Thursday, October 22, 2015


Well, I think that describes almost about everyone. 

I know there are a blessed few among us who genuinely love exercising, and they do it because it is so much fun. Typically, they are in their 20s and they have so much energy that they don’t know what to do with it. Might as well take it to the gym.

But most of us mere mortals, or those who have trespassed their 20s and are a little older, rarely exercise because it is so much fun. And they rarely have so much energy that they don’t know what to do with it. Quite the opposite.

So let’s say you’re a fitness non-enthusiast. Yes, let’s admit it. You know you would feel better if you exercised and you’d like to be fit, maybe even look a little tighter overall....but!
You don’t like going to the gym. You abhore the idea of pumping heavy weights until you turn red in the face and sweat pours out of all pores like a fountain. Of running on the treadmill like a hamster on a wheel and never arriving.
I get it. And I agree.
Exercise is not about fun.

I’ve heard it so often in almost two decades of working as a personal trainer in Los Angeles. “I’d like to exercise, but I don’t like going to the gym. I prefer to exercise outside. I want this to be fun. I want to do this for recreation.”
Honestly, if you exercise for recreation, you’re either one of the blessed few who are true athletes at heart, or it’s time you get a life.
Exercising for fun is like brushing your teeth and going to the dentist for fun. Would you do that? I mean, do you stand in front of the mirror at night and say to yourself: “I’m going to brush and floss and flush with fluoride because this is sooo much fun? I can’t wait to do it?! I love it! I’ve been looking forward to this all day! I do this for recreation!”
Seriously. If you do that, fine, but just know you are a bit unusual.

My guess is, you brush and floss and flush because you know it’s necessary. It’s necessary if you want to keep your teeth. It’s necessary because you want to maintain quality of life and take care of yourself.
Exercise is the same thing. Fitness is not for fun. It’s a serious matter. 
It’s fine to expect exercise to be somewhat enjoyable, but if fun and recreation are your main expectation, you aren’t likely to fit and strong throughout your life span. You’ll drop out because the novelty will wear off and you’ll get bored.

Fitness is not about fun. Your level of fitness relates closely to your overall level of health and well being, your energy levels, and how you age. Fitness is a kind of investment into your overall quality of life.
It’s like paying into a retirement fund so that you won’t be poor in old age.
The time you invest every week into increasing and maintaining fitness and strength are an investment into sustained life quality.
You can invest a little bit if you want small returns, or you can invest more if you want to remain strong and energetic into old age.
And this is what it is really about. It’s about how you feel today, how much energy you have today, how strong and flexible you are.

I know 40 year olds who can no longer bend down to tie their own shoes. I know of people in their 70s and 80s who still compete as athletes.
While some people are luckier than others genetically, for most of us it boils down to how much we invested into ourselves.
Are you going to be old at 40 or young in your 70s?

This is not a matter of fun, and it’s not a hobby or recreation. Fitness is about how much you want to get out of your life and for how long. Do you want to live a long, healthy life but be whell chair bound because your legs no longer have the strength to carry you? Do you want to spend the last decades of your life lying down because your back gave out on you?
Sorry, but fitness is not about fun. I agree with you.
It’s kind of hideous to go to a gym where you’re in close quarters with others who perform repetitive movements on gym equipment, haul around pieces of iron that are ironically called dumb-bells, or huff and puff on treadmills.
It’s a hideous thing to do. It gets boring after a while.

But it’s an investment in your life quality. Look at it that way when you go to the gym or choose an exercise regimen. Remind yourself that you’re not doing this for fun. You’re doing this to maintain the strength of your heart so that increased oxygen flow can energize your body and your brain. You’re doing this so that you’ll still be walking in old age. You’re doing it to have enough energy available to do what you need to do today. So you can enjoy your life, because if your body goes out on you, you’ll enjoy your life a whole lot less.
Remind yourself daily, and throw out the idea that fitness should be fun. It’s a discipline. Do it whether you feel like it or not, because you’ll reap the rewards for a long time.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Smart Girl's Common Sense Approach to Fitness and Weight Management

Welcome to “TheSmart Girl’s Common Sense Approach To Fitness And Weight Management”!

