Posts filed under ‘burn more calories’

Replacing P90X with the Pole

Back in the summer, I got P90X and had grand plans of embarking on the program after recovering from my surgery in August.  Well, life never goes quite as planned, and shortly after I could start exercising again, I discovered the pole fitness studio.  I was hooked!  It’s such a challenging workout – deceptively so – that I don’t have the stamina – or the desire, at this point – to do the P90X plan.  I still do several sets of stairs at work every weekday (usually 10), but otherwise the classes at the pole fitness studio are the only ones I do: pole dancing classes of varying levels, lap dancing, go-go dancing, and Booty Camp. 

I am excited to report that, after three and a half months at the studio, I have finally been able to invert (go upside down) on the pole.  Yay!  It’s a HUGE and exciting accomplishment for me.  Here are some pics.  I’ve also gotten better at handstands against the pole, so here are some pics of that as well. The inversion pics were taken at home, on my pole in the bedroom.  (Yes, my fiance’s friends tell him he’s a lucky man all the time. 🙂 ).  The handstand pics were taken by J, a student at the studio.  She’s an amazing woman.  A yoga instructor fromNew York, she has the most amazing physique.  She has tremendous control and can perform extraordinarily beautiful moves on the pole.  My friend from the studio, M, and I always say that our goal is to reach J’s level.  For right now, I’m just happy to have gone upside down!

poleinversion13 poleinversion22 

funwithpole polehandstand1 

polehandstand2 polehandstand3

March 13, 2009 at 1:47 pm 1 comment

The hard truth about weight loss

As great as my weight loss success has been, I frequently get discouraged by how long it has taken and how hard I still have to work to keep the pounds off. Shows like “The Biggest Loser” and magazine covers featuring women who’ve lost hundreds of pounds in a few months… rather than inspiring me, they bum me out because they make me feel like my results are not good enough.

So I was actually happy to read MSNBC’s “Forget low-fat — calories count more in dieting”. It provides details on a federal study that followed participants for two years and really confirms what I know to be true – as much as TV and magazines want to convince me otherwise.

1. Calories count. It doesn’t matter how you lower them – by cutting out carbs or fat or whatever; they just have to be lowered. The bottom line is that you’re not going to lose weight unless you consume fewer calories (or burn a bunch of them off through extremely high levels of exercise).

2. It takes a l-o-n-g time to lose a relatively small amount of weight. We don’t want to hear it; we are SUCH an instant gratification culture. In this study, participants lost an average of 13 pounds in six months. Most people I know would be disappointed instead of happy.

3. Chances are, the weight’s gonna come back. “…all groups saw their weight creep back up after a year. At two years, the average weight loss was about 9 pounds while waistlines shrank an average of 2 inches. Only 15 percent of dieters achieved a weight-loss reduction of 10 percent or more of their starting weight.”

I have been doing this for six and a half years, maintaining 117 pounds off. Sometimes, I’ve lost a bit more, sometimes a bit less. But, overall I have maintained – and continuously exercised – for an extended period of time. It’s taken a tremendous effort, and it’s still really, really difficult. This study is affirming. Whew! I don’t have to be so hard on myself! I am doing a terrific job, considering the odds are clearly against me. Based on this good news, I’m giving a shout-out to myself… and a reminder to be gentle, patient and understanding when I struggle.

February 26, 2009 at 4:40 am 7 comments

Exercise may just be the “miracle pill”.

Looking for a miracle?  Lace up your running shoes for a minute or two.

British researchers have discovered that a mere 7 minutes of vigorous exercise every week can ward off Type II Diabetes.  Yeah… you read that correctly… only *7* minutes a week can prevent one of the most debilitating diseases plaguing our country today.  And you don’t even have to do it all at once.  In the study, the participants rode exercise bikes four times daily in 30-second bursts for two days a week.  That tiny bit of exercise significantly improves the body’s ability to process insulin. 

That’s some seriously amazing news.  It astounds me that such a miniscule amount of exercise can have that huge an impact on our bodies.  We can all fit that in every week; there’s no excuse for not doing it.

