Friday 6 December 2019

Siobhan Byrne: Take the first steps to a leaner, fitter, stronger you

Setting realistic goals and making small changes will lead to success, says our fitness expert

Siobhan Byrne. Photo: Marc O'Sullivan
Siobhan Byrne. Photo: Marc O'Sullivan
Don't hop on the scales every day
Before you begin, take measurements
Floor dips 1
Floor dips 2
Hip raise 1
Hip raise 2
Plank jacks 1
Plank jacks 2
Lying superman 1
Lying superman 2
Press up 1
Press up 2
Prisoner squats
Prisoner squats

Siobhan Byrne

Welcome to week one of our eight-week fitness challenge. For the next eight weeks we are going to be looking at how to create a sustainable fitness routine that you can adapt to your lifestyle to help get you fitter and leaner but, most importantly, to give you focus to challenge yourself and to see real long-term changes to your shape and fitness levels.

If you have overindulged over the Christmas period and are determined to get back in shape, then this will be the plan for you.

Like with any plan, your success will be achieved by making small changes, building on them gradually and sticking to them long-term. Remember that body fat doesn't go on overnight, so there is no diet or training programme that is going to take body fat off overnight.

Let's start with setting realistic goals.

It's important to set out achievable goals and the best way to do this is with the help of a diary. Pencil in your times and days to train, and, if possible, ask friends and family members to join in to help support you. Don't miss your training and attend your sessions just like you would any other appointment. It's easy to procrastinate doing those last chores but keep in mind that you will be more energised after training, so don't put it on the long finger.

Look at what you want to achieve. If it's weight loss, then with a controlled diet you should aim to loose no more than 2lbs of body fat per week. You may notice more weight loss if your diet and exercise plan has dramatically changed from a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy eating. This will be down to water loss which can be normal in the first week or two, but will settle as your new eating habits and exercise plan become more consistent.

If you are someone who hops on the scales every day, then now is the time to stop this bad habit.

Before you begin the fitness challenge weight yourself and take measurements at the chest, waist (across the navel), hips at the widest part of the body and the inner thigh, again at the widest part. Look to retake measurements every two to three weeks and weigh in no more than once a week if you must.

I often confiscate scales from clients who mindlessly jump on them daily, as this can show fluctuations in either direction that can cause them to lose motivation.

Week 1 of your workout plan

Let's get started with the first week's exercises. Each week we are going to look at six exercises.

For week one I have chosen plank jacks, prisoner squats, hip raises, press-ups, lying superman and floor dips.

You will need to complete each exercise for 20 seconds before moving on to the next exercise and completing all six exercises in the same format.

Afterwards, pick one of the following cardio workouts, depending on your ability and fitness level, and complete this for two minutes.

Complete three more circuits of the exercises breaking each circuit with the same cardio workout.

Choose your cardio workout from:

* Two minutes of stair climbs or two minutes of step-ups;

or choose

* Two minutes of jumping jacks;

or choose

* Two minutes of skipping with/without skipping rope.

8-week fitness challenge

Plank jacks

1/ Start on your toes and hands, with your arms straight, back flat and your feet together.

2/ Jump your feet out to the sides without moving hand position. Immediately jump back to the middle and repeat. Keep your back flat throughout.

Prisoner squats

1/ Start by standing with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with your hands at the side of your head.

2/ Bend at the hips and knees to lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Then push back up to the starting position and repeat.

Press ups

1/ Start on your knees or toes, with hands under the chest and back flat in a plank position.

2/ Lower yourself to the ground and then back to start position. Keep the back flat throughout.

Hip raises

Hip raises are brilliant for engaging the glutes. So often women find it difficult to really engage the glutes on even deep squats, so this is a very effective exercise.

1/ Start by lying on the floor with your knees bent, feet placed flat on the floor and your arms by your side.

2/ Bridge your hips up to create a straight line, then come back down towards the ground and repeat.

Lying superman

1/ Lie face down on the floor with your legs straight and your arms stretched out overhead.

2/ Raise the upper body and legs together, about 15 inches off the floor, hold briefly and then return to the start position by lowering yourself back to the floor.

Floor dips

1/ Start by sitting on the floor with your hands behind you, fingers pointing towards your feet and feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips off the ground so your weight is on your hands and on your feet.

2/ Dip down towards the ground bending at the elbows and return to start straight arm position. Your glutes should not touch the ground throughout this exercise.

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