Everyone knows that exercise is great for your health. It
can help you trim down, gain stamina, decelerate the aging
process etc, etc, etc. Then why is it so hard for us to get
started? The answer is: You need a plan.
As a WNBF Natural Figure Pro and certified personal
trainer and fitness instructor, Tara Marie Segundo, M.A.
was able to explain this and many other questions we have
regarding exercise. The following is an abridged transcript
of our recent teleseminar: Top 10 Questions I Am Asked As a
Q #1: I don’t necessarily want to bulk up, but want a
toned and lean body. What do you think I can add to my
cardiovascular regimen that will help me build strength but
There is a common misconception that women can bulk up with
weight training. Women don’t have the same testosterone
levels as men, and by virtue of that, bulking up is not
something that would just accidentally happen. As a
natural athlete (meaning I use no pharmacological aids), I
had to work for YEARS intentionally doing high-intensity,
high volume training to build the muscle that I have.
I would recommend weight training with an amount of weight
that allows you to fatigue by 8 to 10 repetitions in any
given set, for any given exercise. If that seems too
heavy, then select a weight with which you can do 12-15
repetitions per set. Most gyms also offer a wide variety
of conditioning classes if you are not weight room savvy.
Toning muscle is building muscle. You are simply stating
that you are not interested in doing high-intensity, high
volume training that will yield a heightened degree of
muscle growth. Also keep in mind that weight training is
an excellent way to build bone density, which should be a
concern for all women.
Q. #2: What are some things you can do to keep yourself
motivated, especially after the initial enthusiasm wanes?
Don’t rely on motivation in the first place. Motivation
comes and goes, but making a plan and sticking to it will
work. You have to think of it like this: all of us do
things everyday that we don’t want to do, but we do it
anyway because the result is what we want. I don’t clean
my toilet because I love cleaning toilets; I clean my
toilet because I want my bathroom to be clean. I don’t
wash the dishes because I love washing dishes, but if I
don’t I would be looking at a huge pile of plates in the
Set specific, measurable goals and then design a plan to
achieve those goals. If you don’t plan, you are basically
planning to fail.
Q #3: I don’t have much time to exercise. Are there any
simple 10-20 minute exercises that I can do at home or at
the office without the need of any equipment that will keep
my energy up and my muscles working?
Exercising at home is a great idea for people that are so
busy that even a short commute to the gym will wipe out
precious moments they could be devoting to their workouts.
There are plenty of exercises that can be done at home with
an exercise mat, resistant bands, tubing, dumb bells, or in
some cases, nothing at all. It would be impossible for me
to outline exercises without a detailed explanation, but
there are so many exercise DVD’s on the market today that
will lead you through a complete routine.
You could also hire a personal trainer to teach you a home
program that you can do on your own. If you want to
exercise at home, there are plenty of ways to work the
entire body using different types of resistance, and you do
not need much space.
Q. #4: My biggest problem is not weight loss but stress,
but I get stressed out every time I think about doing
anything strenuous–even to exercise. What kinds of fitness
routines or workouts would you recommend to relieve stress
without me getting stressed out over it?
If exercise or the obligation of exercise is getting you
stressed out, RELAX. Doing something that is good for the
body is not so good if you are adding stress to your life.
Think of it like this: do what you can, as best you can,
as often as you can. Maybe this week got crazy and you
only worked out twice…that’s OK, next week will probably be
better and maybe you can squeeze in a extra session.
You don’t have an hour for your workout today? That’s OK,
do a half-hour, and do it well. Life is unpredictable, but
things tend to balance out if you squeeze in time when you
can. Fifteen minutes one day and thirty- five minutes the
next is almost one full hour. Add in more time here and
there and you have made a good effort.
Q. #5: I hate exercise. Can’t I just diet and get the same
Absolutely not! Dieting slows the metabolism, and this is
the last thing that you want to do when you are trying to
transform your body. The only way to maintain lasting
weight loss is to cut your caloric intake in addition to
ADDING MOVEMENT to your life.
