Those of you that regularly read this blog will be familiar with the story of my weight loss journey. It began after a wake-up call when my brother was diagnosed with leukaemia and resulted in me achieving a 60lb weight loss over the course of a year without stepping foot into a gym.
The last few months have seen me falling off the wagon slightly. A combination of travelling, and a stressful period involving breast clinics (all okay, thankfully), the diagnosis of some kind of bone degeneration (still under investigation), and now Christmas over-indulgence (all my own doing) has left my jeans are feeling a little tight as a result. Now it’s time for me to get back to the business of losing the little gain and getting back on track and I wondered if you fancied joining me?
What is the 30/30 Challenge?
The trick to losing weight really is as easy as burning more calories than you consume. Don’t bother with faddy diets or weight loss products – they really aren’t good for you and if you want changes for the long-term, you really do need to change your habits. This means becoming more aware of what you are eating and how much you are moving. A combination of tracking everything you eat with a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise a day should leave you seeing positive changes by the end of the month. There are two things which proved invaluable and which provided a firm foundation to achieving my commitment to losing weight. It is said that it takes 21 days to create a new habit. The 30/30 Challenge is the start of changing habits through being aware of what you eat and how much you move. Setting a reasonable activity goal of 30 minutes a day is not impossible. You can break it down into six sessions of five minutes if you want and it does not have to be made of one single activity. For example, if a 30 minute run seems impossible to do, either time-wise or fitness level-wise, you can break it down into a 15 minute brisk walk, a 5 minute weight-training session and a ten minute yoga session.
The trick to losing weight and getting fit begins with your mindset
If your New Year’s resolution is to lose weight and get fit it can be easy to become overwhelmed, especially if you have a lot of weight to lose. I really do believe that success starts with how you think and that your mindset will influence whether you will succeed or not. Tell yourself you can and you will. Remind yourself that this is not just another resolution but the start of a change in your mindset and your habits. Resign yourself to failure before you have even begun and your negativity will prevent you from realising what you are truly capable of. Excuses are easy to make but positive change is never achieved with excuses. And the only one who has the power to stop making excuses and start creating change is you.
My three key tools to success revealed
So as I have stated, I realised that keeping myself aware of my consumption versus activity level was vital in order to succeed and so I invested in three key tools to keep me accountable. The first was registering with myfitnesspal.com. This app is free and I find it the ideal way to track my eating habits and calculating my calorie intake easily and conveniently. It has an extensive database of foods and also has a recipe creator which allows you to enter the ingredients you use for your own dishes, then calculates the calories per serving. Whilst I didn’t really post on the forums, I did find scrolling through people’s weight loss progress and before-and-after photos extremely inspiring, especially during a prolonged session on the cross trainer.
In order to monitor my physical activity, I found investing into an activity tracker absolutely invaluable and worth every penny. Seeing how much or how little I was doing was an eye-opener and discovering how much effort it took to burn 100 calories made me think twice about wasting that progress on the different foods that would use it up. Between the MFP app and the activity tracker, I couldn’t claim any ignorance at all and was able to take full responsibility for what I did or did not do. I would recommend a tracker with a heart rate monitor included as this will provide a better calculation of your activity level and consequently, the amount of calories you burn. Until a few weeks ago I was using the Fitbit Charge HR which I found fitted my needs perfectly; it wasn’t too big for my wrist so it didn’t look out of place, and it had all the functions I needed including step count, heart rate monitor, stairs climbed and calories burnt. Unfortunately, it gave up the ghost before Christmas and a replacement option I am considering is the Geonaute Onmove 500. Packed with features yet with a smaller price tag than some of its counterparts, this is a connected GPS device complete with wrist-based heart rate monitor. This tracker seems ideal for tracking your activity including laps, distance, speed and more. The Target Zone option allows you to set a speed, pace or heart rate zone target which you can monitor through the watch itself as you work out and an audible alert will inform you if you fall out of your target zone. I like the idea of this, as I find I can sometimes be prone to slowing down or not putting as much effort as I probably should for some workouts. Having this function would, I think, be beneficial in maximising my efforts for every workout I do. That the heart monitor works from the wrist-worn device itself and does not require an extra device strapped to your body is also a bonus for me as personally, I am not a fan of these, especially when they dig in during floor exercises during DDP Yoga sessions.
Finally, my third tool is the humble tape measure. Unlike the bathroom scales which can go from being my best friend to my worst enemy overnight, the tape measure provides a more accurate and usually more positive, record of results than my scales obsession does. When my resolve is threatened by the fluctuating needle, measuring my body instead will often give me a far different outlook on how far I have come and how much progress I have made. Do not go by the scales alone. Do keep a monthly record of your body measurements as well.
