This is one of the more popular questions I’m asked by patients. While it may sound like a surface-level question, there is usually an undertone of concern, worry, or fear – but why? It could be that people just want to know if they are going to feel a certain way forever. Or could it be that people want to know if they will have to put forth an effort to continue feeling good?
Here is how I like to answer this question.
You may or may not know that I enjoy the sport of triathlon. Triathlons have three events – swimming, biking, and running in that order. To be competitive in the sport, you must train daily. On any given day I’m training for 1-2+ hours so I can improve my fitness and skills in these three events. It’s not easy to make the time for it, it’s not cheap, and I’m certainly not motivated every day.
The reason I do it is because I want the outcome that my daily training provides me with – high energy levels, a place on the podium, a good mood, a nice physique, good health, and a sense of camaraderie and community with the group I train with. I don’t always WANT to train each day, but I DO want all those things I just mentioned. I could stop at any moment…IF I want to lose all of that. Do you see where I’m going?
Someone who seeks our help is in a similar situation.
Ultimately, they want an outcome. Maybe they want to walk without a limp, so they aren’t judged by their friends and family, they want the strength to carry their newborn grandchild, or they want to be able to work in the garden because that’s how they manage stress and feel good about themselves.
How do you bridge the gap between a place of pain and immobility to these types of outcomes?
That could mean you need physical therapy several times per week, and in between your sessions you’re working on specific activities (exercises) that will drive your progress forward. At some point (which never comes as quickly as we want) you achieve that outcome. Does that mean you should stop doing all the things that helped get there? Will I continue to win races if I stop training?
I would argue that the habits you develop on your way to achieving the outcome is the real prize.
Just because you’re finally feeling better and able to use your body in a way you’re happy with doesn’t mean you should stop. It could mean you don’t need to do them as often or that they have to be exactly the same each day. Evolve your routine so it constantly challenges, stimulates, and progresses you. Your level of effort should match the level of activity/ mobility you want to sustain. If your desired outcomes changes, so should your routine.
I understand the commitment and discipline it takes to do something each day that you don’t always feel like doing. Hopefully this article will help you see things through a different lens and encourage you keep showing up each day!