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5 Steps to Create a Successful Exercise Plan

Hands down, the worst kind of plan is no plan. A plan has three purposes:

  1. Help you reach your goals
  2. Help you prevent injuries while increasing performance
  3. Help you monitor your progress

You don’t want to do the same thing day in and day out. This will lead to burnout, boredom and an overall feeling that that exercise regimen isn’t as fulfilling anymore.

You may think that creating a plan and a program is unnecessary if you’re not a high-performance athlete trying to compete in something. Common issues we see all the time from people who don’t plan their workouts, running or workout plans include:

  • Shin splints
  • Stress reactions and fractures
  • Tendonitis
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Muscle strains
  • Fatigue
  • General Burnout

That’s a short version of a much longer list of problems that can occur due to a lack of planning. The best way to keep yourself active and healthy is to plan everything out. Even if you do stay healthy, that fatigue and burnout is still something that you’ve probably experienced when you set a goal that might align with your current level of fitness. Think about New Year’s resolution. A primary reason so many of us work towards that resolution for a few weeks and then quit is because we have set a goal that doesn’t align with our level of fitness or our lifestyle or even our desires. Planning things out and being realistic with yourself is the best way to make sure that you start doing this and continue doing it.

Before you start any long- or short-term plan, we first recommend that you talk to a medical professional to make sure that it is appropriate for you and your specific condition. Secondly, if you are going to start a walking or a running program, go to a walking or running shoe store and find out what you need. You don’t need to buy any specific brand or product right off the bat but if you can get a better sense of how you move, what the mechanics of your feet and ankles are, this information will be very valuable. This helps prevent another common issue we see, which is folks buying shoes that are not fitted properly. Rather than get a properly fitted shoe, they push through any discomfort or unnatural movement the shoes force them to do. This can lead to many more serious problems.

So how do you start creating your walking or running plan? Give yourself a S.M.A.R.T. goal.

Specific. Measurable. Attainable. Realistic. Time-Specific.

Be very specific with your goals. Don’t just say, ‘I want to walk or run more.’ What does that mean? Make it specific such as ‘I want to be able to run for 3 miles without stopping,’ or I want to be able to walk for 30 minutes. That is specific.

Part of making a specific goal is making sure you can measure it whether that’s in time, distance, etc. That is the only way you are going to be able to achieve it.

You also need to make sure you can actually attain your goal. ‘Attainable and ‘Realistic’ go hand in hand. What matters to you? Don’t set a goal to run a marathon in the next 6 months if you have no interest in running. Don’t say you want to make the Olympic swim team. Setting attainable and realistic goals is not about crushing your dreams but it helps you to stay on track and set goals that will really matter to you and your lifestyle. Setting goals that are too big, too early is setting you up for defeat and burnout. Now, if you want to lose 100 pounds, that is a great long-term goal. But also make sure you set a short-term goals to help keep you track towards that long-term goal. Once you make that short-term goal, it’s going to keep pushing you forward and motivating you to reach that long-term goal.

Make sure your goals are time-specific. You can say ‘I want to lose five pounds.’ There is a big difference between me saying I want to lose five pounds in the next two weeks, the next month, or the next year. Lay out exactly when you want to achieve this goal because that will keep you honest. Saying you want to lose five pounds in a year may enable you to spend 11 months saying ‘I have more time.’ When you have a more time-specific goal such as losing five pounds in 2 weeks, it will make you pay a lot more attention to what you are eating and what physical activity you are doing.

Running and walking is the same way. Let’s say that you want to walk or run a 5K. There are so many 5K races each year. If you say you want to commit to walking or running a 5K in September, then you know by September, you need to be able to walk or run that distance and to put in the work to do it by that date.

There are a lot of injuries that can come up when you don’t plan. Even if you do plan, other injuries can occur too so if you find yourself struggling with some kind of pain or problem, seek some professional help. If you’re having trouble putting together a running or walking plan, call our office at 703-450-4300.

CLICK HERE for more on how physical therapy can help you achieve your fitness goals. 

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