6 self-help strategies to help patients stick with your home rehab routine

I know you can do it. I believe you have it in you. But let’s face it – getting started with a new exercise program can be tough. Making time to do your rehab exercises can seem like an impossible task. Once you get started, sticking with an exercise or rehab program can be a challenge at times. I understand that.  I’ve heard almost every excuse in the book during my professional career (and I admit I’ve even used some!). Obstacles happen.  Most of us (if not all of us) have attempted to stick to a routine only to have life’s “crap” throw us off our path. Once we get sidetracked, especially if we take a bit of a hiatus, it’s a challenge to get back on the path to awesomeness/healthiness. While completing my final Masters thesis project, I interviewed a lot of people who had gone through serious physical injuries to gain insight into what non-physical factors played a role in their recovery. Want to know the trick to staying the course?  The secret?  IT. HAS. TO. COME. FROM. WITHIN. YOU have to help yourself. Be your own #1 fan. During my research, I found 6 common internally-driven themes which the people I interviewed attributed to helping them “stay the course”. In addition to sticking with a rehab plan, these 6 self-help strategies are absolutely applicable for those looking to get rolling with (and stick with) a fitness or performance training program . In order to promote the self-help approach, I share these 6 strategies in some way or another with my clients to help recognize what they truly are capable of. These aren’t rocket science. They just take some self-reflection.

Here are 6 “self-help strategies” that are key to staying motivated and moving forward with your exercise routine on the path to awesomeness.

  1. Accept the condition: come to terms with the injury or your areas in need of enhancement (you’ll find that I hate the word “weakness”) – In order to move forward, you have to acknowledge what needs to improve. In some cases, this may be a hard pill to swallow. You have to look at yourself from the outside as objectively as you can and say, “Yea, I’m not happy with ________, and I can fix it to the point where I AM happy about it.”
  2. Set achievable goals, but also challenging goals:  Ok, so you’ve come to terms with “you” (or at least have started to). Now, set achievable goals (both short term and long term).  I recommend setting both easily achievable goals (small victories feel great too!) as well as challenging goals which you know you’ll only achieve if you work hard and stay loyal to the process, for both short- and long-term goals. Examples: Easy/Short – “I’m going to do 3 forty-five minute workouts this week (regardless of intensity and make-up of routine).”  Challenge/Short – “I’m going to challenge my mental toughness this week by taking on a workout that I could not get through previously – and finish it!”
  3. Improve self-care: establish effective independent management of areas needing enhanced – This is pretty self explanatory. You have to take ownership of your “problems”, i.e. areas needing enhancement. In tip 1, you acknowledge and come to terms with them. After setting goals, in tip 3 is where you establish a routine that you are accountable for to help you attain those goals.
  4. Modify activities to limit further irritation of problems – During your introspection/self-evaluation, along with embracing the findings of others (see tip #5), you should determine which roadblocks/obstacles will most likely pop up. Proactively plan ways around them. Get creative! If you’re a mom or dad of youngins, use your toddler as your resistance weight – talk about dynamic variable resistance training! Make daily choices that help to externally facilitate your success. Example:  If you feel like you don’t have time for a consistent workout program, do a review of your daily and weekly tasks, looking for “inefficiencies” or lower-priority areas which could be altered to allow “you” time. Because exercise or injury rehab is “you” time. Cherish it.
  5. Be dedicated to helping yourself get better – If you are not dedicated, tips 1-4 won’t make much of a difference. It takes 21 days to develop a new habit. Dedicate energy to being a better you. Educate yourself. Keep logs of your workouts and your accomplished goals (and share your accomplishments with others!). Plant reminders in your daily environment that keep you on the right path (self-love post-it notes, “Power Poses” in the mirror a la Amy Cuddy, piggy banks that gather $$ after every workout). All of these will help you remain dedicated.  Be proud of the time and thought you are investing into your own personal well-being- it will pay great dividends.
  6. Seek help to address concerns with the above 5 tips – Find your “team”. This could include rehab and/or fitness professionals, family, and friends. Take the initiative to seek out someone who can help provide you with the insight and the tools that you personally do not have (yet) to help you accomplish your goals. Have something like a functional movement screen by a properly-certified or licensed professional (who is preferably great at developing rapport) to help determine your best route to exercising healthy and to find out your movement patterns and physical skills in need of enhancement. Schedule time with family and friends who also wish to join you on your fitness plan and develop interdependent goals that you help each other attain. Collaboratively celebrate your accomplishments!

There you have it. Sound pretty basic, right? That’s the great thing – these tips are basic! The key comes back to the whole “self-reflection” concept…be your own #1 fan.

Be your own #1 fan.

Ryan Stevens, MPS, LAT/ATC, CSCS

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