My intention for this blog is to share information about fitness and weight loss from the perspective of a personal trainer, but also from personal experience. I hope it will be helpful to you.

If you live in the Los Angeles area, and are seeking personal training, you can contact me at (323) 377-7839.

If you are anything like me, you want to know how things work.
This is why I call it the smart girl’s common sense approach:
You think about what it is you want to do, you get some information about it, then you make an informed decision, and you do what it takes.

For me, this was the first reason to get a personal training certificate, because I wanted to know how this stuff works, and particularly, if it would work at all!
I’ve arrived at the conclusion that working out with weights in combination with cardiovascular exercise works better than anything else you can put yourself through in the name of heath and beauty – and, mind me, I am a retired queen of dieting.

To give you an idea why I consider myself an expert of weight loss and weight management:
I have been working as an independent personal trainer since 1999, and after receiving a Master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology, I added life coaching.
A "Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant" certification with the American Council On Exercise (ACE) is underway, and eventually I hope to achieve a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology.
But these are only the official credentials.
Years ago, I studied dance for musical theatre in Munich, Hamburg and Berlin. In the course of it, I plunged into the struggle of diets and weight maintenance (I would have given a lot to know what I know now, and it would have made a difference!).
I was always just a little too chubby as a dancer, and frequently on poor terms with my ballet teachers, who really favor thin physiques.
I usually carried a bold extra 25 pounds on a 5’2 frame, which would push just about any ballet dancer over the edge.
I was baffled that I wasn’t losing weight, no matter what I tried. One would think that dancing 4-5 hours a day would be enough exercise! (It just wasn’t the right kind.)
To my well-meaning dance teachers weight lifting was the epiphany of evil: weight training makes you big and bulky, right?
So I tried any diet I could get a hold of, read any book, and changed my eating habits several times. In between I freaked out, binged, beat up on myself, cried, etc.
At the end I usually had more weight on me than before, and then I really had reason to cry.
I came to Los Angeles in 1996 in order to complete a degree in acting, and soon found my way into Gold’s Gym in Venice. Since I had studied anatomy ad nauseam, I figured I knew enough about muscles to give it an informed try. But, hell, the results didn’t come and I injured myself awfully on a regular basis (my first meeting with a personal trainer was when one ran to my rescue, because the bar of a bench press came crashing down on me.)
This was when I went to get my first trainer certificate.
And guess what happened!
My body changed drastically. No, it didn’t just change. It morphed miraculously. It morphed so much that friends who hadn’t seen me for a while no longer recognized me.
And more than that.
Whereas before a normal meal (anything but vegetables without dressing) would put weight on quickly, after two years I was able to eat more than ever while maintaining a low body weight.
Diets ran out of fashion since.
In fact, my husband sometimes threatens he’ll come to the gym with me and tell my clients what I really eat. True, I like to bake, and I like to eat my "bakery". I bake often.

I can relate to getting up in the morning and putting on tent-like clothes, in order to hide the unwanted pounds. I know how much suffering there can be, when one is uncomfortable or embarrassed in one’s own skin.
Who doesn’t want to choose clothes that charm the figure, versus shopping for plus size models that cover the whole thing all together.
And while I don’t endorse buying into the collective obsession of needing to look like a nineteen year old forever - nor would I claim that self-acceptance and self-love are variables dependent on external factors - I do know how much well being comes from inhabiting a body that is an ally versus an enemy.
If I can do this, you can do this too.
I have experienced it for myself; and as a trainer, I have seen others change their bodies permanently.

