33 Ways To Get Back On Track In 2023
Illustration by Mr Simon Landrein
Taking a break is essential to our overall wellbeing. But when it’s your health and fitness that have been put on hold, kickstarting a new routine, training plan or nutritional overhaul can be daunting. Studies show that during a bout of inactivity, it takes as little as three weeks for common measures of fitness – muscle strength, VO2 max scores and enzyme levels – to drop. Thankfully, there is an army of trainers, nutritionists and coaches on hand to help you get you back on track in 2023.
Move for motivation
“If I trained only on those days when I was really up for it, I’d work out once a month instead of four times a week,” says Mr Joe Warner, fitness editor of newbodyplan.co.uk. “As soon as I do start, I’m always glad I did. Jumpstart your motivation by writing your fitness goals in a place you’ll see them every morning. It’ll prompt you to hit the gym or the road.”
Take on water
Drink a glass of water before bed. Research published in the journal Sleep found that nighttime dehydration was a key cause of energy-sapping sleep disruption in a study of 20,000 adults.
Try exercise “snacks”
“If you don’t have much time, just pick an upper body exercise (pull-up), a lower body exercise (squat), one core (plank) and 15 minutes of cardio,” says the Nike trainer Mr Joe Holder. “If I have less than 30 minutes a day, this is my go-to format.”
Learn to cook
“Cut out processed foods and increase fruits, veggies and protein,” says Holder. “It’s the most effective diet move and you’ll rediscover what actual food tastes like.”
“Jumpstart your motivation by writing your fitness goals in a place you’ll see them every morning”
Review your daily wins
“Take a moment of meditation at the start of the day and a debrief at the end of the day,” says Holder. “I use the debrief to go through what I accomplished, what worked, what didn't and how I’m going to move forward.”
Think long term
Start with your morning meal
“A breakfast high in protein and fat provides a steady stream of energy,” says Warner. “It’s also the right combination of nutrients and neurotransmitters to fire up your brain for greater concentration and willpower. Eggs, avocado and tomatoes can’t be bettered.”
Check your T levels
A man’s testosterone levels decline naturally by about two per cent a year from his mid-thirties, according to the NHS. This leads to low energy, a loss of muscle mass and poor concentration. Talk to your GP or sign up for a men’s health MOT to see if a T boost is in order.
“Every workout is an investment in my long-term physical and mental health”
Set up a rewards system
“If you have a plan you need to follow, you don’t need motivation, you just need a payoff,” says Holder. “Create a payoff. Reward yourself for getting each week’s workout done.”
Walk away from stress
“Identify your main stressors and reduce them, either by turning off the relentless news cycle or by talking openly to your boss, partner or kids about your worries,” says Warner. “Then build resilience with a daily walk, ideally in nature, for greater perspective, reflection and calmness.”
Get a training partner
“I know that if my training partner is ready to go for a run, a cycle or a gym session, even on the coldest morning, then I will be there as well,” says the personal trainer Mr Harley Pasternak. “A bit of healthy competition doesn’t go amiss either.”
… A really good training partner
Research published in the Annals Of Behavioral Medicine found that people who exercised with people they thought were in better shape than them boosted their workout time and intensity by 200 per cent.
Do your homework
You don’t need an expensive health club membership when a humble pair of dumbbells and your living room will do. “A circuit of different dumbbell moves done with minimal rest will work your heart and lungs for many health benefits and strengthen all your major muscle groups,” says Warner.
Start back slow
“If coming back from a break in fitness, try not to start where you left off – at the peak of your fitness before the break – and manage expectations,” says Mr Ed Conway, a trainer at Fit As. “Fitness can’t be stored and muscles weaken, so set lower reps or time or weight to lift than before.”
“Create a payoff. Reward yourself for getting each week’s workout done”
Make exercise an everyday event
“Not all your fitness gains will be built in the gym,” says Conway. “Make your mantra ‘stairs instead of the lift’. It’s the fitness equivalent of ‘look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’.”
Set health triggers
“Not all new habits will fit a specific time frame, but they should all have a trigger that acts as a prompt to do them,” says Mr James Clear, author of Atomic Habits. “Want to floss? Do it every day after brushing your teeth. Same order, same way, every time. Want to be happier? Every time you stop at a red light, tell yourself one thing you’re grateful for. The red light is the reminder. Same trigger, same sequence, every time.”
