Month 6: Incremental improvement

I see this whole fitness lark as a incremental improvement thing. Some people talk about changing your lifestyle, and yes, if you’ve been a total couch potato for the last few years and eat tons of junk food, then maybe you do need a bit of a lifestyle change. But that’s a scary thought isn’t it? Anything that puts you outside your comfort zone is scary. And what if that wasn’t you? What if you were always moderately active, and eat good, home cooked food and still find yourself slowing down and putting on a few extra bumps here and there.

I nearly always cook from scratch, so I always know what’s in my food. I might get a takeaway at weekends, and I do eat out a lot, but I never eat ready meals laden with salt and sugar.

I do give in to chocolate cravings once in a while, and I love baking cakes, but my biggest downfall is probably red wine. I certainly wasn’t up for anything that could be called a lifestyle change.

I wanted small changes, that wouldn’t impact how I live my life but would still have incremental effects on my body. And it worked. If you’re six months into this, hopefully it’s working for you too.

So far I’ve written this as my ‘story’. A gradual learning process that set me off on the right foot towards feeling fitter. If you are already a bit of a gym bunny, you probably won’t find this useful at all, but if you’re a bit overweight and struggling to know where to start, I hope it’s given you some pointers. From here on in I will be posting as I find new and interesting information, still hopefully at least once a month, more often in my Twitter feed.

For my final ‘monthly’ piece I’m going to focus on two tips to make any exercise you do find time for, work harder for you.

Interval training

I’d heard of interval training, but it was when I saw  a channel 4 programme, the name of which I’ve long since forgotten, showing how many more calories you burn when you vary the level of exercise you do that I really sat up and took notice. This is simply exercising as hard as you can for short bursts, with rests (or slower exercises) in between. The programme I saw showed the participants walking, then running, then walking again, and they burned more calories at the time than someone who was just walking or just running, and kept on burning calories for a couple of hours afterwards.

The Body Coach workouts (https://www.thebodycoach.com/) are based on interval workouts; he gets you to exercise for 20 seconds and rest for 10.

I forget all the science behind it, but it’s out there if you want to search for it.

Fasting workouts

I’ve already mentioned that I’m not a fan of dieting, this isn’t dieting, it’s just timing your eating habits to when you tend to do exercise.

I first read about fasting workouts from reading an article by Scott Laidler, who writes a weekly column for the Telegraph. (Scott.laidler.com / Telegraph.co.uk) The basic upshot is that if you exercise on an empty stomach (8 hours after last eating) your body gets its energy from stored fat instead of food that you are still in the process of digesting. This seems to be how a lot of people advise getting rid of those stubborn fat areas; the bits you struggle most to trim down.

For me, the easiest time to do a fasting workout is first thing in the morning. Calling it a fasting workout is a bit grand really when all I really do is to put off eating my breakfast until I get to work, so any walking I do or any energy I expend in the morning is drawing on those fat reserves. I guess if I couple that with interval training the effect will be multiplied. That might not be true, but it can’t hurt.

When I do eat breakfast it tends to be fairly healthy: either muesli, or fruit, or if I’m on the move I make myself a smoothie before I leave the house. I know there are mixed views about smoothies, apparently they turn the good fruit sugars into free sugars, but surely it’s still better than a bacon butty!

Some of this must work, because really, considering how I love my food and how little I really actually exercise, I have managed to maintain a body size and shape that I’m relatively happy with. That doesn’t mean to say I wouldn’t rather be a bit fitter and toned, but I’ve stayed roughly the same weight for two years now doing this, where before I started, my weight was gradually creeping upwards.

So I hope you’ve enjoyed reading so far, and I hope I can continue to inspire you on a daily basis as I up my tweets, and maybe my blog posts.

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