Hi and welcome to our August series of blog posts. I asked you about your challenges for the summer and you responded in 4 broad categories:
Moving more and losing weight
Childcare and working from home
Building momentum in business and increasing in efficiency
Switching off, relaxing, finding time for specific activities and balance.
That’s the order I’ll address them in and there will be a new post every Tuesday in August.
Moving more and losing weight
This heat is making it difficult for people that have a great exercise habit to get on with their workouts, so you are most definitely not alone if the heat is sapping your desire to exercise. I’ll address some motivational tips with you as well as a list of general exercise related tips. I am not a doctor or a personal trainer or nutritionist, but these are tips that are in the public sphere and I think might help. They might be things you already know, but sometimes corralling all of these things together can make a big difference.
To address your motivation, I’m going to be asking you some questions, so this is a good time to go and grab a drink and a pen and pad so that you can answer these questions properly. Your answers will form the basis of what you are committing to do over the next coming weeks.
What’s your motivation?
Firstly, let’s talk about your motivations. If you want to lose weight, why? Answers generally include to feel good about myself and to be healthy. I’d like you to get really specific about these though.
If it is feeling good, how exactly do you want to feel good? Envisage a particular setting, e.g. an event or wearing a particular outfit and how you would like to feel. Write down the setting then write at least 3 words that would describe how you want to feel. You can also add a description about a time when you have felt that good. Spend a few moments really immersing yourself in that memory or vision of the future. Is there a picture that could represent this? If so, add the words you’ve just come up with to the picture and put it somewhere you can see it.
If you want to lose weight for health reasons, what are these? Reduced blood pressure, less strain on joints, increased vitality, reduced risk of diabetes, better quality sleep…. There’s a long list of the benefits of losing weight (if you are not already at a healthy weight). Which one(s) is the one that is your key motivation? How specific can you be about it? Is there a figure that would help you? What is your target and in what time frame are you aiming to get there? Is that realistic? If you’re looking just at numbers on a scale, it is not advisable to try to lose more than 1-2 lbs a week. Further, your health benefits will definitely be more than just the numbers on a scale so looking at reducing your waist size, which will also reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke (https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/why-is-my-waist-size-important/).
In any case, keep looking into these areas until you have a very specific goal and know what it is you are aiming for. This is what you are going to use when you are feeling like you can’t be bothered to go and exercise.
Types of exercise
If you are unfit or deconditioned, I would always advise getting some professional help to start with. But this doesn’t have to cost a lot. Pretty much every gym will give you a free pass for a day, with many of them having offers on free week passes. (https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/deals/cheap-gym-membership/or https://www.magicfreebiesuk.co.uk/free-stuff/c/free-gym-passes) will give you good tips for getting a free pass. When you take advantage of this free time, ask to speak to someone about sorting you out a re-conditioning routine. All gyms will provide this, but it’s often not something offered up without you asking for it. Or find a class near you that interests you. Yoga, pilates, bootcamp, circuits, running clubs, swimming clubs, cycling clubs will all have an instructor that will help you find something that suits you as well as plenty of people who have been in the same boat as you not that long ago. Personal trainers are also not as expensive as you may think and many personal trainers I know will happily work with more than one person at a time, so see if you can split the cost of a trainer between you and a friend or family member.
If you are confident with how to perform fitness moves and have no pre-existing injuries that could be aggravated, there are a plethora of free classes on YouTube and via apps. My personal two favourites are
the Nike Training Club app that lets you browse workouts by muscles type, or time, lets you sort by the equipment available (so you don’t have to be in a gym) and gives you an option to start a program which can be tailored towards you.
Jillian Michaels 6 week 6 pack on YouTube. I actually have the DVD of this but (at the moment) it is also on YouTube. Usually I stay away from things that promise such a thing in such a time but if you can stand not to be seduced into thinking that you will have a 6 pack, it is a good workout with very little impact which works on both core and High Intensity Interval Training that you can do in your living room.
In terms of CV exercise, there are so many options out there. Running is one of my favourites, but make sure you’ve got very good trainers (I really advise getting to a shop that does gait analysis. Be upfront about your budget and you’ll get a really good pair of trainers that suits your feet) and a sports bra, if needed. If running seems like something you would like to do but is far too difficult, start off with the Couch to 5k program. You will combine running and walking until you get to a stage where you run 5k.
But if you hate running, there is still plenty you can do. Walking is still good CV, but so is swimming, cycling, rowing and cross training. If you would like to improve your swimming, your local pool probably has someone who would give you a one-to-one training class. Working on your technique brings you very quick gains in swimming.
As you’ll see from the list above, there is a good range of options for you to do even when it is really hot. Swimming, for example, is a lovely thing to do when it is roasting outside, but gyms also provide air conditioning or big fans and if your living room isn’t too hot then you can work out there. It may be that you have to change the time that you would usually work out to take advantage of the lower temperatures at the start of the day. A friend of mine, who is a serious runner, has started getting up at 5am to be able to fit in 8 mile runs before it is too hot. While I am in no way advocating doing that when you’re just starting off, a little earlier and a short work out is definitely better than no work out.
Getting your routine
When it comes to establishing an exercise routine, I advocate concentrate on number of times per week before trying to commit to long sessions. If you’re currently doing nothing, then next week do something like 2 x 20-minute sessions. Up that to 3, then 4. At 4 you can either look at upping to 5 or start gently increasing the duration. Deciding now that you are going to go from nothing or an irregular routine to 5 x 50-minute high intensity sessions a week is a) unrealistic and b) a recipe for injuring yourself. (Believe me, I know. I’ve been there too many times to count!!) You can work on the number of times you exercise, the length you exercise for and the intensity that you work at. But don’t increase more than one of those things at any one time! So pick just one (and number of times is a good starter) and increase that until you are happy that you have that habit. Working out 4+ times a week for a short period of time, even at a low intensity, will start to net you health benefits quickly. Also you then have a routine. It’s much easier adding time to the gym/run/swim/fitness app than it is adding a whole new session to your week.
