Fat man would like to start lifting weights
May 9, 2016 12:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm fat. I'm about to make my umpteenth attempt to get into shape. This time around, I'd like to lift weights. How should I start?

As for my current condition... I'm most definitely fat. To the point where saying so isn't self-deprecation or capitulating to some societal ideal. Nah, I'm fatter than that, to the point of no doubt kind of fat. I'm entirely mobile and while my blood pressure is on the high end of normal, I don't have any health issues to speak about. But I do not exercise at all, the job I started last year is sedentary, and I don't eat so healthy. The amount of weight I'd need to lose to have a doctor-approved BMI is in the low triple digits.

Fat or not, though, I'm forty years old and deliriously happily married. I'm not overly upset about how I look. But I lost my dad a few years back to heart disease and I don't want to go down the same road. My endurance, energy levels, and strength are at all-time lows. My body is telling me to get into better shape, but I'm ready to try something different this time.

Things I've done before... I've also tried treadmills, stair machines, exercise bikes... all of the things you can at the gym while watching tv, basically. It never really changed how I was built to an appreciable degree. And it was boring. I've dieted... many, many times. Many, many times. So many times. Some of those worked... initially. But I'm not doing that again. For one, I think it played havoc on my metabolism. And for another, I like beer. I like pizza. I like cooking and food nerdery. I think any plan that is predicated on me giving that stuff up is probably doomed. I think if I were in better shape, I'd probably knock some of that off naturally, since it wouldn't seem pointless. I'm not averse to trying to make better choices, but I'm not going onto any formal plan.

So I'd like to increase my metabolism instead. And not even necessarily in service of losing all of my excess weight. Again, I'm 40. At this point, I'm comfortable shifting my body shape goal from the lean and chiseled action hero to the burly gangster he gets into a fist fight with. That guy often still has a belly and that'd be fine, as long as that guy doesn't get winded going up three flights of stairs.

So my goal is more muscle volume, improved metabolism... If I can block out around 45-60 minutes, five days a week, where do I start? I'm not opposed to some cardio, but what I really want to focus on is shifting from fat weight to muscle weight.

I'll be joining a modest gym near my home that I can visit on the way to work. They have a pretty decent selection of stuff. Since I'm not particularly social when exercising and will be going alone, I'll need to focus on stuff I can do without a squatter.

Where can I find some routines that might work for where I'm at, physically, and maintain a certain balance? I want something that is projectable, for lack of a better word. I want to to be able to start doing it and keep doing it, for some time before I need to adjust. Sheer rote repetition is going to work better for my mindset. Variety is not my friend.

Are there books you'd recommend? Articles online? Videos? Or just something you've done that worked?

I'm not looking for a 90 butt blast to muscleman awesomeness kind of plan. I want something that will gradually change my body in an enduring way.
posted by DirtyOldTown to Health & Fitness (31 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
How's your mobility and flexibility?

I really like reddit's r/fitness getting started page. For a simple, straightforward lifting plan, I recommend stronglifts 5x5 or Starting Strength. both have easily-findable plans online.

Do you know how to lift weights? Would it be worthwhile to hire a trainer for an hour to work with you on the lifts?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:31 PM on May 9, 2016 [7 favorites]

Yep, strong lifts 5x5 or startin strength. They're very similar. Lots of videos online.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:33 PM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty mobile and flexible.

I should have mentioned also that I lifted weights in college and while I didn't stick with it long term, obviously, I was reasonably competent at the basics. I'm pretty solid on maintaining form and how to do most basic stuff, as well as how to use many machines. I'd want to review, but I wouldn't necessarily anticipate I'd need formal instruction.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:34 PM on May 9, 2016

As someone who recently started lifting weights, hiring a trainer/coach to help you get started is invaluable. Form is SUPER important, and can be counterintuitive. I'm doing Starting Strength, and I love it.

