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Feel Like a Beached Whale? It’s Time for a Post-Holiday Reset!



Welcome to Resolution Season!

The Insider:

Well, we have officially entered the Resolution Season. I bet some people end up in a physical therapist’s office when they decide suddenly to become Olympians at the beginning of the New Year.

Andrea Kwok:

Yes, it does happen! Especially after a month or more on the couch

The Insider:

That’s so true! We become lazy bums in December, eating our way through the holidays and skipping our exercise! Do you have thoughts about how people can reverse all the damage they did in December to their waistlines?

Andrea Kwok:

Yes, and luckily the effects of indulging for one month should not be too drastic. I think that’s important to remember. It’s more that the habits we started to form during the holiday season need to be checked after all the celebrations have quieted down.

The Insider:

Do you have advice about how to put the brakes on after a month-long pig-out?

Andrea Kwok:

Sure! Firstly, mindset matters. It’s much less daunting to think of January as a chance to reset, rather than reinvent. So many lofty resolutions are abandoned after a few weeks because they were too ambitious, or they don’t seem to be producing dramatic results very quickly. Setting small, action-focused goals (as opposed to results-based goals) help us stay on track because it is easy to recognize when we are achieving them.

The Insider:

I like that! Reset—it sounds more manageable. What would be a good example of that?

Andrea Kwok:

Instead of saying, “I will lose 5 pounds this month,” a better goal would be, “I will have a piece of fruit instead of my usual two cookies for five out of seven days each week.”

The Insider:

Moderation!

Andrea Kwok:

This is better for a few reasons. One is that it actually sets a small goal for each day of the week. Every time you make the healthy swap, you register that you are on your way to meeting the weekly goal. Second, it avoids the difficult to achieve “negative” goal. Which would be more along the lines of “I won’t eat cookies this month.” Trying to not do something is much harder than trying to do something. These same principles apply for physical activity goals as well.

The Insider:

In what way?

Andrea Kwok:

Setting small daily or weekly goals for physical activity is much more likely to build a lasting habit than trying to push yourself to the limit to “undo” the holiday damage. First, that can be dangerous and lead to injury. Second, it will likely make you too sore or tired to continue on your healthy reset journey, and you may revert back to old patterns.

Exercise does not need to be torture! I think we often forget that. Daily walks or swapping the elevator for stairs are a great starting point.

The Insider:

How can a reformed couch potato judge how much exercise is too much?

Andrea Kwok:

The simplest and most intuitive answer is pain. If it hurts, it’s probably too much. Or maybe not the right activity. Some mild muscle soreness or fatigue after a workout is normal. But if it lasts more than two days, or if the pain is sharp and in any joints, this is not a normal response to exercise.

The Insider:

And that can even come from overdoing walking?

Andrea Kwok:

It can. Any rapid increase in physical activity from your usual routine has the potential to cause discomfort.

The Insider:

Is that especially true if your resolution is to take up an entirely new sport?

Andrea Kwok:

Yes, not only might you be increasing your overall activity levels, but you are also probably introducing new movement patterns, which means your muscles will be working in ways you aren’t used to. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but best to do with caution or under supervision

The Insider:

I’m curious if you’ve ever had a patient who hurt himself or herself by suddenly become an obsessed exerciser.

Andrea Kwok:

Certainly, and it can happen to people of all ages and fitness levels. If you take up an activity with a demand that far exceeds your current level of conditioning, you risk injury, no matter who you are. Recovery can be faster in younger populations, but they also tend to be the bigger risk takers.

The Insider:

It’s interesting to realize that the resolution habit can be a recipe for disaster if it’s taken too far.

Andrea Kwok:

Yes, we tend to have a “more is more” mindset, but this approach is not always best.

I certainly don’t want to discourage anyone from starting new activities or setting bigger goals. It’s great to challenge yourself and try new things! It’s just important to set goals that are realistic in the time frame you’ve selected, and also to seek appropriate guidance for things that you are very unfamiliar with. That can be in regard to nutrition or physical activity. This is meant as a gentle reminder that not every resolution has to be a big-ticket item. Small steps still get you places!

The Insider:

One last question—do you make resolutions?

Andrea Kwok:

Funny enough, usually very small ones! Drinking more water, going to bed by a certain time. And maybe one professional goal for the year. But I don’t typically wait for the start of the new year to start working on things.

The Insider:

Walking the walk! I take my journalistic hat off to you! Many thanks for your wise suggestions.

Andrea Kwok:

My pleasure! Wishing you and your readers health and happiness in the New Year!


 

Andrea Kwok is the Clinical Director of SPEAR’s West 67th Street location. Andrea earned her Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Delaware. During her time there, she completed a graduate assistantship in the Physical Therapy administrative office and served as class secretary. Prior to her graduate studies, Andrea graduated summa cum laude from Rutgers University with a major in exercise science and a minor in Spanish. Andrea was a founding member of the Rutgers club gymnastics team, where she served as team treasurer.


In her professional career, Andrea has experience working with a wide range of orthopedic conditions, inclusive of sports injuries, mechanical pain, neurological pain, and post-operative rehabilitation. She pursues continuing education with a manual focus, intent on refining her ability to address joint, neurodynamic, and soft tissue dysfunction. Andrea is a large proponent of injury prevention and has participated in movement screenings for high school athletes, active adults, and local residents in the community. She is committed to restoring patient strength and function through targeted exercise and movement training.

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