1. Focus on quality, not quantity.
A lot of people think that if you exercise more, you’ll get fitter, faster.
But this isn’t true.
If you exercise too much, you risk overworking your body.
Your body needs a rest sometimes. Resting allows you muscles a chance to recover, rebuild and grow stronger. Rest also means that next time you hit the gym you’ll be able to make your workouts count.
Exercise also releases cortisol, the stress hormone1. This helps you push harder in your workouts, but over-exercise keeps your body flooded with cortisol, which can cause problems for regulating insulin and encourages fat storage.
Like so many things in life, you’ll get the most benefit from your training by working on the quality of your workouts, rather than the quantity.
2. Balance your calorie intake to your goals.
What you eat, and how much you eat, should be determined by your health and fitness goals.
If you’re looking to lose body fat, you need to be on a calorie deficit. To achieve this, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn off through activity, it’s that simple.
However, being on a calorie deficit suppresses muscle building processes. Therefore, if you want to gain muscle, it’s much easier if you’re on a slight calorie surplus, eating more calories than you burn off during the day.
If you don’t tailor your food to your goals, it will be much harder to reach them.
3. Do what you enjoy doing.
If your training programme is something you enjoy, you’re much more likely to stick to it.
Some types of exercise are better than others for achieving certain health and fitness goals.
But keeping fit and healthy should be fun, not a chore you have to endure.
If you hate intervals, don’t do them. If you don’t like running, don’t run.
If you stick to a workout programme, any programme, it will almost always be better than doing nothing.
So, find something you like doing, and do it.
4. Think consistency.
Many people seem to spend half the year dieting, and half the year putting the weight they lost back on. Or spend 3 months getting in shape, then let themselves go over Christmas.
This approach to health and fitness is unhealthy and unproductive.
For every 5 people who successfully lose more than 10% of their body weight in a diet, 4 will put that weight back on again in the following year2. This is known as weight cycling, and some studies have suggested that this can cause serious problems for your health3,4.
I also do not recommend crash dieting. Crash diets are unsustainable, make life less enjoyable and can be hazardous to your health.
Instead, aim for slow and steady progress. Find a programme you enjoy that isn’t too extreme, and it’ll be easier to stick to all year round.
5. Don’t go it alone.
Find someone with similar health and fitness goals and smash them together.
Support from family and friends has been shown to make it much more likely you’ll stick to a fitness regime and so reach your goals5. And hopefully you’ll have more fun in the process.
Alternatively, hire a coach. The guidance provided by a coach will ensure that what you’re doing is right, and the motivation you get from them will make it easier for you to stick to your programme.