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Intelligent exercising with Louise Parker

In her new book, The 6 Week Programme, Louise Parker introduces a new six-week habit reset which can reshape your body – and mind – for life. Intrigued? Read on for an extract and her take on intelligent exercise.

Preparing to Work Out Intelligently
 

1. Schedule in your ‘Daily Rent’

You can only do what you can do – just try. You’ll find that your motivation gathers pace as you go. We are trying to build the space, routine and habit of exercise – and of course it’s going to be an adjustment. Just aim for your personal best for now – you have a lifetime to build and adjust your routine. We’re training your brain as much as your body and, after a while, it will feel just natural to move daily. This is why I always refer to ‘daily rent’ as it prevents the start/stop mentality – it just keeps the habit alive.

The biggest barrier is TIME (and basically not wanting to do it, or start it) so we are going to nail this right now, if what you want is long-term habit change. We have to reclaim your workout times before we start. Overcome this today and you’re already getting into a can-do mindset. See the obstacles and find a way. I’m assuming you want to become someone who exercises regularly, not obsessively, and that you want it to become a really strong part of your New Normal.

It’s not easy to carve out the time, especially if you’re a single mum, working two jobs, looking after ageing parents. I get it. But – if you are the lifeline to so many people, even more reason to help yourself first. Remember, making yourself a priority is not indulgent, it’s necessary. I’m not preaching to you, rather giving myself a reminder too. If we ignore ourselves, we are literally saying we are not worth it, so let’s find the time, because we are.

Facts like ‘a 30-minute workout is just over 2 per cent of your day’ are damn irritating because you can’t argue with it – it’s fact. You have to work out if your goal of being someone strong and healthy is worth 2 per cent of your day. You know it is – we’ve just got to get you into it. If you can’t find the time, you’re saying you’re not a priority. Just be conscious of where you are wasting time. What can you take out of your day to make the space?

2. Create Your Space

You can save so much time with at-home workouts (rather than travelling to a gym), but it takes discipline and you do need to ‘nest’ a space before you start. If I’m not training in my studio, or in the park, I’m doing a 20–40-minute routine at home. Some days it may just be six minutes stretching – just something to keep me in the habit.

I shut the door, make it clear to everyone at home it’s my time, sort out a play list (I have a dozen ready prepped of different lengths), roll out my yoga mat and light a citrus-scented candle – just this small effort marks it as my time and just makes it feel like a treat and not a chore. If you can, have a full-length mirror handy (and I’ve planned my space around this) as it really helps with checking your form. On days it’s warm, I go outside – but find your own little training territory. There’s something about the routine and familiarity of it that helps keep you in the habit of returning to your little ‘workout space’.

3. Get Kitted Out

Before we start your reset, take an hour to clear out your cupboards and make sure that you’ve got the basics for exercising. You need very little kit to begin exercising so no need to spend a fortune, but I think it’s important you wear clothing that is fitted and makes you feel good. I find that compression leggings allow you to connect to your body – you’re somehow able to feel the muscles contract more than if you’re slobbing about in baggy layers that have seen better days. It’s also just good to see the shape of your body and accept what needs work – it will help you visually track your progress and spur you on.

You’re going to be training inside and outside so you need to be set up for both. You need a couple of pairs of good leggings, two decent sports bras, a couple of tank tops and long-sleeved tops for walking outside, sports socks, a decent pair of cross trainers and something to throw over you when you need a waterproof. That’s it. High street stores do brilliant affordable options now, but if you’re going to invest in just three items, make it good compression leggings, a good bra and trainers (and seek advice on these).

4. Measure Your Movement

Living the Method isn’t about just doing workouts – it’s about weaving as much movement into your life as possible. So, it’s about walking more, gardening, spending more active time with your family and basically getting your steps in. Your body is designed to move; we’re just not designed to sit for as long as we do.

You may have to get yourself out of a rut and it’s as much about willingness, honing that discipline, preparing and practising until the desire to move does take over (with the odd shove). If activity and walking just don’t come easily to you the only way round it is to just get on with it until the unfamiliar feels familiar.

I want you to begin measuring your weekly movement with a tracker. Using a movement tracker is really useful in the short term – most of us tend to think wemove more than we do. I do think you can get a bit obsessed with them and my steal on this is to borrow one for the next few weeks – just so you know that you’re stepping in the right direction. I wore one for a month a couple of years ago and now have a clear idea of what I need to do to achieve my 100,000 steps per week. It’s not actually easy, especially in winter. Every now and then, I’ll whack the tracker back on again for a week when I need a motivational boost. You’ll be surprised how many steps you do at home and running about the office – they don’t all need to be on dedicated walks.