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Keep Progressing, Even on Vacation

Your physical therapy and movement progress don't have to stop because you go on vacation!

I love traveling, and so do many of my patients. Traveling allows us to discover new places, connect with new or old friends, learn new things, and provide a much-needed reset to our daily routines, which can get a little stressful or mundane.

But traveling while trying to improve your strength, recover from injury, or achieve a new fitness goal can present some challenges. When I worked in the clinic, patients who took vacations also tended to take break from their physical therapy. Progress would slow or stop, and sometimes they would even backslide. Vacations usually meant we were starting over again, and I didn’t necessarily blame them because I knew their time away was value-added in other ways. The problem was that their consistency was based on their weekly therapy attendance (those 1-3 clinic visits per week). We both knew their home program compliance was questionable—both doing the exercises and doing them correctly. So we had developed a relationship where recovery required showing up, and “showing up” meant showing up physically.

Then I started working with people online and learned that “showing up” actually meant being accountable. It meant doing the work required to get your body stronger, get your body out of a pain cycle, and get your body to do the things you want from it to carry you through life. “Showing up” didn’t mean being in a clinic on a particular day of the week. We can show up from wherever we are. We can and should, but that doesn’t mean we always do.

Recovery and strength/flexibility gains don’t come from working on something once a week—they don’t come quickly, anyway. These gains come from being consistent. They come from putting in a little time most days of the week and then recommitting the next week and the one after. But don’t look at that work as getting in the way of your life. Look at that work as adding to your life—allowing you to live the kind of life you want.

When I switched to working with patients virtually and online, I chose to make that accountability piece as easy as possible—to set up the system with video instead of paper exercises, to limit exercises to 3-4 per day, and to add a feature where patients check off the exercises as they go, so both of us will know what they have or haven’t done. I chose those ways because it makes doing physical therapy easier, but my way isn’t the only way. And people can find improvement in various settings as long as the work they’re putting in is being put in consistently.

So the next time you’re on vacation, have a plan. Think:

  • What equipment do I need to bring to do my exercises?

  • What time of the day am I most likely to get my exercises done?

  • Is there any way I can rope my friends and family into this so I don’t miss out on group time?

And even more important, think, “Why am I doing these things in the first place?” Hopefully, your answer of “to get stronger,” “ to be less painful,” or “to live my life better” will be motivation enough to want to put in the work.

So the next time you’re in Cancun, Paris, or even the family cabin, take those few minutes out of your day to give something to your body—because you ask an awful lot from it.

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