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Firm for Life

Written by Cynthia BensonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Cynthia Benson and Anna Bruni BensonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Anna Bruni Benson

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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Twenty years ago, Anna and Cynthia Benson created a revolutionary fitness program to achieve maximum fat loss. Following this routine, The FIRM clients found that they burned fat three times faster than with aerobics alone and saw visible proof in just ten workouts. It was a program that was years ahead of even the most prestigious scientific fitness organizations in the country.

In FIRM for Life the Bensons show why their program is so effective not only for reshaping your body and making you stronger but also for reversing the aging process, increasing bone mass, and improving your self-esteem and mental well-being. A whole-life philosophy to health and fitness, FIRM for Life also includes:


Motivation and commitment tips: how to overcome the Top 10 exercise cop-outs
Eating for optimal performance, high energy, and fat burning--with menus and recommended foods
The Daily Dozen exercises, Basic Stretches, and Sweat Minutes: a simple fitness program that can be done at home with very little equipment
The Daily Planner: a four-part diary to help you keep track of your meals and workout schedule


A complete lifestyle program that will educate, inspire, and guide you to being the best you can be, FIRM for Life will turn you into a FIRM Believer.

Excerpt

We're not here to tell you that getting motivated is a piece of cake.  It's rough, very rough, but we've seen again and again that the payoff makes all the struggle worthwhile.

Once, when Cynthia was working in real estate and struggling with it, she forced herself to write, "I can see myself making cold calls and enjoying it." Of course she hated the job, but she had to go in and do it.  If she wasn't busy with actual work, she had to make those detestable cold calls--sometimes for two hours, sometimes for eight to ten hours a day.  Yes, people continually yelled at her and hung up.  But the point is, she did it! And she got results.  The success from that tenacity formed a basis for tackling even larger projects.  Which is to say there are simply no magic bullets for realizing goals or fulfilling obligations; they're processes that you have to work through.

Are you Up for It?

In the same vein, there's no doubt that following through with an exercise program--especially if you're doing it at home with only yourself to report to--requires a large measure of enterprise, dedication, and resolve.

You visualize a goal, you vow to achieve it, you're willing to discipline yourself for it, you work on focus and commitment, and you build up the drive to keep going through the early rounds until you see results.

That The FIRM shows you those results so quickly is a major motivational plus, as is the compelling nature of the videos, but you still must develop commitment within yourself.  Is it a breeze?  No.  Is it worth digging deep into your nature and coming up with a mental strength you didn't know you had? Ask any Firm Believer whose life has been transformed by doing just that.

Before we get to the fundamentals of commitment, let's go through the most common excuses people use for not working out, then shoot them down, one by one.  It's important to recognize these traps and to remember that you can avoid them if you're totally honest with yourself.

"Dear FIRM,
As I grow older, my body gets better and better.  I'm even losing dress sizes.  All of my peers are going in the opposite direction!"
--Hilary Watson, 29, banker, Old Greenwich, Connecticut

The Top Ten All-Time Exercise Cop-Outs

1.  I'll exercise only if I have to.  Oh, please! Are you really going to wait until after the heart attack? Until you break up a relationship and are looking for a new partner? Until you've gained twenty pounds, don't fit into your clothes, and feel miserable?

Doesn't it make more sense to start today when no major trauma looms on the horizon? That way, you'll be conditioned for change when it occurs, and you'll even avoid many health catastrophes by putting your body in the best shape possible.  And with the added strength and energy The FIRM workout provides, you'll be better prepared to deal with whatever unexpected events life hurls at you.

2.  I don't have enough time.  Shame on you! You have time to watch television, go to the movies, hang out with office friends after work--and you're seriously telling us you can't spare four or five hours a week for an activity that has long-term payoffs and multiple satisfactions?

This is all about priorities and what's really important to you.  The benefits of exercise are so great that they're worth reordering your schedule.  If you're serious about shaping up, you'll find the time somehow, somewhere.

For instance, if you have to get up an hour earlier to do the workout, you'll start the day feeling warmed up, fit, and energized.

If you have to put an hour aside at the end of the day, you'll work off accumulated stress and anxiety and end up feeling refreshed.

If you're home during the day, give up one soap opera, take advantage of the kids being at school or the baby napping, or work out while the laundry is in the machine.  Do a tape, ride the exercise bike, use a machine, whatever you prefer.

Give up a lunch hour with chums to go to the gym or, better yet, have them go with you.  If you've got gym facilities, or even a VCR in the office, do a tape alone or with others.

