10 Ways To Get Fitter Without Going To The Gym

Read time: 3 Minutes

Exercising regularly is one of the best things you can do for your general health and wellbeing. But let’s be completely honest – there are some of us who just do not enjoy it no matter how hard we try. We know that it releases endorphins and supposedly makes us feel great but no matter how many hours we pound it at the gym and regardless of how often we go for a run around the park, it just never feels fun.

How to get fitter without going to the gym

If you’re quite certain that you’re a gym-phobe but still have a desire to be the healthiest, fittest version of yourself, there are still a few good things you can do for your body. Of course, none of these things will leave you with a six pack or 5% body fat, but consistently taking small positive steps can make a significant impact to how you feel in the long run.

  1. Improve your diet

We know you know this one but we can’t discount the important of improving your diet to boost your health and fitness levels. It’s the most important factor when it comes to fitness – you could spend hours every day in the gym but if you’re cramming in the doughnuts and pizzas when you get home, it won’t make any difference to your health. Try cut down on your consumption of processed foods, and foods with a lot of salt or sugar. Try to eat more vegetables and drink plenty of water as a good starting point.

Healthy food

  1. Improve your posture

Bring more awareness to your posture when you sit and stand. Having a good posture not only makes you look taller and slimmer but keeps your bones and joints in the correct alignment and ensures your muscles are being used properly. It can help prevent neck or back pain in later life and promotes good circulation and bloody flow.

  1. Get a pedometer

Getting a pedometer or using the step tracking function on your smartphone can make you much more aware of how physically active or inactive you are. It’s recommended that you get around 10,000 steps a day and by tracking your activity, it will be easier to set goals for yourself and work towards improvement.

Tracing activities to get fitter without going to the gym

  1. Take your car less

In Ireland, we can sometimes be slaves to our cars. Walking can be too much of a risk – it could be sunny one minute, then the next there’s a downpour and you’re absolutely drenched. To help get your steps up to that magic 10,000 mark, try to replace short car journeys with walking – even if it’s just to the shop and back.

  1. At home exercises

If it’s the thought of the gym that you just can’t stomach, then embrace exercising at home. If you have the space, you could try yoga with some YouTube tutorials or you could buy or download some exercise dvds to do in your living room with your partner, room mates or family members.

  1. Try a standing desk

If you have an office job, or spend a lot of your day sitting down or behind a desk, you could benefit from adopting a standing desk. Over the past few years, the phrase ‘sitting is the new smoking’ has been uttered more frequently due to growing researching showing the link between spending a long time in a sedentary position and the development of health issues from obesity to diabetes and cancer.

Standing desk

  1. Clean your house

Exercise doesn’t have to involve putting on work out gear, lifting weights or doing intense repetitive cardio. A good cleaning session is a great calorie burner, with vacuuming, moving furniture and sweeping among the best activities to get the heart pumping

  1. Get an outdoor hobby

Having a hobby you love can change your life – it gives you greater purpose, can benefit your mental health, can open your social circles and can make you physically healthier. Joining a spin class, a running group or some sort of exercise programme aren’t the only hobbies you can take up to improve your fitness. Doing anything outdoors or involving physicality, like gardening or clay making, for example, will get you moving more.

Outdoor hobbies - gardening

  1. Stretch more

Just like improving your posture, stretching regularly is incredibly beneficial for your body. It can improve flexibility, help prevent injury and most importantly improve your blood flow to aide cell growth and your organ function. If you’re feeling tired, a good stretch can also give you a boost of energy to help you move more and be active for longer.

  1. Have more sex

While some of us fundamentally don’t like exercise, there is one physical activity that most of us would enjoy doing more off. Sex isn’t just a lot of fun; it’s also great for your health; it increases your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure and burns calories too.

young couple

What are your top tips for improving your everyday health and fitness? Let us know using the hashtag #MyIrishLife

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5 Great Places To Go For A Run In Ireland

Read time: 3 Minutes

Running is just one of those things that you either love or hate. And even if you love it, to be honest, you still kind of hate it at times. No matter how into it you are, there’s always that ‘can I really be bothered?’ feeling as you lace up your shoes and the ‘Oh God, I’m going to die’ when you first get going.

