Jurg Widmer Probst

Choosing the right workout plan for you

For those of us just starting out in the world of weight training (and even for those who have been doing it for a while, if we’re honest), choosing the right workout can be a tough call. There is a huge amount of choice out there, whether you are taking your advice from your friends down at the gym, a personal trainer, or the thousands of blogs and websites out there. Each one has their own take on what works for them, or they have a new fitness product, technique, book or app to push.

So how on earth do you go about deciding what workout is right for you? Is there a straightforward strategy – and a simple set of steps – that you can go through to try and identify a workout that really works? We think there is – so here is our take.

Work out why you want to work out

It sounds obvious, and it is. But that doesn’t mean that it still shouldn’t be the very first thing that anyone who is looking to choose a workout should do: ask yourself, what do you actually want to achieve with your workout? Are you looking to lose weight, get an impressive physique or just to feel stronger?

This is an essential element of getting better at any sport or physical exercise. With clearly defined goals, you give yourself a motivational target. On those days when the workout is getting tough, a longer term goal can give you just that little bit of extra focus and perspective that is often enough to get you though the hard times. Knowing why you are doing something can help you to motivate yourself.

But of course beyond that, having a clear goal also allows you to make a more focused decision about what you need to do to achieve it. When you know where you want to get to, you can work out a step by step way of getting there. So, pick your goal, and then find the best workout plan that will help you to achieve it.

Be realistic

The big thing we’ve learned about fitness goals over the years is that you need to pitch them just right – they need to be realistic and achievable, but they need to push you too.

Taking this approach is actually a really important way of deciding on the right workout for you, because it encourages you to think honestly about what you can commit to every week. If you pick a weight training goal that requires you to be in the gym six times a week, and you have a young family and a full time job, neither the goal nor the weight training plan required to meet it are realistic.

So, as well as your goals, it is really important to think about what you can actually do, both physically and in terms of the time you have available. By not giving yourself time to do what you need to do, you will doom your workout to failure before it even starts.

Make sure you choose a workout that you actually enjoy

Now, we’re not saying that you shouldn’t take your weight training workout seriously. Or that every moment of it should be enjoyable. Of course, it’s going to be tough, and weight training, by its very nature, needs to push you so that your body will extend its physical limits as you get into shape. Instead, we’re just saying that actually enjoying the workout or weight training you are doing is a fundamentally important part of achieving those workout goals that you have set yourself.

There are a few good reasons for this. The most obvious is that as human beings we generally find that we stick to things that we enjoy and avoid those things that we don’t. Even in a gym culture of ‘no pain, no gain’, at heart we’re still more motivated to do things we like doing. And then, looking at the bigger picture of how we go about choosing a workout programme that actually works for us, motivation and staying the distance are absolutely crucial. All workouts, without exception, work through progressive repetition and if you don’t feel happy about seeing the programme all of the way through then it is unlikely that you will feel the full benefit.

So, the bottom line is this. If you can find a workout that helps you to realise your fitness goals, that is tough but achievable, and that most of all is enjoyable – then that is the right workout for you.

Jurg Widmer Probst - fitness

A minimalist approach to fitness

Every popular thing experiences ‘crazes’ – and of course the world of fitness and exercise is far from immune. In many ways it can feel like an industry that is built on fads – the latest nutritional plans to help you to lose weight or gain muscle, the newest technology to help you record your progress, the latest running shoes or highly advanced synthetic materials to help you perform that little bit better.

And yet we’re not going to say that all of this is rubbish, and should be ignored – not least because a lot of these changes are indicative of the great progress the industry has made over the years and the booming popularity of the sector. But also because a lot of this ‘stuff’ – the tech, the clothing, the shiny new theories – are all just a part of the fun of getting fitter. Most of us enjoy looking at the latest trends and trying out new things, and this continual evolution can be an important factor in keeping us fresh and engaged in whatever particular kind of exercise it is we enjoy.

All that being said, there is also a good argument for just stopping occasionally, and reassessing exactly where we are and why we’re doing it – it is a chance to think properly again about why we wanted to get fit in the first place. (Ironically, taking a more ‘minimal’ approach to fitness has become a kind of fad in its own right, and you could quite easily stop reading this post right now and spend the next couple of hours looking at which minimal running shoe is right for you). But, before you do, here are some thoughts on other ways in which you can shed just a few of the things that you maybe don’t actually need on this fitness journey you’re on.

Re-think about why you are really doing this

If you are going running or heading down to the gym every other day because you love buying running gear or losing yourself in the endless variety of new workout plans, then that’s great – but it is unlikely that these really were the original reasons why you started trying to get fitter. So, take some time to re-assess where you are right now.

Why did you originally start to do this? Are these still the same motivations you have now, or have they evolved? Looking at it from a slightly different angle, what is it that you really love most about the exercise you do? When do you feel at your best, truthfully? What is it that gives you the buzz – is it putting on that brand new digital fitness tracker, or is it the feeling you get when you lift more weights than you’ve ever done before, or run your PB for a 5k?

