It’s January, so you know what that means…
It’s the time of year when people make the decision to lose weight and get fitter and healthier.
And yet as someone who works in the fitness industry and has been a regular in gyms since my final year at school, I can tell you how it’ll go for some of you.
Right now you’ll have this master plan where you’ll go on a ridiculous, unpleasant diet of Ryveta, egg whites and chicken breasts. You’ll join a gym and plan on doing an hour-long run every day and by the summer you’ll be a machine. But the truth is that by the time it gets to mid February you’ll end up committed to a gym membership you can’t get out of, having gone a few times and lost interest. Oh and you’ll be back to eating your normal food having lost none of the weight you’d planned to.
Well don’t worry about it, because it’s only natural. Most people over-estimate the changes they’ll make to their lives. They’ll stop running for an hour and they’ll give up the cardboard food because they quite simply don’t enjoy it.
It doesn’t have to be that way though.
Here are ten common sense tips to help you with your New Year health plans.
1. Watch Your Diet
For most people, the source of any unwanted fat is down to their diet.
I’m not suggesting you stop eating and drinking the things that you like, but I urge you to check out the quantities. Moderation is the key when it comes to fattening foods or drinks. If you try to go cold turkey, it just won’t work.
A few other food related tips for you include…
- Watch your calorie intake in terms of drinks. People seem to think that calories only applies to food, but alcohol, fizzy drinks and even fruit juices are packed full of them.
- Stop eating once you’re full. For me personally this is the key. If it’s on the plate, I’ll eat it, even if I’m stuffed. Remember that being full is the body’s way of telling you to stop eating.
- Try making your own food. Honestly, cooking isn’t that hard, and whether it’s something as simple as scrambled eggs on toast or as complex as a home-made lasagne, a little bit of effort will get you a tastier and more healthy alternative to fast food or ready meals.
2. Decide Whether You Need To Join A Gym
The majority of people who have gym memberships never go. They join because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
There are plenty of ways you can exercise on your own, at home or in the park.
You get people who are dead against gyms and tell you that you don’t need to join one at all because ‘The World Is Your Gym’, but this is something that is completely up to the individual.
If all you want to do is go for a run, or do some skipping, or if you could play a physically active sport with friends, then maybe you don’t.
But for many of us, we need the setting of the gym and the knowledge that we can do exercise whenever we want, and not based upon the weather.
A simple workout for those of you who don’t want to go to the gym is just to grab a pack of cards and assign a move (press-up, squat, burpee, plyometric lunge etc) to each of the four suits, then deal the cards one by one, doing the exercise it tells you. So for example, if you’ve got press-ups for diamonds and you deal the Seven of Diamonds, you do seven press-ups and then move on to the next card.
It’s old school but it works and offers you a varied exercise regime you can do anywhere.
3. Choose Your Gym Carefully
I got a flier through the door today from my local David Lloyd gym, with an offer of 12 months for the price of 10 starting from double the price of the one I go to. Scandalous.
Sure, you could join that gym for its swimming pool, squash courts, tennis courts, restaurant and bigger space, but do you need to?
Ultimately they’ve got the same equipment, the same level of expertise in their gym staff and the same instructors teaching the classes as any other gym.
Many gyms nowadays offer non contract monthly memberships where you pay far less than these ‘prestigious’ ones like the David Lloyd, and ultimately you’re paying for the same stuff anyway.
4. Choose A Workout That Suits Your Goals
Let’s be totally honest about it – working out on the gym floor is boring.
The amount of people I see who come to gyms without any real idea of what they want to do once they get there is incredible.
They mount the treadmill or cross trainer and just go through the motions. And what happens? They get bored.
The idea that the long slog is the best way to work out in the gym is passé. It’s long gone.
If you want to do some cardio but don’t want to spend all day at it, grab yourself an MP3 player, load it with some tunes that get your blood pumping and do some short, sharp interval training.
I’m not talking about ultra gruelling insanity workouts like the Tabata Protocol, but just some basic High Impact Interval Training (it’s not as bad as it sounds).
