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What you need to do before starting a fitness regime — excerpt from Shut Up and Train!

8/26 14:08:34

page guide is your bible to getting strong and fit the right way. 

In an endevour to help you suceed at your fitness goals, Deanne Panday gives you the steps you need to take before you start any fitness regime. Here are excerpts from her book. 


It’s important to educate yourself on the factors below before you know the gym lingo. The first step is to get a fitness journal to keep yourself motivated—it can be an old-fashioned notebook, an excel sheet, a notepad on your phone, or any other fancy app on your computer that you’re most comfortable with. Do whatever floats your boat, but keep it simple so that the process is fun and not complicated. Record the following information in your fitness journal before you begin weight training. (Read: Just shut up and train! (Exclusive interview with celeb trainer Deanne Panday))

Your Height and Weight

Measuring your height and weight is an easy process; you need it to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI). I believe more in inches that have melted away, rather than the kilos or pounds that you lose. But weight is an important indicator of your health.

Check your weight first thing in the morning, once a week—say every Sunday morning—on an empty stomach or before drinking a glass of water. Don’t become one of those obsessive people who check their weight every day.

I have noticed even hotel rooms now have weighing scales in the bathrooms. Stop this vicious cycle of beating yourself up every time you put on even a measly 200 grams. It’s a number game you want to stay away from. Also remember that muscle weighs more than fat. When you begin weight training, many a time you may find that your weight is shooting up. Don’t fret, it is quite normal.

Body Mass Index (BMI) and Waist Size

How do you know whether you are overweight, underweight, or healthy? From your BMI and waist size.

BMI formula:

BMI = Weight (kg)/ Height² (metre)

A note about your height:

1 foot = 12 inches

1 inch = 0.0254 metres.

Let’s do the calculation!

So if you are 5 feet 4 inches tall, first convert it into inches: 5×12 = 60 + 4 = 64 inches.

Now, convert inches into metres. 64 × 0.0254 = 1.6256 metres

If you are too bored to do the math yourself, use websites like http://www.metric-conversions.org. There’s always help at hand!

Calculate your BMI using this formula. How do you fare?














Very high

Morbidly obese


Very high



Extremely high


While BMI gives you a sense of your healthy weight range, it’s not the most accurate way of accessing a healthy individual. In contrast, your waist size is a good indicator of the intra-abdominal fat that you have. Intra-abdominal fat, also known as the visceral fat or more popularly ‘belly fat’, is located inside the abdominal cavity and is packed between organs like the stomach, liver, intestines, and so on. It differs from subcutaneous fat which lies right below our skin, like the one which gives suppleness to our face.

With a measuring tape, measure your waist. Place the tape at the narrowest part of your waist, approximately half an inch above your belly button. Ideally for a man, the number should be less than 40 inches and for a woman, it should be less than 35 inches.

You certainly don’t want intra-abdominal fat because it is linked to cardiovascular diseases. Building strength and developing muscle lessens intra-abdominal fat faster. A high waist size means you need to lose weight ASAP. (Read: What is BMI?)

Measurements of the Whole Body

Body measurements are a great way of tracking your progress. Do this first thing in the morning to ensure accuracy. Use a simple measuring tape; you can ask somebody else to help you out too. The tape should be firm against your skin. The common measurement sites are:

Chest:  Put the tape across your nipples around the largest part of your chest.

Waist: Place the tape at the narrowest part of your waist, approximately half an inch above your belly button.

Hips: Place it on the widest part of your hips.

Buttocks: Wrap the tape around the widest part of your buttocks and make sure the tape is parallel to the ground.

Thighs and Calves:  Measure the widest part of each thigh and each calf. Note down measurements of your right and left sides.

Upper Arm and Forearm: Again, measure the widest part of your upper arm (above the elbow) and forearm (below the elbow).

Neck: Measure around the widest part of your neck.

Sometimes, the weighing scale may lie according to the water your body retains. If you’ve eaten a heavy meal or your food has not been completely digested—it contributes to a number variation. Inches are more dependable. So it is better that you invest in a simple measuring tape than one of those fancy weighing machines.

Body Fat Percentage

You don’t want to be ‘skinny fat’. You want to be ‘slim lean’! This is why it is important to track your body fat percentage. A skinny fat person is one whose body fat percentage is high. A slim lean person will have more muscle mass and a lower fat percentage—basically here, the body is a calorie burning machine. A skinny fat person has absolutely no muscle mass on his body. So while a skinny fat person’s body will be spongy, a slim lean person will have a more powerful, toned, tight, and beautiful body. I have seen that women are generally wary of picking up weights than their male counterparts because they fear they will become bulky. They would rather spend crazy amounts of money on dieticians than lift weights. What they fail to understand is that dieting will only help them lose weight, not tone their body. Such people can be ‘skinny fat’ but will not be ‘slim lean’.

