22 January 2016The secret to long-term fitness: six game-changing rules!
Rule 1: Forget about new fitness fads
“If you want to be healthier and fitter, the big lesson is to escape the New Year resolution mentality and instead consider long-term, sustainable changes to your health and fitness. Sure, there are lots of ways to trigger rapid weight-loss, but if you can’t sustain it, those methods are counter-productive. The problem with fad exercise regimes and quick fixes is that they are all short-lived, then you get bored and it all falls apart. So ask yourself: do you want to be fit for four weeks or fit for your lifetime? If your answer is the latter – which will be the case for pretty much everybody – your action plan needs to have a very different flavour. And fad regimes aren’t a part of it. Don’t think about what you can cram into the next four weeks. Think about what you can sustain all year long.”
Rule 2: Learn something new
“The secrets to ensuring your exercise regime lasts the whole year are fun and variety. Sometimes in our quest to find something new, we forget the most important principles. Psychology is a big part of fitness but it is often ignored. Think about it: if you are a professional marathon runner, you pretty much have to spend your whole time running. But unless you’re planning to focus on one sport to a high level, you have the gift of being able to do anything you want. High-intensity sessions, outdoor sports, gym machines, weights, park runs, bike rides… you can do something different every day. In many ways, the worse you are at an activity, the better, because if you are inefficient you will burn more calories. Of course, you need to ensure safe technique, but if your goal is weight-loss, you should definitely consider taking up something new. With constant variety and a broad spectrum of activities, you will stand a much better chance of staying motivated all year long.”
“Another aspect of fitness that is often ignored is the sociological perspective. Signing up to spinning or Insanity classes not only gives you a fun training session to enjoy, it also gives you that social contact and motivation which helps to stimulate long-term success. Don’t turn your nose up at fitness classes. They provide a very powerful way of ensuring you stay motivated and disciplined with your training. It’s all about creating the right environment to sustain your fitness regime and working out with other people is an essential part of that.”
Rule 4: Always lift weights – even if you want to slim down
“It’s easy to assume that if you want to lose weight you should forget about lifting weights. But that is completely wrong. Adding muscle mass delivers a whole host of benefits. With more muscle, your resting metabolic rate will be much higher so you will burn more energy at rest. And your biggest muscles are your glutes, hamstrings and quads. Work them hard and you will build a real furnace for the consumption of calories.
"However, you are also triggering a very positive body transformation. Forget about losing weight for a moment. What most people really want is to improve their body composition. Adding muscle will help to improve your ratio of muscle to fat and enhance your posture and proportions, pulling you upright, so you look better too. Extra leg strength will also give you the durability to work hard during high-intensity interval sessions.”
Rule 5: Keep it short and sharp
“For a long time it was believed that long, steady miles were the best way to burn fat but we now know that high-intensity sessions can be very effective at shifting fat and raising your calorie-burning metabolism. Circuit training, high-intensity classes or interval sessions on the treadmill or indoor bike are all very efficient ways to burn calories but they don’t have to last more than 30-45 minutes. In fact, if you’re doing them at the proper high intensity, you shouldn’t last longer than that anyway. Think about the practical side too. If you know it will be a short, tough session you can get stuck in at lunchtime or after work and know that you will get the work done in a relatively short space of time. That’s very convenient but also very motivating and satisfying – again giving you a better chance of staying on track in the long-term.
Rule 6: Stop weighing yourself
“Here’s the big one. Forget about weighing yourself for a moment. When it comes to fat-loss, what are you really trying to do? Do you really want to just have a smaller number on the weighing scales every morning, or do you want to be healthier and look better? Because they are two very different things. You can lose weight but be miserable and unhealthy. And you can keep a similar weight but look and feel fantastic.
"What I am saying is that we need to fundamentally move away from the simple concepts of weight and body mass index because they are relatively poor indicators of health. It is much better to look at body composition and fitness instead. For example, you could train hard, go running and lift weights in the gym, but with the added muscle you gain your weight might stay the same. However, you will be much healthier and fitter and look much better. In fact, some research suggests active but obese individuals have a lower all-cause mortality risk than thin, unfit people.
"It is much healthier to focus on monitoring improvements in your strength, fitness and body fat percentage instead. These kinds of self-tests might involve monitoring your one-rep max in the gym to see how your strength is progressing. They could involve checking your average heart rate during a 30-minute run at a set pace on the treadmill to see how your aerobic fitness is improving. Or they could involve using body composition scales to monitor your body fat percentage. A point of note here is that these scales aren’t always fantastically accurate, but what you can do is monitor your progress over time so you can see if you are heading in the right direction. It is the progress that counts.
"All of those tests are much more useful benchmarks for health and fitness than simply checking your weight every morning which can fluctuate for many reasons anyway. You’ll enjoy a much healthier and happier and more positive relationship with your training too.”