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Lost your fitness mojo? Personal trainer Brit Williams has strategies to help get you out of the starting blocks quicker than you can say ‘I fancy Joe Wicks’
t’s no surprise that most gyms are rammed with ‘new year’s resolutioners’ in January. But from February onwards, it can be harder to maintain motivation than it is for Rita Ora to commit to a hairstyle. It’s time to face facts, though. According to a 2017 report by the British Heart Foundation, about 39% of UK adults are failing to meet the government recommendations for physical activity. And findings from Public Health England show that more than six million adults aged 40-60 don’t even manage a 10-minute brisk walk each month. But whatever your age, there’s a compelling reason to force yourself off the sofa: being active can help reduce your risk of major illnesses such as heart disease, stroke and cancer by up to 50%. So I’ve rounded up the latest motivational techniques, along with fun new trends that’ll have you digging out your gym kit before the end of this feature.
Don’t let the Lycra-clad regulars stomp on your confidence – try a mental warm-up before you hit the treadmill. Research shows that self-doubters may feel less threatened by their more confident peers if they use positive self-affirmations (which can actually have a long-lasting benefit). So every morning, say to yourself, ‘I’m seriously amazing!’ (or write it down if you feel self-conscious). Motivating self-talk to help you walk the walk? Love it.
Remember to vary your training the way you do your food groups, or you could suffer injuries that red-light your efforts before you even get to wear in your new trainers. The NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise a week – or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise if you’re time-poor – plus strength exercises on two or more days a week. Aim for a balance of cardio (think brisk walking, jogging, swimming or cycling), mobility-enhancing workouts (such as yoga or callisthenics) and strength training (you could try classes such as Body Pump or Grit Strength). And don’t skimp on the latter – a review of trials published in the British Journal Of Sports Medicine concluded that weight training could almost halve your risk of overuse injuries, as stronger muscles and tendons mean more stable joints.
In the fitness industry, we swing the phrase ‘endorphin high’ around more frequently than a kettlebell. But German researchers have found an even stronger association between getting active and feeling happier: they discovered a significant rise in the mood-enhancing neurotransmitter serotonin following intense exercise. For the best boost, try to regularly reach 80-95% of your maximum heart rate during training – but don’t push yourself so hard that you risk getting injured. Remember to get the all-clear from your GP if you have any health concerns before starting a new exercise regime.
Gyms are increasingly offering classes that incorporate mindfulness, so we can address our mental and physical health at the same time – Laura Hill
Suzy Reading, psychologist and author of The Self-Care Revolution (Aster), has a fiscal analogy that supports the old adage that health is wealth. ‘Think of your body’s energy stores as a bank balance,’ she says. ‘And every decision you make to be active is a deposit in your account. Like a smart savings plan, small and frequent deposits can amount to big dividends.’ Science tends to agree. In a study by the University of Georgia, sedentary adults who performed just 20 minutes of low-intensity exercise (walking counts) three times a week reported a 65% reduction in fatigue levels after six weeks. The moral of the story? If you don’t want to be in the red, get out of bed.
A recent study suggests that the number of people with at least one health app on their phone will have surpassed 1.7 billion by now. Wow. But with so many to choose from, how do you find one for you? Well, handily for us, researchers at the University of Florida stepped in to evaluate them, and the top performer was –drum roll, please– The Johnson & Johnson Official 7 Minute Workout. This rated highest out of 28 exercise programme apps that were tested against official exercise guidelines set by the American College of Sports Medicine. Based on the principles of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), it’s easy to fit into your day (who hasn’t got seven minutes?), and it’s now compatible with the Apple Watch, too. Begin with a tap on your wrist; finish with a pat on your back.
Of course, our time-poor lifestyles can mean that ticking all those ‘healthy living’ boxes feels like just another chore. But resist the temptation to throw in the (sweat) towel; instead, take advantage of the emergence of a two-for-one fitness trend for body and mind. ‘Gyms are increasingly offering classes that incorporate mindfulness, so we can address our mental and physical health at the same time,’ explains Laura Hill, trends expert at wellness news site Welltodo. For example, Virgin Active’s ‘Calm’ classes combine a strong yoga practice with an added focus on breath and meditation, while ‘Yin’ yoga – a great way to stretch while helping you silence that mind chatter – is surging in popularity. Alternatively, dive in to a spot of wild swimming: scientists have discovered links between exposure to ‘blue spaces’ (read bodies of water) and lower levels of psychological distress. See wildswim.com for a map of the best places to dip your toe in and how to swim safely.
The popularity of ‘healthy hedonism’ – aka increasing your ‘wellth’ (geddit?) while also having amazing fun – is continuing to grow, with gyms and festivals serving up classes that make fitness more social and less scary. Bounce (bouncefitbody.com) is all about jumping around on mini trampolines to dance music (often with disco-esque lighting), while Hotpod Yoga (hotpodyoga.com) has regular studios but can also transport its inflatable heated yoga pods for pop-ups on rooftops and mountaintops alike. Then there’s FloatFit (aquaphysical.com), a fitness class done on a board in a swimming pool. Part of the fun is trying not to fall in – and hearing the splashes, as lots of people do. Plus, the previously London-centric trend for ‘wellness festivals’ is branching out, with the likes of Soul Circus in Gloucestershire, LoveFit in Kent and Festival No.6’s retreat-style paddleboarding and yoga pop-up in Wales. It’s official: working out is the new going out. So get involved.
Your workout buddies
The Fitbit Blaze Fitness Super Watch in Plum/Silver Boots.com only syncs with your phone for calls and texts, and logs workout stats, sleep and heart rate. See online for price details.Add
Keep hair (and sweat!) out of your eyes with the Scünci Sports Space Dye Headwrap, £7.49/749 points.Add
Help protect your locks during exercise: Boots Sun Swim & Gym Hydra Spray*, £3.59/359 points (100ml).Currently Unavailable
With the SBS Runway Stereo Flat In-Ear Earphones in Yellow, £19.99/1,999 points, you can listen to motivational music while you run, without getting in a tangle.Add
Overdone it? Relieve minor sport injuries with Deep Freeze Pain Relief Cold Spray*, £4/400 points (150ml).Add
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Photography Fotolia Visit Brit’s website at fitbritcollective.com