Life Audit

Weights and Measures

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Jim Karas is the author of the health and fitness workbook Flip the Switch (Random House) and The Business Plan for the Body, a New York Times best-seller. A graduate of the Wharton School of Business and a high school gym flunkout, he is now the owner of Solo Sessions Personal Fitness Training in Chicago. He also appears regularly on ABC’s Good Morning America.

VITAL STATISTICS Marianne Ibrahim POSITION Associate at Doyle, Restrepo, Harvin & Robbins in Houston, Texas AGE 30 GOAL To create a sustainable, practical workout program that can fit into her busy schedule

At 5’6’’ and a little more than 120 pounds, Marianne Ibrahim has the kind of figure that makes you think she works out. A lot.

But Ibrahim never hits the gym. The 30-year-old Houston lawyer is so spent after her 12-hour days at the office that exercising is the last thing she wants to do.

Besides, she says, health clubs are just not her thing. The crowds and the after-work scene are too much for her. And treadmills, stationary bikes and the like bore her. She prefers the challenge of something new or different to keep her going.

Lately, Ibrahim has been dabbling in Pilates, yoga and dance. The smaller, more intimate setting of a studio appeals to her. Instead of feeling exhausted post-workout, she’s revitalized and refreshed. She also isn’t complaining about the effect it has on her body.

The only problem is that Ibrahim’s work schedule prevents her from attending these classes with any regularity. She often finds herself signing up for a series of classes and then dropping out after missing too many.

She’s also bought a variety of DVDs and videos to use at home, but still has a hard time finding the incentive to get up off the couch at the end of the workday. So far, youth and good genes are on Ibrahim’s side.

While weight is not an issue, Ibrahim says she’s started thinking about her long-term health, especially about osteoporosis, and wants to start making some changes in her life that will ensure she has the energy and stamina to keep up as a litigator and as a maturing woman.

“Now is the time for a woman to strengthen her bones because once your bone mass is gone, it’s gone,” she says. “It’s a huge concern for me because I want to remain active all my life.” In a perfect world, Ibrahim should be exercising four times a week, says Life Audit health and fitness expert Jim Karas. But he believes that it’s even more important for Ibrahim to be realistic and not idealistic about what her schedule permits.

Ibrahim has found the time to exercise two days a week —usually once on the weekends and again on Mondays after work when she finds herself with an excess of energy from starting the week. Karas wants her to stick to that schedule but adjust her focus.

Instead of waltzing through a variety of activities, Ibra­him needs to develop a one-hour routine combining cardiovascular conditioning, strength and core training, as well as stretching, Karas says.

In the past, Ibrahim has shied away from weight lifting because she does not like it and because she fears that it will cause her to bulk up.

While Karas cannot make her like strength training, he says it’s important for her to do regularly if she wants to lead a long, active life. “It’s important not only for visual reasons, but for structural ones. Marianne is hunched over a computer all day. She needs to strengthen her back.”

Karas also wants Ibrahim to understand that her fears about the effect weight lifting will have on her body are unfounded. Strength and resistance training will make her leaner and more toned, not bulky. Women cannot get bulky muscles like men do because they do not have the same levels of testoster­one, he says.


Ibrahim needs to begin her work­out with a 15-minute cardiovascular warm-up. Do whatever you want, says Karas. “Dancing, walking, step­ping, biking. Any of it is fine just as long as it gets your heart rate going.”

The next 30 minutes need to be spent on strength training. While she can use free weights, bands, balls or machines, Karas says the ideal movements for Ibrahim are compound ones that stimulate the lower and upper body at the same time. Examples include going from a squat to a shoulder press while holding dumbbells.

“The compound movements keep the heart rate up,” Karas explains. “So what looks like 15 minutes of cardio becomes really more like 45 minutes because you are using more muscle. The more muscle you use the more your heart rate will elevate.”

If Ibrahim cannot develop a routine herself, Karas encourages her to use an instructional strength-training video or DVD workout that she can do at home. “Just don’t be afraid of the weights. That is what changes the body,” he says.

Ibrahim should spend the last 15 minutes focusing on core strengthening and stretching, which is the per- fect place in her workout for yoga poses or Pilates exercises.

While yoga and Pilates have gained significant popularity of late, Karas says neither should be any person’s primary form of exercise. “Yoga, Pilates and dance are the icing on the cake, but not the cake. The cake is the foundation of her exercise program, which should be a balance of cardiovascular exercise, strength and resistance training.”

Regular exercise is only part of what Ibrahim needs to regain the energy and stamina she once had. Ibrahim’s days are long, and like most working adults she does not get enough sleep. She often finds her energy flagging in the late morning and again in the afternoon. She some­times goes out for a walk to recharge, other times she’ll run stairs in her office building, but neither is effective.

Karas suspects Ibrahim’s energy levels are low because she is not eating enough and because she is dehydrated.

Though Ibrahim often dines out for lunch, she does not otherwise eat while at the office.

Karas suspects those lunches out are behind her diminishing energy level because of the amount of sodium she is unwittingly consuming. When Ibrahim finds her energy flagging, eat a piece of fresh fruit, Karas says. “She needs to get less salt and more water in her body. That is why fruit is the perfect food.”

Karas promises that by eating and exercising the right way, Ibrahim will get results, in spite of her demanding schedule.

Otherwise, he says, she “won’t be as productive as she wants to be or as she is expected to be.”

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Twists on Training

iPod, Therefore I Train: Got an iPod? Plug it in and download a customized personal training podcast that fits your needs. Some even let you add in your favorite tunes. Check out, and—or just do a Google search— to find the workout that appeals to you. March On: Does your solo stint on the treadmill feel like a road to nowhere? Some health clubs offer classes that combine the ma­chines with cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and even balance and agility. Look for class names like “Heat,” “Tread and Sculpt” and “Fre Flo Do.”


As the saying goes, you can never be too rich or too thin. But you can train too hard. If you are feeling tired, sluggish and cranky despite all your exercise, chances are you may be exercising too much. According to the American Council on Exercise in San Diego, warning signs of overtraining include muscle soreness and tenderness, loss of appetite, headaches, disturbed sleep and a decreased ability to ward off infections.

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