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Leap into fitness in February

Leap into fitness in FebruaryFebruary is the shortest month of the year but, with this year being a leap year, there is the bonus of an extra day. Why not use it as an excuse to go that extra mile?

Fitness consultant Lucy Wyndham-Read gives you a programme for covering a mile a day for each of February's 29 days.

Setting achievable goals is one of the most effective ways of keeping on track and helping you stay motivated to improve your health and fitness.

“The best way to go about it is to set yourself a long-term fitness goal and several short-term goals which would ideally be something you can achieve in four weeks,” explains Lucy.

“Reaching the short-term goal will show you just how much you can achieve and keep you focused on your long-term goal.

“It’s a leap year this year so February has 29 days. If you’ve not yet decided on your goals, why not adopt a short-term goal of walking/running 7.25 miles a week and the long-term goal of running/walking 29 miles a month – that’s a mile a day for every day of February.”

Breaking it down into bite size chunks

Twenty-nine miles might sound pretty daunting whether you are walking or running but, if you break it down into four sessions a week, it will instantly seem more achievable.

This means you’d only have to cover 1.8 miles in approximately 30 minutes each day – easy enough for most of us to squeeze into our busy schedules. 

Getting it right

Obviously, a casual stroll round the corner is not going to be enough to improve your overall fitness so, whatever form of exercise you choose, do it briskly and correctly.
 
• Walk this way: Be sure to walk with good posture and aim to walk at a speed of approximately 4 miles per hour. You can measure this by simply walking at your training pace and counting how many steps you take in 15 seconds.

You need the number to be 35 or higher to improve cardiovascular health and burn fat. Any lower certainly won’t do you any harm but you won’t reap the fitness benefits, so always aim to keep those feet moving fast.
 
• Run safe: Always ensure you have good fitting and well-cushioned trainers, and aim to run on softer surfaces, such as grass, sand or cross-country. This will reduce the impact on your joints. Run at a pace that feels natural so you aren’t running too fast or too slow. 

Tips for staying motivated

• Find a buddy: Why not encourage your work colleagues to join in this challenge? You could easily squeeze your sessions into your lunch hour. Alternatively, ask a neighbour or friend who lives close by to join you so you can motivate and support each other.
 
• Fit it into your day: The key is finding a way to incorporate a 30-minute run or brisk walk into your day. Try walking to work or at least getting off the train or bus a few stops earlier than usual or set yourself a challenge of a few laps of your local park at lunchtime.

If you prefer to have a purpose, try borrowing a dog or accompanying a friend who walks regularly.
 
• Set up a Facebook Fitness Challenge: Set up your Fitness Challenge on Facebook and encourage your friends to join in. Post a comment every time you complete your session and tick off units from your end goal of 29 miles.

You’ll be amazed at how many others you can inspire to join in with you. Alternatively, you can tweet about it on Twitter or set up a blog. 

What to expect at the end of each week

Each week you will be building your strength and fitness – feeling stronger, going faster and lowering your cholesterol, blood pressure and stress levels.
 
• Week one: By the end of week one, your blood pressure will be lower, you’ll have more energy and you’ll feel fitter. You’ll also be experiencing ‘highs’ caused by endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, which are released during exercise.
 
• Week two: By the start of week two, you’ll be able to either walk or run your set distance in a quicker time. This is because you’ll be increasing your cardio-vascular fitness so your heart and lungs become stronger, as well as increasing the muscular strength in your legs and even your arms. By the end of week two, you will notice that you can complete your 1.8 miles in 10 to 60 seconds faster. Because walking and running increase your flexibility, you will also notice that you have a wider range of movement in your joints too.
 
• Week three: By the end of week three, you will notice that your clothes feel looser as any excess weight will be dropping off you and you will really start enjoying the good feelings you get from being fitter. Your training will help reduce any excess body fat by increasing your calorie burn. For example, a person who weighs 150 lbs would burn approximately 120 calories per mile when walking at a pace of 4 mph. This means that walking 29 miles would burn a massive 3,480 calories in a month.
 
• Week Four: By this stage, there will be no stopping you, as you have achieved so much. You’ll have reduced your stress levels, boosted your heart health, lowered your cholesterol and will be looking and feeling on top of the world.

So make February the month that you reach your short-term goal of walking or running 29 miles and prepare for your next challenge – maybe next month, you’ll accomplish even more.

Let us know how you are managing to stick to your fitness goals and share your tips with other ‘be healthy’ readers, by commenting below. 

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