The word you're looking for is "spotter," and a coach can teach you how to use the safety equipment so you can lift alone.
posted by mollymayhem at 12:35 PM on May 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

I know you said you'd be going alone, but perhaps you could consider/investigate finding a gym buddy or three. I use a gym where I regularly see this group of 4 people who are ... not svelte ... but they are astonishingly strong. They have a trainer that runs them through cardio & strength exercises and it looks like they enjoy it. I guess they're cow-orkers, but I don't really know. I just see them at the gym a couple times a week. The other thing is, you might be able to save a bit of money on a trainer by doing group lessons, and a trainer is probably a good way to get the right exercises, and to get a push when you start slacking off.
posted by spacewrench at 12:44 PM on May 9, 2016

Since I'm not particularly social when exercising and will be going alone, I'll need to focus on stuff I can do without a squatter.

If you're that way inclined, and if you have the space for it, why not just buy some weights and lift at home, where you can do it in total comfort? Put on an amazing playlist* and do it your way, wearing whatever you want, when it's most convenient for you. You'd probably want to do front squats instead of regular squats, in that case, but you could still do most other lifts (maybe sub dumbbell presses for bench press). If you get to a point where you're not able to progress with weight without a spotter, you can always do more reps (or join a gym - but you'll always have the home stuff for backup and lighter workouts).

The only reason I go to a gym is because I'm working around injuries and need the cable machine etc.

*This is what gets me through some of the more boring stuff I do.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:45 PM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

At the risk of blow-back for suggesting this: look into crossfit. I say this as someone who has fluctuated between 220 and 300 lbs (at well under 6 feet) for basically my entire post-teenage life. Many people will say: but injuries! but bro culture! etc and i cannot deny anyone else's lived experience (and the shortcomings of many individual crossfit gyms and instructors).

In my experience the pros are:
-class oriented sessions were motivating and i genuinely like some of the folks who have become my "gym friends)
-easy enough to get in and out in under an hour
-varied enough that i never really get bored, regular enough that i feel myself getting better at things (i did a pull up for the first time at age 31, it was exciting).

As the "community" (or business, which is also what CF is) has grown it has become somewhat fractured - there are more competitive athletes than ever before and sponsorships (and doping scandals) are somewhat common. one beneficial side effect of this growth has been an increase in the number of casual crossfitters who will never ever be competitive with anyone other than themselves. You definitely want to seek out a gym that encourages its casual clientele, if not outright panders them.

Id be happy to go on for longer about choosing a gym, but ultimately you want this to feel right which means you shouldn't get a high pressure sales pitch or someone trying to lock you into a year long contract. Almost every crossfit gym offers a free trial class for newbies which should focus on less technical stuff like kettlebell work and bodyweight stuff and you should have to go to a series of foundational classes to teach the basic mechanics of olympic lifting before joining regular classes.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:46 PM on May 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I recommend Strong Lifts 5x5 over starting strength only because you can get the Strong Lifts program without buying a book, and it's a little simpler. I do recommend buying Starting Strength eventually though (Rippetoe explains the mechanics of the movements more scientifically than Mehdi in my opinion). The Strong Lifts website has the whole program including articles and videos discussing proper form for each exercise. The videos also show Mehdi's home gym setup, which could be an inspiration if that's a direction you want to go in.

Because both SL and SS start with such low weights, you shouldn't need a spotter, as long as you can safely lift a 45lb bar over your head. Eventually you'll probably get to the point where you're trying to squat/BP a weight that you can't get out from under on your own -- but by then, you're going to be a regular gym rat and getting quick spots won't be a huge deal.

Flexibility-wise: both SL and SS have squats as a core of the program, many overweight folks don't have the flexibility to get into a deep (below parallel squat). Since you used to lift, and you say you have decent flexibility, I bet this isn't going to be a problem for you, but if it is, spending some time (even outside of the gym) doing bodyweight squat stretches will help get you there.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:56 PM on May 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm currently 6 weeks into Starting Strength, coming from being tremendously out of shape, and it's been great. One thing to be aware of, though, is that the book's default lifter is a teenage male training for a sport. There are plenty of allowances and caveats, but it does have advice like "drink a gallon of milk a day" that works for people with weasel-like metabolisms and mutant healing factors.

That said, the rest has been great and I recommend it without hesitation. I got improved posture and lost my upper back pain almost instantly.
posted by The Gaffer at 1:04 PM on May 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

So my goal is more muscle volume, improved metabolism... If I can block out around 45-60 minutes, five days a week, where do I start? I'm not opposed to some cardio, but what I really want to focus on is shifting from fat weight to muscle weight.

