OK, so we’ve all done it.
Made that New Year’s resolution to get fit and lose some weight. We go into January all guns blazing feeling ready to take on the world and everything it can throw at us. We cut out the booze, find a diet that appeals to us (usually the one promising the quickest results) and hit the gym hard. After the first week we are starving hungry, aching badly and feeling rubbish. After 2 weeks we start flagging and suddenly slimming and getting fit seems a lot less important. Our then find enthusiasm wains and we slip back into our old ways. Now we have to deal with the feelings of guilt and failure before the first month of the year is even over. What sort of start is that?
I believe that we have a tendency to set totally unrealistic goals about our health and fitness so failure is inevitable. We seem to forget that there are no miracle diets or exercises that can get us looking and feeling fantastic in just a couple of weeks. If you want to lose weight and improve your fitness you need to set sensible targets to achieve over a longer period of time. You should be aiming to get fit for life not just as a New Year fad.
Think of weight loss in terms of around 1-2 pounds per week if you eat healthily and perform moderate/vigorous exercise for at least 30 mins 5 days per week and strength exercises 2 days a week. You need a balanced approach which is sustainable over a long period in order to see the results you are after and then to maintain them. If you fad diet and exercise you might get results quickly but as soon as you revert to normal you will regain your weight and lose your fitness. Why waste all of that effort? You should aim to be fit for life by making manageable changes to your food intake and fitness routines.
There are lots of ways to exercise so explore what’s out there and find what suits you best. You don’t have to be clad in lycra and feel awkward at the gym! There are indoor and outdoor fitness classes, various dance sessions, personal trainers, DVDs, internet and virtual fitness training (where you are designed a personal training plan to follow at home with the remote support of an instructor), to name but a few. You can also just get out there for a run or walk, play tennis, golf, rowing, swimming, the list is endless! If you are pregnant or have just had a baby there are pre/postnatal instructors running specialist classes too as it’s very important to stay fit during pregnancy and to aid recovery afterwards.
So once you have chosen what you want to do, go and give it a go! Get those feel-good hormones flowing, boost your energy levels, increase your metabolic rate and help your body work more efficiently. You CAN do it!
My tips for sticking with it are:
- Make sure you have fun as the more you enjoy it the more you’ll want to do it.
- Mix and match what you do so it doesn’t become boring and repetitive.
- Make sure you vary sessions each week to get a balance between cardio and strength training.
- Have a training partner or someone to provide you with lots of support and encouragement (this can be a partner, friend, family member, class teacher, gym instructor, personal trainer, etc).
- Schedule exercise time in your diary the same as any other appointment.
- Keep a diary of what you have done and how you feel so you can see your progress.
- If you want to track your weight loss, only weigh yourself once a week. You could also take measurements of your chest, waist, upper arms, upper thighs and calves. Remember that you may not lose weight every week as your body goes through changes and develops more muscle.
- Drink plenty of water (around 8 glasses a day) to help flush out toxins and rehydrate you. Drink more when you are exercising.
- If you have a baby or children at home you could either ask someone to look after them for you or find a class that allows you to bring them along.
As well as having a structured fitness plan to follow you can make some very simple changes to your daily life which will help to burn off more calories such as:
- Walking instead of driving to your local shops or dropping the kids at school.
- Put some music on and have a boogie whilst you do your housework.
- Don’t just sit in front of the tv for hours – every time there’s an advert break get up and do some squats, lunges, run on the spot, star jumps, plank position, press ups, etc.
- If you need to go upstairs for something, go up and down the stairs twice.
- Get your kids involved and take them for a walk or run around in the park or garden.
- Think about your posture all the time, pull in your tummy, shoulders back and relaxed, head up.
- Incorporate some squats and lunges into your daily chores like when sorting washing or tidying up your kids toys.
So, if you made a start on the “New You” but have fallen foul of the fad approach, now is the time to take a step back and look at what you can adjust to make a long-term plan work. If you’re really not sure where to start try taking a look at some of the NHS guidelines at http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/fitness/Pages/Fitnesshome.aspx
If you want a simple exercise plan to follow, here is a basic 30 minute workout you can do at home without any apparatus.
2 mins Marching on the spot
2 mins Step on left foot, point right toes forward, step on right foot, point left toes forward, repeat on alternate legs
5 mins Calves, Thighs, Hamstrings, Triceps, Shoulders, Back (hold for 8 – 10 seconds)
5 mins Jog on spot
1 min Star jumps – jump legs and arms wide, jump arms and legs back in, repeat (as many as you can for a minute)
1 min Squat jumps – Bend knees and squat down (tucking bottom under, back straight), jump up as high as possible and return straight to squat position, repeat (as many as you can for a minute)
1 min Lunges – step forward on right leg with a bent knee (keep knee over toes when you look down) bend knee as low as you can, return to standing, repeat on left leg, repeat (as many as you can for a minute)
1 min Plank – hold the press up position or drop onto your elbows and hold the straight body position for a long as you can
1 min Bridge – lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor by your bottom, arms by your sides. Push your hips and bottom up off the floor so your chest, tummy and hips are in a straight line to your knees, hold for 2 seconds and return to start position, repeat (as many as you can in a minute)
1 min Crunches – lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor by your bottom, hands on your thighs. Keeping the back flat to the floor and a gap between your chin and chest, slowly curl your head and shoulders off the floor towards your knees whilst sliding your hands up your thighs. Go as high as comfortable then gently lower back to starting position, repeat (as many as you can in a minute)
1 min Back raises – lie on your front with straight legs and hands by your ears with elbows bent. Keeping your hips and feet on the floor and head in line with your body, slowly raise your head and shoulders off the floor, hold for 2 seconds then gently lower to starting position, repeat (as many as you can in a minute)
4 mins Walk on the spot
5 mins As at the start but hold for 12-15 seconds
For more information on these exercises and stretches please see the NHS website which provides images and detailed instructions to follow. Your safety is of utmost importance so if you don’t know how to do something, don’t just guess. Also, if anything hurts during an exercise, stop immediately.
(Please remember that you are advised to speak to your GP before undertaking any new exercise regimes, especially if you have a medical condition).
If you have any stories or comments about New Year’s fitness resolutions, sticking to a fitness plan, successes or failures at fitness, or anything else you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you.
As a mum to 2 toddlers I know how stressful things can get and how tricky it can be to juggle everything to keep the family happy. I always seemed to have very little “me” time, let alone the opportunity to exercise, so I decided to qualify as a pre/postnatal exercise instructor with the aim of providing a service and sense of community to other mums in the same boat.
I have recently launched Mum plus One which offers indoor and outdoor fitness sessions, virtual fitness training, a free social group and party planning assistance. Mum plus One allows you to bring your baby to any of the sessions so you don’t have to find a babysitter or feel guilty for taking some well deserved “you” time as your baby can enjoy the classes or meetings too. We also offer the ability to mix ‘n’ match sessions to suit your mood, your available time, or even the weather!
Please visit www.mumplusone.net for more information, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Debbie Lucas – Mum plus One
Fit for birth, fit for baby!
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