Spring is finally here! As the weather warms up, it’s the perfect time to shed our heavy winter layers for fashionable spring brights and ditch the unhealthy winter habits ready to spring into life. With hope on the horizon of life returning to a level of normality post lockdown it’s a great time to renew commitment to a healthier lifestyle. We’ve all spent months cosying up on the sofa with our favourite foods and binge-worthy boxsets and many of us will swap this for punishing workouts and strict diets!
But going overboard with restrictive eating and intense exercise routines can be just as bad as over-eating and not working out at all. These gruelling regimes can take a toll and as our unhealthy lifestyle efforts fail, those negative feelings of disheartenment and failure will only make things worse and can be bad for our mental well-being. Feeling good is just as much about the mind as it is about our bodies, so do not underestimate feel good factors that stimulate the mind and senses too.
We are encouraging everyone to keep it simple and create attainable, short-term goals that are fair and realistic from being flexible to creating a healthy routine that works for YOU and doing a little bit of what you love for overall positivity.
Identify what you would like to change and why
Let’s get one thing straight, getting into shape does not necessarily mean losing weight! Perhaps you want to boost your energy levels, feel better about yourself or improve muscle tone. Whatever the reason, identify your motivations and why you want to make a change, it will help you to create the right goals, stay on-track and keep you motivated throughout your journey.
Find ways to become more active
Find activities that you love, even if it’s as simple as grabbing your walking boots and going for a daily walk. Anything you can do to get your body moving will help both physically and mentally. Eliminate excuses and remove the “I don’t have time” phrase from your vocabulary. Whether it’s walking, strength training, a bit of cardio, a HIIT class, pilates or at home yoga, just 20 minutes a few times a week can do you, your mind and your body a world of good!
There are lots of online home workout routines you can follow, no matter your fitness levels; there really is something for everyone and the good news is you don’t need any special fitness equipment. Here are some of our favourites:
Blogilates: Certified pilates and fitness instructor Cassey Ho uploads pilates-style workouts combined with body sculpting movements. Consisting of low impact flexibility, muscular strength and endurance moves emphasising core strength and muscle balance. Includes workouts for beginners starting from just 10 minutes.
Strong by Zumba: Move to the beat with this high intensity cardio interval Zumba class. Combines body weight, cardio and muscle conditioning to help you burn calories and tone your abs, arms, legs and glutes.
HIIT by The Body Coach: Try a high intensity interval training workout with Joe Wicks. Choose from a huge range of 10 to 30 minute videos from low impact and workouts for beginners to more advanced sessions. HIIT combines bursts of high intensity with rest periods to get your heart rate pumping. Go at your own pace and pause when you need to. There really is something for everyone.
15 Minute Boxing Workout: This boxing workout by Pop Sugar is great if you struggle to find the time or as an introduction back into exercise. It combines aerobic movements of boxing to get the heart pumping with some core strength training. Throughout the workout they also provide modified movements for those requiring a lower impact workout. No bag or boxing gloves required.
Grab yourself some new sportswear to get you in the mood. Feeling good and being comfortable whilst you workout is important, perhaps a new pair of trainers, a Adidas t-shirt for men or some Women's Puma Sportswear. Whatever you need don't let a lack of workout gear become an excuse and stop you from achieving your active lifestyle goals.
Don’t count calories, eat real food!
There is nothing worse than counting carbs and calories, instead focus on fuelling your body. Ensure you get your 5 a day packed full of lots of fresh fruit and veg, whole grains and clean healthy proteins like chicken, fish or tofu. Lower your sugar in-take and save treats for the weekend. Simple things like cutting out sugar from your tea and coffee or swapping sugary drinks and cereals for healthier alternatives like porridge, smoothies and flavoured water can make a big difference. Visit the NHS Heathy Food Swaps page for more information. If you don’t know where to begin and need a little inspiration, then look no further, take a look at our tried and tested 5 Easy, Delicious & Healthy Recipes that the whole family can enjoy.
