Getting Started in 2023
I expect right now many of you are starting your fitness journeys, or maybe you've set some new goals to achieve in 2023 with your riding or self! This is absolutely awesome and at this time of year, we often embark on new ways of improving our health, fitness, and riding! I’ve spoken before on previous New Year’s blogs about how new years resolutions don’t work & the right things to be focusing on to get you going. Like I said before there’s so much information out there in the fitness industry, it’s incredibly confusing when you first get started! The worst thing you could do is try to absorb all of the information, give yourself information overload as then you’ll still be stuck at square one with no idea how to move forwards feeling confused & quite frankly overwhelmed!
So to help you kick off January I thought I’d write a super simple blog about how to get your fitness journey started.
First of all, I suggest you take the time to sit down and map out your goals for the year. Now, these don’t have to be specific numbers or targets to hit, but you need focuses that you want to achieve/work towards achieving through the year. Otherwise, you will find that your programme and plan has no direction or purpose due to a lack of focus. If you’re struggling to identify what that goal is then think about where you want to be say in 6 months time.
I find it really helpful to break goals down into personal, physical (this includes training and physique) & riding sections to help you see clearly what you want out of each area.
Once you have identified the goal and what it is you want to achieve then this is going to make it much easier for you as now you have a clear roadmap. If you work with a coach they will do the how for you, but what I would urge you all to do is connect with the WHY behind the goal. Why, the really emotional reason you want to achieve that goal, for example, not just;
"I want to lose 5 kg so I’m healthier but I want to lose 5 kg because that would mean I would not struggle around the cross country course anymore, and I can get the most out of my horse and feel confident in my breeches at events".
Now you’ve got your WHY, hopefully, you’re feeling really motivated as that is going to be the driver behind your action! If it’s something you truly care about you should feel really motivated right now. Now you know the direction you’re heading we can break it down into phases to give you more clarity & keep things simple, remember simple is best. I like to split your health and fitness into three phases;
Let’s start with the physical training side of things, as this is always where most people put the most emphasis of their focus on!
Obviously, it depends on your goals but your training is a hugely important part of your programme. If your goal is to get fitter, stronger, have better stamina and stability then you need to make sure your programme gives you everything you need!
Aiming to have a mix of resistance-based training that helps you to increase your strength is imperative alongside having enough cardiovascular work to increase your aerobic capacity too. Your endurance fitness will keep you going when you’re tiring, but you need to have a base level of strength there in the first place.
Keep your training super simple! If you’ve never done any resistance or strength based training before I would definitely suggest you have a session with a PT or hire a coach for the first few weeks just to get you confident with what you’re doing and to make sure you are moving with the correct and safe technique. Focus on your fundamental movement patterns within your sessions;
Single Leg Hip
Core (Anti rotate, anti lateral flexion, anti extension)
These are the staple movement patterns that you should be performing in all workouts & other than accessory work to give you what you want or the bits you enjoy this is everything you need in your programme.
Start with all of these movements bodyweight, and in time as you progress, and your strength improves, you can add load to the movement such as with resistance bands or weights. To begin with aiming to complete 2 to 3 sets of 10-15 reps of each exercise will be plenty to get you started.
Aiming to train 2-4 times per week is plenty if you’re a beginner and you can either add in aerobic sessions around that such as going for a run or a cycle or you could add some high-intensity finishers into your training to get that heart rate pumping! If you find you're no longer progressing or feel like you’ve plateaued, then that’s the time to change things up but stick with the exercises you choose for a good few weeks and if you are consistent you will see progress. Remember showing your body the same exercises enough times is imperative for your strength & fitness to be able to adapt positively.
Just like with the horses, there’s 110 ways to train, but there’s no right or wrong. As long as what you are doing is safe, gets you to your goals and is something you enjoy then that is what matters! Remember unless you enjoy what you're doing you're never going to stick to it long-term.
Your food focus will depend on what your goals are, if you do have weight based goals then obviously your nutrition is going to be far more important in order to achieve your results than somebody who just wants to focus on eating a little bit healthier.
Whatever your goals nutrition is 90% of your result! I put a big emphasis on this as most of you will put such a big emphasis on your training yet totally neglect your food & then wonder why you don't get the results you're after.
