New year, new goals. Some call them resolutions while others refer to them as objectives. However you label your targeted aspirations for the year, it’s likely that they include some form of exercise and health regimen. Whether your aim is to hit the gym x days per week, increase your endurance, become more flexible, or join a regular class, it’s important to consider potential obstacles in the way of that goal. Identifying roadblocks up front will increase your chances for long-term success.
Deal with Pain
Muscular or skeletal pain is one of the top reasons for doctor visits. It’s so common that there are specialists for nearly every body part that experiences pain; hand specialists, podiatrists, rheumatologists, and physical therapists are a few examples. Any type of pain during movement can be a serious demotivator when it comes to working out, but don’t let it derail your efforts. Instead, take steps to face the problem and create an exercise plan that works for you.
Evaluate the Problem
Sometimes moving with pain becomes such a normal part of our day that we don’t stop to think about it. Now is the perfect time to pause to evaluate where you feel the pain and identify activities that make it worse. For example, is your knee pain exacerbated during squats or is it worse when you stand in one place too long? Do you have constant pain in your outer elbow, inside your wrist, or along your thumb? Does your lower back ache more after a car ride or a run? Keep a journal of your activity and record when your pain is the worst. This will help you identify which activities cause a flare up. Your physical therapist sees repetitive motion ailments day in and day out so he or she can also help guide you in the right direction.
Consult a Medical Professional
Now that you’ve taken the time to better evaluate the location of your pain and the activities that inflame it, take the information to your physical therapist or doctor. He or she may be able to quickly identify the problem or refer you to another professional for diagnostics. Once your diagnosis has been identified, you can begin to formulate a game plan that will help you treat the issue so you can ‘get back in the game’.
Create a Plan
With a diagnosis in hand, align your objectives with that in mind. Working along with your condition rather than just trying to work through it will set you up to achieve your goals. Dealing with arthritis in your hand, for example, makes it challenging to lift heavy weights so weight machines that aid movement might be a better option. If you struggle with hypermobility, you might want to take a strength training class rather than yoga. On the other hand, yoga might be the perfect fit if your doctor has advised against high-impact activities such as skiing or running. Your physical therapist is a great resource when developing these types of plans.
Raise the Bar
Part of the reason to set goals is to motivate yourself to try new things or achieve higher levels of fitness. Whether you plan to take up tennis for the first time or hope to finally hold a plank for a full two minutes, increasing performance is a worthy goal. Sometimes your efforts are hampered by physical restrictions other than pain, such as shortened tendons or overly tight muscles. If improved sports performance is your goal, look into ways to correct your form, increase flexibility, or take your jumps to a new height. Physical therapy is an effective tool to help you understand the movements of your body and learn how to get a larger range of motion or increased stability and center of balance.
Wherever you are on your wellness journey, be realistic in setting your goals. Meet your body where it’s at by identifying issues, getting a diagnosis, and creating a plan that works within the boundaries suggested by your doctor and physical therapist.