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How to Get Back Into Your Fitness Game

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The hectic pace of our modern lives can take a toll on all of us. It’s no wonder so many people struggle to maintain their exercise schedule. Between work, family, commuting and more, finding the time to exercise can be a challenge. You might not realize, however, that you can put a little magic into your exercise routine by taking a few pointers from professional athletes.

We spoke with AdventHealth Sports Medicine & Rehab exercise physiologist Matthew Marse who shares some tips on how to get back into your fitness routine with the best chance of sticking to it with success.

Use Schedules and Goals to Stay Motivated

Life today seems busy for most. So, how do you fit exercise into your lifestyle? Marse stresses being in tune with yourself, saying “Listen to your body. Try not to compare yourself to others, whether it be peers or co-workers.”

After focusing on your personal needs, establishing a scheduled routine is next.

Marse assures, “It is going to take a while to really create that habit. The first few months are the hardest to stick with. But once you have a set routine and create that consistency, it gets easier to balance life with exercise. Just treat exercise like you would a doctor's appointment. Most people, if they schedule a doctor's appointment, they're not going to miss it. They're going to be there. If you put exercise on your calendar every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7:30 am to 8:30 am, for example, and make an “appointment” with yourself, yourself will help hold yourself accountable.”

Now, let’s talk about the goals you want to achieve. 

Marse recommends, “That's something we focus on the very first day — evaluating and creating some goals. I like to think of some short-term ones that you hope to achieve in the immediate future. This helps you feel accomplished when you're able to complete them and helps you stay optimistic to meet a long-term goal.” 

The idea is to ensure your goals are achievable. The mental satisfaction of meeting expectations will help motivate you to keep going. 

According to Marse, “You don't have to create this ambitious goal that isn't going to be realistic. Having a smart goal is the idea. You want to set goals that are specific, measurable, attainable and have a timetable attached to them. If you’re able to do all those things, you'll be able to achieve those goals.”

Working With an Exercise Professional

If you are new to exercising or just getting back to it after an extended break, Marse recommends speaking with a health care professional first. 

“Creating a plan can be a stressful thing for a lot of people, especially if they're not experienced with exercise. That's where you can look for a skilled physical therapist, general practitioner or personal trainer who can help develop your plan.” 

And the AdventHealth Sports Medicine & Rehab team can connect you with the proper professional to guide you on your way. 

Incremental Rewards

The beginning is always the hardest part. So, Marse recommends acknowledging even incremental improvements. 

“I think most people feel the most accomplished with exercise when they see their improvement. Maybe a week ago you were only able to do 10 minutes of walking, for example, and now you're able to do 12 or 13 minutes. Even though it's a small improvement, seeing that progress allows you to reflect on your starting point. When you remember where you started versus where you are now, and focus on how much progress you have made, that creates more motivation for you to keep going and keep progressing. As long as you stay on track, in time you will create an exercise habit and it will become a staple in your normal daily routine.”

Strengthening Your Core

Keeping a fit torso through proper exercise and diet can help reduce belly fat, which if left unchecked can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and other chronic conditions.

Marse notes some barriers to achieving core fitness goals. “Many people have sitting jobs, and we are sitting more than ever. This causes very weak core muscles and poor posture. Building up the core is important and can also prevent injury to other parts of the body.”

But core strength is really important for your whole health, including your posture and preventing back pain. According to Marse, “Many people have very weak transverse abdominal muscles. On your abdomen, you have a few different layers of muscles. The transverse abdominal muscle is very deep actually. It wraps around your organs and it helps protect your spine.” 

Marse adds, “Abdominals are not just a show muscle. They’re more of a stability muscle that's going to really provide some great benefits. So that's why we like the resistance band exercises. You can do them in your home or at work in your office — you can really do it anywhere. And they're inexpensive. So that's another positive.” 

Resistance Band Training for Core Strengthening

Simple exercises with minimal equipment are all you need to help strengthen your core. Marse explains, “Resistance bands are popular because you can use them anywhere. You don't have to go to a gym and lift all these heavy weights. The resistance bands will give you enough resistance where you can build muscle and build some really good core strength.”

The lighter intensity offered by the resistance bands is also used by professional athletes both during the off-season and in pre-game warm-ups. Marse sights the benefits of less strenuous exercise for the players on off days during the season. 

“You don't want players to go in there and tear down their muscles and put maximum effort in on their off days. They have to get up and play another game that's going to wear them down. Throughout an season, the core strength developed from their resistance bands will be vital during traveling. Those bands help keep their posture and core nice and strong, which will also help with their hips. You'll see a lot of players using bands in pre-game training, really getting those core muscles nice and warm. And it's also helping maintain all that hard work they put in during the offseason.”

The Importance of Stretching

All the best intentions to train your core can be sidelined by torn muscles. Losing a player on the floor due to an injury like that can have a domino effect on the rest of the team, not to mention affect the player’s physical and emotional health. 

Stretching is paramount in preventing these types of injuries. Marse weighs in on the importance of stretching. 

“When we sit, our muscles shorten. When you’re stretching, you not only lengthening muscles, you're getting more blood flow to that muscle tissue. So it's going to prevent injuries during your exercise. If you get hurt while you exercise, that can put you down for a couple of months. You could lose all that progress that you've worked so hard to make. So I would always do a stretching warm-up before any sort of exercise.”

Post-workout stretching can also play a key role in helping you feel your best after exercise, too. 

“After working out, you tear down your muscle fibers and a byproduct of that is lactic acid. The muscle soreness you feel is a buildup of that lactic acid. It's called a delayed muscle soreness onset. Post stretching will help keep some of that out of the muscle, and in return, you won't feel as sore. You might still be sore, but it won't be as bad comparatively if you did not stretch at all,” Marse says.

Let’s Boost Your Fitness Game

Today is a great time to jumpstart your fitness routine to boost your whole health. You’ll be healthier, more fit and even have more energy to cheer on your favorite local sports teams — like the Orlando Magic. 

Learn more about how we can work with you to help you be strong and healthy — in body, mind and spirit. 

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