The new year is a great time to set some intentions and goals for the year ahead. “Exercise more” is often top of people’s list of resolutions. Plans to get more active, improve your fitness and overall health are fantastic goals. However, a lot of people start the new year sprinting out of the blocks, only to find themselves running into problems that either slows their progress or requires them to stop completely. Very quickly, positive new-year gusto turns to disappointed frustration as resolutions are shelved for another year.


Here are some of my top tips on how to approach your fitness goals for 2023.

1 Be realistic: Goal setting is important to help motivate and challenge yourself. It can be helpful to have a clear goal. Do you want to get fitter? Would you like to tone up or run a marathon? Goals can help you gauge your progress and keep you on track. However, it is important to be realistic when it comes to your goals. If you have something big you would like to achieve, it can help to break it into smaller parts. Then you can work towards your long-term goal gradually. For example, if you would like to run a marathon and have very little running experience, set a goal to run 5km in two or three months. This is more realistic. Once you have achieved this, then aim to work up to 10km and so forth.

2 Pace yourself: Most exercise or sports-related injuries occur by doing too much too quickly. A sudden increase in activity or starting too strong can result in developing overuse injuries. Stress fractures (bone), bursitis and tendinopathy are some of the most common overuse injuries. They can be caused by a sudden increase in exercise, so start the new year off smart. Aim to gradually start or increase your exercise goals, slowly building time and difficulty to help avoid sustaining an overuse injury. Give yourself time to reach your goals and be patient with yourself.

Physiotherapist and health writer Stephen O'Rourke

3 Planning is key. Starting a fitness or exercise plan is great. It is easy to say: “I will exercise everyday”. However, in reality, it is much harder and you need to have a plan. It is important to create a balanced routine. A combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity, combined with some strength training is what is recommended weekly.

Finding the time to exercise is often people’s biggest challenge. Schedule or plan exercise time like an appointment. This will help you to carve out dedicated weekly exercise time. Use the calendar on your phone and reminders. Building exercise into your daily routine can also make it easier. Watch your favourite TV series in the gym on the treadmill, begin cycling to work or take an active lunch break and get out for a walk.

4 Have fun. Variety is the spice of life. There are lots of different options when it comes to exercise and fitness. Variety is a great way of keeping boredom at bay as the year progresses. Also, alternating between activities can help you focus on working different parts of your body. There are lots of fun ways to exercise more and increase your activity levels. Classes are a great way to do this. Dance, Pilates, yoga, tai chi, Zumba, aqua aerobics, boxercise are just a few of the options often offered at local gyms or fitness centres. Grab a friend and try something new. You can make it a weekly date, leaning on each other for motivation while enjoying yourselves.

5 Rest and recovery. Many people start the new year with a bang, hitting their goals hard. This often-frenzied zeal, too much too soon too intensely, can lead to injury and burnout. Allow your body time between sessions to rest and recover. Aim for two to three rest days per week. You will perform better with the addition of rest days in your fitness plan. Rest days help to reduce muscular fatigue and allows your body time to replenish stores and prepare for the next workout. It is also important to listen to your body and give yourself a day off or break when needed.

We can achieve anything we set our minds to. Be smart and determined, but if you fall off course don’t be too hard on yourself. Take out your plan, reimagine it and get back on track.

Read more

Farmer physio: the age defying effects of exercise

Physio for Farmers: myths about back pain