Life

How to smash your fitness goal this year


Here at Stylist, we’re big believers in achievable goals. The kind of goals that are not only good for you, but give you that warm, fuzzy feeling of satisfaction of a job well done when you finally nail them.

So for 2018, six of the sportiest team members have decided to take on a personal fitness challenge with a helping hand from Red Bull. Each of the women will be taking their fitness to the next level by either running, swimming or cycling with the help of Fit 4 Purpose – Red Bull’s campaign to improve your performance through bespoke training emails and tips for each sport.

Whether it’s wanting to dust that bike off and raise some money for charity, or reigniting a passion for running after an injury, each of these women has a different reason for pursuing their goal. Read on to find out how they intend to be their best selves in 2018…

The Swimmers

Tania Lewis, 28, marketing manager

Tania used to swim competitively for a club when she was younger, but gave it up when training became a bit of a chore. Now she wants to try and rediscover her love for swimming through Red Bull’s Fit 4 Purpose challenge. At the moment Tania is in good shape, training three times a week in the gym, but is out of practice in the pool. “I’m looking forward to diving back in at the deep end (sorry!) and doing a charity open-water swim in the summer.” 

Laura Bentley, 29, acquisition marketing executive 

Fitness fanatic Laura also used to swim competitively at school, but has neglected her hobby over the years. At the moment, she works out five times a week, but this mainly involves running and cycling in the gym. However, her focus is now firmly back on the pool. Laura hopes that Fit 4 Purpose will give her all the help she needs to achieve her goal of completing her first ever triathlon this year. 

The First Week

Red Bull’s Fit 4 Purpose campaign is underway, with Stylist staff members Laura and Tanya sharing their progress in the pool, one week into their new routines. Plus, they reveal their top tips for being the best swimmer you can be…

LAURA:

“Week one is done and I’m pleased with how things are going. I went to the Olympic Pool in Stratford this weekend, then a local pool to train with Tanya – it’s only a few minutes’ walk from the office, which is an absolute dream for me because I can easily fit in a couple of sessions during the week. My overall fitness plan is to do two swim practices per week, four cardio classes and two gym sessions. My first couple of swims have been mainly about getting a feel for the water again and understanding my current swimming ability. I forgot how draining swimming can be – and how hungry it makes you afterwards – so I’ve been eating more good carbs such as bananas before I swim to keep me energised.

“I’ve found the admin of swimming quite challenging – carrying around all of my kit, having wet hair and the fact it’s more time-consuming than just popping in and out of the gym. And I’ve also remembered how psychological the sport is – during long-distance sets, I’ve found my mind does run away with me, which can be both good and bad. After this week, I’ve learnt that I’m still a strong swimmer, but I still have a way to go.”

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TANIA:

“My training is going better than expected – mainly due to Laura’s motivation. I’m now on my third swim, which is more than I’ve done in , and already I’m finding it a bit easier every time I go. My training has centred around upping my lengths each time and timing myself to see if I’m getting faster. I started with 50 lengths per session and I’m now on 100.”

“It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with big challenges, so I’ve learnt to set mini-goals, such as slowly building up my lengths each time I go swimming.”

7 tips to become the best swimmer you can be

1. Always set yourself a target before you start

“It’s easy to start swimming and think, ‘That’ll do’,” Tania says, “but it’s impossible to improve that way. Saying to yourself, ‘I must complete 50 lengths this session’ and actually sticking to it gives you a sense of achievement – and a number to beat for your next session.”

2. Focus on your technique

“Get a buddy to watch your strokes and give feedback,” recommends Laura. “By slightly adapting your stroke, you can be immediately more efficient, save energy and go through the water faster. Stroke technique is everything.”

3. Waterproof headphones are a must

“Swimming lengths can be a little relentless,” notes Tania. “But having music to keep you going can make a huge difference. Compiling a workout playlist can get you swimming further and faster.”

