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Published on December 19, 2019

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Start Small and Make it Fun: Tips for Fitness in the New Year

Jan. 1, 2020 embodies the plans, hopes and goal-setting that come with any new year, and if you’re aiming to make it the best one yet, you’re certainly not alone.

Avera sports medicine, orthopedics and internal medicine physician Jonathan Buchanan, MD, said his 30th birthday, not a New Year’s resolution, led him to strive for better health and fitness.

“I went out and ran around the block one time, and I came home exhausted,” he said. “The next day, I ran around the block twice. Six months later, I ran my first marathon.”

It can start small – as long as you’re moving.

“It’s all about baby steps, and doing a little something is always better than doing nothing at all,” said Avera Performance Coach Mark Roozen, who leads the Coach Rozy Powered by Avera Sports program in Yankton. “So start small and work your way up, and if it doesn’t go perfectly, don’t quit. That’s a critical thing to remember.”

While he still runs, Buchanan added biking as another element to his life, and continues riding his bicycle to work, every day, rain, shine, snow or ice.

“I’d go crazy cooped up in a car every day, and riding is something many people can do,” he said. “It’s a matter of peace of mind for me, as well as the environmental aspects. If you look at ways to overcome the excuses, the world can be a small place – a beautiful one, too – when you’re on a bicycle.”

Buchanan and Roozen offer these insights for getting 2020 started right with more activity and feeling better.

Baby Steps

Too many people aim too high. “Tackling the world that first day or even week isn’t necessary. Get started with small steps,” said Roozen. “The little improvements can help you take bigger strides as you get going.” You can do the same with diet changes. Don’t make a giant leap, but instead try to cut out some bad habits a day or week at a time.

Make it Fun

One reason Buchanan bikes to work is because he likes riding. “If you like playing pickup basketball, do that, and if you enjoy weight training, that’s what you should do,” he said. “If you are dreading the exercise, you are more likely to quit on it. Do something fun instead and you’ll likely stick with it or not even think of it as exercise.”

Have a Plan B

It’s too easy to give up if you cannot make it to the gym, a class or squeeze your full routine into your day, so be nimble. “Work out for 20 minutes if you can’t do a full hour,” said Roozen. “And if you miss a day, that’s OK. Pick back up the next day. If you missed supper, would you just ‘never eat again’? Of course not. Apply that same mindset to your exercise.” If you have a single favorite, explore and see if you can add a few other exercises or styles to keep things fresh and give yourself more choices.

Look to Be Accountable

When you’re in a class, or have a dedicated gym partner, you’ll be more apt to keep on track. “It’s always a good idea to have someone who can keep you honest and keep you going back to the class,” said Buchanan. “People enroll in boot-camp classes and things of that nature because they have the camaraderie that comes with them – it really works.”

Fix What’s Broken

Injuries and conditions can hold anyone back from exercise, and that’s why getting them addressed sooner will pay off over the long run. “I see patients who often say they wish they had taken care of their knee or other injury a long time ago,” Buchanan said. “If you have it evaluated before you lose muscle mass or gain weight, you won’t have such a big hole to climb out of.”

Forgive Yourself and – Keep Going

You’ll miss days, and if you do, that’s fine, Roozen said. “Think of the big picture. Even if you miss a couple days a month, you’ve still worked out a lot. Missing 30 out of 365 days isn’t so bad, is it?” he said. “It’s like driving a car. You’re constantly making small adjustments as you go. You’re not yanking the wheel from side to side. Have that same attitude with your new fitness routine and you’ll arrive at your destination.”

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Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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