March 14, 2008

Ask Cranky Fitness: muscles, sex, and weight loss

[By Crabby and Merry]
No Way! There's Actually Something Inside?

This is a special edition of Ask Cranky Fitness. Why is it special? Because it features Three Real-Life Reader Questions! These were sent in by actual blog readers, as opposed to imaginary blog readers, who are much more likely to seek our advice.

Note: if you decide to send in a question to Cranky Fitness, be warned: our answers will probably not be helpful. We are not experts. If you have an important question, ask your Doctor or Mental Health Professional. However, if you do have a question and don't care if we inadvertently make fun of you while answering it, feel free to send it in. Because sometimes the folks in the comments section have some really good advice.

Dear Cranky Fitness,

If I'm strength training two days a week on Monday and Friday, do you think that's enough to see results or do you think the days need to be closer together, say Monday and Wednesday? Do I need to add an additional day as well?

The reason I ask: I HATE strength training by myself. Usually, I wimp out and thus never reap the benefits. There's a great strength training class at my gym, but I can only make the Monday and Friday morning classes. Am I wasting my time?

Muscle Obsessed from the Midwest

Dear Muscle Obsessed,
If you are at the gym lifting heavy things, that's never a waste of time! Especially when you could be home lifting jelly donuts or cheeseburgers and devouring them instead of working out.

However, in my experience, you have to balance out the Loathsomeness of weight training with its Effectiveness. For me, personally, two times a week is enough to maintain strength gains, but I need to go more like 3 times a week for a while to build strength in the first place. My personal weight training plan: an endless cycle of Ambitious Building followed by Inevitable Slacking--at least until the smart scientists invent a muscle-creating pill. Or better yet, a muscle-creating cookie.

If you're building muscle and gaining strength with two times a week and a class you really enjoy, then hooray for you, that's good enough! But if you're stuck and not getting results, it may be time to venture beyond the safety and comfort of your class and add some solo workouts. I'd suggest getting the help of a Friendly Personal Trainer for your first few times, so you can learn all the equipment and discover that many of the Intimidating Gym Rats aren't even actually doing it right.

Good luck with those muscles!


Dear Muscle Obsessed,

I could just hear the enthusiasm when you mentioned that great class on Mondays and Fridays. Is there some other way to generate enthusiasm like that about weight lifting? Like using a Friendly Personal Trainer, as Crabby suggests, but make it an F.P.T. who is reeeeeally cute. Or is there a friend, maybe someone from that great class, whom you can persuade to join you on Wednesdays? If all else fails, set a goal that you want to achieve, such as lifting XXX amount before June. Tell your most sarcastic and critical in-laws co-workers what you're planning to achieve. I mean, hell, you don't want them snickering come June, do you? Fear of ridicule is not the nicest means of self-motivation, but you're going to feel really good about yourself when you make the goal!

-- Merry

Dear Cranky Fitness,

I'm hoping that you can offer some advice on the dreaded, and age old topic of Male/Female interaction at the gym. I go to the gym everyday, usually at the same time of day, and I see the same people over and over again when I am there. In particular, I see a woman, and she is, as the saying goes 'a slammin' hottie'.

Now, I know all about the taboos associated with health club chat ups. I get it, completely. No one goes to the gym to get hit on, and if you try it, you are likely to get branded as 'THAT GUY'. No one wants to be "THAT GUY". To avoid it, I usually pretend that the hot women in my gym don't exist.

Slammin Hottie and I have never spoken, however, for about two weeks, when working out, we have been having some serious eyeball foreplay. Lots of coy smiles, nods, and bedroom eyes. Is this enough to break protocol and make an approach? And how do you talk to someone without being interruptive?

Should I just forget it? Or is there a way to make a move and not look like a douche?

Many thanks,
Gym Guy

Dear Gym Guy,

Congratulations for picking a topic, "Flirtation Etiquette for Attractive Heterosexual Gym-Goers" on which I am spectacularly unqualified to comment! Yet I can't help but offer a few thoughts. Just ignore the fact I have no idea what I'm talking about.

First off, you get Extra Credit for even realizing there's an issue of appropriateness. Many women, whether Slammin' Hotties or not, report plenty of Clueless Approaches by guys who never consider that their advances might not be welcome--or who do consider the possibility but don't give a crap.

As you suspect, approaching her while she's rocking out to her iPod and in the middle of doing something strenuous is probably a mistake. While startling her and causing her to tumble off the treadmill or drop a barbell on your head might make a great "meet cute" scene in a movie, it real life it might kinda suck for you both.