I’ve worked with people before who have ran long-distance marathons, and who didn’t take their nutrition seriously enough and struggled big time. Your food gives your body the nutrients it needs and it’s really important to start to understand what your body needs especially if you want to get the most out of training. The food you eat and put in your body, is the biggest contributor to how well you recover and how hard you can push. Remember this is your fuel system!
Again simple is best here. You want to focus on including a protein, carbohydrate and fat source with each meal. It’s up to you how many meals you want to eat a day but I find this palm size serving guide really handy to make sure that you’re keeping your portion sizes under control. This is really good as well as you can screenshot it and have it on your phone and use it for meals out or when you are at show to keep yourself on track.
Around your main macronutrients (protein, carbs, fat) make sure you get plenty of colour through fruit and vegetables into your diet. Just like we supplement for our horses our fruit and veg is the body's way of supplementing so make sure you get all of the vitamins and minerals into your diet that you need.
If you’re looking to learn more about nutrition or maybe you do want to make sure you're adhering to weight loss goals I would highly suggest you use a tracking app such as MyFitnessPal to educate yourself about food more. It’s quite amazing what’s in certain foods & my nutrition approach with all of my clients is all about using tools like this to increase your knowledge so that in the long run you can have more freedom with your choices as you have that informed knowledge.
This is the final pillar and is one of the most important areas to focus on. If you’re beginning your journey & you’re seriously looking to get into your health and fitness and make this a long-term routine, then you’re going to have to make some lifestyle and behaviour changes.
For those of us, who have fitness as part of our everyday life that has come down to making very small changes to our old habits and replacing them with new ones that serve our health and fitness better & move us closer to our goals. This takes time, but if you focus on the small things on a daily basis, it’s amazing just how quickly your life will change and how much better you’ll feel.
Routine is key here. If you want to make sure you’re sticking to your training or your nutrition approach, then you need to have structure & this is where routine is so important. At the start of every week map out your intentions and what you want to achieve/complete. I find breaking your whole week of commitments down including work and horses commitments really helps you to be able to see what you can realistically achieve and set you up for a positive week. Once you get into the habit of doing things on a date or at a set time, you’ll have your routine in place and overtime, if done, consistently it will become autonomous. Don’t worry if what you’re doing right away doesn’t work it might take a bit of trial & error to find out how to fit in your routine best around your other life commitments & that's normal.
Stress is a huge lifestyle area that I focus on with my clients and I would urge you to look at your stress too. The body doesn’t separate mental to physical stress and if your central nervous system is constantly in a heightened state of stress you’re going to feel overwhelmed, anxious and physically you’re going to struggle to get results as your body is in a stressed state all of the time. This should be considered especially if changing your physique is what you want to do as stress hugely impacts the body's ability to change. Starting to manage your stress, a little bit better is really important. Think about how you could put some boundaries in place between work or maybe your clients so that you have a better work-life balance. A fitness journey is all about working hard but chill time and downtime is just as important to allow you to push hard so you need to make sure you’re allowing space for this within your days & weeks.
Sleep is another massive area and in my opinion, this is one of the most overlooked areas when it comes to achieving fitness goals. As adults it is recommended we get somewhere between 7-9 hours of sleep per night to feel our best and the body needs this recovery time when you are training at a high and hard intensity. Starting to think about how you could improve your bedtime routine to help you switch off from the stress of the day, relax and have a good nights sleep would be a great place to start. If you can set your sleep environment well you will find you wake up feeling so much more rested and in the morning you’re ready to go and energised, rather than feeling, sluggish and slow. If you're not prioritising your sleep don't expect to get good results!
Mindset is the final bit of this lifestyle chapter. As I said earlier you’re obviously making some big changes to your life and that comes down to habit. How you change your habits and behaviours is the way you think and approach things and this is your mindset. There are lots of ways you can start to work on your mindset, and the biggest thing here is just becoming more aware of your behaviours, how you feel and this will go a long way. Things like journalling, listening to motivational podcasts & making more time for the things you enjoy are all great ways of creating a more positive mindset and helping you to enjoy the journey and allowing for as much growth as possible. You're challenging years of thinking in a certain way or believing certain things so it does take time to change your mindset but again consistently working on this will allow you to have a whole different approach & thought process to life.
I hope this helps you to get started on your fitness journey & please do drop me a comment or email if you'd like any more help or have any questions about your journey. I'm more than happy to help answer your questions as needed! Good luck with your journey, remember you know enough, don't go searching for more information, keep things simple, put the hard work in consistently & you'll get to where you want to be!