The Best Workouts For The New Year

Struggling to muster the enthusiasm to get in shape? Maybe it’s time to try something new…

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There could hardly be a tougher time to keep fit than midwinter. If the temptations of the festive season weren’t enough to put us off, we’re now being hit with a one-two punch of bone-chilling cold and near constant darkness, a combination with the power to trigger some primal hibernation instinct buried deep within our psyches.

What’s needed is a novel approach: a way of putting the excitement back into exercise. Rather than renewing that overpriced and underused gym membership, why not consider putting those 12 monthly payments towards a road bike instead? If the idea of setting your alarm for an early-morning run saps your soul, why not sign up for tennis lessons as an alternative? Variety is the spice of life, after all, and there are few areas of our lives in such desperate need of spicing up as our January fitness regimes.

Here, we introduce you to five ways to shake up your fitness regime – and highlight a few of the benefits they can bring. Given that no new sporting endeavour is complete without a few shiny pieces of kit, we’ve also picked out the gear you’ll need to get started. Really, what more encouragement do you need?

Try A Personal Trainer

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The first week of January invariably sees gym numbers swell as hordes of overfed men and women descend on the treadmills and cross trainers in a desperate search for redemption from their post-Christmas guilt. By about the second week of February, the majority of them will have fallen by the wayside. The take-home lesson? A fitness regime born out of a temporary feeling of remorse is likely to result in failure. For those willing to make a long-term commitment to fitness, however, a gym membership remains a prudent investment. Just don’t rely solely on your own powers of motivation. Prebook a month’s worth of sessions with a personal trainer (or, if you want more flexibility and variety, consider a monthly subscription to classpass.com) and set some achievable, quantifiable goals. Instead of vague statements such as “I will get fitter” or “I will lose weight”, try “I will take part in a 10k race in March” or “I will lose two inches off my waist by my birthday”. Oh, and one last thing: don’t expect it to be easy, even with a personal trainer.

Ace It At Tennis

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Yes, tennis is generally considered a summer sport – but it’s always summer somewhere in the world, right? (OK, just ignore when it is either spring or autumn and stick with us here.) This one’s for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, then, who are currently enjoying the extended days, warm weather and outdoor tennis-playing opportunities that the rest of us are going to have to wait another six long months for. Like any sport that involves a winner and a loser, tennis motivates us to get fit by appealing to our competitive nature. If you’re the kind of guy who finds jogging tedious unless you’ve got a steady stream of other joggers to overtake, then it’s a great way of mixing up your fitness regime – and having a bit of fun while you’re at it.

Sign Up For A Marathon

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Secured a place in April’s London Marathon? It’s time to get training. Without such a motivating carrot, it takes a particular kind of masochist to take up running in the dead of winter. Most of the things we associate with a pleasant jog – the sun on our backs, the warm breeze on our faces – are notably absent in January. In their place, you can expect darkness, cold and drizzling rain. For those willing to put themselves through the discomfort, though, the benefits of running in winter are many and varied. You’ll burn more calories, for a start, as your body has to work harder to stay warm. And studies show that exposing our bodies to cold temperatures not only helps to burn fat more quickly, but also makes the heart work harder to distribute blood to the body’s extremities. Finally, there’s the mental fortitude you’ll develop over the course of those cold mornings. Think about it this way: by the time spring finally arrives, your regular training run will feel like a walk in the park.

Get On Your Bike

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Will 2017 be the year that you finally join the Lycra parade? If you’re one of the millions who regularly spend the hour of 7am to 8am stuffed cheek-to-jowl in a metal tube, sucking down an overpriced latte while craning your neck to read the gossip pages in your neighbour’s copy of Time Out (or other free local publication of your choice), or if you’ve ever excused yourself from doing regular exercise because “there just aren’t enough hours in the day”, then perhaps your answer to that question should be yes. As major cities get busier and busier, the most persuasive argument for taking up cycling in 2017 is undoubtedly as a replacement for your daily commute. Not only will it help you do your bit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but you’ll also save a packet on transport costs – and give yourself a stress-busting, twice-daily cardiovascular workout at the same time.

Time To Tee Off

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Golf is generally regarded as a sport in which fitness takes a backseat to skill. Indeed, it’s hard to look at Mr Miguel Angel Jiménez – a Spanish golfer whose habit of smoking Cuban cigars on the course hasn’t held him back from becoming one of Europe’s top professionals – and conclude otherwise. Nevertheless, the health benefits are there. Over the course of the average 18-hole course, a golfer will walk about four miles; with a full set of steel-shafted clubs, he’ll be carrying about 15kg. And while these benefits will obviously be negated if you choose to ride a golf buggy and employ a caddy, you’ll still get a good upper-body workout: the golf swing works your back, chest, forearms and glutes.

Take The Plunge

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Swimming outdoors during winter is not an activity for the faint of heart – and we mean that in the literal sense. The shock of submerging yourself in near-freezing water causes your ribcage to contract, your heart rate to immediately jump by around 20 beats per minute and the blood to rush from your extremities to your core as your body attempts to preserve as much heat as possible. So why, then, do people do it? It’s probably something to do with the endorphin rush it triggers, which, according to regular cold-water swimmers, can leave you feeling happily doped up for the rest of the day. For those with pre-existing heart conditions – or those just a little nonplussed by the idea of jumping into freezing water – regular swimming in a heated pool provides a great low-impact cardiovascular workout, too.