Make early weekend mornings your private time to walk, jog, work out, swim--or find another early bird who'd be the perfect tennis partner.

Replace compulsive shopping trips to the mall with the exercise of your choice.  Not only will you save money, but you'll look better in anything you try on.

Cut down on "Happy Hours" and use after-office time more healthfully; when you do go out with friends, you'll be in better shape--physically and emotionally.

Bottom line: The good news about exercise is that the more time you put in, the more it gives back.  Work out now, have more energy later.  When you make fitness a priority, you'll be able to do more things in life with less exertion--and you'll look a lot better doing them.  For instance, you'll sleep more deeply and arise more rested, although your actual hours at rest are fewer.  You'll have better mental focus and get more accomplished in less time.  Pretty good deal, right?

3.  I'll always look like the rest of my family.  Many, many people see hereditary similarities between themselves and others in their family and feel discouraged.  Frankly, it's no excuse.  The quest for a well-proportioned physique shouldn't be compromised by what you exaggeratedly regard as genetic doom.

If you look at pictures of your relatives from the turn of the century, they're shorter and rounder.  Better nutrition has made people today taller and healthier.  We now have the knowledge and technology at our disposal to reshape our bodies, slow down the aging process, and be healthier.  Use it; don't abuse genetics as a lame excuse.

You may never be able to alter the size of your joints or the shape of your muscles, but enormous changes are possible through intelligent training and eating programs.  The truth of it is we don't all have (and shouldn't want to have) model-perfect bodies, but every one of us can become more fit, more shapely, more toned.  If you doubt our words, you'll be converted by the makeover profiles that appear in this chapter.

The payoff to shaping up is that feeling better about your body equals feeling better about yourself, about what you've accomplished on its behalf (Yours is the only body you have, and it gets you through life, so respect it!), and consequently about what you're capable of accomplishing when you put your mind, body, and will to any task.

4.  I'll never look as good as she does.  Nothing destroys motivation faster than seeing somebody else's beautiful, apparently no-maintenance physique.  Actually, though, there are few individuals blessed with naturally proportioned, firm, and graceful physiques.

Instead of seizing on these rare figures of perfection as an excuse to do nothing, accept the differences in our species and vow to do your best--for you and only you.  As long as you're focused on others, whether in envy or in awe, you'll never get the best results, in your workouts and in your life.  You must develop tunnel vision and focus inward, concentrating only on your body and yourself.

5.  I'd like to look and feel better, but it takes so long.  If you're anticipating instant, amazing results from exercise, you're looking for a miracle, not a fitness program.  That's as if you've just started in the mailroom of a Fortune 500 corporation and fully expect to become the CEO in a matter of days.  The fact is, anything worth having usually requires sustained effort and hyper-focus; fitness is no exception.

As we've said, one of the major pluses of The FIRM workout is that you can see results in ten sessions, but we're not talking about total transformation.  We're talking about sufficient positive results to keep you with the program.  Stay with it, and over time, you'll be surprised at how much firmer, leaner, and more energetic you have indeed become.  Remember, any system that promises instant results is guilty of false merchandising.

6.  I'm hopelessly overweight.  Why should I even bother to exercise? Take a deep breath: It's not hopeless.

Scientifically, there's no question about the single most important component of long-term weight loss--regular exercise.  Which method works best? Many people are so weak (from having too little muscle and too much fat) that they can't begin to exercise by doing aerobics.

The FIRM invented the smartest and fastest method with aerobic weight training.  As we've said, these workouts give up to three times the fat loss of high-impact aerobics.  Nothing motivates like fast results! And because weights/aerobics combination training causes less breathlessness than ordinary aerobics, overweight beginners enjoy it more.

Of course, moderate calorie restriction must be part of your fitness plan.  Make gradual--not drastic--changes in your diet (you'll learn just how to do this in the next chapter, FIRM FUEL), and continue to get some form of exercise every day.  Read The FIRM makeovers for proof positive that there is hope for you.

7.  I'm forty-five years old.  It's just too late for me!

No way! In fact, it's the perfect time to commit to a workout program.

After your initial two-week break-in period, you will make rapid, dramatic gains for about the first sixty days! By the third week, you will already see visible changes in muscle tone and body shape.

Like younger exercisers, middle-agers are initially motivated by fat loss and improved body shape.  But all ages soon realize that half the benefits are mental.  As Socrates noted in the fifth century BC, "Vigorous exercise fills a man with pride and spirit; and he becomes twice the man he was." Obviously, the same goes for women!

