I debated for a while over writing this post, in fear of looking pretentious. However, my aim as a journalist has always been to tell people things I wish that I’d been told, and honestly, I really would have liked to have read a post like this before I decided to take on the daunting task of getting fit over the summer.
Before I begin here’s a disclaimer: everything I say here is unlikely to suit everyone, so please do not take my words as gospel. I am not a fitness expert and I do not claim to be. Do not over-exercise, and make sure you listen to what your body is telling you!
Anyway, a couple of months ago after finishing my exams and over-indulging in food and alcohol, there is only one word I can use to describe how I was feeling: sluggish. Combine this feeling with the knowledge that I would be working from home over the summer (thus would have a very regular routine) and I decided to try this getting fit thing a go.
And a month in… I’m doing well! Here is my foolproof guide to getting started from the very beginning.
1. Have an aim
If you’ve got something to aim for, you’re more likely to achieve it than if you’re just floundering around in the fields of random exercise (me during my first two years of university). So I have decided that by the end of summer, I want to become good enough at pole to join Warwick Pole Society in October when I return to university, and fit enough to be able to maintain running three times a week during term time as part of my routine, instead of it being a massive deal.
After establishing this I went around telling loads of people what I was going to do: my friends, my family, my friend’s uncle’s postman’s cousin, etc. That way I deliberately created a heap of expectation on myself, which definitely forced me to get my ass into gear!
2. Plan, plan, plan
This is probably the most important point of all – if you don’t plan effectively, then you just won’t achieve your aims. First of all, you need to consider the amount of time you have. Do you work full-time? Are you more busy some days than others? If so, it may be a better idea to plan to exercise on your quieter days. If you’re catching a train at 7am every morning, getting up and going to the gym early might be a struggle, so perhaps consider the evening. Personally I have found that running early morning as soon as I get up works best, as I can’t make excuses to myself that I’m too tired later on in the day. Some people are not as fortunate to be able to go early morning though, so if you can’t I would recommend going as soon as you finish work, because later on in the evening you’ll simply be too exhausted to get up and go back out again. The key to this is: make exercise part of your routine.
Another thing to plan is your budget. If you’re totally skint and use that as your excuse not to exercise, think again: there is plenty you can do. Aside from going for a run (my preferred option), you can look up yoga or pilates online for free, and there are thousands of simple abs workouts for beginners on YouTube. Trust me – if you can’t find them, you’re not looking hard enough. If you do think you’ll be able to scrape a bit of money together, then head to the gym or invest into some exercise classes. I find exercise classes particularly effective as you usually have to pay for a certain number of sessions in advance, and this generally forces you to go. If you’re in the Ashford area I’d also recommend The Gym – only £12.99 per month, no contract and no sign-up fee if you’re a student. Bargain!
3. Consider your diet
First up, it’s important to consider when you’re going to eat around your exercise. I find I can’t eat breakfast before I go running or to the gym, otherwise I’ll just feel sick. Other people though may feel weak on an empty stomach – it honestly just depends on the person. It is absolutely vital that if you’re exercising a lot you up your intake of water, and if possible lower your intake of caffeine , alcohol and fizzy drinks, as these will dehydrate you (as well as being bad for you!). Whether you choose to alter your diet is up to you, but you should remember that if you are going to be exercising a lot, you probably will not lose weight. Why? By exercising you’re developing your muscles, and muscle weighs more than fat. If you are exercising to lose weight, I’d recommend cracking out the tape measure and seeing how many inches you lose, instead of panicking over the scales. I decided to exercise more to get fit rather than lose weight, therefore I didn’t go on any special kind of diet – I’ve just attempted to cut most of the rubbish out. I’ve also ditched the scales and gone by how my clothes fit me.
4. Find something you enjoy
Although I said planning was the most important thing on this list, I’m probably wrong. Finding something you enjoy is definitely at the top, because that’s what is going to motivate you to continue in the future, as well as your aim. I’ve always really enjoyed running since I was younger, and I’ve missed it since getting out of it. I decided to try that out first and I still loved it – so I’d recommend perhaps going back to doing a sport you enjoyed when you were a child. If you want to try out the gym but you have no idea how to go about it, book an induction session. It’s that easy and they may even help you plan a basic workout routine.
If that doesn’t work, why don’t you try something completely new? I’ve always thought that pole fitness looks incredible, and a great way to build up core strength – and then suddenly, when I came across Elements Studio (in Ashford) on Facebook, I thought I’d give it a go. A few weeks in and I am absolutely loving it! Sure, it’s super difficult and requires a lot of practise to get good at, but it makes the achievement of working towards, and succeeding at, certain moves all the sweeter. Check out my very first invert to the right – I can’t wait to start improving on this further with the help of Lisa, my incredible instructor. She’s loads of fun and is brilliant at making you feel relaxed and comfortable whatever stage you’re at, so I’d seriously recommend trying out one of her classes if you’re a beginner. All I have to say is, watch out Warwick Pole, I’m coming for you in October!
5. Prepare to readjust
If you’re a student, this is essential. If you are going back to university you will need to freeze or change your gym contract if you have one, maybe find new exercise classes, or readjust your running routine. Therefore, try and find a sport to do that you can maintain, and adjust accordingly. If there’s no gym nearby at university you won’t want to travel miles to find one, so you might have to find an alternative. You will always come across things you’ll need to readjust for in everyday life too, so choose something that’s flexible where you can switch the day if required. Finally, if you’re having an off day or are finding the exercise too much – cut it down, or even skip a session if you need to. As I said above, listen to what your body is telling you!
Ultimately, I haven’t found the past few weeks easy, at all, but the five points above have seriously helped motivate me. As a result of exercising five or six times a week, not only can I now run 5km without feeling like I’m going to die, but I’m feeling healthier and fitter than I have done in a long time. If I can do it, then you certainly can too – good luck!
Photo: Giuseppe Milo / Flickr