Roughly this time of year (fine, perhaps a trio of weeks ago, but I say “this time” because I sadly am already lagging behind), people are resolving for the New Year. “Lose weight” turns into a new gym membership or some fad diet.
And then (really) comes about now, the later-January crash, when most people have already either pushed these resolutions to the backburner, or worse yet, completely forgotten about them.
I could go on for days about my frustration over the general man’s seeming inability to change for the better — but that’s not what today’s post is about.
Ever since I decided to put my healing into the forefront of my priorities, regular rehabilitation has been on my New Year’s resolutions. Finally, in early 2008 or so, I managed to pull an about-face and learned to get myself on track. The trick was to always schedule mandatory trips to the gym with regimented exercises. There was no “I don’t feel like it” or “I’ll go tomorrow” (of course, that usually was the case anyway). I was going to university full-time, as well, and treated attendance at the gym nearly as a class. I was in the gym five days a week, guaranteed. (And this was from not going at all, or only once or twice.)
So a tip to you, if you’ve decided to resolve to get yourself to the gym on a regular basis: It’s not going to happen until you’ve scribbled it into your planner. As long as you act like it’s as important as your job or school (and it is, come on!), it will happen. This will apply whether you want to go to the gym for therapy or weight loss.
I also wanted to point out another thing. Resolutions to “become a better conversationalist” or “find a significant other,” these types of objectives are much harder than something like making it to the gym. Why? Because becoming a better conversationalist has to do with a social skill and is also dependent on the people you meet. You only need to drag yourself up and out to another place! As long as you get there, you’ll automatically feel obligated to work out. (Ever stopped by a gym unprepared and feel like that? Or walked by one?) It is so easy that it’s laughable how much resistance we have to just doing it.
Quit the grumbling, remember that this is only a physical activity — i.e., far easier than character improvement — and hold yourself accountable. If not, hey, get a gym partner. Hold each other accountable (on that note, take a gander at my friend Pete’s book on the subject, Team Up). Make yourself go most days of the week if you can’t do five or six days — four will still do. And over the year, four becomes 208. Incredible what regular accumulation does, isn’t it? Get a trainer (educated on your condition and what to do). If you’re not quite at the point in your recovery that allows safe visits to the gym, then make it at-home exercises. (Your rehab hospitals ought to have given you plenty of those handouts; see, I know!) Or, of course if you’re dealing with an entirely different type of healing journey, adjust the plan to your condition (for example, someone dealing with addiction could join an anonymous support group, do regular reading that helps them deal, surround themselves with close and supportive friends/family); it doesn’t have to be “the gym.” Though for cases like mine, my physiatrist told me once that the gym is the absolute most important home-therapy technique.
Not to mention, people’s resolutions tend to be less urgent than something like rehab. We need our resolution to be a reality, whereas typically other resolutions are only wanted.
For the ambitious, it can also help tremendously to formally write out your goals. At the top, write your objective (“Regular rehabilitation”) and divvy up smaller subgoals (“Physical therapy,” “Occupational therapy”) with smaller yet activities. A sample goal map could be:
Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays — weight training program at gym (with trainer)
Tuesdays, Thursdays — 30 minutes cardio workout at gym or home (independently)
Hand exercises every day, knitting
CIMT once a month
Piano post-cardio Tuesdays/Thursdays
Now, that’s a pretty crude example, but you get the idea. You can get as specific as you like, as long as you’re capable of sticking to it. But be realistic — sometimes these long-term goals are hard to implement because people start off too big. You can always add and take away things from your list, so if five days a week is too much (or fifty pages of reading), shave it down to four (or thirty). Work your way up.
And this may seem kind of hokey to some of you, but visualize yourself successfully carrying out your toughest exercises. The brain does not distinguish between what it’s really doing and what it’s imagining doing. It will help. (Heck, I managed to win some tickets last weekend using this exact technique, but that’s another story.)
Other important aspects to keep in mind: In physical exercise, form is key. Sometimes when movement alone is important, it’s not as essential, but for the most part, when training gross motor muscles, you’re going to need to program movements correctly. This prevents injury and anomalous development — it’s also kind of a domino effect (if you’re not walking properly how can you run correctly?) in that fundamental movements will fuel later, more complex, ones. A trainer can drastically help you in this. Also, mirrors.
Keep records of your progress! Nothing is more encouraging than to see how well you’ve been doing. (If anything, those that tend toward slight obsessive-compulsive behavior will make themselves do their rehab if only to keep up the pattern.)
Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you slip up one week, just make sure you’re back on track the next.
To our healing,