Short bursts of exercise can be very effective in boosting fitness. Mindset coach Anna Geary builds on last week’s workout with part two of your four-week plan
We often jump into January with huge expectations about what we have to accomplish for the year ahead. We say things like, ‘This year, I have to lose weight, take up running, get stronger etc’.
Goal-setting is common at the start of the year. A goal is an idea for a desired future result that a person plans for and commits to achieve.
However, we tend to make big sweeping statements when it comes to health and fitness goals, often with no plan attached. Creating ‘SMART’ goals is a proactive way to maximise the possibility of reaching your targets. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. In order to know we are on the right track, we need to drill down into the details. We need to get specific.
For example, if you set yourself a goal to build a house, it’s not enough to say, ‘I want to build a house’. You would need to create a blueprint containing all the necessary details, such as the style of house, square footage, how many rooms and measurements. It’s the same when it comes to our fitness goals.
We all need to evaluate our goals regularly, otherwise we can drift along and not make progress. Ask yourself what’s working and, equally, what’s not working. When something isn’t working, we tend to give up. But remember, if the plan isn’t working, alter the plan, not the goal.
Set a goal that is challenging, but still manageable. You want to give yourself every opportunity to succeed, rather than setting yourself up for potential failure. Working towards something that is achievable will boost your confidence and motivation as you will see progress. Progress is the antidote to feeling demotivated.
Science tells us that progress pleases the brain, so you can expect a dopamine release when you hit your goal milestones. Dopamine is often called the ‘happy hormone’. The flip side is if your goals are unrealistic, it can cause you to procrastinate and feel overwhelmed.
Make sure your goal is realistic for you. It’s not about comparing yourself to anyone else — focus on yourself. We often think about the end goal, but we need to be aware of where we are coming from too. Think about Google Maps. It’s not enough to have an end destination — you also need to know your starting point. Be honest with yourself, it will help to create a realistic goal.
Your goal needs to have a timeline — when are you planning to achieve your goal? Set yourself deadlines to keep yourself on track. The best way to stick to a timeline is to build in some accountability. Studies show we are far more likely to follow through on something if we tell a friend.
So get yourself an ‘accountability buddy’ — someone that will check in with you regularly, and maybe even train with you as well.
Always check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise programme
For your warm-up to heat up your body and to get your muscles moving, maybe take a few minutes to go for a brisk walk. When it comes to exercise, the FITT principles can be useful. FITT stands for frequency, intensity, time, and type. We’ll get into these again but these principles allow you to have control. You can dictate the intensity (how hard you work) of the movement and its duration for example. So you don’t need to be out of breath. It doesn’t need to be a sweaty workout. Perhaps you can do this workout a few times throughout the day.
⬤ For the workout
Five minutes, five exercises.
Beginner: 30 seconds work, 30 seconds rest.
Intermediate: 40 seconds work, 20 seconds rest.
Advanced: 50 seconds work, 10 seconds rest.
One minute per exercise, that’s five exercises in five minutes. Do as many reps as you can in the ‘working time’, then rest.
Make sure to control your breathing during your rest period. Deep inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. It will help to slow down your heart rate. If you want to build this into a bigger workout, do 3-4 sets with a 2-3 minute break in between each set.
Following on from last week’s squats, now let’s add in a jump to the squat movement.
An important thing to be aware of is your landing. It needs to be controlled; you want to land softly and balanced, otherwise you run the risk of putting too much impact on your joints, which can lead to injury. The jump doesn’t have to be high, just focus on it being a continuous fluid movement. Don’t allow your knees to fall inwards.
Squat down, drive up and jump. Initiate the movement from your glutes (i.e squeeze your bum before you drive up). Imagine you are a coiled spring. This is also a good form of cardio. You will notice your heart rate increasing. Work at your own pace.
This exercise works your shoulders, arms and back. Strengthening the muscles in these areas will be helpful when doing other movements like the press-ups from last week. Using dumbbells (or household items like bags of sugar/drums of milk), hold the dumbbells by your shoulders with your palms facing forwards and your elbows bent and out to the sides.
Without over-arching your back, extend through your elbows to press the weights above your head (visual cue, think ‘biceps to ears’). Then slowly return to the starting position. Maintain soft knees throughout and ensure no jerking motion occurs.
This ab exercise is a follow-on from last week’s crunches. It’s like a crunch, with a rotation.
For beginners, with knees bent, press your feet into the floor. For a more advanced abdominal workout, lift your feet off the floor but still keep your knees bent. Exhale with each twist and inhale to return to the centre.
When twisting your torso from side to side, try to limit the movement of your legs. Lean back slightly, engaging your core but keep your spine straight. Squeeze your abs and avoid slouching/rounding your spine.
Taking the movement pattern that you tried out for last week’s hip thrusters, apply it to doing this hip hinge exercise. Standing with your back to the wall, take a step out from the wall. With your feet hip distance apart (and soft knees), place your hands on your hips and without bending your knees, push your bum backwards towards to wall. The aim is to reach backwards and touch the wall with your bum.
Keep your back flat and to return to the starting position by pushing your hips forward. Your toes and heels should remain in contact with the floor at all times. The key thing to remember here is that the movement is driven by the hips (i.e. you bend at the hips,not at the knees). This movement can be advanced by taking a larger step out from the wall and incorporating dumbbells, if desired.
This is a great cardiovascular exercise that you can do inside and with limited space.
For beginners, you can march on the spot and then progress to running on the spot down the line. Same rules below apply to marching. Keep yourself upright and your shoulders back. Engage your core.
Keep your hands relaxed (don’t squeeze your fists tightly closed, as it creates tension).
Pump your arms so your hands travel from “hip to lip”, and keep your arms in close to your sides. With each stride, lift your front knee high (“knee drive”) depending on your range of motion.
Invest in a few pieces of workout gear this year. If you think about ‘cost per wear’, it is worth spending a little on your gear. My recommendations would be:
a comfortable pair of shoes; a supportive sports bra; leggings with a high waist band (so you don’t have to keep pulling them up); a light rain jacket (for the lovely Irish weather).
It’s far easier to tackle the challenge of moving your body if your workout clothing fits well and makes you feel good. Go for brighter colours to entice you to put them on. Some of my ‘go to’ brands are Brooks (trainers), Under Armour, Queen B Athletics and Eagan Active (both Irish companies).