4 Tips to Starting a New Fitness Regime Before the New Year
By Kostas Trakas
‘Tis the Season – the fitness season that is. At least it can be. Every year on January 1st millions of people declare, “I am going to lose weight”, “get fit”, or “just be healthier”. The question is, why wait? Chances are that while the extra beverages and sweets may have added a few pounds, you were probably already concerned about your health before the holidays. So, the question is why wait? Why not give yourself an early gift and start building the new you before the New Year?
Ready to get a jump-start your fitness resolution? Great! We all know it takes a measure of self-discipline and commitment, but everyone needs to start somewhere. A balanced diet combined with smart training won’t just help shed weight, but will actually improve overall wellness and give you the energy to get through the most demanding days.
Here are our top 4 tips to get you started today:
- Set Realistic Goals
First, identify what you expect from an exercise program. Is it weight loss, muscle building, or improved overall fitness? The best goals are not only specific, but they are also time-bound. Instead of, “I want to lose some weight” consider “I want to lose 10 pounds over the next 3 months”. Then write down your goals. This makes them far more tangible. Even better, share them with your friends and family. Knowing you are accountable to someone with your best interests at heart is a powerful motivator. Once you set your goals, it’s easier to find or design your workouts and diet accordingly.
Also, be realistic. Sustainable results aren’t achievable overnight. Even with a strict diet and heavy training, you can only expect to drop two or three pounds a week. These types of extreme interventions never become habits – after a few weeks they become too restrictive and you will find yourself back at square one.
The same goes for muscle growth. It takes months or even years to build lean mass and get a six-pack. It’s not something that happens in a week- no matter how much weight you lift. If you’re a new to weight training, you’ll find you might get faster results. However, you still need to commit to a long-term exercise plan if you want lasting results.
- Forget about Quick Fixes
Like it or not, there are no quick fixes to a lean body. Fad diets and miracle pills mess up your hormones and cause metabolic slowdown. If losing weight or building muscle was that easy, you’d already have a perfect figure.
Crash diets, for instance, increase the stress hormone cortisol levels, causing your body to store fat. Elevated cortisol production puts your body in a catabolic state, so you’ll lose muscle and strength. Less muscle equals a slower metabolism and weight gain. Moreover, excess cortisol lowers the levels of testosterone and other hormones that influence body composition.
The key to leanness is to eat clean and make exercise a habit. With diet pills, you’ll only lose water weight, not fat. On top of that, their side effects outweigh the benefits.
- Come Up with a Plan
Once you set goals, come up with a diet and exercise plan. Decide how much time you’re willing to invest in a training regimen. Ideally, you will need to perform your regimen least four times a week. To make it easier, you can consider routines that you can perform at home on your busiest days.
Your exercise plan should include a mix of bodyweight exercises, strength training, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or full body circuits. However, if you’re just getting started, take one step at a time. At this point, it’s essential to build up your strength and endurance.
Commit yourself to walking for at least 20 minutes a day in the first week. Add some stretching to the mix. Do full body workouts next week. Use light weights, resistance bands, and exercise balls for increased resistance.
For instance, you can work your upper body on day one and end with a short walk or jogging. Train your lower body the next day. Take your bike out for a ride or do yoga on the third day. Rest on the fourth day. Experiment with bodyweight exercises on the fifth day. These can include push-ups, mountain climbers, plank jacks, burpees, high knees, or planks. If you need help getting started, there are plenty of online resources or if you are still unsure find a trainer near you.
Bodyweight exercises, or plyometrics, are a great choice for home workouts. Due to their intense nature, they burn fat and skyrocket your metabolism. On top of that, plyometrics challenge your muscles into growth and develop core strength. Most exercises hit nearly every muscle, offering a full body workout.
Start with three to five push-ups and increase the number as you progress. Hold a plank for at least 30 seconds in the first week. Finish your workouts with high-intensity moves, such as step-ups or burpees. This way, you’ll reach muscle failure and send your metabolism into overdrive.
As your strength and endurance increase, try new variations of your favourite exercises. For example, you can do spiderman push-ups, diamond push-ups, or clapping push-ups. Each variation hits your muscles from different angles.
No matter how busy you are, you can fit exercise into your schedule. Unless you’re ill, there are no excuses to skip your workouts. If you’re short on time, do a full body circuit or split your workout into mini-sessions. Go jogging in the morning, take a long walk at lunch, and practice yoga or pilates after work.
Don’t push yourself too hard from day one. Start small and work your way up. If you go overboard, you’ll lose your motivation and, even worse, end up with an injury.
- Clean Up Your Diet
Nutrition and exercise are equally important. Not even the best training regimen can compensate for poor eating. If you want to look your best next year, begin by cleaning up your diet this year.
Ditch the sugar, junk food, white flour, salad dressings, and breakfast cereals. Beware of hidden sugars, such as fructose, glucose, dextrose, molasses, maple syrup, and fruit juice concentrate.
When reading food labels, look beyond calories. Check the amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fats as well as the ingredients used.
A balanced diet should provide at least one gram of protein per pound of body weight. To slim down, cut back on carbs. Stick to 100-120 grams of carbs per day and then adjust this number based on your progress. Take your fats from whole, minimally processed foods, such as nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut oil, olive, and fatty fish.
If you want to eat like a pro, avoid any products with more than five ingredients. Whole foods don’t even have a label. How often have you seen apples, bananas, or leafy greens with a label? Processed foods, on the other hand, boast a long list of ingredients. If sugar, flour, or hydrogenated oils are listed first on the label, move on.
Make these changes over the long-term, and you can’t help but see changes. It’s in your power to have a strong, healthy body and lifelong wellness. Start today – your future self will thank you.