Hello Hayley,

I hope you are well. I am 21 years old and I am 5'10 in height and my weight fluctuates between 119 and 126 pounds (I weigh myself maybe twice a month). I don't really do any physical activity at all, which I know is bad even though I'm not overweight. I lose weight very easily and I find I have a hard time gaining anything. I don't have any health problems and I eat frequently throughout the day, even if I sometimes eat badly. I'm really happy with how I look, but I would like to be healthier and start working out. I know my metabolism will one day slow down, so I figured I should get into the habit of working out now. But, I don't want to lose any weight or get too muscular. Any ideas on what I should start doing??

Why are you afraid of becoming muscular? Muscles look sexy on women!  I have a feeling that you think if you lift a dumbbell or start exercising you are going to end up looking like a body builder, right?  Although some of us have bodies that are more likely to put on muscle fast (we call this body type mesomorphic) rest assured that it takes extreme focus and dedication (and sometimes the use of supplements) for women to “bulk up”.

Here is my advice.  First, lose your fear of putting on too much muscle. If anything you will build a sexy back or long, lean legs; women need to stop being afraid of having muscle.
Second, if you are afraid of losing weight then you need to increase your calorie intake on your workout days to make sure your body does not need to tap into any of your stored energy (fat). Pack some almonds in your gym bag (14 almonds is the recommended serving size) and a piece of fruit, or any of your favourite snacks, to have right after your workout.  You will not need to increase your calories by too much (about 300-400 depending on how hard you are working) so do not over indulge.

The last piece of advice and the most important piece (which I write about frequently) is you need to set a goal.  Your workouts need to have a purpose; you need to start working towards something so that each time you step outside for exercise you have a plan.  This direction will take away your fear of losing weight or putting on muscle mass and instead focus on a finish line.  For you I would suggest something fun and challenging, maybe something you have never tried before.  Look into joining a paddling group or perhaps grab some friends and sign up for an obstacle race in your community (Tough Mudder, Spartan Race) or maybe grab a friend and set a goal of trying 1 new activity every couple of weeks (hiking, kayaking, indoor rock climbing, yoga) or join a local intramural team.

Exercise is something that we have to do, there is no getting around it, but if you can make it as fun and enjoyable as possible then it does not feel like work and it becomes something you look forward to.