A full-body workout 2-3 x a week in the 8-12 range will cover both strength and hypertrophy, and is the most effective for beginners/returners, according to anyone I've read. (The ones mentioned above, or a beginner workout from bodybuilding.com. Or see this). On the other days, for cardio, just walk at a brisk pace, since it's decent weather (I assume you're in North America), for now. Low impact, vitamin D, won't interfere with muscle growth. When it gets gloomy again, maybe take up stationary cycling (would require a bike, obviously) - studies show it's less likely to interfere with muscle growth than e.g. running.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:05 PM on May 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

As someone who recently started lifting weights, hiring a trainer/coach to help you get started is invaluable. Form is SUPER important, and can be counterintuitive. I'm doing Starting Strength, and I love it.

I second this for a few reasons. Form is the most important thing and having a second set of eyes on you while you get started is so helpful. Plus, if there's someone expecting you at the gym X times a week, its easier to maintain that habit. Finally, a trainer will help you come up with a schedule so you're getting the most out of each workout. Its not something I think everyone needs forever (I do though. The only reason I go to the gym some days is because my trainer is expecting me) but it's pretty helpful for everyone at the start.
posted by GilvearSt at 1:26 PM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

My buddy Fat Tim (as distinct from the various other Tims at work) and I did Starting Strength a few years ago. He was new to the gym, and I hadn't done squats or deads before. After a couple of years, he was squatting over 300 pounds. It's a decent, organised program, and the constant progression is a great motivator.
That said, he was still fat. Some extra muscle mass will help your metabolism a bit, but weight training without keto or calorie restriction isn't going to shift a whole lot of fat for you.
posted by Kreiger at 1:28 PM on May 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

Nthng Stronglifts or Starting Strength but with one caveat:

Choose exercises that are not likely to wind up in injury within several months. Being injury-free is probably the single most important thing that will contribute to the success of your strength training regimen.

For this reason, despite all of the other wonderful things about it, skip Crossfit entirely if you are even thinking about it.

Exercises that I know, from my own personal experience, tend to sideline me with injuries: deadlifts and squats. After years of telling myself that if my form is good enough I can do these without injury, I have realized that I am better off not doing those exercises.

So, I'd adapt those programs to do bodyweight squats and lunges for lower body instead of squats and deads. YMMV. It was painful for me to make this choice but I'm able to exercise much more consistently now.

Anyway, do stronglifts and be thoughtful about which exercises might put you on the injured reserve after a few months of repetition.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:30 PM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Spotters are worth their weight in gold. You need to ensure you are lifting with proper form or you will regret it later. It's hard to unlearn a bad way of doing things.
That said, it's tough sometimes to figure out if the person giving you advice knows what they are talking about. There are videos online that a personal trainer(!) put up of his clients doing "clean and presses". They started with an alternate grip deadlift and were stopping in the middle of the lift to flip their grips! I am amazed that no one was hurt.
posted by domo at 2:13 PM on May 9, 2016

If I'm being honest, the number one and number two obstacles to hiring a trainer are: 1) I don't wanna; it's embarrassing; and 2) I'm loathe to commit a bunch of money up front to what amounts to Possibly Foolhardy Get in Shape Plan #4,252.

Fully aware those are not great reasons.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:24 PM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty much in the same boat as MoonOrb, though I did eventually figure out how to do deadlifts in a way that has worked for me so far. I do lunges instead of squats and have worked to add pull downs and now chin-ups to my routine since that's something I wanted to actually be able to do.

I figure I should share my results though after a couple years though... though obviously your body is different than mine, it's a data point. I have neither gained or lost weight, and honestly I don't really look any slimmer, though my shoulders and arms are definitely visibly more muscular than before. I think it has made me have better posture, which can help how people see you. I feel most of the benefit is from feeling stronger and healthier and more full of energy though in a way that even walking to and from school about 50 minutes total every day didn't really. So for me it's definitely been more of a plus for how I feel than how I look or weigh.

