Considerations for Building a Fitness Lifestyle
Last week on #FitNerdPhysios, Aimee threw down a truth bomb about the need for physical therapists – and all healthcare practicioners, really, to “practice what you preach”. As physical therapists, we are MOVEMENT SYSTEM experts. We also play a pivotal role (especially in the primary care model of practice) in educating patients on the importance of regular exercise and facilitating or coaching better exercise habits.
And if we’re going to spend 40+ hours a week doing work that’s mainly concerned with movement and exercise…..We should probably move and exercise, right?
That’s easier said than done. Believe me, I KNOW how hard it is to establish an exercise routine. I am an exercise junkie and even I really struggled hard my first semester of PT school, trying to get a routine down.. I can’t even imagine how tough it must be to try adding an exercise routine to an already stressful routine of work, family time, continuing ed, oh right and sleep – especially when it’s something you’ve never done before.
But, tough as it may be, I feel strongly that it’s something we MUST strive for. It’s better for our patients, better for our families, and most importantly, better for our own health and happiness.
Okay, those are nice words and all….but to actually be successful with exercising regularly and reaching your fitness goals, you need more than just the knowledge that it’s good for you. Here, I’ve outlined a few strategies you can use to make your daily workouts happen IRL:
1.“How” actually starts with “Why”:
This article by Seth King http://www.sethkingwellness.com/blog/2016/6/2/findingyourwhy says it best. You’re never going to make exercise a habit if you’re doing it “because you’re supposed to” or “because it’s good for you”. You need to FIND YOUR ‘WHY’. A meaningful reason why you’d want to exercise. This can be anything, and I’ll use a few personal examples to illustrate the concept.
My Dad is a smart guy, he knows he needs to start exercising regularly, but over the years it’s been hard to find something that sticks. He’s a very busy and important person, and doesn’t have a whole lot of time in his day. And what my dad really loves is the great outdoors. He loves hiking and being out in nature, preferably not surrounded with a bunch of other people. So is it any wonder that 30 minutes on the rowing machine in the basement, or trying to lift weights in a crowded gym, didn’t work for him? Enter the WHY. Next month, Dad is going on a business trip to Banff, Canada (I know, right?) and there’s a multi-day backpacking trip he wants to do. My mom dropped a truth bomb on him, basically saying “this trip is no joke, and you are going to need to put in some work if you expect to finish it”. As of yesterday, he’s doing daily 10x400m hill repeats, and weekly multi-hour hikes to train for the Banff trip. Not much different than picking a 10k or a 13.1 and following a training plan, right? LOTS of people need a goal event that they’re really looking forward to to motivate them to get out there and put in the work.
On a less tangible level, I’ll share my own personal “why”. Exercise, and running in particular, is EMPOWERING for me. At the end of high school and first bit of college, I was involved in a very abusive relationship that completely destroyed my sense of self-worth. I had always been active, but somewhere in the midst of that relationship, I found running to be something that made me feel good about myself. It made me feel strong, accomplished, and like I had something to offer the world – all things that the abuse had taken away from me. Running was how I rebuilt my self-confidence and was the gateway to rediscovering ALL the things (fitness related or not) that make me a worthwhile person. Nowadays, running, cycling, and lifting set the tone for my day. Once I’ve got my workout in, I’ve accomplished something difficult – and I can feel good about that regardless of what else happens in my day. It allows me to face setbacks (a poor exam score, a financial faux pas, criticism in the clinic, spilling ketchup on myself twice, etc) with grace and confidence.
Bottom line: Your “why” can be a goal race. It can be a health parameter. It can be a feeling. But if you don’t have it, you’re not going to succeed at exercising regularly.
Find a workout you LOVE
If you hate running, you’re going to have a real hard time getting out of bed to run every morning. The good news is, there are TONS of different ways to get your sweat on and get fit – lots of them don’t involve running, and many don’t even involve the gym! Do you live for intramural sports? Guess what, that counts as exercise! Is rock climbing your thing? That counts too! So does dancing, going for walks, deadlifting, kickboxing, zumba, cycling, yoga, pilates, PureBarre, CrossFit, hiking, surfing, parasailing….if your heart rate is up and your muscles are burning, IT’S EXERCISE and you should do it. By no means do you have to be a slave to the elliptical or the treadmill. In fact, I think you have a better chance of capitalizing on fitness if you embrace a variety of ways to move.
Set SMART goals:
Fitness should be focused. An overarching “why” is important, but so are the micro-goals. What tangible thing do you hope to accomplish by getting your workout in every day? Do you want a marathon PR? Place in a figure competition? Deadlift twice your body weight? Have more energy to play with your kids? Feel confident in a swimsuit? Pick a goal, and train for it. Most people benefit from having a well thought out plan that balances work and rest, and achieves progressive overload. If you regularly walk into the gym without a plan, you’re likely going to either 1. Not train hard enough and not accomplish your goal, or 2. Train yourself too hard or too repetitively and wind up injured. Most people can’t program for themselves (I definitely can’t), so I highly recommend finding a coach or physical therapist to do this part for you. That takes a LOT of the stress out of exercise!
Make Your Workouts Non-Negotiable.
I like to exercise first thing in the morning because no one needs anything from me at this time of day. I don’t need to reply to emails, talk to my boyfriend, or practice goniometry because ain’t nobody awake yet. BUT, I realize that not everybody is an early bird, and in that case I think it’s really helpful to SCHEDULE your workouts, to really block off and protect that time! For example, Monday-Friday 5:00-6:30pm: GYM. That is your time. If your friends want to hit happy hour, say “Sorry, that’s my gym time. Want to grab dinner at 6:45 instead?”. Maybe a patient missed their 8am appointment and are wondering if they can come in after work: “I’m sorry, I can’t see you after work today, how about I open the clinic early for you tomorrow morning?”. You can still make time for your friends and for patients in need without sacrificing your workout. I really believe setting aside that time to work on your health is every bit as important as social time, family time, and work. You can’t pour from an empty cup after all, right? Bonus: it sets a healthy example for the people who interact with you. ,
Pay Attention to the Other Stuff
Your health and fitness isn’t just your workout. It’s affected by other parts of your life too, most notably your diet and your sleeping habits. It SEEMS like extra work, but paying attention to these things will actually make it easier to get your workout in, and to make fitness a regular part of your life. Let me put it this way: If you stop studying at 8:30 but stay up till midnight watching Netflix and mindlessly scrolling Buzzfeed (guilty…), it is going to be REAL hard to get yourself out of bed for a 5:00am run. If you had your Netflix with a side of beer and cheese fries, you’re also going to feel sluggish at best and sick to your stomach at worst (speaking from experience on this one, too!). Make it easier on yourself: Focus on whole foods, mostly fruits and veggies, and shut it down a little earlier in the evenings. Sleep and good nutrition just mean more energy for both your workout and the rest of your life.
Pat yourself on the back.
No, really. Starting an exercise routine is NOT easy. Sure, once you get into it, exercise is a reward in and of itself. But before you get to that point, make sure you congratulate yourself for every effort you make. Did you make it out for your 5:00am run every day this week? TREAT YO SELF. Whether that’s a guilt-free pint at your local brewery, the new running shorts you’ve been eyeing, or just an afternoon nap, you earned it. I’m all about reinforcing exercise as a positive thing, whatever that means for you!
Hopefully these tips help to set you on the right path towards getting regular exercise in, and doing it with a purpose. If you’re still struggling, don’t hesitate to contact myself or Aimee! This is what we are trained to do, and it’s also what we’re passionate about. Hit us up!