Friday, January 9, 2009

Question and Answer: Starting An Exercise Program

Q: Dear Fat Butt,

What advice do you have for an overweight 30-something who wants to begin an exercise program who has lead a largely sedentary lifestyle for the past few years?



A: Dear RunningMooses,

As I tell everyone, please see a medical professional before starting any kind of exercise Program.

Why A Walking Fitness Program
Walking is one of my favorite starting off exercises. People were meant and design to be walkers. When walking we are able to burn fat more efficiently than any other exercise, next to running. Walking can be done with out taxing our body like other sports and generally speaking people walk at about the same pace. That mean we can walk with friends. even at a brisk walking pace you can still have a nice conversation.

How to Get Started With a Walking Fitness Program
I am going to assume you have not been doing any exercise such as walking and I don't know if you have any time constraints. So, to start out with I would suggested walking 2 miles every other day, at a brisk pace. This should take about a half an hour. Try this out and see how you feel at the end of the week.

How Should You Feel At The End Of The Week?
If you just were not able to do it because it was so tiresome, then start again with 1 mile every other day. If you did the 2 miles every other day and feel really tired at the end of the week, or even after the day off you feel tiered, do it again for another week but with only a mile and a half. This should take about 20 minutes. If it took you longer than 30 minutes and you just don't have time, walk briskly for 30 minutes. If it was too easy and you don't feel like you did anything, try 2 and a half miles a week the next week. You should feel like you did some exercise at the end of each walk. Starting out you may feel some muscle soreness, but it should not be painful. Every other day you have a day off. You should feel rested after that break.

Eating Habits
Not only should you exercise, but you need to make sure you are eat properly. You need to be getting enough protein and eat carb as you exercise. With walking, drink a fruit juice before you start and a half of a peanut butter sandwich after. This will help stop the feeling of starvation many people feel after they exercise, and keep you body properly fueled for the walking. Drink water as you feel thirsty. Drinking too little will cause dehydration and too much will make you uncomfortable.

Stretching Is Important
Before and after walking (especially after) there are four stretches I suggest. First stretch you calve muscles. Stand in front of a wall, then with your left foot step back. Keeping your left foot strait and your heel on the ground, lean forward against the wall. Use your arms to brace yourself up and keep your feet strait, pointing at the wall. Don't let your hips turn. you can keep them strait by moving your left hip forward. You should feel a stretching sensation that is not painful. If it hurts the lean less against the wall. Hold this position for 30 seconds, then repeat with the right leg.

Next stretch the front of your leg. Stand about 1 front in front of the wall. Move your left leg forward then squat down on your left leg. your weight should be right over your left knee. you should feel a stretching sensation in the front of your leg and your ankle (at least with my bad ankles I do.) If you feel any pain, let up on your squat. Keep your legs and hip strait. hold for 30 seconds, then repeat with the right leg.

Next sit on the floor with your legs strait in front of you. Keep you feet together and bend forward and try and touch your toes. Many people do this standing up, bending at the waist and touching their toes. Lean as forward as you can. You should feel a stretch down the back of your leg. If it is painful, lean back a little. Hold for 30 seconds.

Last, roll over on you stomach. Lift your left leg and grab it with your left hand. Pull your leg toward your butt. You should feel a stretch in you left thigh. Keeps your hips on the floor and stay flat, don't turn or twist your body. This should not be pain full. If you feel any pain, simply hold your leg in place or pull less.

Debate about Stretches
There is some debate about doing the last two stretches. Most people do both standing up. Some experts argue that when standing, it is too difficult to keep your body in the correct position to stretch properly and there may be additional force against your knees that could cause future problems. These experts suggest doing them on the floor as I described above. I have no real opinion and the debate still goes back and forth. I personally prefer to do them on the floor and find I stretch better when on the floor.

What Next
Increase your daily mileage by a quarter of a mile the each week and keep walking every other day for a total of 4 weeks. After that, email me back at and let me know how it is going. We can change your walking form there or we can add in a little jogging. Lets see how you do. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Last, My Daily Activity
I walked another mile to the barbershop and back. Later on I walked another half mile. So for the day I had 1.5 miles, for the week, month and year, I have 3.5 miles total. Yeah!

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