LISTEN TO YOUR HEART When trying to choose a form of exercise, remember that best kind is one that you enjoy and so will actually do.
Welcome back! We’re a few weeks into 2019 and everything is back to normal after the madness. Operation Transformation is on the TV and celebrity trainers are humiliating overweight members of the public for our entertainment (in case you couldn’t guess, I’m not a fan), meanwhile all of Mayo is working on their own resolutions: trying to get fit, lose weight, learn a language or quit the smokes.
January is an interesting time of year for physiotherapists: we watch with excitement as everyone gets out and active, but trepidation as most people go from zero to 100 in the first week. As a result, we expect to be busy in February!
I read recently that 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions don’t last beyond the middle of February, and less than 10 percent result in lasting change. If we approach January 1 with such optimism and zeal, how can things possibly go downhill so quickly?
Everyone is different, and has different reasons for falling off the wagon, so to speak, but considering we are a few weeks in and the resolve might be faltering, let’s look at some of the obvious ones.
January. Need I say more? In Ireland it’s cold, wet and dark – not terribly conducive to keeping at it if your resolutions involve exercise. The challenges are different in my home country, Australia: it’s mid-summer, there’s wall-to-wall cricket on TV and Australia Day is in January – not terribly conducive to increasing exercise or decreasing beer consumption!
I followed a programme a few years ago, after I moved to Ireland, that suggested taking January to hibernate and then attack your changes in February, when the days are getting longer and weather hopefully improving. I love the idea. If you have started and you are struggling, don’t quit, just ease up on yourself and try to push through the month.
Too much too soon
Anyone who claims not to have fallen into this trap is either deluded or an eternal optimist! How many of us have joined the gym in January, gone every day for three weeks then got injured, tired or just bored, and given up?
We’re hitting that time now. If you’re injured, or have a mild niggle that’s not going away, make an appointment to see your chartered physiotherapist for treatment and the right advice on whether to rest or keep going. There’s no sense putting all that time and money into getting ‘healthy’ if you won’t address your health.
If you’re over tired, then maybe you’re overdoing it. Unfortunately society has brainwashed us somewhat into thinking that every session needs to be hard. The reality is that any exercise is good, and for general health the best exercise is anything that can be done with your mouth closed, breathing only through your nose.
If you’re considering giving up because your exercise regime is boring, then maybe you chose the wrong thing. Don’t quit, just change. I always tell my clients that the best exercise is the one you enjoy and will actually do.
If the hamster wheel of a treadmill is too much, buy a raincoat and go outside! If you find running by yourself tedious, try joining up with a group, joining the local athletics club or playing tennis. If exercising in the January weather is too much, head inside and try yoga, Pilates or tai chi. The beauty of Westport and Mayo is that there are so many options available on your doorstep.
Fight the flag
The obvious tip for those whose motivation is flagging, is to set a goal and aim for something specific – an event or challenge that will push you just hard enough. If you’re a beginner, aim to do a full Parkrun, or get brave and enter a 10k run in April or May (make it that far away and build gradually). If you’ve already entered and are feeling confident, a friendly wager with a friend always keeps the motivation up.
Most importantly, remember: you’re doing this for yourself. It might be hard to keep going sometimes, but don’t be too hard on yourself. If you need a rest take one, and you’ll give yourself a better chance of being in the lucky 10 percent who make a permanent change.
Andrew O’Brien is a chartered physiotherapist and the owner of Wannarun Physiotherapy and Running Clinic at Westport Leisure Park. He can be contacted on 083 1593200 or at www.wannarun.ie.