My guess--straight girls, please help me out here--is that guys are still kind of expected to make the first move, and I don't know that a single woman would be horrified to be approached at her gym in a friendly, non-sleazy way by a guy who seems nice if she's not in the middle of something.

Suggestion: innocuous questions like: "Do you know if the gym's open on Easter?" might work somewhat better than "Wow, you're a slammin' hottie! Want to take a ride on my elliptical tonight?"

And do keep in mind that if she shoots you down, you've now turned your daily workout space into a Ongoing Rejection Reminder. Especially if you strike out but some Really Douchey Gym Dude swoops in and scores. So you may want to think hard about whether Slammin' Hottie is worth risking gym peace of mind for.


Dear Gym Guy,

Speaking from the Heterosexual corner, my best advice would be to try the Zen approach. No, I don't mean contemplate your navel, or hers either (at least, not obviously). Is there some Middle Path between being polite-but-distant and totally hitting on her? Can you, in short, get to know her in the non-Biblical sense of the word?

Small talk can be helpful here. Try asking her a question as she finishes her workout or while she's waiting to use some equipment. If she's listening to tunes, ask her about what music she likes to work out to. However, if she happens to mention casually that her iPod was a gift from her professional-football-playing boyfriend, take this as A Sign and stick to being a gym buddy. Whatever you do, don't come on too strong right away. You don't want to come across as an arrogant jerk or as a Nice Guy™. Take the Middle Path, grasshopper.

-- Merry

Dear Cranky Fitness,

I want to lose 60 pounds. It's the same 60 pounds that I have lost and regained 3 times in the past 10 years. Obviously, I need more than just diet and exercise...I need some of that--what do you call it?--behavior modification (or maybe just to have my frontal lobe removed!)

Anyway, my question for you is this: how do I do this? Do you have any suggestions? I've been looking into the weight management center at the University of XXXXXX, but it's not cheap and I'm not really sure how I'd do it when it's a XXX hour drive, round trip. Maybe I'm searching for a needle in a haystack. I know when it really comes down to it, I'm the only one who can help me.....I just need a shove or something! I just turned 40 and I really don't like myself a whole lot at the moment! Anyway, any advice or suggestions would be appreciated!

--Looking for Help

Dear Looking,

First off, if you have managed to lose 60 lbs three different times you are a very strong, very determined person with lots of willpower! You should be proud of yourself for these accomplishments, even if you find yourself struggling again. It's HARD to keep weight off, and the fact that you have the courage to try this again says a lot about your strength of character. Good for you for not giving up.

I'm hoping folks might help out in the comments section with more specific advice and encouragement. I suspect there are lots of people who can relate.

I'm not sure about the particular behavioral weight loss program; you're probably best off talking to people who've been through it. There are some good Cognitive Behavioral self-help books out there you might want to try--Judith Beck's The Beck Diet Solution is one I hear good things about.

Just generally, I'm guessing you've probably heard most of the standard advice already: take it gradually, limit portions but don't starve yourself, exercise, write things down, confront self-defeating thoughts, eat healthy nutritious food, seek social support, etc. I'd just add this:

Don't be too hard on yourself! I suspect there's some perfectionism/fear of failure lying behind your relapses, and trying to do your best each day and sticking with it is way more important than having "perfect" days.

And, if emotional issues or depression or low self-esteem are contributing to your weight issues (also really common and nothing to be ashamed of) counseling can really help. Often universities with counseling programs have interns who don't charge too much.

Good luck, and again, be proud of yourself for not giving up!


Dear Looking,

Oh, give up already.

There. Didn't that feel good? Well, it felt good for the moment. At least, it felt good when I did it. The problem is that I always have to face the fact that I'll need to get up and keep going after I give up.

I'm in the position here that Crabby was in the hetero-dating question. I am not pleased with my current shape at all, having completely slacked off over the winter. All I know to do is a) learn to like myself as I am now (not the shape, the person), b)exercise every day, no excuses, c) eat five servings of those damn green leafy things before I eat anything that tastes good.

Once, when I was wandering through blogland, I happened upon Pasta Queen's blog Half of Me. Being eager to avoid cleaning my house increase my knowledge, I read through the archives that chronicle her attempt to lose 200 pounds. She had several false starts when she first began blogging. But as I read further, I got to the point where I felt sure she was going to make her goal. At one point, she mused that she was more interested in the running and other activities, than in losing weight. I wanted to stand up and cheer when I read that, because that made it certain that she wasn't going to give up. The point should not be to lose weight, the point should be to enjoy life, damn it.

