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Dr. Darrell Menard: 10 Tips to safely travelling the New Year’s road to fitness

10 Tips to safely travelling the New Year’s road to fitness

Article by Dr. Darrell Menard

  1. Make the time! Many of us live busy lives and trying to “find” the time to exercise doesn’t work.  Try scheduling exercise into your day, just as you would all your other commitments.  Select a time of day when you are the least likely to be interrupted – for many people this is first thing in the morning.
  1. Set a realistic goal! If you can’t remember the last time you exercised, don’t set your sights on winning the 2020 Olympic Marathon.  Not only is this impossible but it will also put you at considerable risk of injury.  Start out by setting goals that are more achievable such as stationary cycling or walking for 30 minutes/day for three days/week.  Succeeding with this initial goal will encourage you to do more.
  1. Slow down! It took you a while to get out of shape and it will take you a while to get back into shape.  The biggest mistake many people make when they decide to get fit, is to start out working too hard.  Waking up every morning feeling like you have been run over by a large truck is a clear sign that you are working way too hard.
  1. Don’t start off running! Running is a high impact activity and it takes time for your body to adapt to doing this safely.  Starting off with a walking program for the first few will help prepare your body to better handle the demands of running.  When you feel ready to try running – start by walking 2 minutes followed by running 2 minutes and repeat this cycle for your entire workout.  As you feel more comfortable, progressively increase the amount of time you run for each cycle.  It won’t take long before you are able to run your entire workout.
  1. Become an exercise thief! I am not encouraging you to steal a treadmill from your local fitness center.  Rather, I’m recommending you take advantage of the many opportunities to exercise that present themselves throughout your day.  Take the stars, walk around the airport when your flight is delayed, park further away from work and then walk in, cycle to work once a week, incorporate physical activity into family night, get up from your desk and take regular movement breaks.  It all adds up.
  1. Keep it simple! Don’t underestimate the value of starting with one small, consistent change. Over time, small changes can have a big impact. For example, committing to walking your dog 15 minutes/day has been shown to significantly reduce you and your dog’s risk of developing chronic medical problems such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and obesity.  That is a big return for a very small investment of your time.
  1. Find a friend! Get a buddy involved. Research shows that exercising with friends can help us to maintain our commitment to enjoying an active life.
  1. Make it fun! You are much more likely to stick with your fitness program if you are doing things you enjoy.
  1. Vary things up! Doing the same workout everyday will get “old” pretty quickly and increase your risk of ‘overuse’ injuries.  Incorporating a wide variety of activities into your program will not only keep things fresh but you will also learn movement skills you can use to stay active your entire life.
  1. Don’t give up!  Just because you miss a workout doesn’t mean that you and your fitness program are failures.  Try thinking of these missed workouts as opportunities for some much needed rest/recovery. When you go to train after missing a workout, don’t try to make amends by training harder than normal.

Following these 10 simple tips will greatly increase your chances of achieving your fitness goals for 2020 and they will also reduce your risk injury.  Happy New Year’s and remember that “Exercise is Medicine!”

Dr. Darrell Menard OMM MD, Dip Sport Med

Dr. Menard is the Surgeon General’s specialist advisor in sports medicine and has worked extensively with athletes from multiple sports.  As part of the Strengthening the Forces team he works on injury prevention and promoting active living.

Strengthening the Forces is CAF/DND’s healthy lifestyles promotion program providing expert information, skills and tools for promoting and improving CAF members’ health and well-being.