Shape up this year

Attention! Kick start your new year fitness regime with advice from Xercise4Less’s exercise expert, The Colonel 


Q. I’m not looking forward to going back to work in January – I’ve got so many deadlines and it’s really making me stressed and I haven’t been able to sleep very well. I know exercise is a good cure, but I simply don’t have the energy for anything too strenuous. Is there anything else I can do?

A. Exercise is a great solution and, with the right mindset, it will take your mind off work. Stress is also a prime factor in causing weight gain. When you feel stressed, your body releases adrenaline and cortisol, which release sugars into your bloodstream, causing weight gain. Being tired triggers your sugar cravings and you’ll be more likely to snack and put on weight. Maintaining a regular sleeping pattern is vital to staying fit and healthy, so now the party season is over, early nights are a good idea. You need to activate the body’s natural relaxation response with deep breathing and releasing tension in your muscles, which tighten when you experience anxiety. Yoga is the best way to achieve this. Doing a little everyday will flush your body with fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients, and reduce the amount of cortisol released.  So why not take up yoga and you’ll be ready to take on whatever work throws at you.

Q. I want to get fit for 2014, and I’ve read that running is the best way to do this. Only problem is, I’m awful at running! After ten minutes on the treadmill I have the most painful stitch and have to stop. How can I avoid this?

A. There is no definitive answer for why we get stitches in the gym, and some get them worse than others. Whatever the answer, there are ways to prevent the horrible achy pain. Probably the most obvious solution is not to eat before you work out. Ideally you need to leave two to three hours after you eat before you go to the gym. You need to keep your body hydrated, so drink plenty of water before you work out, rather than leaving it until you’re in full swing. If you strengthen your core muscles, (abs, back and pelvic muscles) you won’t get cramps as much, either. Try lying on your back with your knees bent, push your hips off the ground whilst tightening your abs, hold for three deep breaths. Do this every time you work out and wave goodbye to those nasty cramps.

Q. I’m trying to get my body more toned, but I’m not seeing any changes in my body and wondering if it might be because of my diet. Which foods work best with workouts?

A. Carbs are vital when it comes to reaching your gym goals – fibrous carbs like sweet potatoes and brown rice will stop you craving quick sugars like sweets and chocolate – so a hearty curry using these ingredients is a great healthy wintery dish. Also, make it your new year’s resolution to eat five pieces of fruit and veg a day, to ensure you get the daily essential minerals your body needs for absorption, fat reduction and cell repair. Lastly, try and leave trans-fats for weekends only and eat them in small doses. Leave those mince pies, chocolates and unhealthy snacks in 2013. They are generally high in fructose corn syrup, one of the worst ingredients if you’re trying to eat healthily, and are really hard to burn off in the gym. Think clean, fresh, filling and nutritious foods for 2014 and you’ll be well on your way to that toned body by spring!

Q. What’s the truth about not eating carbs after 8pm if you’re trying to lose weight? I don’t get home from work until around 7pm, so this is when I’ll be eating. Help!

A. If you’re trying to lose weight, your main focus shouldn’t be on how many carbs you’re eating, but instead your overall calorie intake. To lose weight, you should take regular exercise, and after exercise, you need to eat complex carbs. This gives your body a chance to store them as energy, ready for your next workout. It is a good idea to monitor the amount of carbs you eat if you’re trying to lose weight, as these tend to be the most calorific food type – but you shouldn’t cut them out completely. As for eating carbs after 8pm, there is no evidence that your body stores them any differently than it would if you ate them during the day. Just because you’re trying to lose weight does not mean you have to starve yourself. Regular exercise and a healthy diet of complex carbs, low in fat and plenty of fruit and veg is what you should focus on.

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