If this January, like last January you are feeling rubbish, then surely there is nothing simple or easy about living a healthy life?
Certainly January 2021 was the month we emerged from a difficult first year of Covid, many of us, with an extra stone or two we needed to lose. If you have spent the last couple of years praying for vaccinations and boosters thinking that it is the only way to keep yourself safe, then do also have a good long think about your exercise and overall health. Yes, this option may take some work and new lifestyle habits, but we have got some really great suggestions in this article of easy ways to live well and simple changes that you can make, that might just get you heading in the right direction before the spring.
- Find Something to do that you enjoy. You don’t have to go to the gym and wander round machines in order to look good and feel fit. In fact quite often if you take that approach in January it’s likely to make you more miserable as the place will be very busy and you might not get to use what you want to. Lots of other options are available like taking up a sport, Zwift bike riding/racing, home workouts with a kettlebell or get rucking in the countryside with a weighted backpack at the weekends.
- Get the Most Bang for your Buck: Far too many gym based fitness programmes focus on working individual body parts. This is fine if you’re a full time bodybuilder or figure competitor that has 8 hours to train every day but the real world doesn’t allow for that. To build muscle mass quickly and burn more calories, try to choose exercises that involve multiple muscle groups such as deadlifts, squats, cleans and snatches. A question we often ask in our group sessions is to count the number of joints you are using; the more joints used, the bigger the exercise and more muscles are used.
- SPRINT! Jogging/Running is a very popular choice for New Year fitness campaigns but it all too often ends in tears with abandoned campaigns. If you’ve failed to keep up a running programme then you don’t need me to tell you this. If you are determined to run then try sprinting once per week as part of your routine. A session such as warming up first then running 10 sets of 3 lamp posts as fast as you can with walk back to the start for recovery can leave you feeling strong, powerful and with a high revving calorie burning body for several hours after.
- Join an Exercise Group. This is a really good way to keep motivated and become accountable for your workouts. Every evening we send a group message to the people in our Team Training group to ask who is attending the next day. Once you commit then there’s no going back! What’s more, the encouragement you give and receive can be enough to cement meaningful friendships with people on the same mission as you. This change can be a really easy way to live well for the long term. As the friendships grow, the gym becomes your social and not your chore.
- Buy Yourself Some New Fitness Kit. Anything goes here from a £5 skipping rope to a £10,000 bike. Buy it with the money you’ve committed to save from the nights off the booze and food and make sure you’re up to use it in the morning. Get so much use from it that you can look back in years to come and remember this “thing” was the turning point.
- Workout 1st Thing of the Day! There’s literally no time to find excuses. Life is constantly changing and where we think we might have more time because of labour saving devices such as smartphones and delivered shopping, research shows we have less and less because we are taking on more tasks. So many times we have known people to abandon an exercise session because something “more important” has cropped up but that won’t happen if you put your trainers on 1st thing. The best bit about working out the moment you get up though is that you will feel amazing and be far less likely to make poor choices with food and drink for the entire day.
Often the New Year can leave us feeling low. The high of Christmas is over, we’ve spent too much money, we’re stuck in the same job and relationship and it’s still dark and cold.
- Sleep: sleep is the foundation for everything that is good in life and when anyone joins the Team Training group the first book we advise them to read is Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. Get yourself 8-9 hours every night (how you do it may be a challenge but if you achieve it you will not regret this) and try to get to bed and wake up at the same time every day including weekends.
- Get Outside and Walk Every Day: January is the thick of winter and we will rightly spend most of our time indoors because it is dark and cold. Make it a priority to leave the house or office in daylight hours for at least 15 minutes a day to go for a walk. Just the fact of exposing our skin and eyes to daylight and feeling whatever the weather of the day is releases chemicals in the brain that will make us feel happy. Happiness is something unobtainable from food, drink, smart phones or tv and the happier we are, the less we will crave the others.
- Be with Positive Upbeat People: Positive upbeat people are usually found exercising first thing in the morning so once again this is advice to get up, get your PE kit on and get physically active with other people. More and more of us are working from home these days and if we go through an entire day without leaving the house or seeing anyone it only has dire consequences for our mental health. We always tell our home based workers to get in the gym for the early sessions as it’s often enough to make them feel a lot happier for the rest of the day once they’ve had a laugh with others.
