For the longest time, I was a doubter. I thought everyone else but me could magically lose weight, while the pounds I’d packed on over the years, through two pregnancies and the normal stress of life, would stubbornly refuse to budge.
I still believed in the other benefits of regular exercise, from more energy to improved mental agility and stress relief. So, I’ve always enjoyed fitness in one form or another, and I launched into a fun 2015 trying every new class or technique I could learn at National Fitness Center. At first, I gained a tiny bit of weight…could it have been muscle? Before I saw results on the scale, I started feeling more energetic, stronger, and eventually seeing ever-so-slight contours that indicated muscle development in my arms and legs. I had nearly given up hope of ever going sleeveless, until this past year. I finally feel more confident in my own skin.
I was enthralled by the concept of potentially having a personal trainer to report to each week, while my time one-on-one with trainers was minimal. I tried Personal High Intensity Interval Training and could see the benefits of sweating in a highly structured small group setting. I got addicted to Body Pump class where many of us who never dreamed we could lift weights learned how to constructively do that. I also did some things with my kids, just for fun, like shooting hoops, climbing the rock wall, or swimming.
I can’t say I was as regimented as I would have liked. Yet, I did get into a fairly consistent habit throughout most of the year of working out from three to five times per week, minimum. I also had to get more serious about nutrition. I started with the Vitabot online nutrition tool, to help me closely regulate calories at first, while watching for a balance of nutrients. This seemed to help me train my own appetite to eat more frequent, smaller meals instead of consuming too many calories at once.
When it came time for a fitness assessment, looking at one year of progress, I had lost 20 pounds, lost 3.6% body fat and finally got my Body Mass Index under 30%. I was elated to have lost this much weight! It was still not as much as I had hoped to lose, but realistically for me, it felt like a big achievement.
On the downside, the trainer who assessed me this time, Steven Dean, said I had apparently lost only about 14.2 pounds of pure fat, while I had lost some muscle as well. Dean encouraged me by mentioning that one pound of lean muscle can burn 50 calories, at rest; I definitely want to keep and build more muscle. He encouraged me to be sure to replenish my protein within a short time of working out to make sure I lose fat instead of muscle from now on. He stressed eating more carbohydrates in the earlier hours of the day, and more protein as the day goes on, always small portions. He also encouraged me to get even more serious about lifting heavier weights. Ideally, I would report to Dean or one of the personal training team members two or three times per week to make sure I am alternating workouts on various muscle groups.
Personal trainer Clyde Davis encouraged me to remember, “this is a competition with yourself, not with anyone else.” Davis put me through the steps of a typical personal training session, the sort that could be beneficial for making progress in 2016. PT starts with an assessment, then can be fit to maximize progress for each individual. I appreciate the encouragement to keep moving and get in plenty of specific reps in a short amount of time. Whether you use PT or not at the fitness center, Davis encourages you to focus on your own goals and not be distracted by progress someone else is making.
Losing the next 20 pounds feels a bit daunting at the moment, yet I understand that continuing to lower my body fat percentage, ideally down to 25% or less, can only help me get stronger and decrease my risk for common diseases like diabetes, heart attack or stroke. I have never been one to starve myself, so I will continue to be mindful but generous about food intake, still focusing on quality.
This weight-loss journey for me has not been a one-size-fits all experience, and I hesitate to recommend one weight-loss approach in particular for you. It’s, of course, up to you, with your doctor’s approval, what sort of fitness and nutrition program you undertake. I can say that being mindful of food portions has been important for me. Learning to drink quarter after quart of water has helped. Fitting in a few extra workout sessions here and there has been beneficial, too. Probably most importantly for me, simply getting into the habit of being active has helped me achieve success. That’s not to say I don’t miss a workout here or there. But, I appreciate having a place to consistently get in some cardio and some resistance training each week. It helps to be in a place where everyone has a positive, encouraging attitude, from the instructors to other class members. If I miss more than a couple of days at NFC, I miss it — my body and my mind crave it.
I look forward to sharing more progress with you in the coming year, ever hopeful that I’ll lose weight, but also content to know that regular fitness just feels good, too! When I talk about arm contours and confidence, it’s because if I can do this, I want you to know that you can too. The average person, just like your or me, can make progress if we replace old sedentary habits with more active and healthier ones. I truly hope you also find success and happiness on your fitness journey.