Getting ‘Back’ Into Summer Shape

Authored by: Thao Allen

When you think of summer — you think of being active. Heading to the beach. Swimming. Spending lots of time outside. But getting in summer shape means getting your back ready too for all the exercise and activities we do outside in the summer including outdoor exercise, lugging things to the beach, traveling longer distances for car trips, and more. So let’s review how to set health and wellness goals this summer that support your overall wellness AND your back health.

Do a mid-year check on your New Year’s Resolution

Data shows that 74 percent of the population sets lifestyle changes like New Year’s Resolutions but we all know that the January rush at the gym starts to thin by February and is long forgotten by this point in the year. So as you revisit your fitness goals mid-year, you want to think about what is practical and reasonable in making changes in your life.

Reaching for the stars is great but usually not sustainable. Instead, make small adjustments to your habits to evolve yourself. It can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Use an activity tracker to give you feedback so you can set a benchmark on your steps or exercise. Parking further from a grocery store rather than trying to get a close spot. Spend more time with your kids or dog by going out for walks instead of parking in front of the TV.

You need to decide where to put in the time when there is never enough time. If you work normal daytime hours, then decide if you can wake up early or wait until the evening to exercise.

Consult these 5 tips to keep your health in check this summer and avoid the risk of back pain or other health complications.

1. Get an accountability partner

My husband and I are full-time healthcare providers with 2 kids under 5 years old. Between our careers, our evening routine, and the kids’ activities, we have to hold each other accountable. We see in our patients what a lack of a healthy lifestyle can do. We want to grow old together- healthy and happy. We also want to be good examples for our sons of what it’s like to prioritize health and wellness!

2. Build-in breaks

Often people push it too far, hurt their back or neck, and they back off and are afraid to do certain exercises after that. So what’s the best way to start, re-start, or re-commit to a summer fitness regimen from a spinal health perspective?

This is something I share with my patients all the time. I keep an exercise mat in my bedroom and in our living room. I have a Tabata timer on my phone. It’s a free app that can be used as a timer for exercise. It is set for 20 seconds of exercise and 10 seconds of rest. But you can set it for any range of time you like.

3. Be consistent

If you’ve struggled with neck or back pain in the past, you have likely been to physical therapy and learned basic core exercises. Pick 4–5 and do them every day — plank, dead bug, bird-dog, side plank, hollow holds, bear crawl. Start with simple bodyweight exercises and do them every day; twice a day even. Commit minutes to yourself and it will be validating. From there, you can add more time. There are so many resources out there from your physical therapist, YouTube, and online apps or memberships. Find what works for you and gives you joy.

4. Focus on stretching, exercise, and nutrition

It is known that your body and mind run better and feels better depending on what you put in them. It’s also important to note that as we get older our metabolism slows down. People try to eat very little but see no results. Nutrition and physical activity go hand in hand as we age. Eating fewer starches and carbs, more lean protein, and healthy fruit and vegetables needs to be a consistent diet.

Also, commit to exercising and you will see and feel the results. You need to build muscle to burn fat. You need to walk long enough or commit to strength training. Then, you can allow yourself to indulge in things that you enjoy.

Most of us love food. I am a foodie! Food gives me joy. But you need self-discipline and to enjoy it in moderation. If you want Italian, eat a salad, then half the entree; save the rest for later. If you want dessert, split it with someone. You need to put in the work before you can benefit from the reward.

5. Set a summer goal

Personally, I never committed myself to exercise until I started having children. Wanting to lose my pregnancy weight and focusing on my mental health became a priority. I started doing more strength training exercises this year and I feel it’s paid off. I see and feel the results and it’s addicting and rewarding.

I am also a happier human being for myself, my husband, and my children. My goal this summer is simply to stick to it. Maintaining my motivation and commitment is my ongoing goal. No matter if I have surgery or clinic all day, evening classes for the kids, or date night with my husband, I’ve prioritized 5:00 AM or 9:00 PM.

Committing that time for myself is a key part of my successful summer and I trust it can be part of yours too.

Thao Allen, PA-C is a surgical Physician Assistant at the Virginia Spine Institute, where she’s been part of the team since 2010. 

Topics covered

About the Author

Featured Resources

Insights to Achieve a Pain-Free Life

Join the Patients We’ve Helped on the Road to Recovery