At times it feels like a hard slog (pic courtesy of ~ggvic~ flickr CC)

At times it feels like a hard slog (pic courtesy of ~ggvic~ flickr CC)

With January drawing to a close, many of you who had the best intentions to get fit and stay fit in 2009 will start to find motivation is dwindling. But this is the most important time to stick with it. Often, it takes six weeks before results start to show. So here are five boosts which got me through previous slumps.

1. Change your music

People often have a playlist or favourite album they like to listen to while working out. But do you remember the first time that certain song came on while you were pumpin’ those legs on the bike or cross trainer and it made you move a little faster or push a little harder? Well sooner or later it’s going to stop having that effect because you will become immune and instead of a positive association you will start to think, “Oh that’s the song I work out to.” Put your ipod on shuffle and you’ll be surprised. Some of the tunes you never would have picked have a great beat to work out to.

2. Use the programmes on the machines

It sounds simple enough but the amount of people I see who keep cardio machines on the same level for 20-30 minutes is mind-boggling. No wonder they are uninspired. First of all there’s no variety in their workout. Of course your body and mind are going to get bored if you ask them to do the same repetitive movement at roughly the same speed for 20 minutes or more. If you use the programmes, then the session is usually broken down into more manageable chunks. I particularly like interval training on the bike and cross-trainer. This alternates between periods of lower intensity but faster movement and periods of higher intensity and slightly slower movement. It is good if you challenge yourself to try and maintain your speed as the intensity increases. Chances are you won’t manage it but you will get your heart rate up in the attempt. Studies have shown that using interval training is good for the heart because it encourages it to use the less intense minutes to recover and then fires the heart rate right back up again. Using interval training can also be a good way of decreasing the time of your session because you will find it more tiring than maintaining one single speed so you increase your heart rate and burn more calories in a shorter time frame.

3. People watch

It’s interesting to observe other people when you are at the gym. Everyone has their own agenda. There are the types who pretend they are so focused on their targets they don’t notice anyone else; chances are they are using the mirrors to scope out fellow gym members while at the same time obsessing over how they look. There are those who are more than a little pervy; they try and catch your eye whilse they pump their guns or inadvertently flex a tricep. Next there are those who read a magazine or newspaper; usually they become so engrossed in what they are reading they forget what they are there for, with the result that they rarely break out in a sweat. Finally, there are my sort of people; those who observe others in a non-creepy way and make up little stories featuring them in their heads. It is even more fun if you can combine two athletes in the same story and pretend you are on to their sordid little secret.

4. Be competitive

With yourself, with the girl rowing next to you, with the machine. Whatever it takes to bring out the competitor in you, grab hold and let it take over. Don’t bother observing all those faux niceties and manners of gym etiquette. If someone is running beside you make sure you run faster, harder and for longer. Failing that, at least look better doing it than she does. Give yourself constant targets, “Next time I’ll work off 50 more calories.” But don’t focus on one measurement, if you usually go until you’ve reached a certain distance alter the challenge slightly. And don’t think you are the only one with this mentality, trust me, no matter how calm, cool and collected she appears to be, she is trying to beat you just as much.

5. Go to classes

This feeds off the same energy as point four. In most gym halls or dance studios there are mirrors, which mean you can see everyone else and can see how much effort they are putting in. Alter your effort/coordination/closeness to the instructor accordingly. Become a gym boffin. Make sure you get prime position behind the instructor and that you are hitting all those combinations in-sync, and with as much energy as she is. Use the group (or should I say pack) mentality to push yourself. You don’t want ‘Tanorexic’ to the right of you to think she has more stamina do you?


I hope these offer some inspiration. Let me know what you think or if you have any tips of your own: I’m always looking for ways to get through the workout grind.