We are now at the final stretch of what seems like an endless Chicago winter, and chances are you have missed your fair share of gym days or home workouts, either due to the cold temperatures, steady snowfall, or various other reasons.
It is around this time into the new year that you start to rethink your New Year’s Resolution–why you decided to join that overpriced gym or take that really hard workout class one time even though you swore to yourself that “this time I really am going to stick to a schedule.”
The good news is that there is no need to overcomplicate your exercise routine, especially when you are starting out. Too often I hear from my patients that they went to a really intense workout class or an hour-long spin class that has left them incredibly sore, injured or even frustrated at the lack of results. This is by no means meant to discredit any workout option, but rather inform and educate on the signals to recognize that your body is sending you.
There is no quick fix when it comes to an exercise routine. It is only detrimental to your end goal if you choose to judge yourself and your goals based on what you see someone else doing in the gym, or what some fitness guru is posting on social media.
I am going to discuss some less complicated ways to get your exercise routine going while avoiding pain and injury. Before I dive in, I want to forewarn you that this information is not meant to take the place of seeking the appropriate medical advice from your healthcare professional. This is simply meant to educate, empower and inspire anyone who has had a tough time sticking to a workout plan, or someone who has been battling a chronic pain issue that is hindering progress with a workout regimen.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get, as a physical therapist, is “what exercise(s) should I be doing?” There is no quick answer to this, but the important message to remember is that your body craves movement. Your muscles and joints do not respond well to static positioning whether it be standing or sitting.
Here are some easy steps to follow if you are feeling down or lost without your workout routine:
1. Do I need to work out everyday?
– The short answer is no. The long answer is that you should do some sort of movement based activity on a daily basis. It doesn’t have to include spending countless hours at a gym or multiple workout classes. This can include a 20-minute walk, a 10-minute stretch routine, or even doing some simple exercises while you are sitting and relaxing.
2. I was told not to do _______, but I want to do_______. What should I do?
– Everyone has different goals when it comes to exercise and fitness. The important thing to remember is that they are YOUR goals and not anyone else’s. If you want to run, you can run. If you want to bike, you can bike. Problems can arise if your body is not prepared for the activity you want to do. Start slow and remember to be patient. This is one of the hardest things for us to do, but it will pay off in the long run.
3. I feel like I have been working out and I don’t see any differences. What should I do?
– This is not an easy question, but the best advice for this is to change it up. Too often we get caught in our routine because it is easy and convenient and we feel comfortable with it. However, our body can be accustomed to that routine and we may not see the changes we want. If you haven’t tried yoga, go find a location close to your work or home and try a free class. If you always wondered what Pilates was, do a little research and see if there is a discounted class you can take. Step outside your comfort zone and you may be pleasantly surprised at the results. You may also find a new interest that you never knew you had.
4. I think I hurt myself, what should I do?
– Take a minute and think about what you did. Did you try a new class? Were you doing movements that you weren’t used to? Did you increase the intensity or duration of your workout? These are all valid reasons to experience pain or discomfort. Sometimes, it is none of the above. We just start experiencing pain for no reason whatsoever. If this happens to be the scenario you are going through, it is best to seek out a referral to a physician and discuss physical therapy as an option. We are trained to look at the body in its entirety to see what may be causing your pain and educate you on the best course for recovery so you can get back to what you want to do.