Every year many of us wake up on the 1st of January and decide that we want to make some kind of change that is related to our health and wellbeing. This year it is estimated to be just a little over 30% of us, which is fairly consistent with polls in previous years. The most common goals last year were to lose weight and to get fitter.
These are obviously laudable goals and something we should be positive about. However 63% of us admitted to breaking a New Year’s resolution, with 43% not reaching the end of January and 80% breaking their resolution within 3 months.
So what tips can I give you to help you reach your fitness goals, whilst minimising your risk of injury and maximising your chances of success. From the perspective of a Physio who spends every day helping his clients move, feel and perform better.
First start gently and build up slowly. The temptation is to think that you should work as hard as possibly all the time and that if you are not, you are not trying hard enough. The “no pain no gain” approach is a recipe for getting injured, over-trained or sick. This then results in you being unable to exercise which means that psychologically you get frustrated and demotivated and physically you lose the progress you have made. There is a reason why gyms report that they are extremely busy in January and that this level of activity drops off as the year goes on.
Second set a realistic, achievable and sustainable goal. If you are busy with work, childcare and/or other responsibilities plans to go to the gym 5 times a week or run a marathon this summer are possibly not realistic, achievable or sustainable.
If you are looking for a more realistic goal then this guidance from the NHS might be a good place to start. To summarise you can meet the target by carrying out 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week plus 2 or more sessions of strengthening exercise. So for example going for a 30 minute brisk walk 5 times a week would be enough. For a sample strengthening programme you could try the Strength and Flex programme from the NHS, which you can find out more about here.
If you wanted to try something a bit more vigorous and you can comfortably run, then a 25 minute run 3 times a week would add up to 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week. If you would like to run but currently have never done it or haven’t for a while and want to build up gradually(which we would of course recommend). Then the couch to 5K programme would meet your needs, you can find out more about it here.
Third follow the plan. The temptation is to look at a training plan and think “well I can jump in at week 2 or 3”. Or if the plan says to do a set number of exercises and you can do more, the temptation is to think well I’ll do as many as I can. Unless the plan clearly states that you should do this, my advice is don’t.
The reason for this is that most training programmes or plans deliberately start at a reasonably achievable level and slowly and progressively increase in intensity and duration, this is not to make you feel good about yourself. It is to ensure that your body has time to adapt to the increase in load, thereby reducing the risk of injury and maximising the chances of success. As an added bonus it also reduces wasted effort. As noted strength coach Dan John says “more is not better, more is just more”.
The fourth is get advice if you need it. For example if you do have the time and inclination to go to the gym, have an induction and get a programme drawn up. Or if you want to use a different programme from a book for example, at least have the induction and get the gym instructor to show you how to use the equipment.
The fifth and final tip is to get treatment if you are experiencing pain or discomfort. Some discomfort is likely if you are significantly increasing your level of activity, however if you are experiencing pain beyond simple delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS, then my advice would to seek advice sooner rather later. The longer problems are left the greater the impact on your training and generally the longer it will take to get you better.
The Physio’s at Midlothian Physiotherapy LLP have all got a wealth of clinical experience treating exercise related musculoskeletal injuries. Whether its arm, shoulder, back or leg pain we can either help you ourselves or point you in the right direction. We have appointments available Monday to Friday from 8 am in the morning until 8 pm at night, please contact us for more details.