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Route to 24 hour fitness
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Route to 24 hour fitness

Exercise is good for you

Everyone knows it. But the problem is all too often when it is time to exercise you feel sluggish and far from the vision of health and vitality that seems only to exist in conditioner adverts.

The reason for this is that too often we separate our exercise from the rest of the day and fail to see how healthy we are we feel as part of a wider picture that also includes our diet and how we look.

All too often there is the wrong fuel or not enough fuel in the tank as you head out to exercise and that is why you do not feel or look as good as you should.

The good news is that are very simple steps that you can take to turn things around. You will feel better and be more able to exercise. Being healthier will also lead to you looking better thanks to better nutrition and exercise without painful and counter-productive diets.

Life can be frustrating. You are on a night out all togged up in expensive clobber then one of your friends walks in wearing a pair of jeans and white T-shirt – looking far better than you do. Not fair is it?

Why has it happened? Firstly they are in shape. Their clothes show they are the shape they want to be. There are flat bits where things should be flat and curves where curves are what you want. Secondly their skin is in condition. Your skin is your body’s largest organ if you are not healthy nor is this organ, and unfortunately it’s on the outside of your body for all to see. Thirdly, they look healthy. They don’t look like their body has been achieved at the cost of much pain and suffering – they look alert, healthy and energetic. Forget designer clothes. If you look tired, haggard and out of shape the only way it is not going to show is if you are a police officer in full riot gear.

So what are you going to do about it?

Drink yourself fitter

The first thing to do to get fitter is to start drinking.

No, don’t hit the bottle. We mean water. Water is second to oxygen in the list of things that are vital for life. Your body is mostly made of water so if you don’t get enough you will suffer and experts believe only one in four people take in the recommended minimum of a litre and a half of water a day.

Being properly hydrated will improve your energy levels and improve mental alertness. It will help your body to clear toxins that it absorbs from food, drink and even the air we breathe. Water will help your body absorb nutrients and transport them to where they are needed. Your skin uses a lot of water so will suffer if you are not hydrated. Your brain is 85% water so a 5% reduction in body water can have a big impact on your ability to think effectively. Dehydration is a common cause of headaches. At first you may find yourself going to the toilet more regularly but stay with it – your body will adjust.

You will need more water than this if you are exercising. A simple way to see how much water you need to replace is to weigh yourself before and after exercise. Any difference in weight between the two is almost entirely due to water loss so for each kilogram you have lost you must drink a litre of water. Be sure to start exercising properly hydrate – your urine should be clear and pale. Drinking a lot in the last half hour before exercising is not the idea either. Not only may it make you want to go to the toilet but your body will not have had a chance to absorb it. Have a bottle of water on your desk or kitchen table and be sure to drink a little and often throughout the day and as you exercise. Drinking during exercise removes the need to play catch-up afterwards.

So if someone is looking in good shape and healthy the chances are they are properly hydrated.

Eat for energy

To stay healthy you must eat for energy.

Start the day fuelled. Make time for breakfast and remember to rehydrate. Breakfast is just that – you are breaking the fast having not eaten since the night before so get off on the right foot to make sure you are properly fuelled to start the day. Cut some fruit up to put on your cereal for extra nutrition. If absolutely necessary have a cereal bar, piece of fruit and juice to grab on your way out to eat in the car, train or bus.

Once you have started the day with proper fuelling keep it up.

At lunch time eat healthily. Even if you are on the road remember that food does not have to be hot to be healthy. Count the amount of fruit and veg portions you are eating – you should aim for between five and nine a day – salad as part of your sandwich filling and a piece of fruit will help you towards that. Beware of soft drinks too. Look to see how much sugar is in what you are buying – you will probably be surprised!

Eat sensibly and whether you are training at the end of the afternoon, first thing in the morning or late in the evening make sure you are properly fuelled. Trying to tone up or boost your fitness levels is not going to happen if you are running out of energy mid-session, or worse, going into it feeling drained. You need to maintain your energy levels all day for effective work and exercise. An energy drink can be a good way to stay hydrated and boost energy levels too. Good sports drink contain enough sugar/carbohydrate to keep your reserved topped up but not so much as to slow your body’s ability to absorb the water.

After training aim to replenish your energy supplies as soon as possible. Try to take in 300 to 400 calories of carbohydrate as soon after exercising as you can with the same amount again within the two hours of finishing. This may mean a snack straight after training followed by your meal proper or you may be able to eat a meal promptly after exercising. This period of time is often called the golden hour as research has shown in this period your body, particularly your muscles, are most able to replenish energy reserves. It is also beneficial as it helps your body absorb protein and prevents it breaking down protein in the body for fuel. The long and short of it? You will recover far more quickly and effectively.

Of course proper fuelling is not just about appropriate sources of energy. You also need the right nutrients, vitamins and minerals .

