Help me find a good exercise book to listen to on my trip.
December 21, 2009 10:00 PM   Subscribe

My exercise routine is not yielding me results. I want a book (preferably one that I can download on audible) that will fill in the many gaps in my excercise/fitness knowledge.

For about the past nine months I have been attempting to lose about 15 - 20 pounds and tone up. I'm a 27 year old female. BMI hovers around 25, but basically healthy weight.

I initially did a lot of power yoga (very intense classes which worked me harder than I've ever worked before). They left me starving and sore. After about 4 months of this I had lost no weight and could only see minimal results. I switched to going to the gym and doing primarily cardioand this has been more successful. My appetite is under control and I've lost about 7-9 pounds, but I feel as flabby as ever.

A month and a half ago I sprained my ankle really badly and couldn't exercise at all, however the weight loss continued at the same (possibly faster?) pace as when I was going to the gym. This leads me to believe my current exercise regime is doing nothing for me (I've been losing weight by counting calories) and I want to learn what I'm doing wrong and how I can have a more effective workout. Granted I am not naturally athletic at all, but I still think I could be getting some tangible results from all the hours of exercise I've put in.

I'll be driving about 15 hours over the next week and want to download a book or 2 that will help fill in my exercise knowledge. Here is a rough idea of what I'm hoping to learn.

- How to exercise efficiently.
- Cardio vs Weight Lifting
- Supplements, are they even worth it?
- Eating before and after exercise (and how does this mesh with a low calorie diet approx. 1500 calories a day)
- Is there any point in building muscle if it's covered in fat?
- Weight lifting - reps, weight etc

I'm particularly interested in books that have a practical approach and are aimed at beginners. I'm not looking to become a weight lifter or a world class athlete, I just want to jiggle less!
posted by whoaali to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
To limit myself to one question, since people more expert than I will be here soon:

- Is there any point in building muscle if it's covered in fat?

Yes. Build muscle first, lose weight after. Lean muscle mass raises your metabolism and causes you to lose weight much faster. Side benefit that may not be true for everyone: I find that after exhausting myself doing whole-body lifts like squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses, crappy food looks unappealing. I'm more likely to want something good for me.
posted by ctmf at 10:19 PM on December 21, 2009 [2 favorites]


You will always be able to drop weight faster with dieting than exercise. It's a pretty intense workout to burn 500 calories, but unless your diet is already sparse that is an easy target to drop. That being said, working out still helps burn calories and keeps you in shape which has benefits far beyond weight loss. In the whole cardio versus resistance exercise debate I say yes. Do both. You can do both separately or you can do weights in such a fashion that you get both benefits. For instance, do some dumbell snatches. Your heart rate will soar with just a few of these. They work your whole body and it is a good exercise for women. You can ignore the whole bit about doing 100 pounds. Even fifteen or twenty pounds for an out of shape woman is a tremendous workout. Don't worry about the weight, just get your heart pumping and build a bit of muscle. Muscle burns fat.

Pilates is pretty good too.
posted by caddis at 10:29 PM on December 21, 2009


I'm in a somewhat similar boat with my workout routine, but I was curious about this:

Is there any point in building muscle if it's covered in fat?

I've been led to believe that you need a calorie surplus to truly build muscle and if you're running a calorie deficit, then this really won't happen. Experts, please correct me if I'm wrong.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:35 PM on December 21, 2009


I plateaued on weight loss when I got to a good weight, but at that point wasn't eating the right amount of calories anymore. Are you sure you're eating the right amount of calories per day?
posted by mattsweaters at 11:51 PM on December 21, 2009


I'm particularly interested in books that have a practical approach and are aimed at beginners.

Okay, well I don't have a specific audio book for you for a really simple reason: lifting weights is learned by seeing and doing. You certainly could learn about lifting weights by listening but I think you're better off on investing a couple of books on the subject. Most weight lifting books aren't that hard to read, even the sciency ones. And I mean you should get at least more than one take on how to lift weights, some books offer a nice overview on all kinds of lifting but there are some that offer only one way. There is no best way or most efficient way to lift weights. There are only ways to lift that are most conducive to your goals and I would add as a caveat that there are ways that are conducive to the way you find most *ahem* enjoyable. Obviously physical exertion is often not enjoyable but lifting weights can be enjoyable and is something that needs to be repeated often. So it is important that you want to return rather than dread it.

I've been led to believe that you need a calorie surplus to truly build muscle and if you're running a calorie deficit, then this really won't happen. Experts, please correct me if I'm wrong.

