I started a workout regimen and now I’m fatter. How is exercise helping if all I want to do is eat?
First, the good news: There are benefits to exercise besides a smaller skirt size. You slash your risk for diabetes, heart disease, and dementia and get the mental-health perks. But to keep your weight in check, make sure “blood sugar levels remain steady so you don’t end up famished and prone to overeat,” says nutritionist Heidi Skolnik. Before exercising, have a snack with 15 to 25 grams of carbs (half a banana works). After exercising, eat a combo of protein and carbs - a couple of good options are plain yoghurt with fresh fruit or a tablespoon of peanut butter on toast. And try keeping a food journal to stay accountable.
When my doctor asks how often I exercise, I’ve been known to include the time I spend cheering at my kid’s soccer game. Hey, I was standing up! Is that bad?
It does count, but it’s better if you’re walking up and down the sideline. Research shows that the more “nonexercise activity” you sneak into your day, the healthier you’ll be and the more kilos you’ll lose. So look for every opportunity to move, like pacing at your kids’ games or strolling around the block during a phone date with a friend. Gadgets like the Fitbit can help keep you motivated: You wear them all day and they tally your movement. Fun/addictive!
I’m such a slow jogger, I hesitate to even call it jogging. Do I still get the kilojoule burn of running?
As long as you’re moving, you’re burning. But pick up the speed even a little and the changes will surprise you: Go from, say, 7km/h (a 9-minute kilometre) to 8 km/h (a 7.5-minute kilometre) and you’ll burn 28 percent more kilojoules, covering the same ground in a shorter amount of time. It’s something to work toward, right?
I come from a family of people who don’t work out - ever - and I’m convinced I was born without the workout gene! Do I have any shot of becoming an “exercise person”?
It’s understandable that you wouldn’t like working out if you never saw anyone in your family doing it. After all, we first learn how to take care of ourselves by observing our parents’ habits, and if making time for fitness wasn’t a priority for the people who raised you, it may indeed feel like exercise is only for those bouncy-ponytail types. But you don’t need to be part of a special gene pool to become an exerciser, says Jillian Michaels, queen of motivating lifelong exercise-avoiders on The Biggest Loser. Her tactic with contestants is to remind them how their lives could change. “Maybe it’s wearing skinny jeans, having better sex, or feeling more confident at work. Or maybe it’s the opportunity to keep up with your kids or dance at your daughter’s wedding someday. Think about these things when you tell yourself you hate exercise enough not to do it,” says Michaels.
I know I’m supposed to engage my abs when I exercise, but I can’t feel them in there. Do I even have abs?
You do, we promise. “Often when you’re upright or on your back, it can be difficult to feel your abdominals,” says Pilates instructor Alycea Ungaro. To get the sensation of working those muscles, try this: Start on all fours with your back straight (not arched or rounded) and let your belly hang down like a hammock. Inhale, then as you exhale, scoop your belly in, pulling it as high and as hollow as you can get it. Repeat this a few times. Just trying to remember the scooped-in feeling can help you engage your abs when you’re exercising, says Ungaro.
Will running make my boobs sag?
It all depends on what you wear. Dr LaJean Lawson, a researcher who specialises in sports-bra biomechanics (kid you not), puts it this way: “There are fairly wimpy interwoven connectors called Cooper’s ligaments that help hold the breast lobes together and in place along the chest wall.” Unfortunately, these ligaments stretch easily - so if you don’t have adequate support, your breast tissue may lose its perkiness and eventually start to head south. But take heart. “My lab research shows that a highly supportive sports bra can greatly minimise the short-term motion and stretching that accelerates long-term sagging,” Lawson says.
I can skip my workout if I’m sore after yesterday’s session, right?
Sorry, but most likely, no. Post-gym soreness is generally a sign that you’ve put your muscles to work. It’s safe and good to exercise through the ache, says sports medicine specialist Dr Marci Goolsby, though you may need to switch up your routine. If your legs are sore from running, maybe try an upper-body workout. The major exception: If the pain is in an isolated area - say, your left quad but not your right - it may indicate an injury that requires rest until you feel better.
How does everybody else seem to know what to do in yoga class? I’m totally baffled.
Rest assured everyone starts off not knowing. But there are ways to learn the lingo and the poses so you’re not folding over your legs when you’re supposed to be standing on one foot. If you’re practicing at a gym or studio, look for beginner’s classes on the schedule - here, teachers don’t assume you’re a master yogi, so they’ll guide you step-by-step. Yoga DVDs and YouTube videos can also be a great way to learn what goes on in a class.
Experts always say that “some exercise is better than no exercise.” But if I have 10 minutes, should I bother?
Yes! “First, it’ll get you into the habit of daily exercise,” says Ramona Braganza, a personal trainer who has worked with Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Alba. “Not to mention, 10 minutes of exercise seven times a week adds up to 1,600 to 2,000 kilojoules (400-500cal) burned each week. That’s 8,000 kilojoules in a month!” Even if you only have 10 minutes, try to do both strength and cardio, Braganza says. “Cardio burns kilojoules during the exercise, but strength training increases muscle mass, which means you’ll burn more kilojoules after the workout is over.” One easy way to do it? Jog in place for three minutes, then run through a quick routine using an app like the “7 Minute Workout Challenge,” which you can download on your smartphone.
What’s the best way to start exercising if I’m totally out of shape - so much so that a flight of stairs is a problem?
Just put one foot in front of the other - literally. Walking is nothing to be ashamed of; it’s real exercise, and there are athletic people and celebs with amazing bodies who use it to stay in shape, says Harley Pasternak, a Hollywood personal trainer who has worked with Halle Berry and Rihanna. “I give all my clients a pedometer and tell them to take at least 10,000 steps a day,” he says. Baby steps - thousands of them - is what improving your fitness is all about.