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Volume 90, Issue 89

Thursday, March 13, 1997



Gonna make you sweat

©Geoff Robbins/Gazette
WEIGHT LIFTING 101. Third-year physical therapy student Nancy Durrand demonstrates the proper form of doing a bicep curl.

By Elana Lavine
Gazette Staff

Anyone who has used Campus Recreation facilities since winter vacation will have definitely noticed a difference in the daily pace of the hub of Western fitness. Deciding at the last minute to jump on the Stairmaster for a good sweat? Be prepared to wait half-an-hour, sometimes longer. Catching a body sculpting class in between lunch and the library? Get in line for those weights early. It seems as though Western, en masse, has made a giant new year's resolution to get its butt in gear and its feet moving. The get-in-shape mentality is enjoying a mid-winter peak, which could safely be correlated with lots of good food and some post-party regrets.

The key to getting in shape is working both your heart and your muscles, says Chris Batista, a weight-training instructor and weight-lifting co-ordinator who runs the weight room and cardio circuit room at Western's Campus Recreation.

"Aerobics burns fat while you are exercising and is the best way to exercise the heart and lungs," Batista explains. "Weight training does not burn as hard as aerobics, but the after-effect is a slow, continual burn for several hours after you are done."

Can both genders expect to gain equally from the benefits of weight training? "Muscle has no gender," Batista says. "Pound for pound, there is no difference in male versus female muscle growth, although testosterone does promote it.

"While many guys seem to want to bulk up their chest and shoulders, the majority of women I speak to are interested in losing weight," Batista explains.

"The maximum healthy loss can be two pounds of fat a week. Anything you lose beyond that is water and muscle."

Can cutting the fat out of your diet for a few weeks attain this two pounds per week goal? No, because of the ratchet effect – everyone has a set weight and it tends to fluctuate around that weight without varying too much. Dieting may lead to short-term weight loss, but once a normal eating pattern is resumed, your set weight can actually increase. Think of it like this: your body interprets a greatly calorie-reduced diet as a form of starvation and compensates by storing as mush as possible in all of your favourite places, the same places you might be exercising quite diligently. The ratchet effect only works one way – your set weight can increase, but not decrease, through changing your diet. Exercise, however, can actually lower your set weight.

It's simple enough to show up for aerobics or learn how to climb the Stairmaster. Joggers are a frequently seen sight on and around campus. Swimming requires only a bathing suit and a decent doggie paddle. And as for squash, one only needs those stylin' goggles and a patient friend. However, weights are a whole other story. Visiting the weight room for the first time can be slightly intimidating, especially when everyone else in the room appears to know what they are doing.

"Most people are already used to my being here and ask me their questions, whether they've been pumping iron for 10 years or a few weeks," Batista says. He adds weight room users range from senior citizens to children brought in by health-conscious parents. The presence of women has increased and they tend to use more of the lower-body weight machines, while men seem to like the bench press and working on their chest and shoulders. "It's a stereotype, but it seems true," Batista admits.

Fitness media and those late-night infomercials seem to relay the message that you can pick the body you dislike the most and work it into a thing of greater beauty. "That's a common misconception," Batista explains. "Building muscle in a spot won't necessarily reduce the fat in that area – you'll get muscle underneath the fat and that will just make it look bulkier. Fat is burned from your entire body at the same time," he explains. "You have to work your entire body, because humans are generalists – we don't have any one especially developed body part. Our body parts are meant to work in sync with each other."

Is there a specific way to work the body so that you get the maximal benefits? "You can maximize a weight work out by keeping your shoulders back, chest high, abs tight and knees bent," Batista says. "And you can choose between total body work outs or just working a few muscles at a time."

One might wonder if there are any benefits to having muscles for anything besides pool-side flexing and looking great in tank tops. "Muscle tissue is very high energy," Batista stresses. "And even just sitting around, muscles burn calories.

The more muscles you have, the higher the rate at which you burn calories."

Hey, that sounds pretty exciting. Burn calories while you watch television – wasn't that on the back page of The Enquirer, last week?

Freddy Parreira, of Freddy's Fitness Shop, claims business has almost doubled since the beginning of 1997. "For the first little while it's people making up for their holiday indulgences," Parreira laughs.

In its five-and-a-half years of operation, Parriera's shop has seen the same new year's pattern begin every January and last well into April. "It doesn't really slow down till the summer," Parreira says.

The best-seller of the new year at Freddy's are ab toners. "They are called all kinds of things – ab toners, rollers, sculptors, trainers," Parreira adds. "But they all do the same thing."

Does Parreira have one? "Yes," he admits. "I have the Absculptor, which is one of the original toning machines. It actually does work – if you use it regularly."

Remember when jumping into a new and revamped fitness routine to pay attention to the signals your body gives you. 'No pain, no gain' is definitely a catchphrase well past its expiry date. Batista sums it up like so – "If it feels weird, don't do it."

To Contact The Features Department: gazfeat@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1997