4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

“Not many people realise you sweat in the water when you’re swimming,” says Laura. “This can be dangerous, as sweating is one of the key symptoms of dehydration – signaling to our brains that we need water. If you become dehydrated in the pool, you won’t be working at peak fitness and can experience cramps. Make sure you drink lots of water before your swim and take a bottle with you to top up during your session.”

5. Pack your kit the night before

“This is such a good trick to stop you bailing on a swim when you’re shattered in the morning,” reveals Tania. “It sets a precedent and stops you talking yourself out of going when you’re trying to find your kit and grudgingly packing in the morning. If you can just grab your bag and leave, you’re more likely to go.”

6. Eat well, and more often

“You don’t need to be perfect when it comes to your diet,” says Laura. “It’s more about making the right nutritional choices. Keep an eye on what you put into your body before, during and after working out. Swimming uses all the muscles in your body. It can be really draining using muscles you wouldn’t use in the gym or on a day-to-day basis – so make sure you’re getting enough fuel from good carbs.”

7. And finally… enjoy it

“You’ve set your goals, you’ve got your brand-new kit, and you’ve paid the pool membership,” says Laura. “That’s all great and all, but at the end of the day, remember to enjoy it!”

The Second Week 

Two weeks into their Fit 4 Purpose campaigns, Laura and Tania give us an update and reveal the professional tips that have kept them motivated…

LAURA:

“I’ve upped my swimming training sessions to three times a week, which I’m finding is improving my fitness at the gym. I’ve also changed the activities I do in the gym to improve my swimming technique – such as doing more weight-based exercises to improve my arm strength.

“The only issue is being so tired all the time. But with early nights and the right food, I’m starting to combat fatigue and getting used to being more active.”

FIT 4 PURPOSE TOP TIP: “Having a good night’s sleep can hugely impact the quality of a session,” says professional triathlete Eric Lagerstrom. “Check out sleep hygiene tips such as regular bedtimes and not looking at your phone 30 minutes before bed.”

TANIA:

“I just had my fifth swim of the week and I’m already finding it so much easier. I actually look forward to sessions now. Doing circuits in the gym outside of swimming has also helped getting my fitness levels up.

“The only downside is the extra grooming – having long hair is a nightmare for swimming. Even the cap doesn’t keep it totally dry.”

TOP TIP: “Chlorine can really dry your strands out and give bleached hair a strange green tint,” says Stylist’s junior beauty writer Ava Welsing-Kitcher. “I always saturate my hair in conditioner before dipping even one toe in the pool. This acts as a shield, coating the hair so that the chlorine can’t get to it so easily. Afterwards, I love giving my hair a deeper cleanse with Bumble And Bumble’s clarifying Sunday Shampoo.”

The Final Week 

At the end of the Fit 4 Purpose campaign, Tania and Laura reveal what the future holds for their new workout regimes

LAURA: “I’ve been amazed how I’ve managed to weave training into my daily routine; it’s not been as hard as I thought. I’m going to continue swimming once a week – it doesn’t sound like much, but I’ve got lots of events coming up, and I think this is achievable.

The toughest part has been how much it’s impacted my social life. I turned down events as I was always in a rush to get home and wash my kit for the next day. Since I knew I was only doing this full-on routine for three weeks, I’ve been dog-tired, but it’s helped me to find the right life-training balance. And I’ve fulfilled my goal of falling back in love with swimming. I treated myself to some waterproof headphones, which has changed how I swim forever. I’m still focusing on completing my first triathlon in the summer so the campaign’s put me in great shape for the next few months. The triathlon seemed daunting at first but now it’s something I feel pretty good about.”

TANIA: “Training three times a week has been great for getting back in the swimming groove, but it’s been a challenge to fit in with my other gym sessions. Going forward, I’m aiming for one long swimming session a week – I’ve not come this far to give up. My biggest feat was getting to my fifth session and not feeling completely exhausted afterwards. I could have carried on after my hundredth lap.

