This time of year can be pretty demotivating. You may have put weight on over Christmas or had a break from your usual fitness regime or class and are feeling the difference (and not in a good way). But that doesn’t mean it’s time to hibernate inside; there’s still plenty of fun activities that you can take part in that will lift your spirits and make the season fly!
Walking Jogging or Running
Anyone who trains with me knows that I firmly believe you work harder and tap into a greater level of mental focus when the weather is bad. If it’s sunny and hot there’s the chance you might skip your workout to go to the pub, or have a BBQ or cocktails and think ‘stuff it, it’s like I’m on holiday!’ when it’s drizzling, or absolutely hammering it down chances are once you’ve laced up your trainers you’re going out. And you will find yourself looking forward to the warm and dry of your home, or that hot shower once the workout is over – so you’re more likely to increase your pace and focus on getting the workout done.
Walking is one of THE BEST exercises for firing up all the large muscles in your body, which is key to burning fat more efficiently. So don’t think you need to be out there running for hours and hours! 15-20 minutes of walking 3 times a week, building up to 5 or more times a week will have a noticeable impact on you if you’re currently sedentary. You’ll find you walk faster, feel less lethargic (or out of breath) and you can go further or tackle that hill without trepidation! It is best if you walk at a moderate pace so that you get slightly out of breath and are sweating. Commit to a walking plan and stick to it!
Jogging is fantastic and even if you find those first few jogs horrible, daunting or exhausting stick with it as you’ll soon reach a point where you realise you’re finding it easier and easier. Remember everyone started out like this even Mo Farah! Alternating between walking and jogging; interval training, is a fantastic way of improving your cardio vascular fitness. You can walk for 3 minutes and jog for 2 minutes then repeat three times. Each week as it gets easier just add on an extra minutes (walk 4 minutes, jog 3 minutes) to keep on challenging yourself.
If you’ve already mastered regular walks and can jog comfortably for 30 minutes or more then it’s time to step up the pace. A great way to make sure that the winter flies past is to set yourself a SMART goal: by the end of winter (12 weeks) I will be able to run xxx. I suggest setting yourself either a distance goal or a time goal. So it could be; I will be able to run 10k or I’ll be able to run for 30 minutes without dropping to a jog or a walk, by the end of week 12. It is your choice. It is much easier to commit to a plan when you have an exciting end goal in mind – why not give yourself a reward for when you’ve reached your goal as well?
These are popping up everywhere recently, there are two within 3 miles of my house! These are perfect for you if you’ve got time to spare in daylight hours. They usually use your body weight for resistance rather than loading up with weights like in a traditional indoor gym. But you can still work up a great sweat using the various machines. I suggest alternating between upper body and lower body machines so that your muscles can recover in-between exercises but you don’t lose time getting cold by having a pure ‘rest’. As you won’t be able to increase the weights to challenge you as you get fitter you’ll need to increase your speed each week. If you don’t keep challenging yourself your body will get used to what you’re doing and you’ll stop seeing results.
Yes you’re going to get wet even if it’s not raining, yes you’re going to get muddy. But, doesn’t the feeling of flying down a hill with the wind in your hair and feeling like a kid again just beat the pants off of all that?! Cycling is awesome for building your leg muscles and if you pull yourself forwards when you’re going up hills you can still involve your upper body too. Your core will be worked as you’ll be stabilising yourself balancing on the bike and you’ll certainly get a great cardio-vascular workout. If you have a shower at work this could be the year you save on fuel and swap the car (or bus) for a bike – you’ll get fit and save money too! And if you can’t make it all the way yet then cycle to a bus stop part-way there and get on, it won’t be long at all before you find yourself cycling further and further and riding the bus less and less. In my experience I have always found that cycling home from work is an excellent way to pedal away all the stresses of the day, so your loved ones might thank you that the bad mood is taken out on the ride and not on them!
Don’t fancy outdoor workouts?
This is a good time to join a gym as many will take advantage of ‘resolution’ season and offer big discounts, but make sure you will actually use it. Will you go the number of times you really want to? For the next 12 months? Every month? Every week? Lots of people join in January only to stop going in February and then end up paying for the next 10 months – make sure this isn’t you. If you’re going to join the gym then commit to it, write it in your diary or add it to your phone the days and times you’re going and don’t book ANYTHING in those slots. Get a good programme that meets your needs from the instructor or wellbeing advisor that signs you up and after 1-2 months see them again and get them to do you a new one. You will see awesome results in the gym if you go 3-4 times a week, work up a sweat and get out of breath. The second you stop feeling ‘the burn’ or can just do it without even getting moist then you need to mix it up! A gym that gives you a programme then doesn’t talk to you again and ask how it’s working out for you doesn’t care about you getting fitter! Ideally you need to change your workout plans every 4-6 weeks or your body will adapt and you will stop losing fat and building lean muscle mass. At the very least you need to keep increasing the weights, or number of reps, or moving faster or further. Ask yourself – how challenging was that? If your answer is ‘not challenging’ then you need to increase, do more or change it up!
January is a new start for so many people so there may be new classes out there. Lots of classes offer free taster sessions so why not pop along to a CrossFit class or try CobraFIT or Metafit. Many of these newer style workouts are aimed at busy people who want to maximise fat burn in the minimum time so they’re high intensity but often with a long afterburn (where you continue to burn calories for hours, sometimes days, after). Facebook is an awesome place to find out what classes are where, who offers free tasters and what your friends are doing. Get some feelers out, see who loves what and what you think might be up your alley today!
My best advice this winter – do something, ANYTHING! Get some fresh air, you’ll really thank yourself for it when the sun eventually comes out from behind the grey in March! It is better than doing nothing and your body is designed to move! Give your body what it wants and you’ll get the body you want!