It’s well known thats it’s the busiest time of year for gyms and health clubs as New Years resolutions kick in, but it’s equally well known that the numbers dwindle again by the end of the month as people fall off the exercise wagon. Sometimes this is due to injury, sometimes to loss of motivation so here are my 5 tips for improving and maintaining your fitness into the new year.
1. Enjoy it.
Motivation is usually sky high in the early days but if you don’t enjoy the exercise you are doing then your motivation will soon be on the wane. Finding a form of exercise that you really enjoy is important to maintaining the habit. This can be walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, gym, exercises classes, the list goes on. If you haven’t tried some of these activities then now is a good time to test them out to see if you enjoy them.
Rest days are as important as exercise days. A common mistake that I come across is when people are so keen to get fit that they go from not doing much exercise to suddenly exercising almost every day. Your body can cope with this for a short while but after a few weeks injuries start to appear. Muscle needs time to repair and build between workouts so exercising every day will over-stress the muscle. Start by doing 2-3 exercise sessions per week for the first 4-6 weeks with at least a days rest between sessions.
3. Slow build up.
Starting your exercise program at a comfortable pace that you can build upon is key to maintenance. Going all out straight away is only sustainable for a short time and is a common reason for dropping off. Programs like the ‘couch to 5k’ running program guide you through this well.
Time is always at a premium and so it is usually the stretching that gets cut when you have a limited time for exercise. My advice is to make every effort possible to do at least 5-10 minutes of stretching after your workout - it is at this time that the muscles are warm and stretching will prevent them stiffening up as they cool down. This is key for injury prevention.
5. Partner up.
There is lots of research to suggest that exercising with others improves motivation levels. You can arrange a weekly run or cycle with a friend, or join the park run or a local exercise class. There is a social side to exercising with friends too that is likely to increase enjoyment levels so this is a good way to improve adherence to your exercise program.
I hope that these tips help you to maintain your exercise regime and reach you fitness goals this year. Here’s to a healthy, happy 2019!