So you joined the countless other people who made a New Year’s resolution to exercise more and look after your body.
It may be popular to scoff at setting resolutions this time of year, but Shara Vigeant, who has been in the Edmonton fitness industry for nearly two decades, said doing so is not a bad thing.
“I see resolutions as goals and reflection: what happened last year that I want to change?” said the owner of SVPT Fitness & Athletics, a personal training facility in south Edmonton.
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The key to achieving those goals: make them realistic. Set a goal for the year, but then break it down week by week: “Don’t worry about next year and don’t worry about next month. What are you going to accomplish this week?”
Also, be realistic: if you haven’t lifted a weight or ran in years, you are not going to be setting deadlift PRs or running marathons right away. Vigeant said people need to set goals that are truly achievable to them.
“The more complex the goal, the more work it takes. You have to be real about the work it’s going to take to get to that goal,” Vigeant said.
“I know this may be counterintuitive, but lower the bar: find what is the most achievable for you.”
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Going too hard off the get-go won’t just leave you with newbie aches and pains that may make you want to throw in the towel — it can also force you to be sidelined.
This is the time of year physiotherapists say they tend to see more injuries.
“A little too much, too soon, or trying things that they haven’t haven’t tried before — that’s where trouble starts to happen,” said Adam Burns, a physiotherapist with Leading Edge Physiotherapy.
He said most common injuries are from repetitive strain, especially in the shoulders and elbows.
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Burns said the most important thing to prevent injury is to warm up before a workout with light activity like a five-minute walk or stationary bike ride, and then to start the exercises slowly.
“Making sure you’re doing some some dynamic stuff, getting the body moving and getting the body warmed up,” he said.
“Things like some light lunges and then building a little bit of a rotation with that, some light theraband and exercises for your shoulders. Some toy soldiers, some marching on the spot, some bum kicks.
“Just get the legs going, get the blood flowing, get the heart rate elevated a little bit so that the body’s ready for the main event.”
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As for that main workout, Vigeant said workouts need to be tailored to the individual.
Most fitness experts agree: injuries are also caused by rushing through routines, not paying attention to proper form and not resting enough between exercise sets.
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Repetitive impact has an effect on joints and feet, so you want proper shoes to reduce any chance of injury.
Taking a virtual class with an instructor who can see you can help ensure movements are done properly, as working out without guidance can lead to bad form and injury.
When cooling down after a workout, Burns recommends stretches and using a foam roller to get deep into muscles.
He said research has shown static stretching — lengthening a muscle to the point of tension for 30 seconds per stretch — isn’t as beneficial before exercise, but can help when cooling down afterwards.
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Avoiding injuries during your New Year’s workout
People new to fitness are also encouraged to seek help and advice from a professional such as a personal trainer, a physiotherapist or kinesiologist.
“You don’t have to do grandiose things,” Vigeant said. “You don’t have to go from zero to 100 because that’s not going to stick.”
Vigeant said people need to be kind to themselves.
“It’s like picking the lowest hanging fruit to improve your health. Not putting so much pressure on yourself and saying, ‘You know what, This is all I can do today. And a walk is all you can do today.’ Then that’s still something more than you did the day before.”
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While exercise-goers are setting their resolutions, those in the industry say it has been through some tough times over the past few years. They hope with no pandemic restrictions, 2023 will bring more people back to gyms.
Archetype, a boutique fitness facility inside the J.W. Marriott tower in downtown Edmonton, said it has been seeing a steady influx of new memberships.
Joel Schneider, the gym’s health and human performance manager, said people are still conscious of COVID-19 and the other respiratory illnesses circulating in the community. However, many are also eager to get back into a routine and start working on their health and fitness goals.
“Things feel normal again, after everything that we’ve been through since COVID: no restrictions, people coming back (and) feeling comfortable, seeing more people downtown — it’s nice,” Schneider said.
“It feels like you’re starting the year off on a positive note.”
“It’s nice to be able to work on fitness and also to see everybody — the community is so nice too,” new gym member Sarah Fitzgerald said. “New goals in the new year. Jan. 1, everyone wants to join the gym — its a super popular thing to do.”
When public health restrictions were in place, it was a tough time for a lot of fitness facilities, including SVPT.
Vigeant said three things changed during that time: how people work, how they use their time and how they spend money.
She said that has made it harder to predict fitness trends that she used to be able to nail down month by month.
“It’s been really, really hard. Like, as a small business owner, it’s been hard to navigate where people are spending their money and why and when and all of that,” Vigeant said.
“I’m hoping that if anything, people are going to really make their mental and physical health a priority — because I think the pandemic put that into the forefront.”
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Vigeant said while it has been a slow start so far, historically, memberships tend to increase mid-January, once kids are back in school and families return to post-holiday routines.
“You have to start when you’re ready to commit. You can’t force it because that type of pressure won’t create adherence to a new plan.”
Vigeant hopes the new year brings a new start for many people seeking change in their lives.
“I definitely hope that people are wanting to get out of their houses, off their online workouts and basement workouts, get out and into a fitness community,” she said.
“Be around people and get some real expert advice on how to move forward with their fitness goals.”
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