Tips to Get Started Exercising

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Linn Hansen, from Kristiansand, Norway, runs her own personal training studio in London and would like to get more people exercising in the comfort of their own homes.

A new year brings hope, aspirations, resolutions, and excitement. Celebrating New Year's energized with sparkling bubbles, we promise ourselves and loved ones that this year is another chance to get it right. In January, it’s time to start losing weight, shaping up, and eating only salads and greens. As a fitness competitor and the owner of my own personal training business, I know what it takes to change old habits, get ready, and start moving. I work with many different people - some would like to lose weight or gain muscle, whilst others simply want to become and remain healthy. I have challenged my own will power many times and I know what it takes to succeed. Are you one of those people who needs a bit of motivation and drive to really get started?  Here are my top tips:

About Myself:

I am 36 years old and I have competed in Fitness for four years. I debuted in first place in the British Championship and since then have competed in world championships. I  have run my own personal gym in Kensington for the past six years and I have helped everyday people change their habits and get in better shape. Fevennen ( * Norwegian newspaper) contacted me for a regular fitness blog  in their sports section, and my initial contribution is about how to get started with exercise.

1.  What Motivates You?

Motivation varies over time and can come from within ourselves or from the external environment which surrounds us. What motivates you initially to start training and what keeps you going long term might be different drives. It could be an initial health problem or a comment from someone around you triggering the initial change. Later, it could be a competition, or the results of your training such as more energy, a new body shape, or the physiological aspects of training that keep you going.  

It’s a good idea to reflect on your real drive and to continue to remind yourself of the reasons why you are doing what you do along the way. Is it because friends or families encourage you, because of social aspects or a trendy new gym, or do you really want this because you want to better yourself?  The inner motivation is all about you and it can stick so deep that it does not matter what others say and think. If you manage to find your way to the inner drive it can really go far. If you do not already have the inner motivation, it can be induced or developed by comparing the pros and cons of continuing or changing the way you have it today.

 2. Prepare your Gym Gear in Advance

Prepare your clothes and gym bag the night before and get mentally ready for training. It prevents stress and slip ups the following day. You know what you have to do, and you just need to turn up and do it.

 3. Time

Make a regular appointment with yourself in advance, and stick to these times every week. This is your time and the one hour you've chosen to prioritize and invest in yourself. Switch off your phone, and you can effectively return back to your busy schedule afterwards. You will find that it will help both mentally and physiologically to switch off and get into a solid routine which will help you to carry on with your training long term.  

If you are new to exercise, I recommend training 3 times a week and increasing gradually, either with intensity or frequency over time. Avoid the "all or nothing" mentality trap, and start off with a routine that is feasible and that you are able to sustain over time.   

4. Food

For maximum training effect, you need to think carefully about what to eat before and after exercise. Remember to eat 1-1.5 hours before training, and immediately after training. Many people have too little energy or simply the wrong type of energy to support quality training, and as a consequence, performing and achieving becomes sub-optimal.

 5. Specific, Realistic, and Attainable Goals

What is your goal? What is it you would like to achieve? Pick one goal and prioritize this with focus and determination. For example, losing 5 kilograms within 4 weeks is a concrete and attainable goal. Establish a training plan and ideally a diet strategy or seek advice if you are unsure on what to do to achieve your goal. Larger targets can be broken down into smaller pieces with shorter time frames to make it less intimidating to start. Take note of progression and log results along the way to make sure you are on the right track.

6. Strategy

Running, cycling, strength training, yoga ... what is the most effective training strategy to achieve your goal? Circuit training, running, boxing, yoga, and heavy weight training… There are many methods and they produce a very different results. It’s important that you start off with a program suitable for your body type, fitness level, and something you can learn to enjoy.

7. Train to Become Better at Doing Something

Focus on yourself and your training progress and consider training a process with different stages of learning. As you repeat the movement and make sure your training is progressing, you will start to notice results. The movements you started off with become easier and  you will become better at performing the same movement. You will start to feel stronger, fitter, and leaner, and the sense of achievement can be a massive motivating factor in itself. If you feel insecure or uncertain, it’s a good investment  to seek help from a personal trainer.  

