New year, new habits
One of the best things about the New Year is the opportunity for you to start again and re-commit to all of those goals that fell by the wayside at about Halloween and were all but forgotten by Christmas. Just the thought of one more dinner can make one’s stomach turn and you know something must be done to stop the gluttonous behavior that has allowed the excuse of “It’s the holidays” to turn you into a ravenous beast (or maybe that is just me).
Although there are many of us who use the New Year to kickstart an existing workout plan, many of us will use this time to make a 180 degree turn to get on the right track with health and begin new exercise habits (Woohoo!! Go YOU!). Everywhere you look, fitness personalities taunt you with before and after photos along with their 30-day challenges to ride that New Year’s momentum. It is so enticing to see the transformations, but at the same time, if you are new to working out or have not worked out in a while, jumping right in may not be the safest plan.
Here are my top 5 ways you can prevent injury when new to exercising:
1. Create a habit
By starting off slowly, you give yourself time to mentally adjust to having time set aside for working out. Your focus should be on consistency, not how fast you can run or how much you can lift, and this should be one of the first goals that you create for yourself.
An example of how to start out is to set a time (yes in your calendar) 2-3 times per week to exercise for 20-30 minutes. Again, the goal is to get to the gym or turn on that exercise video or get outside and walk for the set amount of times you have goaled yourself. Do not feel overwhelmed that you have to exercise every day. You are more likely to stick to your plan if you gear it towards where you are in the process.
To go from not exercising at all to having 2 days per week is something to be proud of and takes dedication to do. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is because in the end, consistency is what will give you results!
2. Stick to the basics
It is fun to follow the super ripped bodies on Instagram and watch their workout videos. People are constantly posting creative ways to change up the workout to keep things challenging.
There are five basic movements which are push (push-up), pull (seated row), squat, single leg (stationary lunge) and rotational (hay-bailer). So, when you are just starting out the focus should be on learning these basic movements and the proper support required to do them correctly. They may seem simple, but most people have some sort of muscle imbalance that can be corrected.
The people you see are usually fairly advanced and have the musculature to support those movements; but even then, not all of them have the correct form! You cannot go wrong with sticking to the basics!
3. Quality over quantity
Give yourself the space to learn how to do the exercise. Poor quality of form can reinforce bad habits and lead to injury (hey…I am not judging I am a sloucher and I have to work to correct myself all the time).
If you are going to search online for direction, just make sure it is from a legit source, but your best bet is to hire a personal trainer so that she can guide you through the movements and make corrections. To have the most effective workout, the muscles need to be in alignment so make your effort count!!
4. Let your body catch up
After your first couple of workouts, you will most likely notice that you will be able to lift much more quite quickly. This is not necessarily a gain in strength as it is your muscles learning how to function more effectively. But don’t get crazy – your tendons need some time to catch up! Your tendons strengthen slower than your muscles because there is less blood flow going to them.
Even though you may not feel as challenged as you would like, this is a great time to focus on #3, which is quality of movement. Let the exercises settle into your body so that you know what the correct form feels like. And if it still feels a little easy, slow down the rep and add an isometric hold (a contraction where there is no movement in the joint). Both of those will definitely ante up the challenge.
Remember, this is not a race! Which leads to my final tip…
5. This is the habit of a lifetime
Exercise, or physical activity outside of your activities of daily life, is something that we all can do for the rest of our lives. We all know it is good for us but what does it exactly do? Exercise lowers the risk of chronic illness which includes: heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, breast cancer, which are all members of the top ten killers. Chronic illness is responsible for up to 75% of all deaths and the majority cause is lifestyle habits.
Exercise prevents falls by helping to retain muscle mass. Every decade after age 30 we lose 5% muscle mass unless we exercise. Exercise also strengthens bones so that in the event of a fall there is less risk for injury. You can drink all the milk you want, but if you are not stressing your bones, I hate to break it to you (groan, yes, I have terrible jokes) but your bones are not going to get any stronger.
The best part about this is, no matter how old you are, once you begin to exercise your body will adjust and get stronger – it truly is never too late! There was a study from 2004 that took post-menopausal women who showed osteopenia (pre-osteoporosis) and followed them to see exercise’s effect on bone density1. The results showed that exercise significantly reduced bone loss, but what needs to be noted is that they followed these women over 26 months. This is not something that will happen overnight so, again, it goes back to consistency. Overall, the benefits of exercise lead to an improved quality of life and independence.
You may not live forever, but the time you have here can be enjoyed much more by making exercise a priority in self-care.
The bottom line…
The purpose of doing all of this is to not only stay safe, but to also break down the process into manageable steps. If you have a hard time with adhering to the times that you have set for yourself, take a look at your reasons for wanting to exercise and the level of importance of exercise in your life, among other things. A health coach can be integral in turning that corner on your goals and what better way to invest in a healthier future by investing in yourself? Even the greatest athletes have coaches!! Wherever you are in the exercise journey, be thankful and appreciative, and learn what you can! If you are looking for that magical fountain of youth, it exists!! It just requires a solid foundation, time and effort to make it happen!
- Kemmler W, Lauber D, Weineck J, Hensen J, Kalender W, Engelke K. (2004, May 24). Benefits of 2 years of intense exercise on bone density, physical fitness, and blood lipids in early postmenopausal osteopenic women: results of the Erlangen Fitness Osteoporosis Prevention Study (EFOPS). Archives of Internal Medicine. 164(10):1084-91. DOI: 10.1001/archinte.164.10.1084