, health helps you handle stress in these difficult times.

My opinion of the best ways to save money and improve your health are: buying and eating healthy, homemade food and walking more while driving less, if possible. Here’s an article on ways to save money: and of its seven suggestions, none of them included cutting gym memberships. Here’s another article about 30 ways to save money: and, again, no suggestion to cancel your gym membership. Do you agree with these money-saving suggestions, compared to quitting the gym?

The humongous successes of the healthcare industry, pharmacological industry, processed food industry, and clothing industry are all thanks to Americans’ lack of health. Invest in your own physical health instead of these industries’ financial health.

New Exercise Guidelines & Reactions to Them

I recently became aware of the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association’s new recommendations for minimal exercise ( ).

They are:
“Guidelines for healthy adults under age 65
Basic recommendations from ACSM and AHA:
Do moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week
Do vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week
Do eight to 10 strength-training exercises, eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise, twice a week.

Moderate-intensity physical activity means working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat, yet still being able to carry on a conversation. It should be noted that to lose weight or maintain weight loss, 60 to 90 minutes of physical activity may be necessary. The 30-minute recommendation is for the average healthy adult to maintain health and reduce the risk for chronic disease.”

I discussed these recommendations with each of my Personal Training clients and emailed them to my friends and family. I was surprised at the response from friends. They said things like, “O.k. so I’m a slug. Thanks for making me feel out of shape!” “This is perhaps the most depressing news I have read since... Prop 8 passed? McCain pulled ahead in some polls? Something bad, anyway!!” “That's a LOT of exercise just to maintain a healthy fitness level. Wow!” Those were the first responses. Then I received a couple generic replies, like, “thanks for sending this along.” I eventually received only two positive responses to this objective information sharing!

Why would people react negatively to general health information? Why would it make people feel badly rather than inspire them?

Big Weight Loss Goal --- End of Week 3

I’m happy with my results at this point: I’ve lost a total of 6 lbs and am back at my previous weight. I like to jump on the scale often to make sure it’s real and not a one time fluke.  I feel leaner and tighter, especially in the legs; it must be all that Gliding ( ). Also, my clothes fit better; it’s nice to have a little breathing room in my clothes! However, I am still squishy around the middle; I try to hide that by wearing a bulky belt to smooth out the silhouette from my muffin tops to my hips. Ah, the little tricks we use! Any other suggestions, besides Spanx ( )?

Despite what I said I would do, I didn’t keep good track of my calorie intake last week. I only wrote down breakfast Monday, and all day Thursday and Friday. I usually kept track in my head for most of the day, but forgot by dinnertime. However, I only ate 800-900 calories during the day, so I didn’t need to worry too much about what I ate for dinner; I just tried to keep the portions controlled. BTW, if you need a user-friendly calorie counter (to find out the calories of foods you don’t know), try this one:

I exercised a lot last week: 6 days, partly because I’m practicing Gliding in order to teach the class.

So what now? I’ve reached my weight goal, but not my lack-of-squishiness goal. Thanksgiving is Thursday, and there’s one more week in the month. I guess I’ll continue the same through the end of the month while starting to think about a goal for December. With the holidays upon us, what’s a realistic, achievable goal for December? Maintenance only? Exercising despite the cold, dark weather? Not overindulging at holiday parties?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Big Weight Loss Goal – 2nd week in Review

Well, I did so well the first week that I didn’t follow my calorie counts as closely the 2nd week. Resting on my laurels a bit early? My focus was on preparing for a big trip to Seattle ( for my grandma’s 100th birthday party, which I was also planning. How many opportunities do you have in your life to celebrate someone’s 100th? In addition, my exercise was a bit scattered and didn’t include as much Gliding as I would have liked, but still 5 workouts. I gained a pound, but it was a week of temporary weight gain anyway. I didn’t attempt to keep track of my calories while in Seattle; it’s always easier said than done, but I am back on track starting today (Monday).

I can feel that my legs are getting stronger and my body has slimmed down a bit overall. I bought some new pants: cute, saturated dark jeans (blue & black) that are low, slim and skinny (-waist, -hips, -legs). As usual at the Gap (, one pair is a size 8 and the other size 6. I always have to try on both sizes at that store. Either clothing sizes are continually being cut larger or my old jeans didn’t fit that well because they may have shrunk a bit over time, or they are so old that they don’t have stretch in them. Ah, Spandex, gotta have that 1%!

So this week, I’m going to keep better track of my calories, and I really need to focus on Gliding: practicing, creating my class or using Leslie’s current workout, getting music, & practicing cueing. I’ll start teaching it in 2 weeks! ( ) Right now I teach Aqua Aerobics and Stretch, in addition to Personal Training, so I look forward to adding a different type of class.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Big Weight Loss Goal – Day 8

The rest of the week was much easier than Day 1. Pretty easy, in fact. It helps that I already eat healthy foods; I just need to pay attention to the calorie counts. As I keep track and get used to doing that, that gets easier too.

