11 Tips For Exercise Motivation Through Winter

Written by: Helen

 

Winter

I must be honest and admit there was a time when I did hardly any exercise apart from the walk to work. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to exercise; it was just that I was working full time and didn’t make the time to do any.
My greatest motivation for making regular exercise a part of my weekly schedule came when I completed the Insanity challenge (for anyone unfamiliar, it involves DVD’s, Sean T and lots of sweat). After two months I had stomach muscles and definition in my calves and it felt pretty amazing (after pregnancy I thought I’d never see a tummy muscle again!).
What’s more, I realised that I had actually enjoyed all the exercise (in a weird, sadistic kind of way), and I wanted to maintain my fitness levels and keep the muscles that I’d worked darned hard to get in the first place. So I found ways of incorporating more exercise into my lifestyle.
Not long ago I took up running. When I use the expression ‘took up’ I hope it doesn’t conjure for you images of me rising early each morning and setting off on a lengthy course, because this would be misleading. For one thing, my son wakes at 6 o’clock every morning (the little angel), and my husband starts work at the same time, so early morning runs are out of the question.
The only way I get to run is in the evening. And with all the other things going on in life, combined with trying to fit in other forms of exercise, I only usually run once a week. This is a feasible and achievable goal for me. I haven’t been doing it for long and I have a two and a half mile course I run. I’m building up to three.
So here’s the problem. I’ve been running once a week throughout the summer. It’s been very pleasant; the evenings have been light and warm, the birds are singing and children are out playing. However, winter is now here. The evenings are dark and cold. The question I’m asking myself is, ‘how do I stay motivated to run through these winter months?’
Exercise can seem happier and easier in the summer. Just leaving the house to drive to the gym can take mental strength when it’s dark and raining outside. Winter is the time to dig deep and persevere. I have come up with a few ideas to help out:

 

winter mot

1.   Find something visual that will spur you on. For example, if you are trying to lose weight put up a picture of a celebrity body you’d like, or a photo of yourself when you were at a weight you’d like to return to. Perhaps you want to be healthy for the sake of your children, so put up a picture of them. It can be anything as long as it gets you motivated at a glance.
2.   Focus your mind on how good you will feel after you’ve done your exercise. You just need to overcome the hardest part, which is getting out of the door!
3.   Arrange to exercise with friends. You are less likely to drop out if you feel you will be letting someone else down.
4.   Choose an uplifting playlist to spur you on and keep you feeling motivated as you exercise (I find this particularly good for running. Eye of the Tiger anyone?)
5.   Tell people what you’re planning to do, put it on your calendar and in your diary. This shows you’re serious about doing it.
6.   You could use an app on your phone that prompts you when you haven’t recorded any workouts. I use Run Keeper and it sends me reminders.
7.   Set yourself goals. If you want you can use an app (like RunKeeper) to do this. I am building up to running 3 miles; this goal keeps me going by giving me something to aim for and work towards.
8.   Don’t be too hard on yourself. If it’s blowing gale force winds outside stay in the warm and do some other form of exercise. Stick on a fitness DVD, use your own equipment if you’ve got any, make up your own exercise routine or even just run up and down the stairs a few times. The important thing is that you’re doing something.

exercising in winter
9.   Spice it up a bit. Perhaps winter is the perfect time to try something new (something you can do in the warm!). Perhaps try zumba (it’s fun), or kickboxing, yoga, indoor cycling to name a few. I know someone who recently took up tap-dancing and loves it.
10.   Reward yourself. Tell yourself that after you’ve gone out and done your exercise you will relax in a nice, warm bubble bath, or watch your favourite film, or have a nibble at some chocolate (although not too much or you’ll undo your good work!).
11.   Get the right gear. For instance if it’s raining and cold and you’re going for a run, make sure your trainers have good grip, perhaps take a jacket you can wear until you warm up (waterproof if it’s raining), and if it’s dark outside wear something bright so you can be seen.
So these are a few of my tips. Do you have any of your own? Let me know in the comments box below.  Don’t forget to subscribe via the box on the right hand side so you don’t miss out on future posts.

5 Easy Stretches to do Everyday

Written by: Helen

stretches 3

Get Flexible

Even if we aren’t doing it, we are conscious of the fact that we should be exercising if we want to be healthy. However, we are not always aware of the fact that we should be stretching everyday too. Whereas exercise can be more difficult to fit into our daily routine, stretching, on the other hand, is quicker and easier to slip into the day at some point.
There are benefits to regular stretching:

  • It reduces stress. Stress causes tension in our muscles, which stretching can help to release.
  • It helps with lower back pain. It does this by, not only strengthening the lower back muscles, but stretching the muscles we use to control our posture, which has an impact on our lower backs.
  • Stretching increases our blood circulation. And because of this increased blood flow to our muscles it can increase energy levels.
  • Of course the most obvious benefit is flexibility. By lengthening and loosening our muscles we are less susceptible to injuries and this can particularly help us as we age

If you are struggling to find time to exercise, perhaps stretching every day is the first step you can make. The trick with any healthy change is to get into the habit. So put a small amount of time aside, mornings are usually best as gentle stretching is a great way to wake up and start the day, and before long it becomes a part of your daily routine.
Below are five easy stretches to turn into a daily routine. Each stretch should be held for 30 seconds. Remember to breathe throughout, which also helps with stress.

