Finding a fitness routine that fits

Each week during the Orlando Sentinel's Weight-Loss Challenge, we pose readers' questions to our team of expert dietitians and fitness specialists. This week, personal trainer Amy Badger responds to a reader.

Question: I have gained more than 30 pounds over the past year and am now the heaviest I have ever been, topping out at 300 pounds.


I am worried about how to get started exercising. I called a gym nearby, but when I asked about their workout, I found that their program is for you to push yourself to the limit for 30 minutes a day, three days a week.

I felt with my obesity and my lack of physical activity that might not be the best way to start. Can you give me pointers on how to get started?


Answer: First, congratulations on taking the first step toward improving your physical fitness.

There are a couple of things I would suggest -- after you check with your doctor.

Get started by choosing a workout you'll want to stick with

- Find an exercise you like and stick with it. For some people, the only exercise that will work for them is an exercise they like to do. My mother is a perfect example. When I started getting into fitness, I tried to get her to walk with me, start a running program or do exercise tapes with me in the living room -- none of which she liked. Then I started teaching step aerobics and, all of a sudden, she realized it was fun! She started easy, on the lowest riser provided and doing the modified versions of everything and quickly advanced.

The moral is this: Try lots of different things until you find the exercise you like best. Stick with it until you start seeing changes in your body and then try something new. My mom now swims three days a week to keep the pressure off her joints while still maintaining her cardiovascular health.

- Never work out under "all-out conditions" unless you are training for an Olympic event. It is not necessary. Have you ever heard of the "talk test"? When you are working out, you should be able to hold a relatively normal conversation. You should not be breathing so hard that you cannot talk to the person next to you.

Remember, you do not start burning body fat until you have exercised for at least 20 minutes. If you work out at an "all-out" effort, you will not be able to sustain your exercise for 20 minutes. You can burn more fat and work out longer if you follow the "talk test" rules.

- Set realistic goals.


You are not going to go to the gym on day one and bang out an hour on the treadmill and a 45-minute strength-training session. Limit your time at the gym so you are not bored, intimidated or overwhelmed.

Pick two or three muscle groups you want to work on. Do two exercises for each muscle group (i.e. biceps curls, hammer curls, stationary lunges, calf raises, abdominal crunch, oblique bicycles). Perform each exercise twice and then spend 25 to 30 minutes doing some cardiovascular exercise -- whether it's on a treadmill or stationary bike. Or walk around your neighborhood; go for a bike ride or a swim for 25 to 30 minutes. You will learn to love exercise when you do not overwhelm yourself with excess exercises, exercise urban legends and the myth that you have to spend two hours in the gym a day to lose weight.