Fitness routes

Hi there,

26/m never been in great shape checking in here. I decided (once more) to get in shape for the new academic year, and have been going to the gym and running for a few weeks now. Nothing special, but turning up is half the battle and whatnot. At the moment I’m running/walking when I can’t run no more 30minx3 times a week, and a short light weights session 2 times a week.

I’ve always been a skinny guy, and my favoured activities are almost exclusively lower-body intensive: snowboarding, hillwalking, cycling etc. I am in reasonable shape- I went up helvellyn and snowdon over the summer, if that means anything to you. So I’m not fat, but neither am I fit. My problem? I have very skinny arms and a bad chest … and now I’m leaving my hyper-metabolism youth I’m getting a beer gut and love handles. Oh no, gym time.

Ideally, what I want to do is bulk up my arms/chest and lose the gut … but these seem to be slightly contradictory aims, from what little I understand?

Want to lose fat? Ok, reduce calorie intake and run.
Want to gain muscle? Ok, eat protein and lift weights.

Is there a middle path? I don’t want to get ‘ripped’ or anything, but I would like decently muscular arms and the beginnings of a sixpack by, say, the end of this academic year. Unrealistic?

Oh and a related problem… when I get back from the gym I’m ravenous. Probably eat more in calories then than I burn off during my visit. Maybe I should investigate protein shakes? Last night I was stuffing couscous into my mouth after getting back at 10pm, hardly a healthy plan I suspect!

Any advice greatly appreciated…


Your goals aren’t really contradictory. Lifting weights will build muscle, which will raise your metabolism and help with the gut. That said, I’ve observed that running is the single most effective way to lose weight. However, a sport like swimming can help you gain upper body mass and burn a lot of calories. (Chicks like broad, swimmer’s shoulders much more than Miller bellies.)

You need to decide what you want to focus on first. If I were you, I’d join a gym and lift, and then do a little cardio, say 20 minutes on a treadmill, afterwards. If you eat anything close to a typical American diet, you can substitute some protein calories for your fat calories, and eliminate some fat calories and simple sugars for a net reduction in calories. Once you have gained some upper body muscle mass, you can then reverse your priorities and do more cardio than weight lifting to reduce your body fat, if need b.

Thanks for the tips!

This rules by the way, especially if you like dance music…


Do …

everything. Run, swim, cycle, whatever.

I’m nearly 42, and I have lost 25kg (3 stone) this year. I am not aiming to get ripped, but I sure as anything want to get rid of the belly roll.

What works - diet (cutting out most carbs was the best start I made) and any exercise I can get. I started with gym time - 4-5 times a week. Once I lost a few kilos, I started running - 1/2 a mile to the gym and back. Then up to a couple of miles, slowly. Then longer runs at lunchtime. I ran 10k in 54min two weeks ago. I started taking my bike to work, so if I don’t run I can cycle for a mixed workout. Last night instead of a gym workout I did a boxercise class. Rowing is a great all round workout, too.

And it all adds up. People keep telling me I look great and have taken years off. I feel really great (and my wife likes it, too ;)).

For a more formal generalised fitness approach, but one that can be tailored to your abilities, look at Crossfit. Your gym should have all the gear to make following the workout of the day pretty easy.

Oh, or try to do the opposite of your username - fencing is a great aerobic workout that requires flexibility and a sharp mind. Pick up the sabre.


May I recommend the book “Eat to Live”? Dieting is a little more complicated than just protein vs carbs. There’s ‘good carbs’ and ‘bad carbs’ for example. It’s better to choose foods based on the nutrition per calorie criteria. This book gives a good scientific explanation of what foods will help you lose weight while still getting all the nutrition and protein you need, and still feeling energetic.