2003-01-11 / Columnists

Eye On Physical Therapy

By Tim Rohrs

By Tim Rohrs

Happy and Healthy New Year! As a new year begins we all have hopes and aspirations to better ourselves. For most of us we focus on a physical transformation to lose weight, tone our bodies etc. Others resolve to better themselves intellectually, spiritually, or emotionally. How long do our resolutions last before they fall by the wayside? I haven’t seen any scientific studies to prove it, but I would imagine that by March our good intentions and willpower have melted away with the last trace of black snow on the sidewalk. We are soon back to our old habits of overeating, smoking and not exercising. How do our plans and dreams get side tracked? Did we actually have a plan to achieve our goals? A teacher of mine once said "When you fail to plan, you plan to fail". Maybe our plans are too involved, the goals too far out of reach. Is it realistic to expect to go from smoking 2 packs a day to none, cold turkey? Are we setting ourselves up for failure to lose 100 pounds by June? What if the goal was to reduce smoking by one cigarette a day each week? In 20 weeks you would be down to 1 pack a day. We use this method for our patients in physical therapy. For those patients that are in significant pain or have not exercised in many years, we start off with as little as 2 minutes on the treadmill. TWO Minutes on the treadmill? Are you crazy? How am I ever going to reach my goal by doing 2 minutes on the treadmill? I have had patients that came into therapy on their first visit in a wheelchair experiencing shortness of breath after walking 5 steps. They start with 2 minutes on the treadmill. Our goal is to increase by 1 minute each session. If they come in 3 times a week, they are up to 13 minutes after 4 weeks and 20 minutes by week 6. Adding 1 minute a session is surely attainable, and it adds up. If I were to tell that patient that she was going to do 20 minutes on the treadmill on her first day she would have looked at me like I was crazy and probably not come back.

A friend in the Navy related this story to me. After being assigned to a new unit, his commander assigned the group to make list of 5 things they wanted to accomplish in 1 years time. He suggested that they tape that list to the mirror so that they could look at it and read it every day. Taping the list to the mirror was not required though. After the year passed, he followed up with the group to find out how thing went. He discovered that those who taped the list to the mirror accomplished 80% of the items on the list. Those who did not tape the list accomplished less than 15% of the items on the list.

Brainwash yourself by looking at your goals every day. The longest journey begins with one step. Take baby steps in the direction you want to go. Giant leaps often hurt and sidetrack you until its time for more resolutions next New Years Day.

Timothy Rohrs, P.T. is a NYS Licensed Physical Therapist, Director Sands Point Physical Therapy and is currently working towards a clinical doctorate degree at S.U.N.Y. Stony Brook

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