With January well underway, now is the time that many people are struggling to commit themselves to their New Year’s resolutions. Often, these changes are to make healthier choices for themselves. With the best intentions, people declare that “This is the year!”. Some people are successful in following through with their plans. Some people, unfortunately… are less successful. As a physiotherapist, I love supporting clients in whatever health-related goals they have made for themselves.
However, one problem with New Year’s resolutions is that they typically involve dramatic changes to your lifestyle. Any changes in your diet that involve taking away all of the food items you were eating in December, and replacing it with new food items you’ve never eaten before, may not be a sustainable change. Making small changes to progress toward your goals are easier to maintain over a long period time.
These dramatic changes also apply to exercise goals. If you have found that you’ve been less and less active over the past few months or years, you may be super motivated to hit the gym every day to get back to your previous physical activity level. However, what do you do if you get a little bit of knee pain coming on? You might decide to take a few days off… and that sometimes turns into the rest of the year off. If you haven’t been participating in regular physical activity, you may need to participate in a different exercise program compared to what you have done in the past. You need to build your tolerance back up with a progressive exercise program.
If you are training for a marathon for the first time, you wouldn’t start out your training with running 42km! Depending on your current activity level, it may be better to start out with a training program like this (for low activity level) :
Week 1: 15-minute walk Week 2: Walk for 2 minutes, run for 1 minute, and repeat 5 times Week 3: Walk for 1 minute, run for 5 minutes, and repeat 3 times Week 4: Run for 15 minutes And then increase the length of your running over time.
If you are already an experienced runner, this progression may start at a much higher level. However, even for an experienced runner, sudden changes in your training routine may stress your body in a way that it is not prepared for. Our bodies respond to exercise using the SAID principle – Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. This means that as you “practice” a specific exercise, your body will adapt specifically to improve in that skill. This is why people who weight lift and do not do any cardiorespiratory exercise, can’t run a marathon without training for it specifically first. To get better at an activity, you have to DO that activity!
So what does that mean for you?
Your body is really good at the exercise level you’ve been doing for the past few months. So take note of what your activity level is, and what your goal activity level is. Then break it up into smaller steps to get towards your goal. If you want to participate in an exercise class every day as your goal, start with 2-3x/week in January and slowly increase over the next few months as your body adapts to the new activity level. This way your body’s tolerance for activity slowly increases over time and is better able to manage the next level of activity.
There are many ways to modify your exercise routine. The great thing about exercise is that there are so many different options available to you! Whether you enjoy playing sports, doing exercise classes, yoga, weight lifting, or running, pick whatever you like and do it a little bit more than you used to. This is how you can PROGRESS towards your goals.
That being said, some people struggle with aches and pains even if they do have a slow increase in activity. If your muscle or joint pain is holding you back from participating in the activity you want, get an assessment from a Physiotherapist. Physiotherapists can guide you into your desired activity while providing you with specific exercises to address any musculoskeletal problems you are having.
Still not sure whether physiotherapy is right for you? Call us at 519-895-2020 to discuss your situation! Or you can use our online booking tool on www.strivept.ca to book an appointment with one of our knowledgeable physiotherapists, and they will be sure to help you understand your condition and get you moving again.
Cheers, Amanda McFadden Physiotherapist at Strive Physiotherapy and Performance