Slow and steady: how to create an exercise plan you'll actually stick to

Slow and steady: how to create an exercise plan you'll actually stick to

Wednesday 29th January 2020
Alex Pedley

Here is our latest article featured in the Evening Standard.

Most of us want to look and feel better in January. Go into any gym in London at this time of year and it will be full of eager new joiners working out.

Gym memberships spike in January, but 80 per cent will stop within five months, with 14 per cent not even making it past February. A common reason that I often hear for not attending the gym is feeling self-conscious, especially if you're not really sure what to do when you're at tehe gym. A study by Sport England found that 75 per cent of women are put off exercise for fear of what others think.

Don't let that put you off, here are my top tips for getting started and, crucially, sticking to a workout routine.

Increase your step count

Begin by finding out what your average step count was for last year. If you have a Smartwatch or Fitbit it will have a log of your total, if not check your phone, although this may not be as accurate. Once you have your total, aim to increase your daily average by 1000 steps. Around 10000 steps equates to about 7.5 kilometres, depending on your stride length. This is a good target to aim for.

Add moderate intensity cardio

One of the best ways to increase your step count is to go for a brisk walk or gentle jog. Alternatively, jump on a bike. Depending on your starting point, 15-20 minutes of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise will improve your fitness. As you progress, aim to increase the frequency and duration until you achieve a minimum of 3 x 30 minutes of cardiovascular training each week.

Master resistance training

Resistance training is shown to increase strength, improve bone density, boost your immune system and help increase lean muscle. Adding one or two sessions into your weekly schedule will make a massive difference to how you look and feel.

Let's say you do a resistance workout on a Monday and Thursday, you can add a long walk, gentle jog or bike ride on a Tuesday and Friday. You will then have achieved a great week of exercise.

Begin with higher repetitions to increase muscular endurance and stick to bodyweight exercises such as lunges and push ups. Mastering form is key when starting out.

Snack on exercise

Staying in shape is as much about integrated practices, such as regularly movement, as it is about dedicated practices such as hitting the gym. Snack on exercise just like you would with healthy food. Try to stand up at least every 45 minutes, take the stairs instead of a lift or escalator, and walk whenever possible. Staying physically active is shown to decrease the risk of getting certain cancers and may reduce anxiety and depression.

Keep a food diary

Supplement your new exercise regime with a well-rounded diet. If you want to improve your eating habits start by keeping a food diary. Simply by keeping a food diary you will improve your diet due to increased awareness. A food diary is shown to double a person's weight loss according to a study from Kaiser Permanente's Centre for Health Research. With the information you get from your diary you can continue to make positive changes to your eating habits over time.

Progress your training every 2 weeks

Aim to reevaluate your exercise routine and eating habits every few weeks. When you hit your goal celebrate the success, before setting a new target. Progressively make the workouts harder, increase your step count and improve your diet. Before long you will have created serious momentum. If you miss sessions or have bad day forget about it, don't beat yourself up and move on. Stay positive, make sure you get to the next session and remain consistent.

Try to get plenty of recovery by sleeping for more than seven hours when possible, avoid looking at your phone when working out and give yourself periods of mental downtime during the day. Getting the balance right will give you the structure to achieve your ideal body, improve mental wellbeing, increase focus and drive, and leave you healthier and happier.

Start 2020 as you mean to go on. The rewards will be worth it.

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