How to start a new year fitness journey
Starting an exercise program from scratch can seem incredibly daunting, especially if you’re not exercising currently. Knowing where to start is a huge concern for many, and it can be one of the major obstacles for some people to get out there and get fit and healthy. This is super common and, let me tell you, also common for those of us who have been exercising for a while – we can sometimes get caught up in the tried and trusted, we don’t get out there and try new things or change what we are doing enough for it to make a difference or be enjoyable any more.
There are two definite approaches to this and depending on the type of person you are you will love one of them and loathe the other, so there is usually no problem deciding which approach is best for you – the one that you find most appealing.
Start small and start with whatever you feel comfortable doing
This might be some walking in the morning for 10 minutes or it could be a game of golf with friends, it might even be a Pilates class, some frisbee with friends at the beach or a swim that is a little longer than usual. The important thing is that you simply start! If you struggle with this simply try thinking of anything you enjoy doing that requires you to move and yes get creative – you might enjoy gardening so we could add a little structure to your gardening and decide to do something in the garden every second day for 15 minutes and incorporate some extra bonus moves like some lunges down the lawn or some step ups on the stairs. If you love shopping, try choosing some areas that require walking to and from each shop like the large malls and plan a route where you need to do 10 minutes before you are able to stop in and check out some items, take the stairs wherever possible, park your car away as far as you can – you might even deliver any purchases back to the car as and when you make them rather than all at the end. The options are limitless for getting enjoyable movement into your day.
The starting small approach is great for those of us who are no big lovers of exercise and who want to alter our lives just slightly. It may be realistic plan to go for a walk with your kids every afternoon or catch up with a friend a couple of nights a week for a jog. Whatever you choose to commit to and do, try and plan a 3 week block or schedule as it can take about 3 weeks for an activity to become established as part of your routine and part of your new lifestyle.
I like to have people using this approach to build up to 30 minutes per day within 1-2 weeks and this can be split up into 5, 10 or 15 min blocks – whatever works for you but don’t just stick to that minimum month in and month out. To see results you need to keep changing what you do, even if the changes you make seem relatively minor. If walking for 30 minutes is now comfortable, try walking for 45 or trying some hill walking. If walking is no problem, try jogging or some interval sessions. If you’re doing weights, increase your number of repetitions or the weight you’re using. Another great rule of thumb I use is if it’s boring you, it’s probably not doing much for your body and you are not likely to make time for it or stay with it for very long, so make sure it is something you love.
Commit 100% for a short duration for a massive kickstart
This works really well for some people who need change and results to stay motivated and want to get into a great place as quickly as possible. You need to be able to fully commit to a plan or program for last least 4 weeks if not more. There are some great programs out there you can use or you can create your own routine and guide. For example, you could choose to exercise every second day for 30 minutes of jogging and body weight exercises, avoid any alcohol, drink 2 litres of water per day and incorporate a yoga class twice a week for 1 month as your program. You could find a local boot camp type program that often run at the parks or check out some local studios that may offer challenges where you attend 3-4 classes per week.
Choosing either of these approaches will work as long as you are comfortable, you are able to and willing to commit to your decision. The key to committing is putting in some thought before you start about what you would enjoy doing and what fits with your lifestyle.
Nutrition also goes hand in hand with starting on the fitness journey. Eat healthily and choosing the foods that will give you the best energy for your workouts, without loading you up with unnecessary empty calories is super important. We often skip exercise if we feel flat or cannot be bothered because our food choices were not great - choose foods that make you feel good long-term and help you stay on your fitness path – I love including avocado, eggs, mixed nuts and seeds, sparkling water with a dash of lemon essential oil or grapefruit essential oil, lovely fresh garden salads with roasted chicken, tomatoes, olive oil, snack on carrots and hummus – really foods that are natural, whole and unprocessed are the best place to start.
Remember that there will be days when it all seems too hard, and don’t beat yourself up too much for the odd missed workout or bad food choice (as long as these are only occasional lapses!) – we all have those and we have all been there. It is not that they happen, it is how we choose to respond to it – just get straight back on that fitness wagon and take the time to reward yourself for your commitment and your successes, and remember that the hard part, actually starting an exercise program, is already behind you.
Lee-Anne Wann is a fitness specialist, nutritionist, presenter and author.
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