Ah, New Years resolutions…
The promises we make and try to keep. How many times have we told ourselves, “This year, I’m going to start exercising more.” Half the time, we give up within a couple of months.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret. One of the key reasons why New Years resolutions like this don’t succeed is because of the racehorse mentality. By that I mean, people are so determined to live up to their new years resolutions that they start with a full head of steam, going as hard as they can as fast as they can until they’re physically burnt out. What they don’t realize is that by doing this, they are putting their body at risk. The cardiovascular system, the musculoskeletal system and the body’s proprioception are just three of the things that can be affected by “too much, too soon.”
Your cardiovascular system (or CVS for short) is in essence a muscle; smooth muscle to be precise. You need to build it up gradually for it to work properly and in a healthy fashion; going too quickly can actually put extra strain on your heart and cause micro-tears in your blood vessel walls. If you happen to be in the flower of your youth, your body can often adapt to quick changes in your physical routine. The older you get, however, the harder it is on your CVS. When beginning the workouts you have resolved to undertake, you should start slowly at first, building up your routine consistently and over time. This should help to keep your CVS happy and healthy.
Likewise, a sudden onslaught of strain and activity can negatively affect your musculoskeletal system. If you’ve been avoiding the gym for a number of months (or years), your muscles are simply not programmed to start automatically firing on all cylinders. You will tire quickly, and your muscles will have a hard time adapting, all of which can lead to injuries: strains, sprains, muscle tears, and inflammation in or around the joints. Again, build up slowly. By doing this, the body has a chance to warm up, and the beneficial impact on the musculoskeletal system will be much more profound.
As I mentioned before, trying to do everything all at once for your new years resolution and make up for months or years of non-activity can affect your proprioception. If you haven’t been doing an activity for a prolonged period of time or are learning a new sport or trying to take up exercise for the first time, you need to adapt to these new changes on a mind/body connection.
For instance, when a child is learning to ride a bicycle for the first time, it often seems as if their balance is off and they will fall for quite a while before they figure it out. It’s not that they are physically unable to ride the bike, but they haven’t made the necessary body to mind connections that are required for the task. First their body has to get adapted to sitting on the bike. Then it has to acquire its equilibrium in that new position. Once that’s done, they have to figure out how to use their muscles to push the pedals forward, while still staying upright and balanced. After that, it’s a piece of cake. Likewise, if you decide to exercise full throttle right out of the gate without being adjusted to that exercise, it’s unfair to expect your body to function at a hundred percent right away.
Now how does this all play out when planning a fitness schedule and trying to figure out how much is too much? Well, massage therapists are trained in proper techniques that will help you be successful in your resolutions. With an extensive anatomy and physiology training, massage therapists can work together with you to plan out safe and healthy goals within a proper time frame. It’s also important that you stay healthy and at your best throughout your goals. A good analogy is to compare your body to a car. If you don’t keep it maintained, get oil changes, get the tires rotated or even just perform simple maintenance like washing your car – you’ll be taking years off your car, and it will probably break down faster and easier. The same thing happens with your body if it is not maintained. Massage therapy can help to keep you tuned up in order to handle all of those amazing goals you have planned out, and can keep you going long after you have accomplished them.
So, if your New Years resolutions include health-based ideas, it’s important to pre-plan, and gradually build up an exercise routine over a stretch of time. You’ll be doing yourself a favour in the long run by pro actively preventing possible injury in the future, which is a healthy resolution to make no matter what time of year it is.
Written by: Ashley Rocheleau
Registered Massage Therapist / ART Provider – Back to Health Wellness Centre