Two years ago I was, quite frankly, knackered. I was working on the launch of Get the Gloss and commuting into London (I still do as I live in Oxfordshire) and my children were still only five and three. As I supped my third glass of wine at a dinner party I had a conversation with one of my fittest friends about exercise. She convinced me that moving my body would make me feel more alive, less exhausted, less stressed. The next day, I dragged my weary body out for a run, and literally got only half way down the lane outside our house before I had to stop, gasping for air. My throat hurt so much I told my husband I thought I had tonsillitis (looking back I think it was just a shock to my insides taking so much air in at once). I vowed to myself at that point that I would get fit. How could it not be beneficial?
This also coincided with two other things: I discovered a book called Run Fat Bitch Run by Ruth Field, which totally changed my approach to fitness. I also met Steve Mellor, a personal trainer from Freedom2Train. Steve moved into the office opposite ours and dragged me out training. He taught me for the first time in my life that fitness can be fun and that I could push myself much harder than I ever thought I could - I quickly learnt that when it hurts, it doesn't mean I have to stop. Steve has a phrase, 'Get out of your comfort zone, into the results zone,' which means that in order to get results, you need to work hard.
Now, nearly two years on I exercise three to five times a week, and it's safe to say I have the bug - this year I am hoping to do a triathlon. It's tough, sometimes gruelling, but I've discovered the harder you push yourself, the greater the high and sense of achievement afterwards. Oh, and the stomach definition post-two children is definitely worth all those body-shaking planks.
When it's raining, cold, you're tired, I know all too well how hard it is to motivate yourself. Here are the tips and tricks I've learnt along the way that I hope might help you achieve your goals too.
1. START SLOWWWWLY
That day when I first went running down the lane, I was going too fast. I stopped, in pain, thinking 'I can't do this, this is just HORRIBLE'. The one thing that the book Run Fat Bitch Run taught me was that you have to start really slowly. Ruth Field, the author, explains that if you are going running, start by walking fast and then at that moment where your walk breaks into a jog, stay at that pace. When I did this, I jogged down the lane and back again with ease. It was a revelation for me. Too many people stop because they push themselves too hard at the beginning and decide that exercise is too painful/ exhausting/ impossible.
2. EXERCISE EVEN WHEN YOU DON'T FEEL LIKE IT
There is a great phrase that says 'No one ever regretted a workout.' This is so true - no matter how much I haven't wanted to go to the gym/ exercise in the park/ out for a run, afterwards I am always on a huge high. You will never ever wish you hadn't done it so remember that when you are making excuses not to go.
3. OVERTHROW THE 'STAY HERE ON THE SOFA' GREMLIN
When it comes to exercising, the voice in your head can act like a gremlin, popping up with every excuse it possibly can to stop you going out. "It's cold", "It's starting to rain", "I haven't got time now", "It's late", "I'm tired", "I'm hungry", "It's getting dark", "I can't find my kit", "Time of the month", "I have a headache", etc. My advice, is to shut out the gremlin and GO OUT ANYWAY. Often, in the time you've wasted deliberating whether you have time to go training you could have gone and come back. As Nike says, just DO IT.
4. PUT YOUR TRAINERS ON
This was a tip I also took from Run Fat Bitch Run. Put your kit and your trainers on and walk out of the front door and close it behind you. You will then be outside and you'll feel really guilty if you then go back inside again. Also, the act of putting your kit on shuts out the gremlin in point three.
5. BUY SOME NEW TRAINING KIT
Whether it's a pair of leggings, a bright new pair of trainers, or just a vest top, I've discovered that wearing flattering, stylish training kit really inspires you to work out. It makes sense - if you associate training with ugly old grey trackie bottoms and a scruffy old t-shirt, you are never going to associate it with anything positive. However if you like your training kit as much as the rest of the clothes in your wardrobe you will want to go out and show it off. Plus when you see yourself in those gym mirrors, it's inspiring to like what you see.
My favourite brands are Sweaty Betty for run jackets (never let the rain put you off) and vest tops, Lucas Hugh for incredible leggings, Asics for the comfiest running shoes, and Nike for the most flattering, stylish running shorts and super cool trainers. Oh, and make sure you buy a proper sports bra. The best is the Shock Absorber.
6. SET A GOAL
It's an old one but one that really works. If you've signed up for a 5k run for example, then there's no turning back. You will have to train else you'll be left on the start line. Even better, sign up with some friends - not only can you all go training together, but it will be harder for you to drop out.
7. SCHEDULE FITNESS IN YOUR DIARY LIKE A MEETING
One of the biggest excuses I hear from people about fitness is that they don't have time. For me (I have two small children, a full time job, and a three hour commute daily), I have to schedule fitness into my life like a meeting. I put it in my diary weeks, sometimes months ahead, and I make a pact with myself to never ever move it. No matter how busy life gets, I still go and I schedule everything else around it. There is research that says people that take the time to go out and exercise actually get more done than those that stayed in. I totally believe this as you come back to your desk, clearer, more focused afterwards.
8. GET A GOOD PLAYLIST
Exercise is hard. It takes effort, which is why frankly lots of people don't do it. However it's pushing through the toughness that makes you stronger and fitter. Often when you are exercising you will want to stop, and a great way to take your mind off stopping is a great uplifting song. Download your favourite songs (keep the ballads at home, you need a beat for exercising), and change the playlist often. It's surprising how quickly you can tire of what you thought were your favourites. (Take a look at our personal best playlist for HIIT training here).
9. HIIT IT
If you are really limited on time as so many of us are, then try HIIT training. High Intensity Interval Training is the current buzz-phrase in exercise and it's the type of exercise that athletes have been doing forever. In brief, HIIT is short, sharp bursts of exercise with very short periods of recovery in between. I do Tabata on the exercise bike which is: 20 of flat out cycling, 10 seconds rest repeated for four minutes. I do two rounds of this within 15 minutes on the bike. It doesn't sound like much but by the end I am dripping with sweat and gasping for air. It's the quickest way to get fit and will keep your metabolism revving for days afterwards. Who can't spare four minutes a day?
10. IGNORE WHAT ANYONE ELSE SAYS
One of the greatest obstacles to starting exercise are previous experiences. Too many people are told at school that they 'aren't a runner' for example, or perhaps you were never picked for the school team and it's stuck for life. Well, I say screw that. Just go out and start - there is no trick, no magic formula. All you need is a pair of good trainers and some effort. There's no time like the present.
11. IMAGINE YOURSELF AMAZING
It's cold, dark and rainy outside and you may not feel like going outside now but just remember how much worse you will feel on that beach in July knowing you gave up. Imagine yourself sitting on that beach on your holiday looking and feeling great. It's really tough work getting fit or in shape but just remember it's the hard work that makes it great. Nothing worth fighting for is easy.
12. MAKE HEALTH AS IMPORTANT AS WORK
I made a pact with myself two years ago that I would make my health as important as my work. If you think about it, what's more important than your health? Without health you have nothing and you may not be able to work. So, don't therefore put off exercise because you are working late - maybe you should be going to the gym instead. Research shows that people who exercised were far more productive at work afterwards than the ones that didn't.