What really, exercise?

Me, exercise?

I’m sorry if you’re sitting there thinking, ‘I thought this was just a diet.  You never said anything about exercise.'

Sorry!  Caught red handed. But, yes, it’s a great idea if you can do a little bit of exercise.  And let me explain; you don’t have to join a gym, wear lycra or take up any kind of dance based humiliation.  There is definitely no Boxercise, Bootcamp,  High Intensity Training, or any other aggressive activity led by someone with visibly discernible muscles.  No-one needs to strain themselves to lose weight.

But you can't deny that moving uses calories.  And because that equation is so simple, so direct, and so absolutely unavoidable, it just makes sense to work on both sides at the same time.  Calories burnt off and calories taken on. The up-side to just a bit of exercise is so great.

A Tour de France cyclist can burn up to 4,500 calories in a day’s riding. That’s a lot of spag bol.  But how about burning off say, just a couple of hundred?

And it’s not just what you burn while you exercise.  It’s that metabolism thing.   Exercise helps increase you metabolic rate, even after you’ve finished.

So let me introduce the thought.  Can you walk for 20 minutes a day?  Are you prepared to go for a little jog?  It’s tough to get into these activities but there are behaviours we can do to help, just the same as for dieting overall.  If I can convince you to make a commitment and help you find an easy way to make it happen will you thank me for it?  Maybe?

It’s easy to find exercise off-putting.  It’s a faff and it takes up time and, of course, the pillow feels so warm and cosy and if I just lie here for 10 minutes I can get up after the news.

But one of the biggest problems comes with our self-delusion.   We make commitments with our Thoughtful Brain that our pillow-loving Amy Brain tells to bugger off.  At 7am on a winter’s morning we value the immediate benefit of not going out to run a lot more than the difficult-to-believe feeling of virtue that we might get after we’ve done it, and certainly more than the impossible-to-measure potential benefit to our health. 

Our Thoughtful Brain doesn’t actually help itself where exercise is concerned.  The times in our life when we ever decide to adopt a little exercise in our life, we tend to be flushed with good intentions.  It’s often a New Year’s resolution and we pompously think we are entirely better and more self controlled people than we are.  So we set ourselves stupidly high expectations that we cannot possibly live up to.

We have got to make exercise easier for ourselves.  Not a joining a gym or signing up to a HIT course, but ways to introduce exercise that we'll hardly even notice. 

I've got two broad suggestions.  

ONE - Use You Own STEAM

Replace a bit of 'mechanical' assistance.  Be it a car, a bus, a lift or an escalator, cut it out and power yourself.  And even if you can't cut it all out - ie. if you work on the 20th floor or live a long car drive away from Tescos there are ways to cut it down.

Get off the lift or the bus at an early stop/floor or park the car a couple of streets away from home or away from your destination and walk that bit every day. Can you cycle, perhaps even part of the way to work?

Not everyday, perhaps.  Maybe just even two or three times a week.  The great point is that it’s dead time.  My cycle commute takes me about twenty minutes longer than the tube, but for that I’ve got an hour’s exercise.  And I don’t do the stupid hell-for-leather lycra pant thing.  I wear normal clothes.  I cycle simply, as Amsterdamites do.  It’s a mode of transport not a race.

Could you do the same?  Or, if your commute is so long that you have to drive to work, how about splitting the journey with a folding bike in the boot? 

Or if you don’t commute what about shopping trips?  Too much shopping to carry?  Well get it delivered from an on-line service and cycle to the supermarket just for a look round, pick up a few last minute items you can carry in your basket and have a cup of coffee in the café.

And never stand on an escalator.  Keep walking.


Can you get up a tiny bit earlier, again even just a couple of times a week and go for a bit of a run, or just a brisk walk?  It’s hard.  In winter, virtually impossible.  But there is a real power to just getting on with it and doing it.

The key is not to be ambitious.  It’s easy to set off on something like this with such good intentions that you put yourself off.  So take it easy.  And don’t feel like you always have to beat your personal best, or always take the route up the hill.  Heck, just stay on the flat and go round the block. 

Just bumble around for ten minutes.  Jog away from the house for five minutes and walk back.  It doesn’t matter.  The point is just to do it.  And do it again next week.

But it is difficult and this is another campaign where you’ve got to take on Amy. 

Running Grooves

Here are the running grooves:

1. Get some nice kit.  Not only will it make the run more comfortable, it’ll feel like a kind of reward too.  You’ll feel like a runner. 

2. Use a running app.  It’s fun to see where you’ve been.  It logs all the times you’ve gone and of course logs your times and distances too.  You don’t need a separate wrist band, your smart phone will do it for you.

3. Decide that you’re going the night before, don’t leave it to see how you feel in the morning.  You know the answer to that. 

4. Tell your partner – to make it official (saying it out loud makes it harder to go back on) and if relevant, to cover off any child minding issues (go for a night where it’s their turn to get up with the toddler).

5. Then set your kit out the night before.  Lay it all out so it’s all there ready by your bed.  Or better still go to sleep wearing your running kit, especially in the winter

6. Set the alarm fifteen minutes earlier. Five to get ready, ten to run.

7.Don’t forget an iPod with some good music on or try the radio.  I find that the connection with the morning radio routine radio helps it feel less painful. 

7b. Think. The monotony of running sends your mind drifting all over the place.  And you can use that to your advantage.  Just let it go, for example and you can find a kind of meditation.  Or set it lose on something: a problem or a challenge or a creative project.  It’ll beaver away and when you come back you’ll have not only lost some weight you’ll have solved something.

8.  Try going with someone else.  If a friend is always ready at 6.15 every Wednesday morning when you ring her doorbell then it’s a pretty good incentive to be there every week.

9. Have a little sprint.  Maybe the last 100 yards before home, maybe a couple of nice spots on the way round; that gentle slope down to the beach at sunset, a gentle tropical breeze at your back?  No?  Ok, just past the Tesco car-park then.  Anywhere.  A quick dash for a bit of fun will give you a bigger increase in your metabolic rate and it lasts for longer afterwards.

Before you know it you’ll be out there every day.

The great thing is that while all the preparation, and the getting out of bed and even the pounding the streets can be really dull the impact on your diet is great.

And when you get back, and you drink that long cool glass of water and you’re in the hot shower and it’s all over…  it feels great.

Oh and one more thing.  It helps to build a bit of strength.  Lean muscles will keep you burning calories three times faster than fat, even when they’re not doing anything.  What do I mean?  Well sit ups, push ups.  Go on.  Just five of each.  Ten?  When you get back from your jog in the morning?