But when you properly get into your run, muster up a good pace and release those endorphins, you feel pretty incredible. You know you’re doing something good for your body and your mind, you’re pushing yourself, you’re getting outdoors and you know, it costs a lot less than the gym.

In Ireland, we’re incredibly lucky to be spoilt for choice with some great, scenic locations which would appeal to even the most reluctant runner. So whether you’re a daily pavement pounder trying to discover a new location or just dipping your toe into a new activity, here are some of the greatest places to go for a run in Ireland.

Howth Cliff Path Loop – Dublin

Distance: 6km

Starting at the DART station in Howth village, follow the green arrows and you’ll be taken along the cliffs to ‘The Summit’, where you’ll return via a path parallel to the outward route. This running location offers spectacular views of Lambay Island, Ireland’s Eye and Dublin Bay. Hearing the water crash against the cliffs as you reach The Summit is quite an experience. The terrain can be tough in parts.

5 places to go for a run in Ireland: #1 Howth Cliff Path Loop
Photo credit: Instagram

Bray Head, Valentia Island – Kerry

Distance: 5km

For a run that will really take your breath away, Bray Head Loop is simply stunning. As you run along the cliffs of Valentia Island, your jaw will drop at the outstanding views of the Skellig Islands. The route can be quite steep at times and definitely not one for those with a fear of heights. There is a carpark which costs €2 and the walk is well signposted well from there.

Running in Ireland #2: Bray Head, Valentia Island, Kerry
Photo credit: Instagram

Keem Bay and the Cliffs of Benmore, Achill Island – Mayo

Distance: 2km

Keem Bay is one of the most picturesque places in the whole of Ireland. It’s a total uninhabited hidden gem, not far from Connemara National Park. The fine sandy beach is great for a short peaceful run and there’s also access to a 1.5km hillwalk along the top of the cliffs of Benmore towards Achill Head, the most westerly point of Achill Island.

Best running locations in Ireland #3 - Achill Island
Photo credit: Instagram

Gap of Dunloe – Killarney

Distance: 10km

The Gap of Dunloe is an unforgettable way to experience Killarney. The panoramic views from the Head of the Gap really are hard to beat. And you can make a real day of it after your run with a visit to the Black Valley or lunch at Kearney’s Cottage. It is worth noting that the road is quite narrow and will have the odd car passing by and, particularly during the summer, there may be tours taking place throughout the day.

Places To Go For A Run In Ireland #4: Gap of Dunloe, Kerry
Photo credit: Instagram

Phoenix Park – Dublin

Distance: 11km

Phoenix Park in Dublin is one of the signature running locations in Ireland but shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s one of the largest walled parks in Europe with diverse natural beauty. It’s 11km around the park but there are a variety of walk ways to customise your run to any distance you like.

Best locations to go for a run in Ireland # 5: Phoenix Park, Dublin
Photo credit: Instagram

Do you like running or do you prefer an alternative activity? What is your favourite place to go for a run in Ireland? Have you ever been to one (or more) or the 5 spots we have shown you today?

Feel free to share your tips and experience with us! Leave a comment here or let us know on social media by using the hashtag #myIrishLife.

 

Irish Life is one of Ireland’s leading financial services companies with over 1 million customers. For over 75 years, we’ve been helping people in Ireland look after their life insurancepension and investment needs.

Irish Fitmums – My Pregnancy & Post Baby Fitness Journey

Orla, who hails from Skerries, recently welcomed her second son Hunter and has shared with us, her experience of fitness  – not only as a professional but having recently given birth herself.

Read time: 4 Minutes

One thing you learn when you’re having a baby is that no two pregnancies and no two female bodies are the same.

Your friend Laura might have had glowing skin, a neat bump and energy to burn right up until she went into labour. Meanwhile you feel like a sweaty beached whale with adult acne who needs a nap after climbing a flight of stairs.

And once you’ve had the baby, the same rule applies. Some women will snap back into shape and be in skinny jeans within weeks, whilst others will take a bit more time to ease themselves back into the physical and emotional state they held prior to pregnancy.

Fitness after pregnancy can be a big deal to a lot of women, especially those whose exercise regimes were a key part of their lives pre-pregnancy or for those who feel like they have less control over their bodies after giving birth.

To learn more about fitness during and after pregnancy, Irish Life has spoken to Fitness Competitor, blogger and owner of Dimensions Dance Wear, Orla Hopkins.

