January — it’s the time of year when the most people resolve to lose weight and get healthier, Google diet and exercise plans, and (for a large percentage) quietly drop off their exercise routines after barely beginning them. If you don’t want to be among those people, try these three strategies for building a long-lasting fitness plan:
- Do Your Rehab First
Before you start a new exercise plan, it’s important that you take stock of any existing aches and pains and do what you can to eliminate them, rather than jumping in full force. If you’re wondering why physical rehab is important — when simply getting more fit might help you to feel better — the answer is that it’s all about risk. True, losing weight or building muscle could eliminate your pains: For example, losing just one pound takes about four times that amount of stress off the knee joints. However, exercise can also exacerbate an existing condition and make it impossible for you to exercise for even longer. So that’s why physical rehab is important when you’re starting a new plan, whether you’re starting from scratch or simply intensifying your routine. It’s best to start slow.
- Build a Routine, Then Change It
Most advice on exercise floating around this time of year focuses on how to build a routine and keep yourself accountable to it. This is sound advice, certainly. But here’s the next step: Keep some aspect of your routine constantly changing. Switch the machines you use, or take a day off from biking to jump in the pool instead. If it’s a nice day, skip the gym altogether and play Frisbee in the park. Not only is there evidence that changing your exercise patterns keeps your body from plateauing, it can keep you from getting bored. Once you start to view physical activity as a fun and exciting part of your life, rather than a dull but necessary addition to your regular taskload, staying fit will become a lot easier.
- Listen to Your Body
We’ve all heard the saying that “pain is just weakness leaving the body.” In reality, that’s absolutely false. Your muscles will be sore, of course, as you increase the intensity of your workouts. But pain is how your body tells you that something is wrong, and you should listen to that warning and be constantly adjusting as you exercise. Whether it’s foot pain, neck pain, a low back strain or something else entirely, you should see an appropriate practitioner as soon as possible. You don’t want to let that pain build to the point where you just drop your exercise routine.
Have you thought about why physical rehab is important to a new exercise plan? Would you consider seeing a physical therapist or chiropractor for treatment for back pain or leg pain prior to starting on your 2015 fitness goals? Join the discussion in the comments.