8. Reward Yourself

Remember to reward yourself along the way. Your end goal might be short or long term but schedule in small treats along the way makes the process more enjoyable. Supportive rewards might be new running shoes, a massage, new jeans, or anything else that can positively influence your journey.

Getting started with exercise is all about mental preparation, planning, and structure of training and time. Developing a desire to change, and following a strategy and training programme that you trust, will lead to results makes the "doing" easier to carry through. I wish you all the best of health in the new year, and look forward to seeing a new, fitter, and happier you in a few weeks. :-)

How to prepare not to fail for fat loss

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How Success, as a role model once told me, is defined purely by yourself. 

To my dear 10 year old nephew, success is zapping 1000 aliens on his X-box, PSP, Wiiiiiiiii-thingy.  For Alex Ferguson, it's winning titles in football every year. Whilst in the quest for being fit, success is purely defined by one's own personal standards.

As a personal trainer and fitness model competitor, I have learned that it’s incredibly important to ensure your body is in peak condition. You can't always expect other people to understand what you are doing and the reasons why, but for me, competing in Fitness was ultimately based on a personal overall goal: to inspire other people and be the best that I can be. Although not everyone aspires to step on stage and to take their fitness levels to this level, many of the same principles of goal setting, motivation, training, and diet applies in other situations requiring focus, dedication, and determination.

As cliché as it might sound, we need to believe before things can actually happen. Using visualization and inspiration, having a solid diet and training plan in which you trust, and starting every day confident in the routine, will bring you one step closer to success. Knowing what you want to achieve, reasons why you want to do it, and knowing what to do on a daily basis are paramount for getting the results you are looking for. 

For me, training and dieting provides great structure as the routine takes away any concern or guess work - it simply requires action and focus on what I'm doing at that very moment. I always have my meals prepared in advance and my training is always planned out weeks in advance. As the days progress, I find it helpful to have small rewards such as a massage, a new pair of jeans, or another treat not related to food or training. Celebrating your achievements is incredibly important for staying positive and enjoying the journey to the ultimate destination.

As my nephew, Fergie, and I can vouch, you win big by knowing you have won small. At least I think that's what my wee alien blasting pal said, although he was too busy cheering to say much at all.

Winning the Face and Body of Bodypower, 2011

And so the saga continues…..

The Face and the Body of BodyPower contest May 2011

I was actually preparing for Fitness Universe in Miami but an opportunity came up last minute and I came away with the top price. As great as that sounds, what people don’t realize is that I have been making sacrifices all year round. And it came to fruition. My original plan was to network, however I followed my original advice from the January issue of Ultra Fit by looking my best. But I thought, "What the hell?" I needed the experience; especially the stage time. When the microphone was thrust in my face I had to think quickly on my feet and even though I wanted to say pass I realized I wasn’t in a game show I was in a competition and I spoke about my desire to be a role model to others.

Just to rewind a little in the movie of my life, when I was training for Miss Fitness Model UK, I was forced to adapt everything: my diet, my training, and my lifestyle. Thankfully, the second time around it becomes easier to get into shape if you can stay disciplined. As a result, this year, my typical week's training involves more CV because the muscle mass was already there, including the power walk before breakfast.

My training follows a basic split routine but I made sure I have lots of variation, especially with the angles of executing the exercises. I also had to focus on weaknesses, for example my upper abs were at war with my lower abs. Because my lower abs' foot soldiers had problems fighting the upper abs' tanks, I had to go in and negotiate a peace treaty adapting my training exercises accordingly. As a result, I now follow a solid path
for my training plan. Starting with Oasis’ Master Plan, I had to make sure my training,
diet, and lifestyle were kept in strict order. Noel would have been proud. I had to make my
training like Kings of Leon's Sex on Fire, which meant every workout was awesome
right down to the quality of every repetition and not making the error of chasing the rep.
With my diet I had to make a Madonna style Jump, recognizing I had to control the
portion sizes and include more essential fats. After all, I want every day to be a
Beautiful Day, so I made sure even though I made the sacrifices in the gym and dedicated
time in the kitchen, I still maintained proper rest and a social life because after all, I have
gone from being a champagne girl to being a cover girl.

