Updated: Feb 12, 2022
I am now entering my 36th year of coaching fitness – it is quite shocking to see that number! But also, that I still love my job. When I started out as a young 24yr old, it was a way of keeping fit and earning some money when I had young children at home. It then developed to a great love that has led to contact with so many amazing people – and continues to do so.
Most people come to class for around the same reason. They tend to have some “pain point” that nags them to do something about it – creaky knees, feeling older, putting on weight, something to do, time to themselves, being social, wanting “to be fitter”. And January is a boom month for a collective motivation to exercise that is infectious – and you hear the same answer to “why have you come to class” – because I want to get fitter – so, with my years of teaching, tutoring, lecturing, getting older myself, here are the top 5 things you need to think about when deciding to “get fitter”.
1. The human body is designed to move, and moving is absolute key to maintaining both physical and mental health. However, the opportunities to move in our current society – exacerbated by the working from home of late, has meant our daily step count has reduced dramatically.
a. 10 minutes of moving first thing in the morning has been shown to increase your feelings of wellbeing, reduce depression, reduce appetite, and boost your immune system
b. Walking in nature has a positive impact on your health that you do not get in an urban environment or enclosed gym
c. 20 – 30 minutes of sustained exercise improves your cardiometabolic profile.
d. 300 active minutes a week can reduce your risk of disease and help you to lose stored fat – this can be done by walking
e. Move frequently, by setting a reminder for a morning, lunchtime and evening walk or exercise
f. Depression and anxiety reduce with only a 10-minute active walk
g. Menopausal symptoms reduce when we are active
h. Higher intensity activity, such as organised exercise that gets you out of breath, is linked to improved neuroplasticity which helps our memory, concentration, learning, and regulates our emotional responses.
i. Our DNA and ageing are further protected by regular activity.
2. We can have a dramatic and long-lasting improvement in our health, both physical and mental, by including certain food in our daily diet.
a. Try to up your plant-based intake at every mealtime, including the darker fruits and vegetables to boost immunity
b. Add some nuts and seeds to everyday meals to increase your vitamin and mineral consumption to keep bones, teeth, skin, eyes, brain, and body in top tip condition.
c. Fibre is the cleaner of the body and including both soluble and non-soluble fibre in your diet will help reduce depression, anxiety, aid constipation and leaky gut, make you feel more energetic and less bloated.
d. Resting your gut on a daily basis gives it time to work at optimum level. Try to stop eating after 8pm at night and allow your body time to process all that you have eaten in the day.
e. Avoid foods that cause an inflammatory response in the body, increasing the pain of arthritis, the chances of developing cancers and reducing anxiety. These include highly processed fats and sugars, food that have gone through an unnatural chemical reaction, those with too much salt and MSG and high levels of alcohol
3. For every action, there should be an equal and opposite reaction – use this mantra to see the value in allowing your mind and body some time to rest and recover.
a. Set aside 10 mins each day to sit still and think about things
b. Write your thoughts, fears, hopes, expectations, and thanks in a daily blog to clarify thought and work through things
c. Deep breathing has been shown to improve your immune system, reduce anxiety and depression and increase feelings of wellness. Learn to breath deeply when under stress or strain, or include in your daily routine to offset stress.
d. Sunlight has an impact on our ability to rest and recover as it boosts our melatonin. 10 minutes of daylight will help you sleep better, make your feel more positive, boost your immunity and increase your vit D which is needed for health bones and teeth.
e. Reducing blue spectrum light at bedtime helps us to sleep better. Turn the lights down low, light some candles, switch off the electronics and spend 10 minutes at the end of the day moving your body towards a more peaceful sleep.
4. To be human, is to be part of a community. Whether this is large or small, a daily connection with another person helps our health and wellbeing.
a. Feeling lonely is something that many of us can go through, but by taking positive steps towards connecting with others, we can help our health and wellbeing
b. Look for ways to help others, such as volunteering to take part in helping run a charity shop, event, rubbish collection, hospital visit or even dog sitting. Start with looking outwards towards how you can contribute, rather than feeling inwards that you are looking to yourself, it will help you feel more confident.
c. Locate groups of people with an interest that you share, maybe walking, swimming, bird watching. And join in for the common interest – friendships will follow.
d. Having a hug has been shown to reduce our anxiety – this is not always possible, but a massage, a hot bath, or facia rub at the end of your workout, will help release oxytocin and increase your wellbeing.
5. Being aware of your body and your emotions gives you an opportunity to find the motivation to lifestyle change.
a. Think about what parts of your body are “annoying” – could be the ankle you twisted as a teenager that has arthritis, old scar tissues, memories of being stressed about sport at school, the extra roll of stored fat – use that as a starting point to “fix”
b. Get educated on the more recent research that is finding out new ways to improve your health and wellbeing through lifestyle – gone are the things that I would teach on the Fitness Courses many years ago, and new research looks at innovative and achievable ways to get fitter. Podcasts are a great way to listen to information that is broken down, and makes the walking and active part of your day feel more meaningful – as well as wanting you to walk more.
c. Listen to your body about what it is “craving” - is it cake or is it boredom? Is it wine or is it loneliness? Is it chocolate or is it stress? Is it crisps or is anger? Is it sweets or is it tiredness? Find your pain point and try not to mask your feelings. Write it down, walk it out, talk it out, run it out, but be aware of what your triggers are
d. Finally, we are all human and we all fall down at some point – but getting up is the thing to do. Be kind to yourself, be forgiving, but don’t quit. Be the best you can, and keep back on track.
There are of course many other smaller elements within fitness to help you, but build a strong foundation first so you home of health is strong and long lasting.