Building good fitness habits for and during rehabilitation

Updated: Dec 9, 2019

My background in strength and conditioning starts at a young age. I played every sport available to a young kid growing up in Indiana and by the time I started middle school that meant strength and conditioning as prep for all sports programs. Exercise had been something I enjoyed from an early age and interest continued into my adult life when I began working as a Certified Personal Trainer. I give you this background to understand that by the time of my injury strength and conditioning was largely a habit since youth.

After my Injury it was a struggle to build exercise habits because physically I was now around 5% of my pre-injury capabilities this meant everything had to be turned down 50 notches. Just thinking about exercise was exercise for me at the time. As I learned to transition in and out of my chair I began to realize the significants of maintaining core strength and therefore I began doing very light torso exercises to maintain what I could of my core strength. This was where I started, with core strength.

The problem with building habits is how much energy you exert in doing so and with pain being a constant energy depleter there Isn't much spare energy to work with. The thing that you must maintain is the thought that the positive habits you build will reduce the pain in the long run both mentally and physically. Things to look for while building good exercise habits are positive results. As soon as you see any sign of positive benefit from the work you put in, celebrate it. Celebrate every victory no matter big or small and continue to build on these victories with new goals and expanding abilities.

Growing up in sports and competition I learned many good qualities that assisted my recovery significantly. Competition is a motivator for me and I've learned to find competition any way I can in order to gain motivation. The first few months that I was in the wheelchair my mom would drive me around and we would use a handicap pass to park up close. As I started regaining strength and mobility even though I was still confined to a chair I would stop having my mom park with the handicap pass and had her get rid of it. The competitivness inside of me saw that pass as a challenge/limiter. I wasn't limited enough to need that pass and I knew it. This increased the time I spent entering and navigating the grocery but mentally and physically it made me challenge myself. It made me decide my intentions for recovery, was I gonna accept being limited or was I gonna find a way at all cost.

Building regular exercise habits is not easy but its a must and the best way to make it happen is to learn about yourself as much as possible. Learn what holds you back, learn what pushes you forward. Take the time to understand as well as possible what works best for you, what motivates you, what keeps you going when you are feeling challenged, and when you know what helps you move forward, take advantage of those things, make them work for you and then begin cutting everything that doesn't work for you out of your life. As much as you need to build positive new habits you also need to start breaking down and getting rid of existing bad habits.

A good trick is to start slow and work towards a continuous steady increase. It is very easy to dive in to fast at first and burn out or say things you don't mean. This can be demotivating but theres hope. A good idea of a quote I read once was that "its never to late to start fresh" I've started fresh too many times to count and its never been a negative outcome.

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