Friday, May 15, 2009

Life is Complicated

Guest blogger: Karin Anderson

First of all, please call me Karin. Just Karin. The "doctor" part is only for work.

I am a normal person. I'm not a born, natural athlete. If I eat too much crappy food and fail to exercise, I get fat. I have about as much coordination as your average toddler. I am fit because I work at it every single day. I do have a trainer, who is awesome (just check out his picture!), but a trainer isn't going to pull the pound cake out of your mouth or lift the weights for you or run in your place. Life is complicated, we all have a lot of obligations, and the only way to get and stay fit is to make a commitment to yourself and to make that a priority, or a part of everyday life, like brushing your teeth or feeding the dogs. Often that means going to the gym after a busy night shift, but you have to do what you have to do. Working with regular folks on what to do to lose weight, to keep it off, and to enjoy the process (or at least not hate it) – that’s why I’m here. There are so many emotional processes at work, and they involve learning to understand and accept your relationship with food and exercise, learning to find your place in this world, and learning to find joy in the little things.

Although I have not had any formal training in nutrition or exercise physiology beyond what I've learned in medical school, which is at least a decent background, I have several nutrition and exercise physiology texts which I love to read -- studying is actually FUN when you're doing it because you're interested in it, rather than having to cram for a test. So even if I don't have the answers off the top of my head, I have access to the resources and the ability to digest (no pun intended) them.

CHARLIE MIKE may be upbeat and positive, but it’s also realistic, and I’m not going to be the first blogger to tell you that you can sit on the couch and eat and achieve all of your fitness goals! Now that we have that behind us, if there’s a topic you’d like me to tackle, let me hear from you.


Unknown said...

Hey there Karin!
I've got a question for you...
I work out 5-6 mornings a week 30-45 min, nothing incredibly intense but I alternate aerobics, strength training (3-5 lb hand weights), and the stability ball. I do this on my own w/ dvds. It's enough to keep me in shape but once or twice a year my routines seem to become ineffective and I have to find something new.
Question is: When your body hits a plateau, what's the best/fastest way to get out of it?

Unknown said...

Hi, Beth!

First of all, it's great that you are alternating cardiovascular exercise and strength training. This is exactly what you want to do, and so many women wrongly ignore strength training altogether.

Secondly, the fact that you are hitting plateaus means that what you are doing, you are doing right. As you exercise, your body becomes efficient at what you are doing (athletes rely on this -- you couldn't run a marathon if you weren't an efficient runner).

Unfortunately, efficiency is the enemy when it comes to making change and progress.

You didn't tell me your age and general state of health, but based on how much you exercise, I'm going to assume you're pretty healthy and have no physical reasons to limit your exercise intensity. If you do (for example, due to heart disease) then GO TO YOUR DOCTOR and ask about this.

So, assuming you're healthy, what you ideally want to do is challenge yourself with most, if not all, of your workouts. If you run, add some sprints. If you use the elliptical trainer, increase the resistance periodically. Lift progressively heavier weights. Your goal is to increase the intensity of your exercise. Start with increasing it for brief periods. Soon you will find that you will have to start at a higher intensity, then add even more intensity for brief periods. What you are going for is exercise that DOES NOT feel easy for 30-45 minutes, but that challenges you. And you want a few periods during which you think "this is really hard."

You will not plateau if you do this. You can keep doing the same routines, but you will find yourself doing them with heavier weights and at higher intensity than you were the year before. And that's progress.

Unknown said...

How you do it, I have no idea! When I get home after a stressful night shift, I'm so tired, and hungry, that the last thing I want to do is work out. I eat breakfast, wind down and crash in bed.

Joe G. said...

Would anybody ever think of going a whole day without brushing his/her teeth? Then why would you forget other physical hygiene?

People who don't exercise gross me out.

Just Do It!

Unknown said...

Joe, after pulling 15 straight hours of work through a night shift at the hospital, some of us are too tired to do anything but eat breakfast and sleep, then wake up to go to work all over again for several straight days in a row. I admire Karin's resolve to be able to do so.

thesaurus said...

Like to know what is best for me to start out with the prefect pushup or pullup to get back in shape?
Im 51 5'10" and 170 lbs
I have just had L4 and L5 fusion to the lower lumbar and have 7 screws and A style plate
and this was done thru the abdomen not the back and was walking the next day
this was done march 23 2009 and have not worked out at all and im turning into jello
What do you think or how can i get back into shape i am no longer in pain and back to my old self now

Unknown said...

I've known Karin for along time and seen her go through alot of changes. You have never looked better! I admire your commitment to something so life changing. I had no idea you were so dedicated to this and I know this is just the beginning of bigger and greater things for you. I guess now you are going to make me feel your muscles everytime I see you and are you trying to tell me to get up and loose weight? If so and I can look as good as you do now.......I'm in. WELL DONE MATE!!

Unknown said...

Hi, Thesaurus!

I'm really glad you're doing so well after your back surgery and are out of pain. Chronic back pain can be really debilitating, and it's great to hear a success story.

You know I'm going to tell you this, so here it goes: please talk to your surgeon before starting any exercise program. He or she knows best, and will likely be able to suggest some things. Also, after back surgery, your surgeon may recommend physical therapy, which you should take full advantage of, because it's like working with a highly skilled trainer, and paid for by your health insurance!

That said, if (and only if) your surgeon clears you to do anything you want, you should start a program of cardio AND strength training. Deconditioning starts in about 1-2 weeks of inactivity, so you have some work to do to strengthen your heart and lungs as well as your skeletal muscles.

For cardio, start with something low-impact, like an elliptical trainer.

I like the Perfect Pushup and Pullup for you, because -- in addition to providing a great upper body workout -- they also strengthen your abdominal and back muscles (the so-called "core", which is important for you) without the type of stress on your lower back that you get from, say, crunches. In terms of a specific workout using these tools, I'm going to leave that to the experts.

Remember, as always, to start slowly and increase your intensity and duration gradually.

Best of luck to you, and keep me posted on what your surgeon advises you and how your progress is going!


Unknown said...

Hi, Rhoda!!

Thank you! Just keep reading -- you know how I love to talk... and tell people what to do!

And if that's not enough, switch to night shifts, and I'd be happy to go for a (weekly?) early morning, after-work run with you!