In the UK it’s National Fitness Day today! A day which was originally created to break down the barriers around exercise and help more people to get active. You might see heavy use of the #FitnessDay across your social feeds and find more fitness content, challenges and events than usual. But what is it all about? #FitnessDay aims to celebrate what our health and fitness means to us as individuals, emphasising that looking after our mental and physical health means something different to all of us. This year, the theme for National Fitness Day could not be more apt – ‘Your Health is Your Life’. The annual campaign is focussing on recognising and celebrating the life-long mental and physical benefits of being active.
I found that in my 20s and even 30s there was a real focus on exercise being purely for weight management – a way to burn off the calories with a heavy sway towards cardio. There was always a pressure to stay slim with little to no emphasis on strength or how exercise made you feel and the mental side of training.
As I have got older this view on why to train, both personally and socially, has changed and there has been a much more holistic approach to exercise from both a mental and physical point of view. Changing my training style and my reason to exercise has made such a fundamental difference to how I feel in myself and my confidence in my body. I really am now future proofing which is why I love the National Fitness Day slogan of ‘Your Health is Your Life’.
So what does this slogan actually mean? For me it’s about the whole 360 degree approach to wellness – it’s your physical, mental and social wellbeing as well as balance. It’s not just about staying physically fit, it’s about our mental awareness too. From an exercise perspective it’s about functional training, training which enables everyday activities to be done with ease, to prevent injuries, training that allows me to be actively there for my family and stay fit and healthy into my 60s, 70s and 80s. Functional training often involves compound moves where we use more than one muscle at a time (for example we squat down to lift something up & then reach to put it away or we rotate to one side as we get out of a car etc) specifically talking about movements which mimic key movements we do in everyday life – think about it as training for life. For example sitting – we sit down and stand up off a chair, off the bed, off the loo many, many times in a day but all too often we don’t actually train that movement. We have slightly fallen into the trap of training like an athlete – for performance, rather than training functionally for the movement patterns we do in everyday life.
Functional exercise can really impact our strength capabilities. Did you know that more people get injured doing day to day activities e.g. lifting something heavy in the wrong way like dragging the lawnmower out of the garage or getting out of the bath than they do in the gym doing their workout. It will also help you with your strength in other sports or activities that you do – ie your running, football, golf etc as well as housework, gardening….
On top of the physical benefits of functional training which include enhanced bone density, lean muscle mass, reduced risk of falls and fractures and improved heart health there are plenty of benefits on the mental side of things too. Speaking from experience I know I always feel much better after a good workout. It also helps with improved sleep, mood and immunity – what’s not to love! All of these tie together to give an all round mental health boost and set you up for success. The National Fitness Day slogan ‘Your Health is Your Life’ really does encompass both mental and physical wellbeing and I think it is so important we give airtime to both aspects when training.
As National Fitness Day is all about getting active and staying active, I thought I would share my top tips on getting stuck in and sticking with it:
- Find your why – Your reason for starting exercise has a huge impact on whether you will sustain it. Vague goals of “I want to get fit” or “I want to lose weight” won’t keep you at it long term – give yourself an achievable goal such as “I want to run 5k by Christmas” or “I want to do 3 workouts a week” You will also be much more successful at sticking with it if you can see or feel tangible, immediate benefits such as positive feelings of stress reduction, increased energy, better sleep etc. The best way to prioritise exercise and be sure it will happen is if it delivers a benefit that is truly compelling and valuable to your life. So you just need to find out what that is for you, and it might be different for everyone.
- Be realistic – Don’t set out with unattainable goals such as “I will workout everyday, I will eat healthily, stop drinking and run 5 times per week”, not only will you lose motivation pretty quickly when you can’t do it but you’ll risk injury and leave yourself feeling pretty rubbish. Instead try committing to three workouts per week and have 4/5 alcohol free nights per week – when you achieve this over a period of time you can then build on these goals – set yourself up for success.
- Plan and prioritise – For many people time is precious, but so is your health. Plan your week on a Sunday, work out exactly where you can definitely fit in your exercise and stick to it. Maybe organise a plan together with a friend. Sometimes it is also helpful to have a contingency plan for if work or family life throws the schedule out of the window!
- Keep it short and sweet – you don’t need to exercise for hours – 30 minutes three times per week for strength work is perfect. Often, people think that they need to spend hours and hours at the gym each week to make it worthwhile – this is a myth!
- Work out your best time – if you’re not a morning person don’t commit to a 7am workout, if you know you flag in the evenings make sure you get it done before lunchtime. There’s no right time, just the right time for you.
If today is the day that you are thinking about getting started, why not try one of my shorter workouts? My ten minute series could be just the ticket for kickstarting the habit. Don’t forget to use my code picknmix20 if you do which is valid until the end of September.