Read an Excerpt
Walk Away the Pounds
By Leslie Sansone
Warner BrooksCopyright © 2005 Walk Aerobics, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneWalk Away Those Pounds!
Congratulations! By picking up this book, you have already made a statement about what you value in life. You've taken one small step away from being a couch potato or a desk potato, and one step toward a life of looking great, feeling great, and taking charge of your goals. True, it's only one small step, but that is how you start. In this book I'll teach you how to take more and more steps. Most of the things I'll show you are so simple that you won't even realize you're taking steps until you look back and see how far you've come. Sound too good to be true? Quite the opposite. As I've been showing people for twenty-five years, it's as easy as putting one foot in front of the other.
Walking is a miraculous thing. We tend to take it for granted, but just look at a toddler. When she takes those first wobbly steps, that look on her face is pure magic. It says, Gee, this is fun! It says, I'm one of you now! And it says, This is exactly what I should be doing! We human beings are designed to walk-and walk a lot. So many factors in our modern lifestyle-cars, remote controls, desk jobs-work against that, but you'll be amazed by how many good things fall into place once you make walking a regular part of your life. Fat melts away. Clothes fit. Foodtastes better. Health problems disappear. Mood improves. Sex is more fun. Energy levels soar. Sleep becomes deep and satisfying. Stress evaporates. As it is for a toddler, life becomes something to embrace each morning, rather than a daily grind. And this is all because of exercise.
If exercise can do all this for us, then why doesn't everybody get some? Well, that is the bone I have to pick with the modern fitness industry. Watching those ultrafit pros do their intense workouts has never been terribly inspiring to me. I know that kind of body requires hours of dedication every day-and who has that kind of free time? Walking is my business, but you know what? I still need to squeeze my exercise in around driving the kids to baseball and softball practice, finding the pet lizard that has escaped his cage again, putting a nutritious dinner on the table, and being at my best for the meetings, public events, and decisions that make up my work life.
And here's the secret. It isn't hard to fit exercise in, because you don't need hours a day. You don't need six-pack abs. You aren't auditioning to be a stunt double in the next Charlie's Angels. Just give yourself fifteen minutes a day, for starters, and all the benefits will follow: the trimmer tummy, tighter muscles, lower blood pressure, reduced stress levels, and the satisfied feeling at the end of the day, knowing that you took another step forward.
I can't tell you how many hundreds of women have written to me, telling me the stories of how they lost real weight-twenty pounds, forty, sixty, even one hundred-following my walking program. You'll meet many of them in this book, hear their stories, and see their transformations. Starting by walking just one mile-or less-these women walked away the pounds and kept them off. I think the reason so many women have success with my system is because it is so easy, so gentle, yet so effective. You don't have to be coordinated. You don't have to learn any complicated poses or routines. You just put one foot in front of the other and walk, walk, walk.
THE PERFECT EXERCISE
When I began teaching aerobics classes in the 1980s, I didn't set out to change the way people exercise. I just taught the dance-aerobics programs I had learned. But over time, I gravitated toward walking and developed my own program, because that was what worked for almost everyone, regardless of size or fitness level. No matter how out of shape they were when they started, people lost weight through walking and became healthier and happier in the process.
What is it about walking that makes it more successful than other exercises? Part of it is the simplicity. Everyone can walk. It's so easy, in fact, that some people are skeptical about whether you can really get in shape by just walking. But studies are confirming what I've suspected all along: walking is excellent exercise. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, walking just thirty minutes a day, three times a week, reduces the risk of death from all natural causes by 55 percent! Walking also keeps you in the midrange of aerobic activity, where fat oxidation is most efficient. That's right: You burn more fat through low-intensity sports like walking than through intense activities that leave you gasping for breath, such as weight lifting or high-energy aerobics. Not only that but you also continue to burn fat after walking. And once you've been walking for a few weeks, you'll have raised your metabolic rate, so that you burn more calories all the time, even when you're sitting or sleeping!
Then there are the things that don't happen when you're walking. You don't crash. You don't get injured. You don't compete against someone else.
You also don't go broke. Too many people are hesitant to start exercising because they think it will be expensive and intimidating. Many people don't want to invest in fancy home equipment and aren't comfortable in a fitness club environment. Not a problem. Just lace up a decent pair of sneakers in your living room and you are ready to walk.
