How To Get Fit Fast

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If you’ve started to notice that you get out of breath after one flight of stairs, it’s time to work on your fitness. The good news is that it won’t take that long to improve no matter what type of exercise you choose. Think a month or two, if not a few weeks, although of course some disciplines will help you improve faster than others. Some – shock horror – are also harder. They also range from being affordable for everyone to being a bit of a financial stretch for many.

To help you choose the right activity to get you fit, we went to experts in the most popular fields of sport and exercise to break down how their area helps people get fitter, how long before a beginner can expect to see results, and how much of a shock to the system it’s going to be at first.

Weight Training

The cost: Personal training sessions lead to the biggest improvement in the shortest time. Expect to pay £30-£65 per one-on-one session.

The expert: David Jordan, director and PT at The Fitting Rooms

In what ways do you become fitter?

This depends on how you train but weight training can improve aerobic fitness [for endurance], anaerobic fitness [for sprinting], strength, muscular endurance, hypertrophy (muscle gain) and fat loss.

How hard will it be when you first start?

It can be challenging and frustrating at first. People tend to feel a lactic acid build-up in their muscles like they’ve never experienced, and they also have movement patterns and techniques to learn. To make the best long-term progress, stay patient at the beginning, then push hard later on.

How often should you do it as a beginner?

Since there is so much to learn, frequent training in the large movements is vital. Three sessions a week focusing on a full-body approach each session is ideal.

How long will it take for you to notice the improvement in your fitness?

As a general rule, after the first week – despite little improvement in actual measurable strength – your body starts to feel stronger. After the first month there are measurable improvements in strength and anaerobic fitness. After three months – if diet is also addressed – there’s a measurable improvement in body composition.

Any other tips for beginners?

Be patient. Laying the correct foundation of techniques will ensure the best long-term results. After that be consistent and smart with your workout programming, train regularly and record everything to ensure you continue to make progress.

Running

The cost: As a minimum, spend £30 on a pair of running shoes, but newer models go for between £100-£130.

The expert: Running coach Andy Hobdell

In what ways do you get fitter?

You become more aerobically fit – that’s your body’s ability to transport and use oxygen [giving you better stamina] – and by running you are strengthening your body.

How hard will it be when you first start?

If you’re starting out or getting back into exercise after a break it will feel strange to begin with. The most difficult part is being sensible. Many people start out covering too much distance or running too fast, or a combination of the two. They won’t want to do it again because it felt so hard.

Start by running for just ten minutes and break this up into jogging or running for 60 seconds and walking for 30 seconds. As things become easier, increase this to two minutes, then three minutes, until after a week or two you are running for the whole ten minutes.

How often should you do it as a beginner?

Aim to run every other day, so three times in one week and four times the next. If you feel like you need to take an extra day’s recovery then take one.

How long will it take for you to notice improvement in your fitness?

You can see a noticeable progression in two to three weeks. If on day one you complete your first run and then by the end of week three you’re running up to 20 minutes without a break, that’s excellent progress.

Any other tips for beginners?

Make sure you have some properly fitted trainers. There is nothing worse than running in the wrong trainers, which can cause injuries.

Seek out a local running club [typically memberships cost £30-£60 a year]. There is nothing better than combining training and socialising. Many running clubs today have a wide variety of levels of runner so that there is always someone for you to run with.

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Cycling

The cost: As a minimum you’ll need a bike, a lock and (although it’s not a legal requirement) a helmet. If you buy new expect to spend at least £400 for all three, though the Cycle to Work scheme could save you a bundle. If you go second-hand you should be able to pick up a good bike under £300, possibly as little as £100.

The expert: Phil Burt, former head physiotherapist at British Cycling and founder of Phil Burt Innovation.

In what ways do you become fitter?

Eventually there will be a visible improvement in your legs, abdominals and upper body. However, the biggest development will be to your aerobic fitness.

How hard will it be when you first start?

Unless you’re hopping on your bike having built up a solid fitness base from another sport, the chances are you’ll be reasonably unfit and it will be tough. Sitting on the bike for hours on end may also feel a bit more uncomfortable than it did when you were a kid.

How often should you do it as a beginner?

It entirely depends on your goal and how much time you can dedicate. I would recommend starting at something you believe is doable and then do it again. If there are no problems then you should progress, but never increase the time or distance you cycle by more than 50% from one session to the next.

How long will it take for you to notice the improvement in your fitness?

A crude rule of thumb is that it takes roughly four weeks to see the benefits of training. When it comes to cycling, regular short rides are more effective than long sporadic sessions. And it’s important that you balance training, recovery and regeneration.

Any tips for beginners?

Make sure your riding position is working for you and not against you. It will improve your performance, enjoyment and prevent injuries. Whether it’s reading up on the subject and using size formulas or investing in a dynamic bike fit, make sure you do something to get your position right.

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Bodyweight Training

The cost: Potentially nothing, but a subscription with Freeletics costs from £2.54 a week

The expert: Seana Forbes, training specialist at fitness and nutrition app Freeletics

In what ways do you get fitter?

Regular high-intensity bodyweight training will not only make you stronger and increase endurance, it also promotes mobility, co-ordination, stability and balance.

How hard will it be when you first start?