Oh -- sorry, I got so caught up in lecturing myself, I forgot where I was. I'm going to get off this soap box now; it's rather rickety. All I can say is that people have managed to lose that much weight and keep it off. Keep going!

- Merry


  1. I hadn't heard of the Beck Diet Solution before, Crabby, I'll have to check that out. See? This isn't just a couple of bloggers having fun, this post was educational.

    Well, I learned something, anyway :)

  2. I have been reading through various fitness blogs and just found yours. Great comments and feed back. I'll be back to read more.

  3. Hey Merry--and I didn't know there were actual Small Talk Instructions, or women out there who are so intent on giving Nice Guys a bad name!

    (I just skimmed but I tend to disagree that "nice guy" = "insecure.")

    At least we amuse/inform ourselves!

    (And thanks, Igo)

  4. I think the "Nice Guy" post was an extreme example of exaggerating for effect. (Hey, did you notice the nice alliteration there?)

    Don't you think that the same thing could be said about "Nice Girls"?

    Humans, male or female, aren't attractive when they're so insecure that they're giving off desperation vibes. Someone who likes themselves (but isn't in love with their mirror) is much more interesting to be around.

    Hi Igo! (iGo? How do you pronounce that anyway?)

  5. Crabby: "(I just skimmed but I tend to disagree that "nice guy" = "insecure.")"

    Nice Guys (TM) are not "guys who are nice" (those are "nice guys"). Nice Guys (TM) are the guys described in the article who think if only they can act Nice enough, women will be obligated to have sex with them. They're actually misogynists (it doesn't even occur to them to treat women like human beings) and not really very nice at all.

  6. Thanks for the clarification Chicken Girl! That's what I get for half-assed skimming--entirely missed the point.

  7. "If you have an important question, ask your Doctor or Mental Health Professional"

    Don't worry guys, I'll watch your back...or put a knife in it, depending on my mood at the moment.


    Dr. J

  8. If I may presume to add to the advice...

    For the weight training question, 2 times a week can be enough if you're, A, on the beginner end of things, and B, working hard and well. If you're not seeing results, you can still just work out twice a week, but you need to change/increase your workout. I hit a pesky plateau, and found that I could change my workouts, rather than increasing them, to keep building strength and muscle.

    And as for the straight dude and his lady love, if there's already a lot of (real) eye-contact flirtation, I think it's okay to strike up a conversation, as long as the rules for not being skeezy/interruptive are followed.

  9. Hi Crabby and Merry,

    My two cents: to Muscle Obsessed, I find that two times a week with weights in maintenance, which is fine for me, but if I find myself slipping, I do three for a month or so. It's like with cardio, periodically I have to add five, ten fifteen whatever minutes, or there is no result.

    Gym Guy, is there a way you could "bump into" (not literally) the hottie on you way into the gym? I am not suggesting stalking, but if you fine tune arrival times, you might get to open the door for her, or make eye contact and say: "another workout, huh?" (please say something better than that) Seems to me you have a time frame to work with.

    Looking for help--God Bless You. You have the strength and stamina to lose sixty pounds more than once.

    I say start on dropping the sixty for the last time and work on trial and error behavior modification as you go.


  10. Yay for useful AND witty suggestions! You guys rock!

    As far as the gym guy question, I'd like to throw my two cents in: I agree that there has to be some middle ground he can take. Striking up a casual conversation for a couple of weeks to determine if she's equally interested can't hurt. That might save some embarrassment if she flat-out rejects him on the first try.

    As a newly single chick (cue the dating anxiety) that frequents the gym and loves the 'man candy', I say go for it! It's way less skeazy than picking up girls at a bar!*

    *No offense to those who enjoy that! Lol.

  11. I would like to get to the point where I am working out because I enjoy it...not that I don't but now I am working my butt off to my butt off!
    It's FRIDAY! YAY!


  12. I actually went through a gym-flirtation at one point (I'm the single girl half of the equation). It started with lots of eyeball contact. And once I told myself I had to at least show my interest, I just said "hi" and smiled as I passed by the machine he was on to go to another one. As simple as that. I noticed that he tried to plan his workout to end at the same time my did, so we could "bump into each other" on the way to the locker room and chat. It didn't go anywhere, but I'd say the eyes-smile-hi-mild chat would be probably the most effective route to take.

