DEAR FFG: My son will be three this October, and I still haven’t lost all the baby weight. Is there anything I can do to kick-start my metabolism? I want to be able to run after my son and play with him with no problem. — A Future Former Fat Girl
DEAR FUTURE FFG: Those 3-year-olds give you a workout, don’t they? The fact that your son is your motivation to get healthy is so powerful — much more powerful than fitting into a pair of jeans or hitting a certain number on the scale. The fact is that we don't have to be thin to enjoy life: We just have to be strong enough to carry ourselves through life comfortably, to run and play and pick up our kids and hold them as long as we can (although mine is 10 — I’d have to be a power-lifter to hoist him!).
As far as boosting your metabolism, I first focus on building up your endurance and strength through walking. Usually the best tactic is to start with 20 to 30 minutes 3 to 5 times a week, and do that for at least six weeks. At that point, check in with yourself: Has the walking gotten easier? Do you know you can handle the 30 minutes without a problem? If not, keep up your base routine until you do feel like you can handle the effort.
Once you have that, you can try a couple of things to build your metabolism:
- Strength training: A good weight lifting routine can help you increase your lean muscle mass and boost metabolism. You could actually start this now if you want. I would recommend a place like Curves or a beginner circuit class at the Y. Or, get a one-time session with a trainer to learn a good routine tailored to your needs (and if you have the money, by all means sign on for more!). The thing about strength training is that it gets your core muscles in shape so you feel more powerful while walking, and stronger leg and core muscles in particular can keep you from having achy knees and back pain. Try to train a minimum of twice a week, maybe after a shorter walk if you have the time.
- Walking intervals: Alternate short bursts of 2 to 3 minutes at a faster pace, with an equal amount of time at your normal pace to recover. Do this for your 30-minute workout once or twice a week.
- Walk/run intervals: Simply run instead of walk during the faster portions of your interval workout.
- Hill repeats: Find a hill in your neighborhood and power-walk up it 3 to 5 times during your walk. You can do this a couple of times a week
- Cross training: Spinning is a great thing to work into your routine. It's a hard, sweaty workout that gets you off your feet and burns a ton of calories, but since you are in charge of setting your bike's resistance, it's tailored to your fitness level.
Once you have a good base for walking, it's a great idea to keep switching it up a bit to keep your metabolism on its toes. Think of these options as sort of a cafeteria line–each week you can pick and choose from them.
I hope this helps. Keep looking ahead at your goal … to be a healthy mom for your son. You can do it … I know you can.