Improving your fitness can feel overwhelming, so here are nine simple tips that can make you stronger, faster and more energised.
Getting ‘fitter’ means something different for all of us. It might be beating the 4pm energy slump, shaving a few seconds off of your favourite running route, lifting a little bit heavier in the gym, improving your flexibility or mobility, or generally feeling less out of breath during everyday tasks.
Just as all of these barometers of fitness are different, how we go about improving them are personal. It’s not just a case of just doing more cardio or eating more fruits and vegetables – there are so many easy-to-tweak factors that can make you feel just a little better. Here, nine members of the Stylist team and their favourite trainers share the one change they made that made them feel fitter than ever. Which one will work for you?
Starting from scratch
Lucy Mountain, personal trainer and founder of nobs training app
“Feeling ‘fit’ to me starts from within and to me, there’s nothing more exciting than a new beginning. I’ll never tell you to ‘jump back on the bandwagon’ because it doesn’t exist – sometimes we exercise more, sometimes we exercise less, and neither involves any form of wagon to get on or off of.
“However, when I feel bored, overworked or stuck in a rut, I bloody love starting a new training plan and refreshing my training goals. There’s nothing worse for motivation than trying to keep up with exercise regimes or plans you started six months ago which no longer fit into your lifestyle. I recently restarted my nobs app senior gym guide and readjusted my training sessions from four to two per week. Tapering things back a little to what’s realistic for my schedule right now has been the best thing for me in terms of mental health and overall fitness.”
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Amy Beecham, news writer for Stylist.co.uk
“Tracking my weight and rep progress in an app (as opposed to focusing on time or calories burned) genuinely revolutionised my training. It allowed me to focus on the individual lift or exercise, rather than having a whole routine whirring in my head and expectations of what I should be hitting. Seeing that I deadlifted Xkg this time last week after a long day in the office means that in today’s session, when I’m feeling fresh and have eaten enough, I can reasonably expect to lift Ykg.
“It helps me set realistic expectations that challenge me and help me improve, but that don’t overwhelm me or make me feel bad about my progress.”
Giving up drink
Yinka Bokinni, marathon runner and presenter
“One thing that’s really helped me train better and see gorgeous results is cutting back on alcohol. I quit the booze a little while ago and the boost in energy is unmatched.”
Making a routine
Lauren Geall, digital writer for Stylist.co.uk
“Although I’ve always enjoyed exercise, I never managed to stick to it enough to improve my fitness levels until I made it into a routine with the help of a training plan (from Stylist’s very own Strong Women Training Club). Having something to follow – and getting in a routine of doing three workouts a week – gave me the motivation and discipline I needed to keep going.”
Miranda Larbi, editor of Strong Women
“My fitness totally changed when I took up cycling properly. I’d run a marathon before and done plenty of gym challenges but swapping the Tube for my rubbish bike made me mentally and physically fitter than ever. I cycle everywhere and that’s because it allows me the space to process thoughts, explore new areas and get in some low-impact cardio. I can decide whether I’m going to cycle fast and get sweaty, or if I just want to have a gentle pedal – and not have to shower afterwards. It’s a constant activity that goes on in the background and complements everything else in my fitness and wellbeing regime.”
Setting a water alarm
Kayleigh Dray, Stylist.co.uk’s editor-at-large
“I am the sort of person who can, hand on heart, forget to drink water for hours on end. In fact, there have been entire days where I’ve drunk absolutely nothing and only realised it when logging off work for the day. Doing so makes me grumpy and headachey, but, worse still, it completely saps me of any energy.
“So, to get myself feeling fitter, I’ve set myself an hourly alarm: whenever it pings, I have 12 sips of water (as recommended to me by an NHS nurse). I always have a glass of the stuff when I wake up, and I make sure to have a small glass before bed, too. This means that I feel far more energised each day, which in turn ensures that I’m far less likely to skip any planned walks or workouts. It’s only a little thing, but it really helps me.”
Chloe Gray, Stylist.co.uk’s senior fitness writer
“As a natural early bird, I always assumed that I just didn’t need much sleep. I’d go to bed at the same time as my housemates, around midnight – but my body clock woke me up at 6am, whereas they’d sleep in until later. I guess I never realised that feeling constantly drowsy and desperate for coffee just wasn’t normal. Now I know that being an early riser means making amends later in the day, not just forgoing a decent amount of sleep.
“I unashamedly get into bed around 9pm, read for 30 minutes, and always have lights out by 10pm. It makes my natural wake-up call 10 times easier, I lift more in the gym, my appetite is regulated and I have loads of energy. It might not be the coolest tip, but I’ll take an early bedtime and productive morning over late nights and mood swings any day.”
Emma Obayuvana, Strong Women Training Club trainer
“I am the type of person who enjoys running – it makes me feel fit, strong and I see it as moving meditation. But life often gets in the way and, coupled with bad weather or a lack of motivation, it’s easy for me to fall behind on my running and lose track of when I last headed out. Setting up a schedule of when I’m going to run, and sticking to that when I plan my work and social life, has helped to no end. No matter how hard or easy the runs may be, making them a non-negotiable has helped me feel so good.”
Moving first thing
Katy Harrington, Stylist’s deputy digital editor
“Getting out the door for at least 20-30 minutes every morning for a walk or run, depending on my mood, has made me feel my best. I love having a non-negotiable habit, as I’m the kind of person who will find an excuse or have a better offer if I tell myself I’ll move after work. I now feel weird if I don’t go and get it done first thing.”
Forgetting physical progress
Alice Porter, writer for The Curiosity Academy
“The one thing that improved my fitness was exercising for my brain, not my body. I was never motivated enough by what I looked like, so I’ve really tried to ignore physical progress and focus on how I feel after working out (and how I felt when I didn’t move). Really soon I noticed how much fitter and more energised I was feeling and I’ve really been able to commit to fitness in a way I never had before.”
Images: Getty / Miranda Larbi / Chloe Gray
Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).