The same day I read about this study, I saw Frontline’s program on Parkinson’s.  Two sets of monkeys were used in a MPTP test.  (MPTP is a byproduct of a narcotic that has been shown to cause the same signs and symptoms as Parkinson’s disease.)  One set of monkeys was sedenetary.  The other set exercised regularly on a treadmill.  After a period of time exercising or not, the monkeys were injected with MPTP.  The sedentary monkeys immediately demonstrated the symptoms of Parkinson’s.  The physically active monkeys, however, showed almost no signs of the disease.  Even their brain scans were different.  The exercising monkeys had much healthier brain scans than the inactive ones.  All from walking on a treadmill consistently.

As a society, we focus almost exclusively on how exercise can help us lose weight and look better.  But it goes far beyond our looks.  The benefits of exercise are extraordinary on levels we haven’t even begun to realize.

All this a good reminder for me when I get discouraged about not looking “hot” enough or not getting my spins right in pole class.  Those aspects of exercise are really immaterial in the grander scheme of things.  The exercise I’m getting every day is helping me in ways that are literally cell deep, preventing all kinds of nasty conditions that I may never know I was risking.  That is truly a miracle.

February 5, 2009 at 3:00 pm 3 comments

Tips from the Belly Off! Diet

Men’s Health started an online weight-loss community called the “Belly Off! Club” back in 2002, and since then, club members have lost almost 2 million pounds.  Yowsa!  That’s alotta pounds!!  Their book, The Belly Off! Diet, is not due out ‘til April, but MSN is giving us a preview of some of tips contained in it.

  • Cut out refined grains and sugar
  • Eat more protein, healthy fats, fiber-rich fruits & veggies, and whole grains
  • Eat breakfast every day
  • Lift weights at least three times a week.
  • Do cardio workouts, especially interval training

None of these are particularly new methods for slimming down, but it never hurts to reinforce good techniques through repetition.  And, because this books is written by men for men, it might reach a whole new audience that doesn’t always respond to more typical diet plans.

January 24, 2009 at 6:33 pm 2 comments

Fitness doesn’t come in 60 minutes with time for commercials

I am a living, breathing, real-life example of the fact that yes, you can change the way you look. I am also an example of the fact that it can’t be done overnight or even in six or eight weeks.

According to Dr. William Kraemer, a kinesiology professor at the University of Connecticut, making a change in how you look “…takes six months to a year.” And doing it requires consistent strength training with body-challenging weights and a customized program.

What’s up with our desire to accomplish life-changing goals in 24 hours or less? Is it that our attention spans are that short? Or, do we just abhor hard work?

I don’t think so. I think we’ve been conditioned by TV and magazines to believe that transformations are nearly instant. Reality TV portrays extreme makeovers – of all kinds – in timeframes that are compressed by clever editing to make it seem like changes are happening much more quickly than they are. Even though we know it’s not real, we believe it anyway, and that becomes our expectation. No wonder we get frustrated when we don’t drop 10 pounds in our first week of dieting!

I am very aware of this, and yet I struggle when I don’t succeed at a new goal right away. This is happening right now with my pole fitness classes. I take Lap Dance class once a week, and I get irritated with myself when I can’t get the routine just right AND look super hot doing it. Intellectually, I know this is silly. I have only been taking this class for a couple of months, and it’s only offered once a week. My instructor is a professional stripper who’s been dancing since she was five years old. I am just not going to be as good as her right away. Yet, I still leave the studio bummed out sometimes, disappointed in myself, thinking I am not nearly as clever and sexy as I should be.

Thankfully, the lessons of my six-year lifestyle change carry me through. Although I get unreasonably discouraged, I persevere. I know that, in the long run, I’ll get there if I stick to the fundamentals of hard work and consistency.

Guess that means I’m more of a mini-series than a sitcom, hunh?!  J

January 22, 2009 at 5:25 am 1 comment

Top Ten useful articles to make 2009 your healthiest yet!