(One might argue that some less fortunate people have a family history of obesity, a naturally slow metabolism, or the thermic effect of food is too efficient, etc.
And sure, in cases of true obesity, the weight loss goal is set at 10% to start out with. While in the case of true obesity the help of professionals and a doctor’s clearance may be appropriate, exercise will still be the major component. )
Still, don’t let numbers or “becauses” deter you. If you truly want to change your body, it can be done. It takes some time and energy, but then again,
what doesn’t?

Why the combination of cardiovascular exercise and weight lifting works like nothing else (and what benefits you can expect along the way)

Have you noticed how people often start gaining weight slowly but surely after they turn thirty, even though they don’t eat more?
It’s because we start losing lean muscle mass, very slowly but surely, and the metabolism goes downhill with it. So the older you get, the harder (and more impossible, more frustrating) diets become.

Dieting lowers the metabolism, which is really a function to protect you from starving. If there are less calories available, the metabolism shuts down, in order to preserve energy. Worse even, you may lose lean muscle mass, because it gets used up to sustain you throughout the diet.
(Fasting is one of the worst traps.)
Once you start eating “normally” again, the metabolism is still low, and you quickly put on some extra weight, to be prepared for the next period of starvation.
This is how the Yo-yo effect happens. So basically, if you want to diet, you have to diet forever.

If you exercise, you can counter this. Weight lifting puts on lean muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories than no muscle does, to put it very simply.
If you increase your lean muscle mass, you increase your metabolic rate.
So if you have more muscle, you burn more calories even when sitting on the couch. (That’s a good deal, isn’t it)
In fact, even the day after your workout, the metabolism still works on a higher rate. All you need to do is keep it up.
Once you keep it up long enough, the body gets used to it - as it is a creature of habit.
(Now I know this is simplified information, but I assume you want the quick basics and not a long endless dissertation on metabolic activities.)

There are two kinds of exercise that take you there.
There is aerobic exercise and anaerobic exercise.
Sorry for the ugly words. I know it sounds boring.

Aerobic exercise is the same as cardiovascular exercise (treadmill etc.).
It’s the activity of choice for burning up fat.
You may be aware that the trick to correct cardiovascular exercise is keeping the heart rate within a certain range. Are you aware why?
Because one of the body’s energy systems provides constant energy for long periods of time. (Versus a lot of energy for short periods of time.)
When you need constant energy for walking, running long distance, etc., you use that energy system.
The energy needed comes out of fat storage.
If you sprint, for example, you need a lot of energy for short periods of time. This energy is provided by a different energy system.
(To be very accurate here, you’d still use up some energy from fat sources, but most of the energy will come from stored sugars.)
Since we’re talking about cardiovascular exercise – it has a long list of benefits. It’s called cardiovascular exercise because it trains the cardiovascular system, creating numerous health benefits.

In service to providing the basic concepts in an accessible way:
if you do cardio, the heart needs to beat faster to circulate the blood throughout the body. The blood delivers oxygen.
If the heart gets used to circulating more blood faster, it becomes stronger.
So eventually, every time it beats, it moves more blood through the system.
Once it’s stronger, it doesn’t need to contract quite as often in order to circulate blood. It contracts less often to get the same work done.
We call that a lower heart rate.

Further benefits of exercise:

- improves blood pressure in those with high blood pressure
- increases high density lipoproteins (HDL)
- improves glucose tolerance
- improves quality of life
- enhances well-being
- statistically lowers mortality rate
- decreases risk of cardiovascular diseases
- decreases serum triglycerides
- reduces insulin needs
- decreases risk of colon cancer
- lowers risk of non-insulin dependent diabetes
- reduces resting systolic and diastolic pressure
- favorable affects body fat distribution
- decreases risk of osteoporosis
- relieves symptoms of depression and anxiety
- counteracts and prevents back pain
- increases energy levels

If you wonder what your target rate is, but you have no formula and the cardio machines at your gym leave you wondering, try this. Exercise at a rate where it's still possible for you to speak if you wanted to, but you’d rather not.
If you can still have a heated discussion with your neighbor, it’s too slow.
In fact, now that most of us know how moderate cardio exercise leads to fat loss, let me share with you that I see most people exercising much too lightly.
If after 30 minutes there is no droplet of sweat, it probably was too slow. It’s somewhere in between too fast for a discussion, and too slow for falling off unconsciously after fifteen minutes. And, you sweat while doing it.

