Modification: It’s Not Cheating, It’s Safe

This week I want to talk about modifying exercises based on your ability level.

Depending on what you do for exercise you may be surrounded by people who definitely have different ability levels than you. If you are like me, coming from a less active lifestyle as of late, you are going to have to modify. I’m here to tell you that it’s ok and YOU NEED TO! No one can go from a period of little or no activity and jump into an activity at the same level as someone who has been working at it for a while.

Here are a few examples.

If you are starting a walking or running program, start at a comfortable pace that allows you to complete the activity without stopping. It is much more important to keep moving and keep your heart rate up during a cardiovascular exercise than it is to go as hard as you can all the time (which is just unreasonable if this is a new activity). As that becomes easy, increase EITHER the speed OR the distance/time. Try to avoid increasing your speed AND distance/time as that may lead to you not completing the exercise. My personal example happened during my first workout at the beginning of the week. It involved some moderate level cardiovascular/impact exercise 1 minute on, 30 seconds off. If I didn’t modify I would’ve been stopping every 10 seconds and getting less than half of the 30 plus minute workout in. It also felt better on my knees and back. These are important things to keep in mind.

If you are doing an exercise class or joining a new gym, the intimidation factor can be high and it is real.

Don’t worry about what other people think. Don’t worry about doing what your workout video is doing to a ‘T’.  If it is a good exercise video, class, or gym there should be someone to help you modify the movement. The great part about modifying is, as you get stronger and more conditioned you won’t need to modify as much and that will be a great feeling.

In the coming weeks I will be doing more posts about specific exercise modifications for specific areas of the body but for now, modify as needed. It will help you get through that workout. And remember, the decision to do a workout and finishing that workout is way more important than comparing your ability to that of others.

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By Phil Finemore, PT, DPT

Back in Motion® Physical Therapy – South Portland, Maine

Related: Best Version of Me: A Fitness and Health Journey