Getting Fit With 12 Enjoyable Steps

The Guardian columnist Zoe Williams recently wrote about how to build strength in simple and enjoyable ways. The article is timely for January, when many people are thinking about their health and losing weight as part of their new year’s resolutions. 

Start with walking in January – then graduate to breathing exercises, circuits and pilates. With a new activity to try each month, you’ll soon improve your flexibility and fitness, without feeling the burn

– The Guardian

Zoe shares the following 12 easy steps that she says she got from Lucinda Meade, a 59-year-old physiotherapist and personal trainer whose fixations I am adopting below in-verbatim.

  • January: Walking. “I suggest an 18- to 19-minute variation: go out of your house, walk for 10 minutes in any direction, then try to get home quicker than that. It’s very simple, a little gamified, and basically impossible to fail. Do this daily and introduce minor challenges, such as walking on uneven ground, or going uphill. Head out early: you need the best possible daylight for mood purposes.
  • February: breathwork. “Hyperventilation, relaxed breathing, meditation – that, once you’ve got them, will benefit you in every way. Your stress levels will go down, you’ll sleep better, you’ll lose weight, you’ll get rid of all the toxins – everything will just work better.
  • March: circuits. “Between the walking and the newfound groundedness, you’ll be ready for something that makes you sweat. The thing with circuits, if you are doing them right, is that the whole hour is challenging and tiring. Some people can induce that commitment in themselves; most of us need the peer pressure that comes from doing a class.
  • April: reformer pilates. “Pilates is a strength and flexibility discipline; the movements are repetitive and sometimes minute. Reformer pilates is done on a bench, with springs at one end to manage the resistance and straps at the other for arm work. You might be lying down on it, standing up, pushing the bench in and out with your arms or legs; whichever way, you’re working muscle tone, balance and flexibility in a very low-impact way, so it’s all-ages and great after injury.
  • May: weight training. “As you get older, there is no other way, in a relatively short time, to build muscle. It’s wasting away after you’re 40, unless you’re a builder,” Meade says.
  • June: running. “I’ve sure been here a lot of times, gingerly running for 90 seconds, feeling as if my lungs were going to explode, before steadily working up to a respectable 25 minutes. It’s free, it’s low drama, zero interaction, and it works. No wonder so many people end up only running.
  • July: swimming. “Swimming is an incredibly good exercise for the low-impact use of every single muscle, and once you have a swim-ethic there’s no reason you have to stop doing it.
  • August: yoga. “It is holiday season, and you need something you can take away with you that doesn’t rely on a fixed routine. Do start with a couple of lessons so you’re doing it right, and choose your style: ashtanga is the fast-paced, shape-throwing one; hatha is the contemplative, sustained posture one; the fashionable class at the moment is vinyasa flow.
  • September: bouldering or parkour. “Bouldering is really hip, has great progression – the green grades a child could do; the white ones feel as if they might kill you – and unlike roped climbing, doesn’t need a lot of expertise or a partner before you can start. Parkour, meanwhile, may entail an initial coaching outlay, but sooner or later you could do it on your own, for free.
  • October: fell running. “It’s great cardio and it tends to be low-impact because you’re not on pavement. It also frees your mind from the relentless smartwatch-measuring of speed and distance; the terrain is too varied, and at times too challenging, to get hung up on that stuff.
  • November: natural movement. “There are gyms that will do natural movement classes – they tend to be shorter, 20-minute bursts, and they are sometimes called functional movement – but essentially, you’re trying to extend your strength training, which may have become a little perfunctory or instinctive, with unfamiliar moves.
  • December: aerial yoga or pilates. “In aerial pilates and yoga, you have an individual silk (it’s really more like a big bit of jersey) that hangs in a loop from the ceiling and works like a hammock.

Phew! The above 12-month exercise suggestions from Zoe are not that easy for the vast majority of regular folks, but for some, might actually work out pretty well.