Back To School - Get fit time for Mums in Alderley Edge

By Robert Brennan

Fitness Expert on helping Mums get fit again after the chaos of school holidays

September 10, 2012

Oh yes, it's that time again! Your routine has been well and truly turned on its head for the last 6 weeks; you've been to tennis school, swimming lessons, the cinema, golf, had childcare or even trusted them on their own for the first time. You've had the holiday you really didn't have time for and spent too much on, you've just splashed out on a pair of the most expensive shoes that “everyone is going to have”, not to mention the latest bag, pencil case and accessories. And all this is before you’ve even thought about a new uniform and sports kit; both absolute necessities because they just never stop growing....

But guess what, it’s over! And the focus can now slowly revert back to you and taking care of yourself. Forget it being back to school for them, it's back to school for you too if you want to hit your fitness goals this coming autumn, and I'm here to help.

Fitness often works in cycles, in some ways like the stock market. You invest in it and it rises slowly and steadily, sometimes it plateaus and you lose heart and sell up, missing out on any future gains. Sometimes it dips, but the strong willed will not sell at the bottom, they will hold on and be patient, invariably seeing long-term benefits. Your health is a long-term investment and you must view it like that. If you are impatient and overly demanding of immediate results, you will falter and fail time and time again.

Living longer, having more energy and a higher quality of life until the day you leave this earth are all achieved through forming good habits; regular little solo tasks which contribute to the overall ensemble of your health.

Having a 'back to school' health and fitness push may seem contradictory to the message these long-term patterns of health behaviour promote. But it's not, it’s just another stage in the forming of lifelong habits. We all wish we had constantly good health behaviours, but it's so hard to avoid lapses! But it’s okay, its natural! Summer is always hectic and you just have to get by each day as best as you can. The secret is to, every now and then, put in a special effort to refocus on you and form new habits which will, over the years, become part of your daily routine. And guess what? That time is NOW. If we can root a habit deeply enough, it will be there permanently, whatever else is going on.

Many people come to me in January looking to shift the ‘Christmas Gut’ as soon as possible. It's hard to do in the timescales demanded, and what I say each year is “don't start in January start in September and, by Christmas, even if you put on a few pounds, you're in a better place than you were last January. Plus you won’t feel as guilty eating the Christmas Dinner!” I don’t know why, but from experience, clients who start in September seem to find it a lot easier to maintain this behaviour and keep on improving until it’s not a matter of a fitness push once or twice a year, it's a constant part of their routine. It is just a great time to get fit!

So let's ship the kids off to school and focus on forming some new habits to improve your health this term!

Habit 1

Move more. Sounds simple doesn't it? And it is. In our ancestral past, it is believed we spent 12-14 hours per day performing hard physical tasks; hunting, home building, rearing children, climbing, scouting. Yet we now consider 2 or 3 gym sessions a week 'being active'! It's not about the gym sessions; don’t get me wrong they're great, but it's more important to just move more every single day. Take the stairs not lifts or escalators, walk every day with friends or alone for an hour; use the time to reflect, think and relax. Do 20 minutes light exercise every day; stretching, Yoga, Pilates or if you need a short routine Email Me. Cycle where you can, go to a couple of fitness classes at the local gym and make exercise part of your life. You'll meet people and have fun whilst getting fit. Physical activity has been linked to massive mood enhancing benefits, plus the obvious cardiovascular and musculoskeletal benefits too. You need to get active, you owe it to the rest of your life.

Habit 2

Diet. Okay, the kids are not in the house everyday scavenging for food, so stop buying the rubbish under the guise of “it's for the kids”; just get rid. Have a clear out right now and start to ensure that everything you eat has a useful purpose for your body. No empty calories. Food is defined as "any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth." Think about this. Does the Mars bar or bag of quavers in your hand fit this definition? No. There is no nutrition in either. Calories? Yes. Energy? Yes. But really it falls down on the nutrition point. It's just calories; yes we need them to exist, but not in this format. If it’s not food, don't eat it. A good test is the processed food test. If whatever you're considering eating went through significant processing and refining before reaching your plate, then the chances are it’s not food. Therefore your body will not benefit from its consumption. So remember, stop just eating for the sake of it. Eat nothing processed and consume no empty calories. If it’s not food, don't eat it!

Habit 3

Hydration. A dip of just 2% of our body's optimal hydration level causes a decrease in brain function and memory. A dehydrated mind is cloudy and makes mistakes. Your body aches when you are dehydrated and it feels like fatigue, but it's not. You just need more water in order to carry out the chemical reactions inside your body effectively. Hunger is often confused with dehydration by the body, so being properly hydrated really can reduce your food intake by decreasing your appetite. Tips: Drink a large glass of water daily on rising before anything else. I know this sounds horrible, but it is the easiest way to replace the water lost in sleep and sets you up for the day. Also try to match coffee/tea or any alcoholic drink you have with water. This is an easy way of preventing dehydration and may even cut down your caffeine/alcohol intake. Do these two things alone and I guarantee you will feel better.

Habit 4

Sleep more. Believe it or not lack of sleep is just a bad habit. I’ve been there; struggling to get enough, swearing there aren't enough hours in the day, vowing to catch up at the weekend. These are just excuses for what is, ultimately, a bad habit. And, as any ex-smoker or ex-nail biter will tell you, bad habits can be broken; all it takes is some self discipline. Planning your day will help to ensure you get everything done in good time. If, before bed, you need to feed the dog/cat, sort out yours or the kids’ clothes, make tomorrow’s lunches, tidy the house, do a load of washing and make dinner, then there is no use trying to put these tasks off. Avoiding them until later in the evening will only mean you complete them whilst tired; making them more difficult and definitely more laborious! Putting off doing these chores until late evening mean it’s all too easy to convince yourself that you can't help but go to bed late! Well try this... Make big dinners that will last for a couple of days, make tomorrow’s lunches as soon as you get in, try to do all the ironing on Sunday in front of the TV and feed the pets straight after your dinner. Now of course there are in infinite number of permutations of the above, but it is about finding what works for you and planning your evening to get to bed on time. Once you have established a routine, it is about sticking to it so that it becomes a habit.

How to form new habits

Research says it takes an average of 30 days for a new neurological pathway in the brain (i.e. new activity) to become established Read this article.

Once this pathway is firmly established, it is as easy as brushing your teeth; it's a part of your life. If you fail to make the 30 days however, it's always going to be a struggle. Each time you break the habit before the 30 days, you need to start all over again. You need to stick with it, really focus on what you want your new habits to be and you will get there.

So there it is; school holidays are over and it’s time to focus on you. It is time for new habits to lead to a new, fitter, healthier and happier you this term. If you need any support in building these habits then please get in touch Email Me and I will be delighted to help.

I hope to hear from you soon! Rob