*Adds to bookmarks*
When you Google "fitness tips", there are 2,730,000,000 results. Just let that sink in for a second - that's over two billion.
No wonder, then, that getting in shape as a beginner or adopting a new workout routine - like weight training for women, yoga, or running, is sometimes seen as an overly daunting task. Where do you possibly start, if you're not clued up on the different gym classes, what constitutes healthy nutrition, or how best to look after your body? How do you know what will work for you, and which experts to listen to (hint: not the unqualified ones you follow on social media).
Lucky for you, to mark our month of content dedicated to helping you Start The Year Strong, I've decided to share the fitness tips I've learned over the years that I don't think get enough airtime. As a health editor who's worked in the industry for over six years, I've seen (and likely tried) a lot, and know what's worth your time and really isn't.
Keep scrolling for a round-up of the fitness tips that have genuinely changed my life - and don't miss our guides to breathwork training, cold water therapy, and the many meditation benefits, while you're here.
Fitness tips: 10 game-changing health hacks
1. It's not all or nothing
How many times have you started a new year with 101 goals, determined to get up at 6am and workout for an hour - only to succumb to the cosy warmth of your bed (who wouldn't, it's baltic outside)?
What about the knock-on effect that has on your day - do you then give up any intention of being healthy as you feel you've fallen at the first hurdle? That's how I used to feel - if I skipped my workout, I'd see the day as a write-off, skipping any and all healthy habits as I saw that day as being "ruined".
One of my go-to psychologists, doctor Julie Smith, talks about it and explains it as "all or nothing" thought bias, or black and white thinking. We do it more when we are stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed and can deal with it by calling it out and instead, focusing on working out why you feel that way.
If you stayed in bed over working out, your body likely needed the rest and would benefit from self-love in the form of healthy meals and curbing negative-self talk.
2. Try the Pomodoro Technique for motivation
Really CBA to workout, spend that time reading, or cook a healthy meal from scratch? Some healthy habits take more willpower to make stick than others and, spoiler alert: nobody just has exercise motivation on tap.
One of the best techniques for pepping yourself up when you really don't want to do something is to tell yourself you'll only do ten minutes and, if you're still not enjoying it, stop there. It's called the "Pomodoro Technique" and was invented in the '80s by a student, Francesco Cirillo, who was trying to boost study focus.
It works particularly well for workouts as you'll often find that leaving the house is the hardest part and that, once you're actually working out, you'll breeze past the ten-minute mark without giving it much thought. If you're still not feeling it, at least you tried. Give it a go - fitness tips don't need to be complicated.
3. Schedule in your workouts - it'll make you more likely to get them done
Renowned personal trainer Kayla Itsines recommended this fitness tip when I interviewed her way back in 2017 and I can honestly say it's changed how I workout.
If you're struggling to fit your workouts in or constantly remembering you have a work dinner / client call / [insert reason, here] when you're meant to be at the gym, take some time at the beginning of each week to sit and put your workouts into your calendar.
That way, you'll get visual prompts when it's sweat time and, further, be able to assess realistically how many sessions you can fit in that week. Prompts as to why you move on the calendar reminder - aka, to feel good or boost endorphins - will motivate you to get that session done, too.
4. Setting goals is key to success
Or as psychotherapist Sara Kuburic calls them, "intentions". For me, booking a race is a sure-fire way to keep me on track. If I've got an event looming, I'll follow a training plan and get my weekly miles in, largely for fear of turning up on race day and not being able to take part.
Studies on goal setting have shown time and time again that, if done correctly - that is, not trying to change too much at once and making sure your aims are realistic, too - it can be the perfect motivator, especially when it comes to hitting fitness goals. These can be linear, like beating an existing time, or more emotionally-focused challenges, such as going to a run club where you don't know anyone for the first time.
Some fitness goals to try:
- Run your first 5km
- Complete your first running race
- Beat your running personal best
- Lift your heaviest weight
- Complete your first pull up
- Go to a new fitness class that scares you
- Attend a run club where you don't know anyone
- Identify inner negative self talk and distance yourself from it.
For first-person reviews, check out our Tried & Tested franchise, where I try the latest health or wellness trend and give my verdict.
5. Work out what works for you
Healthy looks different on everyone and every body, and one of my key learnings from my six years as a health journalist is that the best way to truly "be healthy" is to spend the time working out what works for you.
