Every year, about the third week of January, my phone starts ringing. It's as predictable as the appearance of Christmas decorations in the shops in November and the panic on the roads at the first sign of snow. By the middle of January, everyone has had time to get back to the gym full of good intentions, massively overdo things, and develop a hatred of treadmills, some nasty muscle soreness - and sometimes an injury or two to go with it.
Overuse injuries are some of the most common problems that I treat, and usually they're a result of doing too much, too soon. It's not playing two hours of tennis that's the problem; it's digging out your tennis racket for the first time in twelve years and trying to pick up where you left off. This is where New Year's resolutions often run into problems. People are often inspired by the idea of making dramatic change to their lifestyle; "Slow and sensible" doesn't have quite the same appeal.
So, am I about to be one of those awful spoilsports who tells you that you shouldn't wait until the new year, you should get started on those resolutions right away, and forget the Christmas pudding? Not so much. People who think like that aren't reading this blog - they're already filling the time between gym sessions by searching google for sugar-free mince pie recipes. For the rest of us, here are a few small steps that will improve your odds of success in January without ruining the festive season and making your family hate you.
1. Write a plan
Rather than having a vague goal to "get back in shape in the new year", you'll do much better if you have definite plan for how you're going to do that. Better still - if you have some time off over the holiday season, consider sitting down and putting that plan onto paper.
Remember that the best form of exercise is the one that you keep doing. Look out for something that you enjoy, rather than dutifully doing something you hate because you feel you should. There's an abundance of different sports, classes and groups out there - many actively encourage adult beginners, and adding a social element to your workout is one of the best ways to keep yourself motivated past January. Look around and find something that you're genuinely excited to have a go at. If you can get a friend to join you, all the better.
2. Make it smaller
It's easy to be over ambitious when writing an exercise plan. Lots of people start the year with great intentions and then get discouraged when they find that they can't keep it up. I usually suggest to people that they start with a plan that they think is achievable - and then take half of it out. You can always increase that amount later if you want to do more, and this will also give your body a better chance to adjust to the change of pace instead of jumping straight in the deep end.
3. Start some easy, enjoyable physical activity now
I'm not suggesting that you spend Christmas week doing guilt-ridden push ups in a futile effort to offset all the mulled wine or pumpkin spice lattes you've been enjoying. Anything at all that keeps you moving will put you in a better place to start the new year - whether that's doing a bit of extra walking, grabbing a swim and a sauna, or kicking a ball round the park with the kids. That might not be something you feel like doing when it's cold, but most people do feel better for it - and your January self will definitely thank you.
4. Enjoy "quality dirt" - and ditch the guilt
If you're planning to indulge, then make sure you really enjoy it. Look for the things that you love, and get the best quality that you can. It's easy at this time of year to find yourself snacking on cheap chocolates or substandard mince pies just because they're there. It's only after absent mindedly eating half the box that you remember you're not all that keen on them, and then feel awful. Much better to have something that's a real treat, and to appreciate it properly without the guilt!
We hope you enjoy the holiday season, and have an injury free new year. If you do happen to suffer any Christmas tree decorating, present carrying or snowball fighting injuries, give us a call on 0845 4747 507 or drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.