There are several times of the year that we tend to think about starting healthy habits such as a new diet or exercise routine. New Year, around the time of our birthday and several weeks before the summer holiday we have long planned. Often these times of the year make us reflect on our health and how it needs to be improved and what we should do about it. The aim of this blog is to help you start and stick to a new fitness regime. And not get injured whilst starting it.
So what counts as a healthy habit?
This can be physical exercise, meditation, healthy eating habits or perhaps stopping a bad habit such as smoking or eating chocolate on the sofa every night.
Sometimes we have no idea what we want to do but know that we need to improve our health. Possibly because we realise that a sport activity we used to do regularly we no can longer do or that our favourite trousers are too tight.
Let us start with motivation and how to get going with your healthy habits
Often with new habits the need to start them can be great but the motivation to start and to continue them can be hard.
There are several ways to motivate yourself. Obviously everyone is different and what would motivate one person may not motivate you. Have a look through the list and pick the one that suits you best.
1) Set a goal
Research from Strava the social network for athletes found that people who set a goal were 92% more likely to be active 10 months later. So sign yourself up for an event or target and stick to your goal. If it’s a big goal such as running a marathon or losing a lot of weight then break this down into smaller milestones so that you can have smaller victories on the way to your big goal.
2) Find a Buddy
Finding a friend or family member to motivate you to exercise can make you more likely to exercise or stick to your new habit.
3) Do it in the morning
Whether you are starting a new exercise routine or another healthy habit do it in the morning before the day gets in the way then it’s over and done with for another day.
4) Declare you intention (with a penalty if you fail)
Tell everyone you know what you intend to do, whether that is eating less, stopping smoking or doing yoga 3 times a week. The social pressure will hold you accountable and for an added incentive how about wearing your most hated teams football kit for a day or donating to a political party you do not believe in as a punishment for not sticking to your new routine.
This is when you hook a new habit onto a habit that you already do. I often recommend this to patients. An example of this is to hook a new habit on to brushing your teeth. So twice a day after brushing your teeth your do your new habit.
To hear me talking more about healthy habits and how to stick them have a look at the video below.
If I am this then I will that
Even with the best motivation there are days when you may not be able to exercise if you are ill or just tired or too busy. To stop not exercising becoming a habit try making if this then decision before your start you new regime.
If I am too tired to run after work then I will do 5 star jumps, 5 sits ups and 5 Press ups
If I am too tired to go to the gym I will do a 7 minute HIIT workout instead
If I am too busy to meditate for 10 minutes then I will find 3 x 1 minute blocks of time throughout the day to sit quietly and focus on my breath
If I eat cakes and crisps all day then tomorrow I will not
If I am ill then I will not exercise today and see how I feel tomorrow
The reason this works is that it allows us to fail. We are not machines, we all have off days or days where everything goes out the window. By realising this will happen and giving ourselves alternative it allows us to be kind to ourselves whilst still keeping up with regular exercise so that we still ‘turn up’ for our new regime and keep our new healthy habits. So often I see patients have an all or nothing approach to exercise who give up on their goals from one missed day.
“Just because you miss one day. Does not mean you need to miss every day”
Start your exercise plan the right way
So often in February I see a fair number of people with sports or fitness related injuries. With most of these patients (but not all) there is a common theme. New Year’s Resolutions. To either get fit, lose weight or try to return to a sport or activity they love. Whilst these are brilliant aim often the way they have gone about it is a little too enthusiastically.
If you have not been to the gym, run or generally exercised for weeks or months suddenly going to the gym 4 or 5 times a week and working out at 80% of your maximum ability can be a shock to your body. Whilst it can cope in the short term over a longer period of time this can lead to injuries. Which then means that you can not exercise and more often and not your new exercise regime has stopped before it even started.
How to avoid this?
Slow and steady wins the race.
The best way to start is to start slow. If you have not exercised for a while then you need to build up the amount of exercise you do.
If you are going to the gym aim for 2 short sessions a week. So that you are just getting out of breath. Then build up to longer sessions, then add in a third. Yes, it is slow. You are less likely to get injured and more likely to stick to your plan.
There are brilliant running apps such as couch to 5k. Which slowly builds up the amount of time you are running. A slow and steady start also makes exercising more achievable, which is more motivating and more encouraging. When you are exercising, make sure that you warm up and cool down before and after before each session. This can help reduce your chances of injury. If you do have start to have aches and pains then do not ignore them. Especially if they continue for more than 2 weeks or are very painful.
What if I get injured starting when starting my healthy habits?
If you do get injured then take action.
To start with the best thing for most minor sports injuries is rest and ice.
As I have said above if the pain is severe or limiting your movement then seek medical advice urgently.
However, if it is a minor injury that you have had for 2 or more weeks. Now is the time to get it assessed. Chiropractors are trained to examine, diagnose and treat injuries in the spine and other joints of the body. We then create a treatment plan for you not only to treat the injured area. But to help rehab the area to help prevent the injury reoccurring. If you are having recurrent injuries in your feet or legs we can assess your gait and the way in which your feet work. We do this using gaitscan technology and if needed prescribe custom made orthotic insoles. These can help improve your foot function and gai. Which can help improve the way in which the muscles and joints in your feet and legs work.
To summarise here are my top 10 tips on avoiding injuries and getting back to exercise
1) Start back slowly.
If you have not exercised for a while don’t try and exercise every day. Aim for twice a week and then increase the number of days you are doing as you get fitter.
2) Lower the intensity.
If you are restarting an exercise program do not restart at the level you reached before. Over time muscles lose their strength and stamina so you will not be able to easily pick up where you left off. So shorten the length of your run, lift lighter weights and gradually increase the amount of exercise you do.
3) Do not ignore aches and pains.
If you have had an ache or pain for more than 3 weeks then you should seek advice. Obviously if you are in a lot of pain, you can not weight bear on your legs or you
4) Worried about an old injury?
If you are worried about an old injury or current muscle or joint problem holding you back get a Chiropractor to check out the problem and advise you how to start exercising correctly. Take advantage of my 20 minute free consultation if you have a problem that’s bothering you and I can tell you if Chiropractic Care could help you.
5) Wear the right gear
Make sure your trainers fit well and your clothing is not too tight. As poorly fitting footwear and tight clothing can cause injury due to the body moving awkwardly to compensate.
6) Warm up before exercising and cool down afterwards
Be careful how you lift weights and other exercise equipment (bend your knees, not your back) and remember if its a while since you have exercised start off on an easier exercise or lighter weight than when you last did.
7) Try gentle daily exercises
Such as the British Chiropractic Associations Straighten Up UK can help prevent back pain and improve posture but improving your overall strength and mobility. This will not only help your back but can help improve any sport you do as well.
8) Get fit, not just match/ game fit.
If you only exercise when you are playing team sports such as rugby or football or playing matches such as squash and tennis then you may benefit from a bit more training. Try and take part in some form of cardiovascular fitness or strength training to improve your general fitness.
9) Get your swing right.
If you are playing any game with a swing such as golf, tennis or badminton make sure that your technique is right. If you are in doubt then get a professional coach to help you. Small problems in your technique could lead to injuries.
10) Rehab and strengthen the injured area.
Don’t just wait for the pain to go. Rehab any injured area so that it is fully healed and strengthened before you return to exercising.
Hopefully these tips will help you stick to your exercise plan or new healthy habits. If you want any further advice then you can always contact me or book a free chiro chat to see if chiropractic care can help you.
Want a free PDF of this Blog?
Over to you
I would love to hear any tips or advice that have helped you avoid injuries, start an exercise plan or help keep you on track with your healthy habits please comment below