So, how much cardio do we need, to get the miraculous results?
If it comes to cardio, you can’t do too much. You can do cardio every day. You can burn fat every day. You can burn as much fat as you like!
I usually talk my clients into doing cardio more often, rather than doing it once a week for an hour. If your commitment is an hour, the prospect of having to do it might be so dreadful, that you put it off.
Start by doing ten minutes, three times a week. Then slowly work up to 20-30 minutes. You get much more out of doing twenty minutes three times a week, than sixty minutes once a week.
Think in terms of jump-starting the metabolism. More often is better. If this is your aim, get used to working on a higher rate.
I have a lot of clients who own their cardio equipment, and watch TV while they exercise. If you have the space, this solution is genius. Think of all the time you watch TV. And then think, you're burning fat while you're watching TV!
Seriously. You’ll be buying a new wardrobe in no time.

If you can’t stand that ugly treadmill on your Persian rug, I understand. Do your cardio at the gym, and teach yourself to read.
It’s possible. It just takes a little practice, until you stop moving your head so you can read.
Reading or watching TV have been the most supportive tools, as far as I know, to stick with a cardio routine.
Do your cardio three times a week to get good results, and as often as every day to get stellar results.
Incorporate walking into your daily schedule as much as possible. I read that when you are sitting, the enzyme activity responsible for the breakdown of fat shuts down.
So walk around at work, or get up in between to stretch.
Alright. You’ve heard that before.

The other ingredient is anaerobic exercise.
To spare you information you might not care to read, it indicates lifting heavy things. By now we are all clear on the issue that building muscle increases the metabolism, because lean muscle needs more energy for sustenance.

Here is how it’s done.
If you want to build muscle, there is the concept of “gradual progressive overload”.
You start small; doing 3-4 sets of 10-12 repetitions for each major muscle group, and you overload the muscle just a little bit, so it responds by building more muscle.
The body does this, because it responds to demand.
If you work harder, you need more muscle in order to survive; it’s that basic.

You work each muscle group, give it 48 hours of rest to grow, then you challenge it again.
You want to do just enough so you feel it the next day. If you don’t feel anything at all, it wasn’t heavy enough.
If you are sore, you caused an injury.
If you are very sore, you may even put yourself at risk for arthritis, because the pull of the weight is too much for the joints.
(“No pain, no gain” has gone out of fashion since at least the eighties.)

The secret to building muscle successfully is not pain, but consistency. You build a little more each time.
Changing your body at the gym is no quick fix, but it’s an activity that grants lasting results.
When you know how it works, and you do what it takes, you can relax. It will come about.
Go celebrate.

If you worked out for a while and you don’t feel it anymore the next day, you need to put the weight up. This is meant by “gradual progressive overload”.
So if you go to the park with the tiny little weights you bought at a yard sale, they soon won’t be enough anymore. You constantly need to buy new weights.
Trust me, a gym membership is less expensive, and also less annoying.
Once you keep putting the weights up (always gently, no pain involved, but sticking to a regular routine of at least 2-3 times a week), you're taking advantage of a key phenomenon which makes a gym membership pay off nicely.

For your muscles, there is such a thing as “Shock, adaptation and staleness”.
You put a shock on the muscle, and it adapts. It grows bigger.
Once it has adapted, there is staleness. It basically did the work that was needed, and nothing happens after that.
The way you need to proceed is to stimulate the muscle differently, so it’s always surprised and responds with growth.
You use different machines, different angles, different grips, free weights, resistance bands, etc.
This way, the muscle keeps developing, and it also develops more fully.