Time your sessions well.
You all know by now that I am a planner. I love sitting down and planning my week out. Most of the time, I put in my non-negotiable appointments, then add in my exercise around that. That way it is in my diary as an event. I find this helps in a variety of ways. When I wake up, I’m not thinking about if I can fit in my exercise because I’ve already booked it in. I’m not wondering what I am going to do because either I have already made that decision or my app tells me what I am doing.
I do like to do my exercise as early as possible in the day. This way whatever else happens, I’ve got that sorted. Plus I feel smug and, for me, exercising late in the day can interfere with my sleep. But I know plenty of people that exercise directly after work as a good way of switching off from the day. If you can walk/run/cycle and you live a suitable distance, you can combine your evening commute with your exercise. If evening classes work for you, book them with a friend so you’re more likely to go.
When you’re trying to build up your exercise habit, it is really important to reward yourself. Ideally, not with food or drink as this won’t help you with losing weight! Rewards that I particularly enjoy are:
Time in the hydrotherapy pool in the gym
Half an hour reading my book in a coffee shop
A bath after a cold run
New sports kit (and whilst you don’t need expensive sports kit, looking in the mirror and liking your outfit does bring it’s own motivation. Most supermarkets now stock a range of decent quality, low price sports kit so it really doesn’t have to cost a huge amount.)
Write down now a list of at least 3 to 4 things that you enjoy that would be a good reward after doing exercise. They don’t need to be costly, but small things that you can commit to so that your work outs have an extra reward. I promise that when you get into your exercise habit, you will need fewer and fewer of these external rewards because the way you feel will be its own reward.
Spend time with people that already move more
I read the other day that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time around. I don’t remember where I read it so whether or not that is scientifically credible, I don’t know but it makes a kind of sense to me. If you surround yourself with people that do not exercise, it is much harder for you to move more. Whereas if you commit to spending time with people that do (preferably actually exercising with them), you will be more committed. Just going for walks is good but committing to a class, dvd, run, swim, cycle or whatever works for you will work really well.
List of tips you may already know
I’m really aware that this is already one of the longer blog posts but I want to include these short tips and tricks. Even if you do already know them, they are worth revisiting.
Add exercise into your daily routine. Even if you can’t exercise on your commute, take stairs rather than a lift. Do squats while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. Run around the garden with your kids. Move more, with intention, daily, without even putting sports kit on.
Put a ‘thinspiration’ picture somewhere. Choose a photo of you when you were a weight you were happier with, or a photo of you at a sports event. Keep it somewhere you can easily see it (often the fridge is good) to keep your eye on the prize. Know what it is you want to achieve.
Take a picture of yourself weekly. When you are successful in what you are doing, you will see changes. Remember though, it takes 4 weeks for you to see changes, 8 weeks for those close to you to see changes and 12 weeks for others. If you are not keeping to your exercise habit, the lack of change in those pictures can be a good motivator!
Listen to your body. If you’re feeling rough, don’t go all out. Sometimes you can just change the intensity and duration or your work out. Sometimes you really need to rest. Be honest with yourself.
If you just don’t feel like it, just do 10 minutes. Commit to 10 minutes and let yourself finish if you’re still not feeling it. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have actually finished at 10 minutes because usually once you start moving, you want to continue.
Really pay attention to how you feel at the end of a work out. Happy? Satisfied? Proud? Over worked, tired, injured? Any negatives are good feedback for you to tailor your next session. The positives are what we need to keep on and on remembering for those days where we feel like we don’t want to do anything. Knowing that you will feel so much better after moving will make you more likely to, even when you don’t feel like it.
Keep HYDRATED! This current heatwave is making it all the more important to drink lots. And by lots, I mean little and often. Drinking a large amount over a short period of time can actually make you feel less good so keep on sipping. Keeping a full water bottle near by will increase your fluid intake without you noticing much.
Pay attention to how what you eat makes you feel. If you exercise first thing, experiment with your breakfasts to see what fuels you without making you feel ill or sluggish. I personally like smoothies with spinach and frozen mango, with or without protein powder depending on what exercise I’m doing. Porridge, overnight oats or an egg are also good breakfasts that won’t be too heavy on your stomach if you leave a decent amount of time. You CAN do fasted workouts (i.e. exercise before eating) but make sure that you have a good balanced breakfast to eat immediately afterwards. You will know what works for you.
Have healthy snacks to hand. Fruit, veg pots with dips, nuts, oatcakes and peanut butter, Graze packs. There are loads of snacks that are healthy and convenient so don’t fool yourself into thinking that chocolate and crisps are the only easy snacks. But you do need to think ahead because if you buy when you’re hungry, you’re unlikely to make the best decisions.
Finally, remember to respect and celebrate what your body can do, not what it looks like. Accept that your body changes throughout your life time and that’s an amazing thing. You may be less able to do things and perhaps you’ll never fit back into your 1999 jeans. But you can make the most of what your body can do now. Move more and enjoy it!
If you’re inspired by this to move more, I’d love to hear about it! Join in the #brightrebellion and tag us in Instagram. Come and join the Facebook group (Move more on the bright rebel coaching page) to share inspiration, hints, tips and challenge yourself and others to move more :-)