No, not true. You can keep a calorie deficit and still build muscle. It's not the generally prescribed way to get BIG, but that isn't the OP's goal.
posted by P.o.B. at 11:51 PM on December 21, 2009 [1 favorite]


To clarify, I currently feel like I have a very fractured knowledge of how to exercise effectively. I know bits and pieces, but not enough to design an effective fitness regime for myself. I'm really looking for a book that will help give me enough base knowledge that will enable me to see where I'm going wrong and design a program I can actually do. For instance I really can't do things like squats or deadlifts. I've tried, it's a disaster and I nearly hurt my back in the process. I just don't have that kind of skill. Picking up bits and pieces from the internet just really hasn't given me enough overall knowledge to effectively design a workout program for myself, so I'm looking for a comprehensive, but basic guide to cardio/weight lifting for weight loss and toning.
posted by whoaali at 12:17 AM on December 22, 2009


Yes. Build muscle first, lose weight after. Lean muscle mass raises your metabolism and causes you to lose weight much faster.

This is widely believed but it's not really true. The amount of extra calories you'll burn by putting on a few pounds of muscle is trivial when compared to your total daily caloric intake. We're talking on the order of 1%.
posted by Justinian at 12:19 AM on December 22, 2009


I'll be looking for book recommendations in this thread later, but I must ask: Do you have a trainer you can see?

Reason I'm asking is that I find it quite hard to follow the technical exercises from books without having an expert watching and correcting a little bit. Stuff like that. (Neither without the other though – books are great, trainers are great, use both for the win.)

- Is there any point in building muscle if it's covered in fat?

IMO yes, it makes the fat look much better :) Seriously. A muscular neck, hands, shoulders, stronger ankles, the subtle change in the face from building muscle – building muscle tends to add small things like that. Any of these make us look much better.

IMO, Beauty is symmetry, strength, character and a healthy cardio-vascular system. Pick two or three. This is also a reverse definition: Have strength, character and a strong heart and you have beauty. So that's why I would build muscle.

Wow, this is a bit longer and more philosophical than I intended.
posted by krilli at 4:18 AM on December 22, 2009


It certainly isn't cheap, but I think investing in a personal trainer would have more ROI than any book. It isn't something I recommend often, but I'd you're struggling with exercise it seems like a no-brainer. A couple of lessons to get the basics down, and then maybe another session in a few weeks to make sure you're doing well on your own.
posted by backwards guitar at 4:22 AM on December 22, 2009


There is a small wall of pop exercise books at the bookstore and I am surprised none has been recommended in this thread. The book I try to use to answer questions is a textbook: The Physiology of Sport and Exercise but its serious reading, lots of footnotes with references to academic studies.
posted by shothotbot at 5:32 AM on December 22, 2009


As I am a doofus when it comes to the workings of my body and what the various organs and systems are supposed to do, I've always enjoyed and learned a great deal from the "You.." series by Oprah's latest discovery, Dr. Oz and his partner Dr. Roizen.

There's "You On A Diet", "You: The Owner's Manual", and "You: Staying Young". These are available on audio download from amazon, via audible, which was one of your stipulations.

Learn the basics of how your body works, what an incredible healing machine it is, and then go from there.
Baby steps, Bob :)

Hope this helps!
posted by willmize at 5:40 AM on December 22, 2009


You're not going to learn proper form (which is key to strength training) from an audiobook. If you want what I consider the Bible of weight-training books, start with Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe. It'll get you on-track.
posted by xingcat at 6:00 AM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


For instance I really can't do things like squats or deadlifts. I've tried, it's a disaster and I nearly hurt my back in the process. I just don't have that kind of skill.

Anyone can learn these. The best way is with a personal trainer. Once a week sessions for a few months would give you the proper knowledge to build an exercise program that works for you. Learning from a coach is almost always easier than learning from a book. They will see and correct your mistakes in real time. Anyway, I am off to the gym.
posted by caddis at 8:00 AM on December 22, 2009


There are a lot of books out there, but I'll say the following because it's the sort of thing you can't learn from a book, and I think books that contradict the following 3 points are unhealthy.

1. Do activities you can enjoy enough to stick with consistently.

2. Do a variety of activities (it's not strength building vs. cardio, it's strength building PLUS cardio).

3. Eat healthy, real food (mostly vegetables) and supplement only minimally (i.e. a multivitamin). Protein shakes and the like are super-processed, expensive and often gross-tasting anyway.

And yes, a personal trainer, even if it's only for a couple sessions to establish a routine is invaluable. They show you the correct form for the exercises (which no book can do) so that you're doing the exercises in the most effective manner and safely (because it will be even harder to lose weight if you injure yourself).
posted by Kurichina at 8:12 AM on December 22, 2009


For instance, do some dumbell snatches. They work your whole body and it is a good exercise for women.

