January is here, and what better time of year to set yourself some targets and bounce back from the overindulgence of the holiday period? If you’re keen to get fit, tone up and change your dad bod into a rad bod, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some useful fitness tips and some suggestions to help you get the best out of your body.
Getting back into the swing of things
Be honest. Has it been a few weeks, months or even years since you did a workout that didn’t involve moving from the sofa to the fridge? At this time of year, it’s all too easy for the days to merge into one and for time to fly by without you even noticing. It’s also a lot harder to find the energy and motivation to exercise when it’s cold and miserable outside. If you’ve been out of the game for a while, you may be dreading taking that first step, but as soon as you do, you’ll start to reap the rewards. The first workout, run or class of the year is always the hardest, especially after a period of time out, but if you can push yourself to do it, you should find that you get back into the swing of things very quickly. It can take time to build up your fitness, so go steady and don’t rush yourself. If you try and push too hard, there’s a risk of injury, and this will set you back even further.
If you struggle to push yourself or you really can’t face hitting the gym, take a buddy with you or book some personal training sessions. At the time, it may be incredibly difficult, and you may wonder why on earth you decided to exercise in the first place, but you’ll feel so much better afterwards. Short-term pain often leads to long-term gain.
Finding the right exercise for you
There’s an assumption out there that you must go to the gym to get a buff body. The reality is that this simply isn’t true. Look at people who play sports like soccer, tennis and football or professional cyclists, boxers, skiers or dancers. If you don’t want to spend your life in the gym, that’s fine. You can still shape up and build muscle tone. Finding the right exercise is important because if you enjoy something, you’re more likely to train harder and stick to your workout program. If lifting weights or running for miles on a treadmill don’t appeal, swerve the gym and try something different. Buy a bike and go for a ride a few times a week, take up self-defense classes or become a member at the local pool. If you love the outdoors, start skiing or snowboarding, walking or hiking or kayaking or canoeing on a regular basis. If you’re having fun at the same time as moving your body, you won’t dread training sessions, and you’ll get more out of your new active lifestyle.
If you have injuries or underlying health issues, it’s essential to ensure that you select the right activities. Consult a doctor or a trainer and take their advice on board. If you suffer from back pain, for example, exercises such as yoga, Pilates and swimming will be better for you than running and doing weights. Finding suitable exercises is also imperative if you have specific goals in mind. If you’re desperate to shred fat and define your muscles, for example, combining cardio drills with weights is likely to be more effective than swimming, walking or playing tennis a few times a week.
Maintaining high levels of motivation
Hands up if you’ve started 2018 with a burning desire to get fit, but you’re already struggling to muster up the enthusiasm to go for that run or get your bike out? If motivation is a major issue, there are things you can do. One method some people find effective is taking photographs and writing down why they want to get fit. Perhaps you’ve lost a sense of yourself and piled on weight, you want to be more active with your kids, or you’d like to feel more confident, or maybe you’re keen to make changes to improve your health, your job prospects or your love life. Whatever your motivation, keep that list with you and look at it when you’re considering skipping that spin class or heading straight home rather than stopping off at the pool.
Another way to stay motivated is to work out with a friend or a trainer. It can be tough to push yourself as hard as possible, and having another person there to test you and reassure and encourage you can make it easier to hit your goals. Keep setting new goals when you reach your targets and make it fun. Nobody wants to spend their time doing the same thing repeatedly day in, day out, so try new things, go to different places and combine individual sessions with group or team workouts.
Protecting yourself from injury
The last thing you want when you’ve managed to get back into training is an injury. Injuries can affect your ability to perform properly and sideline you for days, weeks or even months. If you are starting a new fitness regime, never underestimate the importance of warming up. The warm-up is of paramount importance because it prepares your body for what’s to come. Your heart rate will increase, and this provides more oxygen to your muscles. If you start exercising straight away without a warm-up, you could damage the muscles and cause your heart rate and blood pressure to spike suddenly. Spend a brief period combining cardiovascular exercises with stretches before you begin each session. It’s also essential to make sure you have the right kit. If you haven’t got the right clothing, footwear or equipment, this could put you at risk of injury. Look at fitness clothing, men’s socks and shoes and equipment that will enhance your sessions online or ask your personal trainer for advice. Once you’re kitted out and ready to go, use the correct techniques always, finish every workout with a cool down and take a rest from time to time. You don’t need to push your body to the limits every single day.
Stepping up the intensity
When you’re trying to shape up, trim down, increase your endurance or build muscle mass, it’s beneficial to increase the intensity of your workouts. If you do the same exercises all the time, increase the duration, add more weight or make the session tougher by adding an incline or increasing the resistance. If you push yourself, your fitness will improve, and you’ll start to notice a real difference. If you move too slowly and you’re not progressing, this could lead to a plateau. If you’re used to running 5km, try and do 7km, for example. If you usually do an interval session twice a week, go for an extra class. Keep moving in the right direction and work towards your goals.
Getting the most out of every session
If you’ve made it to the gym, the pitch, the court, the ring or the pool, there’s no point in putting minimal effort in. With exercise, you get out what you put in and the harder you work, the better the results you’ll achieve. There may be days when you don’t have a lot of energy, or you can’t really be bothered to exercise, but for that brief period, try and give it your all. Tailoring your workouts to your fitness aims and your preferences can be beneficial. If you get bored easily, for example, swap an hour-long jog or a 10-mile bike ride for a 30-minute spin, kickboxing, or high-intensity interval training class. These sessions are demanding work, but they’re brilliant for those on a tight schedule as well as people who are impatient when it comes to getting results.
It can be tough to put in maximum effort, especially if you’re tired, you’ve not been well, or you’ve got a lot on your plate. If you do struggle to hit your peak, it may be worth enlisting the help of a personal trainer, as they can push you that little bit further and give you the encouragement and support you need to hit the dizzy heights.
Has the festive period taken its toll on your physique or have you decided that 2018 is the year you’re going to get fit? If you’re optimistic about hitting those targets, there are many ways you can up your fitness game. Vary your workouts, have fun when you exercise and don’t lose track of the reasons you wanted to start your regime in the first place. Make sure you exercise safely, protect your body from injuries and try and push yourself during every session. Aim for progression, keep your goals in mind and work with a buddy or a trainer if you need that extra push.