Orla, who hails from Skerries, recently welcomed her second son Hunter and has shared with us, her experience of fitness  – not only as a professional but having recently given birth herself.

Congratulations on the birth of Hunter! How did you find this pregnancy compared to your first?

I actually found this pregnancy tougher. I was extremely tired and suffered more from morning sickness – which was actually more like all day sickness for the first 16 weeks.  Once I hit week 17, I felt great. My energy levels and appetite were back to normal.

As the tiredness lifted, my energy was up and I was able to get back to my workouts. My labour was literally a text book birth, which was totally different to my first – thankfully!

As a professional in the fitness industry, did you feel pressure to maintain your figure during pregnancy?

I didn’t feel too much pressure at all. During my first trimester I gained weight pretty quickly due to my sickness and headaches. I literally couldn’t look at anything that was healthy, I just craved sugary foods like jellies,  breakfast cereals, granola, bread etc.

But at that 17 week mark, I started to feel better and back to my normal diet of fresh veg, grilled lean meats plenty of salads, I actually started to CRAVE salads! Then when I started working out again, probably four or five days a week, I found my weight gain balanced out.

How does your exercise and fitness regime change during pregnancy?

It’s very important to me to keep training when pregnan,t not only for myself and that feel good factor, but also to keep myself and the baby healthy. It helps with the strain of the bump by keeping up the strength in my lower back and legs. And it also helpa prepare the body for birth and for the post natal recovery.

I got full clearance from my consultant to keep doing what I was doing in moderation. He trusted me to listen to my body & take each session with caution and consideration, which I did.

During this pregnancy I worked out most of the time at home, performing circuit style sessions incorporating a fitball, resistance bands, kettle bells and ankle weights. I always listen to my body so some days my workouts were only ten minutes and other days 45 minutes, depending on how I felt that day.

How did you approach exercise after having Hunter?

I started my post natal recovery exercises on day two post partum, I received these from the hospital physio. They are extremely basic and all about recovering your strained, stretched muscles but these exercises are so important and I really advise all women to ask too see the hospital physio post labour and get a copy of them.

I then started back walking when I felt ready and as the days went by, I was able to start to speed up my pace and began power walking probably approximately four weeks post partum.

Then after my six week check I went back to the gym, slowly working myself back. It’s been tougher this time around as I’m juggling a school-going very busy seven year old. But making time for yourself is so important as I also say  – a happy mum equals a happy family.

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#TBT to that beautiful bump … it's hard to believe Hunter is 11weeks 🙈💙👶🏻 How our lives have changed in those 11weeks … juggling 2 with our crazy lives is much tougher than we expected but we are absolutely loving it 💙💙💙 Serious team work going on 👊🏼 I was so paranoid about getting back into a routine (as we did when Noa came along) but it's a different story with 2 … so I/we have decided to just go with the flow & take each day as it comes & accept help whenever it's offered 😜 which is something I didn't do with Noa xxx Sending love & lots of hugs to all you expectant mums out there 😘 & throwing my HANDS UP for all you awesome parents out there 🙌🏼🙌🏼🙌🏼 Happy Thursday 💗#Family#Love#mamatoboys#Bumplife

A post shared by Orla Hopkins (@ohsofit.ie) on

What advice would you give to other women wanting to keep up their fitness during and after pregnancy?

My advice to anyone who is wanting to keep up their fitness levels pre and post natal is to firstly get the all clear from your consultant, GP or midwife.

If you are feeling a little lost as to what you can and can’t do don’t be afraid to ask for help. Book a PT session or look into pregnancy keep fit classes or yoga. There are plenty of specialists out there who are extremely passionate about what they do and helping others so be sure to get a program that fits your needs and pregnancy.

Follow Orla on Facebook and Instagram

Top Tips For Pregnancy Fitness

  1. Get professional advice

If you want to exercise or keep fit during your pregnancy, you should always speak to your doctor. Every pregnant woman has a different experience and different capabilities as their body undergoes such a huge change.

Resist the urge to Google to find safe workouts during pregnancy and take the time to get advice from a professional instead.

