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5 Tips To Navigate The Fitness World In 2024

The fitness and health industry continues to grow and adapt to our needs--from wearable technology to boutique Pilates and yoga studios. We've come a long way from home-workout-VHS tapes (an era that precedes Blockbuster). With a vast pool of information from TikTok and influencers to your newspaper health section and catchy tabloids, which path do we take this new year?

Find what makes you, you.

 

It's been a grueling year for me this past year, now halfway through my physical therapy program and, to be honest, I can't wait to get back to working full-time again. Amidst the flurry of stuffing my brain with science-y need-to-knows, I've been trying to keep my two feet and two feet to the ground and stay connected to the community. What I've realized hasn't changed in talking to people about their fitness goals: there's a sea of information that comes at you from all directions and can be pushy as hell and impossible to navigate. My advice for this year: keep your elbows out in a crowded room and tread steadily towards your destination.

TL;DR: identify your goal, filter your sources to find someone who can streamline how to get there, don't get distracted by the noise.


A woman in a USA long sleeve looks on, observing athletes in training.
Douglas at work on a field, donning USA gear.

In June 2023, I spoke with Charissa Douglas (she/her), a single-mom and previous Athletic Trainer now licensed chiropractor and faculty at a chiropractic school in Southern California. She's worked with big names, including the USWNT (if you don’t already follow women’s soccer, now’s the time–catch them on Netflix) and the US Olympic Team, and has a decorated resume but identifies first and foremost as a mother.


Identify your goal, filter your sources to find someone who can streamline how to get your there, don't get distracted by the noise.

Dr. Douglas was kind enough to lend me some of her time between her work life, helping take care of a friend who had recently gotten injured, and her teaching schedule. I was initially inspired by an empowering post she had made about her strides in building her career, working with some of the most accomplished athletes, being an amazing mother, and developing a life that is so full with such powerful independence. I wanted to know what lit the fire for her, what kept her going, what she's most passionate about and what spurs that amount of strength to persevere--because nothing she is doing is easy.


She started with sports medicine and spent a lot of time working in various schools including a small DI in the SF Bay Area. Her boss at the time who took an interdisciplinary approach--bringing in an acupuncturist, physical therapist, and podiatrists who enriched the musculoskeletal approach which gave athletes a team that is geared towards best overall outcomes. Charissa's shift from sports med (as an athletic trainer) to chiropractic practice comes from her drive to be able to order imaging and diagnose when it's needed for her athletes.


As a teenager and a competitive figure skater, her dream was to become an Olympic athlete. Over time, she started to look into various career paths with nursing at the forefront.


Douglas at the Olympics.

Her friend and classmate brought athletic training (AT) to her attention--a blend of patient care, but geared towards athletes. Not only this, but the faculty that she was in contact with had worked with athletes at the Rio Olympics. Seeing someone in her life achieve this made it feel more realistic. Years later, she was the AT at the Olympics herself. Her tip to success: put yourself in situations where you connect with people and see if that resonates with you.


What is it like being there? Does that feel right for you?

Seeing someone in her life achieve this made it feel more realistic.

Working with the top athletes of the nation doesn't just mean hard work to get there. Normalcy disappears. Working at that level means working at a high level, but giving up the balance that comes with buying groceries and maintaining a regular schedule--it's living out of a suitcase most times and needing to adapt to a demanding pace.

 

So how did she balance life and work? Initially, gearing up for the Tokyo Olympics, she felt that she was putting her head down to focus and chase her dreams. She had to define what her needs and wants were. Ultimately, she found that it was a short-term sacrifice for long-term rewards. It took a lot of inner-work, therapy, and a shift at how to view life. In the long-term, it's saying no to 90-hour weeks, not traveling to get away from problems--but to build her life up further, and being present with her son, Noah, when she's off the clock.


Has she failed before?

Charissa Douglas and her son at Disneyland enjoying the day out.

Yes, absolutely. When her marriage fell apart, she felt like it was a failure. She's not one to give up. She's resilient. She felt that she couldn't provide the family her son deserved. But giving herself the grace to understand that it wasn't not her fault, helped give perspective on relationship dynamics across all aspects of her life. Self worth is now the foundation of her life. Valuing self worth has helped with decisions across life, including career decisions, that help find balance.


What's her greatest achievement?


Douglas and son dressed up!

Being a mom. Charissa sees values in her son, like how Noah treats others and extends empathy, as a measure of her success. Her son, only 3 years old, will recognize how a shoulder injury can impact someone and respond to this by giving room for them to heal or rest. Ultimately, success right now looks like the ability to impact peoples' lives and make a difference--whether it is with her students, family, friends, or patients.




 

What does this interview have anything to do with how you approach 2024?

Good health begins with figuring out who you are, is what Charissa Douglas suggests. It's a bit philosophical, but for athletes, it's important to establish an identity outside of the sport--to know that you are more than your physical performance. For each person she's encountered, there is a huge mental and emotional component that plays into physical health. I couldn't agree more.

Good health begins with figuring out who you are.

Chiropractic practices and physical therapy don't always fit hand in hand, but on all of these notes, I have to agree with Charissa. It has been a pleasure to be able to pick her brain and refreshing to hear her take on the importance of an interdisciplinary approach that allows for trial and error from the patient's standpoint, too.

 

In 2024:

  1. Identify who it is you are and intend to be. This will help set an intentional overarching goal. Are you getting healthy so you can garden for hours without aches and pain? Are you getting stronger so you can play pickleball better than all your friends and the entire retirement community? Are you training to be able to run one mile, or maybe run 26.1? Are you a dancer in 2024? A triathlete? Do you have a vision for yourself?

  2. Put the sea of info on pause (i.e., don't cave to the trends that promise results in under 2 months). Find someone credible for a place to start. That might be your trusty PT or someone a friend has recommended--ultimately, this is like the search for a good therapist, it might take a few tries but be patient.

  3. Give yourself some grace. Set short-term milestones. This can be in building small habits or accomplishing some physical task. Are you someone who wants to practice breathwork for 5 minutes every morning or work towards PRs in the weight room? Have goals set for every few weeks to check in with how you're doing.

  4. Be able to adjust. Sometimes we set our goals and then decide, "hm, not for me!" In which case, congratulations to being closer to discovering what works perfectly for you. It might mean frustratingly starting back at step 1, but know that you've at the very least been able to X out an option. If this was a multiple choice question, you're doing amazing.

  5. Don't forget your community. You'll be surprised at the lives you touch when you are able to reach back and pull someone up.


Last note? If you're looking for a good podcast, there's some that Charissa recommends: Lisa TerKeurst on healing from infidelity and book Personal Next by Melinda Harrison on helping high achieving people find the next step.

 

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Written by:

Judith Wang

Founder, Project Green Beard

UCSC Banana Slug, SMU DPT '25





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