Realistic Expectations Yield Better Results

Welcome to the New Year! ‘Tis the season for fitness professionals to motivate their resolution-driven clients. We picture a coach with a megaphone in our faces, yelling “Go hard or go home!” and “No pain, no gain!”

What if I told you that a softer approach could yield better results? That backing off in the short term might be the key to crossing our personal finish line?

Let’s ask ourselves this question: Physically, what would I like to be able to do this year? Our answers should be practical and measurable.

Five years ago, I had two answers: I wanted to be able to carry my son and to shift our 12-inch cast-iron skillet from the drawer underneath the oven to the top of the stove.

Here are some more examples: “I want to be able to play with my grandkids.” “I want to keep doing my job as long as I can.” “I want to jog around my neighborhood without getting winded.”

Armed with this motivation, we can move to the next step: identifying and removing roadblocks. What is standing in our way?

If the answer is physical pain, then we must take time for recovery. We should get the pain diagnosed by a health professional and follow through with a plan for healing.

Repeat after me: Pain is Bad. It is the body’s way of telling us that something is wrong, and we need to change something. Otherwise, we risk making it worse. Then other parts of the body will compensate, and we will have more problems.

Another common obstacle on the road to reaching our health goals is expecting too much from our bodies, too quickly. For sustained progress, slow and steady wins the race every time.

If we want to make big changes, we should consult health and fitness professionals for assistance. They can provide personalized recommendations on the types and amounts of movement we need, in a way that minimizes the risk of injury and burnout.

A third roadblock to mention is fear of injury. In my classes, I offer modifications for our members and I say something like: “Take the option that works for you! Remember, we are here to get healthy, not to get hurt!” We can all exercise in a safe way for our bodies - even if we are chair-bound.

To reduce our risk of injury, we should always sandwich our exercise sessions between a thorough warm up and cool down. To warm up, we move to raise our body temperature and practice the motions that we plan to do during our main exercise session. To cool down, we move more slowly and then stretch out each of the muscles we have used.

In summary, we can take bigger steps forward by first taking a step back and looking at the big picture: spelling out our motivation, being honest about our limitations, and even consulting a professional for a plan. (Just be sure and avoid that guy with the megaphone!)

By Chrissie Kaufmann, YMCA of Southwest Michigan