After a long road of quarantine during the Coronavirus pandemic, we are seeing restrictions ease in Australia more and more. The perks of our social distancing cooperation has not only resulted in lives saved, but a quicker road back to “normal”. Having twenty people over to your home, your neighbourhood pub re-opening, and finally – the re-opening of our beloved gyms. For many, this means packing away your makeshift gym equipment, closing your YouTube video tabs and heading out to your preferred training grounds. After a long COVID-19 break, we don’t want to put ourselves at risk of injury. Being smart about your return to gym plan means that we decrease risk of injury and ensure a smooth transition back to fitness post COVID. Although a return to training injury isn’t a definite, if it’s something we can avoid, let’s do it!
Maybe you continued exercise during isolation, maybe you used isolation as time to rest your body, either way, heading back to the gym opens you up for potential injury if you’re not cautious. That’s where we at Coast Sport come in, if you’re looking for a personalised return to gym care plan from one of our physios, contact us today!
In the meantime, here are five tips to help you stay injury free while gyms re-open:
Let’s get the least exciting tip out of the way first. We all know we should do some form of a specific warm up before we start our gym sessions. To enhance the effectiveness of our warmup we need to make sure its specific to our session goal. Therefore, a short group of mobility and muscle activation exercises should be used to help prime the body to be ready for what you’re about to do. Most exercise requires movement of your hips, therefor your hips are always a good area to begin your warm up. Have a look at our hip warm up and activation exercises HERE.
Unless you were one of the lucky ones during quarantine, most of us did not have the plethora of available weights and equipment you may find at your local gym. As hard as it may be, we recommend easing back into your first few sessions weight free. Evaluate what your workout plan was prior to COVID, now begin at 50% of that. Abrupt increase of workout intensity cab result in those sports related injuries. This becomes particularly relevant to weight-based training.which means we need to be smart when it comes to lifting, don’t over do it.
Be smart with your weight-based progressions based on what you have done in the last few months. Now this will completely vary from person to person. For example, if you have only been doing body weight squats at home, do not jump straight back into 60kg barbell squats. Slow controlled exercises with a lighter weight kettlebell is a good place to start. Start small and build up your routine. We recommend using a reps in reserve method as a simple way to progress. If you are confident you can do more than three good form reps, up the weight you are lifting. In the example of the squat, progress it by 5-10kg. For something like a bicep curl this could be only 1-2kg. Just remember to leave your ego at home and start with what’s realistic and achievable. When you feel you have worked your way up to 100% capacity again, you’re ready to review How to Progressively Increase Your Weight Load.
This ties in with the previous tip. Remember – start small and build up your routine. However, this recommendation revolves more around training dosage which means don’t do too much too soon. This refers to not only how many days you’re frequenting the gym to start but also how many sets and exercises you do. If you were someone who was training five days at the gym pre COVID but only twice during isolation…. start with two days back to gym and work your way up. From there, you can then build the days by one to two per week. Ideally start of with a rest day in between to give your body the opportunity to recovery. Allowing yourself rest days will get you back to your longterm routine goal, much quicker.
This becomes particularly paramount to those out there that have not had access to extensive gym equipment. For most, it may have been a while since you’ve barbell squatted, overhead pressed or deadlifted. To help prime and retrain the exercise, start off with low resistance as a way of retraining the movement. Once you’re confident, build up your resistance. You do not have to count the lighter loads as working sets so it’s a great way to prep your body for the movement pattern you are about to perform.
With a new training stimulus, will come new challenge, particularly pertaining to fatigue related muscle pain and physical exhaustion. Do not be disheartened by this as it’s common, particularly for the first few weeks as our muscles adapt. To help offset this muscle fatigue, make sure to employ appropriate strategies to assist recovery and facilitate muscle adaptation. We like to recommend eating well, consuming mass amounts of water, and trying to establish appropriate sleep patterns. Foam rolling is also a great way to help reduce associated muscle tension.
So there you have it, our five top tips to help get you ease back into the gym. If you’re looking at getting back into the gym or want more structure around a personalised strength and conditioning based program, one of our physiotherapists would be happy to help! Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at Coast Sport.
Written by Physiotherapist: John Donnelly