Dumbbell snatches are a good exercise for people. There is no such thing as a good exercise for men vs. a good exercise for women.

For instance I really can't do things like squats or deadlifts.

Of course you can, you just don't know how. Read Starting Strength.

An excellent article by the same author that will introduce you to his training philosophy is here (PDF). He says the fastest way to change your body is to make it stronger, and the most efficient way to make it stronger is to use a few basic barbell movements and increase the weight on the bar every workout. I have had great success with this training method, as has my girlfriend.

Getting coaching is a great idea, and is the best way to learn to lift, provided your coach knows what she's doing. Unfortunately, I've never seen a personal trainer at a globo-gym (read: a gym where most of the floor space is occupied by machines) whose training was worth anything where strength is concerned. Read Starting Strength and you'll probably know more about lifting than any of the trainers at your gym. Alternatively you could seek out a Crossfit affiliate, although their classes are expensive and the quality of their training varies greatly as well.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:45 AM on December 22, 2009


The Primal Blueprint

DO IT!
posted by phrakture at 10:01 AM on December 22, 2009


I disagree with phrakture. You can have tons of motivation and do all the wrong things. I see plenty of people at the gym who are working out day after day and never improving. That absolutely amazes me. I wouldn't have the motivation to continue to workout if I never saw improvement. These folks must be motivation machines.

whoaali, you need two types of knowledge. First, you need to get a good foundation of basic nutrition. It sounds as though you're missing that. Second, you need help designing a workout program. What makes this difficult, is there are different ways to get to the same result. Low carb, high carb, all weights, lots of cardio....any of those combinations might work depending on how carefully and consistently you followed them. Many people will tell you that they've got THE answer. In fairness, they've got theIR answer. I used to work with pro athletes. Even at that level of optimum physical performance each guy had his own customized workout and diet. Most of us will never be at that level so an extra carb or set of reps isn't going to make an appreciable difference. (Now if you have extra calories every day or do additional effective workouts consistently - you'll definitely see some changes.)

Listen to a bunch of advice, then pick the things that seem most workable in your life. Consistency is probably more important than perfection. On nutrition I like - Tosca Reno's Eat Clean books, the Zone (overly structured, but good info), and Chris Carmichael's Food For Fitness: Eat Right To Train Right. The first two you should definitely be able to get on audio at the library, but I'm not sure about Chris's book.

You'll probably have a much easier time listening to a nutrition book than a workout book. Learning to workout has a lot of visuals - how to do a curl correctly, how to use correct running form. I'd start with nutrition books which generally have a chapter or two on general workout plans. You can modify from there.
posted by 26.2 at 11:31 AM on December 22, 2009


I would reiterate that you invest in a good personal trainer. "Good" being the operative word, and that can be hard to find if you don't know what to look for but maybe if you can (uknowingly) see them in action before you hire them you'll be able to see something you like. Otherwise search and ask around.
If you do go ahead and purchase a book I'm actually going to suggest you don't purchase Starting Strength because it's obviously something you are not looking for. Perhaps this book is a better fit - The New Rules of Lifting for Women: Lift Like a Man, Look Like a Goddess. Personally I would rather suggest something free like Figure Athlete with great articles.
One more thing, I do hope you learn to at least do squats in the future in the future, they are a great exercise. If not hopeuflly you can do lunges because those are also a great exercise.
posted by P.o.B. at 12:29 PM on December 22, 2009


If you do go ahead and purchase a book I'm actually going to suggest you don't purchase Starting Strength because it's obviously something you are not looking for.

I'm very curious to know whether you've read Starting Strength and why you wouldn't recommend it to someone who you think should learn how to squat.
posted by ludwig_van at 12:40 PM on December 22, 2009


I'm very curious to know whether you've read Starting Strength and why you wouldn't recommend it to someone who you think should learn how to squat.

Yes, and I wouldn't recommend the book for multiple reasons such as intent, goals and demeanor. Squats can be learned in a matter of minutes with a decent trainer. Someone doesn't need to read fifty some odd pages of Starting Strength and it's not the only appropriate answer for workout questions. Perhaps, rather than just giving advice on the internet, you should try your hand at personal training (if you haven't already) and you may find that there's an actual balancing act to what, how and why different people work out.

