The struggle is real…
Have you ever struggled to find time to complete the exercises recommended to you by your therapist? Perhaps it was a daily movement practice to help soothe muscle soreness? A resistance exercise for resolving a tendinopathy? Or perhaps strength training to address a joint pain or weakness? To be honest, the cause and the means don’t really matter – sometimes it’s hard do the things that ultimately help us.
…sometimes it’s hard do the things that ultimately help us.
It goes without saying that any change to your routine can take time to integrate, no matter how small or frequent the new habit must be. I often prescribe therapeutic exercises to my clients at the Move Well Clinic to address pain and movement issues. However, despite experiencing the benefits of these exercises my clients often report that it is hard to stick to the recommended list of exercises. They have reduced their pain symptoms, or improved their strength or flexibility using these exercises over a short period of time. Yet still… maintaining these new habits proves to be much harder.
And it is a challenge to maintain new habits, but it’s not impossible. If you are struggling to maintain a regular therapeutic exercise routine, read on for my 3-STEP GUIDE based on how my clients have got around their barriers…
STEP ONE: IDENTIFY BARRIERS TO COMPLETION
Four common barriers to exercise completion that my clients mention in clinic are:
- TIME: A lack of time
- MEMORY: Forgetting to do the exercises
- RECALL: Being unsure of how to do the exercises
- ENJOYMENT: Not enjoying the exercises
Question: What are the barriers that have prevented you from completing your exercises?
STEP TWO: A QUESTION OF CHANGE
Once barriers to exercise are identified we need to think how we can remove the barrier. We can do this by asking a simple question:
“What must change?”
In the case of my clients this would be to:
- Allocate time to exercise completion
- Use of memory aids/reminders
- Improve recall/Provide access to instructions
- Improve enjoyability of the exercises
Question 2: “What must change?”
STEP THREE: THE SOLUTION
Now we know what to change, we must decide on actionable ways to do this. Therefore, the final question to ask is:
“What can I do RIGHT NOW (to cause change)?”
Question 3: “What can I do RIGHT NOW (to cause change)?”
11 TOP TIPS TO REMEMBER YOUR HOME EXERCISES
Below is a list of some of the most effective methods used in the Move Well Clinic to address the specific barriers of my clients (as listed above).
TIME: Allocate time to exercise completion
- Tethering exercises – try to build an association between each exercise and specific daily tasks. For example: performing a hamstring stretch when watching TV, or a single leg-balance while waiting for the kettle to boil
- Break it down – for example: if you can’t do them all at once in the morning, then try to spread them out across the course of the day – complete one set of exercises in the morning, another at lunch, and another in the evening.
MEMORY: Use of memory aids/reminders
- Set autoreminders – this could be on your phone, or electronic calendars
- Ask someone to hold you accountable – a friend, family member or therapist could check-in with you on a routine basis to make sure you’re on track
- Track your activity – make a note when you have completed the exercises. For example: keep a notepad by your bed, or a wall chart and check off the exercises as you do them. Reflect on the barriers that stopped you too.
RECALL: Improve recall/Provide access to instructions
- Record an instructional video on your phone of your therapist – you could do this as they show you the exercises in clinic (just ask permission first!). Alternatively you can check out the Move Well Clinic YouTube channel for instructional videos.
- Ask your therapist to write down the exercise instructions for you – I have made it standard practice to send my clients electronic lists of their exercises as I know this helps them to stick to the programme, and ultimately increases their likelihood of getting painfree!!
- Book follow-up appointments to recap exercises – your therapist can check that you are doing the exercises correctly, and perhaps suggest some new exercises to progress you further
ENJOYMENT: Improve enjoyability of the exercises
- Ask your therapist for alternatives – maybe they can suggest some more fun ways to get the same result – if you don’t ask, you don’t get…
- Location – if you don’t like doing homework try changing the scenery – plan to do your exercises during a trip to the park, or the gym, or perhaps on top of a hill in the countryside! Be creative!
- Applicable to life – if there is a way to adapt your exercises into your daily movements then give it a try. By this I mean that if the thought of completing 3 sets of 12 of an exercise fills you with dread, then try to perform these exercises in multiples while you are already performing an activity of daily living. For example: if you need to complete 30 squats per day and you also have to bend down to reach into a clothing drawer every morning try to combine these two movements so that you can ‘reach and rep’ at the same time… maybe even reach twice to double your rep count!
You may have tried some of these tips before, but with little or no success. Many people struggle to adhere to exercise programmes despite all the best intentions and using a wide range of tips and tricks to keep them on track. Why? This is likely to be due to the measures not addressing their specific barriers to exercise. The best you can do is to identify your barriers to exercise, and then seek solutions that are specific to your needs and personal to you. This is a tailored approach.
On reflection, a fair portion of the most successful outcomes at Move Well Clinic have resulted from clients trying out novel ideas to help them stick to their exercise programme, including adapting exercises to suit their needs and preferences.
SUMMARY OF TASKS:
Try completing the tasks below to identify your own barriers. I would love to know what you find works for you as a solution, so please leave your feedback and comments below.
Task 1: Identify the barriers that have prevented you from completing your exercises.
Task 2: Identify the changes that must take place to reduce the barriers from getting in your way.
Task 3: Identify actions that can make these changes possible.
TAKE ACTION TODAY!
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