RESOLUTIONS are never easy to keep, especially fitness ones.
Every year-end, I hear these mantras from at least a dozen people: lose weight, get toned, enrol in yoga, run faster, muscle up, eat less…
It’s like a pledging ritual, but without proper planning and implementation. Only one, at most two, will doggedly stick to the resolve. Hats off to them.
Most people gear up to hit the gym come Jan 1, follow through for the first couple of months, hit a roadblock (most likely from laziness, muscle soreness or injuries), and eventually, slide off the commitment ladder. This is also the period when gyms, as well as wellness and slimming centres, offer huge promotions to entice new clients.
Don’t be fooled or gullible enough to fall into this trap unless you know you have the perseverance to succeed.
Resolutions seem possible at the start of the year, but become impossible as the days and months whiz past. Or, you’ve set unrealistic expectations. Habits and behaviours require time to change, so don’t be too tough on yourself.
One of my Pilates students has told me countless times that his intention is to lose his belly fat. He’ll point to a macho guy at the gym and say, “I want to look like that.”
Not wanting to engage in a lengthy discussion about body types, every year, I’ll advise him on a workout regime he can adhere to. He’ll pump iron, run on the treadmill, and attend classes diligently the first few weeks.
Then poof!, he disappears, citing work, travel, weather and family issues. By year-end, he’ll reappear, pinch his spare tyre and exclaim, “Look at this!”
I’ll look and smile knowingly. This scenario has continued for the past five years. Buddy, I can’t help you if you don’t help yourself.
So this year, why not do something different before embarking on your fitness goals?
First, sit on the couch and get your cravings out of the way. Yeah, that’s right. Allow yourself to binge to your heart’s desire to usher in the New Year. Put your feet up, snack on your favourite food – junk included, and sip your preferred drink, while watching the telly.
It’ll feel good for a while, but pretty soon, you’ll be sick of the over-indulgence and yearn for a more meaningful activity.
When you have mental clarity, focus on a fitness programme that is attainable. Ditch the impossible resolutions (e.g. losing 20 kilos in six months), but take your health and self-improvement goals one baby step at a time.
Unlike food, the endorphins released during exercise leave you feeling high for a longer time. Not only does it boost your mood, it also helps you get in shape.
Have you heard of anyone feeling depressed after a round of exercise? Fatigued, yes, but they’re rarely down in the dumps.
Physical activity doesn’t have to be complicated, so here are some tips for a healthy start:
Always warm up before starting a physical activity
Warming up is essential to prepare the body for energetic activity and reduce the risk of injury. The purpose is to ease both the mind and body from a state of rest into a state of strenuous activity.
A warm-up routine should consist of a 10-minute cardio workout, such as skipping or brisk walking, and five to 10 minutes of gentle loosening exercises, which produces a light sweat (for example, rotation of the ankle, wrists, shoulders and hips).
Increasing the core and muscle temperatures helps to make muscles loose and supple. Besides increasing the heart rate and boosting blood flow, warm-ups supply oxygen to the muscles and prepare the body for action.
Walk, walk and walk
If you have limited finances or lack time to join the gym, go brisk walking, weather permitting. Avoid taking lifts, but walk up the stairs, walk to the shops, walk around the park or walk to your colleague’s cubicle instead of phoning or sending her/him an Intranet message.
Walking has multiple benefits, including helping against heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Work out with a friend
Two heads are always better than one, so grab a friend to exercise with. The support and motivation will go a long way towards achieving results. And with the crime rate these days, it’s better to have a companion, especially if you’re doing an outdoor workout.
Commit to early morning exercise
Everyone needs an extra minute of sleep, but if you can rise early and squeeze in at least 30 minutes for exercise, you’ll be more likely to keep to your regime.
Plus, once you get the exercise bit out of the way, you’ll also have plenty of energy left for the rest of the day.
Combine cardio and strength training
Instead of allocating separate days for cardio and strength training, combine both. Do a two-minute cardio routine and add two strength moves (e.g. crunches and push-ups). Repeat the cardio and add two more strength moves (e.g. squats and tricep dips).
Not only does it help with muscle retention, but it also promotes a faster metabolic rate and enhances lipolysis, speeding up the rate of fat loss.
Cool down and stretch
Cooling down is equally as important as warming up, though many people fail to realise this and jump into the next activity immediately.
Cooling down restores the body to a pre-exercise state in a controlled manner, helps the body repair itself, and can lessen muscle soreness the following day. Gentle walking for five to 10 minutes is good to recover the heart’s resting rate. After that, perform some static stretches by holding the stretch for at least 20 seconds.
Try to eat healthy (cut out the fried stuff) and load up on fruits and veggies, but don’t skip your favourite desserts, no matter how sinful they are. Instead, have a mini serving to satiate your taste buds.
Research reveals that skipping dessert can backfire and leave you wanting more. In a 2010 study published in the journal Obesity, dieters who were restricted from eating a small dessert were more likely to be left “wanting” than those who had a bite of sweets. Eliminating your favourite foods can be a recipe for disaster and may create an obsession.
Personally, I can’t keep to resolutions. As I get older (translation: injuries that take longer to heal), I occasionally cut myself some slack and allow my body a break to recharge for a week. But, that doesn’t mean I do nothing. I still stretch in bed, do breathing exercises, or take long strolls and get to know the neighbourhood dogs.
After all, you’re not participating in a sprint to get fit. Rather, we’re all runners in this slow, steady marathon for better health. There are no winners or losers, just healthier, trimmer individuals and less medical expenses.
On that note, here’s wishing readers a happy new and fit year ahead!
Contributed yy Revathi Murugappan
The writer is a certified fitness trainer who tries to battle gravity and continues to dance, but longs for some bulk and flesh in the right places. She hopes to do one final dance in 2014 before gracefully bowing out from stage to make way for the next generation.