Returning To Exercise By Briony Barry
How much has your activity changed during isolation? You may be more active, you may have been less active. You may have taken up a new activity while your normal routine is interrupted or you may have been nursing a quarantine-related injury. Whatever your circumstances may be, as the discussion shifts to relaxing restrictions we are all thinking when can I get back to my normal exercise routine?
Here is some advice to get you started!
- Ease back in. We often see a “boom- bust” pattern where we push ourselves to start with but then find we develop injuries and are back at square one. We then repeat the pattern to make up for lost time and so the cycle continues. It is much more effective and the risk of injury is far less if we start slower and build up gradually. This may be fewer sessions per week to begin with, lighter weights than we are used to, a shorter walk run or ride, or swimming less laps in the pool.
- Don’t ignore niggles. Niggles or pain during activity is your body’s way of saying something is not right. These can be an indication of something minor but should not be ignored. The mantra “no pain no gain” although motivating, is not a practical approach to injury management. Listen to your body, address concerns proactively rather than reactively and avoid a lengthy injury period. Have realistic expectations. Exercise tolerance takes time to build, and after a break from any type of activity it is normal to find that you are not at the same level you were before. This does not mean train harder and push yourself- this is when injuries occur. The best approach is to adjust your expectations and begin rebuilding back to your peak gradually. A great way to do this is by focusing on achievable short term goals rather than the long term end goal.Not only will this reduce your injury risk it will also make the activity more enjoyable.
- Respect deconditioning. Deconditioning is our body’s normal response to a decrease or change in activity. It results in our muscles and important organs like the heart working less efficiently when we are active. We need to allow our bodies time to recondition by gradually increasing a return to activity. It is also important to remember that it is not just our cardiovascular fitness that changes, our strength and overall muscle mass also declines. Including strengthening exercise in your return to activity is vital for injury prevention.
If you are unsure about the best way to return to your activity, or have developed an injury whilst in lock down, come and see one of our physiotherapists. They are experts at managing injuries and planning a return to activity.
Alternatively, use this opportunity as a time to start from scratch. Start something new like pilates, come a long to run club or join our MOVE club for added motivation.