2021 Fitness

After a turbulent year, we are now just a week or two away from breaking up for the festive season. We all know what the Christmas break entails – food, drink, more food and very little movement. Without sounding like the Grinch, the sad reality is that Christmas will be over before we know it. However, that well-earned 5lbs that some of us will gain won’t be quite as quick to leave. Enter the new year’s resolution; getting back in shape, eating well, giving up drink – we know the drill.

In the early months of each year, we see an influx of clients presenting with injuries sustained whilst trying to get back in shape following a festive blowout. The good news is that the majority of these are 100% preventable and we are going to tell you how.

Start Slow!

Rome wasn’t built in a day. It’s a cliché however it’s also a reality and fitness does not come overnight, no matter what the Instagram influencers say. Essentially there is no replacement for time and consistency. All too often we see people who have started going to the gym or have taken up running and two weeks into their fitness journey they’ve managed to injure themselves from trying to do a bit too much too soon.

The golden rule here is, if it’s new to you then start slow. If you want to start running, the best thing to do for the first couple of weeks is to stay within yourself. When you attempt to get fit, it’s not only your vascular system that adapts and allows you to run/train for longer, your muscles, tendons and joints need to adapt to the movement too. If you do more than your body can handle then that’s when injuries occur, and your fitness goals take a big step backwards.  

Quite often we’ll see people who have recently taken up running presenting with injuries such as Achilles tendinopathy, calf strains and knee pain. All these ailments are 100% avoidable by training smart and as we’ll talk about below, working on your weak points to prevent injury.

Work on your weaknesses

Unless you have a traumatic injury such as a leg break sustained during sport or from falling off a horse. Most injuries tend to be related to biomechanical imbalances in our bodies placing too heightening stresses on other areas. A prime example of this is the hip. Weakness or stiffness in the hip can alter the way we move which can increase load and force on the knee joint during physical activities.

If know that you’re tight at your hips, weak through your core, or you just want to identify where movement faults lie, then why not try a bio-mechanical assessment or screening session with one of our expert Physiotherapists. Once you understand the root cause of your pain and/or imbalances then you can implement a targeted programme to bulletproof yourself against injury by incorporating specific exercises into your new year routine.

Set yourself goals

Anything is easier to do if you have a set goal in mind. When we see our clients at Smart Physiotherapy, we set goals we can work towards recovery and we’d encourage you to do the same to give your fitness journey some greater direction. When setting goals, they should be:

  • Specific – your goal needs to be clear and easy to understand.
  • Measurable – give yourself a specific target to aim for, for example if you’re trying to lose weight then 5lbs in a month could be a target.
  • Attainable – this is where it can get difficult. If fitness is your goal, then running a marathon at the end of the January probably isn’t that realistic if running a mile is a struggle at the moment. However, 5 miles could well be a very appropriate goal to work towards.
  • Relevant – set goals that are important for where you are in your life currently. Choose something that is motivating you.
  • Time Bound – set a time scale in which you want to achieve your goal, for example, to run 5 miles non-stop by the end of the month.


Recovery is vital to injury prevention and maximising fitness gains. There is absolutely nothing to be gained from working out as hard as you can every day, especially if your body isn’t used to it. Optimum recovery ensures that our bodies get the maximum gains from the exercise we are doing, whether that be fat loss, muscle gain or aerobic capacity.

Recovery tips:

  • Rest – the simplest and probably most effective means of recovery is rest. Sleep is where the body re-builds, so make sure you’re getting your 8 hours in.
  • Nutrition – in order for the body to repair you need to ensure that you’re giving it the building blocks to do so. This comes in the form of good quality food sources such as lean protein, fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Move – if you’re having a rest day ensure you’re not sat around watching Netflix all day. The best way to sooth those aching muscles is to get up and go for a walk.
  • Stretch/Mobility – sore muscles that have been worked hard will naturally tighten up, it’s important we still limber in order to reduce the risk of injury. If you’re unsure of stretches/mobility drills to be doing then we would suggest a screening appointment with one or our expert Physiotherapists for an individualised preventive rehabilitation programme.

Seek out expert advice

If you’re serious about getting fit in 2021, losing weight, gaining muscle or simply just enjoy training then we’d advise you to seek out advice from a fitness professional to aid your training. Just going to the gym 3 times a week and doing the same session each time will result in minimised progression.

Enjoy yourself!

Regardless of how you choose to keep fit, make sure you enjoy it! Fitness should be fun. If you don’t like running out in the cold then don’t run out in the cold, maybe try indoor 5-a-side football or a netball league instead. If you struggle motivating yourself to go to the gym then find ways of enjoying it. The best ways of doing this are finding a gym partner, participating in classes or creating a motivating playlist.

To make those gains you need to include the right kind of exercises and ensure that you’re performing them correctly, then you have progressive overload in your training. Progressive overload can come in many forms, in running it could be either increasing the distance run (volume) or simply increasing the speed you’re running (intensity), and in the weights room it could be increasing the amount of total reps (volume) or increasing the resistance (intensity). Too little or too much overload can result in injury so it’s important you get this programmed by someone who knows what they are doing.

As always, our doors are opened and we are open for physiotherapy treatments. To find out more about our services, get in touch with our Belfast physiotherapists today.

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