Now you’ve stopped mainlining Baileys and smothering everything in cream and Camembert, you probably want to get off that lardy arse before your arteries clog up permanently, right? But a healthy lifestyle is about more than grains and self-denial in January — and a sudden burst of heavy exercise can do more harm than good.
Don’t prise yourself off the sofa just yet
At least not until you’ve checked your blood pressure to see if your body can cope with exertion. Better still, go for a Pulse Wave Screening (cost: about £50) to reveal how much pressure your heart is under and how stiff those beleaguered arteries are. “If they’re blocked up and full of plaque, it restricts the blood flow,” says holistic wellbeing practitioner Jo Tocher from www.yourhealthyheart.co.uk. “The worst case scenario is that in extreme cases, sudden exertion can lead to a heart attack.”
Avoid running before you’ve walked
You know how ‘fit’ people drop dead running marathons? Don’t take on some huge and imminent challenge just to prove you’re still full of energy, nor run so hard the first time that you’re puking and physically unable to drag yourself home afterwards. Suddenly putting extra pressure on the pump that is your heart means it may not cope. Build it up slowly but surely. Start with interval training — ie: walking for two minutes, then jogging for two, gradually building up to jogging for two then running for two, eventually increasing to running for longer periods.
Take one for the team
Heading straight for the weights and machines and making like Arnie, when hoisting so much as a man bag off the floor usually makes you wince, means putting your heart — and all your other muscles — under too much strain. Taking up team sports like football and rugby is “way better,” says personal trainer Anthony Mayatt from www.breathefitness.uk.com. Like interval training, you only do it in short bursts, your recovery period is that lovely bit when someone else has the ball, and you’re far less likely to overdo it.
Your ego’s not in charge here
However mega-fit you used to be, launching straight back in at the same level is foolhardy in the extreme. Signing up for a body combat, martial arts or a spinning class just to prove you can could lead you to throwing yourself into exertion too hard and putting the old ticker at risk. Swallow your pride and find a class that fits your current fitness levels so you can ease in gradually.
Move your bed out of the gym
Self-disgust at your slobbery may inspire you to get a bit gung-ho, but going from supine on the sofa to three-hour gym sessions six days a week will increase your heart rate too quickly and just make you ill. Putting your heart under strain is about doing too much. If you’ve been a lazy bum of late, you just haven’t got the fitness levels to cope with the strain. “Start with three or four hour-long gym sessions a week doing low-intensity exercise like cycling at a steady pace, gradually increasing in intensity as your fitness levels rise” says Anthony Mayatt.