And another thing, I definitely wouldn't have stuck with this if I didn't have a gym buddy who was into the lifting stuff more than I was and did the work of looking up youtube videos and talking about what was good form and what felt like good form to us. So even if you don't want to drag a friend along to act as each other's amateur personal trainers, I think it would be a good idea to get a personal trainer to get you started until you feel like you know what you're doing and have made good habits.
posted by Zalzidrax at 2:33 PM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I currently Olympic-weighlift but have previously powerlifted, CrossFitted, and bodybuilt.

I would recommend powerlifting for you. Powerlifting (squats deads bench military, plus accessory work) is fantastic for overall strength. I followed the Jim Wendler training method, but I have heard good things about the other programs mentioned here. There are a zillion good apps for this, such as Big Lifts 2, which I used. You can definitely get the workout done in an hour, which I loved.

nthing the idea of paying someone for some sessions to make sure your squat and deadlift forms are safe. Don't go to Globo-Gym for this--find a powerlifting or strongman gym in your area and just offer to pay the coach or one of the advanced lifters directly. For example, the squat form you see in BodyPump classes is outright dangerous if you have real weight on the bar. Hire someone who lifts the weight you want to lift. You might find a great gym in the process.

On preview of your response, I can't stress enough how supportive and encouraging your average powerlifter/strongman is of new/returning lifters. They all remember being less strong than they are now. Heavy weight is heavy, no matter how strong you are.

MeMail me with where you are in IL and I'll see if I can find a good place for you. I love, love, love big lifts and being strong and squatting and weight belts and 45lb plates. I would be delighted to help in any way I can.

We can also talk diet if you'd like. You can lose fat and build muscle with powerlifting by shifting your macros around and throwing in some interval training.

posted by radicalawyer at 2:35 PM on May 9, 2016 [7 favorites]

I can understand not wanting to throw a bunch of money at the problem right up front, but at my gym you can pay for one or two training sessions at a time. (Yes, you can pay for more and get a price break, but it's not as though you have to sign up for a whole year's worth at once.)

Before I started going to the gym a few years back, I was in reasonable shape, but I was really resistant to the gym because I thought I wouldn't fit in and I didn't really like the whole idea of a place where people went just to exercise. It just seemed ... weird and cultish and not like me, frankly.

The trainer was actually something that helped me not just devise a specific fitness plan, but get over the idea that I didn't fit in there. Of course, this depends on the trainer. But I'd say don't dismiss that a trainer could be part of the plan. I get that it could seem a little bit embarrassing, but whatever your deal is, they've surely seen "worse."

And after three years seeing the same trainer every few months at the gym, he's aware of my foibles and I can make jokes about how I occasionally fall off the exercise ball or lose my balance trying to do the simplest thing. (I'm in good shape but I'm still awkward.)
posted by veggieboy at 2:36 PM on May 9, 2016

If you really want to do it alone, you may want to consider working out in a pool. You swim a bit for the cardio and then you use the foam thingies for the weights. You can build some nice muscles without dropping anything on your toes or pulling something that would force you to stop.

It's really hard to work out alone. You may want to rethink that by looking into crossfit. If you can find a good group, it can be life changing. Our local one (I have friends who do it, I don't) has a great group of people who cheer each other on. They are all sizes and skill levels. They do a lot of adrenaline/variety stuff to stay engaged and push on. It's like having a your own personal fan club demanding the next album.

Since you are 40, you might want to ask your doctor to check your testosterone levels. Low levels will make it harder to build muscle and lose fat, and it is an easily fixed problem.

Good luck!
posted by myselfasme at 3:03 PM on May 9, 2016

Nthing Stronglifts.

It's easy in the sense that it's a very short of exercises, 3X a week, and you ramp into the weights slowly. You'll likely think "this is too easy" for the first week and a half.

Around week 3 or 4, depending on where you started, you'll realize that shit just got real. And you'll be shocked at your ability to lift weight that you couldn't lift 4 weeks ago.

I love the program. I've done several different ones, and this is the only one I've found that is actually fun to me.
posted by Thistledown at 3:14 PM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you tried kettle bells? They're great for getting some cardio in while also building muscle. Plus I think they are a little less finicky and intimidating than a squat rack if you aren't a gym regular. Look up some kettle bell workouts on YouTube, I'm sure you'll find a ton. I really think this is the right workout for you, combined with some bodyweight and flexibility exercises. Some gyms even offer a kettle bell class.

