Dear Tara Marie,
I really need some inspiration. I’m having a tough time getting to the gym regularly and eating well. I don’t know what’s wrong with me but I am feeling really unmotivated, and I just hate what’s happening to my body after all of the hard work that I put in to get where I am now. I really need some inspiration. Can you help me?
Thanks, Carolyn, New York City
I have gone through what you are describing many times, especially after a knee surgery, serious injury or an illness that takes me out of my usual routine for an extended period.
Two things are happening: 1) you are physically out of shape and not where you want to be, and 2) you are mentally out of shape and not where you need to be to make a shift in your life.
There is a mind-set that you had when you were at your physical peak, and you need to get this back, as well as get your training on track.
We want to slowly get your body moving toward your goal and, at the same time, get you mentally in the game of consistent training and conscious eating.
Try my 3-week jump start plan to course-correct fast!
Dear Tara Marie,
How do you motivate a 70 year old obese, arthritic woman to change her way of life? Suffice it to say, she has a complicated medical history and I don’t believe she is in the right mindset to see this through. She has lost weight but does not keep it off. I am sure you have heard this story before. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions you have. I should add that I am speaking of my mother who is a grandmother to a gorgeous and intelligent 3 year old girl. I look forward to your response.
Thank you so much for writing and my heart goes out to you. My experience has shown me that when people don’t want help, it can be like talking to a brick wall. If I were taking this case, I would connect with her and figure out why she’s not in the right mindset to take the help she’s being offered. Is it because she’s given up? Is it because the poor woman is in severe pain from her arthritis? I would start here and address this issue first. When I have a client who is not willing or ready to change (although it’s clear that she’s not enjoying her life) I figure out why she doesn’t want to change and work on that before I launch into an elaborate program.
If your Mom has given up, she may need to see some semblance of progress before she believes in herself again. I would bargain with her to take a few small steps. There’s nothing like success to make you want more success. If the issue is that she’s in pain and fears that exercise will create more pain, I would show her some specific exercises that she can do without pain. 70 is not very old these days, and the truth is, if she were not obese her joints would not hurt as much as they do. Sometimes it’s getting past the first 4-6 weeks of adjusting to a new way of life and then we can coast!
Again, nail down why she’s resistant to helping herself and conquer this issue before you worry about anything else. Until she’s a willing participant, there is little that you can do unless you monitor her 24/7 and impose your will on her—which is next to impossible unless she’s put in a rehab situation where she loses personal control of her life.
I hope this helps, and good luck!
Most of the ASK TARA MARIE emails I receive are from people with whom I have never worked. I recently got an email from a client who I have trained off and on for several years. We stopped meeting in mid-December because he said that the end of the year is busy and we would pick up again in January. When I didn’t hear from him by mid-month I emailed, and he said he was awaiting lab results from his doctor and would be in touch…I never heard back. Three weeks later, I emailed him again and got a reply, which I posted below along with my advice. If it seems that my words are harsh, please understand that the situation had reached a critical point, and hand-holding is not what he needed. Someone had to tell him the truth without mincing words because at that point, his life was at stake. We often take our health for granted until the first stroke or heart attack, and this is foolish disrespect of the human body.
Here is Sam’s letter:
Hi Tara Marie,
I am 57 years old, and I started weight training about two years ago. If I exercise one part of the body, how many days should I rest before I exercise the same body part again?
Thanks for writing! This is a great question and it’s one that I am often asked. There are three basic components that must be considered for muscle growth:
If, for instance, you work your chest on Monday, wait at least 24 hours before repeating a chest workout. I say “at least” because, if you are sore, I recommend waiting until the soreness has calmed.
You can do a great job working your muscles, and you can give your body great nutrition in the form of supplementation, water, and food, yet you can still hamper your development if you do not give your muscles proper rest.
Dear Tara Marie,
I just began an exercise program. I have always heard about the aerobic “target heart rate range,” but I don’t know how to find my range or what it represents. Please help!
Laurie, Staten Island, NY
I totally understand your confusion! The “target heart rate range” is considered the range in which you can do your cardiovascular activity “aerobically,” meaning depending primarily on the aerobic energy-generating process. The term aerobic literally means “living in air” and refers to the use of oxygen to meet energy demands during exercise via aerobic metabolism. Generally, light-to-moderate intensity activities that are supported by aerobic metabolism can be performed for extended periods of time.
Some people must monitor their heart rate diligently due to a past cardiac event or another health issue. These people should wear a heart rate monitor, which will provide an accurate, up-to-the-minute reading of their heart rate.
For people for whom there is no cardiac concern, there are 3 easy ways to gauge exercise intensity, and I teach all 3 methods to my clients.
Dear Tara Marie,
I will be heading off to college in the fall and want to look and feel my best. How do I enjoy my social life at school without gaining the “Freshman 15?”
No problem! Want to have a social life but still watch your weight? There are easy ways to be festive but not pack on the pounds. Here are some tips to keep your waistline in check and still enjoy la dolce vita. When you go out to party remember these…AND have fun!
1. Don’t be a two-fisted eater. Slow down, chew, talk, and keep one hand free to wave at cute guys across the room!
2. Drink smart. If you want to drink alcohol, drink one glass of sparkling water between imbibing in the fun stuff! This will fill you up and slow down your intake of alcohol (and empty calories).
