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

Arts and Entertainment
books
News
Dr Alice Roberts in front of a
people
Voices
Nigel Farage arrives for a hustings event at The Oddfellows Hall in Ramsgate on Tuesday
voicesA defection that shows who has the most to fear from the rise of Ukip
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Arts and Entertainment
The 'three chords and the truth gal' performing at the Cornbury Music Festival, Oxford, earlier this summer
music... so how did she become country music's hottest new star?
Life and Style
The spy mistress-general: A lecturer in nutritional therapy in her modern life, Heather Rosa favours a Byzantine look topped off with a squid and a schooner
fashionEurope's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln
Voices
Caustic she may be, but Joan Rivers is a feminist hero, whether she likes it or not
voicesShe's an inspiration, whether she likes it or not, says Ellen E Jones
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Unsettling perspective: Iraq gave Turner a subject and a voice (stock photo)
booksBrian Turner's new book goes back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Some of the key words and phrases to remember
booksA user's guide to weasel words
Life and Style
Brave step: A live collection from Alexander McQueen whose internet show crashed because of high demand
fashionAs the collections start, Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
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
Latest stories from i100
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

    IT Teacher

    £22000 - £33000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: ICT TeacherLeedsRandstad ...

    Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL)

    Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Graduate C#.NET Developer (TDD, ASP.NET, SQL) Su...

    Junior SQL DBA (SQL Server 2012, T-SQL, SSIS) London - Finance

    £30000 - £33000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior SQL DBA...

    C# Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, MVC-4, HTML5) London

    £35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Web Develop...

    Day In a Page

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

    As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

    Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

    ... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
    Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

    Europe's biggest steampunk convention

    Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

    Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

    Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

    The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
    She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

    Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

    The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
    American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

    Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

    James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
    Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

    Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

    Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

    Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

    If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution