Getting Fit and Staying Motivated
I’ve always had questions about health, fitness and staying in shape but have avoided answering too much in the past because I’ve always deemed myself to be an unworthy source of knowledge. I’m far from perfect or professionally trained, naturally lazy and never had much of a routine. However, I thought recently that maybe it’s exactly my imperfect approach to exercise and food that means I can and should talk about my personal ‘rules’, routines and personal experiences over the years.
I’ve been slowly rediscovering the joy of working up a sweat recently and feel like I’m on my way to potentially nailing that tricky balance between eating what I want while keeping vaguely fit. So these are a few tips, tricks and general ideas from my own personal bank of knowledge for you to take or leave as you please. As we know one size never fits all, but hopefully there’ll be some stuff in here you might cherry pick, adapt or draw on for yourself.
Find Your Cardio
I always used to feel like a gym failure because I never lasted long on the treadmill or the cross trainer, tending to get bored, restless and bail after 5 minutes. I’ve always been incredibly envious of those people that use running as a kind of therapy and can just zone out and go. However, having always had dodgy knees and a poor attention span, I’m much better at doing something more dynamic and varied. My inability to run always made me think I was a cardio phobe but I’ve recently come to love HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and boxing. I’m nowhere near as fit as I’d like to be just yet, but I’ve realised I can work up a sweat and get my heart rate up without having to run in the gym…
Feel Good in Your Gear
If you’re still working out in the same cotton leggings as you were at school, it’s time for an upgrade. Feeling good and ready to go will get you into the gym or out to the park far more often and you’ll feel more confident when faced with those wall-to-wall mirrors in pilates. My go-to outfitt is black leggings with a flattering waistband, a well-fitting crop top and a warm, soft hoodie for when it’s all over. If I’m in a class, I wear a light, loose camisole or racer back tank top too.
A good pair of trainers makes a massive difference too. The Adidas Boost kicks I’m wearing are everything I want in a trainer. The main thing I love is that they’re designed to be sockless (how many times have I arrived at a class and realised I haven’t packed socks) and they really do live true to their name, putting an actual spring in your step as soon as you lace them on. While I might wear mostly neutrals in real life, when it comes to working out I like the odd flash of colour for an extra energy spurt. These are in the new Frozen Yellow and immediately make me feel ready to go. Plus, if you are a runner, once it starts getting dark earlier, it’s that bit safer to wear as much hi-vis as you can when out and about.
I’d be totally unmotivated without music. You know those songs that make you strut on your way to a meeting? Yeah you want to save those into a playlist. I find that if I love the music I’m listening to, I almost work out for longer just to listen to it. Can’t find the energy to do anything? Start listening to the playlist and see what happens…
Super trainer Tracy Anderson is known for getting clients like Gwyneth Paltrow to dance hard and fast as part of her workouts too, so if you’re at home alone with some space, dance like you’re on MTV and no-ones watching. Sounds ridiculous but it works like a charm.
Travel and Holidays Don’t Have to Mean Nothing
There’s nothing nicer than going on holiday and not moving from your towel for a week. But doing a few tiny things can make the difference between coming home feeling great and coming home feeling like you have to start all over again. I get a bit restless sunbathing and tend to get off my sun lounger after I’ve digested lunch and go for a long (not too leisurely) walk down the beach. Walking on soft sand for 30 minutes works everything and if you go with a friend, you can chat the whole way while people watching and catching those rays.
When I was in New York recently, I fought the jet lag by keeping active. I walked the High Line and back on my first evening and when I woke up at 6 A.M the following morning, I dragged myself out of bed and did a 30 min workout video on Youtube in my room (followed by a massive breakfast in the village). Sounds brutal (and I sound like one of those people I hate!) but it helped so much and made me realise that it’s often mind over matter when it gets down to it.
I have a few favourite moves I rely on time and time again. Below are some pics so hopefully you get the jist….
1. Butt Kicks; On all fours, kick your leg back at a right angle to work core, butt and thighs. I mix with straight leg pulses in the same position (one of Mary Helen Bowers ballet moves).
2. Plank. A quick but tough one that works everything. Remember to keep low and keep that back straight. Want to make it more dynamic? Make it into caterpillar and walk you hands down into plank from a standing start and then walk them back again.
3. Opposite crunches; reach for the left leg with right arm and vice versa.
4. Squat and Crank. Start in a squat, move your torso to one side before coming up and pulling your knee into your body hard. This should look almost like a move from Step up and you get what to put in!
5. Charlie’s Angels; Stand with with your hands clasped high above head and legs hip width apart. Lunge to the side and drop your clasped, straight arms down to the ankle of your bent leg (imagine you’re wielding a gun hence the name!). Stand back up the centre and repeat on the other side. I learnt this one from this video here.
Do Something rather than nothing
I’m very guilty of cramming my days so full with meetings, deadlines, life admin and dates with friends, I often barely have time to eat let alone exercise. But it’s important to remember a little always beats zero every time. Watching Netflix for 30 minutes? Do some squats and lunges while you catch up with that box set. My favourite arm workout learnt from Lucy Wyndham-Read on Youtube is ideal for filling those 5 minutes while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil… Try doing 100 reps of little backward movements (almost as if you’re trying to fly).
Visualise What You Want
When it comes down to it, feeling good really is in our heads. But working the outside can have a massive influence on our confidence and sense of wellbeing. If you’re working towards a goal, keep it in your mind and really focus on all the feelings around that goal in order to reach it. For me, I want to feel fitter and more capable after quitting smoking and having a minor operation earlier this year. I want to feel like my body is on my side if that makes sense and start enjoying exercise again rather than looking on it as a chore. To get there, when feeling unmotivated, I’ll remember feeling really out of breath while running around with my nephews or being too scared to try new classes in case I couldn’t do it. I don’t want to be that person and that spurs me on….
I’ll never be able to work our 5 days a week, nor will I ever be that person that gets up at 6 A.M for the perfect Abs, and in my mind, that’s ok. It’s about finding that balance between achieving what you want while being realistic in terms of how much you’re prepared to get it. I could never cut out my mum’s fish lasagne or chocolate, but nor could I get away with eating white pasta, cheese sauce and dairy milk every day. I would say I naturally fall into the 80/20 realm of thought, eating the good stuff as much as I can and making healthy choices when eating and snacking at home, while having wine, pizza and fry-ups when I feel the need (which tends to be every weekend). I believe it’s actually kind of good for your metabolism to do this too; your body is able to process and digest higher amounts of calories rather than clinging onto them because it’s so used to running on the bare minimum 24/7. It’s about finding that middle ground, eating what you like as well as what’s good for you and being healthy without being obsessive.
Be mindful, know your own body and don’t deny yourself that slice of cake once in a while, life’s too short…
Ph. by Frances Davison
Created in collaboration with Adidas. Styling, words and direction by me.