I’m back from my Christmas holiday break. Christmas was lovely, and, like usual, a very quiet affair in my household. But, like I’m sure most people did, I totally over indulged. Christmas is just too tempting. There’s food everywhere and very little of it is low in fat! Despite this, I’m not annoyed with myself because I know I enjoyed my festive season and that’s all that counts. But, I am feeling a tad sluggish and in need of an energy boost!
Today it was announced that actress Gwyneth Paltrow is about to start a 21-day cleansing programme (at a cost of £274) which is reinvigorate her and kickstart a healthy 2012. Obviously, we don’t all have that kind of money to blow on a regime of protein shakes and supplement. I believe we don’t all need a programme that strict or extreme either. I don’t make new years resolutions, but I do make an ‘I will’ list for the coming year. One of the things on my list is to make sure I eat well/healthily. A big tip I want to share that keeps me on track with my eating is to make a weekly ‘menu’. Just spend 10minutes once a week writing down what you intend to cook for your main meals. By spending a couple of minutes planning your meals, you’re less likely to skip a meal, or just dive in the freezer and cook those leftover battered chicken pieces that are hidden in there. I find that making a menu also helps me feel organised and in control. I am intending to beef up my meals with some more veggies in 2012. I’m trying to drink more water too.
I knew at the end of 2011 that I wanted to increase my fitness levels in 2012, culminating in running Race of Life in aid of breast cancer this coming June. Since my weight gain, I’ve been incredibly inactive. I joined the gym for a while but didn’t keep it up. Because of this, the prospect of exercising is certainly a daunting one. The idea of exercising in winter is even worse! When it’s cold outside and you’re nice and warm on the sofa… who wants to put on their running shoes?! I heard through the grapevine that the NHS had put together a ‘couch to 5km’ programme and decided to investigate. There are a fair few of these training programmes available online, but the NHS one has been tailor-made by fitness experts, and it’s absolutely free.
The first thing I noticed about the website was (apart from how easy it is to use!) that it is absolutely crammed full of tips and advice for everyone, from seasoned runners to absolute beginners. I made sure I read through their tips for running in the winter, because I was worried about exercising in the cold and struggling with it. Their plan aims to get you off the couch and able to run 5km (or running for 30minutes) in just 9 weeks. The idea is that you run three times a week, with a rest day in between. The programme comes in a series of podcasts which are free to download and can be downloaded from the site or from iTunes. I was pretty sceptical about what the podcasts would be like, but they are actually fantastic.
Today I tried podcast 1 for the first time. It started off with a five minute brisk walk, and then alternating 60seconds of running with 90seconds of walking. The ‘personal trainer’ in your ear tells you when you run and when to walk. She also gives you motivating encouragement and the music that is in the background is pretty good – it’s unobtrusive and not at all like the dodgy electronic stuff you get played down the phoneline to you when you’re on hold. I set off doing the brisk walk, and found it quite alright. Then it came to the first 60seconds of running. I did a very light jog but felt like I was about to implode when I finished. I was totally disheartened and thought there was no way I’d manage the programme in 9 weeks, maybe more like 90 weeks!
Needless to say, I carried on with the podcast. I had my 90seconds of walking and then it was time to run again, but this time it was (quite amazingly) a lot easier. I found the 90seconds of walking was the perfect amount of time to recover and prepare for the next run. I only completed 2km today, but as it was my first go, I didn’t want to over-do it. I haven’t exercised properly for years, so I didn’t want to shock my system too much. Tomorrow I’ll have a rest day, and then after that it’ll be another 2km for me.
Best of all, I really enjoyed myself. I felt energised and refreshed. I also felt really positive about starting my exercise regime. It was a really great experience.
I can’t wait to give it another go, and to progress through the programme. I’ve also signed up to ‘Map My Run‘, which is a great site for runners. You can use Googlemaps to create running routes. This is especially helpful as it tells you how long the run you’ve made is. It’s also free to use. You can enter in information that will calculate your daily calorie allowance, and you can record any exercise you do. The site has community pages and you can view routes created by other users. There are a bunch of similar sites out there, but this is the one I use. I also like HeiaHeia.com, which is like a GetGlue or Foursquare site, but you log in any exercise you do. It’s nice to keep a log of the exercise you’re doing so that you can look back at your achievements. Celebrating the exercise you have done will keep you motivated and enthusiastic about working out. I always want to shout it from the rooftops when I’ve done some exercise, because it can be so hard to keep motivated and fit it into your busy daily life.
So there you have it! As tempting as the couch might be (especially in winter), it is possible to get yourself off it and get fit. The NHS’ ‘Couch to 5km’ programme really seems to be a great option; you do it in your own time and you have the option to pause whenever you want. I found the first podcast to be motivating and encouraging. I will definitely keep going through the programme until I’ve completed it, but I won’t be annoyed if it takes me over 9 weeks, as I’m very much out of shape at the moment.
I’ll keep you informed on how it goes! But I really recommend taking a look at the website (here) and considering giving it a go for yourself!