There are so many sides to health, fitness, and wellness and quite a lot of it actually contradicts itself. You've got the Deliciously Ella's, who eat plant-based, refined sugar-free, home-cooked meals. Then you've got those who count macros, who'll likely weight train, focus on macronutrients (that's the carb, protein, and fat split in their diet), and hitting their daily protein target. Not forgetting the seasonal eaters, who push eating veggies that are in season, free range meat from their local farm and organic everything.
Similarly, when it comes to fitness, there is absolutely no point in heading to Crossfit just because you think it'll give you a six-pack - ultimately, if you don't enjoy your workout routine, you won't stick to it, and the same goes for nutrition.
Moral of the story: work out what truly works for you and your body. Mine loves protein-rich meals, home-cooking, running and lifting weights, and at least a glass of red wine a week. Each to their own.
6. Electrolytes help a hangover
You heard it here first - and yes, the Kardashians use this trick too. Electrolytes are responsible for replenishing lost fluids, minerals, and salts in your body which, naturally, you'll be low on after a night of heavy drinking.
I heard this from a neuroscientist friend and, while more scientific research does need to be done on this one to conclusively prove the link, we do know that your body faces an electrolyte imbalance when hungover.
7. Being flexible is key to sticking to any workout plan
Linking in to point one nicely, it's absolutely vital to practice self-compassion when it comes to your workout schedule. Skip a morning workout? Don't beat yourself up - lace-up at lunch, instead. Have a not-so-healthy supper? Enjoy every mouthful and opt for a fruit or veg-rich breakfast the next day.
I spoke with personal trainer Luke Worthington about this last year when training with him for a feature, and we both agreed that life is all about building a healthy lifestyle that actually works for you. Being flexible and slotting movement in when you can is key to maintaining both your physical and mental health and avoiding any guilt for not getting sessions done.
Sometimes, a good sweat session is exactly what you need to boost your mental health and mood; other times, it's better to listen to your body and fit it in later in the week, instead. Fitness tips never looked so simple.
8. Protein keeps you full and carbs boost your energy
I learn this from sports nutritionist Renee McGregor while training for an ultra marathon last year.
Carbs are so demonised but really, they're just your body's energy source. If you're running long distance, you will need carbs as your body will tap into the glycogen stored from them when running low on fuel. Similarly, if you've never paid much attention into your protein intake, I'd recommend making it a priority at each meal (and that doesn't have to just mean meat).
9. No supplement can replace drinking lots of water and getting eight hours sleep
Nail the foundations and the rest will follow - there's a reason nutritionists and dieticians alike rave on about water consumption and getting at least eight hours of shut-eye a night as their top two fitness tips.
When I got my first journalism job - junior writer at Women's Health magazine - I ran on six hours sleep most nights. Watching my favourite Netflix show until 11.30pm and then getting up at 6am for a HIIT training class took priority over sleep and only when I started feeling burnt out did I realise I was probably doing my body more harm than good.
Since then, I've religiously slept for eight to nine hours most nights and am consistently amazed with the difference in my energy levels, focus and concentration - not to mention hunger cravings, too - when I've had enough shut-eye vs when I haven't.
I make my room a real sleep haven - I love my silk pillowcase (I used to suffer from acne, and it helps with both skin and split ends), and swear by my sunrise alarm clock, too. I'm also hot on drinking at least three large glasses of water each day, and, at the advice of nutritionist Jenna Hope, do first thing when I wake up, too.
10. Nothing is more important than your mental health
Ultimately, we get one life, and making sure you're doing whatever you can to maintain your mental health comes above everything else. If you are suffering, know that reaching out and asking for mental health help is totally normal and will likely help more than you can imagine.
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Ally Head is Marie Claire UK's Senior Health, Sustainability, and Relationships Editor, nine-time marathoner, and Boston Qualifying runner. Day-to-day, she works across site strategy, features, and e-commerce, reporting on the latest health updates, writing the must-read health and wellness content, and rounding up the genuinely sustainable and squat-proof gym leggings worth *adding to basket*. She's won a BSME for her sustainability work, regularly hosts panels and presents for events like the Sustainability Awards, and saw nine million total impressions on the January 2023 Wellness Issue she oversaw. Follow Ally on Instagram for more or get in touch.
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