Exercise revs the metabolic rate, and high intensity
exercise keeps the metabolic rate higher than normal for
longer than lower intensity exercise.
The more you move, the better; the more intensely you move,
the better. As you build muscle from moving, your
metabolic rate becomes higher once again, as muscle is
metabolically active tissue and fat is not.
It is always better to eat 500 fewer calories and burn 500
additional calories with exercise than it is to just eat
1,000 fewer calories. When the body believes that it is
being starved, it slows down its metabolic rate to preserve
Q. #6: How do I get rid of this big gut that I have
developed over the years?
Your big gut is fat, my friend. Doing all the sit-ups in
the world will leave you with very strong abdominal
muscles, only no one will see them under that big gut!!
One must always consider two things when setting out to
reshape the body: body fat and muscle.
Building beautiful, strong and toned muscles is a great
thing. Layers of body fat will hide your efforts, though.
Reshaping and redesigning the body is achieved by doing two
things: lowering your body fat content with a caloric
deficit and aerobic activity and shaping your muscles with
consistent resistance training.
Q. #7: Should I use free weights or machines at my gym?
From a professional standpoint, I love free weights and
cables. As far as I am concerned, machines lock you into a
movement pattern that is not necessarily right for your
Free weights also require more effort on the part of the
participant, as one must stabilize the muscles of the
torso, pelvic girdle, shoulder girdle, etc., to effectively
use them. Machines allow you to sit on a gadget, grab the
handles, and go!
The caveat is that in order to effectively use free weights
and cables, one must have an understanding of how to safely
use them or they become “accidents waiting to happen.” If
you don’t know what you are doing, invest in hiring a
personal trainer even for a few sessions, so you can learn
about proper biomechanics.
Q. # 8: I am too overweight to exercise. Every time I try,
I injure myself. What can I do?
Obese clients have the most success in a swimming pool. If
your gym or local YMCA has a pool, it probably offers a
variety of aquatic exercise classes, as well.
When a client is very over weight, it is true that great
care must be taken to make exercise safe. Exercising in a
pool is easy on the joints but can be quite intense at the
same time. You can do both cardiovascular and resistance
training in a pool, and you don’t have to know how to swim.
Q. #9: What exercises can I do to get rid of the fat on my
back? It looks so ugly when my bra cuts into it.
Similar to the question about getting rid of one’s gut, fat
is fat. You can do all the back training that you wish,
but until you lower your body fat levels overall, the fat
will remain. There is no such thing as spot training,
except in the sense that you can strengthen certain “spots”
by doing exercises targeted to strengthen certain muscles.
You can not lose fat in a specific area, but rather your
body fat levels will decrease in general…Don’t shoot the
Q. #10: Do I have to do cardiovascular training? I hate
it, but I do enjoy weight training.
Let me tell you my dirty little secret: I don’t normally
do cardio, either. I weight train at high intensity levels
5 or 6 days a week and living in NYC, I am always chasing a
bus, running to catch a subway, walking 12 blocks to get my
groceries, schlepping up stairs, etc. My lifestyle allows
me to get away with it. I also always take the stairs
instead of the escalator, I always stand when I could sit,
and I generally move a lot throughout my day.
If you have a very sedentary life, I would recommend doing
cardiovascular training 20-30 minutes, 3x a week for heart
health. If you are fat and wish to lose weight, I would
bump that up to 5 or 6x per week.
If however, you are in the gym pumping iron 5 or 6 times a
week and you move more than you are still, you may not need
cardio to get the look that you want. Again, with regards
to your heart health, consult your doctor before you stop
doing cardio just because you don’t like it. You may
require this type of training based on other factors.
Tara has worked in the fitness industry for 23 years and
currently lives in New York City where she is a freelance
writer, personal trainer, and a fitness consultant. For
more information, please visit www.taramariesegundo.com.
Everyone knows that exercise is great for your health. It