Interview with UK Fitness Champion Linn Hansen by the WBA world heavyweight boxer champion David "The Hayemaker" Haye

My friends say I should be a comedian because I’m constantly making them laugh!

They laughed at my Mancunian/Norwegian accent ..."Our kid!"

They laughed when they see me power walking through Hyde Park with the look of a demented chicken!

They laughed when I tell them I’m entering my first ever fitness competition which I plan to win in 6 month's time! Oh, how they laughed and laughed and laughed…

… until I won!

I grew up in Norway and started going to the gym when I was 16 years old in order to improve my overall fitness, power, and speed for my handball training. Being on the smaller side the training really helped me deal with the physicality and the six foot tall Amazons on the opposing team. My initial flirtation with the gym has now blossomed into a full blown love affair minus the flowers!

One dark morning in the depths of winter 2008, as I trudged to the tube I decided it was time for a change. I had one or two friends who banged the drum about making radical changes to their lives, especially after a few drinks, but that’s what it remained: just talk. Despite having a successful career in finance, I wanted to challenge myself so I thought it was time to follow Richard Branson’s motto…"Screw it, let’s do it!"

After taking a course, I joined a top London gym as a personal trainer and threw myself into the job meeting some amazing people who helped shape who I am today. My passion for training was now my job and I felt like a kid in a sweet shop. Except in my case, it was more like an athlete in a supplement store, and the sweets became Vitamin B Complex and Ginseng.

As a trainer, I tried to inspire my clients by leading from the front, and the satisfaction of going on a successful journey with them was immeasurable. My philosophy was to practice what I preach. I kept a training log and stuck to an eating plan just like my clients. When I included Quark in their diet some of them thought I’d just returned from a Star Trek convention. The fact of the matter is that they were stepping out of their comfort zone, even though they thought I was speaking Klingon.

This lead up to the 2010 Fame Fitness Model competition, which I would describe as “an inner and outer journey!” Some people will encourage you, but equally, some people will discourage you because of their own agenda. Through the whole process I think I’ve found who my true friends are. The saying, "With friends like these, who needs enemies?" could not be more true…yes, Aneal, Erik, Aina, Karine, Kia, Sara from Kensington, I’m talking about you!!

People couldn't quite compute my reasoning when I told them I’d wake at 4:45 am for my hour long power walk around Hyde Park with my Rocky sound track on repeat. But hey, if you’re going to do it, then do it properly. I was ready to go 12 rounds with Ivan Drago and then some.

Of course it tests you, and I do admit to feeling lonely at times. But the way I look at it is that I’m training for a fitness contest, I’m not fighting on the front lines, so there are far worse things that could be happening to me. For want of a better phrase I decided "the juice was worth the squeeze."

As my friends were enjoying the delights of London in the spring time sipping on cocktails and sharing each others company, I was tucked up in bed. I contemplated the madness of my world and realized my journey required as much mental strength as the physical side, if not more. My head was like a twisted episode of Frasier, except I was ringing up the radio show talking to myself!

I trained in the gym on my own most of the time because it meant I was in control of my destiny. My dead lift got to 80kg and I could manage 40 hanging leg raises. Not bad for a chick 5 foot 3 inches tall, weighing 50kg, with a ropey accent.

The weeks before competition were the real test. I took some time off work and focused on staying disciplined. The break helped and I really appreciated the benefit of sleep and rest. I was doing leg presses in my sleep at first but then the sheep came to the rescue in slumber land.

By competition time I was in the zone. I had the eye of the tiger. I was Maximus in Gladiator. And all the hard work paid off. I was elated. The judges gave me the winning card for my six pack, overall symmetry and definition. And the Robin Hood themed costume went down a treat!

You'd be also surprised how many people you will inspire and they will be amazed how you actually DID IT in the end. And yes… I had the last laugh!

And now Alice is about to land in Wonderland. I’m off to Las Vegas to compete in Miss Fitness Universe. Since winning the UK title, I took a little time off then took up the challenge with renewed vim and vigour, working on my V-taper and back. Again, my friends questioned my sanity, as did I. But I didn’t want to end it on the dreaded “What if?”

Somehow, Las Vegas seems the like the perfect location for this madness and I can’t wait.

Wish me luck!