Fitness plan burden ‘lifted’


You’ve finally decided to do it. You’re tired of looking like a jelly doughnut. You’re tired of watching attractive members of the opposite sex flirt with everyone but you. You’re tired of sitting home each and every weekend.

You think you’ve got the perfect, can’t lose solution—a weight lifting program. Surely, if you start one and work hard, you’ll lose weight and tone up.

It sounds like a great idea, in theory, but you’re wondering what to do. The giant health and fitness industry is pumping your brain full of information about various food supplements, exercise products and training programs which promise to make you bigger and stronger quicker.

For many of us, this information overload can lead to confusion and alienation. Even if you are able to sort through all of it, you’ll likely always be wondering if the program and supplements you’re using are really the best ones.

Well, we can now all rest easy. According to NIU Head Athletic Trainer Mike Braid, the answer to the confusion is simple.

“My personal opinion is that it’s a money making racket,” he said. “If a person strives to eat a good diet, those so-called “muscle building” supplements won’t be beneficial. If anything, they’re a waste of money to buy.”

NIU Weight Training Instructor Anthony Glass holds a similar attitude.

“Joe Weider has made millions off of the American public because it’s ignorant of its needs,” he said. “Most of the boys you see in their ads are on some form of athletic enhancing drug. The supplements are not necessary. You should get all you need from the table.”

Trish Shanahan, coordinator of fitness programs at the Office of Campus Recreation, says the components of a good diet are no mystery.

“You should increase complex carbohydrates and eliminate sugars,” she said. “It’s a general misconception that when you start a weight lifting program, you need extra protein and protein supplements. This simply is not true.”

“Studies show that the average person’s strength will not increase with protein intake,” Braid said.

Shanahan said excess protein can actually hurt you by causing a depreciation of calcium and a buildup of uric acid, which causes digestive problems.

As a general guideline, a person should get 58 percent of their calories from carbohydrates, 30 percent from fat and only 12 percent from protein, Braid said.

He said rice, bread and pasta are sources of good complex carbohydrates and chicken and fish are good protein sources.

Glass says the best way to get on the good diet track is by taking it slow.

“Just increase complex carbohydrate intake and fat and protein will average out,” he said. “Don’t just stop eating bad foods either. Take one or two things out at a time. The body can rebel if you try to suddenly change everything.”

A training program can be viewed in an equally straightforward manner. Shanahan recommended identifying goals and going to see a fitness counselor before starting.

“A knowledgeable instructor can make the whole process less intimidating,” she said.

Braid said a two to three day per week total-body program consisting of one exercise for each major muscle group would be a good program for a beginner. The ideal for both tone and strength would be three sets of ten repetitions of each exercise, he said.

He also says the person should do enough weight so they feel some struggle and fatigue on the last set.

Additionally, Braid said there are three things the novice should pay particular attention to when starting his or her weight lifting program.

“The first thing is to stretch and increase flexibility,” he said. “The second thing is to begin with light weight to learn the exercise. When you get the hang of it, then increase the weight. Third, avoid ballistic movements. Lifting needs to be a smooth, slow process.”

Both Shanahan and Braid emphasized the importance of working opposite muscles.

“It’s very important to work opposing muscle groups,” Shanahan said. “Like quadriceps and hamstrings; chest and back; and biceps and triceps.”

She also advised against working the same muscle group two days in a row.

“All you’d be doing is tearing down the muscle,” she said.

In addition to weight training, Shanahan recommended at least three days of cardiovascular training per week for 20 to 30 minutes at a time to help reduce fat.

Examples of good cardiovascular exercises are running, stairmaster, swimming and bike riding, she said.

By blanking out all the media hype, it’s very likely you could possess the body of your dreams. Perhaps the essence of working out was summed up best by NIU graduate student/body builder Cyrous Hashemian.

“Your attitude will change,” he said. “People will look at you differently.”

“Joe Weider has made millions off of the American public because it’s ignorant of its needs. Most of the boys you see in their ads are on some form of athletic enhancing drug. The supplements are not necessary. You should get all you need from the table.”

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