Words by Lydia Smith.
Every year in January, the term “gym membership” peaks in online searches as people vow to start a new, healthier life after weeks of festive indulgence.
Inevitably, though, a few weeks later our good intentions fade – and we start to ignore the spin classes, personal training sessions and Zumba groups we signed up to.
Once the excitement of new goals and commitments wear off, it can be easy to slip back into a sedentary life – but this doesn’t have to be the case.
Alistair Hughes, a personal trainer at Nuffield Health, says there are several ways to get into fitness – including having a plan in mind.
“Most new gym goers will soon give up because they’re not sure what they should be doing, not to mention how, when and why they should be doing it,” he says. “Many websites or apps will have ready-made workouts you can get for free and many gyms will include a free programme in your membership, with the added benefit of having someone teach you the movements.”
It’s also important to set short-term goals, which will appear more manageable and encourage you to stick to your plan.
“‘Lose 3 stone’ or ‘run a marathon’ are massive goals and sound so far off as to be unattainable for a lot of us,” Hughes says. “When making a plan for yourself, start with smaller, simpler goals like ‘lose 3 pounds’ or ‘run 1 mile without stopping’.”
“Do not ‘go hard or go home’ or ‘train insane or remain the same’ or any of the other clichés that might clutter up your Instagram feed,” he adds. “You should be pushing yourself when you exercise, but you don’t have to break yourself every time you put on your workout gear. Results are gained with consistency and patience.”
When the days are shorter and it’s cold and dark, it can be difficult to will yourself to do exercise – particularly when you’re getting back into work after the Christmas break. But scheduling your workouts and incorporating them into your weekly routine can really help, as can writing them in your diary.
“This is not a rod to beat yourself with if you don’t go – it’s a way of integrating fitness into our daily lives,” says Hughes. “Whether it’s an hour before work, an evening spin class or even 10 minutes stretching before bed, build it into your schedule and form the habit. Before you know it, it’ll just become a part of your life.”
Jessica Pardoe, 21, says she has made going to the gym part of her morning routine, after starting to exercise at the end of 2017.
“I built up this big barrier against going to the gym in the fear that people would be judgemental, and that it wouldn’t make any difference anyway. I think that’s what stopped me going for so many years,” she says.
“However, I was keen to set a new year’s resolution I can stick to, so I made this year the year I’d bite the bullet and head to the gym. And I soon fell in love with it. I built up good stamina and strength, and that made the gym enjoyable to go to. In fact, it became a daily routine of mine.”
Joining a gym can feel a little intimidating, particularly if you sign up to a year’s contract. But many gyms offer cheap or free one-day passes or multi-day passes, so you can try it out before fully committing.
“Try 3 or 4 different places before you settle on one that’s right for you,” Hughes says. “The correct venue might make all the difference between success and failure. Very few of us – often myself included – have the motivation to do a living room workout at the end of the day. Pack your bag early, get up and get moving.”
Exercise doesn’t just have to mean sweating on a treadmill or hitting the pavement outside. There is an ever-expanding array of exercise classes available, from aqua spinning – a spin class in a swimming pool – to hot yoga and ballroom dancing. can be overwhelming to decide which class to go to, particularly if you are new to fitness.
“Cardio, hand-eye coordination, strength, stress release – boxing offers all of these,” Hughes says. “You’ll learn an awesome new skill, improve your overall fitness and feel like a fighter with a good boxing workout.”
Many gyms offer group classes and boxing clubs often have beginner sessions, he adds. You can also find yourself a personal trainer who is handy with a set of gloves and pads, to work off some of the day’s frustrations and get fit at the same time.
If you prefer weights-based exercise, Hughes recommends a body pump class. “The focus is on high reps, low weights and solid technique,” he says. “A good studio vibe can be a real buzz and help you push yourself more than you might on your own on the gym floor. Like any class, it might seem a little intimidating to start, but talk to the instructor and focus on form. You’ll be nailing to routine in no time.”
That being said, it’s important to make technique a priority to avoid injury. “Learn to move properly first before adding speed, weight or power to an exercise. It keeps you safe and ensures you build a great foundation for any future training you want to do,” Hughes says.
Perhaps most importantly, make your workouts fun. If you dread going to spin class, try something else – because viewing exercise as a chore to tick off is unlikely to make you stick to it. “Find the type of exercise you enjoy! Whether that is running, boxing, weightlifting, yoga, group exercise, rock climbing, I guarantee there’s something for everyone,” Hughes says.
Worrying that everyone is watching you is a legitimate fear for many new gym-goers, but the likelihood is that other people are just focusing on their own workouts, not yours. And don’t be afraid to look a bit silly.
“Ssk yourself this – when did you last try something new that you were immediately good at?
Chances are you had to practice first. Attempt, learn, improve, repeat – follow this and watch your confidence grow as your skill does.”
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