Don't fall off the wagon

Keep at it: Make fitness your way of life. Aim for consistency rather than results. Stay motivated, but remember to cut yourself some slack.

Don't fall off the wagon

After kick-starting your new exercise regime earlier this month, here’s the million-dollar question: how do you encourage yourself to keep going? Getting into the habit of exercise takes practice. So have faith and remember to keep your mind right.

Pre-plan exercise into your week. Work through the exercises in this programme and, in particular, work on your mind. This can prove trickier than the physical exercises, as our minds tend to resist change, and can conjure up any number of reasons for maintaining the status quo – even if that status quo is something with which you are not happy.

But here’s the thing. You and you alone are in charge of your mind, and with practice, you can adapt the way it thinks about anything – including exercise, and your approach to food.

This week, our plan focuses on several top mind strategies for maintaining motivation, focus and interest, and gives you new exercises to stretch your capability once the basic exercises from last week start to seem easy. It also encourages you to think through any issues you might have with “emotional eating”.

The exercise expertise comes from personal trainer Christina Howells, founder of thatgirllondon.com, and the mind mastery from life coach Jacqueline Hurst.

Focus on consistency, not results

Of course, you are working out for a reason, and hoping for visible changes in your body. But try to think of starting an exercise programme not as “six weeks to a new you” but as the first stage of your new lifestyle. It is good to have goals but it is really important to learn to enjoy the process, be present in the moment and be grateful for the ability to be able to move your body freely.

Drop the comparisons

It’s never helpful. Comparing yourself to others will only create anxiety and lead to endless negative thoughts. Move beyond this, focus on your own self-worth. It’s really difficult to drop the urge to score yourself against others, but once you can do it, you’ll find it is a liberation, like putting down a heavy burden.

Train smarter, not harder

If you have done the sort of exercise in the past that focused on duration, there may be a niggling voice at the back of your mind wondering whether short bouts of high intensity interval training are really enough to get you fit. Tell that voice this: fitness is not about the time you put in or about beating yourself up. It’s about doing the sort of work that has been shown to give good results. Remind yourself that HIIT is a brilliant strategy and is proven to work for people of all ages and fitness levels.

Embrace challenges

Yes, you lose strength and muscle mass as you get older – but this is often more relative to how we use our bodies than our actual age. Just because your body presents new challenges as you age does not mean that you are less capable. Be mindful of how your strength and co-ordination may not be as good as it was in your twenties, start small, and you will be surprised at what you can do.

Why more muscle is a good thing

It’s use it or lose it when it comes to lean muscle tissue. We lose muscle as we get older, at the rate of around 1 pound a year from the age of 35 – that is, if we don’t work to maintain and improve it. Muscle has a greater density than fat, meaning it takes up less volume than an equal amount of fat. So the more muscle you have, the more likely that you will look streamlined, even if the scales stay the same. Having greater muscle mass helps to slow down the usual age-related decline in our metabolism and can help prevent falls.

Get to the root of emotional eating

There are times – particularly when you are trying to be more healthy – when you will find yourself eating things that you feel you shouldn’t be eating. If it’s because it’s a friend’s birthday and there is cake, don’t stress about it. But if you find you are packing away unhealthy foods when you are not hungry, you need to ask yourself why this “emotional eating” is going on. If you’re doing it because you are stressed or unhappy, stop and think: Does a biscuit actually de-stress you? Or is there something else you could do that might genuinely help?

Cut yourself some slack.

Don’t set yourself rigid rules. Instead, give yourself some new thoughts around eating, like the concept of “radical allowance”. That means letting yourself eat exactly what you want, when you want. It may sound mad for anyone with a lifetime of failed diets behind them. But if you keep asking what your body really wants, there will come a time when you start to want healthy foods that don’t spike your blood-sugar levels.

Ultimately, changing your mind about food and how you eat is vital for getting results. You cannot hate yourself slimmer.

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