Welcome to the 2021 “Make Each Step Count” Challenge—we hope you’re ready for some steppin’, movin’ and groovin’ throughout these 6 weeks, and have the opportunity to have fun while you’re at it.
Throughout these 6 weeks, we’ll be doing various blogs on the different weekly topics, and hopefully you’re able to find tidbits of information that you can apply to your own life, or you can give yourself a pat on the back if the tips are things you are already doing.
While we will be discussing these tips and tricks for physical activity, we’ll also be tying this back to mental health to correlate with May being Mental Health month. Mental health is just as important as physical activity, and while we have to ‘practice’ exercise throughout the week, we also need to be actively participating in our mental health and finding tips and tricks to keep you feeling your best.
Week 1 is a going to be about the basics of starting an exercise program, which I know, many of you are already familiar with, but it’s a great refresher if it’s been a bit since you have exercised and you’re looking to jump right in.
This important first step is vital if you have been diagnosed with a chronic condition, have started new medications, or have apprehensions or questions about starting an exercise program. Your provider can let you know different side effects to pay attention to depending on what you have going on with health ailments and medications, and certain exercises that are contraindicated. While exercise is awesome and a great way to help keep you feeling your best, you still want to make sure you’re being smart and know what to look for when starting a program. Also, your provider will likely give you a kudos for starting a program, so make sure to soak up all of the praise!
Goals allow you to have something to work for, instead of….putting a wish out into the universe, if you will. I like to promote SMART goals, which stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound. Having a SMART goal gives you direction of how you’re going to apply your energy towards what you want to accomplish, and it’s straight-forward. Don’t be afraid to write your SMART goal for the next 6 weeks on a post-it note, journal, phone or put it on social media for everyone to cheer you on!
This might seem a little silly, but, do you want to focus on walking or biking and spending time in nature? Maybe you’re a fish in the water and like lap swimming or water aerobics, or perhaps the weight equipment in your home is calling your name. Think about what you have enjoyed in the past, what is going to be appropriate intensity-wise for any contraindications your provider has given (*remember step 1) and what you feel confident you can accomplish. There is no right or wrong answer, and you know yourself better than anyone (ok, ok…you don’t get credit/steps for napping and dreaming of running a half-marathon as much as you may wish it!)
#4 follows right in line with step 3—in order to be successful, you will need the correct equipment and gear for the exercise you want to do. Many forms of exercise are easy and don’t require much (think walking/hiking = shoes, light weightlifting = water bottles or soup cans, etc.) but some types of exercise may require a little more equipment, such as biking, weightlifting with heavy weights or various classes that may need a mat or other tools. It’s always a good rule of thumb to ensure your feet are comfortable and supported with good footwear, and you’re wearing comfortable clothing for the exercise decided. Also, don’t forget to grab a water bottle—hydration is important throughout exercise programs (and, well…life in general)!
Taking the time to warm up your body before engaging in exercise and cooling down afterward is important to make sure your body is prepped and ready to go for the exercise session, and to help prevent injuries. Take 3-5 minutes (or more if you need it) before and after each exercise session to engage in large body movements and stretching to follow to keep your body feeling in tip-top shape.
It’s hard not to get excited about starting a new program—you have spoken to your provider, told your friends, bought new equipment—it’s time to go!!! Sometimes if you jump into a program with too much…gusto…you run the risk of injury, whether from overuse or an acute injury (think…ankle sprain) and that’s no fun for anyone. By starting slow, and progressing slow, you allow your body to acclimate to the change, which will keep you feeling ok and helping with the potential soreness that sometimes shows up when our body is using muscles that we aren’t use to.
Throughout the time you spend exercising, whether it’s week 1 for you, or week 3948, listen to your body for clues that things are not right—pain, discomfort, strange sensations and things out of the ordinary are things you should pay attention to, and don’t be afraid to take a few days off to ensure you don’t further damage your body. As always, don’t be afraid to reach out to your provider with things that are concerning while exercising—such as chest pain, abnormal shortness of breath, dizziness, and nausea.
Exercise is something that sometimes loses its luster as time goes on—we lose interest and motivation, and sometimes we find every excuse to not exercise (clean the attic?! SIGN ME UP!). There’s no pill for motivation, but one way to help keep you feeling excited about exercise is to find something that you enjoy and look forward to, which can keep it fun and exciting. Having fun, laughing and having something to look forward to is a great stress-management option, and can help you feel good about the opportunities in front of you. Other ideas to keep exercise exciting include:
Exercise is a fantastic option for improving both your physical and mental health, and if you are making the decision to start/continue an exercise program, you want to ensure that you are doing all of the right steps in order to keep the habits building and benefits flowing.
Tune in next week, for another fun-filled opportunity to learn more about exercise and what you can do, to keep “Making Each Step Count”.