In just under a month, I'll be stumbling through the 2016 Tough Mudder mud run. Last year, I managed to get through the course with no training, smartwatch and all. This year, I want to do a bit better. But that means actually doing some exercise and (hopefully) getting fit.
To get ready for Tough Mudder, I'd like to lose a few kilos of fat and build a little bit of muscle over the next month. Nothing serious, but every little bit helps, right? If you're doing the same, here are five things you can do, and how you can do them.
1. Get an app
The biggest thing that I've done has been tracking the amount of steps that I've been taking every day, and then taking that further by tracking every piece of exercise that I'm doing. My activity tracker of choice at the moment is the Apple Watch Series 2, and I love it. Filling the activity rings is addictive, and it really does influence you to get outside and move. The Series 2 Watch's waterproofing means I can track my swims in the pool, and the entire Workout app on the watch makes it ridiculously to log specific gym exercises like rowing or running or the elliptical. But get yourself a Fitbit -- the Charge 2 is great! -- or an Android Wear fitness watch, it doesn't matter. The important thing is that you get something to track your movement and you use those numbers to push yourself to move more.
2. Hit the gym
This one is kinda the most obvious in the entire list. Getting outside and tracking your steps is a good first step -- pardon the pun -- to losing weight and increasing your fitness, but doing that in a gym lets you condense your exercise, burning more calories and adding more muscle in a tighter time span. Any good gym will have a wide range of cardio machines to exercise on -- treadmills, rowers, ellipticals -- and strength and weights machines to target specific muscle groups. As long as you have a routine, and you can put in some time (three days a week is my target), then a gym is the best thing you can do to burn fat and build muscle, and hopefully get ready for an endurance exercise like Tough Mudder.
3. Take some classes
Gym classes might seem a combination of intimidating and off-putting -- a bunch of sweaty people grunting away in a room together -- but they're actually a really useful way of making sure you get a solid amount of exercise in, even if you're working with a limited schedule or not much free time. If step one above is good and step two is better, then step three is best. The gym that I'm a member of, Virgin Active, actually has some awesome Mudder Maker classes that are optimised to teach first timers and push experienced gym junkies to their limit with weights and cardio training. Any class, though, is the best of the gym experience -- because you're being forced to go all-out in a short time period, putting in as much effort as possible for the best results. Tough Mudder is mostly a cross-country run, but it takes some muscle to get through the obstacles as well.
4. Track your food
These last couple of weeks, I've been going nuts on MyFitnessPal to make note of meals from breakfast to dinner. To be fair, I'm not logging everything -- the occasional snack, the (extremely) occasional bit of fruit, the (not so) occasional chocolate I don't bother to include in the app. But I'm using MyFitnessPal to work out roughly what I'm consuming, just to make sure I'm not eating an excess of fat or too much sodium. MFP is really useful for eyeballing the amount of food you eat, but I don't trust it enough to be exact, so I'm taking it all with a proverbial grain of salt. It has only changed my diet and my attitude to food a little bit, but it's given me the peace of mind that I'm not eating too much and that I'm consuming the right amount of food for the exercise that I'm doing.
5. Keep doing everything
This last one is simple. But it's also the hardest one in the entire list. Everything from keeping track of your food to eat the right amount, monitoring your activity through an app or fitness tracker, and heading to the gym to get in some energy-intensive exercise -- this all takes a fair bit of mental fortitude to actually keep doing. Starting is easy, but staying with your plan is the difficult part. In the last month, there have definitely been days where I've felt like doing nothing at all. So, that's why the final step is to rinse and repeat -- just keep going. And eventually Tough Mudder will be over and you can eat, like, six burgers.
Well, that's it. Now I just have to eat properly and train properly. I can't wait to have a crack at Tough Mudder's obstacles, like this one, in a month: