Stepping into a New Year, the enthusiasm to incorporate exercise into your routine is commendable. As someone who is known to have a mince pie or three…, and having navigated my own New Year’s fitness journey, injury prevention is a topic close to my heart.
In this article, we’ll explore not only the foundations of a successful fitness resolution but also delve into specific injury risk reduction strategies, blending insights from clinical practice and personal experiences.
Set the Foundation for Success:
- Consistency over Intensity: The early enthusiasm to get off to a good start and feel like you’re working hard to make improvements can often lead to burnout and injury. I’ve learned that the journey to a fitter self isn’t a sprint; it’s an ultra-marathon. Long term consistency trumps intensity 100% of the time. Start easy with activities you enjoy, be it a brisk walk or a dance class. Gradually build intensity later as your body adapts.
- Set Realistic Goals: I’ve been guilty of it before…. This year I’m going to get in the best shape of my life…. Or … This year I’m going to lose 30 lbs before my birthday. Vague or unachievable goals set us up for failure and mean it’s easy to become disheartened and give up completely. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time Bound (SMART) goals can help us set targets we can achieve and stick to a plan.
- Reduce your injury risk:
- Warm Up: Begin each session with a dynamic warm-up and build up to some low intensity hops, skips and jumps. A good warm up increases blood flow, enhances flexibility, and primes your muscles for the upcoming workout, helping to reduce the risk of strains.
- Embrace variety: My fitness and injury resilience grew exponentially when I embraced variety in my training plan. The variety provided by balancing cardio, strength, and flexibility exercises helped keep me engaged, prevented monotony, and provided a rounded approach. Balance is key. Ensure your routine includes exercises that target different muscle groups, promoting overall strength and reducing the risk of overuse injuries.
- Rest is important: Schedule rest days. They are not a sign of weakness or slacking off, but a strategic move for recovery, allowing your body to repair and adapt, reducing risk from over doing things.
- Pain vs Discomfort: Sometimes exercise sucks and we want to stop due to the uncomfortable nature. However, what we need to understand is the difference between pain and discomfort. Pushing through feelings of discomfort are generally ok. However, pushing through pain which gets worse with exercise is a recipe for injury. When you feel like stopping ask yourself, “is this pain or is it discomfort from pushing myself?”.
- Track and Celebrate Success: Periodically assess your fitness level and reassess your goals. This allows for adjustments to your routine and helps prevent burnout, injuries or worse … giving up.
The Role of Professional Guidance:
Professional trainers or physiotherapists can help you achieve your goals by providing a roadmap or plan. A certified trainer or physiotherapist can assess your fitness level, provide tailored advice, advise on bespoke exercise selection, and correct any form issues to help reduce risk of injuries.
Staying Resilient on the Fitness Path:
The role of mental fitness: fitness is not just physical; it’s mental. A positive mindset helps navigate setbacks and celebrate small victories. Also, it helps to have a plan for when you fall off your schedule. Remember, one or two missed training sessions or meals does not mean the whole plan has failed, start again at the next available opportunity. Long term consistency trumps all and will allow you to reach your goals.
As you embark on your New Year’s fitness journey, set yourself up for success with proper planning. From dynamic warm-ups and balanced routines to professional guidance and a resilient mindset, these strategies will fortify your path toward a healthier you. Remember, it’s not just about the gains; it’s about the sustainable journey that leads to lasting fitness and well-being.
Happy, injury-free training! Matt Hawkins, Physiotherapist, Personal Trainer, Mince Pie eater….