2019 is drawing to a close and with the promise of a fresh new year just around the corner, many will be starting to consider their health goals and intentions. For some, this may mean starting completely from scratch - they may be a complete fitness beginner, or perhaps have had a break from training due to an injury or a pregnancy.
It can be intimidating knowing where to start but don’t let this put you off! Keep in mind that the starting point is always the most difficult part, it will only get easier.
We have put together a few pointers for getting yourself off to a flying start in January:
Firstly, you need to honestly assess what you are aiming to do - Are you hoping to improve your health? Do you want to look leaner for a big upcoming event? Do you want to try a new type of exercise out? Do you want to take time out of your busy schedule for yourself?
When you have assessed why it is you want to make a change, you can then set yourself a realistic goal - something to work towards on your fitness journey. Perhaps you want to drop a dress size, or be able to run a 5km. Maybe you just want to be able to walk up and down the stairs without getting out of breath. Your goal is personal to you and having it in mind will help you push through even on days where you have finished work later and don’t want to go to the gym, or when it's dark and cold and you don’t fancy that run outside!
Next, decide how and where you want to exercise. It doesn’t always have to be at a gym. Some people prefer exercising at home using just their own bodyweight, many join local fitness classes or groups in their community. There are so many good ones available.
Try and commit to 4 exercise sessions a week if you can. Have a think about what exercise you think you would enjoy - Spinning? Resistance Training? Swimming? Running? Boxing? Bootcamps? Pilates? Yoga? The main thing is to do something you can enjoy, this way you are far more likely to stick with it rather than hating every moment and giving up.
When you have decided what exercise you want to do, it's important to ensure you are doing it correctly.
If you are joining a group class, make sure the instructor knows you are new. They will be able to keep an eye on you and make sure you are carrying out the moves correctly - this will help you improve and also importantly help to avoid injuries. They will also encourage you! If you have joined a gym, and want to take part in classes there will usually be ‘beginner’ type classes - perhaps a low impact spin class, or a beginner's pilates class. Ask the gym staff which would be most suitable for you.
If you want to give resistance training a go - my personal favourite method - then I highly recommend making use of the induction sessions that should come with your gym membership - one of the gym personal trainers will be able to show you around the gym and show you how to the equipment works. You could also hire a personal trainer even if just for a few sessions to get you started, and to get a good workout plan going.
If you are working out at home, there are some great online workouts from personal trainers you can take part in - YouTube has so many that you can follow along in real-time as and when suits you.
It's important to have a plan in place in order to allow you to progress. Progress is key here - its so much better to be realistic and start off small, you will then be able to keep increasing intensity as you get fitter and stronger.
If you are a complete beginner, you could even just try a brisk walk 30 minutes 4 times a week. Scale your exercise according to your start point.
Get a workout plan from the gym induction, or from a personal trainer, or commit to 10 group classes, or 10 weeks of following online workouts on YouTube. Having a plan and a time frame will help you stay on track, and give you structure to your exercise routine.
Exercising gives you the opportunity to enjoy time to yourself - if you are working out or exercising remember you are doing something for you, to focus on your body and mind. Appreciating this and being grateful for the opportunity is all part of mindfulness and having a positive mindset is fantastic!
The 80/20 rule
No one is perfect! Everyone has setbacks, days where they don’t exercise or move their bodies, days where they overeat or drink too much alcohol - allow for it and accept it. A good way to do this is to practice the 80/20 rule - try to make the majority of your food choices nutritious ones (80%), and allow yourself the odd treat here and there (20%) so that you don’t feel deprived. This means you are more likely to keep going. If you have a bad day, remember the next day you can start again. Keep going.
Good support is imperative, to keep you motivated and encouraged. Share with your loved ones what your training plan is and why it is important to you. If they understand they will be able to encourage you. You could make a pact with a friend or colleague to commit to a certain number of sessions a week. You could join up with a friend and become each other's gym buddies so that you make your exercise a social commitment too. If you join a running group or a group class, you will have a ready-made community all on the same track as you with a collective aim.
Fuel Your Body
It's so important to fuel your body and nourish it effectively, especially with all the new exercise you will be doing. Try to steer clear of highly processed foods, alcohol, and junk foods and instead try to focus on consuming the following:
- lots and lots of vegetables
- lots of berries (full of antioxidants!)
- complex carbohydrates - wholegrain rice and pasta, sweet potatoes, quinoa, chickpeas etc
- fats - oily fish, nuts, seeds
- lots of quality protein - chicken, beef, turkey, pulses
Also, keep your hydration levels topped up - aim for 2 Litres of water a day.
Remember - try not to be intimidated if you have joined the gym and there are lots of people milling around in January - remember the crowds die down after a few weeks, and every other person there is united with you in your common goal of trying to improve their fitness.
Above all, be patient, try your best and you will find that you are not only getting results, but you are enjoying the process too and hopefully, it will become an important part of your lifestyle.
We have a Nutrition for Beginners guide available via our shop which is a great overview of basic nutritional principles and how they can assist your training. It covers foods groups, macronutrients and daily intake and sustainable food swaps. It costs just £9.99 and you can find it here: The Nutrition for Beginners Plan
1. Have a plan and set intentions - not only at the beginning of your journey, but continuously throughout
2. Factor in time for your exercise - schedule in your workouts each week so that you have allocated time for them and they aren’t an afterthought or causing you to stress trying to squeeze them in
3. Reward yourself - assess your progress, think of something you would really like - it could make a great reward for when you have reached your target!