Building Fitness Resolutions
- Set Realistic Targets: Yes you’ve heard that a million times but it’s true. If you’ve tried big resolutions and failed then you know aiming big immediately doesn’t work. Examples of realistic targets could be:
- If you know you need to reduce your alcohol intake then reduce it – don’t ban it! If you currently get drunk out of your mind 3 times a week, try getting drunk out of your mind twice per week. Once you’ve adapted to that, try for once! You must see it through though.
- Forget trying to lose 3 stones in weight, go for half a stone. If you get there, aim for another half stone and so on. You will see so many positives and successes rather than a huge misery if you fail to reach the big number.
- If you are new to or resuming exercise then hitting hard ferocious workouts every day will not end with the body of your dreams, it will likely end with injury. Try for a day on day off approach until you feel strong enough to add consecutive days.
- Men – Stop Bench Pressing for a Big Chest: If we had a pound for how many times we have seen men make a beeline for the barbell and bench in a quest to obtain dinner plate pecs… An impressive torso and chest requires so much more than that exercise alone. It requires a distribution of effort all over the body and very importantly it needs exercises like deadlifts and squats in the programme to create a bigger anabolic response. Deadlifts and squats though? Yes because they require hard work and people that work hard are more likely to have impressive pecs!
- The Treadmill Won’t Make You Lean: Ever since the marathon boom in the early 80’s we have believed that jogging slowly for long periods of time will make us thin because that’s what marathon runners do and they are skinny. Running long distances won’t make you skinny – skinny people like running long distances! Being in a calorie deficit will make you lose fat and although the treadmill can help, basing your entire hopes of a stunning body on persistently running a long way is not where the answer lies. Vary your workouts but spend most of your time in the weights room creating lean defined muscles which will look fantastic if given the right nutrients to grow.
- Don’t be too restrictive. If you have spent the last 4 or 5 weeks eating whatever you like and want, changing to eating just salad is too much too soon. In January it is really difficult to not have any comfort foods or take aways. So be kind and allow yourself some foods that you love, just eat less of them. If you increase your exercise then you are still progressing. You are just making changes that are more sustainable.
- Try to focus on making all of your meals full of nutrients. So if cutting out all sugar, carbohydrates, fat and basically everything that you have ever read in a food article is bad for you, is too extreme, then don’t do it! It might be that if you are completing more regular exercise, then swapping out some of your favourites treats for healthy options might be a gentler way to start your health journey. Think about swapping your Saturday night takeaway for a nicer nutritious homemade meal.
Swap your fish and chips or curry for home made burger and chips. A high meat content burger is full of filling protein. Make your chips from sweet potatoes and olive oil which are full of healthy fats and vitamins. A good portion of peas will once again provide vitamins and protein as well as carbohydrates to get you to the gym the next morning or out on a nice Sunday morning hike. You can even go crazy and still have a wholemeal bun. Think about making an enjoyable meal that gives you nutrients, but will be ten times better than a take away. It is changes like these that are more likely to become good habits because they are not too extreme.
- If you are determined to lose fat then it really is a matter of calories in versus calories out. Move more, burn more calories and eat less. Please though, do not reduce your calories too quickly. If you cut down to 1200 calories per day, you will lose weight quickly for sure, but it will be really hard to keep eating so little. Once your body gets used to surviving on so few calories, you will need to eat even less to continue the weight loss. Start off with a health 1600 – 2000 calories per day. See how you feel after a week or two. If you are not losing around 1 pound per week, then reduce or increase your calories by 100 per day.
If you haven’t let yourself go over Christmas then make sure you do in the future! It is a time for consuming more and sharing good times with friends and family. Enjoy yourself, it’s not a crime. Come the New Year though, it is time to do the work.
If you are struggling with your fitness and health and don’t know where to start then get in touch. We have the support network and expertise to help you make the changes this year, that will see you feeling far better next January than you do now. A warm private gym awaits so what are you waiting for?