A large component of my conversations in the clinic are based around exercise. I place huge emphasis on the importance of exercise for a plethora of reasons. However, for the population that I primarily see (people with pain and/or injury) it is often for reasons of regaining control of their body, rebuilding resilience and working towards their health goals.
“Why do you exercise?” is probably the most common question I ask, and, surprisingly, many people struggle to answer it with clarity (take a moment and try to answer this yourself). For athletes, this question is very straight forward, it is to perform better for competition. However, for the everyday athlete or general gym goer this question becomes quite difficult. People will often reply something along the lines of “because it’s good for my health” or “because I should”. Although I am happy that people are going to the gym to exercise, when we don’t start with why (we do it) we miss out on many health benefits and our motivation and intention to maintain a healthy, fit lifestyle can dissipate very quickly.
These are some tips that I recommend to people who exercise for general health:
- Goals define expectations. Set a goal, it doesn’t have to be big, complex or record breaking but setting a goal will help you stay on track. A goal should have a well defined end point. Setting a goal of “I just want to get stronger” does not have a well defined end point. “I want to squat twice my bodyweight” does. Be specific and set a rough time frame to achieve the goal.
- Choose an exercise that you enjoy. If you aren’t sure which type of training you enjoy, then pick an environment that you will enjoy. This could be training in a park with a PT, on the beach, in a specific gym etc.
- Purposeful, focused training is better. Ideally choose a skill based form of training such as martial arts, dancing, weightlifting, kettlebell training, running, or many others. This takes the focus away from just ‘burning calories’ and rather focuses the attention to purposeful movement and focused exercise. This will help create a love for the training.
- Find a supportive community. Research shows that if you exercise within a comfortable social environment you will reap the physical benefits of exercise as well as the emotional and psychological ones. You will also be more likely to stick with your training for longer.
- Begin with the end in mind. If you are not planning on being a professional athlete (99% of us) then train in a way that is sustainable for years. The research is quite clear that to gain long term health benefits we don’t need to train to our max every session. We also don’t necessarily need to train every day (4-5 days per week is just fine). We should leave each session feeling good and with some fuel left in the tank. Your training is not your job and it should not take away so much energy that your family, social and work life is negatively impacted.
- When you get the right level of exercise in your week you should notice improvements in your sleep quality, general mental state/concentration, energy levels and motivation. If you struggle with pain this should improve with the correct exercise dosage (something I generally go into more depth in our consults).
- Find a passion in exercise and approach it as if you were learning any other skill.