I treat myself for a job well done. Originally, it was going to be one piece of Halloween candy, but in practice, it’s been a beer with my dinner. More calories than a little piece of candy, but it’s more enjoyable to have a drink with my husband at dinner.

So, in the past week, I’ve actually consumed ~1450 calories/day, instead of 1200, but it’s still in my range of 1200-1800 that will result in an overall calorie deficit.

My exercise has been “unmeasured” this week. I’ve been doing a lot of Gliding DVDs in preparation for teaching a Gliding class next month. But I don’t think Gliding burns 400 calories, like my plan.

This weekend I’ve had some meals out, which are difficult to track in calories. I just ate carefully for the meals when I was home and didn’t worry about it when I was out. Since I don’t eat out often, it shouldn’t have a large effect on the overall plan. They always say to follow your plan 80% of the time and not to worry about the other 20%.

I’ve lost 4 lb. in a week! I don’t really believe it, but then again, I didn’t really believe it when I gained 10 lb. last spring! My clothes fit a little better, but I’m still squishy around the middle. That’s why I don’t like depending on the scale: According to that, -1 more pound will put me at my goal weight; however, my goal is really for my clothes to fit well, which they don’t yet.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Big Weight Loss Goal – Day 1

I divided my measly calories/day into 3 meals and a snack and started measuring at breakfast. 300 calories for breakfast was satisfying, and I was amazed at how much more I was used to eating then. Then I went to the gym and stayed on the elliptical machine until 400 calories were burned. Only 37 minutes, compared to my usual 30 minutes. Not bad. By the time I got home at noon, I was starving and looking forward to lunch. My leftover chicken & rice dish had 350 calories, leaving me 50 more calories to consume in a few bites of veggies and fruit. So far so good.

About an hour later I was starving! It was going to be a long afternoon! I was preparing dinner in the slow cooker, and it’s always hard to be surrounded by food when you can’t eat! But then I remembered that I’d planned a snack into my day, so I only had to wait a couple hours until snack-time. I drank water; I chewed gum; I did anything I could to convince my stomach I wasn’t hungry. It didn’t help that I was planning meals, menus and grocery lists for the week! Finally, at 3:15 I decided to have my 100 calorie snack. But I was smart and thought about it: what would make me feel the most satisfied at 100 calories? Protein always makes people feel more satisfied, so I ate ½ cup cottage cheese. Mmm, creamy, cheesy, protein. I tried to eat slowly; I almost resorted to a kiddy spoon. I felt satisfied afterwards. Good. Half an hour later, I was starving again! When’s dinner?

I guess what it comes down to is that it’s supposed to be hard. I was doing it the easy way before and not seeing any results. (pep-talk to self:) I need to change my lifestyle if I want to see results. It’ll get easier in a few days as my body adjusts to the change. Besides, it’s designed to fail: Losing 10 lb. in a month is unrealistic; eating 1200 calories/day while exercising off 400 cal/day is extreme. The plan is designed with a cheating function: I can eat an extra 600 calories/day (that’s another meal!) and still lose the 5 lb. I actually want to lose.

The Difference Between Losing 5 lb. or 20 lb.

I think that it’s easier to lose 20+ lb. than 5-10 lb. If you need to lose 20+ lb. you know that you need to make major changes to your lifestyle. You need to exercise, and you need to eat less and healthier foods. Those are not at all easy things to do, but you know what you need to do. However, if you only need to lose 5-10 lb. you are already doing most things right. You are already exercising, and you are already eating pretty healthy. Your lifestyle just needs a little tweaking, but how? It’s hard to know what is keeping that little bit of weight on. At the same time, why bother losing so little weight? My answer is that I want my clothes to fit. (So, yes, if you have been following along this blog, you now know that I did not achieve my goal for October. I’m saddened by the fact that I have no more tricks up my sleeve, no more strategies to try.)

So my husband suggested I shoot for a big weight loss goal. Then, when I failed, I still would have lost some weight, rather than none. Hmm, interesting idea. . .

(First of all, let me say that I’m against the idea of losing lb. The number on the scale is meaningless, and I can always adjust my scale to say the number I want to see. My goals have always been abilities or frequencies or something more concrete than the number on the scale, which is affected by muscle mass, water weight, and body fat.)

. . . However, taking his advice as something new to try, I calculated how much of a calorie deficit I would need to lose 10 lb. in a month, instead of the 5 lb. that would make my clothes fit better and be a more realistic one month goal. Then, I figured out a combination of lower calorie consumption and additional calorie burning through exercise to meet that goal. The extra exercise is easy in the sense that the cardio machines at the gym tell me how many calories I’m burning, so I just need a few minutes more each time and continued consistency (20x this month).

The hard part is counting calories, which I hate! I don’t remember how many calories foods have. I looked online for a good calorie counter, and the ones I tried were not easy to use. I dug up a little pocket-sized calorie booklet that I used 20 years ago, which is easier for me to refer to. If you know of any good online ones, let me know! So I started keeping a food journal, awful! But by writing it down, I can refer back to things I eat often, like my daily coffee, 67 calories. I can check the packages for some other things, and my favorite cookbook has calorie counts for all the recipes! Helpful!