New Year’s resolutions, they aren’t bad, in fact they often serve to focus you at the start of a new year when everything feels new, fresh and achievable. So, I like to think of having a New Year’s focus and skip the expectations that I’m likely to let my “resolutions” slip after a few weeks of good intension. Most of us graze our way through Christmas only to reach the year end with some sort of fitness or weight loss goal. Can I challenge you to make it a “health” goal instead; this kind of covers all the bases and helps us to think about making good choices for the long term, rather than trying to reinvent ourselves in a few weeks. If your health goal includes getting fitter, then here are a few tips to help you avoid injuring yourself in the first 2 weeks and giving up before you even get started.
- Get a trainer – if you have never exercised before, it’s a good idea to get some professional support. Find a personal trainer who can guide you, encourage you and progress your programme. This might only need to be a few one-on-one appointments, or it could be long term, depending on how motivated you are to continue. Your trainer will start you at the right level for you and help you build your endurance in a sustainable manner.
- Assess where you are right now – make a sensible decision about where to start. Maybe walking is the best place to start before embarking on a run programme. Some how we tend have these unrealistic expectations of starting fit and feel extreme disappointment when our first run feels like dragging a bull up a mountain. Plan to begin at the beginning and gradually build your endurance and strength. A good tip to determine the intensity of your work out is to do the ‘Talk test’; if you can have a slightly breathless conversation during your exercise, you are at the correct intensity. It won’t be long before you can continue that conversation at a faster pace.
- Warm up before you start – Make the warm up part of your session rather than thinking of it as a necessary evil, however, take note that static or passive stretching on a cold body is never recommended, in fact this might even increase your risk of injury. Rather use dynamic or active stretching, where you increase the oxygenation and temperature of your muscles, preparing them for the workout to come. For ideas on how to use dynamic stretching look out for my video that will follow shortly. Leave your sustained, static stretches for the end of your work out to lengthen out the muscle fibres.
- Change it up – trying a varied routine is much better than doing the same programme day after day, not only for your psyche but also for your body. Spice up your cardiovascular training (walking, running, cycling) with a short resistance programme – squats, lunges, press ups, abdominals etc. Use a cross trainer in the gym, vary your days by adding in cycling to a typical run or walk routine, hike up a mountain, try swimming. If you like to just stick to the same activity then try interval training; this requires you to get your heart rate up for 30 seconds by going hard, then slow down for 2-3 minutes to recover before starting the cycle again. Interval training is very effective, usually requiring less time to achieve more benefit, than sticking to the same intensity for the whole workout.
- Make sure you have appropriate foot wear – I cannot stress the importance of this enough, wearing the wrong shoes will lead to injury in the long term. You might say to yourself “it’s just a walk around the block” but wearing sandals/thongs/crocks is going to do you damage in the long run. Has anyone ever assessed if you are a pronator, supinator or have neutral foot and what does this even mean? Well the way your foot rolls with each step will determine how your body absorbs the shock of walking or running, spreading it to your lower limbs and into your spine. A pronator tends to have a hyperflexible foot, rolling inwards as you transition from the heel to the ball of your foot; the shoe needs to be fairly rigid to prevent too much roll, reducing the strain on your medial knee. A supinator is the opposite and needs a flexible shoe to allow loading to be displaced correctly through the lower limb. If you don’t know, please get professional advice before buying a pair of shoes. If you feel you don’t want to buy a heavy trainer, we have a super range of walkers to suit a more gentle approach to exercise, that provide moderate support and are very comfortable to wear – speak to our Podiatrist Alannah for more details.
- Prepare your core stabilisers – core muscles do not just refer to your abdominals, we have muscles that act as stabilisers around every joint and these muscles maintain good joint biomechanics to avoid wear and tear at the joint surfaces. Important areas to focus on are your knees, hips, neck and low back, especially if you already have signs of wear and tear at these joints. If you are not sure what it is you need, make an appointment with me the physio to show you how a simple stability plan around specific joints can not only reduce the risk of injury but resolve pain you might already have.
- Listen to your body – allow recovery time. Expect to have some muscles soreness when you start a new exercise plan, your body needs to feel like it has done some work to really be effective; but be sensible about how hard you push yourself. This new goal of yours needs to be sustainable, so if your workout puts you on the couch for the next 5 days you are either going to give up or injury yourself. Adequate recovery time is also important; muscles build by first breaking down, then regenerating more fibres to increase both strength and endurance. Your down time is when this regeneration occurs, so make sure you have at least one to two rest days in a week. If you are doing resistance training and weights, you should probably rest every second day.
Sunshine Coast Health Services offers more than 60 years of combined experience in injury management and prevention. With physiotherapy, podiatry and exercise physiology, we are equipped to help you plan your fitness goals, progress your exercise and empower you to prevent injury by providing you with expert advice on foot wear, stability programmes for good joint biomechanics and recovery from injury. Make 2019 a year that you flip your resolutions into long term, focused healthy goals that make you feel great, perform better and live an extraordinary year. One of my favourite quotes is this “Motivation is what gets you started, habit is what keeps you going”. – Jim Rohn.
Do it for yourself.