Dr Nicky Lewis explains how to stick to an exercise routine.
WITH the New Year approaching and the excess of Christmas sitting heavy, thoughts of many will probably turn to ways of shedding excess pounds or improving fitness levels.
Dr Nicky Lewis, who is an expert in sport and exercise psychology here at the University of South Wales, has worked with sportspeople at all levels, and is on the board of Welsh Athletics, gives her top tips to those who may feel that a little extra exercise could be just what they need in 2018.
Top tip #1: A friend in need…
If you are thinking of taking up an exercise programme, get a willing buddy involved.
“Having the social support that a friend offers can make all the difference when you start something new,” Dr Lewis explains.
“By doing this, you are making a commitment to someone else as well as to yourself, and you are less likely to let someone else down. You are establishing an informal contract with another person, so if you try and miss a workout or run, you have someone else to hold you to account.”
But do beware of modern technology, Dr Lewis added.
“Mobile phones give you an easy ‘out’, you can just send a message if you decide to stay on the couch rather than getting out there. So be wary of just ‘texting or whatsapping it away’, take responsibility for yourself, and keep your friend on side at the same time,” she said.
Top tip #2: Are you made of the write stuff?
When you first start with your new exercise regime, make a note of what you’re doing, and make a note of how you’re doing.
“I would always base any exercise routine on SMART objectives - specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound - which many people use in both sport and business,” Nicky said.
“But I then add an E – enjoyable – and an R – recorded.
“It’s obvious that if something isn’t enjoyable, you aren’t going to carry on doing it. And if it’s written down, it is there in real-life, not just in your imagination, so you have something to refer to that can show how you are doing, and how much closer you’re getting to your goals.”
Top tip #3: Hit the control button…
It’s your body, and your programme, so you have to be in charge of it.
“It’s really important that you are in total control, and know that there is nothing to be afraid of,” Dr Lewis added.
“And confidence is also a key driver. Remember that what you’re doing is the same thing as thousands of other people.
“They’ll have the same worries as you, the same questions will be going through their heads, they’ll all have similar issues. But when you start, the issues will begin to melt away as you allow yourself to enjoy what you’re doing, and you begin to experience the benefits of what you’re undertaking.
“So don’t overthink it, just get on with your programme before you talk yourself out of it.”
Top top #4: Be prepared…
There’s nothing worse than getting up in the morning and having to scramble around in the dark to find your kit, your bag, your keys and so on.
So get it ready the night before.
“If you’re ready to go, before you’ve even realised you are awake and out of bed, then that’s one less thing that can stop you achieving, and you are less likely to crawl back under the duvet,” Nicky said.
Top tip #5: Fit it in with your life...
It’s not about suddenly becoming the next Sir Mo Farah, Adam Peaty or Dame Jessica-Ennis Hill, you can fit all this in around your life.
“It’s unlikely we will all have time to go to the gym, or swimming, or Zumba, every day, “ Nicky said. “So it’s about doing what we can and fitting it in with our everyday lives.
“So, instead of driving the kids to school, take a walk. Use the stairs instead of the escalator, get off the bus a stop or two earlier. Instead of seeing walking the dog or digging the garden as a chore, see it as a way to stay as physically active as possible.
“Interpret what you are doing as exercise, and then you’re one step closer to getting and staying more active.”
What will all this do?
If you want to improve your wellbeing, it’s all about putting yourself at the helm.
“You have control of your own body, and by putting your mind in the right place you are enabling yourself to take responsibility for it, and to be accountable to it,” Dr Lewis said.
“It can be simple to take better care of yourself if you build small actions into your daily life, and ensure that you are monitoring what you do, so you can see for yourself what you have achieved.”