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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.


After swimming twice a week for the past three years I decided to bump up my exercise plan to lose weight - I've got 50 pounds to go, although I'm not in bad shape. Here's my exercise regime - three days a week I do a full-body weight workout, two sets of ten reps for each machine. I swim or do water aerobics for at least an hour on those days too. One day I do an hour and a half of floor aerobics, plus 45 minutes of water aerobics. One day I jog for 40 minutes. Two days are rest days. I eat from 1800 to 2800 calories daily (lots of veggies, seafood and soy). It's been three weeks now and I haven't lost any weight. What am I doing wrong?


(Article continued below.)

Your case is a matter of doing too much - too much exercise and too many calories. Since your focus is losing weight, let's look at your diet first - while it's great that your diet is a healthy one, 2800 calories in a day is too much for weight loss. Most women who are interested in losing weight should consume only about 1800 calories a day - if you're over 35 you may have to go as low as 1500. In addition, you might want to keep a food journal - people often underestimate the amount of food they're eating. Those days when you think you're only eating 1800 calories, it may surprise you when you start adding up portions, snacks and "tastes" (yes those couple of crackers count!). The amount of food you consume really determines your weight more than anything else. Women who are professional fitness competitors know that diet is 75% of the work when it comes to getting lean. They want as little fat as possible covering their toned muscles. The same thing goes for your average, everyday woman too - while exercise is of utmost importance, the amount you weigh is ultimately determined by your diet.

Now let's look at your exercise regime. While I have to commend you for working so hard, you really don't need to! When it comes to aerobics you only need an hour a day, max. You can even get away with a half hour or 45 minutes, as long as you're working up a good sweat. It's good that you're varying cardio styles, but only do one type per day - water aerobics one day, for example, jogging another, floor aerobics the next. You can burn yourself out if you push yourself too much and that invites injury, so give yourself permission to tone it down. What you really need is to pay more attention to your weight training. It sounds like you're doing exercises by rote and not really paying attention to how much your muscles are really being worked. Are you performing each set to failure, so that you feel you couldn't do one more rep with good form? Or when you're done with your set, do you feel like you could keep going? You need to be using heavy enough weights to challenge your muscles - that's the only way you'll make progress and gain muscle definition. And the more muscle you build, the more calories you'll burn in the long run, since muscle mass burns calories at a much higher rate throughout the day than fat mass does. Instead of working your whole body every session, you may want to consider focusing on one area of your body at a time - maybe chest, shoulders and triceps one day, lower body another day and back and biceps a different day. This gives you a chance to really do a concentrated workout for those body parts. (And keep in mind that the body parts you weight train should be given a chance to rest the next day - in other words, don't do a heavy swimming session the day after a hard upper body workout, or run or do high impact aerobics the day after you've worked your legs.) An even better idea would be to temporarily hire a personal trainer for a few sessions to design an effective program for you. A personal trainer will assess your regime and diet, and give you the proper direction to achieve your goals. And, as you've learned in the past three weeks, it's all about goals. If you're going to work hard, after all, you want to make sure you get results!

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