I didn't begin teaching with the concept of in-home walking, either. Again, that developed from teaching thousands of women and discovering what worked for them and what held them back. Having to drive to a fitness club to exercise keeps many people from doing it regularly. So does trying to do exercises that are too difficult. So does bad weather. Walking outside can be wonderful, but suddenly it rains for a week, you skip your walks, your energy sags, and the next week you find excuses not to get back to it. There is always a day when it's too hot outside, too cold, or when you don't want to deal with the dogs, the bugs, the traffic lights, or the car fumes.
But your living room is always the right temperature for walking. And when you don't have to worry about making forward progress, you can use my specially formulated series of moves-side steps, knee lifts, and so on-to work a much wider range of muscles than you can by walking around the block. Whether you use my videos for company, your favorite music, or a buddy, you'll find that the half hour you set aside for walking is a part of the day you always look forward to.
DO IT FOR LOVE
Before you hop up and start walking off those pounds, let's talk about motivation. You bought this book, which means you're ready to change your life. But are you really interested in a healthy lifestyle, or are you trying to fit into those old pants for your high school reunion in two months? If you're doing it for the pants, that's okay! Many people begin a diet or exercise program with an immediate goal of changing their looks, often for a specific event. If that's what it takes to get you started, great. But most everyone who loses weight for looks puts it back on again later. The reunion ends, the swimsuit season is over, and you slip back to your old habits. Worse still, if you lost weight through some sort of crash diet, your metabolism slows down, you burn fewer calories, and you gain the weight back even though you stuck to the diet.
On the other hand, people who lose weight for better health, rather than looks, tend to keep it off. Unlike a reunion, health is an ongoing part of our lives. And people who lose weight for health do it because they care about themselves. They know that overweight people die sooner and are more susceptible to disease, and they want to make sure they lead full, rewarding lives. This kind of self-love can be one of the strongest supports in your life.
And don't forget your children, your spouse, your friends and relations. Keeping healthy, so that you stick around longer, have more energy, and face life with a sunnier outlook, is one of the best ways to show your love to those most important to you.
Do it because you love life, too. Your life is a gift from God, and all you have to do to return the favor is simply be a good steward of that life. (Boy, you should see my kids scatter when Mom starts one of her preachfests!) Whatever your beliefs are, you have been given an amazing gift-the chance to live a life on this planet. It would be a shame to waste it sitting on the couch.
I remember perfectly when the revelation hit me that simply moving one's body could be a way of celebrating life, of tapping in to the essence of what it means to be alive and part of creation. I certainly didn't grow up knowing that. I didn't exercise any more than most girls did in the seventies.
Back when I was eighteen and took my first aerobics class, if you had told me that my career would be in aerobics, I would have laughed all the way to my architectural-engineering course. I was a freshman in college, you see, and that was my major. But I came from a working-class Pennsylvania family; there was no money to send the kids to college, so if I was going to make it, I had to support myself.
The work ethic in my family was strong. While growing up, I'd always worked. I was the girl who asked you if you wanted fries with your burger at McDonald's. I cleaned houses and baby-sat. So I looked around for a job in Pittsburgh, where I was going to school, and answered an ad for something called California Aerobic Dance. Instructors were needed-no experience necessary. I didn't even know what aerobics was. But I took a weekend seminar, and it was like somebody had stuck smelling salts under my nose. It felt so good to be moving! After the class, I felt energized, healthy, and I was in a good mood for hours. I wanted more! I eagerly became an instructor. Along the way, I lost the extra "freshman fifteen" I was carrying. Weight loss had never been my goal, but I immediately noticed how good I felt once the excess pounds came off!
In 1979, I taught my first aerobics class. It was California Aerobic Dance, just as I'd learned it. Seeing it excite other people, too, and seeing them change before my eyes was the best feeling in the world. My enthusiasm must have been infectious, because people kept coming back for more. I felt that it was my duty to spread the good word about fitness to as many people as I possibly could, so I would go to rec centers, church halls, you name it-anywhere I could set up my boom box and Maxwell House coffee can. (I didn't want anyone to be kept away because they couldn't afford to come, so I just put out a can for donations.)
I made enough money to keep myself in college-and then some. I'll never forget the day I came home from a half-hour class at my own church, dumped $150 out of the coffee can onto my bed, and watched my mother's face turn ashen. "What did you do to earn this money?" she cried. When I told her it was from teaching aerobics, she was even more astonished than I was.
