If you're trying to lose weight or are training for a race or fitness event next year, Christmas can feel like a daunting time. Lots of indulgent food around the house, meals and drinks out with family and friends, and less time to train can all add up. We're here with our 5 top tips to help you stay on track and avoid over-indulging this festive season.
1. Tell your family and friends about your goals
One of the things that makes it so difficult to stick to being healthy at this time of year is pressure from family, friends, and social occasions. If everyone is eating, drinking and being merry, you don't want to be the party-pooper with your salad in a Tupperware container.
Make sure you tell your family and friends about your intentions and your goals so that they can support you. They'll be more understanding and hopefully won't try to pressure you into eating more unhealthy food if you're open with them about what you're trying to achieve.
2. Make sure there's healthy food in the house
It can be all too tempting to eat cake for breakfast and graze on biscuits and sweets throughout the day if they are littering the house and there aren't any healthy options.
Make sure you've still got normal, healthy food in your house so that you can eat proper meals and then enjoy the occasional treat as well. Trying to stick to a normal eating routine will be key to success and not falling into a food coma after lunch.
3. Plan your meals ahead of time
Another reason why it's very tempting to eat the unhealthy food in the house is because it's quick and easily accessible. If you're stuck deciding what to have for dinner, chances are your family's suggestion of getting a takeaway will sound very appealing.
Make sure you plan your meals for the week ahead of time so that you know exactly what you're going to have and can make sure you have all the ingredients you need. There are plenty of healthy recipes that can be made quickly such as stir fry, grilled chicken, or wraps.
4. Stick to a training plan
Find a professionally-written training plan that fits around your schedule and try to stick to it as much as possible. Instead of making it up as you go and training ad-hoc, sticking to a proper training plan will make sure your training makes sense and that you don't over- or under-train.
However, it's also important to make sure your plans are flexible. If a friend invites you out but you have a long run planned for that day, try to compromise and arrange with your friend for another day. Referring back to point number 1, if you've already told your family and friends about your goals, they should understand and support you.
5. Don't be overly restrictive
It's almost impossible to sit at a table with a salad while everyone else eats delicious festive food. Allow yourself to have fun and enjoy yourself as that is the spirit of the season. If you've eaten a wholesome breakfast and healthy lunch, eating something a little less nutritious but a whole lot more tasty at dinner time shouldn't be too much of a problem. It's only when you're eating unhealthy snacks all day long as well as huge carb-rich meals that things go wrong this time of year.
Claire Steels is a professional duathlete and has a World Champion title to her name. She gives Sundried a snapshot of a training session along with all the stats and data so you can see what it's really like to train as a pro.
2 x (10 x 10 seconds effort : 50 seconds recovery)
The majority of the training I have done on the bike is for TT (time trial) type efforts, however as I am looking to move into road racing I need to develop a bit more explosive power.
This sessions was aimed at developing such power and improving my sprint speed.
Short, sharp efforts with a longer recovery sounds okay, but by the end of the set the 50 seconds recovery feels far too short!
I did this session on the Wattbike and then uploaded the data to Strava.
The screenshots attached show my speed, heart rate and then the last shot shows speed, heart rate, power and cadence.
Speed, power and cadence are fairly consistent across all of the efforts, although they drop a little towards the end. Heart rate spikes for each of the efforts but also gradually increases across the whole session.
I find sessions like this challenging and frustrating but in a strange way it means I enjoy them more! Weird I know!
Do you find yourself making excuses because of your age? Are there things you wish you could do but think they're best left to youngsters? Think again! Staying active and fit as you age is one of the most important things you can do. We're here with our top tips to maintain your fitness and stay healthy as you get older.
Do resistance training
It's still the biggest trend among fitness fanatics to do lots of heavy weight training, but lifting weights and doing resistance training has many more benefits than just bulking you up and giving you a great physique. It is scientifically proven that weight training increases your bone density which is important as you age to prevent natural deterioration in your bones and can help protect against age-related issues such as osteoporosis.
Not only this, having strong muscles around joints such as the knees can prevent these joints from failing so you're less likely to need a knee or hip replacement if you're regularly lifting weights. This doesn't mean you should be trying to out-lift everyone at the gym but doing regular, sensible resistance training will do the trick. Anything that adds resistance counts, so you don't have to hit the free weights area but can use the rowing machine, resistance machines, or lift weights if you'd like!
