Why does it always seem to be so difficult to kick off your New Year exercise routine? Sprawled out across the sofa, stomachs swollen from festive treats and suffering from a period of serious overindulgence, we tell ourselves that as soon as January starts we will be donning our new trainers and getting fitter. But in truth we know there is a slim chance of this actually happening.
The pattern dates back thousands of years, after generations of evolution, when we looked at winter as simply a time to survive. Our bodies have developed to prepare for this season by eating more and staying as warm as possible, purely as an instinct to survive. But you can change this. Leave the boxsets behind and kick-start a new health initiative that you are actually going to stick to with our advice.
You don’t have to start at 100 miles an hour, chances are you will fall out of love with exercise pretty quickly if you do. Take it easy to begin with, it will help you to enjoy exercise but most importantly it will prevent injury. If you haven’t exercised in a while or are trying something new, ease yourself into it, let your body get to grips with the new demands you are asking of it.
Many people join the gym post-Christmas, but very few of them really know what they are doing or hoping to achieve. One way of ensuring that you don’t fall into this trap is by preparing a specific plan. You can ask a personal trainer to create this with you if you aren’t sure.
Understand the machines and the equipment you will be using and how they can help you to achieve your goal. Or if you are running or don’t require any gear, a plan will help direct you and keep you on track going forward. Identify when you want to train, how long for and what you are doing each day. This includes creating a day-to-day food diary, which lays out which meals you are having and when.
Just like taking it easy when you start out, setting small and reachable goals is very important. Note how we have said goals, rather than goal. Goal indicates that once you have achieved it you can stop. Goals mean you have numerous projects to work towards.
Say to yourself: “I am going to lose 10 pounds” or, “I will be able to run a mile in X minutes before the end of the month.” Stick to one goal at a time, but always have several in line for you to move straight onto. They can be as tailored as you like. If you are craving bigger arms or a flatter stomach, make that one goal. If you just want to win your local running race, aim for that.
Similarly, set yourself a challenge. These are similar to goals, but can often be a side project to something. If you want to get bigger leg muscles, maybe a challenge will be to improve on how much you can leg press or how many press ups or pull ups you can do in two minutes. And like your goal, have something ready to move on to. If you manage to do 30 press ups in 60 seconds challenge yourself to do 40, then 50 and then 60 in 60 seconds.
Don’t feel confined to your gym when trying to kick-start your New Year exercise routine. You have a number of opportunities at your disposal when it comes to how and where you exercise and ticking off as many of these as possible increases your chances of success. Join a team or a local club in a sport or activity that you enjoy. It could be something you haven’t played in years, or something you have been doing individually, but whatever it is, doing it as part of a team makes exercise fun. You will be able to make new friends along the way who will help you along your way to achieving your goal.
If you are short of time or feel too tired when you get back from work to head to the gym, set yourself up with some inexpensive equipment at home. You can kick start your exercise routine with nothing more than a foam matt and your own bodyweight.
If you are finding that working out at home suits you, then little by little you could increase your facilities, building your own private gym. Treadmills, pull-up bars, kettle bells, dumbbells, cardio machines and so much more can all be purchased to use in your home to really push you to achieve your goals.
Or maybe you should try out a class or a boot camp. Most gyms and fitness centres will offer classes for members ranging from spinning to Zumba. Check out what is on offer near you and pick a few that you like the look of for the first week. But don’t just settle for those. Try as many as possible, because you never know what you might like.
You don’t need to spend hundreds on equipment and clothes that only the elite wear, but you should spend a little bit of cash to keep yourself motivated. If you invest your hard-earned pay cheque into something then you are more likely to stick with it, otherwise you are just throwing money away.
Investing in a workout wardrobe also means you have fewer excuses. You can’t blame the fact that nothing is clean, or that you have lost it, because you have a few back-up pairs. In the same vein you won’t be needing to head back to the shops because something has broken anytime soon, removing another excuse.
One sure fire way to getting you motivated is by committing yourself to an event or competition. If you want to do more running, why not sign yourself up for a 10k or a half marathon in a few months’ time? The fear of failure will drive you to work and train harder than ever. To take it up a notch why not involve a charity or a fundraising element? If you can support a worthy cause for your event it will motivate you even more.
If you have decided to take part in a boot camp for example you will be able to pit yourself against others in the group, without them even knowing about it. In your head you can just say that you are going to hold that plank longer than everyone else, or if you are a part of a running club start at the back and try and get ahead of as many people as you can before the end. You don’t really need to instigate a formal competition, make it an internal one and you will still get the same satisfaction, even if the others around you don’t realise that you have beaten them.
In the dark and cold of winter it can be hard to pry yourself from the comfort of your sofa, but exercise benefits so much more than just your physical health. This time of the year can be particularly hard for people with mental health problems and exercise is one proven treatment for it. You will feel better about yourself and will be proud of actually getting up before work and trying a class, or doing a simple routine at home. Before long we are sure you will catch the exercise bug and what was once a chore will become something you look forward to.