If you work the chest, for example, you want to work the outer chest, inner chest, upper and lower, etc.
You can’t do this as effectively in a park, or at home with a set of weights or two. It would get too expensive, and you’d need to add an extra room to your house so you can store all this stuff.
The gym has it all there for you, and memberships aren’t that expensive.

(I work mainly out of Body Builder’s Gym in Silverlake. The rates are low and the contracts fair.
But no matter where you are, a gym membership usually has a high value for a low cost, given you use it effectively.)
If a low cost offers you high value, isn’t it worth getting past:
“Oh, I find weights boring,”
and use the gym as a place to get done what needs to get done?
It’s just practical.

To sum it up again, exercise increases metabolism, dieting alone lowers it.
(If you still insist on crash dieting while exercising, in the case you are very eager, an unfortunate thing happens: the body goes into starvation mode to protect you, and you may wind up losing no weight at all even though you're starving.)
This is why you may not be allowed to exercise when you are on a medically supervised low calorie diet.

Here is one more benefit of exercise. Exercise lowers these crazy spells of appetite that might hit you sometimes. After exercise, you might experience feeling hungry, which is different from food cravings when not truly hungry.
You can shift the emotionally based experience of craving food back to eating for sustenance.
It even works for smokers who are quitting. Exercise delays the nicotine cravings for up to 50 minutes.

And did you know that exercise is becoming a therapeutic intervention for depression? It’s nearly impossible to run on a treadmill and be depressed.
In fact, after exercising for a while, hormones kick in favorably, and you can’t help feeling pretty good.

And let’s not forget about the issue of back pain. The chiropractic bills, and the annoying wait in the office.
Exercise usually takes care of back pain. If it doesn’t, you likely have a severe back issue and should be in appropriate care.
The reason why you may be experiencing back pain is a mixture of age and gravity.
With age, the muscles start to atrophy.
Once there is less muscular strength to hold you upright, you surrender to the pull of gravity.
Gravity pulls you down. It basically causes you to slouch. When you slouch, the spine is no longer upright. Once that happens, there is pressure on vertebrae, discs, nerves, etc.
Additionally, you may be tight, because you weren’t stretching either. So tight muscles pull on the slouched structure, and restrict movement.
No wonder you’re in pain!

When you build abdominal and back muscle, they basically “pull” you straight from both sides. The pull of your muscles becomes stronger than gravity, which is favorable.
You want your core to be so strong, that you can’t help but stand straight.
That’s the end of back pain.

I’m too tired after work, and I’m too tired before work.

You may be waiting for the day you’re not too tired to exercise. And it doesn’t come, does it?
I understand. I know it can take a good amount of discipline to drag yourself to the gym, when you are tired. At least in the beginning.
Sometimes, after I was on my feet all day lifting weights with my clients, I gaze upon workout equipment cross-eyed myself.

Part of the reason why you’re tired, is probably because you don’t exercise. The blood transport in your system is sluggish. Where there is sluggish blood transport, there is less oxygen.
Oxygen is what energizes you.
So if you drag yourself on feet of lead to the gym, and you pump some blood and oxygen through your veins, you’ll soon find your limbs become light and tingly.
The lead feeling dissipates.
Apart from running on happy hormones, oxygen circulates through your system, and you feel like a feather.
I’m surprised every time myself, but it works.

You may choose to work out in the morning to feel energized at work, at lunch to defeat the afternoon sloth, or in the evening to regain energy for your evening program. Eventually you will notice having more energy available altogether, and you may even sleep better.
The word “Fitness” creates the image of lightness and energy, doesn’t it?

You don’t need to change your life drastically, quit all bad habits permanently, become ascetic like a master yogi, give up fun and become a different person.
Fairly often, people inquire about training on the phone, only to wait an additional 2-3 years until they finally start an exercise program. In conversations with clients I often hear that their fear was, they’d have to change their lives in an almost traumatic way, to get on that fitness lifestyle thing.
While it does take time and commitment if you want to achieve the kind of results where friends no longer recognize you on the street, gaining the other numerous benefits of what we call “fitness” begins right away.

