Starting off the New Year on the right foot

JANUARY is a month of resolutions and good intentions to change things for the better and one of Kilkenny’s leading experts is on hand to help people find their way.

JANUARY is a month of resolutions and good intentions to change things for the better and one of Kilkenny’s leading experts is on hand to help people find their way.

Niamh Richardson, who is well known locally in running circles is the course leader in Health Promotion in Waterford Institute of Technology. “My advice when it comes to fitness would be to find something that you like rather than launching yourself into something that you feel that you should do. Getting involved in a group is a great idea as there is a strong social element to it and you are making a commitment not only to yourself but also to others. There are plenty of groups around, two of the most popular being the Fit For Life who meet at The Watershed and the Mayor’s weekly walk.”

However Niamh warns to accept and be aware that even the most carefully thought out plans might not always come to fruition. “Be nice and gentle to yourself. Accept that we all fail occassionally and when you realise this you can build things around them. Recognise the danger that can exist when you are vulnerable and try to skirt this times when it comes to exercise and training. That is why planning is very useful.

“You should also start easily as if you start too big then things will get very hard very quickly. A gradual build up is very important so finding a target, something that you can aim for can help a lot. It is essential to have something to work towards. Writing it down can help. committing to something can be scary and it is a good idea to have a notebook to write down what you did and how that made you felt,” she added.

For those less inclined towards physical exertion there are simple changes one can make to improve their well being. “It is not all about exercise and being active. Simply sitting less has huge health benefits. Research shows that sitting down is bad news for health. Every 20 minutes or so one should interrupt their pattern and if they are sitting down they should stand for a minute or two. Just making a small change like this can have amazing health benefits,” added Niamh.

When it comes to healthy eating dietican Noreen Roche who works with the Kilkenny hurling team has plenty of simple tips to shed the pounds the painless way. “Firstly you need to set your target. Whether you want to eat healthier to lose weight, to feel better or to get fitter and better at sport, commitment to that target is all important. If you want to lose weight set a realistic target (1kg (2.2lbs) per week and avoid fad diets – these do not work in the long term. The average weight gain over Christmas will have been around 2.5kg (5lbs).

“Start by planning each week in advance in terms of meals- this will prevent you from distractions such as take aways or last minute high fat options from the freezer or any impulse buying,” she said. Other simple steps towards successful weight loss is to eat breakfast, have five or more different coloured fruit and vegetables a day, choose high fibre foods which provide a slow release of energy, avoid fried foods, eat more fish, choose lower fat milks and watch your portion size.

When it comes to mental health and well being psychologist Fergus Heffernan has some simple yet inspiring words to share. “I would say to people to treat the beginning of the New Year, just like the beginning of a journey. The place to start this journey is to find your dream,” he explains. “Dreams are powerful and they are among those precious few intangibles that have inspired men and women to get up, go to hell and back and change the world. And I am not talking about the sort of fantasy dreams that can’t physically happen - I am talking about the sort of dream that will inspire you, one that you are really prepared to sweat for, in order to make it become your reality,” he said.

“Write it down. Pin it on your wall - somewhere you will see it every day. Words and pictures have power and once you have done this you have begun. The very next thing that will happen, once you write your goals down and start to talk to people about them is that you will meet those all too common cynics who want to rain on your parade, perhaps they are a little jealous that you want more out of life than they might hope for or they are worried that your success will make them feel inferior. Do not listen to them too hard. Just begin - the greatest journeys all start with just a single step.

“When you stand at the bottom of a mountain you can rarely see a clear route to the top. It is too far away and the path to twisty and full of obstacles. The only way to get to the top is to start – and then keep putting one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. Sometimes when the journey ahead can seem so daunting and so implausible that we can lack the courage to take the first step. And there is never a shortage of good excuses; it’s not the right time; the odds are to stacked against me; no one like me has ever done this before. I will bet you that Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. Sir Edmond Hillary, the first man to climb Everest had a good list of excuses that they could have used too. And I can promise you that they felt inadequate at many times on their journey. I have a sneaking suspicion that if you can just take that first step of the edge you might just well find that you, too, can fly.

“If you can just take that first step toward your dreams-take that enormous leap of faith toward beginning whatever it is – then new possibilities open up before you. It is the magic of beginning. Things start to happen. Then it is all about hanging on for the ride – keeping cheerful, not quitting, trusting the right people, listening to that inner voice, doing what others won’t or can’t and never losing sight of your dream,” he added.