Succeeding at exercise is largely down to creating a habit that complements your lifestyle – if you do it enough, you’ll eventually miss it when you don’t. Training so hard when I was younger put me off swimming as an adult, but now I don’t know why I avoided it for so long. Ultimately, the main thing I’ve taken from this experience is how important it is to be vocal about your goals. When people asked me how my training was going, I felt so guilty telling them I’d missed a session; it helped that people kept checking in. Having a goal is so important in keeping up momentum, so I’m planning to do a charity swim. For me, it’s about completing it, rather than trying to get a certain time.”

Three swimming events to inspire you

If you fancy following in Tania and Laura’s wake, check out these summer swims…

Open water swimming events in June

Live to Tri, Blenheim Palace, 2-3 June

Royal Windsor Triathlon, 17 June

The Cyclists

Lizzie Fuller, 27, senior campaign manager 

Lizzie has already done several big cycle rides, including London to Brighton, so is keen to get her bike out of the shed and take on the London to Cambridge ride in July. “December is always a ridiculously busy month full of Christmas parties, delicious food and too much alcohol,” says Lizzie, “so my exercise routine went slightly out of the window. Fit 4 Purpose is the perfect opportunity to get back on track and tailor my training to get ready for the longer ride I’m planning.”

Rianna Osanwuta, 25, designer

For Rianna, fitness has always seemed a grind and has taken a backseat to socialising and watching her favourite TV shows. This year she wants to change that and enjoy a healthier lifestyle. Her main priority is to start up a cycle-focused fitness regime that’s easy to maintain so she can prepare for the RideLondon cycle she’s doing this summer.

The First Week

One week into Red Bull’s Fit 4 Purpose challenge, Lizzie and Rianna reveal what they’ve learnt and their hard-earned tips to become a better cyclist… 

LIZZIE:

“Training is going well. I planned on one big ride each weekend, plus two smaller rides in the week, but the weather has been a bit up and down, so I’ve had to swap two planned training sessions for spin classes. I did go to Epping Forest for my big ride on the weekend with my boyfriend. My leg muscles felt tight the next day, but one week in and I feel fitter and healthier already, and getting outside made me feel revitalised. I’ve learnt that the hardest thing is getting up and out – but once you’ve started, it’s brilliant.”

RIANNA

“I’ve managed to stay focused. I cycled twice a week after work with friends and went for a trip on Saturday morning. I’ve tried to cut out snacking on junk at my desk, which I find really hard. In general, I’ve found the training tiring – the physical effects can be felt for days after a long cycle – but I’m already more confident on busy roads and am building up to a steady pace.”

7 tips to become a better cyclist

1. Use apps to track your journey

“Tracking apps are incredibly motivating,” Rianna says. “I recommend Strava, which syncs with most devices (your phone, GPS watch, heart rate monitor or power meter),and records just about anything you want it to. You can see how fast you’re going, how far you’ve travelled, and even upload pics or maps of your route to a feed where people comment and share their own journeys. Having a record of all your rides makes you more determined to keep at it.”

2. Eat breakfast and bring snacks

“If you’re going for a fairly big ride, have a good breakfast and take snacks with you,” Lizzie recommends. “Grazing is the most effective way of meeting your body’s high-energy needs when really pushing it. A high-carb breakfast two- to four-hours before a ride should get you off to a good start.”

3. Don’t coast – go up a gear

“It’s easy to coast along the simpler bits of a route, sitting in a low gear and not doing much work,” Rianna says. “Take notice of when you’re taking it easy, go up a gear and work harder. After all, that’s the point – to challenge yourself.”

4. Take a cycling repair kit with you…

“…And learn how to use it.” Lizzie says. “Having suffered four punctures on my ride from London to Brighton, I speak from experience. There’s nothing more frustrating than having to cancel a ride for a totally unnecessary reason.”

