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Michael Stefano, FDNY captain and author of The Firefighter's Workout Book, has been training with NYC firefighters and men and women from all walks of life for almost 20 years. In addition to his book, Stefano offers Customized Workouts.

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2004 Start Up Workout 2005 Summer Workout
by Michael Stefano

It's January, and the annual mad rush to drop the winter weight gain is on. Are you ready to get back in shape? If so, remember to start slowly.

Hold on to your fat! It�s time for that barrage of Bali�s commercials and other high-pressure ads designed to get you to join this or buy that. Like clockwork, millions of Americans put on a few extra pounds every winter, and come January first advertisers can count on their desperate desire to lose weight.

It�s normal and healthy through the course of your life, and even from season to season, to experience a small up and down fluctuation in bodyweight. While a single five-pound jump is nothing to panic about, the accumulative effect of a consistently upward trend can cause long-term problems, and send us running for the weight room every spring. (Custom Workouts produce dramatic results.)

You don�t have to be a math scholar to calculate that just a three- or five-pound annual surge in bodyweight every year after the age of 25 will result in a 20-pound overall weight gain real quick. That�s the equivalent of walking around with 80 quarter-pound burgers stuck to your thighs, hips, and belly.

Why do so many of us fall prey to this roller coaster ride of weight gain and the inevitable struggle to get back in shape, and even more importantly, what can we do to minimize this viscous cycle?

To Err Is Human
Around the holidays the social aspect of breaking bread with family and friends causes much overeating. We make less-than-perfect food choices that relate to cherished traditions and happy childhood memories. But sometimes it�s simply because those little tasty treats are everywhere.

Our days become filled with decorating, late-night parties, and mobbed malls, leaving less time for taking care of our self. Longer hours indoors translates into less activity and more time spent a few feet from a refrigerator that�s stuffed with cakes and cookies.

The tendency to be more of a couch potato during the shorter days is biological as well. A lack of daily light signals our bodies to go into a conservation mode, preparing for a winter food shortage that will (thankfully) never come. (Get off the couch: click here)

To Forgive, Devine
Let yourself experience the joys of winter without completely sabotaging what you�ve worked so hard for all summer long. Everything in moderation is the motto of the season. Forgive yourself when you slip, as the tendency to let one mistake turn into a total slide is probably what hurts us most.

Keep on your exercise program as best you can. Shorter, abbreviated workouts will hold you over on days you just don�t have enough time or energy to spend even a half an hour at the gym. Come January, refresh your workout program with a new plan. Break from whatever it was you were doing pre-2004 and beat the doldrums that come with the same old workout routine.

2004 Start Up Workout
� 5 minutes of cardio (warm up)
� 5 minutes of resistance training (lower body/abs)
� 5 minutes of cardio (moderate intensity)
� 5 minutes of resistance training (upper body)
� 5 minutes of cardio (cool down)

Trainer's Notes
Your cardio can assume any mode you choose. Brisk walking or jogging (treadmill or outdoors), stationary bike, stepping, even jumping rope all work very well (use can even use all three in one session). Your first cardio sequence is performed at a relatively low intensity (heart rate less than 70 percent of maximum), the mid-sequence at a moderate intensity (less than 80 percent of max), while the cool down reverts back to the lower intensity.

There are two resistance sequences. Lower-body work consists of 2 to 3 movements for the legs and core area (such as squats, lunges, and crunches) performed to muscle fatigue. The upper body sequence incorporates two basic moves like the bench press or push up, and bent over row or pullover, also performed to some level of muscle fatigue (in the 10 to 20 repetition range).

This start up routine is designed to be performed at 2 or 3 days per week, but always with at least 48 hours of rest in between workouts. After a few weeks, and once you adapt to the program, you can move on to a more advanced version that includes either more cardio or more resistance work, and incorporates a few flexibility exercises into the program as well. Be sure and see your physician and get a complete physical exam before starting any new exercise program.

Improve your chances of succeeding by making simple, middle-of-the-road choices. Be consistent and always use common sense when it comes to how you treat your body. The key to success is a straightforward plan you can live with on a long-term basis. For more specific information on how to put together a highly effective, yet easy-to-follow program, click here.

Have a happy and healthy new year!
Michael Stefano

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nutritional guidelines with sample meal plans, get your copy of
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