January is a month full of pressure to set goals and targets. Some simple guidelines will help you become the person you want, without becoming a slave to online plans, blogs or fads.

1. It takes twenty-six days to make a habit (or break one for that matter). There is no point starving yourself Monday to Friday and binging at the weekend. It will take nearly four weeks for something to become a habit, so slow and steady will win the battle. If it is a weight target, you’re set on then plan and be sensible. If it falls off quickly, it goes back on even quicker!

2. Consistency is key. We all have days that we dread going out the door into the rain or dark evenings but unfortunately, we live in the West of Ireland and Athenry (the wettest place on record in 2019). I follow a twenty-minute rule. If you really feel it is too difficult to get out for whatever reason; tired, busy, stressed…. Make yourself do ten minutes. If you still feel the same, turn back after the ten. I have yet to turn back! Getting out the door is the hardest step.

3. “You must be able to eat anything with all the running you do”. Myth.

Every runner watches their diet, men and women equally. It is a simple equation, calories in, calories out. There are no quick fixes. Most people overestimate the amount of calories they burn whilst exercising and in return over eat. An hour’s moderate exercise, working up a good sweat burn on average 600kcal. That is a scone with some jam and butter and a coffee. Remember if you are trying to lose weight you need a calorie deficit.

4. “I am on my feet all day; sure I don’t need to exercise” Myth.

Yes, you will have a high activity level and perhaps hit your ‘steps target’ but your heart needs to be exercised. Working up some form of sweat and raising your heart is essential for cardiac health. Like any muscle, if you don’t work your heart, you will lose some of its function.

5. “I’m too old to go to the gym”. Myth.

As you age it is even more important to strengthen your muscles. Muscle wasting and loss of muscle mass speeds up over the age of fifty. This in turn reduces your metabolic rate (the rate at which you burn calories) and leads you more at risk of bone injury (osteoporosis/ fracture).

So, start today, day one of twenty-six. Follow the following simple rules;

  • Do not compare yourself to others. This achieves nothing.
  • Remember not one size fits all.
  • Find a sport or activity you actually enjoy!
  • Remember people are so busy worrying about what they look like and posting selfies that nobody cares about what you do/ wear/ look like. You are doing it for yourself.

Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever could. Go on try something new and stop doubting yourself.

Jane-Ann Meehan Chartered Physiotherapist and sports medicine specialist.

Chartered Physiotherapist MISCP CPSM BSc MSc www.athenryphysio.com 0870606555