5. Cycle with mates for motivation

“It’s good to have someone along for the ride to keep up with – or for you to encourage to keep up with you!” advises Rianna. “It’s also a good way to make sure you’ll do whatever you originally planned - whether that’s a long ride or a cycle round the park. You’ll be less likely to bail if you’ll be letting someone else down.”

6. Learn how to use your gears properly

“It’s easy to just jump on a bike and ride off without really knowing what you’re doing,” says Lizzie. “Do some research on your particular bike. Which gears should you use for which terrains? This is important in figuring out what you want to achieve – speed, distance or energy burned. Do you want to take it easier on the big hills so you can go further? Or do you really want to push it so you can get a better time?”

7. Wear cycling cleats

“If you have clip-less pedals – the kind that attach to your feet – you should be using cleats, which fit the sole of your shoe to the pedal,” says Rianna. “Having your foot fixed means better power transfer because you’re pedalling smoothly in circles rather than simply pushing down, meaning you go faster for less work.”

The Second Week 

Two weeks in, Lizzie and Rianna tell us how they’re getting on with their new training schedules and reveal the tips they’ve found most useful…

LIZZIE:

“Training is going well – I feel completely revitalised. I’ve loved exercising outside and I’ve definitely gained more confidence on the road, which means I’m exploring new routes. The things I’ve found most challenging are the weather and the dark nights. It’s limited my training as there are only so many hours in the day when it’s light. Bring on summer.”

FIT 4 PURPOSE TOP TIP: “If you eat a large carb-filled meal the previous evening, you should be fine play sport on either an empty stomach or with a warm drink to perk you up,” says personal trainer Scott Laidler. “However, if you’ve eaten a low carb meal the evening before, you may want to snack on a banana, which has a decent glycemic index and provides a nice potassium and blood sugar boost. If you’re worried about pangs of hunger during your workout, have some avocado on sourdough toast, but no less than an hour beforehand.” 

Want to get outside this month? Click here for your essential winter commuting kit

RIANNA:

“I’ve surprised myself - the cycling is going really well. Consistency has been the key to me feeling more confident outside, but it’s helped physically, too. I can feel the muscle building already.

The main challenge for me are the steep hills. Going too hard too early with my gears was wearing me out, but I’ve found that if I go at a steady pace and shift through my gears methodically I can make it in the end.”

FIT 4 PURPOSE TOP TIP: When you’re chugging uphill, don’t shift up gears too quickly as this can cause the chain to jump off. Gradual shifts make the chain engage with each new gear as you go up.

Want a little route inspiration? Click here to try this round-up of the five best places to train in London

The Final Week

Rianna and Lizzie talk us through their upcoming cycling plans

RIANNA: “I’m actually looking forward to doing at least two cycles a week this summer. I’ve enjoyed that keeping fit can be scenic – you don’t have to confine yourself to a gym. Cycling can seem intimidating in London, up against all the traffic, but it doesn’t have to be. Stick to back-roads and build up your confidence. It’s actually a really efficient way to travel.

I’m quite proud of myself. I’m not a naturally sporty person, so Red Bull’s Fit 4 Purpose shows that anyone can get involved and progress. The journey to the finish line is more important than the finish line itself.”

LIZZIE: “I’m probably not going to continue with my regime until the weather gets better. The cold and dark have been a huge struggle – I can’t forget stepping into a puddle of mud while getting off my bike after a horrible, rainy ride. I’ve really loved exploring the countryside on my bike, though. Weather permitting, exercising outside gives you a different outlook towards keeping fit. It’s so nice to breathe the fresh air.

This campaign has given me a new appreciation for how much work goes into being ‘good’ at a sport. It’s not just about the exercise. It’s psychological, too – dragging yourself up and out… People who do that all the time, I salute you. For me, cycling isn’t really about exercise – it’s more about the feeling of the wind blowing in your face and going on rides with friends. This challenge has reinforced that and while it’s great I’m getting fit, that’s a bonus – the other aspects are more important to me.”

