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Could February be the new January?

Nurturing

Health
Andrew O'Brien

Welcome back! As we approach the end of January, everything is back to normal after the Christmas madness. Operation Transformation is in full swing and all of Mayo is working on their resolutions: trying to get fit, lose weight, learn a language or quit the smokes.
January is an interesting time of year for physios. We watch with excitement, as everyone gets out and active, but also with trepidation, as most people go from zero to 100 in the first week.
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.
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 the obvious ones.

Timing’s everything
It’s January. Need I say more? Here in Ireland it’s cold, wet and dark. Not terribly conducive to keeping at it if your resolutions involve exercise. Conversely, in my homeland, Australia, it’s mid-summer. There’s wall-to-wall cricket on TV and then there’s Australia Day, which falls today January 26. Neither are terribly conducive to increasing exercise or decreasing beer consumption!
I followed a programme a few years ago that suggested taking January to hibernate and then attack your changes in February, when the days are getting longer and weather is hopefully improving. I love the idea. If you have started and are struggling, don’t quit, go easy on yourself and just 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?
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 overtired, then 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.
Boredom
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 Athletics club or playing tennis. If exercising in the January weather is too much, come 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.
My final tip if the motivation is flagging, is to set a goal and aim for something – an event or challenge – to keep you pushing on. If you’re a beginner, aim to do a full Parkrun, or get brave and enter a 10k run in April (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; 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.