Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Working Out at Home? (a wide-ranging book review)

Finding fun and effective exercises to do at home has been a challenge. After hating the ancient Gilad VHS tape routine, which gave me sore knees while I actually put on fat (no one mentioned cardio makes you hungry), Bodybuilder Boy bought me the DVD 10-Minute Solution Pilates. I found that fun and bought 2 more DVDs as well as some books, including Pilates for Beginners by Kellina Stewart. Kellina's book gave me background info that the DVDs didn't, so I was able to improve my performance. But after some time I wasn't seeing any changes at all. These materials allow for no more than a 3 lb weight for triceps exercises - how could I see improvement with that? I wasn't being challenged. 

With my first pregnancy came The Pregnancy Exercise Book that looked like something my mom would have worked out with, and I dutifully performed the routines. Booooooring. And ugly. Next I tried Yoga for Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond, which felt great and alleviated aches and pains. I highly recommend yoga as a life-long practice, but it is not the fast-track to a hot bod. I picked up Exercise Ball on a clearance rack and gave that a try, but again I wasn't really getting results after a few weeks. None of these methods was making me noticeably stronger or leaner. Why? All the models looked strong and lean. I guessed they must do something more than what the books and DVDs were showing. But what?

That's when, Google-be-praised, I ran across Tom Venuto's website. I read the free articles available, passed on the e-book, and bought his print book, The Body Fat Solution. Finally, it all made sense. Point Number One: even if you eat healthy, local, organic, grassfed foods, if you eat too much relative to your activity level, you'll put on fat. If you keep it steady, you'll maintain your fat. There's got to be a deficit in calories if the body's going to use fat for fuel. Point Number Two: sissy weight limits (like Pilates) and aerobic routines, or basically any exercise at all, won't continue to give you results once your body has adapted to performing those movements.Your body needs to get busy building and repairing muscle if it's to keep the calories burning. Once it's easy, it's over. Progressive challenge is the way to maintain the fat burn, and that challenge is most easily obtained through weight-training. 

This training must be accompanied by a healthy diet that a) has enough protein to actually build and maintain lean tissue, b) is low enough in calories that your body can burn the fat for fuel and c) is not so low in calories that your body prepares for starvation and keeps that fat. Tom also explained away a myth I'd always believed: that if I worked out hard, I'd bulk up. I mean, hey, didn't I go up a pants size doing Gilad's stuff every day? Bodybuilder Boy suggested I try a fat-burning pill. But Tom explained why I grew. Rather than cardio creating a calorie deficit, it was upping my appetite and I was out-eating my exercise. Darn. Tom also explained that without testosterone or steriods, there's no way I could ever get muscularly bulky: female bodybuilding competitors who look huge are on the "juice." The worst weight-training could do is give me the muscle of a fitness model -- and who doesn't want to look like that?!

There is much more to the book: why fad-diets cause damage, why almost any diet you choose will cause you to lose weight for a time, why men and women just can't get into shape on the advice of magazines, why you need supportive people in your life, why you need to change your mindset to change your body. I could go on, but just get the book. :-)

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