Three cycling events to inspire you

Feel motivated to get on your bike with these rides that are open to everyone…

Prudential RideLondon

Cornwall Coast and Clay Sportive

Deloitte Ride Across Britain

The Runners

Alliaya Khan, 28, campaign producer

Describing herself as “relatively fit”, Alliaya already runs for an hour twice a week on the gym treadmill, as well as doing Hot Bikram Yoga. A former cross-country runner for her school, Alliaya is hoping that Fit 4 Purpose will support her as she tones up and builds muscle in preparation for her first ever half marathon later in 2018.  

Andrea Williams, 27, creative strategist

Sporty Andrea has had to take a year off running due to a knee injury, but she’s super-keen to get back into it. “I do a lot of gym work,” Andrea says, “but I want to start running again. It’s something that I’ve always done, so I really miss it. I’d love for Fit 4 Purpose to help me get training outdoors – there’s a lot of research that exercising outisde is better for you – and improve my 10k time in the process.”

The First Week

It’s the perfect time of year to get into running. Sure, it’s cold, wet and windy – but start now and by the time spring rolls around, you’ll have earned your running stripes. Alliaya and Andrea talk us through their first week, plus share their tips to improve your own running experience…

ALLIAYA:

“My training is going well. I started off with a strong Monday, going for a 45-minute run in the morning before work. I’ve been doing more lengthy runs, focusing on increasing my stamina. I’d usually do interval training, sprinting in bursts for 30 minutes, but I wanted to challenge myself and increase the length of my runs. I’ve been in the mood to shape up, so I haven’t found it particularly draining, although I have been wanting to go to sleep earlier (I usually turn in at midnight). The main challenge I’ve found is upping my distance. I feel disappointed if I need to stop too much during long sessions, so it’s trying to figure out a good pace that I can maintain.”

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ANDREA

“I’ve had a good start, but I’ve found the weather so grim, I’ve felt really uninspired to run outside. I’ve been trying to run first thing in the morning so that I can get it out of the way as running after work is a no-go for me. I’ve been running with my boyfriend who’s really into it, and I’ve also changed my diet, eating a lot of bananas and peanut butter for energy. The main thing I’ve learnt so far is that I always feel great after a run. It spurs me on when I’m reluctant to go out.”

7 tips to become a better runner

Alliaya and Andrea share their top ways to improve your own running skills.

1. Track your progress and set goals

“Tracking is a proven motivator,” Andrea says. “I use the Nike+Run Club app, which is really inclusive. There’s a proper community online that you can share your runs with, and on Sundays there’s a mass 5k run that you can ‘join’. The app maps your routes and gives pace breakdowns per mile or km. You can also earn rewards if you any PBs. Having a history of your runs and seeing your progression is really inspiring.”

2. Tune into your mood

“Tune in to how you’re feeling and use that to dictate your pace and route,” recommends Alliaya. “If you’re stressed, you might fancy a long but slow-paced run, while if you have lots of energy to burn, you may fancy a shorter sprint to get rid of all the adrenaline. We can often just do the same things every time we get into a routine, when it’s not what we need.”

3. Have different music for different runs

“Create perfect running playlists for different moods,” Andrea says. “Music can make such a difference to your run, motivating you to go further, faster or for longer. Making varied playlists means you can choose the one that best fits what you want to achieve that day – a chilled-out 10k around the park, or a 5k sprint to beat your PB.”

4. Get the right gear

“Make sure you have leggings with a zip for your keys as well as a sleeve for your iPod or phone,” Alliaya says. “Or you can get tops with pockets in the sleeves for phones, too. If you’ve been carrying your phone or shoving your keys in your shoes, you won’t believe how much easier getting the right gear will improve your runs.”

5. Switch up your routine

“Try different routes, different terrain, running with people, and running on your own,” Andrea recommends. “It’ll keep you interested and engaged – especially if you run in a city which can be quite hard going, what with all the people-dodging. Changing things up can take the chore-aspect out of heading out.”

