Advice about how the best ways live and stay healthy is ubiquitous. A quick look on YouTube reveals hundreds of hours of video from sports therapists and trainers. Each one with slightly different and sometimes conflicting advice on the best exercises and forms. The advice can even appear to change as the latest fitness trends come into focus.
Bombarded with so much information, it can be very easy to get off track. You may find yourself not training consistently, losing motivation, using routines that work against each other or (worst of all) potentially using a routine that causes an injury. Below we will go through some key ways to see if your program is off track and simple ways to stop it from happening.
Are You Motivated?
The cliché is that exercise must be a chore, when the truth is exercise can be, and should be, fun. As Per Wickstrom, has shown through his research into the links between exercise and beating addiction, the right exercise can be a genuine life saver. It can help you build confidence, make new friends, counteract the effects of depression and help with other health problems. So, the simplest and most important question to ask is “How do I feel?” If the answer includes:
- Not wanting to train
or a combination of any of them, then look at why you want to exercise and what you want to achieve. Find something that inspires you or try a new technique. Even running does not have to be dull if you introduce techniques like Fartlek.
What Have You Achieved?
While feelings and how motivated you are can be clear indicators of a program’s usefulness, it is essential to have some form of goal. Understand why you want to exercise and you will have a great framework to build from and great ways to measure progress over time.
For example, if you are looking to build strength, you will want to lift more weights and stick to short periods of intense cardio rather than long distance runs and cycling. For long distance running, a combination of specific weights, running 3 to 4 times a week and considering Pilates and yoga for core strength will do far more-good than hitting the bench press. Once
you have your why, this will give you your how.
Keeping a simple record of your progress is the compass that will keep your program on track. Without some reference, it can be easy to lose your way. Hitting a plateau, having a bad session or suffering from a condition such as dysmorphia can undermine your confidence. Clear evidence of progress will help you keep going.
Monitoring and measuring your goals and progress these days is remarkably easy. Modern fitness apps and devices allow you to keep an online record of distances walked in a day, your average heart rate, how many lengths you did in the pool and even how well you slept. If this sounds a little formal, start by asking yourself things like:
- Do I feel better about myself?
- Are the stairs at home easier to handle?
- Can I walk for longer without a rest?
- Do my clothes fit better?
- Is my golf handicap improving?
- Am I having fun?
Alternatively, you can ask a trusted friend for some honest feedback.
Does It Hurt?
Regular training, especially as part of a competitive sports team, weight training or distance running, can involve a certain amount of discomfort. However, certain types of pain can be an indicator of an injury or genuine harm being done. Sharp pain, deep in muscles and joints, can be indicators of strains and sprains.
However, not all injuries appear instantly as a sudden stabbing pain. If you are getting consistent pain in the hands when gripping, in the shins when running or in other parts of the body, these can be indicators of overuse injuries. Overuse injuries include such ailments as tennis elbow, shin splints, golfer’s knee and conditions such as tendonitis. Understandably, any form of injury is the ultimate indication that something is wrong with a routine. It cannot be stressed enough that prevention is better than cure. Many overuse or soft tissue injuries can become chronic conditions.
Things to watch out for include:
- Not building enough rest into a program
- Not warming up properly
- Not stretching properly
- Not hydrating enough
- Sacrificing technique in a rush to results (e.g. trying to lift weights that are too heavy, or running harder and faster than you should)
Listening to your body is key. If your body is giving you warning signs, take notice. If you are getting regular joint pain, seek medical advice. Exercise with a trainer or a friend if possible, as it is often easier for someone else to spot any warning signs.
So, what can be done to help prevent things from going off track?
Staying on Track
As mentioned above, understanding why you want to exercise and setting simple goals can make all the difference. Not only when creating a program, but also maintaining it over time. One way of the best ways is to work with a qualified trainer. They will be able to tailor your program to your needs, help you monitor your progress and update your routine to make sure that it does not become boring. A good trainer will also monitor technique to maximize benefit and minimize injury risks.
If you cannot afford a trainer, then asking staff at your local gym for help is a good place to start. Alternatively, try training with a friend or a club. Most importantly, listen to your body. Improvement will happen over time with good and consistent training.
Keeping some form of record is also key. It can be as simple as a notepad and pencil or using apps like Couch to 5k or Zombie Run. Also, there are various devices from companies including Fitbit, Garmin, and TomTom. Most of this technology will link to social media, so you and your friends can support each other even if you cannot always train together. If you are using devices or apps with links to your PC or phone, especially if you are using public WiFi, remember to protect your data and keep your health information private.
Finally, have fun and enjoy your exercise, no matter what it is.
Please comment below and share your experiences. What ways were you going off track? How did you get back on the straight and narrow? We’re eager to hear your thoughts.
Diamond Grant is a fitness enthusiast, avid hiker, cyclist and marathon runner. She frequently writes fitness tips and recommendations to help lower the level of fitness misinformation available across the web.