January, the time of year well meaning ‘resolutioners’ start off with the best intentions only to falter by February. Through no fault of their own I might add.
So if you’re planning on getting fit this year here are my top tips for doing it the right way.
1. Get an assessment
Sure there are all these ‘new’ and fun looking fitness crazes around but is your body actually capable of doing them without injury? Especially the really high intensity ones. As one of my members, Cormac, said about his last place, where he left after a month due to a back injury;
“It’s great if you’ve got absolutely no issues, injuries, aches or pains”
Unfortunately even if you’ve got no aches and pains or prior injuries that still doesn’t mean there’s nothing there. Hidden underneath the surface. And doing the wrong type of exercises, or pushing too hard too soon is the best way to discover any weakness or imbalance and put you out of action.
And a good assessment can find out what movements your body should and shouldn’t do.
For example Cormac should not have been deep squatting with weights on his back. He can’t even deep squat with no weights. His body simply does not move well in that position. And when a weight is placed on his back he was placing massive strain through joints that were in the worst position to take it.
That’s how he injured himself.
We are currently working on improving his mobility and strength so he can squat in the future in a safe manner. But we do this by first assessing how and why he moves the way he does and then giving him exercises that will help him.
So make sure you get a proper assessment before you start any programme. Whether that’s from a physio or a well qualified trainer.
We include one at SF Fitness as part of our complimentary strategy session. If you’d like to know more, just click here.
2. Understand the importance of Preparation
Preparation is key in a lot of areas. None more so than eating a healthy diet. But I’ll leave diet till another blog post. (you can click here and get notified when I post new blogs)
The preparation I’m talking about is before you start your workout. Otherwise known as a warm up. But I don’t like using that word too often because the start of your session should be to prepare you for what you are about to do, not just heat you up.
First of all it should be individual. rather than a general warm up.
Like you’d get in a commercial gym, 5 mins on the bike is not going to improve the quality of your workout in anyway.
Nor is doing a load of stretches. Even if you think your muscles are tight you might be doing yourself no favours at all by stretching them. I’ll get back to that point in a bit, it’s an important one.
As part of the assessments the members of SF Fitness go through we identify areas in which they would benefit improving key areas.
Movement, muscle activation and muscle quality are the 3 main areas.
For example; not everyone needs to stretch their hamstrings and doing so may cause problems elsewhere. Especially if the hamstrings are tight for a reason, like compensating for a weakness elsewhere.
Or if the hamstrings are actually weak then stretching them too much can actually cause them to tighten up even more.
Make sure your preparation is specific to you, especially if you’ve injuries or niggles. The right preparation can and should improve your muscles and joints to make you feel and move better.
3. Have a little Patience (sung in my best Take That impression)
I get it you want results now. You don’t want to wait months to see progress. No one does. But that doesn’t mean you need to dive in headfirst and run yourself into the ground in every session. Especially at the start.
Plus I also presume you want to see consistent progress. Too often people jump into programmes looking for fast results and end up hurting themselves.
This can be psychological as well as physical. If the results don’t come fast enough they lose motivation and then quit. But quitting and giving up or falling off the wagon too often can lead one to feel like it’s never going to happen.
By being patient and laying the ground work, which may not be as sexy or as hardcore as what you think you need, you’ll be building a body capable for much greater things. Plus your body won’t break down on you in the future.
Contrary to popular belief you don’t need to kill yourself in every workout. In fact toning it down a bit, combined with doing the right programme for you and your body, will help you use more of the right muscles. And that means you’ll burn more calories and get fitter and stronger more quickly in the long run.
4. Record and Make Progress
Tracking your progress is something so few people do. And if they do, ensuring progress is consistent rarely happens. At the start of any programme you’ll make progress, no matter what the programme is.
Whether that’s losing a few pounds, gaining some muscle, becoming fitter and getting stronger or more competent at an exercise. You’ll certainly start to feel better within weeks or even days of starting any type of plan.
But what’s the plan for a month later, 3 months later, 6?
Are you still making progress?
Are you getting the benefits you originally signed up for?
There are numerous areas you can progress in. But just make sure you are progressing in the important areas and not neglecting certain things just for one outcome.
But at what cost?
Being moody and grumpy from lack of important carbs?
Feeling tired and fatigued more often?
Not being able to train as hard as you want or simply not looking forward to training anymore?
All common symptoms of excessive low carb eating. Don’t get me wrong, excessive high carb eating isn’t the answer either.
But eating very low carb diets, while great for weight loss, will eventually lead to burn out, especially in women.
I’ve been there before, not to say I’m a woman, although there was one time I dressed up as a woman for Halloween and got hit on by a mate of mine!
Low carb diets suck and are totally unnecessary. Anyone tells you otherwise, send them over to me and I’ll sort them out for you.
So make sure your programme isn’t going to force you to sacrifice one area of your life just to improve another. Because anything that does that will eventually lead you to resenting the improved area.
In fact this is why many people give up on programmes even though they seem to work. What’s the point in losing a few pounds if you can’t enjoy your life?
Bottom line; Don’t get caught up in the latest craze or be too impatient to get results. You didn’t get this way over night. Getting the changes you want isn’t going to radically happen overnight either.
Be smart. Hire someone that knows what they’re doing and has your best interests at heart.
Health & Strength,
John O'Connell is the owner of SF Fitness & Health Centre. He started working in the fitness industry in 2002 after suffering a back injury. He has worked with many professional organisations including Leinster Rugby, An Garda Siochana, New Zealand Rugby, Dublin GAA, Spar and CBRE. He has also appeared muliple times on both RTE & TV3 as a health & fitness expert. John is the co-author of 2 international best selling books - Total Body Breakthroughs and The Fit Formula.