For fitness, I think it's important to set goals. Ideally something you can measure progress on everyday. Since you're overweight, I assume you want to lose weight? Give yourself a weekly goal. It's often said that weight loss is 90% diet and I think that is true from first-hand experience. Avoid processed foods and anything with sugar (which is hard because we stuff corn sugar into a lot of things). This will probably mean cooking a whole lot more.

The CDC has a good plain-English explanation of how weight loss works. It has little to do with metabolism; metabolic disorders are not as prevalent as diet magazines and talk shows would have you believe. It's a common myth that you can increase your metabolism by exercising. In fact, you simply are increasing your caloric requirements.
posted by deathpanels at 3:24 PM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Plus, if there's someone expecting you at the gym X times a week, its easier to maintain that habit. Finally, a trainer will help you come up with a schedule so you're getting the most out of each workout. Its not something I think everyone needs forever (I do though. The only reason I go to the gym some days is because my trainer is expecting me) but it's pretty helpful for everyone at the start.
Don't want to cross-talk too much, but this is exactly the line that gyms use to sell expensive personal training packages to people that will never use them. I.e., "if you don't put significant money into your gym membership, you won't actually use it." The economics of the fitness industry work specifically because a lot of people sign up and then never use their membership. So you are right to be wary, OP.

YMMV, but I think that if you are not self-motivated, no amount of training session packages will get you into the gym. A few sessions with a trainer can be useful to correct your form but in the days of YouTube where there are thousands of free videos demonstrating every kind of lift you could want to learn, it's not compulsory to have a trainer. Weight lifting isn't as dangerous as its made out to be. Learn how to escape from a failed bench press and a failed squat and you're golden. If you reach the point where you're powerlifting 250+ then maybe start thinking about investing in a trainer or a membership at a more niche gym.
posted by deathpanels at 3:41 PM on May 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

About not hiring a trainer:

1) I don't wanna; it's embarrassing;

I once was a 5'3" woman weighing north of 220 pounds. I lost the weight, after age 39, through diet and lifting, including power lifting. I never would have known the following had I not hired a trainer to show me (model it and correct my behavior) the good form that would keep me from injuring myself:

- how to keep my knees from buckling inward on a deadlift
- how to keep my weight in my heels, not on my toes, on a deadlift
- how to position my hips, back, and head during a deadlift to avoid injuring my lower back
- how to position the bar on my back during squats to avoid falling over or inuring my neck or back
- how to position my back during pushups to avoid lower back strain
- how to position my feet in a split squat so I get the maximum muscle benefits

So, how will you learn how to lift, avoiding injury, if no one shows you how to do it? What's your plan for avoiding injury and/or just giving up because you've made it harder on yourself than it has to be by having bad form?

PS Avoid Crossfit. Google for horror stories. Stick with an ugly, low-priced, lifting-focused gym to find people who are serious and know their stuff. You don't need a pedicure in your gym. You don't need gym-sponsored happy hours. You need the place staffed by people who can show you how to lift without injury.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 4:21 PM on May 9, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'm a less extreme version of you.

Thus far, I've lost about 40 Lbs and a solid 45 of that is fat. I've still got some solid pudge around my middle but I think that, at 35, I'm in better shape than I've ever been.

I got myself a good set of weights with an Olympic bar and squat rack used off of craigslist and made my own spotter bars. They're just a saw-horse cut down to a couple of inches below the lowest bar level on my squat and bench press. Those are the two lifts for which you'll need a spotter. If I fail out of a squat, I can let go of the bar or just set it down a bit more and it will rest on the stands, ditto for the bench (different, shorter stands) and the bench is really the more dangerous of the two.

Now, I've got some bad news, adding the weight lifting alone won't really help you lose weight or even any fat. It WILL help you gain muscle and strength and help improve cardio vascular health. It's just generally a good, healthy habit and I think everyone should do it. It will have an effect on your metabolism but you might also get hungrier as a result. I didn't really change what I ate, I just basically tried to eat less of it. Two beers, not three. Three slices instead of four. When asking myself questions about whether or not to have more food, I just default to "no" instead of "yes". Some days are better than others, I weight myself often because it changes throughout the day and it gives me a better idea of the trend. I also measure myself. I lost a couple of inches from around my waist before I saw results on the scale.

