Every January brings an influx of interest to the fitness industry: gym memberships go through the roof (in non-Covid times); home workout equipment sells out; PT training programs book up; and social media becomes plastered with ‘New Year New Me’ challenges, before shots and public declarations of goals.
Unfortunately during this time, marketing for unrealistic quick-fix products can often shout loudest. Businesses offering ‘miracles’ like diet pills, meal replacements, vibrators (and not the fun kind), or cellulite removers promise to get you to your dream ‘beach bod’ without you needing to lift a finger. Guys… I don’t need to tell you this, but it’s all bollocks. And, quite frankly, unhealthy.
These quick-fix products are not only damaging to the body; a waste of your hard-earned money; and disillusioning… but will also just make you totally miserable.
The key is to find a balance: accept that reaching your fitness goals is a long game… but also understand that it shouldn’t be an overwhelming one. Once you get into the swing of it, a healthy lifestyle is actually conducive to real happiness.
So I thought I’d lay out my top advice for kickstarting a SUSTAINABLE fitness regime; one that you’ll persevere with and enjoy.
There’s a tendency to hear ‘healthy lifestyle’ and think ‘boring’. The first step to achieving longevity is to break-down this association in your head… a healthy lifestyle doesn’t need to be at the expense of the things you love (wine; chocolate, burger; PJ days; etc) – it’s just about having those things in moderation. Balancing them with exercise and nutritious whole foods.
2. Have a Goal
…and make it REALISTIC. Maybe your goal is visual and to do with body composition, or maybe it’s quantifiable – weight loss or how heavy you can lift. Either way, make sure it’s attainable with your body type and allow a appropriate time-frame. Don’t go expecting wonders within a matter of weeks, or even months. Side personal note: I used to pine after a body like Alexis Ren’s… it made me miserable that I never got there, until I acknowledged that we have naturally very different body frames.
3. Social Media Usage
Relating to the above – social media can be a great place to find motivation or inspiration for your goals. It can also be a damaging place: setting expectations unnaturally high.
There’s a difference between following someone who makes you hate your current self VS following someone who inspires you to be like them, and educates you on how to do so. Clear out the former and top-up on the latter.
A couple of accounts I’d recommend: @James.middleton_ for genuinely useful advice and knowledge. @hayleymadiganfitness for a healthy journey and Instagram vs reality. Myself @ailsarenk – I will always be honest and welcome your questions. @anguswarburton_uk for IGTV home workouts.
4. Ease Into It
…especially if you’ve had time off exercise, or are starting for the first time ever. ‘Kickstart’ is actually quite a misleading term… to go in full-pelt can be a dangerous over-shock to your system. Instead, allow your body time and space to adapt to exercise.
Start small: little and often with enough time to recover. This will not only be safer physically, but will also allow you to ease in mentally. The last thing you want is to come to see exercise as an unsatisfying endurance of pain. You want it to become a habit, not a chore.
I recommend starting off alternating days between exercising and simply stretching.
5. Unless you’re an All-or-Nothing type
…in which case, you need to find ways to make that initial drive sustainable. Avoid a big blowout followed by burnout a couple of months down the line. If you fall into this category, then build intensity (rather than frequency) gradually – this might look like a gradual addition of resistance, or slowly building up the impact or duration.
Also – find a way to hold yourself accountable to maintaining the momentum. Workout charts can help – a chart of the whole month/year and you colour in the days you’ve done a workout. Keep it somewhere visible. Or a little healthy competition with a friend also starting their journey. (Emphasis on HEALTHY).
6. Experiment with Formats
Down the line, consistency will be key, but when you’re first setting out/getting back into it… it’s crucial to do some exploring. Trial different exercise formats and find the ones you enjoy the most – these are the only ones you’ll be able to continue with in the long run. It might be live workouts; fitness plan apps; a personal trainer; group exercise; running; weights; swimming; dance; etc.
7. Progressive Overload
I know I previously said consistency is key… but so too is continual development. To put it very basically, exercise is the act of challenging/attacking the body. The improvements we see, occur in the body’s response to exercise-attack: the body adapts to cope with the challenges we put it through. Obviously, once that adaptation is made, the body will no longer be so challenged by the same exercise. At this point, it is important to increase or diversify the work, so your body must adapt once again.
Not only is progressive overload key to not overdoing it in the beginning, or to continual physical improvement… but changing your exercise activity will prevent boredom and drop-out.
Which brings us on to motivation. After the initial novelty of your fitness regime wears off, you’ll face the next challenge: perseverance.
Ultimately, motivation comes from action, rather than the other way around. But for some methods to assist in this, you can watch an IGTV I made on the topic here.
I hope this was helpful my loves!! Let me know how you get on.