January 5, 2009 at 2:42 pm 1 comment

Booty Camp, Day 2, and a Lap Dance

So far this week, I’ve attended five hours of classes at the pole fitness studio, and I’ve loved every single class.  I plan to rack up a couple more hours before the week is out.

They offer “Booty Camp” several times a week, and I was a litle worried that it would be repetitive and quickly grow stale.  Nope!  The second class had most of the same moves as the first, but the instructor – AJ – changed things up nicely, and I once again used my muscles differently.  I was sweatin’ by the end, which is how I like it.

Lap Dance class was fascinating.  This was my first experience with learning to lap dance.  My instructor is an actual stripper, and man, is she amazing!  That girl knows how to move, and she’s an athlete.  When I complimented her, she said, “that’s probably why I get $100 tips.”  Nice!

Walking around the chair isn’t hard.  Your stripper walk is just centered on the chair, rather than being a straight line.  Turning from behind the chair was interesting, though.  Gotta remember to get my inside foot positioned correctly to lift my outside leg high enough when I pivot.  I found sitting on the chair and laying back – and later jumping on the edge of the chair, perching on my toes – a bit challenging, and I’m not sure how it’s going to fly with my BF actually sitting there!  My instructor assured me that it’ll work just fine, and I guess she’d know.  🙂

I also learned more pole tricks this week, including a backwards spin.  It was so pretty when my instructor did it!  I did okay, but it’s definitely going to take me a while to loosen up and make my moves beautiful… not mention get rid of the bruises!  Yup… bruising, especially at the beginning, is a common pitfall of early pole dance training. 

I’m so glad I’m taking the classes regularly.  I’ve tried doing it on my own, and it’s very hard to get it right.  Plus, the way my pole at home is positioned, I can’t see myself in the mirror to evaluate my form and presentation. 

We also did some terrific stretching.  I really need the stretching.  My stair workouts are excellent cardio and great for my bum, but they tighten up my muscles.

More later after I take the weekend classes!

December 5, 2008 at 2:49 pm 1 comment

Back to the pole

pole1 pole2 Two years ago, I took a pole dancing class and fell in love.  The instructor was amazing: so approachable and celebratory of everyone’s efforts with the most amazing muscle tone – and beauty of movement – I have ever seen.  It took the cheesiness out of pole dancing and elevated it to high art.

Several months ago, I finally bought a pole for myself and have had it set up in the bedroom.  I used it a lot at first, even had fun demonstrating a couple different spins for my adopted fam during my PB&J party.  I’ve since slacked off, focusing on other things.

I’ve been restless, trying to decide what adventure to pursue next, so this week – in honor of the first day of December – I impulsively signed up for a month’s worth of unlimited classes at the pole fitness studio in town.  It cost $99 a month, but there’s no contract.  So, I’m not locked into anything.  Last night, I attended my first two classes: Pole Level 1 and Booty Camp.  It was so fun to revisit all the moves I learned in the first class two years ago!  The studio offers several levels of pole work, and I’m looking forward to moving up to bigger and better spins.  Plus, now I have my own pole to practice with at home!  Yay! 

Booty camp was interesting.  Lots of jogging, weirdly enough.  I’m going back tonight.  I plan to go several times a week, mainly when my BF is working out of town.  I’ve been in a bit of a funk, eating too much and fighting a couple of pounds up, so being out of the house is a good thing… especially if it involves exercise.

As always, perspective is important, and like looking at old photographs, attending the classes gave me a perspective I really need right now.  I look so different from two years ago.  Then, even after having lost a bunch of weight, I was one of the biggest gals in the class.  Now, I fit right in with most of the other ladies; in fact, there are a couple who are much bigger than me… and I’m so proud of them for being there!  I personally know how hard that can be, particularly in a class that’s all about sexiness.

I was also impressed with my physical stamina.  So much of the exercise I do is in a vacuum.  I have no way of knowing for sure how I compare to other people.  I also do a lot of the same stuff, so I’m never quite sure what my general level of fitness is.  Good news!  I had no trouble at all keeping up last night; I could have done more.  It was cool to realize how far I’ve come!

