Joanna Hall, pictured, said a common mistake people make when exercising is going too hard, too fast
Every January, we make ourselves the exact same promises when it comes to getting fit, don’t we? This year really will be the year we stick to a strict gym schedule or run that 10k.
But, according to sports scientist and fitness instructor Joanna Hall, we’re setting ourselves up for failure with our grand plans and rigid approach.
By this Friday, many of our fitness resolutions will already have come unstuck, suggests an analysis by running app Strava.
A common mistake, says Joanna, is going too hard, too fast.
She says: ‘Often, people launch themselves into a new fitness programme, thinking: “I’m really going to go all-out this time.”
‘There can be this idea that we need to press the “stop” button on the rest of our lives to get in shape. But — surprise, surprise — people find they can’t sustain this approach.’
Another stumbling block, she says, is over-estimating how much you need to do to make a difference to your fitness.
‘I think people have this idea that they need to do at least an hour of exercise a day to make it count. But it doesn’t have to be that long — I personally never exercise for a full hour,’ she says.
‘Getting into exercising as a beginner, or if you’ve fallen out of the habit, can seem like a huge mountain to climb. But, in fact, it’s doing it little and often — and doing it well — that will see you achieve meaningful change in terms of how you feel, how you perform and how you look.’
That is why, this year, she’s created a unique exercise programme for Mail Plus, which, she hopes, will help people get into the exercise habit once and for all in a way that is not only effective, but sustainable and realistic.
‘What I’ve created is something that’s very simple and easy to follow, but designed to get results,’ she explains.
The fitness instructor, pictured, has created a unique exercise programme for Mail Plus, which, she hopes, will help people get into the exercise habit once
Led by Joanna, there are four video workouts you can access via the Mail Plus Health website, each lasting 15 minutes, based around simple stretches, body weight exercises such as squats and yoga-inspired moves.
Each workout is designed to target a specific issue: posture, toning your tummy, heart health, or all-round strength and toning.
There are options throughout to make exercises easier or harder, according to your fitness level.
The easiest level is suitable for a complete beginner, says Joanna — with a reminder that you should always check with your GP before starting a new exercise programme.
Joanna is not your average ‘celebrity’ fitness guru. She isn’t a former athlete, reality star or a twentysomething Instagramer whose only credentials seem to be how they look in a bikini.
Watch her 15-minute video workouts at Daily Mail Plus
Joanna Hall’s easy-to-do workout videos are available for free on the new Mail Plus Health website.
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Go to the website.
Instead, she’s a brisk, warm, working mum-of-one from Hertfordshire, who describes herself as ‘north of 50’. Crucially, she has 25 years of experience, including a stint as the resident fitness expert on TV’s This Morning.
She radiates good health and positivity, but also empathy.
Although she has worked with celebrities — including helping Ben Fogle and James Cracknell prepare for their polar challenge in 2009 — she understands that most of us don’t have the body or the budget of an A-lister.
‘I’m a real person, with a real life,’ she says. ‘I understand the constraints that people face when it comes to exercise, whether it’s work or family commitments.
‘I try to exercise for ten to 15 minutes every day, doing posture work and stretching, as well as aiming to walk for at least 20 minutes. But it doesn’t always happen. I’m not an angel and I’m not a skinny-minny.’ (She’s being self-deprecating — her figure is enviably slim and toned by any standard.)
What isn’t up for debate, however, is her bona fide expertise, with a masters degree in sports science, having studied at Loughborough University, one of the world’s leading centres for research on exercise and fitness.
The key to Joanna’s programme is technique, through which she guides you in her Mail Plus Health videos. ‘It’s about quality, not quantity, of movement,’ she says. ‘I’m a believer in taking a simple exercise and doing it really well.
‘In the videos, I give loads of tips and tricks on how to do each move more meaningfully.’ For example, rather than simply telling you to stretch your arms over your head — as some instructors might — she says to focus on reaching up through your middle finger and keeping space between your ear lobes and your shoulders.
‘This helps the shoulder muscles activate properly, stops the vertebrae in the neck being crunched and engages the whole body in the stretch,’ she adds.
‘Small things such as this mean you’re going to work the muscles more effectively and get better results faster.’
It also helps to protect against injury and, Joanna says, should help to improve your posture in day-to-day life, too.
In other words, it’s no good doing hundreds of sit-ups and squats if you’re doing them wrong.
While Joanna’s, pictured, Mail Plus Health video workouts are short and unintimidating, she is firm that it will still require a little effort
The importance of precise technique — ‘and really understanding the way your body moves’ — was driven home for Joanna by a health scare in 2005. When she was 12 weeks’ pregnant with her daughter, her appendix ruptured, requiring emergency surgery and a lengthy recovery, at one point leaving her in a wheelchair.
‘Afterwards, the surgeon said it had been difficult to get the appendix out. They had to cut through my abdominal muscles and, as he put it, “have a good rummage around”,’ she says.
‘What with having to heal from that and being pregnant, I was very conscious I was going to be prone to injury and back problems. It’s from there that my approach really developed,’ she says.
While her Mail Plus Health video workouts are short and unintimidating, she is firm that it will still require a little effort — she is not promising a get-fit-quick wheeze here.
‘As a sports scientist, I’m very clear about what you need to do to optimise results,’ she says. ‘I would strongly advise doing the workouts four times a week.’ Apart from the physical benefits, she adds, this is important for building the habit of exercise. ‘This is the biggest challenge that people face when starting out — it’s finding that template to fit exercise into their lives.’
Her top tips for finding time to exercise? ‘Do it first thing,’ she says. ‘This is what I do before my family get up, even if it’s just for ten minutes. Otherwise, as your day gets busier and people keep adding to your to-do list, exercising becomes this extra pressure and something you have to fit in.
‘Inevitably, that can sometimes mean it doesn’t happen at all.’
And it also helps to tie it in with something you already do, to cement it into your routine.
‘Pick something you do every day, such as going to get the paper or making your first cup of tea, and do one of the workouts before that activity,’ says Joanna. ‘Use the existing habit as a cue.’
Finally, she says, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to wait for the perfect moment to start a new exercise programme.
‘People can think: “I’ll wait until it’s a bit quieter at work/I need to sort the house out first/I’ll join a gym when I lose a few pounds.”
‘But there will never be a perfect time. Now is always the best time to start, even if you just watch the first video all the way through, without actually doing the moves, just to get a feel for how it goes. Just make a start. Come join me!’