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Improving Cardiovascular Fitness
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viego74 posted:
Hi, about 4 years ago I was very fit, ran 6 miles per day, and was at a happy, healthy weight. Then I got a new job which is very high stress, a lot of travel, and long hours at my desk. About a year and a half into my job I had some sort of breakdown - I've seen my GP, an Endocrinologist, and an alternative practitioner and no one could really give me a straight answer for what was wrong (adrenals, vitamin D...?). I was extremely exhausted (passed out as soon as i got home from work most nights, at 6pm!), had uncontrollable food cravings and put on 60 pounds in 6 months. I'm finally on my way back to health, although still battle fatigue, but am frustrated in my lack of cardio improvements. About 6 months ago I went to my GP bc I was having a hard time breathing/catching my breath and he diagnosed me with seasonal exercise induced asthma and gave me an inhaler. I don't notice a huge difference with it, but still use it before I work out. My question is, i don't feel like I am making any gains in my cardio fitness. I still have to walk more than I'd like on the treadmill or pause a DVD multiple times to catch my breath. I work out 3-4 times per week for about 45 minutes. Is this normal? Could the asthma/breathing issues go away as I drop weight? I've never had any issues like that before, but am frustrated that I still have such hard breathing, and I long to become the runner I used to be. Should I be doing something specific to make gains in my cardio? Thanks!
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Rich Weil, MEd, CDE responded:
Hi viego74,

If you're still 60 pounds overweight (I can't tell if you are from what you say), and you push hard while you're doing cardio, then it makes sense that you might have to stop to catch your breath. You didn't say what DVD or how fast you walk/run on the treadmill, so I can't comment specifically, but what you might consider doing is slow the pace down so that you don't have to stop. Listen to your body and pace yourself. There's no advantage to working so hard that you have to stop. It's better to slow it down and work through the whole workout no matter what the speed, elevation, or intensity of the movements you have to do to do it.

As for the asthma, I don't know if it's interfering with your workouts. You're not reporting symptoms that make it sound like you are, but your pulmonologist will have to work that out with you. As for weight loss and asthma, this is controversial. Some studies suggest that there might be a correlation between obesity and asthma, while others don't. It's just not clear.

As for weight loss, if you're serious about losing, then I suggest the following:

1. Continue with exercise. It burns calories, it will keep you fit and strong, and it's the best predictor of keeping your weight off.

2. For the next week write down every single morsel of food you eat, and every ounce of beverage with calories you drink. Estimate the portion sizes as accurately as possible, and weigh and measure everything. Get a food scale and measuring cup to do it accurately.

3. Then go to the following site to figure out how many calories you are consuming
http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthtool-food-calorie-counter

4. Then to this site to estimate how many calories you burn all day (called the 24-hour energy expenditure (24-hrEE)
www.webmd.com/diet/healthtool-fitness-calorie-counter

5. Then here http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthtool-metabolism-calculator to estimate your metabolic rate. Use the "Inactive" activity level for an additional cushion for underestimation of calorie intake.

Once you know your 24-hrEE, and how many calories you consume, you can modify your intake accordingly, and/or increase exercise, so that you burn more than you consume. For instance, if you consume 2000 calories in a day and burn 1500, then you know you have to either cut back on your calories and/or increase your exercise to turn it around.

If all of this is too confusing, then just do #1 and write down everything you eat. If you do just that you'll lose weight.

You can post your diet-related questions to the Diet Community:
http://exchanges.webmd.com/diet-exchange

Finally, weight loss can be difficult and lonely on your own. WebMD has excellent resources to help people lose weight. You can get all the support and expert guidance on your diet that you need by checking out the Diet Community and the Weight Loss Clubs. The support and guidance will be extremely helpful to you.

And you can select one of the Diet Clubs based on how much weight you want to lose.

http://exchanges.webmd.com/dieting-club-10-25-lbs-exchange

http://exchanges.webmd.com/dieting-club-25-50-lbs-exchange

http://exchanges.webmd.com/dieting-club-50-100-lbs-exchange

You'll find everything you need to lose weight on these sites. And of course, feel free to post back if you have more questions.

Take care, Rich


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