I don’t like working out at the gym. It’s boring.
I hear this one often too.
If you haven’t been an avid gym goer, the idea of hanging out in a noisy, busy environment with sweaty, grunting characters might not be so appealing.
(Avoid the busy hours.)
Women often tell me they’d rather do something outside, like going for a walk on the beach. Sure, that’s understandable. You might even bring a few tiny weights to play with.
You’d definitely experience cardiovascular benefits and increased energy. You can even counter back pain in the park.
It really depends what your personal goal is, and I commend you on any steps you take toward improving your health.

The information I intend to put together on this site though is meant to communicate all that is available for you.
I am honestly convinced that health benefits along with stellar looks past the age of nineteen are available for anyone.
While self-love and self-esteem are not truly attached to how you look (beware the illusion), there is great potential for life quality, well being and joy in loving one’s own body, and dressing it daily for the sole purpose of beauty.
I’d rather live in a beautiful, cared for mansion than a shack.

And the magical results come from a greater commitment.
So if you think lifting weights is boring, and boring is a reason not to do it, then think about it this way.
A lot of activities are boring. Brushing teeth and flossing is extremely boring, as far as I am concerned. House cleaning! Now that’s boring.
Paying bills! I hate any kind of paperwork, especially when there are numbers involved. Boring!
A lot of activities are boring, but we do them because we know they need to be done. We come to accept them, and eventually we no longer think about it.

If it comes to free time, you may want to do things that are fun. You don’t want to add another chore. Sure.
Consider this. If you want to change your body composition into something mind blowing, it is like any other major project in your life. Changing your physique and your metabolism is major business!
It's not a little hobby on the side.
You can’t expect a change like that from donating an occasional window of time in the park.
You may giggle and think it’s silly to make it a point; but you’d be surprised how often people storm into the gym, request the steady loss of 30 pounds minimum, while scheduling exercise once a week, which they then cancel 3 times out of 4!
(After that, they get fired by their trainer.)

So what I suggest as a consideration – and it may or may not work for you – is to approach changing your body as a major project you choose to do.
And just like anything else, along with the fun you can discover if you really want to, the practice of just about anything requires a good amount of loving, self-supportive discipline.

You formerly thought lifting weights was boring.
Since it delivers results, consider what returns you get for your investment, and base your decision on that.

And if you think you’re not willing to do this, it’s alright. Here is a valid question to ask yourself: do I really want this?
One of my favorite clients said:
“Life has a tendency to test how much you want something.”
He also said, if you are not willing to do what it takes to get it, that’s okay. It doesn’t make you a failure, or a bad person, or less worthy, or whatever. It’s okay. Decide what your priorities are, and stop beating yourself up for it.

Who says everybody has to be thin and athletic? I know several women who hold more weight than the current beauty ideal suggests, and I find them gorgeous. Nor do I find obese people disturbing in any way (at most I’d feel concerned about the health issues they are at risk for.)
Who says a stick figure is more desirable than a round figure? Do we all need to buy into the should’s of what we should be, in order to feel worthwhile?
So if sporting the perfect body isn’t something you want to spend an average of 3-5 hours a week on, because it’s not that important after all, why not? I’d encourage you to own your decision and your personal values, and stop beating up on yourself for not looking in a way that you think you should be looking but don’t.
You may want to consider doing a little brisk walking on a regular basis for heart health, and accept yourself fully the way you are right now.

If you still think you’d like to leave your body in a dark alley somewhere and get a new one, and you are willing to support yourself in a way that does grant results, the gym is the best place to do so.

I don’t want to get big and bulky!

I hear this often: “I don’t want muscle, I only want to get toned.”
I snicker and say: “So what are we going to tone, your fat?”

