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Q & A

Got a question about some aspect of mind-body-spirit fitness? Ask! It can be as earthly as "Can a heart monitor really enhance my workout?" (the short answer to that is yes) or as heady as, "Don't I need to sell all my worldly goods and go live on a mountain top to find enlightenment?" (the short answer here is no). Needless to say, we can't answer every question we receive, but we will take one every month and answer it here. If you've got a burning need to know about something, email us, and you may find your query featured next time around.

I need to lose 15 lbs. and tone up my lower body. I've got a treadmill, elliptical machine and weights ranging from 1–20 lbs. Could you give me some advice on how to use the machines to get what I want?

(Article continued below.)

I can tell you right now that you have just about everything you need to get as much muscle tone as you want! How you use your equipment depends, really, on your own personal preferences. To drop pounds, all you really need to know is that you must burn more calories than you are consuming. So the first thing you need to do is assess how active you are each day with how much you eat. Usually you have to eat a little less and exercise a little more to get results. So if you are, say, exercising on the treadmill or elliptical three times a week and maintaining your weight, kick up the exercise sessions — maybe add an additional workout or two a week — and cut one or two hundred calories out of your daily intake. Perhaps you can eat a lighter dinner by leaving out the starchy carbs, or skip the afternoon caramel latte — basically, cut down on any empty carbs or sugar. Losing weight really is that simple. It's up to you to add the initiative, which is sometimes a little more difficult. It'll help if you schedule in your workouts the same way you do with any other important appointments. And it'll also help if you avoid stocking your kitchen with high-sugar and high-fat foods and snacks.

The weights are key to both muscle tone and weight loss (the more muscle you make, the more calories your body burns). There are any number of ways for you to learn how to best use them. Optimally, you could hire a personal trainer for a few sessions to help you design an effective routine. If having a trainer come to your home is not in the budget, you can buy some exercise DVDs or videos to help you develop a program. Workout DVDs are an easy way to get in the habit of doing regular, structured exercise routines. And contrary to popular belief, exercise videos are not all about aerobics, yoga and Pilates — there are many out there to help you build muscle tone too. We've reviewed a vide variety of DVDs on our site — just visit our toning and exercise review section. Each review mentions the equipment needed, and many of them just require a couple pairs of hand weights. When looking for lower body workouts, keep an eye out for DVDs that include lots of squats and lunges — those will most likely tone your legs up the fastest. For more information on using your weights, there are loads of books on the topic. It's good that you have a lot of different weights — you'll find that your weight requirements will change over time, and that different body parts may need radically different size weights. And even though you want to focus on your lower body, do give some time to your upper body too — toned shoulders look especially nice combined with shapely legs!

As you can see, you have loads of options out there. The secret is staying interested. Vary the intensity of your workouts, or try intervals for a change. Pump up the incline on your treadmill every so often. It's all good, really, as long as you keep exercising regularly. You have set a reasonable goal for yourself, and if you set up a schedule that works for you, choose the exercises you like best and stay consistent, you should get the results you want. Keep in mind that in addition to consistency in your exercise program, watching what you eat will go a long way to helping you lose those extra, unwanted pounds. Good luck!

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