Exercise comes easily for some people. I am not one of those people. Trying to juggle work and motherhood leaves me with no time to get fit. In my dim and distant previous life B.C. (Before Child), I practised Pilates, swam and walked a lot. These days, I’m lucky to fit in walking up a flight of stairs let alone a circuit at the gym.
Well that has all changed in 2015. After a lot of illness and stress in 2014, I finally asked my family and husband for help to give me a few hours to myself a week to get fit. So, if like me, you’ve been off the proverbial treadmill for years, here’s a few tips for easing yourself back into fitness.
This sounds so obvious but eat a small meal 30 or 60 minutes before exercise. Avoid sugary snacks (as they can lead to low blood sugar levels during exercise) and opt for complex carbohydrates, such as whole-grain pasta, rice, and bread, and fruits and vegetables. In the past I’ve tried to exercise on an empty stomach and wound up fainting on top of the instructor (morto!). My favourite pre-exercise snacks include a slice of wholemeal toast with either peanut butter, a sliced banana or sliced egg. Slow release foods with some protein that will help you last the pace.
This is a pretty controversial topic these days. Do you stretch before or after a workout? I’m always tempted to skip this stage and just go for it but I personally like to do a few gentle stretches to limber up before a workout, especially if I’ve been sat at the computer all day. For a quick how-to here’s a basic Wiki guide to stretches. I also love Nicole over at fitness blog Pumps & Iron. Check out her stretching routine here.
I tend to hold my breath during workouts. Ridiculous I know but it’s partly because I spend my life holding my breath in stressful situations. When you exercise your working muscles demand greater amounts of oxygen and you create more carbon dioxide waste as a result. Learning to breathe properly will help you maximise your workout. Experts recommend breathing deeply enough so that your belly—not your chest—rises and falls as you inhale and exhale. I’m still a shallow breather and learning this technique. But one day at a time people. One day at a time.
Drink plenty of water before, during and after your workout. Arm yourself with a sports bottle that doesn’t require you to screw on and off a cap (seriously people this is basic but I’ve made all of these mistakes). As I suffer from low blood pressure, I have also found it helpful to drink a high-energy drink after class to replenish salts and electrolytes in my body.
Be patient with yourself and celebrate your small goals. I’m really unfit thanks to my desk-bound days. I’ve just returned to spinning after five longs years and despite a dizzy spell, I made it through the class. Sure it was a bit embarrassing but I survived and wobbled home to tell the tale. Splash out a some new gym clothes if you can – it’ll give you the extra incentive to go. I love Reebok for good quality gym wear that’s not too pricey, especially its trainers which are a third of the price of Nike.
And on days when you can’t make it to a class or the gym, I love a home DVD. Davina’s latest 7 Minute Fit is perfect for days when I’m in a rush. Even I have seven minutes. Finally, stick with it. If I can get back into fitness, then believe me anyone can.
Follow my fitness progress in 2015 at #thehappyhealthproject