Saturday, 14 February 2015

The key to exercise success.

Over a year ago I started to run regularly to improve my stamina. As we're approaching spring, I'm also keen strengthening my abs and glutes a little. There's one single piece of advise that anyone who wants to work out should keep in mind. It has helped me a lot already and still does now.
They key to exercise success is this: you have to have a plan! It is simple, but also true! It keeps you motivated to go and do exercise and makes you feel like you've accomplished something afterwards. This is why 30-day challenges are so popular: you are reminded that you need to do exercise, you can cross something off your list every day, and be proud you did it. Here are some examples of what happened to me when I had a plan and what happened when I didn't, and advise on what to do if the plan doesn't work out.
Start to run
In November 2013, I started to follow the start to run programme to gradually build up my stamina. According to plan you should run three times a week. I was very motivated to stick with it and it only rarely occurred that I didn't go running trice a week and I soon made it to 5k. I'd never been able to run that far in my entire life! After I finished the training schedule, I did go running quite often and I even ran 6k at one occasion. But later, during the spring and summer, my average number of runs went down to 1,5 runs per week.

Journey to minimalist running
This autumn, I decided to start minimalist running. This meant I needed learn how to land on my forefoot rather than on my heel. So in order to create new running habits and build the needed muscles, I had a plan in which I added 200m to every next run. I was doing three runs per week again and enjoyed the process very much as it felt like I was making progress! When I did need a break from running, I picked up where I'd left off afterwards.
Abs and Glutes
Recently, I started doing the 30-day plank challenge in order to strengthen my abs. I started out with a 60 second plank and worked my way up from there. During that time, I added a static bridge of the same duration to my plan in order the strengthen my glutes. I kept a hard copy of the plan on my nightstand to remind myself that I had to do the exercises and ticked a box every day after I completed them.

What if the plan is finished or doesn't work?
This is the tricky part of plans and 30-day challenges: nobody tells you how to maintain or further improve the level of fitness or strength that you've reached. That's when you start slacking. Well at least I am: I have only gone for one run this week - I did go for three last week though. What I need to do is make a new plan and write it down.

The plank challenge turned out to be too hard for me, I simply couldn't do it and collapsed. My best was 2,5 minutes and then it went downhill as my muscles were overused. So I took two days of rest and made a new plan: do three days of planking and rest on the fourth. Instead of adding 30 seconds every couple of days, I add 10 seconds every day. So that's what I've been doing, and finished 3'20" last night!

So the key is to make a plan that suits you. It's better to take small steps towards your goal than to do too much at once and end up frustrated. And it's better to change your plan than to ditch it altogether. Even if your goal is to maintain a certain level of fitness, a plan is a must!