I'm in the best shape of my life. Perhaps that's what you'd anticipate from a fitness editor, but between the holidays, the cost of living crisis, and the pandemic, I'm still having trouble going to the gym as frequently as I did before the pandemic. And yet, here I am, feeling healthier than ever and more physically fit.
I was on vacation last week exploring the Portuguese mountains. Every day began with a run; I usually stick to up-hill, down-dale routes, and even the smallest loop (4K) may be challenging. But for the first time, I was able to complete two laps of that course in between longer outings while conversing with my running buddy. The last time I ran the same course was three years ago, but I was much slimmer and moved much more slowly (and only made it round once round). I used to run 8 kilometres a day to work and visit the gym six days a week.
While I adore Blok Strength classes and using the treadmill at places like Barry's and Victus Soul, I really believe that how comfortable I feel when I run has very little to do with how much time I spend at the gym (I go once a week at most). Here are all the things that have improved my fitness this year with that in mind.
10,000 steps are attained with regular, brief walks.
Since Covid, who hasn't taken up walking? It seems absurd to think that many of us were just made aware of the many health advantages of walking after the globe was brought to its knees. When working from home, I always take a preamble during lunch and another one after work. I attempt to complete 10,000 steps by the end of the day, whether it takes me 30 minutes one day or only 10.
Researchers discovered that walking decreased the risk of cardiovascular events by 31% and the risk of dying by 32% in a paper that combined the results of several trials. These advantages might be shown by travelling merely 5.5 miles per week at a speed of two miles per hour in both men and women.
All that slow walking increases the number of steps taken during the day, aids in easing any stiffness from sitting at a desk, and helps to build a little endurance without placing any strain on the joints. It's also a fantastic chance to decompress; numerous studies have shown that taking a 30-minute brisk walk can help to lessen anxiety and sadness, improve mood, and increase self-esteem.
Cycling as opposed to taking public transportation
The day I threw away my Oyster card signalled a significant turning point in my life. Before deciding to permanently put my bike ahead of public transportation, I had been cycling in London for about a year.
Since then, I've used a bicycle to get groceries, commute to work, see friends, and travel to my parents' house. From east London to Brighton and Cambridge, I rode my bicycle. I commute using my bike. In addition to saving me money, cycling allows me to travel at my own pace through many green spaces, which has a significant positive impact on my mental health (a finding supported by a Cycling UK survey in which 91% of the 11,000 participants said that cycling was very important to their mental health).
Naturally, doing an hour of low-intensity steady-state cardio (LISS) has had a huge positive impact on my total endurance without causing inflammation. I used to attend regular HIIT courses on the Tube, and now I'm less bloated, more rested, and more cardiovascularly fit. I enjoy conversing while running, and I'm sure that cycling helps me accomplish that.
My sleep quality has suffered as a result of all the cycling. My sleeping habits were terrible when I went to the gym every day; I would constantly feel energised and exhausted at the same time. However, in recent months I've been able to go asleep easily and stay asleep, occasionally waking up after 7am.
Cycling is a low-intensity aerobic exercise that has been shown in a study of over 8,000 participants from the University of Georgia to improve sleep quality.
I've made a conscious effort not to use technology in the bedroom for the past year or so. I never work in bed, put my phone on aeroplane mode at night, and only read the newspaper on my iPad in the morning. I never use it at night.
Most importantly, I've started utilising blackout curtains. I slept with the curtains wide open for 30 years until I suddenly realised how much it was affecting my capacity to fall asleep deeply. If you can see your hand with the light off in your room, it might be time to take steps to make it darker and more sleep-friendly. Light pollution can play a significant part in insomnia and sleep problems.
Please raise your hand if you have ever drastically reduced or given up eating carbohydrates in an effort to become "healthier." For years, I was that person who preferred gluten-free crackers and rice cakes to regular bread, rice, and quinoa. Going carb-free makes it really difficult to exert energy and power when you need it, aside from being simply unhappy. Complex carbohydrates like beans and brown rice should make up about a third of your diet, according to the NHS' Eatwell guidance.
My attitude has improved, I have a tonne more energy, and my running endurance has also improved since I started eating more carbohydrates like bread, pasta, rice, and tonnes of vegetables. If you consume a sufficient amount of carbohydrates every day, you won't need to carb-load before a long run.
Even while rest days are crucial, scheduling them might be challenging if exercise is a regular component of your self-care routine. Contrary to common opinion, however, you do not need to be completely still on your rest days. I try to walk and/or do a little mobility or yoga session on the days when I am not exercising in order to keep the body functioning. As a result, you don't experience excruciating DOMS and feel peaceful and comfortable.
On days between exercises, I also swear by utilising a massage gun to ease DOMS and stiffness. You should take at least two rest days per week, and possibly more if you're participating in particularly challenging workouts or classes. Remember that your muscles may mend and expand during those times of rest; this is how you become stronger. You're actually preventing your body from reaching its strongest and fittest potential if you keep working out every day.
Extending your muscles more (even for just 5 minutes)
My guy has a terrible back, like the majority of very tall people, and as a result, he is typically stiff. I positioned him in front of my FIIT app during lockdown in an effort to stop the whining. His days now appear to revolve around Gede's 25-minute pilates sessions when he isn't jogging because the pilates lessons have had such a positive impact on him.
I've started attending the occasional class as a result of seeing how much good it has done him, whether it be for a local reformer pilates class, a FIIT session, or spending time thoroughly stretching after a long run. It does make a difference, and stretching becomes more significant as we age. It must come first before bolting and becoming stiff.
I occasionally attend a 10-minute stretch class, but if I want a more thorough workout, I choose a song that is four minutes long, close the curtains, and perform some passionate dancing. Instead of trying to "dance," all it entails is moving your body to the music as you see fit.
Setting a goal for yourself and running the same distance each day to achieve it is extremely simple. However, what you actually want to do is mix up your runs throughout the week, which will usually entail running less but harder.
I used to run 10 kilometres every day, but now I take entire weeks off and run 5 kilometres much more slowly. Because of this, my legs have more energy when I do want to try for a sprint finish, and my cardiac capacity feels higher than usual.