If it were as easy to get big and bulky, as lifting weights three times a week, all men would look like superheroes. The fact that they don’t, indicates that it takes a whole lot of work, even for them, to bulk up.
Men have more strength fiber in their upper bodies than women do.
They are literally made to be stronger and bulkier than women. And, they have the kind of hormones it takes to do so.
We don’t.
To become “big”, for a woman, takes a kind of effort past heroic measure. It takes a kind of athletic discipline that is far more than “working out pretty hard”.
Personally, I’d be too lazy.
And if you wanted to get “big and bulky”, you would want to seek out a female trainer who competes as a body builder (I’ll refer you to my friend Dallas Malloy).

So, to get back to the issue, women don’t get big, unless they specifically train to do so.
Most likely, we become smaller, because muscle has more density than fat.
The thing on your arm that’s tight and beautifully shaped, is muscle.
So it’s no reason to stay clear of weights, and even of weights that are heavier than you probably imagine.
(Nobody has won a body building competition lifting 17 pound weights only. Or 20 pounds.)

There are different ways of working out to get that nice, lean look, sure.
But even if you have no clue what you’re doing, you won’t bulk up.

If you start building muscle, there are the beginning phases where there still might be a good layer of fat on the back of your arm, for example, and once you start building, a little muscle eventually pokes out its shy little head.
At this moment, women have sometimes packed their bags and fled the gym, because they were terrified of looking like a man within the next week.
If that’s where you’re at, don’t run. Here's why.

There are beginning and intermediate phases in building muscle and losing fat. You want to change your body composition, which means having less fat and more lean muscle mass.
In the beginning, there may still be a good amount of fat on top of the muscle, and once the muscle starts to build, it looks a little more voluminous than before.
This is a good sign!
It means you are starting to burn more calories, because you need more.
Go celebrate!

As you keep burning more calories, the fat on - let’s say, your arm - melts away.
It doesn’t happen over night. It happens more slowly and with more subtlety, which in the big picture makes it more possible to sustain than a crash diet.
Be patient and trust.

If you should truthfully be somebody who has a large amount of male hormone (I’ve never encountered somebody in training) and you ended up too large, there is an easy way out.
Stop what you’re doing.
Once you don’t work out anymore, you atrophy. It’s a complete myth that you’d build up, and then “it sticks to you for the rest of your life”.
As mentioned earlier; if it were that easy, all men would look like superheroes. They’d be saving us all day long!

For most of us, we go through a metamorphosis in different stages.
As you build muscle, you may have a little more volume on your frame in one stage, then some fat melts away, and you look smaller again.
As you continue, you become more and more lean.
More reason to celebrate.

But it hurts!
It doesn’t. It’s in your head.
Sorry if I sound like a nag by now. So far, you’ve been my imaginary client, and I’m only explaining what I’d explain on a daily basis.

If you have never lifted heavy things, the idea of it might be appalling to you at first.
You’re just not used to this kind of sensation. And if you lift a little more vigorously, say, more than 3 pounds, there may be a burning sensation at the end of the set.
“Ouch! It hurts! I need to stop!” you might say.
But the burning sensation is merely new, and since you have nothing else to associate it with, you equal it with pain in your head. And yes, common sense tells us, if we are doing something that hurts, it’s not good for us, and we should stop.
The burning sensation towards the end of a set is not something you need to avoid. On the contrary.
It’s feedback that you’re making a muscle!
As long as you think of the sensation as a pain, you are going to dislike it, and you will want to stop.
If you understand what is happening inside your muscle, and that it creates favorable results, you will regard the sensation differently. The burning means, basically, that the stored energy in your muscle is being used up, and the ph is lowered.

Lifting weights utilizes energy systems that use stored sugars.
(I know this is put very simply, but I imagine you don’t have patience for more.)
If you lift so heavily, that you eventually can’t lift anymore, you used up the energy in the muscle.
Then you rest for 30 seconds to 3 minutes, depending on how heavily you lifted.
Afterwards you can miraculously lift again.

