Our Community and Running Bee Foundation Ambassador Rhianna Parkinson explains her tips for getting back on it this New Year. Rhianna knows a thing or two about this, as in the space of three years she went from couch to competing at the triathlon middle distance worlds championships. It’s amazing, what some behavioral change, hard work and dedication can achieve. Over to Rhianna for her tips:
Everybody finds it difficult to get back into exercise after tucking into delicious Christmas dinners, along with mince pies and cream (my personal favourite!) and the endless supply of sweet treats consumed over Christmas and New Year. For those making New Years resolutions, and maybe taking up regular exercise for the first time, it can often be a daunting task to begin and more importantly, stick to the new schedule, so here’s my top 10 tips for getting back into the swing of things!
1. Book your next event
If you have an event booked in the calendar, you have a goal to work towards and train for. I always like to have a race lined up so I have something to focus on and I like to organise myself and book it early so nothing else can get in the way. Check out some of the fantastic events, presented by The Running Bee Foundation for some inspiration.
2. Find a training buddy
Don’t try and go it alone. See if one of your friends wants to join in with your training, whether it’s going to a gym class together, or running together. There is no better motivation than having a training buddy doing it with you. Also if you commit to meet up and you drop out, you’ll be letting another person down not just yourself.
3. Make little diet changes over time
Often, people talk about going on a “detox” after Christmas, almost going cold turkey on all those “treats” that you’ve got into the habit of having everyday and starting a clean, healthy diet overnight. This very rarely works as it’s too much restriction and most of us aren’t mentally strong enough. It’s much better to introduce little healthier changes over time, such as taking sugar out of your tea and coffee, reducing the number of sweets and chocolate being consumed gradually, or swapping unhealthy items, e.g sugary cereals for wholegrain cereals for a more sustainable approach. These choices will hopefully over time become behavioural changes and in a few months time, you’ll wonder why you ever put sugar in your tea in the first place.
4. Stick at it
When I first started out, have done minimal exercise for around 6 years, a gym instructor doing my induction asked what I would like to achieve. I replied “well, I’d just like to lose a bit of weight and get fitter and feel better, I guess.” He rolled his eyes and said “everybody always says this but I generally see only 1 out of 100 actually achieve it and follow through with it”. This really motivated me as I realised I didn’t want to be just like everybody else and give up within a few weeks. You must be determined to stick at the training and be different to everyone else!
5. Track your training
Fitness trackers can help some people, certainly those with a competitive disposition. Upload your activities to Strava, follow your friends and you’ll can inspire each other into activity as you don’t want to be the only one who doesn’t upload at the weekend. parkrun is a fantastic way to be competitive with yourself. You can see your progress each week and it’s so satisfying when you beat your PB. It inspires you to train more to beat it again! Both of these worked really well with me, but then I’ve realised I’m super competitive.
6. Find a local club
There’s no way I would be doing middle distance triathlon today without the help of my local sports clubs. I’m a member of a running club, a cycling club and a triathlon club and this is where I have met most of my friends, training partners and I’ve been able to develop with great coaching. Clubs in general are so welcoming, so there really is no need to be shy if you are going along for the first time. Remember you don’t need to be of a particular standard before you go. Just be willing to push yourself within your own limits. Many don’t go along to a club because they think, wrongly, that everyone is going to be super quick. What always happens is that when you go, you realise that many are just exactly like you.
7. Be patient
I think the reason why most people give in is that they expect results overnight. Everybody is different, but when I first started out, I didn’t seem to lose any weight or look any different for at least the first 3 months. I then lost a stone between the 4th and 5th month. It was pretty disheartening to begin with but persistence really paid off for me.
8. Form a habit
My training used to be somewhat scattered, I used to have no plan or structure which meant I often lost focus. Now I go to the same class, do the same training or go to the same club session at the same time every week. I know exactly what I’m doing each day of the week, which means that I’m seeing the same friends each week and it keeps me focused and my body knows what’s coming!
9. Have a Plan B
This is really essential to make sure that there’s no excuses to avoid training. I always have a Plan B. For example, if you have an outdoor session planned, you know the great British weather could play tricks on you, so make sure you have a Plan B of an indoor session. For me, I’m often alternating days between running and cycling, and by the 5th day, I know my legs might be a little weary, so I have a Plan B of a Swim set instead.
10. Pack your gym / training bag the night before
This is a great one, particularly for early morning sessions. Take the faff out of your morning routine and do it the night before – if it’s already packed, you’re more likely to go, and less likely to forget something, which for me was always my underwear!!
On a final note, keep going, it will get easier much sooner than you think. And if you do, you’ll be surprised by where your fitness journey might lead. For me, when I made the decision to get fit three and a half years ago, I had no idea I would be racing in the Ironman 70.3 world Championships in South Africa last year! Anything is possible.