By Cinder Ernst

FIT AT ANY SIZE-Every body wants to move, and having a large body does not mean that you can't or shouldn't get active. Researchers at the Cooper Institute of Aerobics Research in Dallas found that men who were fat and fit, were healthier than men who were thin but didn't exercise. The conclusion is that fitness level is a better indicator of health than body size; so don't put off fitness until you're smaller. I hope the word "fat" didn't throw you off. I do not use the words "overweight" or "obese". Obese describes fat as a disease state, and I don't think it is. If you've ever been called morbidly obese you'll know it makes you feel terrible, and doesn't help anything. And overweight is a judgment that I don't make on others or myself. Just what weight are we supposed to be over? I coached two women to walk a marathon, that's 26.2 miles, and they each weighed about three hundred pounds. My clients completed that marathon, which was one of the most fulfilling moments of their lives. If there is any question as to whether you can be fat and fit, answer it with a resounding yes. Don't wait another minute; get that body moving right now.

EXERCISE AND WEIGHT LOSS-Weight loss is sometimes a side effect of exercise, and sometimes it isn't. On the other hand, better health is always a side effect of appropriate exercise. So keep your focus on fitness, not weight loss. If you drop a few pounds along the way, that's great. However, if you don't lose weight, at least you will not be discouraged. Being discouraged may lead you to stop exercising, and then you would lose all the health benefits of exercise. Trying to change the size and shape of your body is an emotionally loaded proposition. Including that emotional baggage in your exercise program is a good way to make exercise a chore, not a joy. Save yourself some time and torture; don't go on the exercise diet. Instead learn how to make exercise feel good, and to enjoy moving your body.

GOALS- If weight loss is not the goal of the exercise, then what is? The long-term objective of any smart fitness program is life long activity, and the activity should enhance your quality of living. An active life is made up of consistent exercise, therefore the short-term goal, and its achievement, is the exercise itself. How do you actually make the exercise happen? Just follow these guidelines: 1 Show up, and 2 enjoy the ride. These are the only two fitness goals you'll ever need. They are a basic approach to inhabiting your body, and to having a good time moving your body around.

1.SHOW UP-In order to show up you need to know yourself. If you can figure out what you like to do, and when you can realistically fit it in, then you can show up. Notice the word "realistically". You must accommodate your reality. If your days are already filled to the brim, don't decide to walk for an hour every day. That's not realistic. Decide instead to walk around the block once this week. Or put on a favorite song and dance around the kitchen, once this week. If that works, add in another block, or another song next time. One block or a marathon, when you show up, you're the winner. If you hate the mornings, don't decide to exercise at the crack of dawn. Choose a time of day when you feel energized. Consider your past experience with exercise. If you have always hated aerobics classes, don't commit to an aerobics class. If you like to exercise with a buddy, find a friend (dogs work great). If you try something and it doesn't feel good, or isn't doable, try something else. Make these little victories happen, then watch them pile up. Showing up is the first step in creating a lifestyle that includes consistent activity.

Showing up also means taking into account your body history (injuries, illnesses, limits). If you have knee or back pain get some help from a physical therapist, chiropractor, or your doctor. Getting the help counts as a step in the right direction, so give yourself credit. To show up right now, try the miracle knee exercise.

2. ENJOY THE RIDE- If you've done your showing up homework, enjoying the ride comes easily. You've chosen activities you like to do, in amounts that are appropriate, and at a time of day that is comfortable for you. You are essentially enjoying your exercise. The trick comes when you have to adapt your exercise program, and you will need to adapt at some time. Work, kids, injuries, travel, illness and many other situations can upset your plans. Respect yourself enough to adjust your activities (and sometimes your lack there of), and your attitude about it, so you can still enjoy your body. Don't "should" yourself, or beat yourself up if something interferes, just adapt. If you can't accomplish what you planned for that day, do what you can. Sometimes showing up means simply breathing deeply for a few minutes, so do it and enjoy.