Create an exercise strategy

Creating an exercise strategy will make sure you stay fit and healthy.

You will see that what is needed is a shift in your routine. In the same way diets don’t work if you slide back into previous habits you need to make sure that the changes you make are sustainable. Part of making this happen is being willing to stick with it for long enough to become habit. Part of it is making realistic changes. But there are strategies you can use to make the changes feel more positive.

The first thing is to draw up a schedule of what exercise you are going to do. You may do this yourself but it may be worth getting some professional advices with your training schedule. Again, be realistic.

Knowing what training you are going to be doing and when helps you get into the routine and stops you worrying about it. Your exercise and training becomes like just another entry in your diary. You may not feel like that meeting today but you do it because there it is. It is no longer a question of whether you fancy it. Exercise is something that has its place like everything else. But don’t sign up to something that you will not sustain and will give up on as you feel you have ‘failed’. You are better up maintaining your enthusiasm by building up gradually. If you do fall away don’t over-react. Don’t stop. Reappraise and start a revised plan. It may just have been time for a change. Different commitments or fitness levels may mean what was interesting and stimulating before is no longer appropriate. Don’t become stale.

Another key strategy is to have a training partner. This may be someone you meet at the gym with or someone you run with. It may be someone you don’t often exercise with but have an agreed goal with that you both are working towards. Remember that meeting in your diary? You go because it is in the diary but also because someone is expecting you, possibly depending on you. Add this dimension to your exercise. Your training partner will give you encouragement. You can share the ups and downs of training. You can overcome the challenges together. It can also be good if you are slightly inhibited at the gym – having a training partner will make you more relaxed and help you to get on with what you are there for. Of course your training partner also adds a social dimension to training. This is great when you have a busy life. Exercising and socialising mix, you need both and won’t feel guilty when you are killing two birds with one stone and can tell yourself, and your partner, you have to go as someone is expecting you.

Overhaul your diary

Your diary is a small item but it can stand between you and optimal health.

So far the suggestions may have been fairly obvious but sometimes it is the things that are not so obvious which catch us out. Try keeping a diary for a week of what you do and how long you spend doing it. You may surprise yourself at how long you spend on some things and how little on others. In particular you may find that your leisure time is not as leisurely as it is piecemeal and disrupted. You may find that you are not utilising some blocks of time very well. You may realise how little rest you are getting.

Another aspect of your life to consider is the demands different activities place on you. When you see how many things you fit in to some days it might explain why you are tired at certain points of the week. You need to recognise that doing the garden, running around with the children or dancing half the night do demand energy. Are you getting adequate recovery from the busy days? Are there ways in which you can reorganise?

Spot the potential your diary has. Why do you drive the kids to their swimming lesson, drive home, and then turn around almost straight away to go to pick them up? Could you use a gym there or go for a run from the pool? Should you stay and read a book in the café? Is there scope for you to help out and log some more time with your children?

What do you listen to in the car? Music to help you relax, news to keep you informed, an audio book or a learn a language CD? Decide which the best use of the time is for you.

Work out how to get the necessary eight hours sleep each night (some people may want more like nine hours). You can only take out of your body what you put in. Napoleon Bonaparte may have suggested, ‘six hours sleep for a man, seven for a woman and eight for a fool,’ but don’t be afraid of aiming for his fool’s option, particularly when you live a demanding life.

Ease off the booze!

It is not just your water intake that can affect your health.

Drinking adequate water will have made a big difference to your health but you can also benefit from the right attitude to alcohol. Moderate levels of drinking can reduce your risk of heart disease. In 1997 the World Health Organisation recommended one drink every other day. In the UK it has been recommended that we drink no more than two to three units of alcohol per day for women and three to four units for men with two or three days each week with no alcohol. A unit is roughly one small glass of wine, half a pint of beer or one pub measure of spirits but this obviously varies with the strength of drinks.

Alcohol can also be an unthought-of source of calories. A pint of bitter may have up to 200 calories with a strong ale stout or cider having more than this. A small (125ml) glass of wine will probably have just less than half this amount (although sweet white wine will have more calories).

A switch to wine may also be beneficial because it contains something called polyphenols. These are antioxidants that are believed to help the body fight disease. For example as well as fighting heart disease a moderate red wine intake was found to help reduce the risk of catching colds by researchers in Spain.

Take steps, don’t leap

Many people try to make a big leap for fitness. Just be smart.

The reality is that good health and fitness comes as a result of smaller, more progressive steps. As you can see getting fit and revolutionising the way you look and feel is not a case of introducing one radical thing to your life.

It is about incorporating smaller, more manageable steps into your lifestyle to make sure you get the best out of yourself. You will feel less tired and fitter. Being able to exercise more effectively will help you to get your body into better shape. And these will combine to make you better able to cope with whatever ups and downs life throws at you at home, at work or in your social life.

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