FEELING GREAT: Variety is the spice of life ... and fitness

Did you know, the secret to getting fit is to steadily and progressively increase your exercise plan? And the secret to staying fit is to vary that exercise plan as much as possible.

The common mistake people tend to make (which can lead to injury), is to constantly pound the same path night after night when walking or running.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re in training for something like the Lyke Wake Walk or the Great North Run (it’s only two months away!), and you walk or jog on the same hard surfaces night after night, steadily increasing your distance each time. Do that and there’s a good chance you will suffer from common injuries such as Achilles tendon problems or shin splints, even though you think you’re doing your health some good by doing it. And by the way, you will be helping your heart and lungs, just not your joints or muscles.

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Likewise, if you spend hour after hour on the saddle of your bicycle, and you haven’t prepared by doing the right lower back strengthening exercises, then you should expect to suffer back pain. Why? Because if your lower back isn’t strong enough to support you in the seat as you climb a few hills from time to time (even leaning forwards as you to try make it easier to get up a steep bank), then it will be stressed too much and eventually you’ll pay the price with pain and/or stiffness.

Even swimmers need to vary their training, otherwise shoulder aches and pains are inevitable. It’s not possible to get into a swimming pool for an hour every day and use the same arm motion to propel you through the water without getting some kind of shoulder problem eventually. The swimming is fine, just change the stroke you do from one day to the next.

My BIG tip is to always vary the type of exercise you do. As you’ve just noticed from the mention of how to avoid swimming injuries, it’s possible to change an activity within an activity and it will help you keep active and healthy. Perhaps you could spend a little more time and effort putting together a plan that will work multiple muscle groups, improve balance, increase core muscle control (around your back), still improve cardio-vascular fitness (heart and lungs) and just as importantly, give vital joints a break. All you have to do is go along to a local gym and pay a personal trainer to set a programme up for you.

For more tips and advice, get in touch for a FREE copy of my book The Healthy Habit. It is essential reading people aged 50+ in the North-East, and for anyone that would like to improve their own healthy habits. Please call 01429 866771.