Meet Danny Bouman, he starred in a Dutch TV program called Obese last week. Danny weighed 270 kg (!) at the start of the TV program. The goal of the program was to help him lose as much as weight as possible in 300 days. The methods used involved a radical life style change (gone was all the bad food) and daily exercise.
He got two personal trainers that helped him work his butt off for nearly a year. During the initial checkup they found he had a fat percentage of ~45% which means he was dragging around 140 kg of fat. As you can imagine his fitness was in poor condition and he was barely able to do any exercise at all.
So what’s the point I’m trying to bring home? When you start working out, you’re in poor shape. So you should set your expectations accordingly, don’t expect world records just yet. Instead, the intensity of the workouts should scale with your fitness (see figure, not to scale).
While this makes intuitive sense, the single biggest mistake every beginners makes is to start working out going all in. This has several disadvantages:
- you won’t be able to maintain the intensity, which makes it very discouraging to keep working out;
- you’ll have a lot of muscle soreness and feel fatigued after working out, because your muscles aren’t used to exercise and a higher body weight makes exercise heavier;
- and you won’t see as much improvement compared to following a training program that fits your level of fitness.
Here’s another key point: using a simplified version to calculate the energy used during running
J (energy) = 0.5 * mass * velocity ^ 2
Now compare running at 10 km/h, which equates to 0.5 * 100 = 50. Now imagine you start running together with a friend, you weigh 100 kg and he weighs only 75. This means that if you both run for an hour it will cost you 5000 J, while it will cost your friend only 3750 J. Simply put, it will cost him 25% less energy to run the same distance! However, if you wanted to use the same amount of energy, you would only need to run at 8.6 km/h. So next time you think you aren’t running hard enough, keep in mind you probably use more energy than you think.
In Danny’s case, he started out barely being able to complete any workout due to his massive weight, but steadily over time he was able to cycle, lift weights, run (albeit slow) and swim. He started out exercising 30 minutes a day, which grew into 1 hour a day, which grew into 3 hours a day until at some point he was exercising nearly 5 hours a day! Now I’m not saying you should take an example from Danny’s obsessive behavior and aim to workout several hours a day. Instead my point is:
When working out to lose weight, forget about short term. On the long term, you’ll be able to work out harder and longer than you ever could before. That’s where the real weight loss comes from.
I recently read a blog post that said, “In other words, regular exercise doesn’t just preserve your ability to exercise — it also preserves your desire.” However, the inverse means that it takes time to build up the desire again, if you’ve been inactive for some time. The worst thing you can do to your desire to exercise is make yourself go through pain and suffering, whilst trying to improve your fitness. Instead, gradually increase the intensity, duration and frequency of your workouts and make your goals scale with your actual performance.
We’ve also had several questions on Fitness.SE about users wanting to know whether it’s bad to run while being overweight, whether the strain on your heart is the same when you’re overweight or what to do when your lungs feel like they’re on fire when running. Well, the answer to all the questions comes down to the same thing: take it slow, build up your stamina and fitness before you try to achieve your goals. It will be more fun, you’ll be less likely to get injured and it is easier to maintain in the long run.
So remember that the weight won’t go away over night and that the only way to achieve and maintain a good fitness is by sticking to it. If you manage to do so, perhaps you too can be like Danny, who managed to lose 160 kg’s in just 300 days.
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