    Merry, what's wrong with green leafies!? :) I'm not a big fan of rabbit food (I'm terribly picky about my salads), but I eat lots of veggies, I just make sure to prepare them in yummy ways (I cook. A lot.). Eating healthy can be expensive, and time consuming also, but it's worth it.

  13. You guys are awesome, and as predicted are being very helpful down here!

    Lots of great advice on all 3 questions--I'm sure the readers (and writers) really appreciate it. I know I do!

  14. This whole thing was so funny. AND really good advice too!
    this made me laugh though...
    "Do you know if the gym's open on Easter?" might work somewhat better than "Wow, you're a slammin' hottie! Want to take a ride on my elliptical tonight?"

  15. Muscles...I highly suggest working with someone elase, even if it only twice a week...A boy/girl friend, best friend, husband/wife, class buddy, puupy on the run, whomever...They will challenge you and get you to stop making excuses. I prefer to lift with my b/f because he doesn't let me slack, he pushes me to do one more rep and ups my weight when I'm not looking...I love it and it makes me excited when I finally pull 45 a side on dead lifts or succeed in 55 a side in my squats...

    Gym Guy...Ask her for help on something...Seriously, ask her to spot you on your bench press, and let you know if your elbows are flaring out instead of staying inside your frame. Casually tell her you want to try and ramp up your squat weight and would like to have a spot...Make it center around the weights while you are in the gym, and possibly you guys can set it up so you work out together in the future and then you never know what can happen...

    There are my 2 cents, and now I'm gonna go eat a Girl Scout Cookie and pretend that I went to the gym today...

  16. Hey! The Bag Lady doesn't know much about frequency of weight training, or pick-up etiquette in gyms (bars; yes...gyms; no) but that last question could almost have come from her (only the poundage is different).
    She has a question for the Cranky Fitness crew, though -- is it considered bad form to kill your computer repairman for giving it back to you in worse shape than when you took it to him? Should she just shoot him outright, or does she have to explain why to him first? **Is that an appropriate Cranky Fitness question, or should the Bag Lady find an etiquette blog?**

  17. Shooting repairmen? Bag Lady, that's a good question.
    Personally, I think it depends on the caliber of the water pistol used, and whether it's loaded with plain water, or a loathsome overpoweringly vile form of cheap perfume.
    Plain water, certainly no etiquette guide would demand an explanation be given first. Being an inept computer repairman, he must be used to such treatment.
    Or, you could complain to his boss and get it fixed? Hope the computer feels better soon!

  18. Thanks Katieo, and great advice Sambo!

    Bag Lady:

    My impression is that explanations are only required if real bullets are used, and those usually happen much later, in court.

    How frustrating! Is it time for a new one? With some of 'em you can easily pay more in repairs than a new one costs (as I discovered with my Evil HP Laptop).

  19. Merry - the inept repairman also happens to be one of the owners!! And I wouldn't exactly say he was inept, just too lazy to try to find out what was actually wrong.
    Much easier to just wipe everything off and re-install. Unfortunately, I lost all the software that I had installed myself. And no longer have the disks. Lesson learned.

    Crabby - the only good thing about the whole deal was the guarantee this company has - if your computer isn't fixed by close of business the next day (after you bring it in), the repair is free. So they refunded my $300.00 when I pointed out that they had actually had my computer for 3 days.
    Guess you get what you pay for....

    Thanks for the smiles, gals, my blood pressure is finally coming back down to close to normal!!

  20. Bag Lady: Unfortunately, wiping the computer and re-installing Windows (even if Windows isn't what you were using!) is standard procedure at most computer places. Never give your computer to one of those people without backing everything up. (You know that now...)

    Some people go so far as to remove the hard drive before turning in the computer to force the computer guys to actually fix the real problem instead of just wiping the hard drive and pretending it's fixed.

  21. I'm feeling so concerned for the Bag Lady and her computer that I've quite forgotten what I was supposed to be answering. My computer is also on it's last legs. Takes me several hours to start it sometimes.

  22. Hey Crabby and Merry.
    I've gotta say, I read a few blogs on health, fitness, exercise and nutrition and I've gotta tell you that your blog is the funniest. I particularly like your disclaimer "If you have an important question, ask your Doctor or Mental Health Professional." Looking forward to reading more of your work.

  23. Hey thanks, folks, for stopping by on a slow weekend and sharing your thoughts.

    And Craig, thanks so much! Coming from a guy who actually knows what he's talking about and is able to Motivate rather than just Whine, that means a lot!

    (Not that I have any plans to give up whining, but I do admire those who don't indulge quite so much).


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