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Facing the Facts of Fitness: Why You're Getting it WRONG

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With all the best intentions in the world you sit down on 1 January, pull out your copy of Paul McKenna's "Guide to Goal Setting" and lay down your plan to make this year the year that defies all others.

You tell yourself that this year will be the one when you get the supermodel body you've always craved or a 10k time fast enough to challenge Mo Farah for his place in the Olympic team. So, you join the gym down the road; you buy your slimmer's shakes; you purchase the latest heart rate monitor and any other fitness paraphernalia that your favorite celeb has recommended. You do all this knowing that for the past ten years you have done the same each January. Sadly, the only thing that changes is the name of the supermodel's body that you crave as your original target has now been put out to pasture.

If I've just described your New Year ritual it's time you faced facts - you are just not an exerciser. Just like some people are not artistic or not musical. The issue here is that while you can still get payback from art and music on a passive level, you cannot (however much we would like it to be true) get fitter by watching someone else exercise.

The good news is there is a multi-billion pound fitness industry here to help you. However as a buyer to get real value from it you must first understand more about the bewildering array of services on offer and most importantly the significant difference between fitness facilities and fitness provision.

Let me help you with an analogy. You're a terrible cook and despite all your best efforts you're still unable to master grilled cheese on toast. You decide you need some help to learn how to cook. Where would you start? At the supermarket of course. Why? It stocks all the same ingredients that a great chef would use. If you spend enough time there, surely you'll eventually be able to cook like Gordon or Jamie?

Obviously this does not make any logical sense.

Why then, when people know they're not great at exercise, do they continue to go to a fitness facility that gives them access to rows and rows of shiny equipment and still fail to realise that access to the tools is not quite enough? Now if you are a motivated exerciser this is absolutely the place to be. Even better, increasing competition is driving prices down to less than £10 a month in some areas of the UK. However there are still many people who have spent time at these facilities but have yet to become an exerciser in any way shape or form. Fitness provision is what's really needed to get them there.

It is at this point, for the sake of honesty, I must declare an interest in shaping your thinking in this way. I work for one of the largest fitness providers in the UK, British Military Fitness. We offer over 400 outdoor group fitness classes to some 20,000 people a week in more than 100 venues across the country. Far from making me biased, I believe this has given me some interesting insight.

When it comes to achieving fitness goals, making the right purchasing decision is vitally important.

As the majority of British Military Fitness participants have been a member of a gym in the past, I have seen and heard first hand the difference that turning up to a class led by a skilled instructor and surrounded by an enthusiastic bunch of like-minded people can lead to long-term success. I have also lost count of the times that participants have told me that British Military Fitness is the first fitness routine they have stuck with for more than a month. For the first time in their lives they are now seeing results and thinking of themselves as exercisers rather than just paying for a place to work out, they have bought into an exercise programme delivered by professionals for whom this is a passion.

Research from British Military Fitness has shown that many of us fall at the first hurdle when it comes to exercise. An astounding three quarters of us feel we need motivating in order to exercise and that we don't have enough 'get up and go' on our own. Shockingly a massive four in five of Brits who do make it as far as the treadmill will first consider giving up after a measly 20 minutes of exercise.

Fitness facilities require you to have two significant moments of self motivation, one to get you to their door and another to actually make you exercise when you get there. It is completely up to you whether or not you workout effectively and the only one you are fooling if you don't is yourself.

A fitness provider on the other hand, doesn't require a double dip into those scarce motivational reserves. Once you arrive you place yourself completely in the hands of the instructor/coach who will deliver you back at the end of a class sufficiently exercised and free to carry on guilt-free for the next day or two. Not only that, it's much easier to turn up knowing that you'll be in the company of friends rather than having a weekly date with the treadmill.

British Military Fitness is by no means the only option; personal trainers are the pinnacle of fitness provision. Unless your budget allows you this luxury, all would-be exercisers looking for success this time round should consider three things:

1. Look for a company that offers purely instructor-led sessions. Remember that you need motivation much more than you need a facility to achieve your fitness goals.
2. If possible, look for a provider that trains in groups and can provide a sense of community; it's always harder to leave friends than it is to leave a facility.
3. Make sure that they offer a varied programme as this will help to alleviate boredom and keep your body guessing.

So, when weighing up your fitness options this year, ask yourself whether that £9.99 gym is going to offer what you really need to master - the art of exercising. Or will it just become another place to have a shower?

For more information on British Military Fitness visit www.britishmilitaryfitness.com

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