- Focus on your sleep. People underestimate the impact of lack of sleep; not only will the intensity of your workouts suffer, but you are likely to crave sugary foods the next day. Switch off your laptop and mobile at least 30 minutes before bed and leave them in another room. Ditch the bedroom TV; listen to music instead. Get a comfortable eye mask. It takes getting used to, but it will allow you to sleep deeper and longer.
- Do not fear carbs. Yes, eating too many of them, beyond your body’s need, causes you to store fat, but they’re great for fuelling and recovering from workouts. Eat carbs such as sweet potato or wild rice within one hour of your workout. Cut down on them on rest days when you don’t need the extra fuel.
- Start the day with water. Make sure the first thing you do when you wake up is drink a big glass. Think of your body like a car: a glass of water first thing in the morning is like starting your engine.
- Track your workouts. To keep progressing, enter your exercise session into your calendar as an appointment. Once you have completed the session, you can add all your training notes to your diary – what did you do, how did you feel, what distance did you cover? You are more likely to stick to your plan and improve.
- Keep a visual food diary. We often underestimate how much we eat and drink in the day. If you are busy to write a food diary or journal, take photos of what you eat and drink, and keep them on their phone to review at the end of the week.
- Watch while you work out. Choose a regular TV show to enjoy at the gym, or a favourite podcast you let yourself listen to only when running/walking/working out. It’s a great motivation: you will look forward to exercising.
- Set one goal at a time. The biggest mistake is to try to change everything at once. Instead of saying, “I’m going to go to the gym every day, and stop eating sugar, and go to bed early, and stop drinking alcohol”, just say, “I’m going to move more.” After a few weeks of building confidence by sticking to your resolution, think about changing your diet. Normally people set a couple of goals in January and by the summer they have achieved neither; this way you are more likely to manage both.
- Stay hydrated. Drink two or three litres of water a day. Most people are chronically dehydrated – don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Coffee and tea don’t count. Fill up a two-litre bottle and keep it at your desk, so you can track how much you drink.
- Don’t forget to stretch. If you’re over 40, stretching and mobility are vital. Try a slow type of yoga, where you hold each stretch for three to five minutes – it’s hugely beneficial. Move around often and stretch your shoulders and chest to stop your body from stooping over.
- Look around you. You don’t need to join a gym: whether it’s your living room or a local park, there are so many places – and so many ways – to create a great workout. Be imaginative and have fun.
- Find a fitness buddy. Being accountable to someone can really help on those days when you struggle to find motivation. If you have a friend who also wants to train, agree times in the week to work out together. Encouragement, support and maybe a touch of competition could be just what you need.
- Be prepared. Сarry your sportswear with you, just in case you find time to squeeze in a workout. It would be so disappointing to find time, and miss out because you had no kit.
- Do little and often. New mums can keep active and healthy with this mantra. You’ll see much more benefit from fitting in 15 minutes of exercise every day, rather than a once-a-week gym session. Work out at home while your baby naps.
- Mix up workouts. High intensity is great on the days when you’re full of energy, but smashing your body every day is not the best solution to a healthy body. Do both high- and low-intensity and impact (eg if you’re a runner, do Pilates, too) and don’t forget to stretch and take rest days to allow your body to recover.
- Have fun. Exercise and nutrition should ultimately be about achieving a healthy mind and body, not always pushing yourself to your limits. Choose exercise you enjoy and that makes you feel great. If you love it, you’re more likely to keep it up, so don’t worry about what the new trend is or what’s going to burn the most calories; think instead, “What’s going to put the biggest smile on my face?” and choose that.
- Get your gear on. Put your workout clothing on as soon as you get out of bed, or as soon as you get home at the end of your working day, and start exercising as soon as possible; it requires much less willpower than getting off the sofa.
- Batch-boil eggs. Have a bowl of them in the fridge ready to grab and go as a healthy snack.
- Wear gear you love. Look good and you’ll feel good, energised and ready to take on the world. Slip on an old T-shirt and… well, you’ll probably end up back in bed.
- Take the stairs. It’s easy to avoid them. But if you walk up and down stairs at every opportunity, it’s a great way to sneak in some really good cardio exercise.
- Plank every day. It’s not fancy, it’s not clever, it just works. Here’s my five-minute plank workout. Start your stopwatch, set it for five minutes, hold a plank: that’s it! You won’t last five minutes but log how long you do manage and try to beat that tomorrow. While you are building up to doing a five-minute plank (and yes, eventually, you will), take 10-second breaks but keep getting back up, until the five minutes are up. If you do it every day you will take fewer breaks and you’ll be bragging about your plank in no time.
- Don’t compare yourself with others. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re a seasoned pro, the temptation to see how you match up is always there and for ever futile. You don’t know their motivations, goals, insecurities. Just focus on yourself – way easier and ultimately more satisfying.
- Be patient and consistent. Don’t hammer a workout regime for a week and expect to be an Olympian. Change takes time, so don’t create an unrealistic schedule. If you’re just getting into fitness, it’s highly unlikely you’re going to go to the gym five times a week. Ease yourself in, allow yourself time to build up.
- Stop eating lunch at your desk. Get up, move around. Your mind, body and soul will thank you for it. And, yes, you do have time.
- Eat for recovery. There is a lot of focus on what to eat before a workout (ideally, nothing for 60 minutes beforehand – if you’re starving have a date or half a banana), but what you eat after can really make a difference. For the muscles to recover, they will need protein to repair tissue, carbohydrate to replenish glycogen, and vitamins and minerals.
- Push yourself in classes. Get the most out of a spin class by engaging your core and pushing your body weight back, so you use your glutes, hamstrings, calves and quads, rather than leaning forward, which will over-work your quads. And be proactive with your resistance. The instructor is there to guide you, but only you know what your body can take.
With a quality eye exercise program, you may be surprised how quickly your eyesight improves! …