Health and fitness: Hit the new year running or swimming

DIVE IN: Set new challenges to stay motivated and reap the benefits of better health and fitness in 2018. Start with the Across the Harbour swim on January 26. Picture: Fairfax Media
DIVE IN: Set new challenges to stay motivated and reap the benefits of better health and fitness in 2018. Start with the Across the Harbour swim on January 26. Picture: Fairfax Media

Today not only signals the start of the year but for many people around the world it marks a clean slate and brings a host of resolutions and goals for the 12 months ahead.

If like me you have spent the past week eating more than you have been moving then you will be ready to take on the new year with vim and gusto.

Just be careful not to go too hard too early. You want to look upon the year and achieving your goals as a marathon race, not a sprint or you will peak too early.

Personally this year I am aiming for more sleep and earlier nights, and consequently more early morning fitness sessions.

Our household got a dog for Christmas, which has been a good start and has also given the whole family motivation to move more every day.

If you are still looking for motivation and inspiration then here are a few ideas:


Swimming has many advantages and not everyone likes, or is able, to run, so diving in to some water activity can be one alternative.

It is low impact on the joints, excellent for improving your cardiovascular fitness as well and increasing strength as swimming uses many muscles in the body.

Newcastle’s  Across the Harbour swim returns this year on Australia Day and comprises the main 1400-metre course across the harbour to Stockton and back to Queens Wharf. 

There is also the option of a single crossing from Stockton to Queens Wharf. 

One day later, the 2km Nobbys to Newcastle Ocean Swim is on. 

You might simply commit to swimming laps a few times a week at your local pool or ocean baths.


Newcastle has become known as “the region of runners” in recent years and we are very lucky to have several running and walking events staged here.

The second round of the inaugural Summer Run Series, a 10km race being staged at Carrington, is on February 4.

For something that gives you a bit longer to train for, the third and final round of the 10km series is at Nelson Bay on March 18.

Newcastle’s festival of running, NewRun, on April 15 offers a range of distances including a kids’ 2km plus a 5km, 10km Hill2Harbour and a half marathon of 21.1km.

It is a challenging but beautiful course showcasing our city and its coastline.

Later in the year are running events at Maitland (June 3) and the Hunter Valley (July 22).

Sydney’s City2Surf is 14km and on August 12. It is tough but a great challenge that you have plenty of time to train for.

Of course, there is also the range of parkruns being held around the region every Saturday at 8am. 

There are also plenty of apps that help you track your daily, weekly and yearly kilometres as well. Maybe set a goal of reaching a certain total distance this year.


Preparing for a triathlon means run, swim and cycle training and adds variety to your fitness program.

The thing I like about triathlons is generally everyone is good at one of the legs so it is not as intimidating as perhaps entering a running event when you’re more of a swimmer and vice versa. It levels the playing field a little and can be a lot of fun.

The Sparke Helmore Newcastle City Triathlon is on February 25 around the Newcastle foreshore. There are long races, short races and team races.

If you enjoy it then the Maitland Triathlon is towards the end of the year. There are also a few triathlon clubs which meet on a regular basis.


Team sport is a wonderful way to combine fitness with socialising, so this year might be the year you return to sport or take up a new one.

Sizzling Summer Sessions

A great way to welcome the new year is with a fitness session. Being outdoors and active has been shown to give your mood a lift as well as the physical benefits. 

This could be going for a walk, swim, cycle or runaround at the park with family or friends.

Or it could be a tough workout like this (aim for three sets and modify to suit your level of fitness):

20 squats with alternating single-arm shoulder press; 10 push-ups; 20 mountain climbers; 20 diagonal lunges with biceps curl; 10 dead lifts with a row and triceps kickback; 10 burpees; run one minute, rest one minute, repeat.

Upcoming fitness events

Across the Harbour swim, Newcastle harbour, January 26: Choose from a 1400-metre return swim from Queens Wharf to Stockton and back, or just the 700m of one way. The event raises funds for Stockton Surf Life Saving Club and returns this year after an absence.

Nobbys to Newcastle Ocean Swim, Nobbys beach, January 27: A 2km ocean swim from Nobbys to Newcastle beach. 

Summer Run Series, Race 2, Carrington, February 4: The second round of the inaugural ‘Country, City, Bay’ 10k series. It is considered “a flat and fast” course and offers a a good new year’s challenge. 

Renee Valentine is a writer, qualified personal trainer and mother of three.