As 2022 gets into full swing we find ourselves bombarded by adverts for the gym, diets and health regimes, tapping into the guilt we *might* feel after that extra mince pie or glass (or two) of something fizzy. It inevitably fuels the “new year, new me” trend and a surge in ‘newbies’ trying out the gym.
However, gyms are expensive and frequently intimidating. Sadly a minority of fitness fanatics are not as welcoming as they should be, and seem to forget we all start somewhere. Thankfully fitness also comes in a number of different forms! If picking up heavy things and putting them back down again sounds silly, why not run, cycle, or even just walk?
There are some great apps and tech enabled platforms available providing you with alternative ways to feel more alive and shift the sluggish festive hangover. I thought I’d share a few favourites; some you’ll have heard of, some you won’t.
Couch to 5k
Running isn’t for everyone. My wife and brother-in-law hated the idea of running. Both gave ‘Couch to 5k’ a go and went from struggling to run for a minute to running for 30 minutes. Split over 9 weeks the programme breaks down runs and progress in a way that complete beginners see real results. It’s backed by the NHS and it’s free, so if you own trainers why not give it a try?
Gyms can provide a community and shared motivation. More individual pursuits such as running, cycling or swimming can lack that ‘team’ feel, it’s one reason clubs prove so popular. However, that might seem daunting to some and that’s where Strava can plug a gap. A sports community where users give each other ‘kudos’ (Strava’s version of a like), its growth is staggering, gaining 2 million users a month in 2021.
I’ve been an avid user for several years, and collecting ‘badges’ can be great motivation to get out on a cold January morning!
Exercise is actually not as important as diet. Whilst I am not someone to suggest following one specific diet over another (and god I love a slice of cake), discovering what your diet actually consists of can be a really useful process. If you’re exercising you need to fuel yourself properly. Protein isn’t just for the people looking to make muscle gains, it’s essential stuff to repair and refuel your body.
You might quickly discover your diet lacks protein, or carbohydrates, or healthy fats, and that allows you to tweak what you’re eating. One of the excellent features in the app is the ability to scan the barcodes on food packages so you really know what you’re putting on your plate!
School of SOS
Fitness can be rather masculine, and women’s only swimming sessions and gyms are a reflection of the level of discomfort some women unfortunately feel. ‘Seen on Screen’ was founded by former-professional dancer Bonnie Lister Parsons with a mission to empower women in all aspects of their lives.
Dance is a brilliant way to get fit, find confidence and have fun, and ‘School of SOS’ is an online, on-demand version aiming to create a generation of Queens. Bonnie has incredible enthusiasm and has previously shared her story on Tech Talks (take a listen).
In some ways GoJoe provides similar community dynamics to those found on Strava, but here you challenge groups of friends or colleagues with points awarded for walking, running, swimming and cycling. It is ideally suited to work environments with organisations setting challenges where teams compete against each other. Walking is excellent exercise; I love to run, but walking strengthens and repairs some of the muscle groups I punish on longer runs. GoJoe rewards walking just as much as running and I love that, it’s accessible and it’s not flashy.
Just to make the app that bit more glamorous, Alastair Brownlee is part of the team behind it. Receiving encouragement from an Olympian has genuine motivational powers. Definitely one to look at if you want to get your work teams together and kick-start the year with enthusiasm.
There are a few ideas that might help you carry those new year resolutions beyond January! However, if you just want to give the gym a go, do it! In my experience most people are friendly and encouraging; so ignore any self-absorbed (and probably misinformed) idiots. A couple of personal training sessions can help you build a plan and confidence, and you never know what you might discover you love.
I’m 37, and my fitness journey didn’t start until my 30s. If I hadn’t joined Fitness First looking to lose a little weight, I’d have never run up a Swiss mountain, so give it a go and good-luck!