How To Begin Your Fitness Journey

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If you’re like me, you’re quickly beginning to feel the pressures that come with the month of January.

December Is Gone And Now The Time Has Come To Focus On Those New Year Resolutions And, More Often Than Not, The Goal Is To Get Fit!

Every year, I hear my patients talk about how they’ve lost control of their eating habits and want to get back on track and lose those pesky pounds they’ve gained in the past couple of months they feel are contributing to their back pain, knee pain, hip pain, etc. They want to start exercising, but often times I hear “I’ve tried working out in the past, but quickly injured myself as a result”. I can hear the hesitance in their voice, understandably so, and ultimately the question becomes what, when, where and how much should I exercise? Changing just a few aspects of your routine can keep you on track to achieving your goal.

What Kind Of Exercises Have You Enjoyed Doing In The Past?

This is an important question because you’ll find that after a few weeks of doing something you don’t enjoy, there’s only one outcome. You’ll find yourself back on the couch, giving up on the tedious routine you’ve gotten yourself into. Are you more of an outdoor or an indoor person? If you’re an outdoor person, you might steer clear from the gym. If not, you’ll most likely begin to dread spending those few hours of your day cooped up inside, in close quarters with others, when you’d rather be outside getting fresh air. Consider hiking, walking, going on a run or taking a bike ride instead. Who would want to put the effort and energy into something they dislike? After a few weeks, it’ll get boring and will start to become a hassle. If you live in an extremely hot or cold climate, it may not be the best to be outside all the time. And that’s okay. It all depends on what’s best for you. It’s almost essential to find exercises and activities that you take pleasure in or somewhat like in order to continue on your fitness journey in the long run.

On the other hand, some people like to take risks and do things that they’ve never done before or that challenge them. If you’re new to working out and being active and aren’t really sure what you enjoy, it can be fun to try a few different things to see what suits you, what challenges you to be better and to continue working on yourself. You can explore group fitness classes at the gym, try hiking the mountain you live next to but never dared to hike or even work towards that 5k that’s being held in your city in a few months. Coming from experience, it is a great feeling when you succeed in or even finish something that challenges you.

With whatever you choose to do, it’s important to listen to your body. Doing too much too soon will not result in the best outcome and will feel almost like a chore, rather than a lifestyle. If a certain exercise, machine, or pace is putting too much strain on your body and you’re starting to feel it, either switch to a different, less straining exercise or decrease the weight. Of course, feeling sore or having a few aches after a workout is normal, but it shouldn’t reproduce symptom like pain or linger for days. Start off slowly within the first couple of weeks and gradually increase as your body gets accustomed to new movements and demands on the muscles and joints. Doing too much can increase the chance of injury and won’t allow your body the rest that it craves.

Also, setting a goal from the beginning will allow you to determine what you need to do in order to achieve those goals and reach the finish line. Do you only want to lose a couple of pounds or do you want to enter a fitness competition? Lead a healthier lifestyle? Complete a half marathon? All of these affect how much effort you put into your journey and the type of routine you’ll have to keep up with. Everything needs to be relevant to your end goal. For example, hitting the weight room won’t necessarily have the same effects on weight loss as certain cardiovascular activities will.

The “When” Question Is Also Key In Starting Your Fitness Journey.

Setting aside time in your busy day isn’t always the easiest thing in the world. Trust me, I know. Just do what fits best with your life and your daily routine. If you’d rather finish off your work day by going to the gym right after, than do it. The gym can be a bit daunting for those just starting out, so maybe you’d rather go to the gym either later or earlier to avoid the ‘peak’ times. This will give you a quieter and less crowded atmosphere to focus on yourself. If you’re an outdoor exerciser, the weather can also affect when you work out. If it’s freezing in the morning but warm in the afternoon (as many Phoenicians know all too well), then consider what condition you feel best working out in. If you’re not a morning person but decide that you’d like to wake up every day at 6 o’clock to go running before work, it isn’t going to be the easiest thing to do and excuses can become a constant thing. One of the biggest mistakes you can make on your fitness journey is choosing a time that doesn’t coincide with your schedule or that doesn’t feel natural.

So, come January, think about a time that works best for you, exercises you enjoy and what goals you want to achieve. In doing so, your fitness journey won’t just last through January, it’ll last for life.

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Nick Hunter, PT, DPT
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