Melbourne, we made it through six months of lockdown, using our home gyms (or the corner of our lounge), Zoom exercise classes and Youtube workout videos on repeat – and that’s if we had time between homeschooling our kids, trying to adjust to working from home, and trying to get basic groceries.
Now that our gyms and leisure centres are re-opening, and exercising outdoors is an option again, many of us are starting to pick up our exercise routines again, with many aiming to get back on track for summer – whatever that means after the year we’ve all had!
Already, we’re seeing a higher-than-normal number of overuse injuries coming into the clinic with one common cause: going too hard too fast when getting back into exercising, without acknowledging that we’ve been working out very differently for the past six months, and need to ease back into it to prevent pains and injuries.
So today, our podiatrists here at Sole Motion in Point Cook are sharing how to return back into exercise safely after lockdown.
Speaking to our patients about what the last six months have looked like, it’s likely that your exercise routine will have been shorter, less intense and maybe less frequent than if you had a trainer pushing you at the gym or had that pressure to keep up with others in your classes. Studies in different countries that looked at Fitbit and other data showed that physical activity decreased anywhere between 5% to 57%.
If you had weights at home, they would have likely been limited in their sizing, giving you only a few options to choose from, and reducing your ability to gradually push yourself into new weight ranges. The exercises that many have reported doing have been more repetitive than usual, reducing variety and hence the numbers of muscles engaged regularly. There’s been no one to correct your posture either, so you may have picked up some less-than-ideal habits that have been affecting the effectiveness of your workouts, too.
The biggest things to stay mindful of is that your fitness capacity and strength capacity is likely to have decreased. And probably quite significantly. So what does that mean for when we return to exercising?
You know all the weights, distances or speeds you could do comfortably back in February? Forget them completely. They are no longer your benchmark. You need to set new baselines that you can complete comfortably in your first few workouts, and work back up slowly and gradually from there.
Starting back at your previous benchmarks is literally the key ingredient to the recipe for pain and injury this summer. Don’t compare yourself against others – we’re all on the same journey, experiencing the same challenges. Take it easy and work back up slowly, aiming to not increase your output by more than 15% per week.
You’ve had no one supervising or correcting your technique for a long time, so it’s likely you’ve picked up some bad habits that you’re not even aware of. As you get back to your routine, get your trainer or workout buddies to keep an eye on your technique and correct you if something’s not right. Where possible, use a mirror to examine your own technique and make corrections. You’ll want to do this for the first few weeks as your body gets back into routine and re-solidifies those good habits. If you were planning on booking a session with your PT, run through all the movements and gym equipment with them and listen to their feedback.
Most of our patients admit to at least one of the following: their strength has reduced, their flexibility has plummeted, they’ve put on weight, they get tired and exhausted far more easily. For many, it’s all four – and it’s completely normal under the circumstances.
This means you’re going to have to manage your expectations. Planned a 5k run but can only manage 2k? That’s absolutely fine – and normal. Your body is your best form of feedback – it is designed to tell you when something is wrong, or too much. So listen to your body and use it to manage your expectations. Don’t push yourself past what feels comfortable. You can feel exhausted – but you should never feel pain or discomfort. If you’re getting any pain or aches, stop immediately.
It’s not just your body that may be having a hard time, either. Many have been finding mental motivation just as challenging. Don’t beat yourself up over it – just like how your body will take time to get back into routine, so will your mind. If you’re really struggling, try some new fun activities like swimming or aerobics.
Even if you’ve maintained fantastic exercise habits during lockdown, you’ll still need to retrain for sports by actively practising your sports-specific movements. This depends on the sports you play but often this involves rapid stops and starts and quick changes in direction – which involves good ankle strength and balance. Start introducing your sports-specific training back into your routine, and like with everything else, start slow and work back into it. No one expects you to smash it on the field during week one – we promise. All of your teammates are in the exact same boat, so take it easy and stay safe.
You’re sitting on the couch, bare feet, and then you stand up, put your workout video on the big screen, and get started. After the video is finished, you go to the kitchen for a drink of water and maybe a snack, and sit back down on the couch – or go back to your desk and keep working. Sound familiar?
We don’t blame you – we’re guilty too! But now it’s time to get back to the good habits. This means having a proper warm-up and stretching, practising active and passive recovery effectively to maximise your gains and performance at your next session, fueling your body well, staying hydrated, having the right gear – and everything else.
Instead of defining success by the weight you can pump, define it by your ability to stay pain and injury-free long enough to rebuild your fitness and strength. One way we’ve been helping our patients return to exercise safely is by having injury prevention screenings.
These screenings involve a comprehensive biomechanical assessment that examines the structure, function, strength and flexibility of your feet legs, as well as a video gait analysis and an assessment of your footwear. From here, we’ll identify your risks and vulnerabilities in the context of the sports you play and the kind of training you do, and put the right prevention measures in place to help reduce your risk of injury risk and keep you going throughout the summer.
You can book your biomechanical appointments online here.
According to research, the COVID-19 lockdown has not only affected us physically but has had detrimental effects on our mental health, wellbeing, mood, sleep, cognition, immune systems, metabolic systems and more.
With exercise as a cornerstone for many of us to promote our overall health and well-being, the last thing we need is pain or injury holding us back. If you’re currently experiencing any pain or niggles, or want to prevent them before they start, our team would love to help.