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The year of the calorie burner!

My New Year began on a subdued note. On December 31, I sat in my empty flat hardly noticing when the clock hit midnight. I assumed everyone else was partying, or at home with their families having a great time. But don't feel sorry for me.

Actually, I was at this same computer that I am typing on now, and began a project I have been wanting to start for about three years. I am not diappointed about what I might have missed out on because what I achieved that night could possibly keep me very happy for years to come.

And now that I have you somewhat intrigued, let me explain the point of this.

Much like the other sacrifices we make in life for the greater good, we also make sacrifices for our health, that will benefit us in the long run. We may give up chocolate and crisps, in spite of our overwhelming desire to eat them by the box full, to lose body fat. We risk breaking our legs to go snow skiing for the thrill, and improve balance and strength. See what I mean? You give up one thing to gain another.

Now let me ask you all this: How are the New Year's resolutions that you made to get fit and healthy, going? Are they 'going' at all?

Two dear friends gave up cigarettes; one work colleague vowed to do more jogging; another work colleague has cut right down on alcohol consumption, and me, well, I've made a promise to myself to cut down on refined sugar (Boo Hoo! Goodbye candy and cookies for now!), and start an intense weight training programme to burn major calories and get back strength in my arms and legs.

So, the sacrifices are being made left, right and centre! And yes, it hurts sometimes, and not just physically.

I've talked alot about setting goals, and the trick to keeping them is definitely to stay focused on them. More specifically, stay focused on the result you will get from sticking to your goal instead of moaning about the pain and suffering along the way. And the last thing you need are people who are not supportive. Joining a gym is a great way to reach your health and fitness goals. Or exercising with a friend who has the same mindset as you do. There are 3,500 calories in one pound of fat. You're going to need support!

For a major kick up the proverbial 'health and fitness' butt, you should consider exercises that utilise all major muscle groups and really work yourself to your maximum fitness threshold. I'm talking about having a go at some hardcore stuff while keeping it all very basic - no complex dance classes or sports that require complicated equipment. An example of this is running. Yes, running, not jogging.

Still the BEST fat burner around, additionally, running is to your lungs, what a body wrap, facial and massage is to your skin. All you need is a pair of quality running shoes and half an hour a day. Try running faster than a jog but slower than a sprint, and alternate this with uphill or cross-country terrain. A 65kg or 145lb person will burn more than 300 calories in this time.

If you don't like the impact and can't stand the thought of running outside, a treadmill with a sprung deck is the answer. Stick it in front of a TV and off you go. Contrary to popular belief, most people can run. It's mental toughness and a bit of technique that may be the missing factor. Start slowly. And don't forget to breathe!

If running is not your thing, how about stationary cycling? It's so easy and totally non-impact, it has even been used in physiotherapy. Depending on the speed and resistance, someone weighing the same and moving for the same amount of time as our runner, above, can burn up to 500 calories! Spin classes, which have been around for 15 years, took this idea to a new level and incorporated music and lights and narrative to make you feel like you were actually on a surreal outdoor bike ride. Personally, I've never ever sweated so much in my whole life. A good tip is to relax your shoulders while leaning forward on the handlebars, and check that the seat is high enough.

Attention soldiers! How about a bit of 'boot camp' training to get rid of the Christmas over-indulgence? Based on actual military fitness and agility training, 'boot camp' is a fitness class, presented in a team format and marketed to 'get down and get sweaty' fitness customers who want calories and stress to melt away - fast! It consists of sprints, obstacle courses, push ups, rope climbs, soft sand runs and perhaps some swimming. A thorough warm up and appropriate clothing is essential. It works a treat, but might leave you feeling like you would rather be having your teeth pulled out by your dentist. However, you will burn an incredible 600-800 calories a session.

Sports that are multi-faceted (like triathlon), or present themselves as interval training (like circuit classes) are often higher intensity activities. These work more muscles more often, and therefore have enormous calorie burning potential.

Other even more intense activities include jumping rope; running up stairs; sprinting; weight-training; power squats; deep water running and sprint swimming. Matching this with a high protein, very low fat diet and you will be as buff as an Olympic athlete, give or take!

Yes, there will be pain, but there will be much more gain. Remember - see and feel the end result, not the discomfort. Choose your activities wisely and stick with it, and you will be reaching your goals by next season, not next year. And that is great news.

Happy New Year everyone! Please take care with intense exercise, and always warm up and cool down and stretch. Consult a qualified and caring fitness instructor for more information.

I'm off to have a workout ... how about you?

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Date:Feb 17, 2009
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