Calorie Counting vs. Exercising
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FITNESS FANATIC: Andrea Volbrecht, 30
Goal: Lose 8 pounds
Starting weight: 126 pounds
Starting BMI: 21 (normal)
Final BMI: 21
Pounds lost: 0
THE CHALLENGE: I haven't exercised regularly in more than five years. Even then, I was your typical cardio junkie devoted to the treadmill, allergic to strength training. But after recently turning the big 3-0 and after two years of marriage, I've packed on 10 pounds most of which landed around my midsection. (My carb-heavy diet of cereal, pizza, and Thai takeout isn't helping, either.) So when my husband relocated to Syracuse, NY, a few months ago for work, I decided to spend the extra alone time at the gym.
THE STRATEGY: For me, working out was an easier change to make than tackling my diet. I signed up for once-a-week, hour-long sessions with Stewart Mackie, a trainer at Reebok Sports Club NY. He also devised a fitness plan for me to follow on my own, which I aimed to pull off three days a week.
THE EXECUTION: The workouts went like this: a five-minute warm-up on the stationary bike followed by a series of circuits that alternated between cardio sprints and ab and leg work. The leg circuits were excruciating Stewart even had me running interval drills (appropriately called suicides!) like I was in junior high gym class again. I admit, I'm a bit wimpy I get tired carrying groceries home so Stewart incorporated 5- and 8-pound weights every week to build my upper body strength. He also introduced me to the Bosu ball for balance exercises to tighten my core muscles and flatten my stomach. When he wasn't at my side, I was putting in 45-minute sessions on my own. On weekends, I did yard work and gardened while visiting my husband to make up for missing the gym.
THE HARD PART: Imagine my frustration when, two weeks in, the scale hadn't budged. I did, however, start noticing subtle changes in my body. I had lost some flab around my middle, and my endurance was up. Those five-minute bike rides had left me out of breath at first; now I was pushing a half-hour at the same intensity. When I mentioned to Stewart that I wasn't losing weight, he explained the bigger picture: I was losing fat but gaining muscle. And since muscle burns calories more efficiently than fat, he assured me that this would work to my advantage for sustained weight loss in the long run.
By week three, life started to get in the way. I skipped three days in a row after an unusual bout of insomnia stress at work plus the five-hour commute to visit the hubby was taking its toll on me. But meeting up for my mandatory session with Stewart helped me bounce back he showed no mercy.
THE RESULTS: Believe it or not, I'm not discouraged by the stubborn scale (at week four, I am back to the regular workouts, and my weight's still the same). In fact, I've learned to stop obsessing over the numbers and enjoy the benefits: I've been waking up more refreshed on the mornings after exercise, and my energy level has skyrocketed. I also find myself looking forward to my workouts for a change Stewart's plan showed me how to infuse my routine with variety, instead of cruising on autopilot.
THE FUTURE: I plan on keeping up with Stewart's workouts, scaling down to three solo sessions a week, and checking in with him every couple of months. While I'm a healthy weight for someone my age, I'd love to see my body back to the fitness level I had in my 20s. The great thing is, I'm finally on the right track.
FITNESS FACT: WOMEN UNDER 35 WHO EXERCISE REGULARLY E.G., RUNNING AT LEAST THREE HOURS PER WEEK HAVE A 23 PERCENT LOWER RISK OF DEVELOPING BREAST CANCER BEFORE MENOPAUSE.
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