Mix up your gym sessions with kettlebells, weights, uphill runs and intervals
1. Get focused
The biggest mistake people make is aiming for too many goals at once,’ says personal trainer Liz Fulford. ‘They want to shift half a stone, demolish bingo wings and train for a 10K run, but any personal trainer worth their salt will tell their client to prioritise one goal and direct all their energy into that. It means you’ll see tangible results from day one, which helps you keep the momentum.’
To stay focused, make a ‘big vision board’, as coach Kim Ingleby recommends for her Team GB triathletes. ‘Put a pinboard somewhere you’ll see it each day and cover it with motivating photographs and inspiring quotes,’ she suggests. Or use Pinterest and check it easily on your phone whenever you need a kickstart.
Quick fix ‘Use red dot stickers to remind you of healthy changes to your routine – one on the kettle might prompt you to have green tea instead of coffee, for instance,’ says trainer Craig O’Toole.
2. Snack smart
If weight loss is your goal, don’t overdo the fruit. ‘I see countless women trying to slim down by eating food that’s high in natural sugars, such as fruit,’ says trainer Nick Mitchell. ‘The insulin reaction caused by sugar – whether from a biscuit or a banana – triggers the process that stores energy in fat cells.’
He advises getting the majority of your calories from protein, such as lean meat, and healthy fats, such as oily fish, avocados and nuts and seeds, limiting fruit to just one piece a day and getting the other four of your five-a-day servings from non-starchy veg instead.
Quick fix For a daily dose of essential fats, which will boost your body’s ability in the gym, Craig suggests blitzing up some mixed seeds and sprinkling a spoonful over your morning porridge.
3. Mix it up
‘People come into the gym and repeat the same circuit of exercises week-on-week, then wonder why they stop seeing results,’ says Kim. ‘But I always plan training in cycles to keep challenging the body. Phase one is building endurance by gradually increasing the time you run for, and using a Swiss ball for postural strength. The next week, I work on functional strength and endurance, with kettlebells, weights, uphill runs and longer interval sessions. The third phase is intervals for speed and power; moving on to a high-intensity workout; then a recovery week... before repeating it all again!’
Craig suggests varying your schedule within the week, too, incorporating long, slow cardio sessions with short, fast intervals and weights to tone up and build strength.
Quick fix Try supersets – two exercises back to back – to burn more calories. Do eight reps of standing bicep curls, followed by eight reps of tricep dips, for example, and repeat four times.
4. Recover properly
‘As every athlete knows, recovery and rest get results and reduce the risk of injury,’ says Kim. But R&R doesn’t mean lying on the sofa watching telly, it means treating tired muscles so they’re ready to take on their next challenge, proofing your gym habit against dodgy knees or a tight back.
Top recovery kit? A foam roller.
‘You’ll find one in every gym because research shows it reduces muscle tension without affecting your workout,’ says Craig. ‘Lie it on the floor and roll your muscle along it slowly, using your body weight to apply pressure. When you find a sore spot, do very small back and forth movements for 30 to 60 seconds.’
Quick fix After a long, hard workout, always have a recovery drink. ‘Add 3tsp of Nesquik powder to 250ml of skimmed milk for the perfect ratio of carbs to protein,’ say Anita Bean, sports nutritionist and author of The Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition (£16.99, A&C Black).
5. Ditch sit-ups
Hundreds of sit-ups do not a flat stomach make. For killer abs, Kim’s go-to move for every client she trains is the trusty plank. Hold it for 60 seconds, then move your weight onto your right arm and lift into an oblique plank (body facing left) for 30 seconds. Return to the holding plank for 30 seconds, then try the left oblique plank for 30. Then go back to holding the regular plank for a minute (ouch). ‘This works your stomach and back muscles, for great posture and definition,’ she promises.
Quick fix ‘To engage your core, imagine someone’s about to punch your stomach,’ says Craig. ‘Tense it firmly to brace your back and abs.’