It will probably be very tough, but it’s worth it because you will soon see progress.

How often should you do it as a beginner?

If you’re aiming to maintain your current fitness level you will usually be able to get away with two sessions a week, as long as they are effective workouts. If you want to progress, aim for three sessions a week, and if you want to lose weight you may be looking at four.

However, if you’re a beginner it is important you don’t overwhelm your body. If you’re feeling tired or sore take a rest day. Learn what your body needs and find a routine that works for you.

How long will it take for you to notice improvement in your fitness?

Usually, most users [of Freeletics] will start to see physical changes and progress after the first month or so of training if they also keep an eye on their nutrition.

Any other tips for beginners?

Take the time to learn the exercises and their movements. Film yourself or ask someone to check your technique. If you are not doing the exercises properly, this can lead to pain or injury.

Boxing

The cost: From £10 for some group sessions up to £100-plus for one-on-one training. Dedicated boxing gyms cost approximately £30-£50 a month.

The expert: Keith McNiven, founder of personal training company Right Path Fitness.

In what ways do you get fitter?

You’ll improve your cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength. And it’s not just your arms that will feel the benefit. You’re twisting, you’re turning, you’re engaging your core and being quick on your feet. It all adds up to a really comprehensive training programme that will help you to get fit fast.

How hard will it be when you first start?

I’m not going to lie – if you’ve never boxed before you’ll find it tough. But it’s also one of the most exhilarating exercises you can do because it challenges you in so many ways – agility, strength, balance, co-ordination and endurance.

How often should you do it as a beginner?

If you do it right, boxing is a total-body workout. If it’s the only exercise you’re doing, then maybe start out with a couple of sessions a week and build up to three to four.

How long will it take for you to notice the improvement in your fitness?

Assuming you’re eating right, you’re working every muscle group so you’ll start to see real improvements in your fitness within six weeks, specifically to your stamina, speed and strength. Boxing is also brilliant for mental agility and helping to relieve stress, and you’ll get that benefit straight away.

Any tips for beginners?

You really need professional guidance, at least in the early stages to learn the correct techniques: how to punch, and how to protect and position yourself.

Spinning

The cost: Sessions at boutique studios costs around £20, though the cost per class drops considerably if you buy in bulk.

The expert: Natalie Walker, head of the Ride class at Psycle

In what ways do you become fitter?

Ride classes at Psycle focus on anaerobic capacity and endurance, but they also improve power and muscular strength.

How hard will it be when you first start?

You’re in control of how hard it is because you’re in control of your pace. If you need a break you can sit down or back off the resistance, so it’s easy to work your way up at a pace that works for you.

How often should you do it as a beginner?

To lay the foundations and develop some muscle memory, two to three times a week is recommended, but the best advice is to listen to your body.

How long will it take for you to notice the improvement in your fitness?

Riders committing to three or more classes a week will see noticeable improvements in their fitness within a month. Because we are always varying the intensity, we’re able to work through all the energy systems to boost fitness quickly.

Any other tips for beginners?

Getting to know the positions on the bike and learning how to ride in rhythm are the main priorities so that you can get the most out of the workout. This can take a few classes to nail but once you’re in time with the room, you’ll fly.

High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

The cost: Group boutique classes cost in the region of £20

The expert: David Birtwistle, head trainer at F45 Shepherds Bush

In what ways do you get fitter?

If you want to have more control of your body, lose some weight and feel more capable, then HIIT is a great way of doing that.

How hard will it be when you first start?

Any new exercise is tough to begin with, but with the right trainer or trainers it will be manageable – and very beneficial.

How often should you do it as a beginner?

Two to three workouts a week for the first few weeks. HIIT training can be incredibly challenging, so it is important that beginners give their bodies some time to adjust, heal and grow, which is just as important as the training itself.

How long will it take for you to notice the improvement in your fitness?

A clear increase in fitness, stamina and perceived strength should all be very noticeable within a month of consistent HIIT training.

Any other tips for beginners?

Once you’ve been going for a few weeks, make the effort to increase your energy during a workout. You get out what you put in – coasting will get you nowhere.

Football

The cost: The FA’s Mars Just Play! programme costs 50p-£3.50

The expert: Andy Dyke, national participation manager at the FA

In what ways do you get fitter?

Football can provide a great all-body workout. The constant walking, jogging and running helps to keep a player’s heart rate up, providing cardiovascular benefits, lowering body fat and helping to strengthen muscles.

How hard will it be when you first start?

This will vary, but sessions are designed in such a way that you can dip in and out as your body allows. A change of position or a five-minute break can help provide the breather you might need.

How often should you do it as a beginner?

The Just Play! programme is based on the ethos of “turn up and play”, meaning that you can attend as often as you like depending on your other commitments. Most sessions take place weekly, which provides the ideal template to ease yourself back into more regular exercise, but if you do feel like you’re moving too fast then you need not feel any guilt about missing the odd session along the way.

How long will it take for you to notice the improvement in your fitness?

You should start to feel benefits straight away in terms of improvements to both your fitness and your skills on the pitch.

Any other tips for beginners?

Don’t just focus on the fitness. The reason that football is so popular around the world is that it brings people so much enjoyment. Focus on simply enjoying the game and with it the opportunity to socialise and meet new people.