For those who have had long standing pain, it can be extremely difficult and frustrating to find success with movement. Let’s look at some of the common challenges I hear from people.

“Some days I can move around just fine so I take advantage of that, but then the next day I can barely do anything.”

“I just can’t stick with it (exercise).”

“I know I should exercise, but going to the gym is not for me. Not my scene.”

Did any of these feelings resonate with you? If the answer is “Yes!” then this blog is for you. Let’s examine each of these statements and discuss strategies that you can begin practicing in your daily life.

“Some days I can move around just fine so I take advantage of that, but then the next day I can barely do anything.”

This is something that many, many, people struggle with. Whether it is doing yard work, exercising at the gym, or simply running errands. Our aspirations sometimes exceed our current capabilities. This is commonly referred to as a “boom and bust.” This pattern of “booming and busting” can be frustrating and difficult to break, especially when you are in pain and struggling to develop a strategy to combat it. A good place to start is being mindful of when these circumstances arise and understanding that even when things are feeling great, perhaps it would be best to shoot for smaller goals each day rather than trying to do all the work in one day.

To get more specific, utilizing a 0-10 scale for exertion (0=resting comfortably, 10=climbing Mt. Everest) is often the best way to start monitoring how much work you should be doing and understanding when to take rest breaks. Generally, I recommend that people get consistent success by working throughout the day within the range of 1-6/10. Using this as a guideline, that would mean that if you are beginning to dip your toe into that 7/10, it is perhaps a good time to take a rest break until you are able to proceed within the provided range. The neat thing about using this exertional scale is that over time, you find that you are able to do more while living within this range. I feel that this knowledge is very valuable and worth practicing daily if you felt that the above quote resonated with you.

 “I just can’t stick with it (exercise).”

Sticking with an exercise program can be difficult for a variety of different reasons and it can be very discouraging when the plan you set out to accomplish just doesn’t work out. I have found that sometimes the best way to approach this is by taking a step back and considering your overall goal.

A “SMART” goal is a framework that you can utilize to reflect on your goals while setting yourself up for successfully reaching them. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time based. Example of non-SMART goal would be: “I want to be able to walk around more.” The SMART goal version of this would maybe be something like this: “In 6 weeks, I will be able to walk around the block 5 times without needing to rest.” For some people, structuring your aspirations in this format can make all the difference. Give it a try!

But perhaps the structuring of a SMART goal just isn’t something you’re up for trying yet. An alternative plan might just involve a shift in mindset to something along the lines of selecting a daily action to accomplish every day. This mindset is quite different from what is often portrayed in exercise magazines, because this is not the quick fix, this is the permanent fix. The actions should be things you know you can do with low-moderate difficulty. Also, keep it simple at first! We know that small, positive actions add up over time and if you stay committed to that action, you will experience change. Here are some examples: standing up every hour of the day that you are awake, OR walking your dog every day before breakfast, OR dancing for 5 minutes each day. On this journey, we are seeking to add up as many small victories as we can, because that can add up to BIG changes over time!

“I know I should exercise, but going to the gym is not for me. Not my scene.”

Whether it’s the cost, equipment, or environment, the gym is just not for everybody. The good news is that there are so many other great options to get physical activity. Below are a few different ideas that don’t require a gym and can help pass the time while being physically active.

Activity Trackers

These are very helpful to monitor activity and track changes over time. More specifically, you can use the numbers provided by these devices to help guide your decisions as you partake in physical activity. Examples: Step counters, phone apps, heart rate monitors, etc.

Online Videos

Whether an expert or beginner, the use of YouTube and other online video sites is a great resource for you to explore new types of exercise. I believe there is something out there for everybody and it can be done in the comforts of your own home, no equipment necessary. Examples: Yoga, tai chi, aerobics, etc.

Local Swimming Pool

An aquatic environment offers decreased stress on the joints and can be a fantastic way to start living a more active lifestyle. It can allow for a better tolerance of exercise without the challenges that sometimes exist with joint pain. Furthermore, local pools are often affordable and willing to discuss payment plans if you are on a tight budget. Examples: free swim, aquatic classes, lap swim, etc.

Recreational Sports

Sport has been, and always will be, a great way to pass the time while being active. If you are a competitive person, then being in an environment where you can work with and against others can help make physical activity fun. Below are some examples with various intensities to help start your search. Examples: shuffleboard, petanque, pool sports, bowling, basketball, indoor soccer, etc.

Community Walking or Jogging Groups

Having others willing to join you on your journey towards a more active lifestyle can be invaluable. Sharing stories, discussing past struggles, and just talking about the happenings of everyday life is a great way to help pass the time while getting some exercise. There are several groups online that are easy to reach out to and willing to welcome new members.

Explore the options outlined above and give them a try! Do what you feel a connection with.

All in all, I hope this blog connected with you in one way or another. None of these ideas are mutually exclusive, feel free to blend these concepts or adopt your own way of doing things as you continue efforts to live a more active lifestyle. There are so many great ideas not discussed in this blog, so keep exploring, and stay tuned for more to come.

“Changes in Sedentary Time and Physical Activity in Response to an Exercise Training and/or Lifestyle Intervention” by Kozey-Keadle S et al. Journal of Physical Activity & Health © 2013 Human Kinetics, Inc
O’Sullivan PB, Caneiro JP, O’Keeffe M, et al. Cognitive functional therapy: an integrated behavioral approach for the targeted management of disabling low back pain. Phys Ther. 2018; 98:408–423.
Sim, Alison (2018). Pain Heroes: Stories of Hope and Recovery. Publishing by Alison Sim.