“Mum,” I recently heard my angelic little daughter, Sarah, ask as she sat cuddling on the couch with my amazing wife, “what’s a New Year’s resolution?” “Well,” Rebecca replied, “it’s something that your Dad says he is going to do, but then gives up and stops doing not long after.”
“Hey,” I sang out from the kitchen. “That’s a bit harsh.”
“Really? What about the gym set you bought that now sits under my sister’s house getting regular use from her husband?” “He needed it,” I defended, “I was just being a good brother-in-law.” “Or what about the time you decided to give up alcohol.” “That one doesn’t count; I had a hangover at the time!” I searched urgently for some way to counter her argument; “What about the treadmill I bought,” I said in desperation. “It gets regular use.” “Yep,” she said, “it sure does ….. As a clothes line!”
Hmmm, I thought to myself, as I stared at the treadmill covered in yesterday’s washing, maybe she does have a point. I certainly do seem to have a problem sticking to a new exercise or diet regime that I know is going to be good for me. Now, I know that many other people have exactly the same problem. In fact, getting their patients to do their exercises or change their habits is one of the hardest things for a physiotherapist to achieve.
So keeping in mind that there already may be a few New Year’s resolutions already wavering I have decided to give some tips on starting a new exercise routine. The most important thing to remember is that you need to start off small and slowly increase the amount that you do. When we are motivated and eager we tend to push ourselves way too hard, way too early. Unfortunately, this often leads to injury and a trip to Physique. We need to very gently and slowly build our exercise tolerance, ideally under the guidance from a health care professional. Start small and aim big, but give yourselves plenty of time to achieve your goals.
We also need to find a way to ensure that we stick to our new program after the initial motivation starts to wear off. There are two ways that I often recommend to my patients to help increase adherence: Exercise with a buddy; or seek expert advice from a health care professional. Exercising with a buddy is by far the most effective way to keep up your exercise motivation. Make sure you both have the same goals and are about the same fitness levels. Push each other, and on those cold, wet, dark winter mornings, don’t take any excuses. Getting expert advice is often the only way that some people can ever achieve their exercise goals. I find that my patients like having someone to report back to and then guide them through the next stage of their progress.
Most importantly, don’t give up and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t quite make it. Try and try again, we only ever fail if we give up. It’s time for me to make this year’s resolution stick; tomorrow after I take the clothes in, I might just start that treadmill up again.