How do I get fit?

The Food Forum's Evil Twin. Trying to lose weight or get in shape? Tips, encouragement, status reports, and so forth go here.
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Lazar
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How do I get fit?

Postby Lazar » Thu Aug 26, 2010 9:55 pm UTC

Hey Fit Club! I'm pretty much a neophyte to the whole exercise thing, but this year I really want to get myself in shape. I'm male, 5'10", between 140-145 pounds, and I have an annoying lack of muscle. My arms and stomach have a sort of soft flabbiness to them, and I get winded doing tasks that probably shouldn't get me winded (i.e. walking a few miles, doing several flights of stairs, carrying large objects). As for diet, I usually have moderately-sized meals in the late morning and the evening, plus a snack at some point.

So what would you suggest for a fitness routine to build me up a bit? I have access to a university gymnasium.
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Nath
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Re: How do I get fit?

Postby Nath » Fri Aug 27, 2010 1:20 am UTC

Fitness is a multi-dimensional thing, but for an untrained person looking to get in shape, strength is usually the first thing that needs to be built. There are many approaches to strength training, but one of the simplest and most effective is compound movements with free weights, and progressively increasing resistance. Many people on this forum have had good results with a book called Starting Strength; it describes the basic barbell lifts in detail, and has a simple, sensible beginner's program (which exercises, how many sets and reps, how to pick the weights etc.).

You'll also want to improve your cardiovascular conditioning and work capacity. While the traditional way to do this is through extended low intensity work like jogging, higher intensity stuff like interval training, sprints and complexes has several advantages. You can also get your quota of conditioning through a suitable sport (i.e. not table tennis). Note that intense conditioning work and sports can interfere with your strength training, so it makes sense to start easy with this until your strength base is established. (Or you can do both simultaneously, but you may need to slow down your strength training accordingly.)

Once you have these basics down, it may make sense to pursue other physical attributes (e.g. speed, various kinds of endurance), depending on your interests and weaknesses.

Note that this sort of training will increase the amount of food and sleep that you need. You didn't say what your two meals are made of, but chances are you'll need more protein, and probably more calories overall.

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Jacque
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Re: How do I get fit?

Postby Jacque » Fri Aug 27, 2010 4:26 pm UTC

Get fit: Lift heavy stuff. Move around more.

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savanik
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Re: How do I get fit?

Postby savanik » Fri Aug 27, 2010 4:26 pm UTC

I actually had the same problem all through college - weighed 135 lbs, 6' even, never could put on an ounce of weight (including muscle). I was constantly hungry, didn't watch what I ate at all. I also ran all over campus with a 30 lb backpack full of books every day and usually skipped breakfast because I was waking up late.

Diet is the first key. Exercise the second. As far as diets, there are two concepts: catabolic and anabolic. Catabolic is for those trying to lose weight, and there's much FUD and outright lies out there. Anabolic is for people trying to gain weight, and the information there tends to be more accurate, amusingly. Make sure you get breakfast - it's important for building strength.

After that, the book Nath recommends is pretty darn good. Interval training is brutal, but brutally effective. I would highly recommend it - once you've got some lower level conditioning done first. Otherwise, it may be a bit tough to keep up with it. Check out 'Tabita Intervals'.

Above all, learn to listen to what your body tells you and understand what it's saying. There's distinct differences between 'muscle exhaustion' and 'lactic acid buildup' - the former will help you build muscle, the second one just hurts like hell, but takes just a few seconds to clear out. Especially know the difference between those two and 'structural failure' pain. If you push yourself too hard, you can run yourself into the ground pretty easily, and injuries take a lot of training time to heal up.
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Lazar
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Re: How do I get fit?

Postby Lazar » Sat Aug 28, 2010 5:45 pm UTC

Okay, for my first serious exercise, like, ever, I just did 20 mins on a treadmill at 4 mph. This left me drenched in sweat, and feeling about as wobbly as if I had had 3 or 4 drinks. Is this wise?
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Nath
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Re: How do I get fit?

Postby Nath » Sat Aug 28, 2010 8:30 pm UTC

Nothing inherently wrong with getting sweaty and wobbly (as long as you stay reasonably hydrated), but for someone trying to gain muscle, slow long-distance running is not something you want to emphasize. If you do decide to go into running, and want a more gradual introduction, look up 'Couch to 5K'. Just don't expect to put on much muscle in the process.

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Re: How do I get fit?

Postby fooliam » Sun Aug 29, 2010 12:24 am UTC

If you're trying to put on muscle, doing distance runs on a treadmill isn't gonna help you very much. When is the last time you saw a distance runner that wasn't skinny? Never.

If you're trying to put on muscle, you are going to want to do short bursts of high intensity effort. Weight lifting, and if you're looking to increase your overall fitness, sprinting. If you have access to a track at a local highschool or college, use it. Start off with something simple...4 laps of 85% effort on the straights, walking the turns (be sure to warm up with a couple laps of jogging first though). It doesn't sound like much, but you'll be tired afterwards. This is whats known as interval training. Interval training is short periods of high-intensity effort mixed with longer periods of low to moderate effort (walking or light jogging, generally). Google "interval workouts" or "sprint interval workouts" and you should come across a number of different workouts for you to do. Alternate your interval workout days with days of going to the gym and doing high weight, low rep sets. At the end of a set, you should be feeling fatigued. If you aren't, add 5 more pounds, then do another set. Keep doing that until you get to a weight that is making you tired. Do things in 4 sets of 6 repetitions per set. take 3 minutes between sets (it will feel like a long time). Do exercises like squats, dumbbell bench press, seated rows, overhead dumbbell press, and pullups (even if you can't do a pull up, give it your best effort 6 times and call it a set. Your muscles respond to tension, and even if you barely move, you will be creating that tension).

