Advice on Getting Fit(ter)

It’s New Year’s Day. You’ve eaten a mountain of turkey and Christmas pudding, and probably drank more Advocaat and port in the last week than in the whole year. You’re probably thinking of joining that gym and getting fit.

So, as someone who has certainly gotten fitter, who goes to the gym twice a week and who proudly, at quite an advanced age, has nearly maxed out the abs machine at the local gym, here’s some advice before you sign up for a gym. All of this assumes that you really want to do it.

Do Things You Like Doing

Like is perhaps a strong word. Not hating is perhaps better. I would rather be drinking wine and watching TV, but I know I have to exercise. I don’t like team sports, I don’t like running and I don’t like high intensity exercise. So, I don’t play football, I don’t go on a treadmill and I don’t do spin classes (spin is crazy). But I don’t hate cross-trainer, cycling, weights and a little stair machine. So, that’s what I do.

Remove Friction

Exercise is something you need to be doing regularly, so you need to make time for it, and not just the time for it, but also the time to get there, get back and shower after. You also need to get rid of things that stop you doing it. For instance, if a gym is half an hour across town, you’ll be less likely to get out of a chair and go than if it’s 5 minutes away. I’d say, at first, avoid anywhere with limited hours and find somewhere that is open to suit you, which might cost more, but it’ll get you going. If you can find somewhere near where you work, that means you go straight after work, before you settle down for the evening. That saves time, too.

Friction also includes things like preventing boredom. If you’re bored, you’ll be less likely to go I get bored on cross-trainers without music, so a high BPM soundtrack of Rammstein, Madonna and Britney Spears is essential.

I also find Mondays (when gyms are really full) a drag, waiting to get on equipment, so again, friction. I avoid Mondays and go later in the week and weekends (weekends are empty).

Fail Fast

If you join a gym, if you think it might be for you, join for a short time. Maybe there’s some reason it won’t be good for you that you haven’t forseen. It’ll cost more each month for 3 months rather than 12, but at least you can get out if it’s not working for you.

With gyms, take advantage of free days. Talk to the staff. If you’re a beginner, a club that’s got more staff dedicated to helping people may be a better idea than a simpler gym. You’ll pay more, but when you’re starting, you may want advice.

Eat Well

This doesn’t mean “dieting”. But cut out a lot of crap, get plenty of energy. You can’t go hungry to the gym as you’re going to be burning energy (also, don’t eat immediately before).

It’s Not About The Gear

You don’t need a Fitbit, Polar or any expensive gear. If you’re saying to yourself that the lack of those is a barrier, it isn’t. So don’t spend big.

My kit is shorts, top, socks, trainers, cheap bluetooth headphones, a cheap water bottle and cheap kit bag. Even with the headphones (which are optional), that’s about £120.

Gyms are Generally Nice

In my experience, the image of gyms full of meatheads sniggering at the fat guy starting out are fiction. In fact, it’s the opposite: people are supportive, will explain how things work, if you ask.

Keeping it up

It’s worth having a plan (and if you go to many places they’ll help you with this), and tracking what you’re doing. It’ll be hard at first, but the thing to do is to keep a record and see the improvement. Within a month or so, you’ll see and feel a difference.

You may get setbacks. Illness can keep you away and you shouldn’t exercise when ill. Accept it and go back when better. If you’ve set a target, take a hit on the target and build back up.

There’s also times when you can’t do a complete workout. Maybe time is short one day. I had an arm injury recently, so I just did some cycling. Just do what you can. It’s all good.

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