6. Think about what you eat

“Think about what you eat before you go for a run,” Alliaya says. “I like to run in the morning so avoid eating cereals with lots of milk or drinking too much juice or water beforehand (for obvious reasons). Instead I have a light snack, such as a banana and some coconut water, and then keep hydrated with water during my run.”

7. Always warm down

“People often underestimate the importance of warming down, but it helps your heart rate and breathing return to resting levels, and will help you avoid injury from strained muscles,” Andrea says. “Try 3- 5 minutes of brisk then gentle walking, and 5- 10 minutes of total body stretching.”

The Second Week 

Have tiredness and injuries affected Alliaya and Andrea’s fitness regimes (and their enthusiasm) two weeks in? 

ALLIAYA:

“Training has been OK – work has been so busy that I’ve struggled to make as much time for it as I should. I think I need to start treating it as a non-optional activity, such as brushing my teeth and showering to make sure I get it done.”

FIT 4 PURPOSE TOP TIP: “Lifestyle plays such a huge part in training for any sport,” says British speed skater Sarah Lindsay. “Some people get distracted by emails first thing. I find getting that done first means I’m more likely to stay focused on the session before other things have had chance to distract me. But different times work for other people. It’s been proven that activity goes up after lunch if you exercise and drops off if you don’t, so that’s worth considering.”

ANDREA:

“The best thing about my training is that it’s really motivated me to get up and exercise prior to work – I love getting it done before I start the day. My knee has been fine, which is a relief. I’ve been wearing a support to help it hold up under the added pressure.

The only thing I’ve found challenging is making time for a warm down. If I don’t do it, I wake up sore the next day so it’s something I need to focus on.”

FIT 4 PURPOSE TOP TIP: Set an alarm on your phone to make sure you dedicate a whole 10 minutes to stretching. That way you know you won’t be cutting it short and skipping some of the important stretches.

Need a little encouragement to help you reach your next fitness goal, sign up to Fit 4 Purpose here

The Final Week 

We discover how Andrea and Alliaya got on with the campaign and whether it reignited their love of running

ANDREA: “The best bit about Red Bull’s Fit 4 Purpose was forcing myself to exercise outside; not being stuck in a gym has meant I’ve discovered new routes around my local area. It’s also reminded me what a wonderful stress-reliever running is – I’ve felt great afterwards. I’ve always had a positive attitude towards exercise but this campaign has shown me what a difference setting yourself a challenge can make. I’ve been much more motivated to get out there, but good planning is important. Unless you know where and when you’re going to run, you’ll probably give up.

I’m definitely going to continue running, but I have been missing my group classes at the gym, so I’ll try a mix of both. I’m lucky I have pretty high stamina, but there’s always further to go. I’ve signed up for a half-marathon this May, so the challenge will continue – I got 1hr 50m last time, so I’m determined to better that.”

ALLIAYA: “Discovering that the actual running part of running long distance wasn’t that hard was a huge revelation – it was more finding the time and motivation. But running makes me feel more energised and therefore productive, so it was always worth it.

Now I see running as a non-negotiable part of my week, rather than seeing whether I feel like it. Consistency is key with sport – finding the time and energy to do it is something to be proud of. I’m really up for taking part in a 10k or half-marathon soon. I’d like to do some more training first to see how far I can go. I previously thought of exercise as a burden, but now I genuinely look forward to it.”

Three running events to inspire you

From 5k jogs to night-runs in the country, these will test your mettle…

Wings for Life World App Run Cambridge

National Trust Night Run

The Color Run

SIGN UP TO FIT 4 PURPOSE

Red Bull is giving you the wings to help you undertake a sporting challenge in 2018.

Click here to receive tips on reaching your goal, including a bespoke training email tailored to your personal challenge. You’ll also be in with a chance of winning a four-pack of Red Bull to help you on your way…