Whether you’re building muscle or losing weight, trying to keep motivated or trapped on the sofa after legs day, January gym regimes can feel tough. But they don't have to be. Our expert trainers are here to help you work smarter. And, OK, also harder
By: Tom Ward
It's January. You want to get in shape, but there are so many factors in your way. You don’t have time. You’re tired. You love chocolate. You love wine. You struggle to find an exercise or sport you enjoy. Your gym buddies are flakes. Yeah, we’ve heard it all before.
And so has our roster of expert trainers, nutritionists, yoga instructors and general wellbeing experts.
Which is why we asked them to put together their most valuable bitesize insights to help get you moving – and keep you moving – in 2022. Here’s how to build muscle, lose weight, recover properly and feel happier while doing it.
Strength isn't just about finding the biggest piece of metal in your gym and lifting it over your head. In fact, that's generally the best way to stop your nascent workout plan while you wait for your spine to recover. Here's how to make long-term change that will spark long-term gains.
Remember, the only bad workout is the one you never started. Even the worst workout is better than no workout. Yes, you may not have achieved the physical stimulus that you had hoped for, but the mental aspect of having time to yourself to work on yourself is priceless. – Robert Utley, founder, Real Body Performance
“Get someone who knows what they are doing to formulate your plan for you. This takes all the thinking time out of it, allowing you to focus on what you need to do.” – Tash Lankester, PT at FLEX Chelsea
“Focus on proper movement and form. I always recommend learning the fundamental movement patterns and then earning the right to progress, before chasing load and intensity at the risk of poor form. Perfecting technique will facilitate greater strength and overall fitness adaptations.” – Ollie Weguelin, director at Sustain Performance
“That weird squat/curl/thrust combo you're seeing on social media? Yeah – ignore it. The basic moves are the best. Nail the basics like squats, lunges, deadlifts, bench press. Slowly start increasing your weight, increasing the time under tension, increasing the rests or decreasing the rest periods. You don’t need to be mixing up your routine every day.” – Lucy Gornall, head of wellness at Puresport
“Use SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time Frame. This way you are not setting yourself up to fail. It’s about having clear goals so you know what you are doing and are not just turning up unsure of what to do.” – Chris Antoni, Tailor Made Fitness
"You are the product of your environment, so choose the environment that will best develop you toward your objective. Many gyms have amazing communities of like-minded people that are passionate about health, fitness and wellbeing. You are more likely to work harder in a group environment and have that extra accountability.” – James Dollah, head coach at Puresport
The basic maths is simple – burn more than you eat. Actually doing it is the hard part. Here's how to make it feel easier.
“Find mini goals like being able to run for a certain amount of time, or being able to fit into a new dress, or swim a certain number of laps. Visualising an end goal will help you stay motivated, instead of getting bored.” – Chris Antoni
“Don’t walk into that first gym session not knowing what to do, then head straight to the treadmill, kill yourself for 20 minutes, never return for the rest of the year, only to try it again in 2023.” Tash Lankester
“Pick something that you enjoy doing, so it feels less like a chore, and then apply strict timescales to ensure your workouts are efficient but effective. A longer session doesn’t always mean a better session; 20 minutes of good quality work can often be more effective than flogging yourself for an hour” – Tom Cuff-Burnett, PT, and TRX and movement specialist @tomcuffb_fitness
If you never let your body repair, you undo all your hard work. So learn to take it easy and progress will just...happen
“It sounds obvious, but how can you expect to feel motivated if you're knackered? Make January the month of good sleep and set yourself rigid bedtime hours, ensuring you're getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Your body and mind will thank you." – Lucy Gornall
“Whether you work in an office or are a pro athlete, muscles need to be stretched. Muscles move bones, so tight muscles left untreated overtime will eventually lead to bones being moved out of ideal alignment, causing pain and postural issues. Either done after a workout or as a standalone session in your plan, foam rolling and stretching have been shown to reduce muscle pain, improve quality of sleep and lower stress levels.” – Rachel Lines, PT @rachel.lines.fitness
“If you're an avid gym-goer, taking a day or two off might be a struggle. I've been there, and I can say hand on heart that when I started taking more rest days, my body composition improved, my mental health improved, my sleep improved and my crazy sugar cravings decreased. I wish I had taken more rest days sooner.” – Lucy Gornall
It's dark, it's cold, but cheer up – if you make your mental health a priority, it won't be buried by everything else this year.
“Don’t think of your workout as ‘training’; approach it as a lifestyle. If working out becomes part of your day-to-day, it won’t be a chore. You’ll miss it when you skip a day.” – Chatty Dobson, yoga teacher and owner of FLEX Chelsea
“If you’re struggling to stay motivated, treat yourself to something afterwards for making your workout happen. Sometimes, just thinking about the reward is enough to get you through a gruelling workout.” – David Wiener, training specialist at lifestyle coaching app Freeletics
“With regards to your mental health, think about how much time you spend on your phone. Can you set yourself a phone curfew, that means you don’t look at your phone after 8pm each night? This will help with your overall quality of sleep and concentration levels.” – Nat Voyle, strength and conditioning coach at VAHA
“There is more to wellbeing than just exercising. Make sure you are prioritising other healthy habits, like aiming to drink 2.5-3L of water per day. Not only will this help your body function, it will improve brain function.” – Nicole Chapman, trainer and owner at Power of Mum
“Writing down your thoughts and ideas in the form of journaling can help you to get organised and take your mind off things which could hamper your progress. Begin with a list of your daily goals. Journaling helps to give your life more structure, and checking the boxes gives you a feeling of achievement, proving you can reach your goals with a healthy mindset.” – David Wiener
“The best way to approach fitness is to work out your ‘why’. Especially as we start to get past our teen years and early twenties, exercising purely for aesthetics isn’t enough. Think about the way exercise can reduce stress, making you feel happier and more confident both at home and at work. Exercise can also boost your energy and help you to socialise, both things that we find difficult as we get older.” – Alex Parren, PT and running coach at Sundried
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