Exercise! Love it or hate it, let's motivate each other to just DO IT!

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Old 02-29-2004, 01:44 PM   #1  
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Question Too MUCH exercise?

Hello everyone!

I have been working out at my local YMCA since February 15th. I made the commitment to exercise 4-6 days a week to help me reach my goal weight in July. I started out at 30 minutes on the elliptical trainer and 10 minutes on the rower... and am now up to 60 minutes on the elliptical and 15 on the rower (in one workout.)

I feel ok after workouts, a bit sore and tired, but not totally drained. I have more energy than before, and find it a lot easier to get to sleep at night and to get my butt out of bed in the morning. My right shoulder is a bit of a problem lately, but I have been treating it as gently as I can, with slow movements (I think my heavy use of computers and the mouse are stressing it out, combined with the exercise.) I've even noticed my moods are much better and my confidence is improving too.

My question is about my heart rate. My resting heart rate is 80 beats per minute. I've calculated that my "target zone" for cardio workouts, taking into account my resting heart rate, should be 137-177 bpm.

When I first started working out 2 weeks ago, I was all over the map during a single workout, from 150-175 bpm.

Yesterday I was at 155-165 bpm on the elliptical. My rate of exercise is pretty slow, going at Level 1, 40-45 rpm. No matter how much I slow down, my heart rate stays pretty high, at least on this machine. I can get it down to 140, but only going so slowly the machine thinks I "paused" Friday night I went a bit psycho on it, listening to dance music, and got my heart up to 185 bpm for a few minutes Eeek! Since my "max" is supposed to be 194, that was scary heh! What happens if I ever go over 194? Would I faint and keel over? Have my heart go "bang"?

On the rower, I go slow too, about 27 spm, at a 3:00 pace for 500 meters.

So, I'm wondering, for all you exercise pros out there, is it ok for me to be working out regularly at the high end of my range? I really do not want to burn out! Am I ramping up the exercise too much? I don't plan to get any higher than 75 minutes in one workout... I'm planning on 1 hour during the week, and a bit more on weekends.

I know just a short while ago, I was a inactive slug, who last saw the inside of the gym in October, and only then for a few days. I want to get in shape quickly, and lose the weight fast too... but not damage myself I think of boot camp and I know the human body is capable of amazing change quickly, but I don't want to end up an injured mess from pushing it too hard, too fast...

Any advice out there from seasoned losers and fitness buffs who used to be couch potatoes like me? Thanks!
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Old 02-29-2004, 03:23 PM   #2  
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I think you are probably just fine. I'm a big Covert Bailey fan, and he has discussed this quite a bit in his books. He says the heart rate numbers are statistical averages, not absolutes, and apply only to about 60% of the population, in other words the middle of the bell curve, if you remember that from school. So approximately 20% of the population has an exercise heart rate that's lower than average (I'm in that category) and 20% has a somewhat higher than average heart rate (like you).

If you think about it, this makes perfect sense. It's just like anything else-- height, weight, ring size, shoe size-- there's bound to be a lot of statistical variation in any given population. Instead of heart rate, you could try the "talk test" method: recite "Mary had a little lamb..." while you work. If you can get to "lamb" before you need a deep breath, you're probably o.k. If you can't, you may be doing it too hard. Remember you want to keep yourself in the fat-burning zone, not the anaerobic "sprinting" zone.

Your heart rate starts out high when you first get into an exercise program, and tends to slow down gradually as you get fitter. At your age and height a medium walking pace on the treadmill, say 3.0 mph, should give you a good workout. If I were you I'd start out doing that about 4-5 days per week for 1/2 hour each time. Add in some light weights for the upper body and some crunches, and you're good to go.

I know you want to do this fast, but you have got to be patient. If you aren't, you'll get very tired and won't continue. And that's the thing-- you can't go G.I.Jane for a month and then quit, it doesn't do any good at all. You need a maintainable, sustainable pace of exercise that you can do day in, day out. It's going to take at least six months to get down to your goal, most probably, so just relax and take it day by day. Slow and steady wins the race-- cliched, but true, true, true.

