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I've maintained a pretty poor diet for most of my adult life, and as a software developer, I've spent most of my time behind a desk with very little exercise.

Since New Year 2011 I've lost nearly 2st (12s12 to 11s1) by eating sensibly and running 3 times a week. I started following the Couch25K plan and I'm now working towards running 10K.

I've surprised the hell out of myself with what I've achieved and I want to continue my fitness run, but I don't really know where to head next.

I'd like to lose the remaining fat that I have around my belly, though I also have to be realistic about what I can achieve. My diet will never be perfect, I don't eat much fruit or veg, and now that I've hit my goal weight I like to treat myself to the odd bit of junk food and beers on a weekend - is it possible to lose the last bit of fat without having a perfect diet? I've also read that it takes a long time to lose this last bit of weight, but have no idea whether than means months or years.

I'd also like to start gaining some muscle. I'm not adverse to the idea of joining a gym, but feel like I'll just be using a load of random machines without actually knowing what I'm doing or if I'm doing the right thing. What's the best way to get started with gaining muscle?

Thanks, Anthony

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First of all, you are giving mixed messages within your question. You want to loose the remaining fat around your belly, and understand that it takes a long time to lose that last bit, but you also said you already met your goal, and want to be able to reward yourself with junk food and beer. In addition, you have already set yourself up for failure by stating that your diet will never be perfect.

Here's the thing... That last bit is the absolute hardest to lose. You need to really commit to taking it off, or be okay with not losing it. Pretending like maybe it'll just slough off if you sort of eat okay still, is thoroughly unrealistic.

What happens to lots of people, is that they reach an intermediate goal, reward themselves, and start to slide backward. It takes a lot more work to lose weight than it does to maintain a weight. If you can ramp up the intensity in the homestretch, you can get the rest of the weight off...if that is what you want to do.

The best beginner weight training routine is a circuit made up of 3 movements done consecutively...a push, a pull, and a squat. You do each exercise one after the other resting minimally between sets of 20, and repeating for 2-5 circuits. A push movement can be a bench press, any cable exercise simulating the same pressing motion, or even an overhead shoulder pressing movement. A pull movement would be a low row, bent row, one arm row, or you could substitute a lat pull. A squat movement could be a free bar squat, dumbbell squat, leg press, or lunges.

Good luck.

Anthony,

I didn't mean to be so hard on you, just trying to keep you based in reality.
Considering that you have not incorporated weight training into your routine thus far, I imagine that when you do, you'll push past your current plateau. I can not say whether it would be a couple months or a year to get your weight down because everybody is different. Plus, I'm not sure what your weight was/is because it doesn't read clearly in your original post. That information could help me to lend more insight in that area.

Let me suggest that you start the circuit routine I described, and if you have not been incorporating a cheat meal already in your diet, that you start doing that also.

A cheat meal can stimulate your metabolism whereas strict dieting for an extended period can stall your metabolism. You have to be careful with a cheat meal and make sure you don't get out of control and that it doesn't become a cheat day (speaking from experience). Also, since it stimulates your metabolism, you may end up feeling more hungry which can require you to have even more resolve on your diet.

Leave the alcohol out of the equation for now.

I'd love to hear how you progress when you make these changes.

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Apologies for not making myself clear - by "meeting my goal", I meant I have hit my original goal, when all I had planned to do was lose a bit of weight. Now that I've done that, I need to set some further goals, but maintaining the 100% no junk-food and no beer rules I used to hit my initial goal I'm likely to find unsustainable long-term. I think depriving myself of things like that is likely to cause me to fall completely off the wagon, where as if I can treat myself on a weekend, it might be something I can turn into a lifestyle. –  littlecharva Apr 12 '11 at 11:39
    
I can probably continue it for another short period of time, but I have no idea how long would be required to lose the rest of my belly fat. So I guess what I'm asking is: If I continue with my strict diet and continue exercising, how long is it likely to take to shift the rest? If I need to do this for a year, then I'm not sure I'll succeed; a few months I can probably manage. I know I'm probably coming across as a non-committed wimp here, but I know that I won't be able to maintain a long-term diet that doesn't allow a little bit of fun here and there. –  littlecharva Apr 12 '11 at 11:39
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First, a word of advice. Losing weight is not something you do for a while and then stop without reverting back to your once chubby self. I hate when people say they're "going on a diet" because this implies that they will eventually "go off" the diet. Losing weight, staying fit, and keeping healthy is not a temporary thing you can do and have it stick, it's a constant commitment to that lifestyle.

From your description, you've got only the basic understanding of what it is you're doing right to lose weight. My first suggestion is to start reading everything you can get your hands on concerning healthy living. There are thousands of websites devoted to getting fit and staying there. Many are bogus or trying to sell you something, but you'll easily recognize and disregard those soon enough.

Don't be intimidated by a gym. There are a lot of machines for you to use and for a first timer it can be overwhelming. Go during a non-busy time and ask a trainer who's not currently with a client or anyone else on staff how to use the equipment. They are there to keep you as a happy and paying customer. They might give you a hard sell to sign a personal trainer contract, but don't feel pressured. On the other hand, a trainer could be just the thing you need.

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+1 for "going on/off a diet" :) –  Lagerbaer Apr 12 '11 at 3:41
    
This is definitely something I want to stick at, hence the reason for this post. You mention reading websites, can you point me in the right direction of a few? –  littlecharva Apr 12 '11 at 11:38
    
The one I use all the time is bodybuilding.com. If you can ignore the hard sell on supplements, they have some excellent articles on both nutrition and exercise. –  Sparafusile Apr 12 '11 at 12:13
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First thing to understand is that there's a lot of ways to losing weight and a lot of people here (or anywhere) will make many different recommendations, so here's mine:

  • Find something that will keep you motivated for a LONG LONG TIME - without that, you're very likely to slip back. Motivation could come from a fitness goal like the one you set, a sport that you are/want-to participate in, just feeling good and internalizing that feeling
  • get some good advice on a program to reach your goals (the something that will keep you going). Advice could come from a personal trainer or some good books (here's one that I've found very helpful in regards to good, simple and effective weight training: http://www.amazon.com/New-Rules-Lifting-Maximum-ebook/dp/B004IE9RBW/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1302544083&sr=8-5)
  • Keep a log of what you're goals are, what you've accomplished, what you did during your exercise program and what you're eating - writing things down help
  • don't be discouraged - seek out like minded people either locally OR virtually (like here)
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(also - use free weights instead of machines........much more effective) –  Meade Rubenstein Apr 11 '11 at 17:53
    
+1 for finding something that will motivate you for a long time. I knew cardio, weightlifting and the like is something I'd never enjoy long term, so I opted to start taking martial arts classes which work me super hard. Love it, and almost halfway to my goal weight. –  morganpdx Apr 11 '11 at 18:46
    
@morganpdx - great! I've been in karate for 25+ years - cardio/weights help with the conditioning...good luck –  Meade Rubenstein Apr 12 '11 at 11:15
    
I'm trying with the long-term goal, but having never had an interest in sport or fitness before in my life, I'm fearful that I'm likely to slip back into my old life. I'm currently focused on running a 10K run in 8 weeks' time, and beyond that I'm thinking of learning to swim properly and then training for a triathalon - hopefully this will do the trick in the short-term. I've just ordered the book you recommended, can you recommend any good websites? –  littlecharva Apr 12 '11 at 11:37
    
@littlecharva I would recommend Ross Training - rosstraining.com/blog and BodyBuilding.com....for general motivation. Find a sport and search the web for what gets you interested. –  Meade Rubenstein Apr 12 '11 at 14:04
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