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How to get to the gym when you don't feel like it.


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This is the 2nd in a three-part series from Lisa Ann Williamson
who followed a 14-week body transformation program, beginning in March

September 15, 2003

By LISA ANN WILLIAMSON
STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE

There was no cruise. No high school reunion. No plans to make an old boyfriend jealous. That means the only leverage to sticking with a fitness program is the satisfaction of good health and the hope of slim thighs, flat abs and toned arms. Some days that is hardly enough to justify the 10-minute drive to Northeast Fitness in West Brighton. So Tony Books Avilez, personal trainer, coach and weight management consultant suggested throwing some things on the table. Maybe a reward with a trip or cool outfit, something to help get me to the gym on those days when I'm not feeling it. Perhaps I need something to look forward to in my new form, the anticipated "Best Body Ever" as Avilez's program is called.

I'm leaning toward a day at a spa as a reward. Maybe a week. For Avilez, his chosen field as a fitness trainer keeps him coming back to the gym and pumping iron that causes grunts and yelps. He is his best advertisement. His motivation is a new book on abdominals. "I want to be able to put my abs in the book," Avilez laughed. But he admits there are even days when the gym is not on his priority list. We all have them. The goal is to continuing going to the gym anyway.

At this point -- halfway through the 14-week transformation -- this is about the point many people decide to sit out. They see change and decide it's enough. I see more gape in the waistline of my slacks, though the scale reports a meager 3-pound weight loss. I feel strong and energized. While I feel the muscle burn during the workout, the soreness rarely lasts more than a few hours now.

So this gradual method of change to include weight training and aerobics is the key to prolonged activity. While its new and I am sometimes resistant, I don't feel like I'm overdoing it to the point of exhaustion and I know that I will return the next time.

There are some surprises: I was under the misconception that "getting accustomed to the discomfort of exercise" meant that at some point that discomfort would disappear totally.

ENTER PHASE III

Muscle burn is one of the treats of the workouts that target shoulder and legs one day and back and chest another day. I survived Phases I and II, where I dragged myself to the gym and where at some moments, my cheerleader/motivator/coach/trainer, Avilez morphed into an alien when he coached too hard or motivated too much. And yes, there are times I wish he wasn't even there. And more importantly, that I wasn't there. There are times when I can't possibly eat another baked chicken breast, or the idea of tofu and oatmeal is overwhelming.

Just about that time, it's Fun Food Day, which my friends and I have turned into a celebration. But I find I'm not overdoing it. I will have a piece of cake or a slice of key-lime pie and even potato chips. Surprisingly, I don't eat the entire bag of chips. I can stop at one piece of cake. Sometimes it's because I want to have an ice cream cone later or I opt for pancakes with butter and syrup. Some days I skip the chips all together and have a bag o' microwave popcorn or a couple slices of pizza, or a ginger ale, or some bubble gum. It's not the binge fest I would have predicted. And I always include some fruits and veggies on those days.

This transformation goes to those who persevere. I'm transforming a softer body to one with more muscle. That, will in turn, make me more efficient at burning fat. It's not perfection yet.

NUTRITION

The nutrition portion is relatively easy now. I pack three meals to take to the office each morning. If I'm traveling, I grab a protein bar, or stop into a deli for baked chicken and salad greens or a cup of low-fat cottage cheese and some fruit. I keep a daily food journal logging the specifics of each meal, tracking the number of protein grams I eat and amount of water I drink. I also include what exercise I did and how many calories that exercise burned.

Even though the prescribed dietary requirements for building the "Best Body" include lean protein sources like baked chicken, tofu and fish, physicians and dietitians warn against prolonged high-protein diets. High-protein diets may tax the kidneys, cause dehydration and the carbohydrate restriction could lead to fatigue, experts say. "We do know that short-term, people have lost weight and there is evidence of improved lipids, but we don't have a long-term study and it could take years to gather the data," said Dr. Dean Giannone, an internist in private practice in Annadale. The kidneys work much harder to convert protein into energy than when converting carbohydrates into energy.

A 14-week plan "is probably better because it is a finite plan," Dr. Giannone said. Restricting carbohydrates also restricts fluids in the body, Dr. Giannone said. "That's when people lose 10 pounds in three days. When you go back to eating regular foods the fluids and even the weight comes back." The real secret to permanent weight loss and dieting is a well-balanced diet, taking in fewer calories and increasing activity to take off weight slowly, he said. A nutritionist can help calculate the number of calories to get you to your weight-loss goal.

According to the America Dietetic Association, the amounts of protein, carbohydrates and fat are calculated specifically by a person's height, weight, age and physical activity. Using those considerations, it is recommended I consume about 1,500 calories per day. Of that, about 45 percent should come from carbohydrates. For protein, the formula is 1 gram for each kilogram (or 2.2 pounds) of body weight.

So the ADA recommends I consume about 60 grams of protein and 250 grams of carbs, midway through the "Best Body" program, I am up to about 100 grams of protein and 150 grams of carbs a day. My favorite part of this transformation is still the cardio exercise. I have noticed it is not nearly as much of a chore to find time to do it as in the beginning of the plan. I find I like the new challenge of the weights.

I am still, however waiting for my 6-pack abs to show up.



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