You can't go wrong with starting Strength. I tweaked the program a bit because I just couldn't ever get the power clean down and I don't play sports so I don't care. I AM vain so I added pull-ups (palms facing me) once I light enough and strong enough to do them so work on my biceps while also being a compound movement that has turned out to also work my upper back and abs really well. Then I could only really screw up the motivation to do it twice a week and since I'm not young, it took extra time before the delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) had subsided enough that I could lift again. The first few times you lift will make you sore for days after. The good news is that this is something that improves the more you do it just like almost everything else when you start lifting. Today, my muscles will be sore the day after I lift and I'll take a bit of warming up as I walk the dog before I can really take a full stride and the discomfort has pretty much subsided by the end of that day.

So I ended up doing:
Monday: Squats 3 sets, 5 reps; bench press 3x5, pull-ups 3x5
Thursday: Squats 3x5, overhead press 3x5, deadlifts 1x5

Read the starting strength book through a couple of times. Watch some videos on youtube on how to do the lifts. Then hire a trainer to coach you and make sure you get the form down. Occasionally watch more videos to make sure you're still doing it right but you're mostly on your own from there. Make sure you take the warm-up stuff seriously. There is a lot of debate about belts, both with some valid points. I don't wear one for the warm ups and the few two sets so all those little "stabilizer muscles" get stressed and then I put the belt on for the hard sets where I'm more likely to break form and hurt myself.

Creatin is a good supplement. It's cheap and it's actually effective. I notice a difference a little bit during a workout but mostly I find that I'm sore for longer if I skip it.

It's important that you're able to get all the way down with the squats and it's the most important lift you can do but there are decent alternatives like weighted lunges or step-ups if you can't yet manage it, need an alternative while dealing with an injury, or trying to keep up the habit while out of town.

It worked for me because it was in my basement and it only took 45 minutes, twice a week and only $200 (I got a bit lucky) for the weights. I got rid of a lot of excuses NOT to keep it up. I've gotten a LOT stronger and I've gotten bigger in places that emphasize the places that I've gotten smaller.

I really do think that my losing weight and my gaining strength are two separate and healthy goals. They're related but but not always in complimentary ways. The only real exercise I usually get aside from that is walking the dog once a day for about 20 minutes.
posted by VTX at 4:58 PM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Re diet... yeah, that is a big part of weight loss. But if fitness is where you're head's at, start there, that's what I did. You can make some tweaks to your meals as you go.

I disagree that you have to cut things you love out forever and ever. It's totally possible to balance things out. (I aim for 80:20.) For now, maybe just have a bit less of some of the more calorific things, and include a few more meals that are likely to fill you up quicker (more protein and veggies/fiber, basically). Excellent time for barbecuing and maybe trying out new veggie recipes, now that more things are going to be in season. If you're a foodie and love experimenting, that's an advantage. It can be about adding things, vs. taking them away, you know?

Calorie counting is useful for becoming acutely aware of just how much some things are worth, because more than a few people have been surprised by the value of a donut*. But you don't have to track to lose - you can do portion control in other ways. (E.g. use a visual guide, or get some pre-calibrated containers [Glad tupperware] or measuring cups. Or, plan your menu in advance so that, say, your breakfast and lunch are more protein/veggie-oriented, which gives you more room for a pizza slice and a beer for dinner.)

* You have no idea how sad I was when I found out that a poutine is almost 1000 calories, and that my favourite jerk chicken combo takes up 2/3rds of my target. But I still have those, and it's fine. Just maybe once every couple of months instead of, um, too many days/week. I have McD's or something like that (am convenience-oriented and that is less of a calorie bomb than poutine) a couple of times a week. Not every day, because a) that's a slippery slope and (related) b) it messes with my appetite (which e.g. grilled chicken and e.g. a red cabbage and apple salad tend to help with). But it's fine every so often.

But yeah - you don't have to start with all that, and not all at once, for sure.