All prepared. Now to begin…
What I have learnt is that even if you have a long journey ahead, do not try to look at the whole road at once. It can be overwhelming and disheartening. I find setting smaller goals works much better for me. It takes much of the pressure off and gives me short-term challenges to complete and aim for. As a result, I’m going to be setting myself a 30/30 Challenge to get back into things. That means that, as well as tracking my eating, I’ll be incorporating a minimum of 30 minutes of activity into every day.
If you are planning on getting fit and losing a few lbs in the new year I would love for you to join me. If you aren’t sure where to begin or need some inspiration, I’ve put together a few ideas that will help you get started, whatever your fitness level or ability is right now.
Inspiration for your 30/30 Challenge
Excuses come easily but by committing to the 30 Minutes in 30 Days Challenge can be the catalyst to changing your life. For one thing, it is only asking for 30 minutes a day. You can split it up into two 15 minute sessions or three 10-minute ones. Don’t have time? Yes, you do actually. Get off the internet, shut off your social media and watch a little less TV. There. Too busy with your family? That is no excuse. Your health is an investment, not something to fit in if and when you are able to. Prioritise yourself. Looking after yourself means you will be stronger, fitter and healthier – and that’s what your family needs. And all it takes is 30 minutes a day. Now, here are some ways to spend those 30 minutes…
Walking and Hiking
Adding more activity into your life need not be expensive nor complicated and all you need for this one is a good pair of walking boots. Investing in activity tracker will very likely open your eyes into how little you actually walk compared to how much you think you do. Aiming to hit the recommended 10,000 steps a day is a start. In order to lose weight, aim a little higher, with 15-16,000 steps as your target.
If you want to up the ante a little, hiking is a great way of enjoying nature, discovering new areas and getting into the open air. Investing in a pair of hiking poles will help you to keep your balance more easily and will reduce stress on your knees when walking downhill.
Cycling is a fantastic all-rounder. It is a low-impact activity, meaning there is less stress on your joints and, as a result, a lesser risk of injury occurring. It is ideal for people like me who have conditions that make high-impact exercise do more harm than good, or for those starting out on the fitness journey. It is a cardiovascular activity which means it gets your heart pumping and those calories burning, and it also strengthens your muscles.
You can incorporate cycling into a leisurely ride around your area or replacing your car with a bike for your commute to work. Or, if you aren’t too keen on exercising in public just yet, you can invest in an exercise bike to use at home instead.
I really love to swim. I find it therapeutic for my mind as I drift off into a little world of my own as I make my way up and down the pool. I don’t get to do it as often as I’d like to but when I do, I feel at ease. It is also another great all-rounder, not only being an excellent cardio activity but it gives your entire body a workout with no impact at all, and all you need is access to a pool and a good quality swimming costume. 30 minutes of swimming can burn up to 250 calories but you do need to ensure you keep your heart rate elevated for maximum results.
Yoga might not seem like a workout but try it and you will be surprised. It is convenient if you do not have a lot of space for equipment as you will only need a good quality yoga mat and perhaps a yoga brick to help with balance too. If you, like me, really aren’t that into the spiritual side of yoga but still want to have a go, I would strongly recommend DDP Yoga which is a mixture of traditional yoga combined with callisthenics and dynamic resistance training. Find out more about how it works and how DDP Yoga helped me lose 60lbs here.
Whilst a cardio workout will help you to burn the calories more than weight training alone will, adding weights to your regime will not only help to keep your metabolism working better for longer than cardio will but will also strengthen your muscles. To get the best effects in creating lean muscle mass, combine cardio activity with weights. More repetitions with lighter weight resistance will help to get lean without bulk. If you want to bulk up, try fewer reps with higher weights.
You really do not need much room to add one or two pieces of gym equipment into your home thanks to more compact versions which have hit the market. This is great news for those of you who would like the workout with the hassle or expense of gym memberships. Treadmills are a great option for those embarking on a Couch-to-5k programme, and space saving options that easily fold are popular.
For a lower impact workout, exercise bikes (see the previous paragraph on cycling) or, my personal favourite, cross-trainers (also known as ellipticals) are absolutely brilliant. I undoubtedly see results, not only in my cardio health and levels of activity but also in my body’s definition after just a few weeks of using the cross trainer regularly. It not only tones my arms and legs, but is also great at whittling the waist. I love mine with a passion.
Another recommendation if you have the space is a rowing machine. Like the cross-trainer, a rowing machine provides a marvellous workout for both upper and lower body, and again it is a brilliant way to deal with those love handles and waistline. It is just as effective as the cross-trainer but through providing your body with a different workout to it. Combining these two machines alone gives me brilliant results, I find.
And there you have it! A complete guide to kicking off the new year to a fitter, healthier you. So, who is with me on the 30/30 Challenge and how will you do yours? If you fancy joining in, download our 30/30 Challenge badge below, spread the word and keep the motivation going. Let’s do this!
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