All you’ve got to do is have your warm-up and then do intervals of 45 seconds fast paced, 30 seconds easy pace for between 5-10 periods, spend 5 minutes cooling down, and boom, you’re done in 20 minutes.
You might think ‘But that’s less time on the treadmill so I’ll surely burn less’, but you won’t. Yes, you’ll burn fewer calories while on the machine, but you’ll keep burning them long after you’ve gone home. If you do steady state exercise, the burn ends very soon after you stop.
Sure, if you enjoy the long slog, go for it, but the chances are that you won’t.
5. Try Exercise Classes
For many people, the idea of going to the gym and working out alone gets old fast.
That’s why I’m a big fan of exercise classes. Whether it’s a simple abs, spin or circuit class, yoga, Zumba or one of the Les Mills classes like Bodypump, Step or Combat, you will get a good workout from it.
And the kicker is that because other people are doing it with you, and there’s an instructor telling you what to do, you’ll be less inclined to quit and more likely to stick with it.
The big problem is that most blokes just think that classes are for women. It’s simply not true.
Sure, you won’t find me ‘shaking my money maker’ in Zumba or va-va-vooming in Body Attack, but there are plenty of other alternatives out there.
Put it this way, I bet that if Legs, Bums & Tums was renamed ‘Abs, Glutes and Guns’, despite having the same workout, more blokes would attend.
6. Vary Your Workout
Don’t just do the same thing all the time, because your body will get used to it.
If all you do is cardio, you’ll neglect your muscles, and if all you do is lift weights that you won’t get any fitter.
Try to do a bit of both if you can.
7. Work To Your Own Level But Don’t Cheat Yourself.
When it comes to weights especially, do what you can do and try not to fall foul to peer pressure.
I see it all the time; people lift weights they see the other guy doing because they won’t want to be considered a wimp who can’t lift much.
The only person your workout should matter to is you. Lift what your body allows you to. It’s better to lift lighter weights with proper technique than heavy ones without.
On the other hand, don’t sell yourself short.
I see people who go to aerobic exercise classes and barely move. They think that simply by being there and putting no effort in, they’ve burned the advertised amount of calories. Nonsense. If you’re not fit you’re not fit, but don’t be afraid of your own sweat. Work as hard as you can…you’ll know yourself how hard that is.
It might sound harsh, but don’t revel in a sense of achievement you haven’t earned.
And don’t be put off by being sore afterwards. If your muscles are burning, it means you’ve worked them hard. If you never feel that you aren’t working hard enough.
8. Your Weight Is Just A Number
I haven’t weighed myself in years. I don’t need to. What matters to me is how I feel and how my body looks. I’ll know if I’ve put on weight, and I don’t need some machine to tell me that.
You get some people who are thrilled because they weigh a certain amount, despite being a flabby fat mess.
I had a lady come up to me and tell me she felt a lot better having done my class for a few months, that she looked more toned and had lost flab, but she was worried because she now weighed slightly more.
She didn’t realise that muscle weighs more than fat.
You could become a far fitter and healthier person and yet end up heavier than when you started, and it is absolutely nothing to worry about.
9. Remember To Stretch
Some people finish their workout and then just go straight home.
Do they stretch their muscles after a workout? No.
Does that mean they feel a lot worse than they otherwise would have done the day after? Yes.
Take 5-10 minutes at the end of your workout to stretch off your muscles and you’ll feel far better for it.
10. Keep Your Self Discipline
Ultimately the only person that can get you fitter and help you lose weight is you.
It’s up to you to keep a balanced diet and stop eating and drinking to excess.
It’s up to you to get yourself into the gym or to work out at home.
It’s up to you to challenge yourself once the workout starts.
Nobody is going to make you.
Yes, it can be hard work, but you might have fun doing it.
And if you do keep the discipline it’ll be worth it in the end.
I hope these tips help, and I wish you luck in your New Years Resolutions.