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New Year, New You

Resolutions are hard to keep. None more so than losing weight and starting an excerise plan. Fitness regimens are often at the top of everyone's list, yet often are the first ones that we give up on, which has spawned more than a few funny Facebook memes showing an over packed gym on January 1st, and empty one on the 10th. Part of the reason people give up so quickly is because they try too much too fast or don't have a plan of action. That's why we offer you these tips to put together a reasonable workout routine, that may preclude you from ever having to make it a resolution again.

I’ve been lifting weights five or six days a week for the past year, but instead of building muscle I’m feeling tired and unmotivated. Is it possible to work out too much?

Yes. You are probably lifting weights too frequently and inadvertently hampering your muscle growth. It’s called “overtraining,” and it involves training too hard and too often without giving your body enough time to rest in between. The effects usually show up as fatigue and extreme muscle soreness. Sometimes, as in your case, the signs are even more serious: depression, low energy, insomnia, loss of appetite, and worst of all, loss of lean body mass. Cut back on your training and make sure you’re getting adequate rest in between workouts. A trainer can help you schedule what to do each day. Also, take a hard look at everything you’re eating—or not eating—to make sure you’re getting enough macronutrients (carbs, fat, and protein).

I’m worried about wasting and body-fat redistribution. I’ve heard that taking glutamine and creatine can help. Do these sports supplements have any potential interactions with antiretroviral therapy? 

Unfortunately, research is scant and inconclusive. Supplementing your diet with the amino acid L-glutamine has been shown to fight wasting and is used to counteract chemotherapy side effects like diarrhea, neuropathy, and muscle and joint pains. Creatine may also have a place at the table, especially for vegetarians, but your muscles can only retain a certain amount of creatine; taking more won’t raise levels higher.

While no adverse effects have been reported with glutamine or creatine use, other supplements such as Saint-John’s-wort have significant interactions with some HIV meds, and illustrate the complexity of adding even “natural” substances to an antiretroviral regimen. It’s best to communicate with your doctor about all the supplements you’re using. That way, he or she can take them into account if you develop any side effects or if your viral load response is off. You might also want to check out the Plus Treatment Guide, which includes information about potential drug interactions.

I’ve been feeling down since my doctor told me to drop exercises like lunges, squats, or deadlifts because of degenerating discs in my spine. How do I keep my body—especially, my butt—in shape?

While the primary touchstone for people  is weight training, cardiovascular exercise is probably the best natural medicine for depression, and regular cardio results in feelings of self-mastery and accomplishment. Yoga is also an option for you, allowing you to connect with your body while quieting your mind. Many gyms offer classes that target the glutes. Consider joing a spin classes, or doing exercises with your own bodyweight, too.

It’s been months since I’ve been in the gym, and I’m finding it hard to go back. How can I break this cycle?

Stopping exercise enhances feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression.When you’re under a lot of stress, remember exercise is a gift that you give yourself. The best thing you can do for your physical and mental health is to recommit to a more active lifestyle. The mood-enhancing benefits of exercise and its effects on the immune system are well documented and more durable than once thought, lasting up to 12 hours after the workout ends. Get outside. Change your environment. Take advantage of your surroundings.  Go for a brisk walk around the neighborhood, swim at a local pool, hike a new trail, take a self-defense class, join a team, or sign up for the AIDS Walk. Many AIDS Walks offer pre-walk trainings where groups get together and walk increasing amounts of distance each week, working up to the big day.

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