Health + Wellness

Thinking about getting fit…

Summer’s well and truly on the wane, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief and let go of the guilt that looms over our quest to obtain the perfect bikini body like a black cloud that keeps offering cake. Truth be told, that’s all a myth anyway. Ladies, here’s how to get a perfect bikini body: appreciate the body you’ve got and put a bikini on it. Gents – you do the same; speedos, trunks, your choice. The key to lasting health, happiness and, importantly, confidence when it comes to clothing, is fitness, and whether you’ve already embarked on a regime and are getting a bit bored of it, or haven’t yet had that push you need to start thinking about getting fit, there’s never been a better time to find your fitness mojo than now. Here’s how you can do it.

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Start small

It’s all too easy to over-motivate yourself when you get excited about a new fitness goal and, even if you’ve been quite fit in the past but let it slip, you’ve got to be cautious when starting again. The key to keeping something up is consistency, so don’t go jumping into a 40-minute high intensity interval training workout on day one; instead, go for something that you know won’t make your muscles so sore that you can’t repeat it the next day.

A great way to build your fitness confidence – and your capability – slowly and safely is to train for a 5K run; the NHS’s ‘Couch to 5K’ plan is a really comprehensive online guide to achieving that goal and you can view and download the training schedule at: www.nhs.uk/Livewell/c25k/Pages/couch-to-5k.aspx. If you’re not a runner, set a target to do a 30-minute exercise class two to three times a week, either at the gym, or online – www.fitnessblender.com is brilliant.

Cultivate a new reason for getting fit

If you have been in better shape before, it’s likely your life has moved on from the last time you cycled a hill route, or made it round an obstacle course in one piece, so it makes sense that this time round your motivation for getting fit again should also have changed. If you wanted to drop a dress size, scrap it – there are reasons it didn’t work before; maybe there’s reasons to train that are more of a priority to you now than a set of pecs to be proud of. Perhaps it’s for your health, or just so you can keep up with your kids or grandkids; whatever your reason, if you can think of a new one to get active again, it’ll likely motivate you in an entirely different way than before.

Work on flexibility and strength

Step one: try and touch your toes. Seriously. You might not win a medal for being able to get down there with ease, but it’s all to easy to overlook flexibility when it comes to building up your fitness, which, along with strength training, is as important a part of getting fit as how far you can walk, run, or ride. If you’ve never worked out, or haven’t worked out for a while, a good, supporting strength routine will up your flexibility and range of motion in no time. Factor a bit yoga or pilates into your fitness schedule and look up some quick online strengthening routines that focus on different parts of the body.

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Ask the expert…Sarah Ayton

Double Olympic gold medalist, Sarah Ayton, has recently become the ambassador of The Goodwood Health Club at The Goodwood Hotel in Chichester; we asked her for some expert advice to help those thinking about getting fit.

Hi Sarah! In your opinion, what’s the best exercise for someone who has never exercised, but who wants to get fit?

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The first thing is to find something you enjoy such as walking, cycling, swimming, dancing, tennis, golf, or something that your local gym has to offer in terms of group exercise classes and strength and conditioning programmes. There is no right or wrong; most important of all is to enjoy the process and the ‘feel good’ factor that exercise gives you.

What about a regime? Is it important to build up the amount of time you spend exercising when you’re first building your fitness?

It is important you build your exercise programme up slowly and don’t go crazy in the first week leaving yourself exhausted and not wanting to exercise the following week. If you’ve not exercised before, or for a while, then expect to be a little tender in places after exercise – another reason why building up slowly is important! Give your body a chance to recover and recharge.

The more exercise you do, the more your body gets used to it; muscle soreness will no longer be an issue and you can increase the intensity and frequency. Design a realistic routine that fits around your week and considers how much time you have. Perhaps being a member of a gym would better give you the support you need, or maybe you’d enjoy doing something with your friends.

How important is it to find an exercise regime or sport that you enjoy when starting out in fitness?

I’m a big fan of finding something you enjoy; being fit has been part of my job for 25 years, so variety and new challenges are what keep me motivated. Whatever your goal is, your journey needs to be fun, which will give you the confidence to try something new while increasing your heart rate and building a fitter, healthier you.

Lastly, what would be your advice to people who think they’re too old, overweight, or unfit to get fit?

My advice is just to believe you can do it because you can; use the support of your family and friends, and experts at your local gym too. For me, being fit is a vital ingredient to being happy – creating time for yourself to do something you enjoy has a really positive impact on your mind and body making you feel energised and motivated to continue becoming fitter, stronger and happier. Good luck!

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