  1. Don’t push yourself

Whilst normally it’s good to push yourself in the gym or when you’re working out to get that extra burn, when you’re pregnant, you should always stay in the safety zone. Always stop when you get too tired, sore or when you feel like you should be taking it easier. Trust your body and do what it wants.

  1. Stay well nourished and hydrated

This is important when keeping fit, regardless of whether you’re pregnant or not but is even more crucial when you’re growing a human. Even when you don’t necessarily feel thirsty, keep guzzling water and pay close attention to your body temperature too.

  1. Warm up and cool down

Prepare your body for exercise, rather than jumping right into it. Otherwise you may easily strain your muscles and suffer days of pain afterwards.

  1. Pelvic floor

The pelvic floor is a layer of muscle that supports the uterus and helps maintain bladder and bowel control. During pregnancy, there’s a lot of pressure on the pelvic floor, so doing exercised that are specific to that area will help strengthen it and may even help bladder and bowel problems that sometimes occur post birth.

Top Tips For Post Partum Fitness

  1. Start slowly

Do not expect to be able to jump back into a circuits class after you’ve given birth. You will need to start getting back into fitness very slowly, giving your body the chance to adapt. Understand that even going for a walk will seem like climbing a mountain shortly after childbirth.

  1. Ignore the pressure

Understand that it is not your job to be super skinny or absolutely ripped immediately after having a baby. Use the time after giving birth to take care of yourself and your baby and ignore the pressure to snap back. Every body recovers and changes at a different pace and it may no longer be possible for you to look exactly as you did pre pregnancy. Focus more on self-acceptance than self-improvement until you’re physically ready to return to fitness.

  1. Wobbly joints

The hormone relaxin which is released during pregnancy and softens the ligaments and joints can stay in your body post childbirth, so you may find that during exercise your legs and pelvis can feel a bit unstable. For this reason, you should avoid exercises that are too rigorous or jerky in movement.

Irish Life is one of Ireland’s leading financial services companies with over 1 million customers. For over 75 years, we’ve been helping people in Ireland look after their life insurance, pension and investment needs.

10 of our favourite spring walks in Ireland

Now that daylight hours are longer and the weather is picking up it’s time to put on a good pair of boots and start exploring more of our Country.

Read time: 3 Minutes

Now that daylight hours are longer and the weather is picking up it’s time to put on a good pair of boots and start exploring more of our country.

Ireland is full of beautiful coastal routes, mountains, hills and forests enjoyed by thousands of locals and tourists each year.  There’s routes in every county to suit all ages, abilities and timescales.

Not only is walking a great way to discover more of Ireland but it’s also one of the best forms of exercise you can do – it helps burn the extra calories and has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers.

We were hard pressed to pick just ten when Ireland has so much to offer but we’ve managed to narrow it down to our top ten spring walks.

  1. The Glen of Aherlow, County Tipperary

The Glen of Aherlow has trails for every ability with low-lying loops which can take anything from 30 mins to 4 hours. The more adventurous can take on the challenge of the Galtees. Lough Curra and Lake Muskry are popular destinations for those looking to explore the mountains and reach stunning view points.

The scenery is beautiful, surrounded by mountains, rivers, lakes and forests. You’ll find picnic tables throughout woodland trails where you can stop for a bite to eat while you enjoy the view.  The Glen of Aherlow is perfect for a weekend break with loads of accommodation options, including caravan parks, B&Bs and hotels.

glen-of-aherlow

Photo credit: Instagram

  1. Croagh Patrick, Mayo

Croagh Patrick is known as Ireland’s Holy Mountain; it is said that Saint Patrick fasted for 40 days at the summit.  On Reek Sunday, the last Sunday of July around 25,000 pilgrims climb the mountain each year, many of them barefoot, a tradition that has existed for more than 5,000 years.

The climb to the summit takes around two and half hours.  It can be very challenging as it is steep, slippy and very rocky towards the top.  If you make it to the peak you will be rewarded to panoramic views of what looks like the whole of Ireland. When you’re done reward yourself with tea and cake from the coffee shop at the base of the mountain.

croagh-patrick

Photo credit: Instagram

  1. Errigal Mountain, Donegal

Donegal is known for its beautiful landscapes and rugged terrain. Mount Errigal the highest in the county is one of Ireland’s most popular and recognisable mountains despite its remote location. It has a magical quality of appearing to change shape depending where you view it from.

