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Working out how to keep your fitness regime up and running

How can we stick to those New Year exercise plans? Sophie Morris asks experts for their tips for staying motivated and three local personalities talk about their fitness goals.

We all have a grand plan or two up our sleeves as a New Year begins. Starting, and sticking to, an exercise plan is one of the most popular.

You don't need to be the fittest, the fastest or the best to benefit from exercise, but you do need to find the motivation to carry on exercising, however humble your beginnings.

We've sourced the smartest expert advice to motivate you into exercising now, and throughout 2016.

Prepare for the worst

Susanna Halonen, happiness coach at and author of Screw Finding Your Passion, says:

"Practice 'if planning'. Think about what could prevent you from doing your habit. Then, come up with a solution for how you're going to deal with it, to make sure it doesn't prevent your progress. For example: 'If I feel too tired to go the gym when I wake up, then I will go for a brisk 15 minute walk in fresh air instead.'

"Make your new habit as easy as possible to stick to. Make sure you have all the resources you need to do it. Schedule it into your calendar if it's a jog, empty your cupboards from sweets if it's a less sugar thing, and put your phone away from your bed so you can't press snooze without getting out of bed."

Prepare for the next 66 days

Chris Hall, Founder of Hall Training Systems, personal, says:

"Despite the common myth that it takes 21 days to form a habit, science has shown that in order for something to really become a habit you need to allow 66 days. Having a goal over these initial two months will really help to keep you focused and allow you to monitor your progress, see changes in your body and, above all, increase the likelihood of continuing on well into the following year.

"My advice would be to have two goals: a long-term goal - something you wish to achieve across the next eight to 12 months, for example.

"This could be preparing for a half marathon, or losing a dress size or two. And a short-term goal - what you wish to achieve in several weeks or even a few months, whether this is reaching the 5k mark comfortably, or fitting into the jeans you had on before Christmas."

Work out why you're exercising, and write it down

Reward yourself

Frida Harju, nutritionist at health and fitness app, says:

"If you are seeing results and working hard at improving your overall lifestyle, you should reward yourself, even if it's just once a month.

"Make sure you give yourself a treat every now and again, and are not depriving yourself entirely of the things that you enjoy. Everything is fine in moderation, so if you have worked hard all week, reward yourself with a naughty treat."

Nutrition counts

Matt Roberts, trainer to David Cameron and Naomi Campbell,, says:

"Eat a breakfast high in protein. This will make you more alert. This is because certain amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) are needed to synthesise neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that communicate information throughout the brain and body): dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, which are vital for increased energy. Research also suggests it keeps you fuller for longer, which can impact your food choices later on in the day.

"Stock up on vitamin D - during the summer the sun provides us with plenty of ultraviolet B radiation for our bodies to produce vitamin D. This vitamin plays a vital role in the human body and is essential for immune function, bone health and the production of certain hormones. Between the months of November and March the sun lacks potent UVB rays and so we have to source our vitamin D elsewhere. Great sources are eggs, meat and oily fishes (think salmon, mackerel and sardines) and can also be supplemented.

"You can't out-train a poor diet. Diet is key to recovery from exercise, and recreational exercisers should eat a well balanced meal containing protein, carbohydrate and fat from whole food sources, one to two hours after exercise as well as rehydrating with water."

'Getting up early and starting the day with a workout can really change your life'

Belfast actress, model and former Miss Great Britain Gemma Garrett (34) decided to get her New Year fitness regime off to an early start by working with a personal trainer in December. She says:

My brother Stephen is getting married in June, so that has motivated me to try and lose a bit of weight and get fit this year. I have my mum's curvy figure and I have always had to watch my weight.

I am a notoriously lazy person who hates getting out of bed in the morning. I started working out at 8am with Ian Young of I Fit in early December to get a head start for January.

Now I've discovered that getting up and starting the day with a workout can really change your life, I get so much more done at work and generally I really feel on the ball.

Another motivating factor is to prepay my trainer - and also knowing that someone else is getting up early for you to work out helps me keep going. If I don't show up I have to face him the next day - which I'm pleased to say is rare."

'As an actress I need to keep fit as breathing and stamina are very important on stage'

Belfast actress Caroline Curran (31) will be back on stage as Maggie Muff in Dirty Dancin' in le Shebeen at The Mac on January 14. She says:

I hope to lose half a stone this year. Santa brought me a treadmill for Christmas last year and I use it every morning except for Sunday when I allow myself a day off and usually just sleep.

Being able to work out at home suits me fine as I just don't like gyms. I just put the music on in my house and it doesn't matter what I am wearing or what I look like. My work out routine is either a 15 minute run or a 30 minute walk on the treadmill.

Eating better is another of my New Year resolutions as I am gluten, wheat and dairy intolerant.

As an actress I need to keep fit - breathing and stamina are important and I have a pretty hectic schedule.

It is great - I do feel like I have much more energy and it is true what they say about exercise releasing endorphins - it really does set me up for the day.

Knowing I need to be fit keeps me motivated and the fact that I can do it in my own at home makes it easier to stick to."

'As a singer and actor you must look like your photo... I can't just put on half a stone'

Lurgan actor and singer Conleth Kane (31) will be back in London working out six days a week when his role in Snow White in the Grand Opera House finishes on January 10. He says:

Before, I used to find the gym really boring and only started going a couple of years ago. Now, though, I love it.

The benefits to my personal and professional life from being fitter keep me motivated.

I work out six days a week and give my body a rest one day. Five days of the week I do Bikram yoga, with the other two days at the gym.

Bikram involves working out for 90 minutes in a room which is at 45 degrees.

Being in my 30s made me think more about my fitness and my health. I also love my food and I feel that if I work out then I can enjoy my treats without feeling guilty. Also, in my work as a singer and actor you have to look like your photograph when you go to see a casting director, so you can't afford to put on half a stone.

Being fitter has made me noticed outside of my career, too - I get more dates now when I go out.

I also feel happier generally and sleep better, too."

  • Interviews by Stephanie Bell

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