Articles for the Month of March 2014

Have you no time to exercise?

Are you one of the millions of people that have no time to exercise?

There was an interesting programme on Radio 4 last week, that looked at how our decision-making is affected when we have too little time. It began by asking the audience of students how many of them felt they had enough time. Surprise, surprise, no-one put their hand up!

Professor Eldar Shafir has conducted experiments to assess how being short of time affects our decision-making ability. As a result, he believes that being short of time may change the way we think and that leads us to making things worse for ourselves.

When you feel a shortage of something, it creates a scarcity mindset; that means that you use a lot of your brain’s “bandwidth” worrying about what you don’t have enough of, so you can’t give enough attention to other important decisions. Professor Shafir found this actually lowers the IQ by 13 points on average – which is more than the effect of losing a night’s sleep! As a result,  you will forget or neglect some important activities which mean you end up worse off tomorrow!

So that got us thinking. Pretty much everyone accepts that regular exercise is something we should do, but many of us say we have no time to exercise. But it may not actually be a lack of time, just our inability to prioritise it, due to other issues crowding out the planning of it.

So if you are short of time, how can you increase your chances of making the right decision? Here are five tried and tested methods

1.       Establish a routine. Once you don’t have to think about something, you’ll do it automatically. So that may mean putting on the running shoes as soon as you get up and going out for a run before the rest of the day crowds in. Or perhaps you put your gym kit in the car so that you can go straight from dropping off the children, or on your way home from work. It takes a bit of effort to establish the routine, but then it’s much easier to maintain
2.       To do lists. Make a to do list and put exercise on it. Cross it off when you’ve done it. Your to do list can be daily or weekly, but the act of planning everything in advance means you don’t have to waste time re-thinking it
3.       Have a strong vision. The stronger your vision of where you want to get to, and the more desperate you are to achieve that, the more likely you are to do what it takes. Heighten that vision by putting a picture of what you want to be somewhere prominent
4.       Plan exercise into your day the night before and set an alarm
5.       Leave half an hour free every day (planned into your diary), to cope with the unexpected tasks. That way you’ll feel more in control of your time


Think running isn’t for you? Think again


We see them all the time – super-fit people out pounding the streets in all weather. We don’t know whether to admire them or pity them, but we do know that you’d never see us out there, because we can’t run to catch a bus.

But are we doing ourselves a disservice?

Unless you have very dodgy knees or struggle to walk more than a few yards, then the chances are that you too can become a runner.

But why would I want to, we hear you ask?

Quite apart from all the wonderful health benefits – stronger heart, lungs, muscles and bones, weight loss, better blood sugar utilisation etc, etc, there’s another reason, and it’s the one that keeps runners running.

Sheer unadulterated fun! OK, the wheezing and lung-burning that accompanies over exertion isn’t so great, but the buzz you can get from being out in the fresh air, running within your capability is intoxicating! Just look at how children love to run around. Remember when you did too? You didn’t do it for the health benefits, you did it because it was fun. And now just because you’re a grown-up, doesn’t mean that child-like pleasure is lost.

If you want to give it a go, the key is to start slowly, even very slowly if that’s what it takes, and to build up gently. Try following the 10 week beginners’ running plan below and adapt it to suit your circumstances. If you can, persuade a friend to join you so that you can encourage each other. There really is no need to push yourself to the point of exhaustion, which can be dispiriting and risks injury. Instead, take it at a pace that allows you to enjoy the experience so that you will really look forward to getting those running shoes on again!




3 Sessions eg Mon/Wed/Sat

1 Session eg Thu


Jog 1 min, walk 3 mins x 4

Brisk 30 min walk


Jog 1 min, walk 2 mins x 6

Brisk 30 min walk


Jog 1 min, walk 2 mins x 7

Brisk 30 min walk


Jog 1 min, walk 2 mins x 8

Brisk 35 min walk


Jog 1 min, walk 2 mins x 9

Run 1 min, walk 2 mins x 9


Jog 2 mins, walk 2 mins x 7

Free session – 30 minutes, activity


Jog 2 mins, walk 2 mins x 8

Free session – 30 minutes, activity


Jog 3 mins, walk 2 mins x 7

Free session – 40 minutes, activity


Jog 3 mins, walk 2 mins x 7

Free session – 40 minutes, activity


Jog 3 mins, walk 2 mins x 9

Free session – 40 minutes, activity


Spring into Action – Today!

Spring into Action

Now’s the time to start planning how to look your best on holiday.

At long last, all the rain has stopped and at least for a few days we can enjoy some lovely spring weather. It also means that we’ve all been given an early reminder to start on our summer body preparation, so if you’re ready to get started, here’s a step-by-step plan to feeling energised and full of confidence.

Although it may be a few months until your holiday, it’s easy to let time slip away or to get distracted by life along the way. So the key thing is to resolve now that you will be feeling great. Decide what you want to achieve and write it down, along with the date you want to achieve it by. Be realistic; set yourself a goal that should be relatively easy to accomplish provided you stick to your plan. So if weight loss is your aim, base the goal on no more than 1lb per week. It may not sound much but it will all add up to a significant amount. Plus you may even exceed it which will keep you super motivated.

Now find a friend or colleague who also wants to achieve similar goals to you. Agree to check in with each other weekly so that you can share your progress and encourage each other. For added incentive, choose a treat that you can enjoy together if you BOTH achieve your goals. That way you’ll be letting him or her down if you stray off track too regularly.

Next, work out what you need to do to achieve your goal. For weight loss, find a diet that you are confident you will be able to stick to. Avoid faddy or rapid weight loss plans, but instead choose natural foods, with lots of fruit, veg, lean protein and complex carbohydrates.    For fitness, decide how often and for how long you will exercise, and consider what form that exercise will take. If you can, aim to include outdoors activity whether that is sport, brisk walking, jogging or cycling. Being outdoors brings extra benefits – you’ll feel more in touch with nature and will find your routine a lot more enjoyable. If toning or muscle gain is your aim, then ask your gym instructor to design a programme for you and review it monthly. Alternatively get yourself a home exercise DVD or book, or sign up to one of the excellent online/e-mail training programmes.

Then take a full length photograph of yourself from the front and side and put it somewhere you’ll see it everyday. If you have a favourite piece of clothing you would love to be able to wear, then dig it out of your wardrobe and hang it somewhere prominent.

If you’re good with spreadsheets or graphs, create a means of recording your progress each week visually. Most of the online diet programmes will do this for you.

So now you have your target, your plan and the discipline and support in place, so just get started.

Record your food intake and/or exercise completed on a daily basis. Don’t cheat. This will act as an extra discipline for you and prove a useful review tool if the results aren’t as good as you’d hoped.

Each week, review how you did the previous week. What was easy and what was difficult? How can you avoid the difficult situations or make them easier to handle next time? Do you need more help? Do you need to adjust your diet or exercise programme or add more variety so you enjoy it more?

Remember the following:

  • It almost certainly won’t be easy so decide now that you are strong enough to forego the short term temptations and that you will instead enjoy the feeling of being in control
  • There will likely be occasional bad days; just minimise the degree of badness, then put it behind you and get straight back on plan
  • It’s best to enlist support wherever you can; tell people what you’re doing so they don’t undermine your efforts – plus you’ll want to avoid the embarrassment of failing

Make this the year you look your best yet!