You used to be a fitness nut, but after developing some chronic pain, you’ve fallen into a sedentary lifestyle. You would love to get moving again–you miss hiking, long walks, even tumbling–but you’re afraid your old injuries will prevent you from making any progress.
The good news is that you can gain that active life back one step at a time if you consult the right professionals and use the right building blocks to safely build strength, flexibility, and endurance.
Consult a Professional
Depending on your health and current level of fitness, you may need an evaluation from your physician. Make a routine appointment and discuss with them the types of movements and exercises that you can start using. They may include other details about how long you should wait before adding new exercises or increasing the intensity of your workout.
It’s also a great idea to consult a professional athletic or personal trainer to put together the best workout plan for your situation. They will likely include recommendations for your diet as well.
Warm Up & Cool Down
Whatever level of exercise you plan to engage in, always begin with a warm-up and end with a cool down. Injuries that occur from poor preparation can easily be avoided, but they continue to happen. To avoid pulling a muscle or causing something more serious, take 2 minutes to perform some easy movements that get your blood flowing and your lungs working.
Once you’ve started your workout, you should also take routine stock of how you’re feeling. If you’re struggling to breathe, you might need to ease off on your pace or take a rest altogether. Don’t force your body to do anything it’s not ready to do. Not all pain is good pain, so listen to what your body is telling you.
When you’re workout is finished, remember to end with some calm, relaxing movements and stretches. Make a conscious effort to make kind movements that will help your body, not hurt it.
Unless otherwise instructed, you should be engaging in a variety of exercises meant to work your whole body. Don’t become so focused on those flat abs that you forget the corresponding back muscles. When you put too much focus on one area, you tend to forget to use any others and overuse that one.
Once you begin overusing one set of muscles, you can be sure they are headed for heavy wear and possibly another injury. Get your muscles balanced so you have a solid base to build on. As you strengthen each muscle, you will find you are reaching a higher level of fitness than you’d realized you could. Plus, you will be doing it with more ease.
Lightly touched on above, take care of your body by exploring all types of movement. Look up the terms calisthenics and kinesthetics to get an idea of some skills you can try out and the mindset which should accompany those movements. Training your body to move and function in a variety of ways will help to battle past injuries and prevent new ones.
Think of these exercises as the energetic version of stretching. They increase your range of motion and flexibility while giving you a full body workout. Yoga is a great example of this and an easy place to start.
We’ve got you thinking about mindful movements, now it’s time to look at body mechanics. When it comes down to it, your posture and spinal health affect everything else. If you’re used to slouching or rounding your back, now is the time to break those habits.
To get an idea of where you’re at, start with some bodyweight squats. Focus on the alignment of your knees, ankles, hips, shoulders, and neck. You might think it’s okay if your form is 90% there, but that missing 10% may be just what sends you back to the couch with severe back pain. Also be mindful of how much weight you are choosing to lift and the length of your workouts.
One Step at a Time
It doesn’t take much to get started, and you can achieve your health goals if you give yourself time to grow and gain strength. Once you begin to enjoy the journey, you’ll find that how much better you feel every day is the best reward of all.