Spring Back into the Outdoors!

Jess Douglas, DPT
Marcus Daly Rehabilitation Center and Services
A Service of Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital
1200 Westwood Drive
Hamilton, MT 59840
(406) 375-4570


Spring back into the outdoors!
After a long winter we are now seeing more of the sun again and enjoying warmer temperatures. If you have been thinking about getting back outside and returning to your normal summer exercise routine I commend you, as this transition can often be daunting. If all of your aches and pains from the busy 2015 summer have resolved, you may be transitioning from a relatively inactive winter, to the "on the go" activity level of summertime which can be a rewarding experience. If you have nagging injuries from the previous season, now is the time to focus on your health so when the nice weather hits you are feeling 100%. By following a few specific tips you can make this seasonal transition safer, easier, and increase the chance of meeting your goals.

One essential thing to remember when increasing your activity level is to know what you are working towards by setting SMART goals. Setting a SMART goal will increase the probability of success. Without a SMART goal it is easy to watch another TV show at night, stay a couple of extra hours at work, or hit the snooze button again. Before you know it the summer is over!

Here is what SMART stands for:

Specific: Vague goals are hard to meet and easy to avoid working towards.

Measureable: Put a number on it.

Attainable: The goal must be attainable or it will cause frustration and take away the reward.

Relevant: What does the goal mean to you and your values?

Time bound: By setting one or more target dates, it can increase your motivation.

Here is an example of a SMART goal for an avid hiker in the Bitterroot Valley: I want to hike Trapper Peak from the Baker Lake trailhead on August 27th 2016 in 8 hours or less.

An example of a bad goal for the same person: I want to hike more this summer.

Even if you are as athletic as Michael Jordan, you will not be as strong or have as much endurance as you did at your peak fitness level last year. Starting with shorter durations and gradually progressing time will decrease the chance of injury and failure. Using the hiking Trapper Peak goal as an example, here would be an appropriate progression:
  • Week 1-2: hiking or walking from home for 30 min/day for 3-5 days/week.
  • Week 3-5: gradually increase duration and intensity of your walks/hikes while adding challenges such as hills and uneven terrain. How you chose your progression is extremely variable depending on your goal and personal preference. The most important thing to avoid is restarting activity at the same speed and duration that you ended in last season; this is a recipe for injury or burnout before reaching your goal.
  • The next step is to alternate and progress your intensity on different days. The amount you can talk while exercising is a good measure of intensity. For fitness, most of your time will be spent exercising at an intensity that allows you to talk in partial sentences, although some of your days can be easier than others.
Match your intensity to duration, shorter days = higher intensity, longer days = lower intensity. Sticking with our Trapper Peak goal: week 1-2 walking around the neighborhood, week 3-5 integrate 2 days of canyon trails, week 6 and beyond integrate hill climbs. Each location will create a different intensity and make exercise more enjoyable. For those seeking exercise for weight loss and general health an intensity allowing conversation in full sentences is adequate to make positive physiological changes, but high intensity exercise where talking is impossible can be effective to individuals who prefer this type of exercise. The most important part of activity for fitness is the total distance or volume of activity independent of time. Talk to your healthcare provider about what intensity is best for your health and safety.
  • Last, if you want to make the most of your summer, develop a cross training program hitting the major muscle groups. This includes shoulder blades/arms, trunk, pelvis, upper and lower legs. The Bitterroot valley is a demanding environment and many people can benefit from a specific strengthening program focusing on their weakness' with biomechanically correct movement to preserve joint cartilage and decrease the chance of injury. If you have not engaged in a strengthening program appropriate for your abilities, or if you would like an updated exercise program, consider talking with a physical therapist, trainer or your primary care provider on safe options for you. A cross-training program is the keystone that can bridge the gap to a successful season.

Whether you want to climb Trapper peak, put in a new fence, or meet the physical activity guidelines for health and maintain or improve your balance following these tips can help you meet your goals. I hope to see you meeting your goals in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley!

If you are setting exercise goals but taking medications that may be impacted by exercise, join us on Thursday, March 17, 2016 from 5:30 to 7:00pm as Dianne DeCamp, PhD, PharmD and Pete Dunn, DPT, OTR/L talk about the side-effects of various medications, like statins and the value of exercise coupled when taking medication. Have fun exploring the precautions and modifications to exercise and how you can live an active, healthier lifestyle. This healthcare education class will take place at Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital in the Blodgett and Canyon View conference rooms. We look forward to seeing you there!

Questions and or comments regarding this week's health column please contact, Jess Douglas, DPT at Marcus Daly Rehabilitation Center and Services, a service of Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital, 1200 Westwood Drive, Hamilton, MT 59840. Working together to build a healthier community!
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