Smash those January fitness goals with my 3 simple tips
Updated: Feb 5
There’s plenty of fitness centres in Reading town centre and Benson, and at this time of year, they’re pretty much bursting at the seams. There’s absolutely nothing wrong (and an awful lot of right) with wanting to get fitter and healthier, particularly after Christmas when many of us have eaten too much and exercised too little. However, hitting a new fitness regime and diet hard in January can cause injury problems and if you’re not careful, this can completely derail all your good intentions.
I don’t want to overcomplicate your new fitness and health routine, but I do want you to succeed. So, with that in mind, here are 3 really simple things to keep in mind that should help you minimise your risk of injury, and even improve your performance and help make your exercise more enjoyable. All of which should help you achieve those goals.
1. Why warming up and down is essential
We all do it. Your time is limited but you’ve promised yourself you’re going to get fit or lose weight. You’ve just about managed to find half an hour in your day to go to the gym or go for a run and so you quite literally hit the ground running to make sure you get the most out of your time. Then at the end of your session, you grab your bag and throw yourself back into your day. And at no point did you do any stretching or warm up and down exercises.
Please stop! This is one of the best ways to injury yourself and if the injury is bad enough, bang goes your new fitness regime for the next few weeks or even months while you recover. Then you lose motivation and momentum and before you know it, the summer is here, and you’ve not made any progress with your fitness and health goals.
Reduced risk of injury and pain
Warming-up before a workout increases blood flow to specific areas, lubricating the joints and tendons and energising the muscles. Think of it as warming up your car engine on a freezing cold day, or alternatively trying to make a model out of cold plasticine…if you haven’t tried it recently, the plasticine just snaps until it’s warmed up.
Makes you feel and perform better – and who doesn’t want that?
There’s an increasing amount of scientific evidence that shows that warming up properly not only helps you perform better but also makes you feel better as you exercise.
Have you ever been on a 5 km run when the first kilometre was excruciatingly hard but by the end you felt like you could keep going? That’s probably because you weren’t warmed up properly at the start.
But when you’re warmed up, your mind is prepared, and your body is better able to deal with the demands you’re about to put on it. As you warm up, your body temperature goes up and that increases the supply of energy to your muscles. It also reduces muscle resistance which means your muscles perform better giving you a much better chance of nailing that PB!
Proper cool down matters too
You should never stop exercising abruptly because this can cause your heart rate and blood pressure to drop rapidly which in turn can cause dizziness. You also want to avoid the build-up of lactic acid and that feeling of aching and stiffness the day after exercise.
How to warm up and cool down
How you warm up will depend on the exercise you’re going to do. If you’ve just joined a gym, then it’s important to ask the PT there to give you some advice about what you should be doing. There’s also plenty of advice on the internet.
For runners, allow at least 5 or 10 minutes before you start running. Start with some jogging on the spot or very gentle running. You’ll also want to include some dynamic stretches that work on your glutes, your piriformis, your hamstrings as well as mobilising your calves and ankles.
Dynamic stretches get your joints and muscles moving and mimic the movement of the activity you’re about to do. You’ll want to include forward lunges, lateral or side lunges, and some knee to chest stretches.
After a run, allow a period of walking at the end so that your breathing and heart rate gradually come down. Make sure you also include some hamstring stretches, quad stretches, calf stretches and low lunges, as well as some hip, arms, back and abs stretches.
And always drink plenty of water!
2. Listen to your body
Even for those who have warmed up and cooled down properly, if you’ve changed your diet and fitness regime suddenly, then there is every chance you’re going to feel a few physical niggles. These things are easy to ignore. Perhaps you ache, are stiff and sore but it’s not an actual injury so you carry on.
Don’t! You may not have to stop exercising but it is important to listen to what your body is telling you and find out why. Perhaps, you’re not warming up properly in which case you can correct that, or perhaps there’s some other reason why your body isn’t quite in synch.
This can be for a number of lifestyle reasons and can result in pain. As an Acupuncturist, I call this the flow of your “qi” or your body’s vital energy and I use acupuncture needles to help restore balance and promote physical and emotional harmony and your body’s equilibrium. This in turn can help with problems such as lower back and neck pain.
In Chinese Medicine many of musculoskeletal conditions are said to be caused by stagnation of our Qi energy in various parts of the body. Gentle stretching such as Qigong, yoga and Taichi also help promote the healthy flow of our energy and alleviate Qi stagnation.
I use my treatments to identify the root of the problem rather than just your main symptoms. In fact, although some clients use acupuncture for help with a specific symptom or condition, others choose to have treatment just to help maintain good health and wellbeing and as a preventive measure.
3. Don’t ignore injuries
If the worst happens, and you do suffer an injury, it is so important to stop and seek advice. However frustrating it is when you’ve just started to see your fitness levels improving, if you carry on regardless, it could put you out of action for much longer than necessary.
There are certain specific things which acupuncture can help with such as knee pain, frozen shoulder and sprains and a course of treatment, a short period of rest or changing the type of activity you do (such as switching from running to swimming) may be all that’s required.