New Year, New Beginnings

The New Year is traditionally a time of renewal and resolutions. For the first few weeks of every January many folk set to their resolutions with the vim and vigour of the, well, newly resolved. However by the end of the month, this often wears off as the novelty wears thin, or in the case of exercise, the newly resolved don’t get as thin as they hope.

It takes regularity and consistency to succeed on any exercise and nutrition programme. Many people start the New Year by literally throwing themselves into exercise after an indulgent and sedentary festive season. This sharp increase in exercise can result in injury, over training or simply exhausting the individual. Far more sensible and affective is a measured planned programme with both short term and long term goals. If your resolution is to trim down, the first thing to consider is how much. What size do you want to be? Do you have an old pair of jeans that you’d like to fit into? If your goal is to improve your running, search the internet and enter yourself into a race so you that have a set date to work towards.

When you’ve set your goal, look at your diary and work out how much time you have each week to dedicate to your goal. I would suggest a minimum of three one hour sessions, but you can be canny and break your workouts into smaller bits. Book regular times in your diary for fitness, in the same way you’d block time off for an important meeting. Time is a resource that many of us are short on, so some careful time planning can reap dividends in the long run.

Start small and build up as your fitness improves and it will help you avoid injury. This is one of the simplest concepts that new exercisers neglect. Doing punishingly hard sessions to start with is like trying to build a house by starting with the roof. Start with the foundations of fitness and you will have a strong and supportive structure on which to build your programme. The foundations are steady state cardio and strength exercises that challenge your current body shape. I find many individuals returning to fitness after an extended break start by running as fast as they remember running in the past. Quite often, this is too fast to start with. By exercising regularly, and building up slowly, they will return to form, but it does require consistency and practise.

So here’s how to create your own personalised fitness programme:

  1. Get out your 2015 diary and write in goal dates (races, weddings or events you want to look good for).
  2. Work backwards to count how many weeks you have. I usually work with a timeframe of 6 – 24 weeks.
  3. Remember to mark down holidays, busy work periods or any other planned disruptions to your routine.
  4. Write in which days you plan to do your workouts (around 3 – 5 per week). Use the weekend for longer workouts and remember you can also workout before work, or even at lunch time.
  5. Schedule rest days. You will probably need more when you’re starting out, so give yourself a day off between exercise sessions to recover. This is when your body rebuilds new body tissue, so rest days (and good sleep) are crucial.
  6. Nutrition is as important as exercise, so eat well. Lots of vegetables, fruits, pulses, nuts and seeds, good quality lean meat and organic dairy will get you off to a good start. Good hydration is also essential. Small changes to your diet can make big changes to the quality of training.
  7. Remember to cross train, using different forms of cardio to work the entire body; swimming is ideal cross-training for running (as is cycling). Yoga can help keep you supple and Pilates assist your core strength, so are good ‘add ons’.
  8. Theoretically your mileage / intensity shouldn’t increase more than 15% per week. Start with your goal mileage and work backwards datewise to where you are now.
  9. Have a contingency plan for chaotic weeks. A good training programme will have a ‘buffer’ margin so if you fall behind on one week it doesn’t derail the programme’s progression.
  10. Remember that each workout will get your closer to your goal. Every workout is essential. Imagine your goal clearly in your head every time you work out and have a fit and fabulous 2015.

Edinburgh based Personal Trainer Tracy Griffen runs a wee fitness studio in Leith and is the author of the Healthy Living Yearbook – help make 2015 your healthiest year yet. You can follow Tracy on Twitter @tracygriffen, Find her on Facebook/griffenfitness or visit her website www.getfitandenjoyit.com

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