Walk before you can run
New Year, New You? Sound familiar? January is the time of year to dust off the gym wear and embrace the pain as your skin cries tears of sweat. Time to train… Full steam ahead. Right? Wrong! If you’re new to exercise or even just getting back into it after an extended break, it’s so important to remember to walk before you can run. Sometimes literally.
Let’s take running as an example. Running is great. I was county champion as a kid. Ran almost every day. I’d run 10 miles in an hour on a Sunday morning. At 32 years old, I’m not a kid anymore. If I went out on a 10-mile run at that pace this Sunday (well I wouldn’t be able to, but assume I give it a good bash) I wouldn’t be able to walk on Monday, and I’m a Personal Trainer who makes a living exercising and running with clients regularly.
Knowing your limits is different to not pushing yourself. Pushing too hard too soon is a sure-fire way to get injured. It’s also a great way to suffer from severe DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Hobbling around for days, all stiff and sore isn’t fun, and will inevitably impact your future motivation to train.
If we stick with the example of running, and you are a complete beginner, don’t be too proud to start off by combining walking and running in intervals. Interval training is a brilliant way of maximising your effort in a manageable way. Try running for a minute or two, walking for a minute or two. As you progress, either increase the speed, increase the time of each interval or increase the number of runs you do – or all three!
Don’t ignore nutrition
A common mistake people make when resolving to shed the Xmas weight is to simply focus on exercise. It’s fantastic to (re?) introduce exercise into your lifestyle. But, it’s sadly not the only point of focus. Eating right is just as important – if not more so! You can exercise as much as you want, but if you eat rubbish all day long, it probably won’t get you much further than feeling like your exercise efforts are in vain.
Simply reverting back to pre-Xmas eating habits is an OK start (we all overindulge at Xmas and need to be reigned back in) assuming your aspirations end at returning to ‘normal’. If you have ambitions to go further, you need to put a stronger focus on the quality of food you’re putting into your body.
I’m not going to go into details about calorie counting – mainly because I don’t believe in it. It’s certainly not without merit, but in my experience, calorie counters focus too much on the calories in their food, rather than the quality of their food. For example, you might be limiting yourself to 1500 calories a day and think you are going great guns. But, if those calories are made up of microwave meals (and the like) I’m afraid you’re sadly mistaken. Fill your plate with vegetables and good quality, fresh, home-cooked food and you can relax your grip on the calorie counter and achieve even better results! Of course, I’m not saying if you cook it fresh you can eat as much as you want. I am, however, saying that it’s much healthier to fill up on vitamin packed vegetables than Chicago Town pizza.
The other point I want to make about nutrition is to not get down on yourself if you do ‘slip up’ or enjoy the occasional ‘treat’. Enjoying a treat is an important part of being fit and healthy. It’s a reward for all the hard work you are putting in. Being healthy is about living a healthy lifestyle. The key word here being lifestyle. If you enjoy chocolate- it’s entirely unreasonable to expect to cut it out of your life for good. Life should be enjoyed, and if you enjoy chocolate, you should be free to enjoy chocolate guilt free. Just consider moderation. A chocolate bar every day is unlikely to be reasonably considered as moderation. Enjoying a mars bar on a Friday night after a long hard week at work is much more deserving and justifiable. It’s about making sensible decisions based on the lifestyle you want.
Focus on lifestyle and goals
We explored lifestyle briefly with nutrition in #2. Working out what sort of lifestyle you want to live is essential to deducing realistic short term and long-term goals. Claiming to want six pack abs, without a willingness to curb Friday nights drinking 10 pints of beer, is setting yourself up for failure. Much like planning to run a marathon doing only one training run a week is. Sure, we all know the fitness anomaly on Instagram or at work who’s ‘naturally athletic’ and ‘can do the bare minimum’ and still succeed. Unfortunately, those people are either lying or they really are the exception that proves the rule. If you are reading this blog, my dear friend, I’m afraid you probably aren’t one of them. And that’s absolutely, not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a good thing. It’s a great thing. It means, you must work for your success, and when you achieve it, it will be that much more satisfying!
When setting a long-term goal, I like to split it up into numerous shorter-term goals. For example, if you can do one full press up and you want to do 50 – that’s a long-term goal. It’s not something you will achieve overnight. Start by aiming for five. Then 10. Etc etc. Losing weight works on the same principle. Let’s say you want to lose two stone. That’s 28 pounds. You aren’t going to do that in a month. Seven pounds a week every week for four weeks is incredibly unrealistic (unless you’re on ‘The Biggest Loser’ and have more than two stone to lose – and even the it’s a phenomenal achievement). Expecting to lose incredible numbers like that because you’ve seen someone else in T.V land is setting yourself up for failure and a sure-fire way of losing motivation quickly. General guidelines to healthy weight loss suggest aiming for two pounds a week. It might not sound like a lot (and yes of course you can do better), but two pounds a week, every week, will mean you’ve achieved your goal in 14 weeks. That’s just three months. From now, that’s basically Easter. I’m sure I’ve already seen Easter eggs in shops so it it’ll come around quick. Quick like a bunny you might say (if you’re like me and make terrible attempts at humour). In this case, your short-term goals are two pounds a week, with your long-term goal being two stone by Easter. Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time focused – now that’s SMART!
Make a plan
I love it when a plan comes together!
Planning your workouts and even writing a food diary is a great way to help maintain motivation and keep you on the success trail. We are all busy people. Whether it’s work, kids, or the incessant need to play ‘Football Manager 2018’, we all have constraints on our time. Creating a plan (and sticking to it) helps us navigate our way through the week to help keep us on track to achieve our goals. Sure, things crop up from time to time and said plan might need to be adjusted here and there, but as long as the results stay the same, flexibility isn’t a problem. When working out a plan, focus on what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by – and be sure to take into account your lifestyle (yes yes I know I’m all about lifestyle). If you plan of doing two-hour long workouts a week, but you work long days Monday to Friday, squeezing in sessions during the week might be unrealistic. Try doing them on the weekend. If that’s not an option, maybe you need to split the workouts into 30-minute sessions instead? However you want to play it, study your diary and make it work the way it best suits you. If you struggle to find time to cook every evening, have you considered pre-preparing food on another day and utilizing your freezer? It’s not just a place to show off where you’ve been on holiday.
Hire a PT
If you want to ensure results, and avoid plateauing – hire a quality Personal Trainer. A good quality Personal Trainer will guide you through everything you need to help you achieve your goals. They will motivate you, teach you, and keep you accountable, to ensure you stay on the right track.
Do you need a Personal Trainer? Absolutely not. It is entirely possible to stay motivated and achieve results by yourself.
Should you hire a Personal Trainer? Absolutely you should. Put simply, everyone can benefit from professional assistance. Professional athletes have coaches. Usain Bolt didn’t train himself, he had a whole team he worked with to make sure he stayed on top. If the great Usain Bolt acknowledges the importance of working with a coach then, with all due respect, you probably should too!
Conveniently, I know a number of top quality Personal Trainers who come to your house or local park…Personal Training