Being fit doesn’t necessarily mean fitting into a size 2 – or even a size 14.
Jeanette DePatie should know. She's a certified fitness instructor who also calls herself “The Fat Chick.” She's helped hundreds of people who abandoned exercise, or never even tried it before, by teaching them to love fitness and their bodies. Now she has some advice to participants in the Foothill Fitness Challenge.
The challenge is a healthy competition sponsored by City of Hope for residents of surrounding communities. The event (launch day is Saturday, Oct. 5) encourages residents of nearby cities to team up and compete against residents of other cities to determine who can make the most fitness gains.
“Too many people waste time ‘weighting’ around," DePatie says, “waiting until they are whatever they envision as the 'right’ size before pursuing the things they want to do for themselves, including exercise.”
Through her weekly classes, blog and speaking engagements, DePatie works to inspire people to move their bodies and shift their focus.
One of the first obstacles to conquer is fear, she says, whether of getting hurt or getting laughed at in the gym. That’s enough to keep some people from even digging out their sneakers.
“Focus on what your body can do, as opposed to what it might look like,” DePatie writes on her website. “Revel in the fact that you are making one of the most important health decisions in your life: The decision to engage in regular fitness activities.”
DePatie offers these tips to would-be participants in the Foothill Fitness Challenge – or anyone who wants to get healthy. This advice, she says, can help people conquer the fear of exercise:
Keep it manageable. Take a rational approach to fitness. Start small and ramp up gradually. Increase the speed, intensity and duration of your workouts by no more than 10 percent per week. Resist the temptation to overdo it, to avoid becoming overwhelmed and giving up or injuring yourself. Fitness cannot be earned in a single workout session, no matter how intense. Consistent exercise three to five times weekly is the key to fitness – and you can only do that if you don’t hurt yourself.
Check with your doctor. Many people who haven’t exercised for a while – or ever – have worries about injuring themselves or causing medical complications. No activity is ever completely without risk, but a good first step in exercising safely is to see your doctor for a complete checkup. Your doctor will be able to evaluate you, and tell you if there are specific types of exercise you should avoid or advise you of what special precautions to consider.
Know a few key signals. Workouts should be challenging, but there are a few signs to never ignore while exercising: dizziness or lightheadedness; tightness or pain in the chest, trunk, back or jaw; extreme breathlessness; unusual fatigue; nausea; loss of muscle control; allergic reactions such as hives or rash; and blurred vision. DePatie calls these “dashboard indicators.” Just as you wouldn’t continue to drive on a flat tire, you shouldn’t keep exercising if your body gives you these signals that something might be seriously wrong. Stop your workout, and try to identify the source of the symptom.
Embrace sweat. Sweating keeps the body clean and cool. Real exercise means real sweat – not a modest little glow, not moderate perspiration, but honest-to-goodness, soaking-your-shirt, dripping-from-your-forehead sweat. The right workout clothes can help wick the moisture away from your body and dry it quickly. Sweating is a good thing, and should be accepted as a sign of a great workout.
Don’t be shy about being a beginner. Professional athletes, marathon runners and triathlon winners all started somewhere. They didn’t know proper form, how the machines worked, how to do a perfect push-up or even where the locker rooms were. Don’t be embarrassed to ask questions about things you don’t know. Most exercisers like helping newcomers.
Park your paranoia. One of the most common concerns DePatie hears from beginning exercisers is the fear of being laughed at. She levels with her clients that being taunted can – and does – sometimes happen, but it's rare. Most of the time, other exercisers are far more interested in their own exercise efforts than they are in you, she says. She suggests: If you're going to imagine that others are thinking about you, tell yourself they think you're awesome.
“Fitness comes in many shapes and sizes,” DePatie says. “Don’t be intimidated by exercise. You can work out and feel amazing at any age and any size.”
Be brave, and take an additional step: Join the Foothill Fitness Challenge, where you can meet The Fat Chick in person.
For more information on DePatie's workout programs, getting started and on these tips, visit www.thefatchick.com.