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Fitness: It’s all about the journey

Posted on: October 27th, 2015 by Dr. Scott W. Trenhaile

Fitness is a life long journey with ups and downs and many different roads. Be willing to adapt to your injuries and your current needs.

I don’t know about you, but it can be challenging to exercise, but it’s even harder when we’re exercising in a way that will lead to injury because then we have to deal with an injury and keep up our motivation.

I think most people fit into one of four categories concerning fitness.

  • Former Athletes: Some were involved with one or two sports in high school, but that’s where it ends, and then you move on to the rest of your life where it’s not as easy to stay on schedule with exercise, which means many people go through different phases where they’re more or less active.
  • Weekend Warriors: Others do the weekend warrior thing where they may compete in a local sports club.
  • Late Bloomers: Some people find fitness later in life who had no experience with athletics or fitness as youths.
  • Others are not active.

I don’t know which category you fit into, maybe you’re in a combination of those, and maybe as you’re trying to be active, you have to deal with old injuries from high school or college. Maybe you have no injuries, but you haven’t been active in a long time because of lack of flexibility, cardiovascular fitness, or weight problems.

Whatever your fitness history, I know most of us want to be active, and a lot of us–99.9% of us– struggle with exercise in some way.

I love that even though most of us struggle with fitness and exercise, we’re constantly inspired to try again. That’s great! But I think many of us are pursuing a way that leads to injuries and eventually–if not corrected–to serious injury and a visit to me.

Cross training is often the answer to preventing fitness injuries.

Often, people have bad experiences with fitness–leading to injury–because they don’t understand that physical activity and fitness is a journey that requires adaptation and change. You can’t always expect to say, “This is how I exercise, and I will never try anything else.”

We must learn to adapt. If we don’t, we’re setting ourselves up for injury and failure.

In situations where people are headed towards injury, I have to tell patients not to do certain exercises again, or to start doing different ones.

Many people don’t want to change their exercise routine because they’re so used to it, or they think something else won’t be as effective. I have to encourage them to try, to remember that there is not one road to fitness.

This is where I emphasize the importance of cross training.

Everyone should be cross training. Try swimming, biking, elliptical, rowing, weight training in different styles. Try something that will work new muscle groups in different ways. You’ll be better for it, and you’ll have a greater chance of avoiding injury.

Proper physical training can enable you to do things you can’t even imagine accomplishing right now, but it’s important to know how you should be exercising so that your entire body gets stronger, rather than just one small section, which more often than not leads to injury.

For example, I recently saw a group of people out cross-country skiing. They had never tried it before but wanted to learn because their knees hurt, and cross-country skiing is great cardio, low impact, and outside. All good things.

They probably never thought they would take up cross-country skiing as a part of their fitness journey, but knee pain led them to trying something new.

Again, remember the journey is about adapting to your life, your circumstances, your old injuries, your whatever.

Keep an open mind and understand that there may be activities in life that become important to you as you age. This plays into happiness and overall quality of life as well. Find an activity you enjoy, and get out there and do it, and don’t be afraid to let go of one activity to pursue another.

Side note: You’ll sleep better.

Don’t get stuck doing the same thing your entire life.

It’s rare to find someone who has been a competitive runner their whole lives, and they don’t need to cut back until they hit 70. It just doesn’t happen that often.

The journey is finding the correct road for you right now, and it’s okay to do that, as long as it works for your injuries and your lifestyle.

What I always find to be a true tragedy is when someone who is at the gym 4-5 times a week just stops because an injury forced them to stop doing what they had always done. Rather than adapt and seek out a new form of exercise, they just give it up entirely. Don’t let yourself do this. Find a way to keep going.

Everyone always says half the battle is just getting to the gym. They don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s more than half the battle!

If you’re at the gym, out on your bike, in a yoga class, hiking a trail, or wherever you end up that day for exercise, you’re being active–you won the battle that day!

If I had it my way, I would long distance run forever, but I can’t do it anymore. I just can’t, so I have to adapt. I have to choose a new road on my journey towards health and fitness and maybe you do too.

Some Suggestions for Everyone on Pursuing Fitness:

  • Be social. Exercise is better with friends.
  • Get outside if possible. Try a sport (maybe cross country skiing?), or crawl, walk, jog, or run.
  • Find accountability! Who is going to harass you to get to the gym or to the park? You want that person to be your workout buddy.
  • Try a new class at your gym.
  • Maybe you need to join a gym or use the membership you have.
  • Keep up with these posts as I go into more detail about the fitness journey.