Running: How not to hit the wall

If your New Year fitness resolution is on its last legs, all is not lost, says Jimmy Lee Shreeve

Vowing to get up off the couch and get fit is one of the most common New Year resolutions. Full of new-found enthusiasm, we declare: "This year I'm really going to do it and zap the flab once and for all..." And you know that if you stick to it, you'll not only look great, but you'll also feel a lot better. It makes sense on every level. The only problem is that the commitment rarely lasts.

By the beginning of February – or even before January is up – your brand-new exercise bike is gathering dust, or you've stopped going to the gym, despite having taken out a year's membership.

The Annals of Behavioral Medicine reported, in October, on a study of 205 sedentary adults who were encouraged to begin an exercise programme. At six months, about half had got down to it, but by 12 months, around a third had packed it in. It's a typical story. But why do people give up? Is it simply a lack of commitment? "No, most of them have the best intentions, it's just that they haven't thought through the smaller details, such as deciding how fit they want to get and when they want to achieve it by," says Keith Irving, a performance psychologist at the Oxfordshire-based fitness networking site iStadia www.istadia.com. "They might have joined a gym or bought some home-exercise kit, but without identifying these lesser goals, most people typically lose their initial motivation."

Another common mistake is going at exercise too hard at first, and ending up sore all over. "People haven't gotten away from the 'no pain, no gain' mentality," says David Williams, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behaviour at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Rhode Island. In the stressed modern world, it's all too tempting to push for maximum gains in minimum time. But according to Williams, this only serves to make people dread workouts. "They feel good to be done with it, not to be doing it."

To remove the "dread factor", Williams advises starting slowly at first and setting your fitness goals lower, so they're achievable. If you've been mostly sedentary up until now, he recommends starting with a five-minute walk during your lunch hour, three times a week, and build up from there.

The key, he says, is being consistent, no matter how small the effort: "Over time, you'll increase your fitness by virtue of doing something, and your level of intensity might naturally increase as well."

If you're lucky (or obsessively driven), you might even find yourself matching the incredible fitness levels of Indiana-based Ted Skup, who has done more than 10 million push-ups over the last 25 years. According to a New York Times report in 2008, many Americans can't even do one push-up. But Ted, nicknamed "The Pusher", pulls off just over a thousand a day – without fail. In his book Death, Taxes & Push-Ups (Abox Publishing, 2008), Skup says: "This is an all-inclusive exercise that works for everyone. It's the best exercise you can do that's working your whole body." Skup wants to do for push-ups what the late Jim Fixx, author of The Complete Book of Running, did for jogging. He's on a mission to get us all to leave behind expensive gym memberships and exercise equipment and become "pushers" too. "Push-ups are 100 per cent free," he says. "People are kind of going back to the old days of doing exercises at home simply because of economics or time-management."

One way Skup keeps motivated during his daily routine is by listening to music. He's not alone. Many people use music to keep them from flagging during workouts. In 2007, the singer Rihanna listed her favourite workout songs in Fitness Magazine, recommending four of her own tracks for "when you have to pick up the pace on the treadmill". Self-serving it might have been, but a British study has found that the dance remix of Rihanna's song "Umbrella" is the ideal beat to workout to. The research was led by Dr Costas Karageorghis, a sports psychologist at Brunel University, in west London, who has studied the effects of music on physical performance for 20 years. He found that the perfect tempo to exercise to is between 120 and 140 beats per minute (BPM). Besides "Umbrella", many dance and rock tracks conform to this, including "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen, "Drop It Like It's Hot" by Snoop Dogg, and "Mercy" by Duffy.

In one test, Karageorghis got 30 volunteers to workout to specially selected rock and pop music, and found their endurance rose by an average of 15 per cent. He considered this to be "very significant" in terms of staying motivated and benefiting from workout routines.

So, the key to maintaining your get-up-and-go throughout the year could very well be to crank up your sound system or plug in your iPod.

Keep on running: How to stay motivated

MOTIVATION TIPS FROM TED 'THE PUSHER' SKUP

Ted Skup has done more than 10 million push-ups over the last 25 years. This is how the author of 'Death, Taxes & Push-Ups' keeps himself motivated:

Daily Affirmations: Repeat key motivational phrases, such as "I am a lean, mean pushing machine", every day to program your mind to achieve your goals.

Visualisation: Picture yourself looking and feeling good in your mind's eye. See yourself enjoying and benefiting from your workouts.

Positive Attitude: Never say die! Always have the attitude of "I will", rather than "I can't". Say to yourself: "I can achieve all my fitness goals. I will do push-ups on a daily basis."

Goal Setting: Write down what you want to achieve from your fitness routines. List where you want to be this year, this month and even just this week. But do make sure that your goals are realistic, and don't overstretch yourself.

www.emeraldbookcompany.com/authors/skup

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
Manchester United's kit for the 2014/15 season
football
News
Nadine Gordimer died peacefully at home yesterday
peopleNobel laureate was a powerful anti-Apartheid voice
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Neil Young performs on stage at Hyde Park
musicAnd his Hyde Park set has rhyme and reason, writes Nick Hasted
News
Women have been desperate to possess dimples like Cheryl Cole's
people Cole has secretly married French boyfriend Jean-Bernard Fernandez-Versini after just three months.
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Extras
indybestThe tastiest creations for children’s parties this summer
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Marketing Comms / Digital Marketing Specialist

    Not Specified: Recruitment Genius: An exciting and rewarding role exists for a...

    Search Engine Optimisation/ SEO Executive

    £25000 - £28000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Excellent opportun...

    Programme Planner

    £30000 - £45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

    Project Manager

    £400 - £500 per day + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: The opportunity: P...

    Day In a Page

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

    Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
    Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

    The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

    Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
    Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

    Meet Japan's AKB48

    Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
    In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

    Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

    The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor