I am going to be honest; improving your fitness can be challenging all on its own. Then we throw in some spasticity, or a wheelchair that doesn’t fit the gym equipment and you have even more challenges to deal with, (sound familiar?).
But wait, there’s good news.
Some things we can control when it comes to our exercise routines that can help us increase our chances to achieving those wellness goals. So if you aren’t seeing or feeling the results you want to from your workouts, I suggest taking a look at these seven common pitfalls that may apply to you when it comes to your fitness routine:
1. Not prioritizing recovery time
Sometimes we underestimate how much strain and tension we are putting our musculoskeletal system under.
This is so important. Just because your 8 transfers that day aren’t in your workout’, doesn’t mean they don’t have an impact on the body!
For example, if you are doing a lot of upper body ‘pushing’ exercises throughout the week, but are also doing a lot of transfers, you may feel extra wiped by the end of the day from overuse of these muscles and weight-bearing on the joints. Try and give certain muscle groups rest days so that you can avoid overuse injuries and overtaxing the neuromuscular system from repetition.
If you have a progressive disability such as MS, you may want to keep a journal of your activities, especially since overdoing it can set you back by even a few weeks, depending on the type of MS you live with.
Finding that ‘sweet spot’ of just enough exercise throughout the week plus your daily living activities is key. Less is more in this case with degenerative neurological conditions; you can always add more volume of exercise later but if we have already overdone it, we can’t take that back.
2. Not changing up your routine
Outsmart your body by adding more variety into your routine.
I see people come into the gym and do the same routine 3-4 times a week for YEARS. As much as I can appreciate their consistency, our bodies are smarter than this and will adapt quickly.
Our bodies work in a way where they crave homeostasis. This is a fancy word for ‘finding balance or equilibrium’ physiologically. Our bodies will adapt to whatever stress is put upon them, and this includes exercise!
Try switching up your program every 8-12 weeks, especially if you work out regularly and are driven by routine. You don’t have to do a total overhaul of new exercises to switch up your routine; by simply changing your reps, sets or tempo of movement can be enough to stimulate that nervous system again. For some new ideas on how to switch up your program, become an Insider (CALL TO ACTION- OIC page) and get access to dozens of adaptive exercises categorized by your goals.
3. Leaving your nutrition behind
What we put in our bodies has a huge impact on how we perform …
Whether it’s performing at work, performing in the gym or even performing cognitively.
Make sure you are eating highly nutritious foods (colourful vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, and healthy fats) and drinking lots of fluids so that you can keep your energy levels as high as possible.
If inflammation is something you battle with or need to monitor, consider educating yourself on anti-inflammatory food choices, which will further help your recovery from exercise and can help with the management of chronic pain.
4. Not being consistent
Like anything, exercising can’t just be done once in a while to achieve results.
If you exercise hard and long but only once a week or as little as once every other week, you may want to rethink your strategy. Check out these exercise recommendations as a guideline.
If you are strapped for time or feel overwhelmed with other life things, try doing 10 minutes of exercise that day instead of skipping your workout altogether. Do what you can and pick up the rest at another time, or later that day.
Studies show that even just a little bit of exercise every day reaps much higher benefits physiologically and emotionally than exercising hard and long but less frequently.
5. Being on your phone
Turn Do Not Disturb on!
Phones are the biggest distraction in gyms, in my opinion. I am also guilty of it – I will be resting in between my sets, look down to change a song and voila, before I know it, 10 minutes has gone by and I am scrolling away on Instagram!
When breaks are this long in between exercises, our muscles don’t get challenged the same way because the intensity of the workout has gone down.
Keep the intensity up in your workouts by timing your rest intervals. The longest you should be resting in between sets of exercises is typically 30 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on your goals.
6. Not thinking about the mind and muscle connection
Bring your mind into the movement.
To get a muscle to fire or change the size and strength of a muscle, we need to have laser focus to get the most recruitment from our neurons (aka our brain cells).
Studies show that when you multitask during an exercise (let’s say you are chatting to someone), the lasting changes in the brain don’t actually stick. In other words, brain mapping can happen regardless of multitasking or not, but only STICKS when you have full attention on the task.
Next time you are completing an exercise, throw your music on and pay attention to the task you are asking your body to complete. Save the chatter and socializing for after your workout.
7. Not having a measurable goal
Exercising without identifying your why can be like rowing a boat with no direction!
Goal setting is such an important aspect in any venture whether it be starting a business or visiting your doctor. Your exercise routines should be no different.
Write your fitness goal down and post it on your fridge or somewhere you can see it every day.
Then ask yourself: Are the activities you are doing in your workout reflecting what you need to do to get to your goal?
Sometimes talking with a coach can help you lay out a proper plan to get you there with efficiency.
We all have our own challenges that come with exercise, disability or not.
But we also all have the choice to focus on the things that are in our control, which will give us a better chance of succeeding and feeling as good as we can.