Tips For Starting A New Exercise Routine

It is that time of the year again except we are living in the midst of a pandemic.  With 2020 now in the rear view mirror, we want to start the year off on the right foot with a renewed sense of hope that there will be an end to this altered “normal”.  The exercise you swore you had more time for during 2020 since recouping your commute time by working from home, just didn’t become the reality you thought it would.  That’s ok.  It’s been a long and trying year.  From honey do lists, to the distractions at home while trying to work, making sure the kids are engaged as they can be with virtual learning, not to mention the mental and emotional stress of what is going on in the world, it’s understandable that getting exercise takes a back seat.

The good news is that new seasons mean new opportunities, but while these challenging new goals and habits offer an air of excitement, many people don’t take the time to listen to their bodies as they undertake new adventures.

The truth is, when it comes to starting a new exercise routine, many people feel as though it’s an impossible mountain to climb; this can happen even just a few short days into their new routine. And more often than not, people who dive straight into new and unfamiliar territory end up hurting themselves in the process. So, how should you approach a new exercise regime, and, what are the things to avoid? In other words, what are the do’s and do not’s of starting a new exercise routine?

What not to do:
Sometimes we’re so excited about what to do – the best way to swing, sprint, or dunk – that we forget about the things we should avoid when we start our training. Here are the most common mistakes people make:

1.  All or nothing mentality. Most of us fall prey to this extremely common misconception about exercise. Runners who go-on to become marathon winners do not run 20km’s in the first day… they start slow, and so should you.

   2.  Improper technique. Whether you’re learning a new swim stroke or training for hurdles, technique is extremely important. Too many active adults injure themselves by neglecting to apply proper technique during practice.

   3.  Cold warm up’s. I’ve seen so many of my patients make the same mistake, namely, their warm up routines lack the heat necessary for effect.  If you do not warm up properly, the likelihood of injury increases tenfold.

   4.  Burnout workouts. Yes, that’s right. When starting a new exercise regime, many people fail to eat nutrient dense foods which stimulate the body and give you energy. Low energy diets produce low energy workouts, and, what’s more, increase your risk of injury dramatically.

   5.  Lack of stretching. It’s that simple… if you don’t stretch, you’ll most probably get hurt. This is a mistake I see over and over again – too many people don’t stretch enough, or, in fact, just don’t stretch the right muscles.

So, now that you know WHAT NOT to do, how about we take a look how you can make your new exercise routine the best one yet.

What to do:

1.  Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Sure, you can hear your high school teacher shouting this at you across the field, but it’s true! Drinking enough water SIGNIFICANTLY increases your endurance and mobility. In fact, lubricating your joints not only safeguards you from injury, but ensures that you’re at the top of your game for much longer. 

2.  Start slow. Remember mistake number one? Instead of aiming for 20km’s in your first week, why not increase your distance gradually? The same goes for sports other than running; why not set yourself a goal and work towards it? All too often athletes injure themselves early on in their new routines simply because they started too intensely. Once you know where you’re going, it’s all about the journey. Rome wasn’t built in a day!

3.  Warm up! Making sure your muscles are warm BEFORE diving into your routine is VITAL. Doing a good warm up will certainly decrease your chances of injury, help your body acclimatize to the activity, and make you feel more mobile, alert, and responsive. 

4.  Get enough sleep! Unconventional? Not really… getting enough hours of sleep during the night significantly increases your ability to respond to new situations/exercise routines. You’re alertness increases and so does your ability to move, respond, and endure. 

5.  Snack time! Eating a healthy snack before and after your workout will allow your energy levels to remain stable. Remember, your new exercise routine might not be something your body is used to yet, thus it’s a great idea to keep it fueled, energized, and awake. 

6.  Wear the right gear. If you’re just starting out on your journey as a runner, for example, make sure you invest in good, stabilizing footwear. The same principle applies to other sports. Having clothing that supports your body during specific exercises significantly lowers your risk of injury.

7.  Learn the proper technique. Whether you’re recovering from an injury or are just keen to jump into the CrossFit box, technique is key. Find a trainer who can teach you the proper form; if you’re worried about injuries in general, be sure to talk to a physical therapist about form and technique before you start your exercise regime.

8. Listen to your body. If at any point you feel as though you may have injured yourself, the best possible thing you can do is see a physical therapist ASAP. Physical therapy will help you regain strength, relieve the pain, cure the issue, and get you back to the routine you love. Injuries do not need to set you back or waylay your goal – physical therapy is the answer!

So, if you’re about to jump into a new routine, your kids are dreaming about the Olympics, or you’re just looking for a new way to exercise, remember the tips above. Too many hopeful athletes have their seasonal goals stolen from them by injury, the likes of which are often caused by improper technique, all or nothing mentalities, or misinformation about what not to do. Don’t let this be you! Your new exercise regime should be fun, challenging, accessible, and stress free. Follow our tips to have the best regime yet!

Dr. Jamie So

Jamie So, PT, DPT, is the owner and physical therapist of Manual Therapy Effects.


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