December 29, 2004
Physical therapist offers advice to get over fitness roadblocks
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
FLOWOOD, Miss.—If you are like most people, you will probably fail to live up to your New Year’s fitness resolutions, but knowing your limitations and workout style before you set you goals can help you change that this year.
“If your New Year’s resolution is to go from couch potato to running a marathon by May or beginning a new workout for two hours each day, you might be suffering from Unrealistic Resolution Syndrome,” cautions Jodie Howell, a physical therapist at Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s east campus in Flowood. “A lot of people try get-fit-quick schemes and wind up getting hurt.”
Doing too much too soon invites overuse injuries such as tendinitis, stress fractures and plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the connective tissues under the foot, says Howell, a Ridgeland resident.
So if you hope to make it into February with your new fitness routine, Howell warns against going gung-ho. “To risk overdoing is far worse than under-doing. Stress fractures can take you out for six to eight weeks. Tendinitis can be a problem for months. You need to set your goals realistically.”
Howell recommends consulting your doctor before beginning exercise program.
“It’s never good to start an aerobics or aggressive cardiovascular program without a complete physical,” Howell said. “Once you are cleared by your doctor to begin exercising, the next step is to learn to do the exercises properly and to establish a routine.”
Try to avoid putting it off until tomorrow or the next day, next week or next year, advises Howell. Your first goal should be to do something on the schedule you’ve set, she adds.
Don’t negotiate your objectives or give excuses, Howell says, and make sure you have the tools needed for change.
“Different techniques work for different people,” says Howell. “The test is figuring out what works for you and how to deal with the obstacles you face.”
To avoid such pitfalls, try these recommendations:
- Learn your limitations. A thorough physical can uncover problems that might be life-threatening during exercise—such as heart abnormalities. And undergoing a flexibility screening can detect potential trouble spots, such as tight hamstrings or structural problems with the feet.
- Determine techniques and resources for lasting change. Some people respond well to having an exercise buddy, while others like to go it alone. Try quiet time to write in a journal and review goals. Use a pedometer and/or heart monitors to track your success. Some prefer to track progress with a personal trainer, online fitness coach or dietician while some people succeed better in group activities such as aerobics classes.
- Make realistic resolutions. You can’t go from spud to stud overnight, says Howell. “If you’ve been sedentary, a simple walking program is a good place to start,” she says. “In the beginning, don’t worry about intensity and concentrate on establishing a routine. Try doing an aerobic activity such as walking, jogging, swimming or bike riding 20 to 60 minutes three times a week.” And don’t forget the importance of stretching and strength-training, she adds.
Just do it right. Incorrect form is a major cause of injury, says Howell. She recommends consulting with a certified fitness expert to learn proper exercise techniques.
- Think inches, not miles. Even veteran exercise enthusiasts can get into trouble when they ramp up their regimen too quickly, Once your body gets use to a routine, increase your exercise by about 5 percent. If you are at a plateau, change things up. If you’ve been walking or biking, swim and do the stairstepper, says Howell.
Jodie Howell is a physical therapist at Methodist Rehabilitation Center’s east campus in Flowood.