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T NATION | Conditioning is a Sham
Good question. I've never been good at half-measures so I've tended to jump in with both feet. I started my adult fitness journey a few years ago after I quit smoking. I was an active teen but became a largely sedentary adult smoker. When I quit, I needed to do something with the stress, so I took up TKD. After coming back from the knee injury, I threw myself into Crossfit. So maybe I'm not so much one to ask about gradual transitions! In both cases I basically did a scaled version of things to start off and built up from there.
The thing that came with TKD was a lot of bodyweight training. Our dojang was really big on conditioning, with about half of our one-hour classes spent on strength work (solo or paired) and stuff like sprinting. I got quite fit and relatively strong doing that, and I think that can be a good way to build a base level of fitness for a newbie. Something like PBF could be a good start if she wants to begin there.
For weights, I'd start with learning the basic movements--squats, deadlifts, presses--but at a weight that works for her. If she's very untrained, the unloaded 45-pound bar may still be too heavy for her for some movements, so you might look for a gym that has fixed barbells in lower weights (mine goes as low as 20, I think, although I never use them) or that has the lighter women's Oly bars that are 33 pounds and have a bit smaller diameter. You can also use dumbbells, or she might like kettlebells. I think personality comes into play in the weight room--I love feeling like a beast doing heavy, low-rep sets, but they're not for everyone.
She will need to scale a program to fit her size and abilities and consider that some beginner stuff is designed for teenage guys, not adult women--I don't know how old your wife is or what sort of shape she's in generally, but I know that even at 29, when I started TKD, I was definitely not starting from the same place as a teenage dude. So if she decides to try something like Starting Strength, she's going to need to keep in mind that the program is designed for young guys (you can check out sbhikes's experiences as an adult woman doing SS).
I also wouldn't fling myself into a massively complex routine to begin. But then, I don't have a massively complex routine now. I warm up, do my main lift, one accessory exercise, and one other exercise (accessory or otherwise). That's it, then I go home. I don't want to spend 2-3 hours in the gym. I think that less is often more when it comes to weights, unless maybe you're a bodybuilder wanting to do lots of high-rep isolation work.
Anyhow, so where is she at fitness-wise now?
She's 38, 5'3" about 190. Strong sturdy legs but no upper body strength at all. She's a full time computer science student and the jobs she has had have all been tech based. She has asthma and though she was in the Israeli Army was in a special program that relied far more on brains than brawn. Her basic training was 10 days and she was not allowed to run on doctor's orders. So fitness wise...not so much? I would be very surprised if she could bench the 45 pound bar but she'd probably leg press quite a bit.
I'll check out what the gyms around here offer as personal training (or see if there is a private pt around) who can perhaps help her with some basic movements, hell, help us both as I need help with squats and deadlifts.
I have asthma too, and I actually really encourage lifting because even though I sometimes get exercise-induced attacks, they never happen when I'm lifting. Lifting is short bursts of maximal efforts followed by rests, which works really well for me.
The other stuff (sprint work mostly) has also helped improved my lung health and has reduced the incidence of asthma attacks for me. Exercise is good for asthma, as long as it's done with awareness of one's physical responses and with appropriate rescue meds on hand. I sometimes get exercise-induced asthma, but if I'm conscious of the signs, it doesn't run away on me.
When we started doing CF, the time for the intro class didn't work for us, so we did our 6-week on-ramp class with one of the trainers from the gym--she also had training specifically in working with people who were rehabbing injuries, which was great for me coming off physio for the knee. We went together, and it was actually really fun. Now that we're working out independently, going to the gym together is part of our routine and we see it as really good face time. We keep each other accountable, cheer each other on, and crack jokes, and it's been quite positive for our relationship health as well as our physical wellness.
I have to remind myself not to compare myself to him, though. He's 6'3" and pushing 240 now (mostly muscle mass) with a lifelong engagement with physical activity and some experience with bodybuilding, and I'm 5'8" and 150 with far less gym experience. I'm the nerd who goes and looks things up and plans programming, but he's the one who's definitely more at home in the weight room, especially when it comes to fitness culture.
So if you two decide to do the training together, I think it can be really positive as long as you keep the focus on supporting the other in reaching her or his personal best.