December 2, 2008 at 2:42 pm Leave a comment

Another reason to take a stroll

Got chocolate cravings you don’t want to give in to?  Walk ‘em off.

A new study suggests that a taking a brief walk at a brisk clip can curb your desire for cocoa.  Comprised of 25 regular chocolate eaters, the study group resisted their favorite nosh for three days, taking a walk or resting when the cravings hit.  The results?

“The walkers reported lower cravings both during the walk and for about 10 minutes afterward. They were also less likely to be tempted by unwrapping the candy bar.”

Research had already shown that exercise can reduce nicotine cravings, but this study is apparently the first to show its effect on food cravings.

“Our ongoing work consistently shows that brief bouts of physical activity reduce cigarette cravings, but this is the first study to link exercise to reduced chocolate cravings,” said study team member Adrian Taylor. “Neuroscientists have suggested common processes in the reward centers of the brain between drug and food addictions, and it may be that exercise effects brain chemicals that help to regulate mood and cravings.”

The key seems to be the mood-modifying benefits of exercise.  Moving our bodies releases endorphins.  Endorphins are powerful hormone-like substances produced in the brain.  They can produce feelings of euphoria and a general state of well being.  Thankfully, it doesn’t take hardcore boot camp to reap the benefits.  Moderate amounts of exercise deliver the goods, and if you’re a workout newbie, you may actually experience a particularly strong effect.

So, the next time I am about to succumb to the siren song of the wrapper – whether it’s a ZBar or a candy bar – I’m going to walk around the block first.

November 19, 2008 at 1:59 am Leave a comment

Muscle vs. Fat: Debunking some myths

I’ve heard countless times, as I’m sure you have, that muscle weighs more than fat.  A pound is a pound is a pound, so a pound of muscles is indeed, equal in weight to a pound of fat.  Why does this myth persist?  Martica Heaner, M.A., M.Ed., for MSN Health & Fitness describes it this way.

“This commonly cited gym cliché is somewhat misunderstood and misused. The rationale that muscle weighs more than fat is often cited as an explanation for why a person might find that they aren’t losing weight, or are gaining weight, when they kick off an exercise regimen. The idea seems to be that if you are exercising—and theoretically losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time—the effects cancel each other out. So, in theory, you won’t see desired weight loss as measured by pounds on the scale, even though you may be improving how you look. You certainly can improve your appearance with exercise without always seeing a change in your body weight—by becoming firmer, more sculpted and sometimes leaner. But that doesn’t mean that you are gaining massive amounts of muscle, or losing lots of fat.”

Another common myth is that muscle turns to fat.  Not so.  The two are entirely different; one does not “turn into” the other.

“You can gain muscle or lose weight, and you can gain or lose more body fat, but they don’t convert into each other. Both gaining and losing muscle and/or fat can both affect your body weight on the scale, depending upon the magnitude of the body fat or body muscle increase or decrease.”

More to the point is why exercise doesn’t have the impact on body weight that we expect.  Well, a lot depends on the type and quantity of exercise. 

“Weight loss boils down to burning more calories than you normally use in a day. Cardio exercise burns more calories than muscle-toning or the average resistance-training workout. So dialing down the stretching and core work to just once or twice a week, and replacing it with more cardio should produce more weight loss. And the more minutes the better when it comes to weight loss: An hour to 90 minutes of aerobic activity per day on most days of the week will affect body weight.”

My personal experience is that exercise is crucial to the shape and tone of your body but has relatively little impact on your weight, unless you’re doing extremely long bouts of cardio.  In fact, when I calculate my daily calorie totals, I never, ever include an estimate of calories burned from exercise.  It just doesn’t make enough difference, and I don’t want to overeat, thinking that 30 minutes on the treadmill is going to take care of that 500-calorie chocolate shake. 

It’s always good to know what the facts are, though, so I’m glad to have stumbled across this article on MSN and learned more about muscle vs. fat.

August 13, 2008 at 6:28 pm 1 comment

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