Forget the fads
Keto, paleo, whole30... there will always be fad diets around and people who claim that they lost drastic amounts of weight by following them. However, as you age your body needs extra care and won't bounce back so easily from an extreme diet. More so than ever, as you age you need to take it easy and if you're trying to lose weight you need to do it very slowly. Avoid fad diets which are very high in fat or that cut out entire food groups and instead stick to a natural, whole diet rich in lean protein, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and lots of fruit and vegetables.
While it may be true that these extreme diets do allow some people to lose weight, it is still a severe method and a lot of people end up gaining all the weight back anyway.
Stay 'all day active'
The best way to be active is to be 'all day active' which means walking or cycling instead of driving, making sure you don't sit for extended periods of time, and making a conscious effort to be active throughout the day instead of just for an hour or so of prescribed exercise.
If you adopt an active lifestyle you are far more likely to be healthy overall and to benefit from reduced lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. If you work, try adding activity into your work day by going for a walk at lunch time and incorporating exercise into your commute. If you're already retired, make the most of easy at-home exercise such as gardening and walking the dog.
Know your limits
It's always important to listen to your body and this is true even more so as you get older. There are often stories in the news of people discovering a passion for marathon running at the age of 60 or CrossFitters who are in their 80s, so we know it's possible to be active as we age, but make sure you're careful.
At any age, it's important to listen to your body and stop training if you become injured. Never push through real pain and give your body plenty of time to rest and recover. If you weren't particularly active when you were younger, you will most likely find it tougher than someone who has been active all their life.
What are the best exercises for older people?
So if you're going to stay fit and active as you age, what exercises and workouts should you be doing? These are the best exercises for older people.
Yoga or Pilates
Yoga and Pilates have proven their effectiveness over thousands of years and are practised all over the world. Low intensity slow movements combined with tough holds and challenging positions will test your muscles and improve your fitness while being gentle on your joints and not over-exerting you. Be careful though, practices like hot yoga or Bikram can be very strenuous so perhaps stick with the gentler types, especially if you have conditions like high blood pressure.
Swimming is zero-impact and can strengthen your joints without putting any pressure on them. This is especially good if you are heavy or suffer from joint problems and/or conditions like arthritis. Swimming is a full-body workout and will exercise all of your muscle groups from top to toe. It is also a functional workout as your muscle groups have to work together to move (rather than isolated movements such as a bicep curl) which is better overall for your health and fitness.
As mentioned above, weight training is not just for young gym goers looking to pile on the muscle and impress their peers. Done with correct form and in moderation, weight training can increase your bone density and can protect your joints from deterioration. Not only this, our metabolisms slow naturally as we age but weight training increases the metabolism, so this will offset some of the natural side effects of ageing and help keep you in great shape.
Keeping it simple, brisk walking is an easy and free way to stay fit and active as you age. Walking at a fairly fast pace can burn anything from 60 to 100 calories per mile. Walking is easy on the joints and getting out into the fresh air is great for not only your physical health but your mental health too. Pair this with making it social by walking with friends, making it practical by walking to the shops or appointments, or making it fun by walking the dog and you've got a great easy way to get fit without feeling like you're even trying!
The shoulders are not usually a part of the body that people focus on when trying to lose weight or tone up, but having shapely shoulders can do wonders for your overall physique. Try this shoulder workout to sculpt and tone.
Seated Military Press
The military press, otherwise known as the overhead press or strict press, is the flagship shoulder exercise as it is a compound movement working all parts of your shoulders and as such will feature as the first exercise in any good shoulder workout. This variation on a classic will take the burn to the next level and will really test your limits. Your shoulders are completely isolated so there's nowhere to hide and no way to get away from the burn.
How to perform
If you have a partner to hand you the bar, you can do this exercise anywhere. If you are on your own, you will need to sit under a weights rack so that you can rest the bar above you.
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you and your back straight.
- Hold the bar close to your chest at chin height with both hands.
- As you exhale, push the bar up above your head until your arms are straight.
- As you inhale, slowly and with control lower the bar back down to chin height. That's 1 rep. Try to complete 10-12.