She'll probably want to watch the sprinting at first and not overdo it, but it really improves cardiovascular health, far more I think than longer steady-state cardio. For me, a long run or metcon is far more likely to create issues than a four-minute tabata set. A quick survey of the research literature seems to support the use of controlled HIIT for improving asthma.
I am careful about air quality when I run outdoors (we can get forest fire smoke pretty heavy here sometimes in the summer, and we can also get inversions in the city), so that's another reason I like rower sprints or bike tabatas. It's easier to control the air quality variable, and I'm in an environment where if I do have issues, I can use my inhaler and have people around if I need help.
My asthma is fairly well controlled (minimal attacks, no hospital visits for many years now). If hers is not as well controlled, she might want to talk to her doctor about ramping up activity. Of course, there are old-school doctors out there who come from the attitude that people with asthma can't be active, but my doctor does asthma research and is highly encouraging of activity, with medication support if needed. Being active with a control medication is better than being sedentary without, IMO.
But when I started out, I was on a daily control medication and still often needed a rescue inhaler. I had a setback for a while after a bad case of H1N1 during the big outbreak, but now I'm back to no daily meds and very rarely needing the Ventolin. Eating a good diet helps too of course, but I think the exercise routine has been the biggest contributor to my improved lung health.
Also, I wish I could win the thumb wars around here. That's the problem with living with a man who does physical work and uses a lot of hand tools--my wimpy keyboard hands can't compared.
So tired of the goddamn fat hate around here. Kid wants to take on brominated vegetable oils? Let's point out that she's fat. Go to the doctors? Let's trash the nurses for being fat (because health professionals are supposed to be saints and not be affected by the same factors that make other people fat). Let's mock the fat folks in the grocery store too, even if they have a cart full of multigrain bread, fruit, and chicken breasts because they are trying really damn hard to follow what they've been told to do to get thinner.
No compassion. No "hmmm...what's maybe going on in that person's life?" No recognition that a lot of people on this board are still fat, and that if one of those posters saw them working at a clinic or whatever, they'd probably immediately judge them as a SAD-eating fatty who just needs to be shamed until they know they're fat, fat, fat and completely unworthy of love.
Oh, and people can get fat on high-fat primal. I know a woman who did. It's not a magic bullet. Eating healthy food and being active will make a huge difference in people's health, but it's no guarantee that someone will get ripped or even that they'll get down to a "normal" BMI.
But nope, let's not think about any of that. Let's just hate on the fat folks some more because we're small people who only feel good about our own looks if we can convince ourselves we're such superior beings for having discovered the primal magic, and so we need to judge and to preach and to hate.
Also, there are plenty of fat folks here doing the best they can. Including yours-truly. The fat hate has been around for a while now and doesn't seem to be going away, which is sad but not unexpected. People like to feel superior to others and if they can't feel that way due anything inherently good they have to fall back to physical appearance.
TL;DR People are assholes.
Yeah. I still miss having Griff around and feel so sad that he got chased off the board by that stuff. I know others have left after that kind of stuff too--they just drift away feeling like they don't belong here unless they can get washboard abs or whatever. Really, I admire the people who've worked hard and improved their health so much, regardless of whether they lose an ounce.
I mean, it was easy for me as someone who was not in the obese category and has no metabolic issues--I didn't have to fight with my body to get here once I cleaned up my eating and got active. On me, a 40-pound weight loss is a HUGE change, but I was not actually even wearing plus size clothes when I started PBP. For someone who's 350 pounds, that's going to seriously improve their health, but they're still going to be seen as a fat guy when they go to the grocery store.
And I get why people give up. I have friends who have. They know how I eat, but they don't want to try yet another diet and end up with another yoyo that leaves them worse off than before. And they've had that happen, and they've had people suggest every diet under the sun, and they've already heard all the lectures about their health. So I don't lecture. I simply love them and don't judge them, but I also support them in making healthy choices (and healthy choices don't always mean weight loss happens). That's what it means to be someone's friend.
But I get the feeling that some of the people around here are also the people who moo at people who are walking down the street, or even the dudes who threw trash at my friend one day when she was trying to go for a bike ride. So then someone is trying to do the right thing, but they are harassed and mocked so they stop doing it.
Sorry for ranting. I just know too many people who are so deeply hurt by this stuff, and my sense of injustice is pretty strong.