What happens is that oxygen was rushed into the muscle through the blood stream, which restores the energy in that muscle in a complicated, magnificent process.
Using the kind of energy that uses up stored sugars somewhere within 6-20 repetitions, depending on what you are doing at the time, favors the building of muscle.
Since the process of using up energy in the muscle lowers ph levels temporarily, there is this burning sensation.
Instead of quitting once it burns, you may want to lift some more, until you can’t lift at all, to stimulate maximum growth.

Once you know what the sensation is, and you no longer label it mentally as a pain, the feeling will bypass your attention.
If you know it’s not something threatening to be avoided, you basically switch off your inner alarm system that alerts you to danger.
You won’t notice it anymore, and desensitize.
Eventually you may even come to like the sensation, given the benefits we discussed.

What are the major muscle groups, and how do I put a work out together?

If you are going to the gym for your work out, you always start with a warm up. A minimum of 5-10 minutes on any cardio equipment will do, but more is better.
If you do light cardio (no resistance on the elliptical walker), and you pass the ten to fifteen minute mark, your whole body becomes energized by the increased blood flow and oxygen transport.
As we discussed earlier, once you feel lighter and energized, the idea of exercising and exerting yourself is less disturbing. You are truly “warmed up” for it.
As for the 5-10 minute warm up; some cardio is required before you lift weights. The blood flow needs to be increased, at least to a minimum. Lifting heavy things when you’re completely “cold” and stiff, easily leads to injury.
So do your warm up, and when you are feeling particularly sluggish, do your entire cardio work out before your weight work out.
You’ll see, it’s easier.

Now the muscle groups.
I usually have my clients work their abdominals and lower back first, which I consider an extension of the warm up. Abs are generally worked without weights, so there is less risk of injury when somebody is still cold and creaky.

Then you work chest and back.
You always want to work both sides of the body equally. Imagine a stronger back muscle pulls you backwards. The spine would get out of alignment.
Or, if men work only their chest, it creates this hunched over, cave-man look.
Discriminating against any of the above is a ticket to the chiropractor.

Same for the legs. You work the top of the leg, and the back of it – called quadriceps in the front, and hamstring in the back.
You add calves.

Then you work the arm. Biceps in the front, triceps in the back.
Then the shoulders.

That’s it for a basic work out.
It builds overall muscular strength. Remember 3-4 sets of 10-12 repetitions, and you are set for your first cycle.

So what’s a cycle?
I usually explain it like this: if you are here, at the beginning, and you want to get over there, the goal of perfect beauty etc., you can’t do it in one step. There are many steps involved.
So right now you are looking at your first step.

This takes care of the question, isn’t it better to work chest and back one day, and biceps and triceps the next day?
It depends where you are at. If you think in terms of cycles, or taking one step at a time, working out in split routines is a good idea in a more advanced stage.
If you are just starting to work out, you need to build muscle everywhere. You need to do so gently, but you also need to stimulate your muscles enough.
If you are a beginner, and you go to the gym 3 times a week, it’s not a good idea to do split routines. You end up working your muscles only 1-2 times a week, versus 3 times.
Your muscles grow better when stimulated more consistently.
If you worked your muscles so hard in the beginning, that a split routine would be justified, your arms would probably fall off.

Stick with building the whole body, and doing cardio. Get information on how to work out properly, in the form of instruction, videos or books that teach proper form.
You need some instruction.
You wouldn’t expect to fly a plane without instruction, either, just because you were able to observe pilots at some point in your history.
Working with weights can change your body so profoundly, it’s worth taking the time to learn how. I often hear: “It just didn’t work for me.”
You may not have given yourself the chance to work out correctly, and you deprived yourself of reaching your goals.
If done correctly and consistently, it will happen for you. Kiss your diet good-bye.