January and early February are some of the busiest times of the year for Fit School, from Pilates enquiries, personal training and fitness plans to run club. Even babies get in on the new year action with numbers in our ante natal classes always growing in January.
But the other thing we notice at this time of year is that the marketing hype regarding fitness and diets can be overwhelming. If you know Fit School, you’ll know selling you ‘what you should be’ isn’t our style. So in a bid to help you through the January crazies we’re bringing you 12 days of simple Fit Steps. Think of them as a navigation tool.
Fit Step 1: Make a choice. What do YOU want?
Be honest with yourself. Ignore what others think you should want and think hard about what it is you really want for your health and fitness. Just one thing you’d really like to achieve or change this year. You could email it you us at email@example.com or you could just write it down in your own little notebook.
Fit Step 2 is about being mindful about the foods you buy, eat and cook. And no, this doesn’t necessarily mean taking 10 minutes to eat a fried mushroom. This is about choosing foods that look good, bring you pleasure, that you know will make your body and brain feel good. If that’s a square of dark chocolate that you can savour, have that instead of mindlessly inhaling cheap holiday confectionery. Treat yourself to breakfast out one day and really enjoy it. Drink good coffee or make your favourite juice. It’s about switching your brain to nourishing feel good foods rather than a quick snack. Learn what foods do for your mood and energy levels. What works for you? What are your favourite feel-good foods?
Be like the squirrel. Eat the nut!
If an advert, Facebook post or even a friend’s suggestion makes you feel guilty or a bit rubbish about yourself, ignore it. It doesn’t serve you. Don’t do something because somebody else thinks you should.
If however, one of those messages pricks your conscience a little or inspires you to action then do something about it. But it needs to inspire you, rather than bring you down.
Fit Step 4: Take stock of where you’re at right now.
There are two parts to this:
Firstly, what’s going well for you in your health? Do you have a ‘care plan’? Perhaps you know what works for you but have slipped off the wagon. That’s better than not knowing what works for you. Acknowledge what’s going well. Even if it seems pretty small.
Part 2 is taking stock in order to move forwards. It’s good to have a measure of your progress. What’s hard for you now that you could improve on? What would you like to learn? Look at where you are now and plan (if you’re a planner) or at least have a rough idea. This way click bait headlines won’t distract your long term efforts.
Fit Step 5: Find an activity that lights your fire.
Contrary to popular belief, getting fit does not mean going to the gym. Gyms are for people who like gyms. There are so many ways to be more active. There’s paddle boarding, rambling, tai chi, tea dances, burlesque dancing, hula hooping, walking, horizontal dancing (😳), open water swimming, gardening, your car breaking down! Obviously I could go on but the point is, find what you love.
Fitness is directly linked to your long term health and life expectancy. There are no ways around it. Find what you love (or could learn to love).
Following on from yesterday’s post, it’s great to have a thing you love (that’s the starting point) but there’ll also be exercise you need.
For example, if you’ve ever had an injury, have arthritis or have been pregnant/had a baby, there’ll be specific exercises you need to do to help manage scar tissue, joint mobility or post natal concerns respectively.
If you have osteoporosis or a family risk of dementia there’ll be specific programmes you can follow to help yourself.
This doesn’t have to be the foundation of your programme but it’s another way to dodge the new year hype. If you know what programme works best for you, you can skip the fad workouts.
Specificity is something Coach Chris is very hot on btw. What do you know you need to do? I need deadlifts (for my hips), shoulder work (for my neck) and greenspace (for my amygdala).
Fit Step 7: Know your barriers.
This is also known as ‘call yourself up on your own sh*t!’
When are you making excuses?
Stuff happens. You get sick. Kids get sick. You get busy. But through our joint experience in this business we can always spot the people who grab the excuses to not exercise and those who stubbornly refuse to be stopped. Guess which ones are happiest with their health and activity levels?
Knowing when you’re making an excuse is almost as good as never making it.
What are your barriers?
We all have times when we need advice or the expertise of a professional.
We love nothing better than getting people through obstacles. Sometimes that means referring on to a trusted professional. Sometimes it’s something we can help with ourselves.
Two recent examples are a Mum who came to see me when her youngest was 6. She’d struggled to get back into any exercise because of post natal complications. We’ve worked through specific exercises (and a home programme) to the point where she now loves Pilates and wants to do it twice a week, her confidence has grown so much since our first meet.
Another example is a new client of Chris’ who he sees via phone calls only. He wanted help with his marathon training, specifically getting the most out of his heart rate monitor. Chris has been able, by tracking his training results, to tweak his programme based on the story his heart rate shows about his energy systems. He’s already increased his speed.
Fit Step 9: You aren’t one of those ‘fit’ people.
Perhaps you’ve tried something before. You went to a class. You joined a gym. You went on a regime. You tried to run. It’s just not for you.
We’ve had the pleasure of converting some of the most stubborn non exercisers. Not all but lots. Because actually, underneath the defiance is usually fear or a lack of self worth. Or perhaps what you tried wasn’t very good!
If you tried something and didn’t like it, try something else. Go somewhere new. Get adventurous. Make it your project.
We’re back on cooking and eating. Totally overhauling your diet can seem like such a massive effort. We almost fail before we begin.
‘I’m too busy.’
‘I can’t cook.’
‘My husband/child is fussy.’
So here’s a suggestion. Just as we recommend creating 1, then 2 exercise sanctuaries every week, do the same for food. Here at Chez Laing we have veggie Tuesdays, fish curry Saturdays and leftovers Mondays (usually with a jacket potato). It fits in with our work/family life to spend time cooking and checking out new recipes on certain days more than others.
So if you know you need to eat more fish or legumes, allocate a day or a meal to one of those items. You’ll get them in at least once a week and will learn some new recipes in the process.
Fit Step 11: Create a weekly activity habit.
Whilst we’re on the subject of schedules, pop an activity you love in there. It needs to fit in with your lifestyle and it needs to be something you look forward to. Something achievable. I love to ride my bike. And there’s a slot in my week when I ride and I fight hard to ensure nothing gets in the way of it. In fact I’d rather work late one night than skip it.
Fit Step 12: Reward yourself with activity.
At some point, someone decided to label exercise as a chore. Roundabout the time that folks who enjoy exercise got labelled as fitness fanatics.
I prefer the term ‘Averagely Active’ – it might not sell papers but it’s a more achievable goal than fitness fanatic.
Activity doesn’t have to be a chore or to be endured.
If you enjoy a walk with your dog, your kids or your partner, make that your reward.
If you’ve got a major deadline today, decide to brush off the cobwebs tomorrow with a brisk walk.
Make it something you look forward to – do it with friends!