ASK A TRAINER: 'Do Obese People Need to Lose Weight Before They Begin Exercising?'
Hello everyone. Hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July. Okay, back to work.
"Hi. Someone recommended I write to you with this question. I checked out some of your other posts and I noticed that a lot of people write you that used to be in shape and want to get back in shape. That is not the case with me. I was an overweight kid and a chubby teenager. I am now 25 and am technically considered obese. I've literally never been in a gym to workout and the thought of it terrifies me. I know I need to make a change and I started Weight Watchers and plan on starting to work with a personal trainer. I don't want to hurt myself. Should I wait to lose some weight before I start exercising?"-Ronald H., Greenville, South Carolina
Thanks for the email, Ronald. Man, it was tough to sit down and write this column. I took last week off to spend the holiday with my girlfriend's family in Ohio (all lovely people. We had a wonderful time, thank you.) My iPhone notified me throughout my downtime that my Ask a Trainer inbox was getting more and more full by the hour. As I procrastinated throughout the day, a sort of anxiety about the column built steadily as the hours went by. As my fingers hit these keys, I instantly feel some of the pressure lifted. This doesn't have to be my longest or best column but the fact is my readers have questions and I owe them answers.
My not-so-subtle analogy is in no way meant to be reductive. In fact, if putting off something like writing a single post can make me feel nervous and anxious and intimidated, I am positive that entering into a completely new endeavor that will affect your health and body, must be extremely daunting. Your hesitance is completely understandable but you have already taken some great initial steps (writing me, being one of them.)
I constantly have people tell me they want to start working with me but after they lose that "last 15 pounds." When I hear a phrase like that I know that the person speaking to me will likely never contact me to begin training. Waiting until you are at an ideal weight to begin exercising is like waiting until you have enough money in the bank to have children; it will never be enough.
Even bed-ridden morbidly obese people can begin exercise on some level. People that are bed-ridden or unable to stand can use resistance bands and start incorporating movement into their routine. Regardless of fitness level everyone can begin a program modified to accommodate their particular conditioning. There is no reason to wait. You can start exercising on some level immediately.
You don't need to be a World Class athlete right out of the gate and you don't have to spend hours at a time working out. When I meet with new clients, we talk about setting goals both in the long-term and the short-term. Setting both long-term and short-term goals will help you stay on a program.
Sometimes someone will say to me something like, "My short-term goal is to lose 30 pounds." Losing thirty pounds is not a short-term goal. Ronald, your first goal should be getting into the gym for your first workout. An example of a great short-term goal for you would be to get to the gym three times a week for an entire month.
Your concern about getting injured is also justified and that is why working with a trainer is an excellent idea. Nobody is born knowing exactly how to exercise and a (good) trainer can get you started while ensuring that you don't injure yourself. A really good trainer can help moving toward correcting whatever muscular imbalances you have developed over the years while ensuring that you burn the most calories you can in a given session without jeopardizing your cardiovascular health. A great trainer can motivate you to achieve your goals with empathy.
Ronald, you are about to embark on a journey that requires bravery, willpower, tenacity and a lot of work. Even with the help of a trainer, the hardest work still falls to you, and, if you stick with it that will be the most satisfying part.