(Back to the home gym idea - you can buy plates as you go, you don't have to drop a bunch of money on a full set right away. And, if you decide you hate it or it's not happening, you can sell it all on Craigslist, and get almost 100% of your money back [last time I checked].)
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:02 PM on May 9, 2016

How about a home gym with a mirror, a decent weight set up, and P90X? It is a darned effective program and includes enough cardio to help you burn calories as well as get strong.
posted by bearwife at 5:13 PM on May 9, 2016

Nthing everyone, especially ImproviseOrDie, who suggests that you get a trainer to start. Like you, I used to lift fairly seriously, but getting older, less active and heavier means that people like us are likely to have some weird weaknesses and imbalances that we didn't used to have, and we're more likely to get injured.

I hired a trainer for one session at my sports medicine clinic back in March. He assessed my strength, range of motion and general flexibility, identified some weaknesses and imbalances, and gently told me that I was nowhere near ready to do Starting Strength, let alone even try deadlifting and squatting as I used to. He developed a routine I could do at home or the gym (with alternate exercises allowing for equipment availability), and turned me loose. I went back after 3 weeks to fine tune what I was doing, then after another month to get a new program that included deadlifts (yay!). I won't see him again for at least another two months, when I should be at a point to start squatting again (double yay!).

You may need to see a trainer only once: get assessed, confirm your form, get turned loose. Or you may decide to come back once or twice at intervals that make sense to you if you think you need advice on improving your workout. It doesn't have to be embarrassing or expensive, and it can be a real help as you get going.
posted by maudlin at 8:00 PM on May 9, 2016

All I would say has been covered, and I'm no expert anyway, just another shlub. One tip though, if you go the home route is that a pair of stands makes an incredible difference in convenience and enjoyment over trying to do it off the floor.

I wouldn't worry about a spotter if you're keeping the weight reasonable for your current level and have the safety catch bars on the stand. It's not like you get totally surprised and collapse completely under the bar all at once. You can still generally have enough left in you to gently (more or less) steer it onto the catch bars.

I would pay at least once to have a coach watch you squat once you think you know what you're doing. That mystery pain you're not sure is an injury? Probably doing something slightly wrong and can't see yourself to correct it.
posted by ctmf at 8:47 PM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

A suggestion: in addition to weight training, thinking about going for a walk with your spouse a few nights a week. It does a few good things: keeps you moving in a low impact way; helps keep your relationship "deliriously happy;" and gets you out of the house, away from the beer and pizza.

Good luck!
posted by bluedaisy at 9:59 PM on May 9, 2016

I can't stress enough how supportive and encouraging your average powerlifter/strongman is of new/returning lifters. They all remember being less strong than they are now.

Nthing this. If you lived in LA, I'd drag you to my strongman gym, where the owner and coaches regularly give returning lifters form lessons, for like $20 a session. I recommend a strongman/powerlifting gym specifically because that's a crowd that's not really into making assumptions about a person's strength based on a person's looks; it's a small community, even smaller than CrossFit, and extremely supportive and positive. Almost everyone at my gym has broken themselves in some spectacular way at some point and has weaknesses as a result; most folks have taken substantial time off and come back to lifting; and no one judges anyone for anything besides failing to put away your weights when you're done. (That'll earn your ass extra time on the prowler.) I'm a 43-year-old super heavyweight, and I get just as much respect and coaching attention as the young, thin, hot girls.

You don't need to go broke or sign a membership contract, but $20-$60 spent on initial, then occasional coaching as a refresher to help you fix your own particular body mechanics is well worth the expense and potential embarrassment, because it'll head off some serious injury down the road that might sideline you.

Also, I've got the Starting Strength DVD lying around here somewhere, as well as the Catalyst Athletics Olympic lifting DVD; if you're interested, MeMail me and I'll pass them on, along with some programs I have.
posted by culfinglin at 10:36 PM on May 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I know going to a trainer seems expensive and possibly embarrassing, but PLEASE OMG DO IT ANYWAY.

Excess weight puts a lot of strain on your joints. Weightlifting will do this even more (obviously). It is very important for your continued mobility that you do not overstrain your joints before building strength there, and that your form and lifting amounts are just right. Without a trainer, you can very easily hurt yourself badly. Muscle strains will heal. Joint damage is forever.

I promise the money you spend on a trainer is a lot less than having knee surgery.

Working out in a pool is also a good way to build strength and get some cardio in without risking your joints.

Best of luck!!
posted by ananci at 10:46 AM on May 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

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