Start off with these and you can always incorporate more stretches if you want to.

andy's iphone 580Neck

Sitting or standing, gently tilt your head to one side, using your hand to help increase the stretch in your neck.

  andy's iphone 590 Quads

Standing up straight, bend your leg behind you and take hold of it with your hand.  Keep your hips pushed forward. Repeat for other leg.

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 Hamstring Stretch

Standing upright bend one leg, putting the other leg straight out in front of you.  Put your hands on the bent leg and raise your toes on the straight leg.  Lean forward until you feel the stretch. Repeat for other leg.

 hel's i5 151

Hip & Gluteal Stretch

Lying down place your left foot on your right knee.  Then raise the right foot up to a right angle.  Raise your head and reach through and take hold of your right leg, then lie back down on the floor to increase the stretch.  Repeat on the other side.

hel's i5 156

Lower Back Stretch

Lying on your stomach put your hands beside your shoulders and push yourself upwards, trying to keep your hips to the floor.  If this stretch is too much then lower on to your forearms.

These stretches cover five key areas of the body to stretch. However, we all have problem areas. For me it is my hamstrings, which at one point I could’ve sworn were made from steel cable, but I’ve worked hard to get more flexibility there. In future posts I will provide stretches that focus on key muscles, so if you have any suggestions or would like any specific stretches then let me know.  If you have a medical condition or are worried about starting a stretching or exercise regime then visit your GP.

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Start Your Journey Here

Written by: Helen

start your journey here

 

I thought that my second post should be about nutrition. More importantly, I should tell you what I think good nutrition is. I say this because there are so many different diets and advice around, and people’s opinions on what makes a healthy diet can vary.
For me, a good diet is pretty straight forward. It includes foods from all the food groups, including fats and carbohydrates (so you see I’m not an anti-carbs person), and it is rich in fruit and vegetables (enabling a decent intake of vitamins and minerals).
Including fats in our diet is important but, of course, I mean ‘good’ fats and not the saturated and trans fats (‘bad’ fats), which should be kept to a minimum. However, I don’t think we should completely deprive ourselves. Trying to cut certain foods from our diets can lead to binging, or to feelings of unhappiness. The key word in any diet is balance, so it’s ok to eat chocolate (phew), but just don’t pig out on it!
I will go further into different aspects of nutrition in future blogs. For now, I want to look at the fact that on paper a healthy diet seems easy, so why is it so hard in practice? There are many reasons for this, but I’m going to pick out one.
Generally, people want a quick fix, a magic pill so to speak. We jump on board various diets, and theses diets may initially give us the quick fix we are looking for; however, usually they are unsustainable long-term, and we end up putting weight back on that we may have lost.
Also, the idea of transforming the way we eat, the way we think about food, or the idea of starting a proper exercise regime on a permanent basis is daunting. We may feel our quality of life will diminish. To say something a little drastic, this can actually be true.
The key is to doing it in the right way. Don’t try and transform yourself overnight; don’t think short- term weight loss, think long-term (or you will still be doing these fad diets into your old age!).
If you can, don’t think in terms of weight loss at all, and think in terms of health. Make changes slowly, let these changes absorb into your daily routine, and then make another change.
Here are some ideas for small steps that can be the start of a long, transformational journey. And as a member of The Think Fit Food Family, perhaps, it’s a journey we can all take together.  Pick one and then, once you’ve mastered it, pick another, either from the list or a small change that is relevant to you.
• Cut sugar out of tea or coffee
• Swap white or milk chocolate for dark chocolate
• Swap any full fat dairy for low fat versions
• Increase fruit and veg intake to at least the five a day
• Use steaming as your method for cooking vegetables
• Swap an unhealthy snack for a healthy one (eg. natural yoghurt, fruit, nuts, carrot sticks)
• Swap white rice or pasta for brown or wholegrain
• Increase water intake to between 1 ½ to 2 litres per day
• Switch an unhealthy pudding for a healthy one, eg. fruit salad, natural yoghurt with honey.
• Eat a healthy breakfast, eg. porridge, wholegrain cereals.
• Walk somewhere that you would normally drive.

 

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Let me know your own ideas for small changes either below or in the discussion forum. And if you decide to take a step please let me know how you get on.