After a few weeks of working out, you'll realize you sleep more soundly.  You'll gradually feel stronger, more energetic, more optimistic, and less depressed! Depression, by the way, afflicts about 40 percent of older Americans.  Research shows that exercise is at least as effective as psychotherapy--but much cheaper and faster.  (In 1976, John H.  Greist, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, found that running helped people overcome depression, and in a later study at Tufts University, researchers verified that, like aerobic exercise, strength training has a strong antidepressant effect--"virtually all" of the test subjects experienced some relief from depression.)

As an older exerciser, you'll need more time to recover between workouts, better nutrition, and more sleep at night.  When you begin, working out every other day will be about right--and keep in mind that you should initially do a little less of the workout than you think you can.

Once you're really in shape, seriously expect to be operating twenty years below your chronological age.  In other words, a forty-five-year-old exerciser will have the same strength/endurance/energy level as a twenty-five-year-old nonexerciser.

Even in the elderly, weight training has a miraculous ability to reverse aging.  In one eight-week study at prestigious Tufts University, women in their nineties actually tripled their strength--with weights! If people understood this amazing scientific research, they'd be saying, "I'm too old not to exercise!"

8.  Exercise, yuckkk! Boring, boring, boring! Hey, let's not generalize here.  It's true that much, even most, exercise is boring--as well as frustrating, especially if you can't keep up with the "Aerobics Instructor from Planet Babe." And virtually all video workout tapes are beyond boring--they're stultifying (and often unsafe, as well).  Which means, of course, that you use them once, and they're history.

But there are so many exercise options that aren't boring in the least--in-line skating and bike riding, for instance.  Tennis, swimming, or pickup basketball can be extremely pleasurable.  Even treadmills and stationary bikes, if you bring your Walkman, listen to your favorite music, and meditate--precious time to spend only with yourself! And, best of all, when you're concentrating on any physical activity, the cares of the day get crowded out.  That's all anyone can ask for!

However, when Anna devised The FIRM program, she was hyper-aware of boredom and did everything to prevent it from creeping into workouts.  That's one of the reasons for interval training and cross training: varying the types of exercise so you stay stimulated and alert.  It's also the reason that The FIRM classes and videos have leaders and members with whom you can bond.  Consider getting a personal trainer at least a few times a week, and/or work out or do a sports activity with a friend or spouse.  Exercise bonding is a very real, very positive occurrence, and it lasts!

9.  Nothing, I mean nothing, will make my saddlebags go away! We beg to differ--whether the problem is saddlebags, a spare tire, protruding belly, or sagging arms or butts.  All truly effective programs will change your total body.

Saddlebags are simply female-specific fat deposits on the outside of the thighs.  For many women these are the last fat deposits to shrink, but shrink they will.  The pitted fat comprising saddlebags is called cellulite, but fat is fat, and fat is cellulite.  No magic eighty-dollar jar of cream is going to get rid of it.  And neither will starving yourself.

The only way to get rid of cellulite is by working those areas with aerobic weight training.  When you're burning fat at three times your normal rate, some of it will be the cellulite.  While requiring long-term commitment to fitness, saddlebags are removable without liposuction!

10.  Exercise? I just don't feel like it! Make no mistake about it, your mind can really do a number on your body, tricking it into laziness and sabotaging your fitness goals.  It can create any one or several of a million excuses not to exercise.  If you're too tired, then exercise for energy.  If you're too hungry, then exercise, burn fat, raise your metabolism, and you'll be able to eat more.  If you're too full, work it off with exercise.  For every lame excuse, there's a practical, scientifically tested rebuttal.

But to avoid letting your mind prevail with these common and empty excuses, you must mentally train to think like a warrior and to focus on a single goal: becoming the best that you can be.
Cynthia Benson

About Cynthia Benson

Cynthia Benson - Firm for Life
Anna and Cynthia Benson opened their first exercise studio in 1979. They have sold over two million copies of their eighteen bestselling exercise videos and are dedicated to showing people how to become physically and emotionally fit. The Bensons live in Columbia, South Carolina.
Praise

Praise

"Great workout for anyone.  Very motivating.  Excellent and easy to follow."
--Shape

"Add this great new book to your roster of motivation-fuelers. . . . You'll learn how to eat and train for a lean, healthy body by keeping a food journal while you work to change negative thoughts into positives. The remarkable book also includes advice for raising self-esteem and teaches us how to make exercise an automatic habit. Keep it on your bedside table and read it when you need an extra boost."
--Fit magazine

  • Firm for Life by Cynthia Benson
  • December 29, 1998
  • Health & Fitness
  • Harmony
  • $13.95
  • 9780767901758

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