Steve, in my younger days I was a hotshot hiker,
doing trail work and climbing all over the Sierra
Nevada. Now I'm a 38-year-old father of two (one
more on the way) with a gut the size of Mt.
Whitney. I miss the mountains and, even more
than that, the trim figure I cut as 20-year-old
mountain goat. What first steps should I take to
find my way back to those glory days?
Walt, Naugatuck, Connecticut
Well, I'd say the first thing is to learn about birth control, but since I don't want to step over the line from
preaching to meddling, I'll leave that up to you. As for
me, I have two monkeys of my own, so who am I to talk?
In any event, I've always found that getting into shape
is so much harder than falling out of shape, especially
when the demands and desires of parenthood conspire
against you. There much be some cruel law of the
universe governing this, don't you think? Nevertheless,
there's hope. The key is to set reasonable goals and
commit yourself to a realistic program of training.
Operative concepts here are "reasonable" and
"realistic". If you charge out of the gate with a self-commitment to run or lift weights every single day,
you're almost destined to fail. Set yourself on a program
you know you can fulfill. That might mean walking for
30 minutes four days a week. It might mean pushing a
baby jogger 15 minutes two days a week. It might mean
running every day. But the important thing is to set up
a program you know you will follow. Too many people
dive into crash fitness programs, only to discover more
crash than fitness.
Whatever your sport, I definitely recommend finding a
set program to follow that will build strength and an
aerobic foundation, rather than just walking out the
front door and starting to exercise. A sports-performance center called Health Corp. (Tel: +1 949
727 1900) helped me set up a mountain bike heart-monitor program, but a local health club could
probably do the same for you. The largest
manufacturer of heart monitors, Polar, has some
excellent (if self-serving) information about
monitors and training on its Web site (www.polarusa.com).
Whether you run or hike or cycle, using a monitor can
make your time spent exercising much more
efficientwhich is invaluable when you're trying to
squeeze workouts between parental duties.
As for that spare tire, you might want to consider
changing your eating habits. But keep your focus
positive: Think about embracing healthy foods instead
of avoiding unhealthy foods. Eat lots of low-fat items,
like fruits and veggies, but allow yourself treats, too.
Use the nutritional labels to keep an eye on fat
content (aim for foods that are less than 10 percent fat).
And try not to eat within two hours of bed time, 'cause
those calories will migrate straight to your belly. But,
as with the exercise, keep any changes realistic or you
won't be able to sustain them. And aim for progress, not