Keep healthy snacks handy
No one is suggesting you ditch the crisps for a stick of celery, but making healthy snack swaps can be delicious, help you stay fuller for longer and help you to avoid the mid-afternoon sugar slump. Have a bowl of fruit in the house, and ready to eat fruit and veggies in the fridge such as carrot sticks, cucumber slices and fresh berries. Add a teaspoon of peanut butter to apple slices as a sweet treat. Instead of crisps try salted popcorn, a perfect choice to curb that crunchy snack craving and full of fibre. Instead of sweets try frozen grapes to help satisfy a sweet tooth – simply wash and stick your grapes in the freezer! There are lots of easy ideas online by Change 4 Life for all the family. Although, do allow yourself a little indulgence at the weekend, moderation is key!
Don’t punish yourself
Eating is not a crime, not wanting to workout does not make you lazy – it’s perfectly normal to want a slice of cake or to want to ditch a workout for a night on the sofa, so stop punishing yourself! Remember deprivation leads to destruction!
The trick is to not let one day of bad eating or not working out to turn into a whole week. Give yourself a break, the goal is to become healthier through better food choices and becoming more active but allow yourself that 5% wildcard for when you need a break and just want a taste of something sugary. If you’ve worked out 4-5 times in the week, eaten well then there is no harm in having a slither of banana bread with your coffee at the weekend. Just remember if 95% of your nutrient intake is clean (fruit, veg, healthy grains and lean protein) then that 5% doesn’t have a chance and won’t do you any harm!
Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate some more
We are all know it’s important to stay hydrated. The body is made up of 60% water and increasing your water in-take promotes healthier skin, flushes toxins from the body, increases energy levels to support an active lifestyle and can support healthy weight loss. However, drinking 3 litres of water is easier said than done. Try flavouring your water with fresh fruit, keep a re-useable water bottle to hand to sip throughout the day, invest in a water filter jug, drink a glass of water before each meal and try to eat more foods high in water content such as lettuce, watermelon, honeydew melon and courgettes.
Find a friend!
Sharing goals or being vocal about your goals both physical and other with a friend or loved one can be a powerful motivator and sometimes a problem halved. Enlist a friend or family member to workout with in person or virtually, or to share your healthy eating plan - as they say strength in numbers! If you can't get out and about, arrange a virtual coffee with a friend for some banter and a chat to boost your mood and share your progress. Make it fun and a little competitive by tracking who can do more steps in a day. These little things can boost your emotional well-being and your progress at the same time.
Get a goodnight’s sleep
Maximising your snooze time and getting a good night’s sleep is vital to both our physical health and emotional well-being. Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep every night to feel rested and re-charged for the next day. A lack of sleep can affect your overall health, reduce energy levels and disrupt your overall immune system. Studies have shown that sleep deprived people have reduced levels of leptin, the chemical that makes your feel full and increased levels of hunger stimulating hormones. So whatever you do don’t skimp on sleep, however tempting! Check out these top 10 benefits of getting a better sleep. For more information visit the NHS Sleep page.
Do what you love & treat yourself
Never neglect your own body and mind, and let it be your number one priority by doing something every day that helps you re-fuel, re-charge and gives you joy. Now is the time to stop thinking investing in yourself is selfish. Sounds simple right? But it’s not always that easy.
Take the time to read a book, have a soak in the tub, get your garden ready for the summer, start that new hobby; or simply getting reacquainted with a much-loved pass-time. Whatever it is, make sure you’re making time for it to help you relax. Why not try a new beauty or skincare routine or treat yourself to some face masks to give your skin a pamper.
In the end...
There really is no “right” way to get in to shape and maintain a healthy lifestyle for both mind and body; it's all about what works for you as an individual. Making realistic changes and setting attainable goals are the first steps to success. Don't be tempted to compare yourself to others, their goals, motivations and fitness levels will be different to yours. Make positive improvements that fit into your daily routine, are fun, easy to maintain and boost your overall emotional well-being.