MScPT, BSc (Hons.)
New Year’s is a time where gyms and fitness centers everywhere experience a sudden surge of people trying to get fit and be their best selves. All too often, however, January at the gym quickly evolves from going ham to tearing hamstrings, or giving up altogether by the time February rolls around.
There are a number of reasons why our resolutions quickly fall flat at the gym. Most of the time, though, it’s the actual goal we set that is the problem. “Getting strong” or “getting a beach body” will only take you so far; without a plan and a set of specific goals to get you there, you’re not only potentially setting yourself up for failure, but you’re also increasing your chances of sustaining an injury.
So, if you’re hoping to make long-term fitness goals in 2017, here are 3 Resolutions you really need:
1. Resolve to build a solid foundation, starting with the core
Just as you wouldn’t build a house on quicksand, you shouldn’t start working out using heavy weights or high intensity until you’ve established a solid foundation at the core and spine.
Now, I’m not talking about doing hundreds of sit-ups or crunches. The “core” I’m talking about here is your DEEP core, including your transversus abdominis, multifidus, and pelvic floor muscles. Though not to be confused with Harry Potter spells, these muscles really are magic in keeping the spine stable with everyday activities and play a key role in minimizing low back pain and strain.
A physiotherapist can effectively guide you through specific exercises to help activate these deep core muscles and build the foundation on which to build your 2017 fitness goals!
2. Resolve to improve your posture
“Text neck” is a very real phenomenon that is causing upper back pain and long-term postural changes everywhere. This, in addition to the standard 9-to-5 desk job followed by long winter nights of watching Netflix in bed, is wreaking havoc on necks everywhere.
So do you REALLY think starting a fitness routine to build strength on top of a painful, poorly-positioned spine is going to be effective? Not likely.
Similar to core stability, working on your posture should be a priority in setting yourself up for success in improving your fitness, whether you’re a gym novice or total pro. Making small changes throughout the day and completing simple exercises can make a BIG difference in your posture, including:
- Taking a quick standing break for every 20-30 minutes of sitting at work (or better yet, using a standing desk to minimize sitting time!)
- Holding your phone at eye level as often as possible
- Cueing yourself to practice good posture (e.g. every time you see the colour red)
3. Resolve to pace yourself and be SMART about your progress!
Now that you’ve worked on building your solid foundation, you’re hoping to set up a regular workout routine. This is one of the most common challenges for new gym-goers, and one of the key components that can lead to potential injury as many people tend to “overdo” their strength and cardio training initially.
So how much is too much? Too little? Just enough?
Start off by determining your baseline. Be honest with yourself, and be patient! Everybody has a different starting point, so don’t be discouraged with yourself if you’re starting off lower than you’d hoped! Some helpful questions to ask yourself when working out for the first time include:
- How much weight can I lift so that I only start to have significant fatigue by the end of my final set?
- On a scale from 0 to 10, how fatigued / exhausted am I feeling after ____ minutes/repetitions/laps?
- Moderate-vigorous intensity is around 5-6/10.. you wouldn’t want to go too far past this during a regular workout!
- Am I able to maintain a light conversation while performing this activity, or am I gasping for air?
Once you’ve set a baseline for yourself (e.g. able to run 10 minutes without becoming short of breath), work on smaller, incremental goals rather than progressing quickly. Using the 10% rule to progress your intensity (repetitions, weight, distance, etc.) each week will result in more significant, SAFE fitness gains than pushing yourself too quickly. Remember, the goal is LONG-TERM change that you can feel good about!
With these resolutions in mind, you’ll be well on your way to setting yourself up for meaningful change and good habits that will carry you well beyond 2017 and into a lifelong journey of being your strongest, healthiest self.
Happy New Year,
From the Lakeside Physio & Massage Team!