It’s all very well saying that January is a time to get in shape, but if exercise isn’t something that you can fit in and around your lifestyle, there is every chance that any healthy resolutions are already long since forgotten. So we asked Mark Edwards from Cotswold Fitness Breaks, to explain how to work a bit of working out into our routines …
As the end of the Mayan calendar did not render all but basic survival impossible, January 2013 has seen many of us taking stock of our expanding waistlines and declining health, but to help get, and keep things going, here are five tips that even if the time-strapped amongst us can have a go at.
(Before I get going, the inevitable disclaimer: some of these suggestions involve a high intensity of effort. If you are over 40 or have done no sweat-inducing exercise in the last six weeks you would be wise to get a doctor’s say-so before you start any fitness programme).
It sounds daft, but there will be people who read this, decide it’s a good idea … and then do nothing. Commit to doing something, schedule it and get it done, whatever “it” happens to be: with fitness something is nearly always better than nothing. Then be consistent, keep doing it, form a habit. Do it without fail, repeatedly, and by Valentine’s Day it will be routine, making it harder to give up. Once you get used to getting out of the door at some unsociable hour in dark mid-winter it becomes unexceptional. Remember the runner’s motto: the hardest part is the first 10 feet from the door.
Multiple studies have shown that short duration, sharp efforts have greater benefits on weight loss mechanisms than long, steady sessions. The infamous Tabata protocol uses 20 second maximal efforts followed by 10 second recoveries, 8 times (you can do this running, cycling, on a rower, or pretty much any method that involves cardiovascular effort). BBC’s Horizon programme last year showed great results from 20 seconds on, 60 seconds off X3. Bodyweight exercises like squats, push ups, jumps, and hops can all be strung together for 60 seconds on, 60 seconds off, 10 times. With a five minute warm up, and two minute cool down you’ll be finished in under half an hour. Be aware that however long that work period is, you have to give it everything – there’s a reason Tabatas are infamous! You’re going to need to feel devastated at the end in order to get the benefits.
It can be that celebrity workout DVD you got for Christmas 1999, a kettlebell, TRX, or my own favourite, the Flowin’ system, a slide-board and pads that let you move your body through a full range of motion in a variety of ways. It’s preferable to get some professional help but otherwise just read the manual, watch the DVD, maybe check out some YouTube videos, but spend time investigating it and keep at it, again, consistency!
Even if you don’t think you are the type (although you may be surprised) classes are effective and regular. Scheduling your fitness makes it far more likely to happen than thinking “I’ll do it later”. Focus on your goals though. If you are chasing weight loss you’ll want something intense; indoor cycling / spinning, kick boxing, Body Pump or other conditioning classes, burn far more calories than Pilates, yoga or Zumba, but again, something is better than nothing.
This is one comes with some big provisos. Yes, it’s easy to do, it needs no equipment, can be done anywhere, and needs little skill. However, while the widely-held belief that running is bad for the joints isn’t technically true, if your posture and bio-mechanics are off (which is the case for most if us) 1500 repetitions a mile will soon find out misaligned joints. For that reason you might find that the short and sharp approach discussed above works better than jogging. Sprinting and recovering multiple times will instigate calorie-demanding growth hormones, whereas endurance running results in muscle-eating hormones. It will also force better, more efficient running technique on you.
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