At 751 metres Errigal is topped with twin summits.  The two peaks are among the smallest in Ireland, separated by the One Man’s Pass which as the name suggests is so narrow it can only be crossed one at a time.

errigal-mountain.png

Photo credit: Instagram

  1. The Slieve Blooms, Laois & Offaly

The Slieve Blooms make for some easy family walking with a choice of several looped tracks and the opportunity to easily reach a summit. Arderin is the highest point in the hills at just 527m meaning you can reach the top in less than an hour. From the top of Arderin on a clear day you can see the highest points in all four Irish provinces, as far as Slieve Donard in Ulster.

The trail is picturesque and unspoilt. It is one of the least explored in Ireland giving you a chance to get away from it all, enjoy nature and unwind to the sound of birds. Dotted around the mountains are traditional little villages where you can stop for a break and have a chat with the locals.

sliabh-bloom.png

Photo credit: Instagram

  1. Coumshingaun Loop Walk, Waterford

The 7.5 loop walk is moderate and will take you around 4 hours to complete.  The time is well worth it given the spectacular views you will enjoy throughout.  The route surrounds a natural amphitheatre of the Coumshingaun Corrie Lake and the surrounding mountains.

Coumshingaun is Comeragh’s most famous landmark and one of the finest examples of a corrie or coum in Europe.  Corries were formed by glacier movement during the ice age and make for a breath-taking sight.

coumshinguan.png

Photo credit: Instagram

  1. The Wicklow Way

This extensive hike is one for those seeking a camping expedition in Ireland. The Wicklow Way takes around seven days to hike and stretches 83 miles through the Wicklow mountains to the suburbs of Dublin City. It includes challenging summits up to 3,200ft.

You can of course take a more leisurely stroll and complete a small section of the trail if you are staying in the area for a short while. Wicklow is known as the ‘Garden of Ireland’, its lush valleys and spectacular mountains will not disappoint.

wicklow-way.png

Photo credit: Instagram

  1. Diamond Hill, Connemara, Galway

Connemara National Park covers 2,957 hectares of scenic mountains, bogs, heaths, grasslands and woodlands. The Diamond Hill is a popular walk for visitors to the park taking just 2 to 3 hours to complete and covering a distance of 4.5 miles.

There is plenty to do at the park with a children’s playground, picnic tables and tea rooms.  Ponies are very much a part of the Connemara countryside. The area is also steeped in history with 4,000 year old megalithic court tombs to explore.

diamond-hill.png

Photo credit: Instagram

  1. The Sheeps Head Way, County Cork

The coastal trail from Bantry to the tip of the peninsula is 55 miles but you can try a variety of shorter loop walks that take just 2-3 hours. The terrain is varied with open grassland, woodland and country roads.  The Sheeps Head Way is next to the Gulf Stream giving it some of the mildest climates in Ireland. The narrowness of the peninsula means you are never far away from stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Along the way you can explore the remains of an old copper mine, a Napoleonic signal tower, old churches and a scenic lighthouse.  If you are lucky you might even spot some dolphins or whales off the western tip.

sheeps-head.png

Photo Credit: Instagram

  1. The Burren, County Clare

The Burren is a challenging hike that takes around 5 days to complete the full 71 mile length. If you are looking for more of a day trip adventure the region also offers a number of scenic shorter walks.

The Burren is one of Ireland’s highlights with a vast area of terraced limestone hills that drops abruptly into the Atlantic at the Cliff of Moher.  The unique landscape of silvery limestone, wildflowers and caves is definitely worth taking some time to explore.  You’ll also come across Neolithic remains and ancient Christian churches.

burren.png

Photo credit: Instagram

  1. The Howth Cliff Walk, Dublin

The fishing village of Howth is just a short trip away from the Centre of Dublin. This easy 5 mile walk is perfect if you want a break from the buzz of the city. The cliff walk passes the Bally Lighthouse and will allow you to enjoy some beautiful views of secluded beaches. You’ll also find a cosy pub at the summit where you can take your time to relax and enjoy refreshments until you are ready to return to the busy city.

howth.png

Photo credit: Instagram

Irish Life is one of Ireland’s leading financial services companies with over 1 million customers. For over 75 years, we’ve been helping people in Ireland look after their life insurance, pension and investment needs.