‘Are Ya Well?’ Leap (or Lunge) Into the Spring of Things. | Leah Aftab

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It’s February: your motivation has lapsed, those new gym runners don’t have the same shine they did when you bought them, and sitting watching the new box-set of Love-Hate seems more appealing than exercising. Sound familiar? Just because the resolutions aren’t going to plan (or, in the case of others, haven’t started) doesn’t mean you should give up! Here are some simple tips to get you started on your road to that summer body you’ve been dreaming of.

Before getting started into any type of exercise, remember to warm up: stretch your arms, legs and back (you’ll be less stiff in the morning if you do) and this will help you go for longer during your workout. Examples of cardio are walking, jogging, running, using the cross trainer, cycling and the rowing machine. Benefits of cardio include an improved heart rate, reducing recovery time between gym sessions and helping to lose weight. There are various settings on these machines and if you want to know which setting is best for what you want to achieve, simply ask a staff member what each setting involves. Start at a low level and work your way up to get your heart rate going, alternating between levels is great for your fitness. The best pace for cardio is one where you’re fully warmed up but still able to hold a simple conversation without being out of breath or struggling.

If, however, like me, you find cardio tedious, try some weights. There’s more to the gym than just treadmills! There is no reason to be afraid of weights; many girls think that they will build masculine muscle if they start using them, but this is not the case. A woman’s body isn’t naturally able to build muscle the way a man can, so go for it! Always ask before using any machine, or lifting free weights; it may look easy but without the correct technique you become very susceptible to injury and pain. Remember to do short reps with a quick rest in between to get stronger, working your way up to heavier weights. Using weights helps to develop a more toned physique while increases your metabolism, resulting in fat being burnt quicker. Added benefits include stronger bones, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and increasing your stamina.

Core exercises are essential in any fitness plan where you aim to get a toned, tight stomach. The most important thing when performing stomach exercises is not to put unnecessary pressure on your lower back. Also, remember to exhale going upwards and inhale going downwards. Core strength improves balance, coordination and posture while adding definition to your abs and trimming your waistline.

Finally, finish off by stretching again, letting your body recover, reducing stress and alleviating back pain. It’s the nicest part of the workout as you know you’re done and can feel your body relaxing. Always remember to refuel after exercising – if you don’t eat because you’re slashing your calorie intake (not good), it will backfire on you as you will be losing muscle, and you’ll only end up back at square one.

I’m not saying you’ll end up looking like Adriana Lima from following the above advice, but it might give you the push you need to get off the couch and out of the vicious circle that is the lazy college life. Just don’t think of the gym as a ‘quick fix’ for a week of dining on kebabs and pizza, or drinking Dutch every night; exercise should be a vital part of your life, and you’ll get what you put in. It takes time for results to show, and establishing a good relationship with it now will carry you through life. Bring a friend for some motivation and just in case you’re still not convinced, the gym is something of a haven for the creeps and lurkers out there!

Now, get off your butt and get started!