For many people, after the parties and excesses of Christmas, getting fit and healthy for the New Year is high on the priority list. It’s the busiest time of year for new gym memberships but many gyms are considerably emptier at the end of the month. Too often, this is due to injury causing disappointment and an early visit to see us!
We have put our collective heads together to give you our top tips for avoiding injury and embarking on an exercise plan that will take you to a new level of fitness and hopefully a new regular habit.
- Start gently: This is top of the list for a reason! A gentle start is especially important if it’s been a while since you’ve done much exercise. It can take at least a day or even 2 to 3 days to feel how an exercise session has fully affected your body. Aim to start with 2 to 3 light sessions a week and gradually increase from this baseline. Remember, there’s also a learning curve for any new moves, exercise or equipment – give yourself time to get the hang of any new activity.
- Location, location, location: While the cool new class at the other side of town might look great, it is way easier to stick to a plan that involves just popping out at lunchtime or is on your way home.
- Choose an activity that you like and have an interest in: If you hate the gym but feel that you should go regardless, this will be very difficult to keep up. Choosing something that you like or find fun such as Zumba dance or swimming or have a Personal Trainer visit you, might be a better solution for you.
- Invest in the right kit, especially footwear: Those old trainers that you’ve had for years are not going to do you any favours and may cause you harm! Your feet can change over time – go to your local, specialist sports shop and they will assess you walking or running on a treadmill to help you choose the most suitable shoes for your feet and planned activity.
- Increase gradually: Think of using your body weight to make the exercises more taxing. Increase the number of repetitions before increasing the weight and don’t increase them both at the same time. If you have to take some time off e.g. for a planned holiday or with a cold, start back at an earlier level than you finished to ensure that you don’t overdo it.
- Try and mix it up: Different exercises are very specific to different muscle groups – doing a variety of activities can help build up in a more balanced way.
- Try not to compete in a class: Remember some people may have been doing this class for a long time and have built up a very different level of fitness to you. Focus on your own body and how it’s feeling during your workout.
- Warm up and stretching: The research generally points to a warm-up before you start – ideally doing what you are going to be doing but at a slower, gentler pace. Stretching is recommended for the end of your exercise session. If however, you’ve always stretched first, we recommend carrying on doing what you’ve found works best for you.
- Hold those stretches: Holding a stretch for 30 to 45 seconds is recommended to effect muscle length in the long term – this is often longer than people think. Also, a stretch shouldn’t be painful. Go till you feel a stretch on the muscle you’re working on, then ease off just a little and hold the stretch at that level.
- Consider a few sessions with a Personal Trainer: If you’re unsure of what exercises to do or it’s been a long time since you’ve exercised, a trainer can be helpful to get you started and doing the right thing. Many trainers offer a free first session; some will allow you to split the cost with a friend. Try and get a recommendation for a trainer from a friend or read reviews. Most gyms also offer an induction session with a trainer to get you used to the equipment and help you with a plan.
- Sports Massage: Can be a good support to building up fitness levels and can help identify those muscles that might be getting unduly tight and prone to overstrain.