It helps a lot to find exercise that you really enjoy, because it becomes a playtime instead of a chore. That's HUGE. It also takes a while to form the exercise habit, to train yourself for ongoing, "forever" maintenance. That's what this 6-month period is really all about: training yourself to keep a habit for the rest of your life. Good Luck.
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Old 02-29-2004, 06:43 PM   #3  
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I agree with the advice that SeekingInnerThinChick gave you, use your ability to speak and your perceived level of exertion to judge how hard you are working.

I would make sure that you take at least 1 day a week off and that some of your workouts are lower intensity to make sure that your body has time to rest and repair. Putting a little more variety into your routine can help to keep you from getting burned out and can keep your muscles on their toes. Try new machines or classes at the gym or switch out your workout for a long walk or hike outside on the weekends.

Finally, you didn't mention whether you lift weights as part of your routine. I know it is really gratifying to see the calorie burn on the cardio machines, but strength training is important to give your body the strength it needs to keep up with your cardio routine. I did not focus much on lifting when I first started losing weight and I lost fat, but I still looked flabby. It took consistent lifting to help firm up my body and give me a more toned, fit look.

Good luck finding a routine that works for you and that you're happy doing long term!
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Old 02-29-2004, 06:52 PM   #4  
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Hi Sarah,

SITC is quite right. Take your time, relax, go with it. Everything she states is right (Covert Bailey is one **** of a good resource!) and, if you were my client, I would reassure you with similar information!

As for your pains, they are almost certainly linked with your sudden leap of activity levels. I applaud your commitment but would ask that you slow down a little at the moment. Perhaps just do 3 days a week, and give your body time to make full use of the work you have done! By leaping in you risk injury, especially to joints such as shoulder, knee and ankle. Also muscle tears, truly painful and totally avoidable!

But mostly your body needs sufficient down time to process the work you have done and to adjust your metabolic rate etc. If you overwork from the get go then you deprive your system of the information processing time it needs. Put simply this means you actually lose some of the benefits you worked out for!

You should be listening to your body. It is acknowledging that it likes the new regime - better sleep patterns, more energy etc. But the pains are telling you that it isn't ready for that much just yet! Take out a day of exercise and let your body catch up with your enthusiasm. You can always add more sessions in as your body (and heart rate) become used to it!

If you do this right then exercise will become an everyday essential part of your life. If you scare your body off then it will always be a struggle and you won't get in the habit!

Be kind to yourself, and enjoy every minute if the workout you do do, just save a little bit for later

Last edited by stef; 02-29-2004 at 06:54 PM.
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Old 03-01-2004, 09:41 PM   #5  
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Seek, Katia & Stef -

Thank you for your advice! I will take it down a notch, especially with arm rotation 'till my shoulder feels less crotchety... and I will add some weight-lifting into my regimen... but light to start with, definitely!

Argh! She-Ra!

I went to the gym tonight, but due to lack of sleep (I got 6 hours last night), I was pooped out after a short 5-minute warmup on the treadmill and a half hour row. I'm going to hit the sack early tonight, phew!

Thanks again!
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Old 03-02-2004, 05:54 PM   #6  
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Thanks for your post, and I couldn't help but pop in here, because I could have made that post myself. I've been really hitting it hard too..at least for me..doing 45 minutes on the bike and about 30 minutes of strength training. I saw my heart rate go near my max the other day and it kind of freaked me out, but on the other hand, I feel like I need to take advantage of my motivation while it's going strong. I've made an agreement with myself that even if I have off days, I will at least walk for 15 minutes. I'm trying to see how many days in a row I can go without missing a day of exercise..up to 15 as of today! I do relax the intensity on some days though, but the idea for me is to set this as a daily habit.

I get what I call "bootcamp" syndrome..I was in the Navy many years ago, and what I learned about intense exercise has followed me. I have to constantly remind myself that it is not neccessary to always push to the limit to get results. I can't tell you how many times I've done that, only to burn out. So thanks for your post, which inspired all the great replies that I needed to hear as well!

Also, I have problems with my shoulder too..kind of a burning sensation at times, and I find the computer agravates it. Taking time away from the keyboard generally helps me.

And..just wanted to add..I'm also 32, 5'7", and 192 as of today. I want to get down to 140 and see if things need to be adjusted from there. I started out with exercise 2 weeks ago, and one week ago today started watching my food. I ballpark my calories, but am trying to avoid getting obsessed with it, because I also tend to get bored and burn out on that too. Mostly I'm trying to make healthy changes, and it seems to be working! Looks like we have a lot in common

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