Hit the barre
“Many men suffer with tight, stiff bodies and are not stretching enough,” says Ms Ashley Verma, a barre workout instructor. “Low-intensity exercises are an incredible way to reintroduce yourself to working out or add to your existing routine. Add active and passive barre stretches to your routine and you’ll improve flexibility without even realising it.”
Check your toolbox
Before embarking on a major fitness push, get a “full service” to ensure you’re starting from the right position. “Have a specialist check your alignment, balance and posture,” says Mr Christophe Champs, founder of the PODO Clinic. A gait analysis for runners or a bike fit for cyclists means you’ll kickstart your regime from an injury-preventing starting point.
Jot it down in a journal
“After every workout, write down what went well and what didn’t, and if there was something that didn’t go well, write down how you feel you could change it,” says Pasternack. “Treat it as seriously as a work project and schedule every session as a non-negotiable in your work calendar.”
“Low-intensity exercises are an incredible way to reintroduce yourself to working out”
Buy two pairs of sneakers
“Never run two days in a row with the same pair of shoes,” says Champs. “Running applies pressure to the soles of up to three times your bodyweight, but those foam soles need 48 hours to get back in shape.” Save your joints and avoid injury by alternating your running shoes.
Ditch casual calories
Research from The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition found that one third of our daily calorie intake comes from sugar-sweetened drinks and fruit juices. (And that’s before you add alcohol.) These calories spike your blood-sugar levels, which increases cravings. Go for whole fruits or low/no-sugar options when it comes to drinks.
Set a minimum
“One of the goals I use with my clients is setting a minimum of days,” says Ms Jess Cifelli, a CycleBar instructor and personal trainer. “Pick a realistic number of workouts per week and commit to it – that’s a specific number though, not a range, such as two to three.”
Learn to breathe better
Research shows a correlation between greater fatigue levels in athletes’ leg muscles and laboured breathing. “Practise increasing the number of steps per breath,” says Professor Alison McConnell, from Brunel University. “Do this to breathe slower and deeper – the most efficient pattern.”
“Pick a realistic number of workouts per week and commit to it”
“Anchor yourself in the present by counting your breaths – count to 10, then start again – or footfalls – right or left foot, but not both, to 10,” says Mr William Pullen, a psychotherapist, runner and author of Run For Your Life. “Or count the trees or other runners to reinvent your running routine and keep your attention focused on the here and now.”
Tap into wearable tech
“Measurable data showing calories burnt, speed reached, steps achieved and more are the most simple means of motivation when it comes to reigniting a fitness routine,” says Conway. “Plus, you can set a workout reminder on your device.”
Get it done first thing
Some of us prefer a dawn-patrol session, others are night-owl exercisers. “By getting the effort done first thing, there’s less chance of you making excuses to skip a workout later on in the day,” says Warner.
These pretty little trees can boost the body’s fat-burning metabolism and are a highly effective, low-cost addition at mealtimes. A Kanazawa University study into the powers of the phytochemical sulforaphane, which naturally occurs in broccoli, found it fired up the metabolism and combated the negative effects of high-fat foods on bodyweight.
Skip past the pub
Restart your routine with a couple of no-alcohol days each week. The body cannot store alcohol the way it does reserves of quality carbohydrates, so it has to metabolise the booze right away, which occupies your liver and distracts it from turning body fat into fuel.
“Sprinkle your fitness routine with compound movements, combining two moves into one for an effective workout,” says Pasternak. “It can be as simple as a squat and lunge, or a deadlift and a push-up. Compound lifts target fast-twitch muscle fibres, the ones that give us power and maximise strength.”
“Anchor yourself in the present… and keep your attention focused on the here and now”
One step at a time
“Make your workout priorities frequency and consistency,” says Holder. “Get back into the environment you were in before and, once you’re doing that, focus on what you were doing in that environment before.”
Go to class
“Repetitive exercise is demotivating,” says Verma. “So hit the after-work CrossFit, cyclefit or stretch classes for added variety.” A study by Les Mills fitness found thatmore than 90 per cent of exercisers never missed a group workout. That figure fell to 43 per cent among those who exercised alone.
Break it down
“Rather than focusing on the end goal, just eye the process,” says Pasternak. “I aim for things I have direct control over, such as hitting a daily step goal of 12,000 or unplugging from technology for two hours. That way, you don’t get stressed out about the bigger picture as much.”
Just walk more
“Our work dynamic has changed and perhaps you are working from home and not getting the right amount of steps in,” says Verma. “Adding 30 minutes of added walking a day can kickstart fitness, ease anxiety and you may also get a better night’s sleep.”