(This is the second story in a three-part series on Audrey’s story. Please read Part 1 here.)
When Audrey could finally afford a gym membership she was happy until she got there. The machines and equipment were a little scary but she was determined to succeed. She wanted to build muscles to fill out the sagging skin from her weight loss, but she did not want an injury. She got advice from trainers and other gym members, and learned to do the exercises safely to get the results she wanted. I asked her to share some of what she learned to help others who were thinking about starting a fitness program. The following are her pearls of fitness wisdom.
- If you don’t feel strong enough to lift weights, begin by using the machines without weights and perform as many repetitions as you can. When this becomes easy, add weights and gradually increase them as you get stronger.
- A repetition is one complete movement of an exercise. A set is a specified number of repetitions. Start by doing only one set of about 12 to 15 repetitions. When this becomes easy, add a second set of 8 to 10 repetitions. When the second set becomes easy, add a third set of 5 to 6 repetitions. Work up to 3 sets for every exercise, as you get stronger you can add more repetitions and sets. Your goal is to achieve failure (when you are not able to lift) at the end of every set.
- Proper form and slow, controlled movements are the keys to preventing injuries and getting the results you want. Maintain good posture and never lock your joints. For example, when performing biceps curls, keep your elbows slightly bent between curls.
- Pay attention to your breathing while you exercise. Proper breathing increases the oxygen in your muscles and prevents fatigue. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth while you’re lifting weights.
- Always warm up before each weight lifting session. You can warm up with light cardio exercises such as fast walking on a treadmill, or riding on a stationary bike or elliptical to get your blood flowing to your muscles for about 5 to 10 minutes. This will prevent muscle injuries.
- Stretch after your weight lifting workout. Stretching improves flexibility and prevents injuries. When you stretch, hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds.
You can do this exercise with one arm and alternate arms or with both arms together. The key here is to keep your elbows slightly bent, keep your back and shoulders straight, and breathe out with exertion – when you lift the dumbbells. Start with a light weights and add more weight when you can perform 15 reps without failure.
Begin with your back straight like a wooden plank. Focus on keeping your abdominal muscles and low back tight. Begin with 10 seconds and progress by adding 10 seconds each time when you can complete the additional 10 seconds without failure. The key to proper performance here is to keep your back straight.
The important part of squats is to never let your knees extend past your toes. You want to push your behind back and down as if you are sitting in an imaginary chair. Keep your back straight, squeeze your glutes (buttocks muscles), and breathe out when returning to a standing position. Keep your knees slightly bent and your toes pointing forward with your feet shoulder length apart.
Lunges may be performed while walking or standing position. Try to perform 15 to 20 repetitions with each leg. Start off with your weakest leg, step wide out in front of you, pushing off with your heel when rising up. When you kneel, don’t let me your knees extend beyond your toes, and remember to exhale when you push off to a standing position. Keep your back straight and don’t let your knee touch the floor behind you.
Leg lifts with a Bosu ball
This exercise is great for the lower and upper abdominal and can be performed with or without the ball. Keep your toes pointed when lifting your legs, exhale when lowering your legs, and perform controlled slow movements. When you bring your feet down bring them as low as you can without touching the floor. Start with one set of 15 to 20 repetitions and gradually work up to 3 to 4 sets.
Getting started is one thing, but keeping it going is another. Audrey’s has kept it going for three years now, and cannot imagine life without her workout. She works out every week day and rests on the weekends. She says that her friends at the gym keep her accountable and give her a boost when she begins to slack off.
Audrey admits that sometimes she is amazed by her transformation. Eight years ago her current level of fitness seemed impossible. She feels very strongly that if she could do this, anyone else can. If you decide to follow Audrey’s example, go for it, but be careful. Start with a trainer who can show you how to exercise safely to get the results you want.
Next week in Part 3 of Audrey’s story she shares her experiences with transitioning to a mostly plant-based diet.
Please read Part 1 here.
Dr. Jennifer Rooke is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine at Morehouse School of Medicine. She recently joined the faculty at Morehouse to start a lifestyle medicine clinic. Lifestyle Medicine is the use of interventions such as evidenced-based nutrition, physical activity and stress management to treat disease. Dr. Rooke has practiced medicine for over 27 years and is board certified in both Occupational Medicine and Public Health/Preventive Medicine. Dr. Rooke is a fellow of both the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, and the American College of Preventive Medicine. Dr. Rooke serves as adjunct faculty in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at Emory University. Contact the author or visit her website www.advancedlifestylemedicine.com