We’ve found that by taking another look at why you are exercising, and maybe revisiting and reminding yourself of those original motivations, you can begin to look at the things that are actually helping you to realise these goals, and the things that aren’t. Is that new running vest you’ve just bought yourself really going to make you run any faster? Or are you just buying it because it feels good to buy things now and then? Of course, there is nothing wrong with this – we all love buying stuff – but it is worth thinking about how necessary these extra things really are to helping us achieve our fitness goals.

Shed and unplug

This process of reassessment is all a part of drilling down to the basics – remembering why it is we’re exercising, and getting rid of anything that isn’t helping us to actually get fitter, or happier, (or both).

And once we’ve taken the time to think about our motivations, we then also need to start a process of getting rid of what we don’t need. This is the time to experiment – you might think that you need your headphones when you go for a run to stop yourself getting bored, but just try a short run without them for once, and see what happens. It might be that you find that the experience of hearing the world around you as you run is actually just as invigorating as the exercise itself. Or, if it isn’t, find someone else to run with, and use the time to have a proper conversation while you exercise. And if you love lifting weights, maybe try a bodyweight workout that you can do at home, rather than having to pay for a monthly gym membership. Or, save the money you spend on expensive gym equipment or membership and take up a cheaper, (but still tough) outdoor activity instead, like bouldering.

There are countless ways for you to exercise with less – whether it is less money spent on equipment, or fewer distractions while you’re doing it. Either way, it is a great way to reconnect with whatever it was that you loved about the activity in the first place.

Jurg Widmer Probst - fitness holiday

Is it possible to stay in shape over the holiday season?

We’ll address the big thing that everyone is probably thinking first: never mind if it is possible – is it actually even worth trying to stay in shape over Christmas and the New Year? It is a time when we all rest, relax and no doubt over-indulge a little too much – and so why should we even bother trying to keep fit and healthy over the holidays?

Well, it is a fair point, and in terms of exercise, even a couple of weeks off shouldn’t affect your fitness levels too much. In fact, in many ways the well earned rest could even do you some good, allowing you the chance to rest and repair those tired and damaged muscles. Get it right and a week or two’s break could actually leave you in as good a shape as you were before (if not slightly better).

Of course, all this is assuming that you look after yourself a little over the festive period. So what can we do to do this, at a time when it is so easy and tempting to over do it? Late nights, rich food and maybe even a bit too much alcohol can all take their toll. So, here are just a few tips for looking after yourself a little this holiday.

 

Don’t avoid meals

This might seem counter-intuitive, especially given the big meals that many people enjoy over Christmas. But actually it makes sense – trying to skip meals (particularly breakfast) because you are worried about your weight is rarely a good idea, at any time of year. Instead, doing this usually results in one of two things happening (or often both). You will either binge on your next meal, or you will pick at food in between meals to compensate. Unfortunately Christmas is ideally set up to make indulging these two bad habits very easy – so sit down and have regular meals with everyone else to keep yourself in a regular routine.

Get out of the house

Whether it is a family Boxing Day walk or even just a few turns around the block, getting outdoors is a really important part of staying in shape over the festive period. The combination of cold weather, supplies of food close to hand and lots to keep you entertained on the TV can make it all too easy to go into hibernation mode, but this is really not good for your body – or your mind for that matter. Even the closest families will find tempers starting to fray after a few days shut indoors, so heading out together is a great way to get the blood pumping and start feeling alive again. As with most things over Christmas, it is all about personal traditions – everyone develops their own, so make a fun outdoor activity one of yours.

Keep on lifting those weights

If you are in the middle of a weightlifting programme, don’t skip it during the festive break. It is actually a great way to burn calories, and rather than giving it a break and doing a bit of cardio, make sure you maintain your weight work. And even if you’re not a weightlifter, it’s still important to try and keep your regular fitness routines going over the holidays. So, get to the gym if you can – but if you really can’t then try and fit some other activity in to compensate.

Plan ahead and be realistic about your goals

It is a fact of life that you are likely to be enjoying some big meals and evenings out over Christmas and the new year. So, a important part of making sure you stay fit and healthy is to plan ahead. If you are likely to be eating a big Christmas meal one evening, try and go easier on the meals during the day – be kind to your body and just prepare sensibly so that you can enjoy those special treats fully.

 

Finally, just be kind to yourself, and be realistic with the fitness goals you set yourself over Christmas. It is going to be tough to avoid breaking a few healthy eating and drinking rules, so if you do, just enjoy it and don’t be too hard on yourself. There’s always the New Year for those healthy resolutions!

Jurg Widmer

Why less is sometimes more when it comes to workouts

The many excuses we come up with for not going to the gym are often longer than the queues for the most popular equipment. We are great at telling ourselves that we either have too much work, we’re too tired, or we simply just don’t have time to go and work out. So is there a way to get more out of the workouts we are able to squeeze in? Is it possible to do shorter workouts, but get the same benefits? We believe it is, so here are our top tips for getting more out of shorter gym sessions. Continue reading “Why less is sometimes more when it comes to workouts”