Muscle is your friend

This article contained a few quick phrases that really inspired me. Despite the discouraging fact that most people who lose weight gain it back, this professor of exercise science provides helpful and encouraging insight. Dr. Wayne Westcott says that for him and his exercise-study subjects, the one fairly controllable key to health AND weight maintenance is muscle mass. That is, you want to build it and keep it.

I like Dr. Westcott for his bluntness on certain ideas: “...if only we’ll do a modicum of strength training -- defined as any exercise that uses resistance to build muscle, from weightlifting to push-ups -- and keep doing it.” And to those who think he’s exceptional because he works in the fitness world or may have good genetics: “I’m not sure I’m that different from the average person,” he said. “I was just blessed to get into fitness at a young age, and take it very seriously.” The italics are mine.

“Keep doing it. Take it very seriously.” Think of fitness as a long-term plan. Try to visualize yourself twenty or thirty years older, or more. Will you have given up? Will you be weak, completely out of shape, frail? Or will you be a wiry older hiker type or a masters track athlete, swimmer, or weight lifting hobbyist?

Despite aging, and despite risks we can’t control, we can focus on the positive and on the things we CAN control: Find a way to strength train. How? I recommend learning to lift weights with barbells (best), kettlebells (second best), or dumbbells. Dr. Westcott talks about his recommended strength training methods in his textbook and in articles like this one. (Read the expanded book description at the first link -- it’s interesting, and I think I’ll get this book to see what new ideas I can use on my trainees.) In the linked article, the second link, I like that he describes how people who train on their own can use either gym machines or free weights (dumbbells) for each exercise. You can do this on your own, though it’s ideal to have a trainer teach you.

Be honest with yourself when you choose a method, a trainer, or a gym: will you stick with this? How will your routine look during the holidays and busy work season? During the school year and summer vacation? Keep your eyes and your mind open to find ways that the logistics can work. A gym should be convenient to either home or work -- which do you prefer? Examine all the faciilties and trainers in that location. There are probably more of them than you think. As a personal coach, I can help you remove obstacles and figure out how to fit strength training into your life. As a fitness trainer, I know how well strength training works on those who are new to it -- extremely well!

Exercise, strength, and fitness take patience, but patience and consistency is guaranteed to show results in improved strength and health. Don’t look for get-fit-quick programs, and don’t set rigid expectations. You can’t control everything, but you can make a plan and stick to it for the long haul, and it’s worth it.