After running for what felt like a gold medal-worthy 20 metres for the bus, you realise your cardio fitness is a little lacking.
It's become obvious that the amazing dedication to exercise you showed throughout the silly season (practising the bicep curl by repeatedly lifting a champagne flute to your lips) hasn't really benefited you that much.
Regardless of whether it's been two months since you donned the lycra or two years, the following advice will help equip you with the knowledge and tips you need to reignite your fitness mojo.
Where to start
This is often the hardest part, but with some good organisation and preparation it can become less daunting – exciting even. We've all heard the quote "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail"; excuses are born from lack of planning, so it's time to get sorted! Give yourself the best chance of sticking to your new fitness routine and aim to do the following:
Establish your goals
Write them down. People roll their eyes at goal setting but without a point of focus it is too easy to drift back into old habits. It can be a simple as setting a short-term goal of exercising a minimum of four times a week for the first month. Or a long-term goal may be to play 18 holes of golf while pulling along your buggy without passing out in a sand bunker on the way! Write your goals down, frame it and leave it somewhere where you'll look at it every day, or make it your phone's background.
Decide when you would prefer to exercise
Be specific with the time and what activities you would like to do, then enter each session as a recurring appointment in your calendar. For example, Monday − 30-minute walk at 7pm; Wednesday − morning swim at the local pool at 6.30am.
Prepare what you need the night before
If you're swimming in the morning, for example, lay out your swimsuit and pack your gear and have what you'll wear to work hanging up ready to throw on after your shower when you get back from your swim. If you have kids at school, pack their lunches before bed or have your partner pack them in the morning so when your alarm goes off all you have to think about is getting out the door.
How do I stay motivated?
The third or fourth week of starting a new fitness regime is usually the danger zone where people start to drift off track and feel like it's all too hard. It's important to prepare for this and not rely on willpower alone. To keep motivation levels high, try these motivational tricks:
The feeling of actually completing a planned workout is already intrinsically rewarding, but sometimes you need some external motivation to get you to the gym on that afternoon when your willpower is lacking and the couch is calling. Allow yourself to indulge in a massage or facial each time you complete 10 workouts in a fortnight, or wear a pedometer or Fitbit and splurge on a new piece of activewear every time you manage to clock up 500,000 steps.
Download a new song or two to your playlist each week.
Music is extremely motivating. Or listen to a gripping audiobook − it'll make you look forward to hearing the next chapter.
Put yourself in a situation where you are held accountable.
You may have signed up to a new gym with the best of intentions but if you don't turn up, the gym receptionist certainly won't be calling you up to ask why you haven't swiped in that day. A personal trainer, on the other hand, will.
Nourish and hydrate yourself well.
By doing this you will be promoting many important functions including flushing toxins and balancing hormones, which in turn keeps us feeling energised and in a better mood overall.
What activity should I do?
Anything that gets you moving on a regular basis! This may involve starting out with three 30-minute walks a week for one person and three spin classes and two weights workouts for another. This depends on what your goals are as well as what's convenient and realistic for you. Ideally a combination of activities that help improve flexibility, cardio fitness and strength is best. It's equally important you choose to include activities that you like along with people whose company you enjoy; this way you will be more inclined to keep on track. Here are some examples of activities along with a few extra guidelines to help point you in the right direction:
- If you plan on joining a gym, research your options. Make sure it's close by, financially viable, and you like the energy of the place.
- If you want to include weights in your routine and don't have previous experience with resistance exercise, hire a trainer for a few sessions to teach you correct technique and give you guidance as to what exercises are appropriate for you. You may prefer to work out at home, in which case a good option would be to follow some online workouts.
- If you love music and dancing, sign up to a 10-week salsa course – there's 10 weeks of commitment right there! Alternatively, if you prefer to play sport, sign up for a season.