Health & Fitness
How to Start a Workout Program When Youre Very Overweight
5by Amy Roberts
Weight loss is daunting for anyone and can be downright petrifying for someone who has a significant amount to shed. A big thing that keeps many obese individuals from starting a fitness program is believing they are already too far gone, says Alexander McBrairty, personal trainer and owner of A-Team Fitness in Ann Arbor, MI, and fitness competitor who once was 80 pounds overweight. But every person Ive ever known who went through a substantial weight loss journey, myself included, will tell you its the best thing they ever did, and their only regret was not doing something about it sooner.
Without question, what you eat is the most important aspect (80 percent of your effort, according to most experts). (Check out some of ourdiet programs.) The other 20 percent, of course, is how much you move. In addition to boosting your calorie deficit, exercise does all those good things that doctors on TV talk about, including reducing risks of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and improving sleep and mood.
So, here are five things you need to consider before you get movingliterally.
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Lets face it: It may have been awhile since youve followed a workout routine (or, you know, ever). Its never wise to go from 0 to 6,000 burpees, but its particularly important to take things slowly when youve got a lot of extra weight on your frame. Ankle and knee injuries are more common among obese exercisers, so special care should be taken to control for this by avoiding high-impact exerciseanything involving running or jumping, McBrairty says. (Also avoid these bodyweight exercisesthey're particularly bad for knees.) Instead, choose exercises like the elliptical, swimming, or plain ole walking on the treadmill or outside. Biking is another low-impact option, though many obese individuals find that crouched-over position to be quite uncomfortable, he says. Sessions lasting just 20 minutes are plenty at firstyoull likely experience a little post-workout soreness, and the last thing you want is to be so achy that you dont feel like doing it again.
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Make it a habit
More important than workout length is workout frequency, particularly when youre trying to make a lifestyle change. In fact, McBrairty recommends doing those 20-minute low-impact sessions daily. Habits are bred from routine and repetition, and as a result, the more often one can commit to exercise, the better, he says. Many people might think scheduling exercise every day of the week is a bit intense, but as long as you control the intensity and listen to your body, there is nothing wrong with an everyday sweat session. Once youre a few weeks in, lost some weight, and feeling good, you can begin more intense sessions including strength training, with take-it-easy days for recovery.
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Set performance goals
Its all well and good to watch the scaleafter all, thats the whole point of this process. But when it comes to staying motivated in the gym, creating some benchmarks to show your progress is also a good idea. That could be walking your first 5K in two months, or swimming a quarter mile in the pool without stopping. The short-term goal will help keep you focused and working toward a realistically achievable goal, while simultaneously supporting progress toward your long-term goal, McBrairty says.
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You dont need to sign up for a running (or walking) race in order to get your competitive juices flowing. Aiming simply to outdo yourself day to day or week to week in terms of your workout duration or intensity can provide motivation and incentive to keep on trekking. When I first began a running program as I was trying to lose to weight, my only goal for every workout was to go a little bit further without stopping than I did the day before, says McBrairty. Some days this was all the way to the next block, and some days I had to fight just to get to the next driveway. The point is: Try, and keep trying some more.
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Dont give up
The goal of all this, especially at the beginning, is to reset your lifestyle habits. But just like you didnt get to your top weight overnight, itll take time and consistency to reverse the process. And even if the going gets tough, even if the scale stalls, even if life gets busy, even if you fall off the wagon, figure out how to make healthy changes that work for you and keep on trucking. Motivation naturally ebbs and flows over time, so its unrealistic to assume you will be forever motivated to get up and exercise, says McBrairty. The real key to a successful fitness program is to get your internal autopilot readjusted to make healthy choices automatically.
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