The News Journal: Jen Rini | March 10, 2016
The phrase “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you” is painted in black letters on the wall of a sprawling exercise room in Powerhouse Gym in Seaford.
Becky Evaristo has taken that mantra seriously over the last three years.
“I love this,” she said in between squats and deadlifts one Monday evening during an all-female SWEAT (Speed, Weights, Endurance, Agility, Training) class at the gym.
One of her biggest takeaways from her SWEAT sessions is this: “I can do anything for 30 seconds,” she said with a laugh.
The SWEAT room is called the Wonder Woman room. Because we wonder why we are here and how we finish, Evaristo joked. Since she’s begun training, she can flip a tire and lift more than 225 pounds. Her next goal is to do a chin-up without any help.
“There’s nothing I can’t do,” she said.
Evaristo said she isn’t looking to prance around in bikinis, but still decided to join the News Journal’s annual health challenge “Take It Off” to help keep her accountable and lose a few stubborn pounds.
Our 12-week health challenge Take It Off, sponsored by Christiana Care Health System, is all about dropping to a healthy weight to help stave of chronic diseases such as diabetes. And in its first five weeks, participants are taking that weight loss seriously, losing 1,135 pounds.
To lose weight you can’t just change the way you eat, experts say. You have to move.
Exercise burns calories and increases the body’s muscle mass, which increases calorie-burning metabolism. The more muscle you have than fat will help you burn more calories after a workout, when your body is resting.
However, as a study in the journal Best Practice and Research Clinical Gastroenterology confirmed, exercise is “only effective if sustained.” It recommended people set goals, monitor their progress and engage friends and family on the weight-loss journey.
When you reach your goal that doesn’t mean you can stop exercising, says Sydney O’Brien, personal trainer with Anytime Fitness in Bear.
“It’s something you have to keep doing,” she said. “It (weight-loss) doesn’t maintain itself.”
We talked to O’Brien and other fitness experts about how to maximize the calorie burn and keep those pounds from adding up with regular exercise. Here’s what they had to say:
Lose fat, build muscle
People may change their eating habits and see fat loss, explains Tricia Jefferson, a nutritionist and director of Healthy Living and Strategic Partnerships at the YMCA of Delaware.
“But you are not gaining any muscle,” she said. “That is why people will gain that weight back really easily.”
Fat does not turn into muscle, added Jefferson.
Ideally you melt fat and build lean muscle, said O’Brien. It’s important to build that muscle in a functional way. Muscles will better process the glucose we get from food we eat as energy instead of having it build up as fat.
“We want to train so that our bodies are able to do what we want them to do without having to think twice about it,” she said.
Without muscle, joints also have no support around them, she added, which can make people more susceptible to injury.
Mix cardio with resistance training
Start with at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day. This is an activity that gets your heart pumping such as walking briskly (approximately a 15-minute mile), shoveling snow, playing with your kids or leisurely biking around the neighborhood.
High-intensity interval training classes are popular now, Jefferson said, which are more vigorous and alternate between short bursts of anaerobic, or metabolism boosting, exercise and a less-intense recovery period. The intense short bursts should be less than 2 minutes to burn maximum calories.
Cardio burns more calories at first and strength or resistance training with weights helps build muscle.
“It doesn’t mean they have to lift heavy weights,” Jefferson said.
Body weight exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, leg lifts and planks are also beneficial because they tone different muscle groups. For example, a single-leg push-up works the abdominal core.
During a SWEAT class at Powerhouse, Evaristo and others pair up and go through different workout stations. They jump on tires, do squats with weights and swing weighted TRX ropes in 30-second intervals.
You have to listen to your body, Evaristo advised, but she said “I have not turned back since.”
Think about calorie burn realistically
People often underestimate their calorie burn.
“It’s easy to eat more calories than we burn,” said Jefferson.
Start by logging what you are eating during the day, said O’Brien, and see where you can make adjustments to your diet. But don’t starve yourself.
“Truth is your body is going to be more hungry once your metabolic rate is increased,” O’Brien said. “Look at distributing (food) better throughout the day to keep you less hungry.”
To avoid overeating think about your snacks strategically. Eat a small snack like a piece of peanut butter toast about an hour before working out and have a protein-filed snack, like a small apple and string cheese, ready to eat on your way home if you need.
Try not to reward yourself with food after completing a tough workout, Jefferson said, because that will just erase all your progress. Set a reward that makes sense, like treating yourself to a new fitness outfit, scheduling a trip with friends or getting a massage.
“As long as they stick to a healthy lifestyle they will see change,” she said.
Share success, and failures
We set individual goals, but it’s important to include family and friends.
Evaristo said after joining Powerhouse Gym her coach and fellow gymgoers pushed her to do a weight-lifting competition. And at age 57 she dead-lifted 225 pounds. When she told her husband about her success during the competition, she said the look of pride on his face made her feel especially accomplished.
“I am amazed I can do it,” she said.
People in your support system may not have the same goals, Jefferson said, but they can help you stay motivated.
“The more support you have the better,” she said.
Try different exercises
If it’s been some time since you’ve exercised, perhaps think about what activities you were drawn to when you were growing up.
Finding something you actually enjoy doing is key, explains Terry Borkland, Healthy Living Coordinator of the YMCA of Delaware and former coach for the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program.
“You got to get the desire there,” Borkland said
Miracles don’t happen overnight
The scale may move a lot in the beginning. You could see some weight reduction, but once you increase muscle mass, you can gain weight.
“You can do a lot without the scale weight actually moving,” O’Brien said. “Just because one day didn’t go as planned doesn’t mean you’ve completely failed at your goal.”
People are going to feel a little better as time progresses, Borkland said.
“Once you can get someone to exercise…you feel better. You sleep better. You are able to do things you weren’t able to do before,” she said.
Making holistic changes will help you make progress, Evaristo added.
“It’s a lifestyle. I don’t have much faith in things like Jenny Craig,” she said. “There’s always room for improvement.”