3. NEVER go to a party famished. There are two reasons for this: there may not be any healthy fare offered, and also, being hungry will undoubtedly lead to binge eating.
4. No loitering allowed! Back away from the buffet after you have filled a plate, and go to the other side of the room to mix and mingle. Lingering by the buffet table will encourage mindless eating.
5. Size matters! Instead of using an entrée plate, grab an appetizer plate and fill ‘er up. Our eyes can trick our brains into believing that we are getting more food when the plate looks full!
Hi Tara Marie,
I have fibromyalgia, which makes it very difficult to exercise. I exercise for a few days then my body gives out. I have to rest for at least a week. I was wondering if rebounding is a good exercise for me.
Thanks for writing. I am getting more and more calls and letters from people living with fibromyalgia. One of the best things you can do if you have fibromyalgia is exercise.
For reader’s that are not familiar with this condition, Fibromyalgia Syndrome is a chronic pain and fatigue disorder for which the cause is still unknown. The defining fibromyalgia symptom is multiple tender points and pain in the connective tissue of the body such as the muscles, tendons and ligaments. Fibromyalgia symptoms are different from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis because they do not involve the joints. The most common sites of fibromyalgia pain are the neck, back, shoulders, pelvic girdle and hands.
Stress or lack of sleep can make the symptoms of fibromyalgia worse. Additional symptoms may include: irritable bowel and bladder, headaches, facial pain and migraines, restless leg syndrome, impaired memory and concentration, skin sensitivities and rashes, dry eyes, dry mouth, anxiety, depression, impaired coordination, dizziness, vision problems, heightened sensitivity to odors, noise, light, touch and weather change. More women than men have fibromyalgia, and the disorder is quite common—it is seen in up to 5% of the population. Although it is tough to live with, it isn't life threatening and it doesn't cause permanent damage.
Exercise in many different forms, whether stretching, resistance training, walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, etc., are known to be effective for easing the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
The key is to start slowly and increase activity gradually. Consider the following tips:
I am 36 years old and just gave birth to my second child. I am finding it harder to get back in shape after this pregnancy. My first pregnancy was 5 years ago and I bounced back more easily. Can you offer any advice on getting back in shape after delivery?
Abby in Princeton, NJ
Thanks for writing! This is a common situation that I encounter in my practice as a personal trainer. I have worked with many new moms and have found that basic common sense paired with the following advice is very helpful. The main thing to remember is that your body will one day return to some semblance of your pre-pregnancy state, and there are things that you can do to help hasten this process.
You did not mention whether you delivered via C-section or the good old-fashioned way. In any event, getting your doctor’s clearance before returning to exercise is a must. Pregnancy and delivery present quite a trauma to the body, and a certain level of healing must occur before you place additional physical stress on yourself with exercise. Once your doctor gives clearance, consider these tips to help you drop your pregnancy weight:
Breast feed if you can. Breastfeeding can help you shed your excess weight while eating your regular diet. Producing milk uses 200 to 500 calories a day, on average. This may not sound like much, but that can add up to about a pound a week without making any other changes in your daily routine. I know lots of moms that hate to stop breast feeding because it helps them stay lean!
Do short bouts of exercise throughout the day. As a mom caring for a newborn, you can’t expect to have long periods of time during which you can exercise. Take advantage of 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there, to squeeze in some movement. I had a client that had a treadmill in her home and every time she got a short block of time, she would jump on the treadmill and kick out a brisk walk. She clocked an hour a day by doing 10 minutes here and there. This allowed her to care for her new baby and make use of the brief breaks that she had.
Make sure every calorie you are ingesting is nutritious. If you are breast feeding, it is recommended that you do not eat less than 1,800 calories a day so you can produce milk for your baby. If you are not breast feeding, your doctor may allow you to diet. Regardless, your body is in recovery and you need to provide yourself with foods that offer you what your body needs to thrive. Stick to fresh whole foods that come from nature.
With your doctor’s OK, it is safe to slowly ease back into whatever exercise you were doing before you were pregnant. Right after you deliver is not the time to launch into a brand new, physically challenging routine. Walking (alone or while pushing a stroller) is a great form of exercise. If you are a runner, there are some wonderful jogging strollers on the market.
Dear Tara Marie,
Should I use free weights and cables or machines at the gym? I always end up using the machines because I don’t know what to do with free weights. I get really intimidated and don’t even try!
From a professional standpoint, I prefer free weights and cables. Machines lock you into a movement pattern that is not necessarily right for your body. When you use a machine, you just grab the handles and press or pull or whatever the movement may be, but it does not allow you to adjust the movement pattern to your specific needs. For example, perhaps one of your shoulders needs a slightly different angle to function safely and effectively. A machine does not allow for this variation in your movement pattern.
The other thing that makes me err away from machines is that they require less on the part of the participant. When you use a machine, your body does not have to stabilize itself as you would if you were using cables and free weights. This stabilization comes from using muscles in your torso, arms, legs, etc., that keep your body properly positioned while you are working other muscles as primary movers. All these muscles working concomitantly require more effort and you get more bang for your buck, so to speak. Machines require only that you sit on a gadget, grab the handles, and go!