Monday, April 16, 2007

First question

Hey all! I'm fielding my first question today, for one iggy, who commented on my very first post. Just as a kind of disclaimer, I'm not certified (yet) in any way. I am working towards my personal training certification, but I don't have the official piece of paper yet. That said, I feel I'm pretty knowledgeable about sports and fitness, and will (or have) thoroughly researched what I'm talking about. So (deep breath) here it goes . . .

Hi Tri Harder,
I came across your blog looking for general workout tips. i like what you're doing with the blog and I am wondering if you might answer me two questions:

The first is, I'm 5'9 180 lbs and I'm looking to drop 15 in 2 months. Is it possible? Here's the deal. I am usually in good shape (generally hover around 163) but I recently suffered a bulging disc and thereafter some major sciatica problems... still suffering too and it's been 4 months! Anyway, because I was so inactive from the injury I ended up putting on 20 lbs and it is KILLING ME! I need to get rid of this weight! What is the best thing i can do -- and I mean specifically. Everyone knows diet and exercise... but is there something specific you are aware of?

My next question is: My friend who rows crew is pushing me to try training the way he does. He does Yoga and breathing and weights from a DVD at Have you heard of this?

Looking forward to hearing from you as well as seeing some workout tips and recipes.

(p.s. my girlfriend goes to USC!)

Thanks for your comment, iggy! I'm totally happy to help you in any way that I can.

First off, how's your back now? I know that back problems can be a huge source of pain, and exercise can help. But I also want to make sure that by exercising you're going to make your back stronger, not cause more pain. So I would recommend double-checking with a doctor to see if there are any activities you should stay away from (although I'm guessing that you may already have done this). Losing the extra weight you've gained might also help reduce some of that pain.

15 pounds in 2 months is possible, even reasonable. Basically, you need to drop 2 pounds a week. That means cutting 7000 calories a week from your diet. That's a pretty drastic cut, but it's do-able. I would recommend keeping a log of what you eat and how many calories you burn every day. This will do two things: It will keep a record of how many more calories per day you're burning than consuming, and it will probably help you to make better food choices. If you know that you have to write down everything you eat, you'll eat better. Start by figuring out your base metabolic needs
. I would use a website like to figure out your basic caloric needs. Based on your height and weight, I would guess you probably need around 2500 calories per day to maintain your weight.

Next, cut out 1000 of those calories. Yep, 1500 a day. That'll be hard to do, so I suggest making a plan. For example, my eating plan is based on a 1600/day diet: 200 for breakfast, 100 for a mid-morning snack, 500 for lunch, 200 for an afternoon snack, 500 for dinner, and 100 for an evening snack. I think if you make a plan like this, you're more likely to follow it. Then, I would suggest that you figure out where you need to make the most drastic cuts. For example, maybe the most helpful thing for you to do would be to eat a very light lunch. Whatever changes you make, be sure that you can commit to them. Maybe that means only eating certain things (like sweets) after dinner, or during the weekends.

For exercise, I would recommend a spinning class. Spinning burns a ton of calories, because the weighted wheel keeps your legs going no matter what, which will keep your heartrate high. Focus on getting your legs to turn over quickly, as this will put less stress on your muscles and more on your heart, helping you to burn calories more efficiently and allowing you to keep going for longer. In a normal, hour-long spinning class, I burn 450-550 calories. And that's 500 calories more that you can eat instead of cutting! Additionally, spinning bikes are usually pretty adjustable, so you can probably find a setting that's not going to put too much strain on your back.

I would recommend staying away from weights in general, especially if you have a limited amount of time to spend at the gym, because you're not going to burn as many calories working out with weights as you will doing some sort of aerobic exercise. I'd also be careful about your posture and technique when running, because the stress on your joints might potentially exacerbate your back problems.

I have heard of mind and body workout, believe it or not. I think I read about it on a triathlon forum, and the person who recommended it seemed to really like it. I took a look at the website, and I must admit that I tend to shy away from the phrase "cut your workout time in half." But that's probably because I really enjoy my workout time. If you're not specifically interested in rowing or triathlon, I don't know how helpful it will be. I think it's great that the program focuses on flexibility, though, and that might help with your back. But it's not going to help you burn calories and lose weight, I don't think (although I hesitate to give that kind of statement without having really seen any evidence either way). If you end up getting into sports like rowing or triathlon, it sounds like this DVD might be more helpful for you at that point.

My ultimate advice is to find some form of working out that you really love and stick with it. For me, it's triathlon; before I started this, I was never very athletic, and now it's one of my top priorities. I think if you can find something you love doing, fitness will come naturally from that. Hope this helps, and tell your girlfriend "Fight on!"


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