Like almost everyone else right now, you are probably still a little bloated from Quality Street (especially the nice purple ones of which there are never enough, you know the ones) and turkey sandwiches. You’re probably craving any vegetable that isn’t a brussel sprout. And you’re probably looking at getting back to exercise after a little layoff.
This layoff might be as little as a week off exercising but for a lot of people it will be much more. Social commitments and extra work pressure means training is often sidelined completely for the extended Christmas season, with a firm promise to ourselves to get back to it with extra gusto in January. Maybe you’ve gotten out of the exercise habit completely and have promised yourself that this New Year will be the one that will see you back in the gym. Great!
To help you on your way, here are a few quick tips to help you to avoid the most common pitfalls this time of year has to offer….
First of all...
Don’t be self-conscious and don’t worry about being clichéd.
There is a reason that people return to gyms in their droves in early January, and that a lot of people wait until now to clean up their diet or to take up a new pastime. For most people, early January sees a return to a professional and social routine that has been sorely lacking for weeks or even months. Living well (exercising and eating healthy food) is far easier when we are in a proper day to day routine, and whether we would admit it or not, most of us are probably a little glad to have that pattern returning to our daily lives. Cleaning up your diet and getting back to training in January is a cliché for a reason- it makes sense!
Don’t change too much, too soon.
This is by far most important piece of advice here. Whatever changes you are making over the next few weeks (eating better, joining a gym, starting a course), pace yourself. Would you rather be the person in the gym who goes hell-for-leather for a few weeks and then picks up an injury and is never seen again…or the person who gradually builds up over time and is still there next January? This is so, so important. Don’t try to make up for lost time by overdoing it. Use your head, spend time getting your body used to the stress of training without making yourself so sore you can’t walk for a week.
Personally, if someone is getting back to training after a long break (or starting from scratch) and they can afford it, I think getting some coaching or personal training is really worth it. If you’re living right, you’re saving money anyway, so take the money you would’ve spent on a few nights out and invest it in yourself by getting some personal training sessions. You’ll have a structured plan, you’ll learn proper technique, and you won’t be aimlessly wandering around not sure what to do or how to do it.
This also applies to how you eat; you will be so much better off if you make smaller, less extreme changes to your diet and lifestyle, than if you try to remove entire food groups from your meals or try to lose unrealistic amounts of weight in a short time. I actually recommend that people pay more attention to adding certain things to their diet (fruit, veg, real unprocessed food) for the first few weeks of after Christmas rather than what they are taking out.
Make gradual, long-term changes, not extreme short-term ones!
Make Plans, and Set Goals.
Aim to train a certain number of times in a calendar month. Try to shave 30 seconds off your 5km time by a certain date. Get a training partner and put your planned workouts in your diary as appointments.
But be sure to make these goals realistic, and fun to achieve. Don’t aim to be 8% bodyfat by Easter. Aim to be still training by Easter, enjoying your workouts, and to have lost an inch from your waistline.
Meal prep. Buy Tupperware and spend an hour every Sunday preparing meals for the coming week that you can refrigerate and freeze.
Stay the course. If you are still at it in six months you will have already beaten the majority of the January Resolution-Makers so be sensible, pace yourself and just keep plugging away. Good luck and have fun!
Personal Trainer & Fitness Coaching
Conor has worked in the field of strength and fitness coaching full time for 8 years, and has single-handedly coached over 8,000 sessions (both group sessions, and one-on-one).
Read more about Connor Kennedy