Before long, all my classes were filled. I couldn't possibly teach additional classes and still have time for college, so I started asking my best students if they wanted to teach, too. Soon I had fifteen instructors working for me, fanned out across the church halls of Pittsburgh and New Castle. The logistics were nuts! After a few years, we had turned into a real business-but with no office! In 1985, I opened Studio Fitness and got all the classes under one roof. The type of aerobics we taught was still dance-based, but I became more and more aware of a problem. Not everyone was comfortable with the fast-paced dance steps we used. We were thriving, but we were losing some people-often the very people I knew could benefit the most from my program. Something had to change. One late-October day, I was driving around, pondering this dilemma. It was a classic Pennsylvania fall day, cold and blustery, with dry leaves skittering across the sidewalks. I happened to notice a group of walkers bustling past me. Good for them, I thought, even on this chilly day. But what would they do in a month or two, when the snows came? Hard to keep up an exercise program if you had to shelve it four months of the year.
Bingo! That very day, I drove back to the studio and placed a tiny ad in the paperfor an introductory WalkAerobics class. I knew that brisk walking could raise people's heart rates enough to deliver the same benefits as dance aerobics. I knew it wouldn't be everybody's cup of tea, I just hoped we would get the fifteen or twenty students needed to cover costs. Well, when I walked into that studio room a few days later, there were ninety people waiting to take the class! I had tapped into a vein I didn't even know existed.
Over the next year, we filled forty WalkAerobics classes a week. Woman after woman came up to tell us how she hadn't thought she could ever do an aerobics class until she saw our ad. These same women were now doing many miles each week. Every day, I went home feeling gratified by what we were doing.
One day, a student who had to miss a class asked if she could tape the class. So we taped it, and suddenly everyone wanted copies of the tape so they could do extra sessions at home. The second lightbulb went on.
We contacted every video distributor, and one responded enthusiastically right away. The man who owned it was also Italian, and he teased me. "What's this little Italian girl doing walking?" he asked. As a matter of fact, Italians are big walkers. Go to Florence or Rome right now and see what everyone is doing in the evening. They're eating their gelato and walking the streets and plazas of the city, people watching. There's no better entertainment on a summer's evening. Unfortunately, European cities are a lot more walker-friendly than American cities, so we have to be creative about getting our walks in.
The distributor picked us up, and the rest is history. With no advertising whatsoever, we took off. Why? Remember that this was the era of Jane Fonda's workout tapes: the perfect bodies, the skintight leotards, the acrobatic moves. A lot of people couldn't relate.
But here we were. Whatever we were about, it seemed real! We had bodies of all shapes and sizes up there on those videos, walking. Our choreography was sketchy, and our leg warmers didn't even match, but we were walking and having a darned good time doing it. That was something everyone could relate to. And somehow we managed to be more popular than Jane in certain quarters.
Twenty years later, we're still at it, still giving people new tools (like this book!) to help them achieve their goals. I am so thankful that I've had the chance to meet so many of my students and to spread the word to millions of women that staying active and feeling great is not just for jocks and models; it's for all of us, large and small, rich and poor, mother, daughter, and grandmother, too.
What makes my work so fulfilling to me, day in and day out, are the women I hear from, those whose lives I have touched in some positive way. There is no better feeling in this world than having someone come up to you and say that they have turned their lives around, and that you had some small role to play in that. On the following pages are the stories of two women who had the courage to take charge of their health.
Walking Wonder Jill Cooley RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA Lost 140 pounds
In August 2001, I began my weight-loss journey. I weighed 290 pounds, felt miserable, and hated what I saw in the mirror. Approaching 300 pounds and taking blood pressure medication, I knew it was time for a change-not just another diet but a whole lifestyle change. With a mountain of determination and lots of prayer for strength, I began making healthier food choices and moderating my portions. But I knew changing my diet alone would not get me where I wanted to be. Yes, the dreaded word reared its ugly head: exercise! At my weight, I felt too embarrassed to go to a gym, and all the exercise videos that were suggested to me seemed too complicated or intimidating.
Then I saw a commercial for Walk Away the Pounds. Well, I knew I could do something as simple as walking, so I thought I'd give it a try. I've been walking with Leslie ever since! The basic steps were easy to follow, Leslie was energetic and upbeat, and her walkers were women of all shapes and sizes. Gradually, I worked my way up from one-mile walks to three-mile ones with hand weights. And the pounds began to fall off. Family, friends, and coworkers were (and still are) amazed! In March 2003, I reached my goal of 155 pounds. I have maintained my program and even lost additional weight. My family is very proud of me, and, yes, I am proud of myself. I've even got my mom walking with Leslie now! At thirty-nine years old and five eight, I look better, feel better, and like myself better than I can ever remember.
Excerpted from Walk Away the Pounds by Leslie Sansone Copyright © 2005 by Walk Aerobics, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
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