Life Well Lived: Find your fit in 2018

Life Well Lived: Find your fit in 2018
Running is an excellent cardiovascular workout, but works best when interspersed with strength workouts (Courtesy Photo)

By Heidi Austin

Heidi Austin (Courtesy Photo)

It’s 2018 and it’s time to set some new goals and potentially try new ways to exercise.

Every new program, however, comes with precautions. As an orthopedic physical therapist, I can share things to look out for when starting a new fitness program, review common types of exercises and share the benefits and precautions of each to keep you injury free in 2018.

Before starting a new exercise program, you should be cleared by your doctor, especially if you have any cardiac risk factors or pre-existing orthopedic issues.

Remember to start slow, to take your time and to listen to your body.
There is no shortage of exercise options. The great news is that, in then end, most exercise programs done with consistency will lead to positive results. The challenge is often finding the one that is the right fit for you.

Exercise should be fun and enjoyable. Let’s find the one that best fits you.


Running is a great cardiovascular exercise. Throw your shoes on and explore the endless trails available in Alexandria and Del Ray. 

Frequent runs will reliably provide that “runner’s high” and keep you coming back for more.

Watch out for: While running is a great cardio activity, a routine that consists only of running neglects strength development because of running’s single plane, repetitive movement.

The key is to switch up your workouts to keep the body challenged. Try a recovery day, speed day and a long day. Although a run may often feel like a good enough workout on its own, do not neglect your strength training. It is vital to do a core and glute strength program two times a week or simply add some pilates classes to your routine to keep you fit.

The Right Fit: Running may be right for you if you enjoy the outdoors, like your exercise simple and if you like goal setting and racing. All you need is to lace up and go.


CrossFit is a high intensity exercise that combines constantly varied body weight movements, weightlifting, gymnastics, running and rowing. Due to the constantly varied nature of the workouts, your body is continuously challenged. There is no adapting to these workouts.

The aim of the “box” (CrossFit for “gym”) is to create a community feel. The friendships you forge can keep you more accountable and help you work consistently toward your fitness goals.

Watch out for: CrossFit is an excellent exercise to get you in shape and may help you achieve washboard abs, if desired. However, the risk for injury is high if any of the complex movements are done incorrectly.

Research your box and research your coach. Find out how long they been coaching and review their educational background.
Read the reviews. Try a class. How well were you coached?
The coaches should focus on proficiency, consistency and intensity – in that order.

The Right Fit: If you like workouts that are short and intense with a community feel, CrossFit may be the right fit for you. With the increased popularity of CrossFit, there are boxes in most neighborhoods and several options in the Alexandria area.


Yoga is a great way to calm the central nervous system and to work on your underlying flexibility deficits while learning how to
breathe properly. Depending on the style you choose, the benefits are endless.

Watch out for: While yoga is great for breathing, flexibility and some strength, sometimes too much stretching can create hypermobility. Hypermobility is when a joint becomes unstable because of excessive flexibility and potentially damages the joint and surrounding ligaments.

Simply add a pilates class to your yoga regiment to add some strength and stability. There are several styles of yoga including Bikram, Vinyasa, and Power to fit your personality and goals.

The Right Fit: Are you in need of some stress relief from your fast paced lifestyle and in need of some serious mobility work? Try some yoga!


Pilates is an exercise program that was developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates. Pilates can improve flexibility, strength, motor control and endurance.

A lot of emphasis is placed on proper core and glute activation along with full-body coordination and balance. There are several types of pilates including mat, reformer and Barre classes.

Watch out for: The risk of injury in pilates is low, despite the precise and complex movements. I rarely see patients with an injury from pilates.

The Right Fit: Most athletes and weekend warriors can use a pilates tune up. Pilates is also very popular with individuals who have a dance background.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

This type of exercise focuses on bursts of all-out activity with short rest periods. HIIT aims to keep your heart rate up, which can lead to a great combination of fat burning and strength building. There are several types of HIIT, including Orangetheory Fitness in Alexandria.

Watch out for: Like CrossFit, attempting high intensity workouts without first learning the proper way to perform movements can put you at more risk for injury. Make consistency your goal and don’t try to achieve all of your fitness goals by Valentine’s Day.

The Right Fit: If you like to work up a good sweat and would rather do more body weight type exercises and heart rate training, HIIT training may be the right fit for you.

No matter what program you choose, remember diet accounts for an even larger portion of your fitness than exercise. As the saying goes, “You can’t out-work a bad diet.” You will get the best bang for your buck if you focus on diet and exercise together.

Look for a gym and a support network that provides an environment that keeps you working out consistently and eating well.
As you can see, virtually all exercise is beneficial in the end. Find what you enjoy, do it consistently and you will find success. Good luck with your new fitness adventures in 2018.

Heidi Austin, PT, DPT, is a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy and a member of Well Ray, a consortium of wellness professionals. She is an avid triathlete and CrossFitter.