To be a tighter version with the same body weight, pick up weights so you have more muscle mass and less fat.

The most accurate way of measuring your body fat is by the skinfold test or pinch test using calipers. Just pinch the fat away from your body and measure it. If you pinch more than  an inch, then you know it is excess fat and it has to go. You need to measure fat on the:

Back of your arm (triceps): Take the measurement in a vertical direction directly on the centre of the back of the upper arm

Front of your arm (biceps): Centre of the front of the upper arm

Back: Just below the shoulder blade. Note that the skin-fold is taken at 45 degrees angle

Waist: Pinch the fat near the protrusion of the hip bone, a little towards the front from the side of the waist. You can also take a ruler to measure the distance from your belly button so that you can accurately measure the same area every time

You will need somebody else to help you out with these measurements. Just like with body measurements, remember to do it at the same time of the day, preferably early morning. I track this number once in 2 to 4 months for my clients. Sometimes, certain areas of your body will show a higher fat percentage reading than others; so now you know which body parts you need to work out on a lot more. Use this data to calculate overall body fat percentage.

If you are using any other device or test for body fat percentage, then compare the number with the table given below to figure out where you stand.

Body Fat



Essential Fat

2–4 percent

10–12 percent


6–13 percent

14–20 percent


14–17 percent

21–24 percent

Not Acceptable By Me! Work Harder

18–25 percent

25–31 percent


26 percent plus

32 percent plus

There are other methods too, like the water displacement method and whole body air displacement plethysmography (ADP). In the water displacement method, the body is comple-tely submerged in water and then the body is calculated based on buoyancy. There are also fancy machines which are overtly expensive. Or you can get a DEXA scan done at a clinic for an accurate analysis.

Medical Tests

Most people think it is a waste of money and time to get medical tests done. For me, it is one of the most crucial indicators of certain problems that a client might not be aware of. I insist that each of my clients first gets a medical test done before we begin talking about an exercise plan. For example, I might find that with one of my clients, osteopenia or osteoporosis is just setting in, which means your body has a low bone density level. This could explain why your wrist or your lower back hurts after a certain exercise. Many a time, a person’s thyroid levels are out of whack—and this explains the sudden weight gain.

That’s why it is necessary that you get a health check-up done before you begin an exercise programme. You could suffer from sudden dizzy spells, and not know that you are anaemic. Or a client could gain weight and suddenly suffer from acne; she may not have realized that she has developed PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) because of her stressful life. PCOS indicates an imbalance of female sex hormones.

Once you do your medical tests, if there is a problem, visit your doctor and work out a strategy. Once my client gets an okay from the doctor, we begin the exercise programme.

I know most of you want to get the six-pack or fit into the tiny bikini or wear that backless choli for a family wedding. But believe me, you have to go beyond superficial factors and appreciate how much good you are doing to your body internally when you regularly exercise. It’s a great way to boost your self-confidence.

Not just that, you have saved so much money by not having to visit a hospital at a later date because you would have caught any possible health problem early on. So don’t skip the medical tests! (Read: Blood tests: Understanding the different kinds)

Recommended Medical Tests:

1. Pathology Test

CVC/ESR (in CVC, haemoglobin is the main test)

2. Diabetic Profile

Blood sugar (fasting)

Blood sugar (post meal)

3. Liver Profile




Bilirubin (total direct, indirect)

Alkaline Phosphatase

Proteins (Albumin, Globulin, A/G ratio)

4. Lipid Profile



HDL Cholesterol

LDL Cholesterol

VLDL Cholesterol


Total Cholesterol/HDL Ratio

5. Renal Profile



Uric Acid


6. Thyroid Profile

T3, T4, TSH

7. Sonography


8. Stress Tests (Electrocardiogram (ECG)

9. DEXA Bone Densitometry (bone mineral test)

10. Pap Smear Test

11. Skin Check

12. Dental Examination

13. Colorectal Cancer Screening

14. Breast Cancer (Mammogram)

15. Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

16. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Screenings

17. Testes Examination

18. Bmi Assessment

19. Waist Circumference Measurement

20. Eye Check-up

21. ENT Test: Hearing, Nasal and Throat Assessment

22. Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) 

Also read: Common queries about cholesterol, lipid profile, VLDL, HDL, triglycerides…

Shut up and Train! is authored by Deanne Panday and published by Random House India. It can be purchased online on Flipkart.

For more articles on Fitness check out our Fitness Section and for videos check out our YouTube Channel.  Don’t miss out on the latest updates. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus.

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