The kinder, gentler approach means you'll be "rowing" toward fitness for a long time...

The kinder, gentler approach means you'll be "rowing" toward fitness for a long time...

I am fat. The fattest I’ve ever been, anyway. And to add insult to injury, I’m supposed to get married this year. Not in 12 months, more like seven or eight. So I need to get in shape and shed major lbs. and I don’t have a lot of time to do it.

What to do? The obvious approach would seem to be the one that people typically favor when it comes to the dual challenges of losing weight and getting fit – do it fast. And pretty much all the “hot” workouts focus on that too – most notably “The 7-Minute Workout,” which features high-intensity interval training done in just a few hyper minutes. The appeal being that because exercise is de facto awful, but we all have to do it (whether your reasons are weight loss, good health, or both), the best approach is to make it as efficient as possible and get it over with as soon as possible.

And I can’t really argue with that reasoning. Except that that approach makes me hate exercise even more. And that makes it harder for me to do it.

When I started a couple of years ago I didn’t hate exercise. At least not anymore. I was in shape, felt great, worked out vigorously four or five times a week and though I definitely remembered how bad it feels to be a jiggly unfit blob and want to be fit (and slimmer), that wasn’t the reality I was living at the time. When I started the site I simply wanted to show people who hated to work out an easier, simpler, evidence-based way to do it and do what I could to encourage them to keep doing it.

Now I’m living that reality of the jiggly blob. Again. And it totally, unequivocally sucks.

Since I’ve been out-of-shape and overweight before and I know how much it hurts to get back in shape, how tedious it is, and how much I’d rather be doing almost anything else, my inclination is to go back to what’s worked for me before. For me, that’s swimming. I love to swim and God knows that buoyancy is very, very welcome when you’re chubby. Swimming is a total-body workout that also loops in cardio and for me has only pleasant connotations from childhood (I completely block out what I look like in a bathing suit).

The thing is, though, that if you just swim and do no land-lubber workouts, you aren’t likely to see big results in your body as quickly as if, say, you run. So I’m left pondering whether what I’m calling “the slow boat to China” approach – where I like my workouts, but they’re less challenging (i.e., too gentle) and unlikely to show real benefits anytime soon – is the best. Or if I should just suck it up and suffer and hate every second of more intense, vigorous and difficult workouts (which can also up my risk for injury since I’m so blob-y).

Today I did the first workout of my new regimen and I chose to do a 60-minute yin yoga practice, figuring I needed to ease into this new program and not shock my body with something too nutty. It was a lovely, quiet practice wherein I probably burned three calories. But I enjoyed myself. Isn’t that worth something? The answer is yeah, of course it is, but that something isn’t going to be weight loss, at least not without serious calorie-cutting.

I'll keep reporting on my progress, but right now I'm inclined to take the less-is-more approach if only because it's worked for me before. Once I reach a decent (if modest) amount of fitness I find that it's a lot easier to keep up with the average class -- and that, of course, makes it a lot more fun.

I’d love to hear which you think is the better approach: The “slow boat to China” (China = fitness in this metaphor) method, or the “fast and furious” approach to getting fit? What’s worked for you?


Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari / Dollar Photo Club