Because you are sitting on the floor, your legs and core will not be able to assist your shoulders and as such this is a completely isolating exercise, highlighting all weakness and really resting your strength. Start with a light weight until you increase your strength. It's meant to be tough!
Leaning Dumbbell Raise
This is a single-arm exercise which will target the deltoids and give shape and tone to the sides of your shoulders. Again, it is a highly isolating exercise and so will burn intensely but give great results.
How to perform
You will need to find something sturdy capable of holding your full weight that you can hold and lean away from. Any equipment bolted to the wall of the gym should work for this.
- Hold something study with one hand, with your feet together and close to the structure, lean your body until your arm is straight.
- With a dumbbell in the other hand, raise your arm from your side to shoulder height and back down again. That's 1 rep. Complete 10 on each arm.
- Complete all your reps on one arm before changing to the other.
Front Raise With Steering Wheel
You may well have done front raises at the gym before as they are very simple, easy to do, and yield great results. That's why we are taking it to another level by adding the 'steering wheel' movement to ramp up the burn. Take this exercise slowly to maximise results.
How to perform
- Stand up straight with your feet hip width apart and hold a plate like a steering wheel with both hands in front of you.
- Slowly lift the plate up until it reaches shoulder height.
- Hold the plate there and twist it slowly like you would a steering wheel.
- After a few twists, slowly lower the plate back down again. That's 1 rep. Try for 10-12.
Try this upper body arm workout for women to blast your arms and get results! Including exercises for biceps, triceps, and shoulders. Perfect for toning and sculpting your arms and bingo wings.
Cable Tricep Pull Downs
This exercise is for isolating the triceps.
How to perform the tricep pull down
Using either a straight bar or rope attachment, attach to a cable machine in the high position. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, pull the bar down and keep your elbows tucked in. Push the bar down, fully extending your arms, then slowly raise the bar up back to the start position. Keep the movement control and feel the burn in the back of your arms!
Key exercise tips:
- Keep the elbows tucked in
- Fully extend the arms
- Exhale as you press down and inhale on the way up
- Too much movement of the arms – taking the elbows away from the body
- Shrugging the shoulders and using the trap muscles
- Going too heavy and using momentum
This is a great cardiovascular exercise that will trim and tone the arms whilst simultaneously working the core and blasting the shoulders.
How to use the battle ropes
Hold the ends of the rope at arm's length in front of your hips with your hands shoulder-width apart. Brace your core, soften your knees, and begin alternately raising and lowering each arm explosively. Keep alternating arms for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds, instead of making waves, start slamming the rope into the ground. Make sure to keep breathing and don't hold your breath!
Key exercise tips:
- Tense your abs tightly during performance
- Concentrate on keeping your speed fast
- Don't hold your breath
- Sacrificing technique with fatigue
- Performing the exercise for too long
Dumbbell Bicep Curls
This is an isolation exercise for the biceps using a pair of dumbbells.
How to perform the dumbbell curl
In a standing position, holding a dumbbell in your hand and keeping your elbow pinned to your waist, curl your arm up to your chest, flexing your elbow then slowly extend it back down again. Repeat on each arm for 10-12 reps.
Key exercise tips:
- Keep your elbow in a fixed position
- Fully extend your arm at the bottom of the movement
- Moving the elbow out of alignment
- Going too heavy and sacrificing technique
- Swinging the body with the movement
Tricep Bench Dips
This is a body weight exercise that you can do virtually anywhere. It’s a compound exercise, which means it will hit all three of your tricep muscles as well as your shoulders and chest muscles.
How to perform the tricep bench dip
Position your hands at shoulder width apart on a bench with your hands facing forward. Extend your legs out, taking your bum off the bench balancing on your hands.
Lower your body down towards the floor taking your arms into a 90 degrees bend. Press your body upwards, extending out your arms back into the start position.
Key exercise tips:
- Keep your core tight to maintain an upright position
- Make sure your elbows track in line with your hand
- Breathe in as you lower and breathe out as you press up
- If you find it difficult to perform the tricep dip with straight legs then bend your knees placing your feet flat on the floor
- Rounding/curving back
- Not going low enough
- Hyperextending the elbows