A more pertinent question would be why don't you link to the free wiki and a suggestion of purchasing the book, rather than people blindly taking that advice and possibly wasting their money on something they don't like?
posted by P.o.B. at 5:42 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey, its both good. Starting Strength is a good book. Other books are good. Trainers are good. The more information the better. The New Rules of Lifting for Women looks great too. I would get all of them, and then something from Chris Carmichael for cardio and perhaps even diet. Accumulate as much information as you can if you want to succeed.
posted by caddis at 5:54 PM on December 22, 2009


Yes, and I wouldn't recommend the book for multiple reasons such as intent, goals and demeanor. Squats can be learned in a matter of minutes with a decent trainer.

Not sure what you mean by your first statement. Starting Strength is a book about how to squat, press, bench, deadlift, and power clean. Its intent and goals are to teach those lifts. If you think someone should learn to squat, and they are asking for book recommendations, I don't know of a better resource for learning it.

All of the lifts are indeed best learned with instruction from a coach. Whether or not they will be learned in a "matter of minutes" depends greatly on the individual. I have taught a bunch of folks to perform the barbell movements -- some of them nailed it on the first workout, others needed several workouts to get it right. The problem with simply recommending "a decent trainer" is that the untrained individual has no basis for judging whether or not a trainer is decent. I've observed the trainers in the globo-gyms I've attended, and almost without exception their instruction in the barbell lifts has been poor. The majority of the folks that I've seen performing the lifts on their own have no idea what they're doing, either. Someone who has read a book like Starting Strength has a tremendous advantage in terms of understanding the mechanics of lifting and evaluating the advice they're given.

A more pertinent question would be why don't you link to the free wiki and a suggestion of purchasing the book, rather than people blindly taking that advice and possibly wasting their money on something they don't like?

Because I'm totally getting paid by Mark Rippetoe for everyone from metafilter who buys his book!

No, it's because it's the best resource I've come across for learning how to lift weights. Sure, the wiki is nice, but I don't feel that it's a replacement for the book, as the wiki itself says outright. But posting the link to the Starting Strength wiki is being helpful. Making unqualified statements about how you don't recommend the book and questioning the motives of other posters is less helpful.

Whether someone "blindly" takes my advice and purchases the book is their prerogative. I'm not sure how many personal training sessions you can get for $30, which is the price of this 300-page book, but I feel it is an invaluable reference to have on hand whether or not one decides to pay for coaching.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:19 PM on December 22, 2009


You're suggesting a book to someone who doesn't care to gain a lot of mass or get stronger. You're also recommending a book that mainly covers five lifts, two of which the asker has strong notions against. Another one, the Power Lift, is great but is just an overambitious recommendation for a novice lifter looking to lose some weight. The Bench Press really isn't all that important and again each and every lift is very easy to learn regardless of trainer ability.
So do you have any other suggestions other than Rippetoe (and by proxy Crossfit)? Any? Any other books? Any? Would it surprise you that there are other books that make the same recommendations just dressed up a little differently and that these books have just as valuable insights?
No matter how invaluable you think that one book (or person) is; it doesn't make you a fountain of knowledge on weight training, it makes you a robot dispensing the same advice over and over. Different people have different goals and not all of them will respond to what you simply think of as the best way to train.
In any case, any decent trainer could teach and make corrections (which is actually what's invaluable compared to a book) and any other pertinent information could be obtained for free. I agree it may be hard to find a good trainer, but if you do find one they are infinitely more valuable than a book.
posted by P.o.B. at 7:39 PM on December 22, 2009


Strength training is widely recommended as part of a weight loss regimen and for general long-term health. The information in Starting Strength is not only relevant to those who want to gain mass, but to anyone who wants to learn how to lift weights. It is aimed at beginners, men or women, young or old, regardless of their goals, because they all have the same anatomy and are subject to the same laws of physics. The fact that there are weight training books aimed specifically at women is an unfortunate artifact of our culture, not a necessity.

Starting Strength the best book of its kind that I know of, so I recommended it here, to someone who is asking for exercise books, as I recommend it for the many very similar questions that get posted here. Whether or not I recommended other books or have recommended this one in the past is irrelevant.

Again, I agree that a good coach is the best option. If everyone had access to a knowledgeable and affordable coach, there would be no need for books like this. But I think good training is rare, good training can be expensive, and someone who doesn't know how to work out also won't know good training from bad training, and so I disagree that "find a trainer" is the best advice for these questions. I have seen many web sites which offer free training information, but I have yet to come across one that compares to the quality and thoroughness of this book.

And I'm happy to leave it at that.
posted by ludwig_van at 9:06 PM on December 22, 2009


[P.o.B., ludwig_van, you two need to stop having this argument with each other in askme threads. Pretend one another do not exist for the purpose of fitness-related askmes or whatever you have to do, but cut it out.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:04 PM on December 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


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