CHOOSING ACTIVITIES- The American College of Sports Medicine (a leading authority) recommends thirty minutes of accumulated exercise on any given day. All activity that you do during your day, whether it's walking down a hallway, gardening, vacuuming, climbing the stairs, or going for a jog gets counted towards your thirty minutes. The old way of thinking that exercise had to be done all at one time is outdated. We now know that for people who are not currently active, accumulated exercise creates a significant improvement in health. These little pieces of exercise can add up to a pretty active day. If you become more active and improve your health, you will probably feel like moving more. You can increase your activity level slowly and safely, establishing a long lasting habit of exercise.

BALANCE THE COMPONENTS OF HEALTH- Physical fitness is one component of health. Your fitness program should fit comfortably in your life while enhancing your quality of living. Consider physical fitness along with spiritual, mental, and emotional fitness to find your own healthy balance.

BALANCE THE COMPONENTS OF FITNESS- As you are building a balanced exercise routine you will want to include these three basics: Resistance training to increase your strength, stretching to increase your flexibility, and aerobic exercise to improve your cardio-vascular fitness. Traditional information for these forms of training can be adapted to work for the larger exerciser. Make sure any form of exercise you try gets the show up and enjoy the ride test. Take notice as you are exercising of any difference from side to side in your body. This practice will help you stay present in your body, and let you know yourself better.

STRENGTHENING FOR THE LARGE EXERCISER-As a person of size, you may not require additional resistance (other than the weight of yourself) when you begin a strength-training program. Start with just the weight of your own body, and then add weight when that becomes easy. Here are some exercises that can be done anywhere; all you need is a kitchen chair, a wall, and your body.
        The Miracle Knee Exercise-(yes, it really is!). Ready? Sit up tall and straight on the edge of your chair. Extend your legs out in front of you, heels on the floor, toes pointing to the ceiling. Straighten your legs really hard so that the muscles in the front of your thighs (your quads) squeeze. Hold that contraction, and at the same time squeeze the cheeks of your butt together. Hold everything for ten seconds. You must breathe while you do this. Counting out loud is a good way to train yourself to breathe during a sustained contraction. Repeat up to ten times.

        The Standing Swimmer-This exercise is great for your posture because it strengthens your upper back and stretches your chest. Stand with your back against the wall, and your feet in front of you about six inches from the wall. Bend your knees slightly, and squeeze your butt. Hold your abdominal muscles tight by doing a pelvic tilt to get the small of your back as close to the wall as possible. Next get the back/lower part of your head as close to the wall as possible with your chin in neutral (not tilted up or down). This is the starting position, and can by itself sometimes feel like a lot of work. Now raise your straight, right arm towards the ceiling, the back of your hand will touch the wall (hopefully). Your left arm is hanging at your side, palm towards the wall. Okay switch arms. Repeat up to ten times with each arm.

        The Standing Double Arm Swimmer- Same as above, but two arms come up and go down together. Be sure to get the starting position correct.

STRETCHING IN A CHAIR- Stretching is the counter part to strengthening; flexibility training lengthens muscles, resistance training makes the muscles shorter and stronger. Balance means doing both. If you are not comfortable getting on the floor to stretch, here are some alternatives you can do in a chair.         

        Hamstring-Sit up tall and straight on the edge of your chair. Extend your right leg in front of you, heel on the floor, toe pointing to the ceiling. Lean forward a little and tick your right butt out behind you. Do you feel a stretch in the back of the right thigh? Hold for thirty seconds. Switch legs. Notice the difference from side to side.

        Quad/Hip flexor- We're going to stretch the front of the right thigh. Sit up tall and straight. Pivot 90 degrees to your left. The left leg makes the turn with you, and your left toes are facing the same direction as you. Keep your abdominals tight. When you turn, drop your right knee towards the floor and point your right toes behind you. Do you feel a stretch in the front of your right thigh? Hold 30 seconds, switch legs.

        Cross Leg-Don't do this stretch if you have had a hip replacement. Sit up tall and straight and cross your right foot to your left knee, the stretch should be in your right hip. If you cannot get your foot all the way up, cross the right foot on the left ankle, and lean to the left a little bit. You should feel a stretch in the right hip. Hold 30 seconds, then switch legs. Notice the difference from side to side.


Webmistress' notes about Cinder Ernst

Cinder is a personal trainer and aerobics instructor in San Francisco who has become well-known for helping larger people get fit without judgement for their weight.
You can visit her web site at:
If you are interested in working with Cinder, you can find contact information on her site.

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