Any of that not make sense?
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Re: How do I get fit?

Postby folkhero » Sun Aug 29, 2010 5:31 pm UTC

The 1A most important thing in finding an exercise routine is to find something that you are willing to keep up. The greatest exercise program in the world isn't going to do you much good if you quit it after a month. Your best bet is to try a bunch of stuff and figure out what you can see yourself doing for the next several years. When you find something you like, don't worry about people telling you it isn't an optimal workout.

For me, what works is mild to moderate weight training at my house. I have a couple 20 lb dumbbells and my body weight for resistance. I know I could be getting better results at a gym with lots of weights that I could easily scale up with, but I know that I wouldn't go as often because I like being able to work out whenever I want without having to travel plus I can watch anything that's on my DVR.

A sport might be a good choice if you find one that is enjoyable for you. In addition to practice and games, it might inspire you to exercise more overall since it's a bit more goal based than general self improvement.
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Re: How do I get fit?

Postby TheNorm05 » Sun Aug 29, 2010 8:26 pm UTC

Also if getting to the gym is difficult for you doing bodyweight exercise can also help you to start building up that base strength. The cool part is that you can do push ups and sit ups pretty much where ever. While it's not as efficient as going to the gym and using weights, you can do it at your own pace and you completely cut out travel time. If getting bored is a problem, bring an mp3 player and play some upbeat music to keep you moving. Interval training is also pretty good for cutting weight in a relatively short period of time. If you're a college student try to find someone who works out and it'll help you keep pace, as well as giving you a social reason to work out.

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JamesDarwin
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Re: How do I get fit?

Postby JamesDarwin » Thu Sep 02, 2010 3:23 am UTC

I find this suggestion by TheNorm05 particularly important, whether you are a college student or not: "...try to find someone who works out and it'll help you keep pace, as well as giving you a social reason to work out." I need to have a workout partner or partners to keep me motivated. I stopped working out at the gym for a while, because I thought I wanted the "convenience" of exercising at home, but at home I found it far too "convenient" to let exercise slide--oh, just this one time, of course. Heh! Soon, I had allowed myself to get completely out of the habit. So, unless I know that others are expecting me and vice-versa, holding each other accountable, it's too easy for me to get lazy.

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Jorpho
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Re: How do I get fit?

Postby Jorpho » Fri Sep 03, 2010 2:53 am UTC

And if you can't find someone else to work out with, regularly-scheduled group fitness classes are an option you may wish to consider.

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Re: How do I get fit?

Postby RMgX » Sat Sep 04, 2010 6:11 pm UTC

folkhero wrote:The 1A most important thing in finding an exercise routine is to find something that you are willing to keep up. The greatest exercise program in the world isn't going to do you much good if you quit it after a month. Your best bet is to try a bunch of stuff and figure out what you can see yourself doing for the next several years. When you find something you like, don't worry about people telling you it isn't an optimal workout.

For me, what works is mild to moderate weight training at my house. I have a couple 20 lb dumbbells and my body weight for resistance. I know I could be getting better results at a gym with lots of weights that I could easily scale up with, but I know that I wouldn't go as often because I like being able to work out whenever I want without having to travel plus I can watch anything that's on my DVR.

A sport might be a good choice if you find one that is enjoyable for you. In addition to practice and games, it might inspire you to exercise more overall since it's a bit more goal based than general self improvement.


I agree with this.
Find something that is physically challenging that you really enjoy. I personally like kayaking and cycling, very much an amateur. I don't have to force myself to do these things as opposed to lifting weights. This makes all the difference to me.
I suggest you try some of the basic types of exercises you can do on your own like running, sit ups, push ups, back lifts (don't know the name in english, lying on your belly, possibly tucking your feet under something and lifting your upper body off the floor) jumps etc. See if you enjoy these, they are cheap to do and you don't need to go to the gym. Do cycling if you have a bike. Otherwise try martial arts, or whatever you think is fun. Naturally try the gym as well, but it is nice to be able to do the other types of exercise whenever you feel like it. Training like cycling, running etc isn't going to add a lot of muscle but it will make you more fit. as in able to do physical work. However as Nath noted you'll have to eat more.
Two meals are probably not enough! Make sure you eat at least 3 meals per day, breakfast lunch and dinner, if possible add a few snacks. You won't be building any muscle without food. This is probably the main reason for your low weight. Most people I know who are skinny simply eat too little (don't take offence at this, I was skinny for most of my life, I am also assuming you are a guy and not a gal), some people are skinny but sort of strong, those are the ones that don't eat enough compared to the large amounts of training they do (cyclists and long distance runners are typical examples) Make sure you east more protein at least 1g day/kg of body weight, try to make it a bit more. Drink milk, eat eggs, meat, fish, tofu, lentils, etc. Keep this up over the years and you will build muscle. You don't really need whey protein supplements etc unless you train alot, and want to build lots of muscle and you don't really need it then either. The reason I am not recommending it is because lots of people find it upsets their stomach and it distracts from keeping track of the other stuff you eat.
Do you eat crap food like instant ramen, fries, etc? if so start eating properly balanced meals instead with carbohydrates, fat and protein. If you actually start exercising regularly you don't want any of those fad diets without carbohydrates, those are for loosing weight, you want to gain it, if you loose the carbohydrates, you'll start burning your protein and fat instead. If you start getting too fat, preferably up the amount of exercise while cutting back somewhat on the food. To build muscle you are basically going to have to put on a little extra weight from time to time anyhow.
To improve your general endurance make sure you walk or bike more to get around. This kind of exercise is free, it will improve your endurance quite a bit compared to no exercise and it will increase your appetite.


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