I began working out in mid-January, and I did it mostly because I was tired of feeling 60 years old when I’m only 24, and to fill up some time in between work and school. Since then I’ve come to realize that despite my various injuries over the years, I still can do a great deal of the things I used to. That’s a big deal, when you’re worried that lifting a heavy backpack might strain you enough that the next morning you won’t be able to walk, much less get out of bed because your nerves have been cut off by muscle spasms. I’ve also come to realize, that being afraid of myself, of injuring myself, or the work not paying off was hampering my ability to believe in recovery and weight loss.
Through my research I found an exercise routine that fit my goals. I want to lose weight as fast as I can, not too look better, but to feel better (being sexy as fuck would just be a plus side) because my knees can’t handle the torture I put them through and my poor back could really use a break. I also miss my flexibility, which is slowly (but surely) coming back.
I think what most people don’t realize is that a good workout only takes about 30 minutes to an hour. That you don’t have to work out every day, but you need to be consistent, because your body will respond to a constant program and adjust its metabolism accordingly. Changes aren’t instant. It took me nearly two weeks of working out to be able to do a full 2 mile run on the elliptical. When trying to lose weight and build muscle, you HAVE to combine cardio with weight lifting. Cardio promotes heart health, lung health and blood flow, but even though it burns calories, it won’t burn nearly as many as you muscles do and will as you work THEM out. Most of the energy your body produces is through your muscles burning calories, and the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn.
That brings me to the number one mistake people make when trying to lose weight. Diet. Of course you need to eat healthy in general, but many people think that if you eat less, such as less carbs and calories, you’ll lose weight faster. I’m sure that may work for some people, but it’s not a healthy way to go about weight loss and muscle gain, especially when you’ve decided to take on a gym membership. A woman needs at least 1200 calories a day when working out regularly. Generally, the more you work out, the more you need to eat; you eat when you get hungry, and when working out several days a week, you will be hungry a LOT.
The key to eating properly is not counting calories as much as it is paying attention to what you eat, and when. If you’re planning to work out that day, it’s best to eat heavy foods that have more calories and carbs that your body will need to break down in your work out, so generally meaty, cheesy sandwiches with a decently sized salad or soup is great. It covers just about the entire food pyramid, but is automatically high in calories and carbs. Of course there are vitamin rich healthy foods out there with lots of really good fats (like avocados) that will improve your calorie intake without a ton of chemicals and grease, but nutrition is a different topic, for a different day.
After working out, you need protein. Lots of it. However, protein is something that you MUST be careful with, because you can get too much of it, and all that it will do is slow down your metabolism and make everything more difficult. There are all kinds of great foods high in protein and the key to building muscle is eating it after your workout, because lifting weights literally damages your muscles in order to build more. Protein is what your body uses to repair itself, and if you aren’t getting enough, it will take longer to repair and build muscle.
Some extra tips:
When doing cardio, the goal is to produce as much sweat as you possibly can, and to breath hard. If you’re on an elliptical, adjust the settings until you reach a point where this happens. If you need to, take breaks periodically by lowering the settings.
With muscle building, the goal is not how much you can lift, but how many times you lift it. Doing slow reps that make you burn but not HURT are the best, because the job is getting done without injuring the muscles. It may seem easy at first but by the 3rd or 4th rep you should be struggling.
It’s different for everyone, but this is what I live by now. I have more energy and working out helps me manage my stress more than chocolate. I used to be a size 24 but now I’m a size 20 and my hourglass figure is starting to show more than a plain of various lumps. I don’t think of myself much differently, but the person I see in the mirror and the person I was in old photos are very different people, and that feels pretty nice.