We wanted to share our top tips for getting back to sport after lockdown.
Since people have started to get out more, and get back to the gym, we have seen an increase in the number of people coming into clinic with injuries because they did too much too soon.
So here are our top tips for getting back to sport after lockdown (or a period of inactivity)
1. Ease back in
This may sound obvious, but we get weaker far quicker than you’d think. In fact, 48 hours of complete rest is enough for muscles to start getting weaker. So if you haven’t done something for 6 months during lockdown, that’s plenty of time to have gotten weaker. What that means is that even after a short period of inactivity, we need to build back up slowly.
The best way to do this is to cut down the exercise you’re returning to to a level that you think should be really easy. And I mean really easy. Just going through the motions almost. Then do the same workout at the same level 3 times. If you feel ok, increase the intensity or duration by 20%. Then do that workout at the same level 3 times and then increase again. If at any point you feel like you’re getting a pain or injury, then drop it down to the previous level that you could manage. Do that 3 times, then increase again.
Following this process means your body can get used to the new activity again and you’re much less likely to get injured.
2. Don’t be fooled
Your body is very good at compensating and putting up with you doing new and difficult things. That often fools people into thinking they can get away with doing more than they can.
Often, when you go back to sport, even if you start with much too much, your body will find a way to cope. It might even do that a second time too. However, if you’re doing something too intense, your body will fail and you’ll almost certainly get an injury.
So don’t be fooled. Just because your body manages to do a workout once (just like it did before lockdown) doesn’t mean it’ll cope the next time too.
So, as we suggested in point 1, ease back in. Start with a level that feels really easy and then slowly build up. The same is true when you increase your workout. As we said above. Do it 3 times before increasing it. Often the body will let you get away with it the first time. So if you increase it each time you workout, you’ll often be fooled into doing too much too quickly, and get injured.
A lot of people have let their nutrition and hydration slip over lockdown. A poorly nourished or dehydrated body is more at risk of injury than one that is well hydrated and well nourished.
You don’t have to be eating perfectly by any means. But getting your minerals and vitamins through your diet and drinking plenty of water, does reduce the likelihood of injury. Particularly with more endurance activities, like running and cycling, it’s really important that you’re keeping well fuelled for the exercise and well hydrated.
A lot is made of stretching to prevent injuries. There’s evidence to suggest that it has a huge impact, and some that shows less of an impact. However, with the strange reality of lockdown meaning that a lot of us have spent more time sitting than ever, certain things will likely to have tightened more than ever. So it’s important to work on getting these at least as mobile as they were pre-lockdown, or you’ll be at greater risk of injury.
The key things to work on if you’ve been sat down for long periods are your hamstrings and hip flexors. They tend to get tight as they’re shortened when we’re sitting. If they have got tight, they’re more likely to give pain. So, even if you don’t stretch anything else, stretch them. If you’re not sure how, email Andy at email@example.com and he’ll be happy to help you.
The other thing to stretch is the middle of your back. There has been a lot of hunching over laptops going on, and so stretching backwards is really important. The best way is to sit on a medium backed chair and simply lean back over the backrest. Again, if you want more advice, get in touch.
5. Don’t beat yourself up
When you’ve not done something for a while, it’s easy to get frustrated that you’re not as fit, or as fast as you used to be. This can ruin the enjoyment of the activity, or force you to push yourself too hard. So be kind to yourself. Accept that if you haven’t done something for a while, you won’t be as good at it as you were. Enjoy the process of getting back into it.
6. Be consistent
When you’re trying to get back into the habit of something, consistency is key. The rule of 2 for habit building says: Never skip 2 days in a row. So if you’re trying to get back into a daily habit, never skip more than 1 day. This also works for things you’re trying to do less frequently. If you’re wanting to run once per week for example. Never go 2 weeks without doing your run. Be consistent, and you’ll build a habit.
The other benefit of consistency is reduced likelihood of injury. Your body has a chance to adapt to what you’re wanting it to do. It has a chance to strengthen, and so it’s much more likely to cope with the new activity (or the return to activity) without getting injured.
More help is available
We’re here to help people do the things they want to do. Lockdown has stopped that, and now people are struggling to get back to the things they love, because they’re getting injured. So, follow these steps and you’re more likely to be able to stick to your new activity. However, if you need more specific help and guidance on returning to normal activity, then get in touch. Either email firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, or book a free online assessment with a Physio here