Thursday, December 30, 2010



Every year's the same. You make the resolution and enter the gym with a crowd of fellow born-again fitness fanatics determined this time you will be active all year.

By February, your trainers are gathering dust in the back of the wardrobe and you are sitting in front of the TV, back in your old routine. What went wrong?
This article aims to help you avoid the same old errors and make a change to your fitness levels that can be easily maintained and is permanent.

Start Slowly
A common mistake is to take things too fast, making you sore and exhausted. If you have not exercised for years, plunging into a long session at the gym will only hurt and the overexertion could even be harmful. Plan ahead and put gym sessions back until February. To prepare, you just need to start walking more. Incorporate it into your daily routine. Park further away from work. Get off the bus a stop earlier. Use the stairs instead of the lift. Take a little walk every lunchtime, even if it’s only around the office and back.
Dogs are great for keeping you walking. If you don’t have your own, borrow someone else’s, and if you don’t know anyone with a dog, make a date to help out regularly at rescue shelter, or help someone elderly with their pet by contacting the Cinnamon trust.
Buy a pedometer and do 10,000 steps a day for at least a month, then move onto booking more intense classes and sessions.

Be Realistic
Don’t set yourself up for failure. If your resolution is to visit the gym every night after work, you won’t succeed. Something will always get in the way at least once, making it easy for you to jump to the depressing conclusion that you have failed and give up altogether.

Plan activities that easily fit around your daily routine. Think convenience; use gyms or sports centres close to work or home, so you don’t have to factor in an additional long trip. Make use of the weekends when you have more free time, and on weekdays, plan ahead by preparing your gym kit the night before, like your lunch, so you can just grab it and go.

Aim to walk more on most days, and attend two or three gym sessions or exercise classes through the week, and you should be more than meeting the requirements to improve your health and fitness. Remember that the minimum government recommended levels for adults are 30 minutes moderate-intense physical activity, at least five days a week, that many classes are an hour long, and that the rest can be made up from walking and vigorous gardening or housework, and you can see how easily you can get the required exercise in. Don’t make things harder for yourself than you need to.

Find Something You Can Really Enjoy

Running miles on a treadmill will be hard to maintain for long if it’s boring you to tears. Why not take up a new, active hobby for the New Year? Dancing, martial arts and horse riding are all very physical activities that will improve your fitness and can also be a lot of fun. A quick online search should help you find somewhere in your area where you could give these a try.
Many sports centres and gyms host a great variety of exercise classes, from yoga and Pilates to studio cycling and step aerobics. Don’t settle on one and do it until you’re fed up without even trying the others. Variety is a great way to avoid boredom and improve all round fitness, so why not aim for at least two completely different classes a week? You’re bound to find at least one you really enjoy, which will help sustain your motivation.

Work Out With Friends, But Rely On Yourself
It’s good to exercise with friends, making it more of a social occasion. It’s a lot easier to get out of the door if you feel you might be letting someone else down by not showing up to the gym. A little friendly competition on the weight loss and endurance front can be to everyone’s advantage, spurring you on to do even better.

But a common error is to become too reliant on your exercise companions. If they decide to skip classes, you decide to as well, and gradually, you let your own routine slip alongside theirs. Lots of people go to the gym or classes alone, and it’s much easier after you do it the first time, so make sure you get there, even without your usual companions. You may even make some new friends. Don’t allow someone else’s lack of motivation to stop you.

Don’t Give Up
If you have a bad day, a bad week, or even, a few bad weeks, don’t give up altogether. Just a little exercise a couple of times a week is very good for you. It can take a really lengthy, persistent effort to see physical changes from exercise, so don’t think it isn’t working after four months and stop. The difference it is making to your health is something you will feel first. Keep a diary recording what weight you can lift, how far you can run or how tired you are after your classes from the start, and you will be able to see the improvement. If you don’t feel like going to a class, at least get out for a walk. Just remember, something is always better than nothing, and as long as you are still doing something regularly, you are taking steps to improve your health.

Paula Sainthouse

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