As a physiotherapist I have been lucky to continue working over the last couple months. I have seen quite a few injuries that have resulted specifically from working and exercising at home.
We are increasingly seeing the physical impact this pandemic has put on people – those working from home and those taking up more exercise.
There are two common stories we have been seeing.
I have summarised them with “Miss Work Harder” and “Mr Run More”.
Miss Work Harder
Miss Work Harder normally works in an office in the city, working from home once a week. This would allow her to get in a couple of appointments (self-care, health, etc.). She went to the gym beside work 3x/week and did the weekly office yoga class. Her job is relatively high stress.
She has now been working from home for the last 8 weeks. Her days start at 7am and don’t often finish until after 6pm (sometimes later). They are filled with countless zoom meetings, which means that she is not getting up and moving as much as she normally would. What are now zoom meetings could have been a walk over to a colleagues desk, a phone call or coffee run/chat. The other downside to zoom meetings at home is that she no longer has to walk from one meeting to the next. She also doesn’t get the steps in that she would from walking to the ferry and office and back again.
Being stuck at home also means she can no longer go to the gym, so instead she has been getting in some ad-hoc workouts from YouTube, but it’s just not the same as her usual workouts, so they don’t happen as often. Luckily her yoga teacher is running zoom classes at the regular time, so she still has that…
8 weeks in from working from home and it’s starting to take its toll – mentally and physically. Her neck and shoulders always feel tight and heavy, her days often end with headaches and she feels best when she is able to lay down!
Mr Run More
Mr Run More, like his counterpart Miss Work Harder has been stuck at home. He has been home for the last 6 weeks. His job is not as stressful and he is only working his normal hours (8am-5pm). He also spends large chunks of his day stuck at his desk in meeting after meeting.
Working from home has afforded him extra time for his daily routine. With the time he would normally spend commuting to work he is now going for a run.
Mr Run More typically runs 2-3 times a week for 7k. Over the last 5 weeks he has started running 5-6 times a week (still doing 7k). He also does bodyweight training at home, practicing his routine 4-5 days/week.
During his last few runs he has noticed an increase in right heel pain, from the heel up into his Achilles. Initially felt after a run, he is now waking with calf and Achilles tightness and can’t make it 3k before his heel pain comes on. He has had to stop running, worried he is going to do more harm than good.
The struggle is real.
Physically and mentally.
Shifting to a “new normal” hasn’t been easy for most of us, and many are still trying to work out a new routine.
As restrictions ease, more people are starting to venture out further, and soon we will be able to socialise more, get back into the gym and maybe even go back to work. For some though, it may be many months before they get back to work.
So what now?
Key Lessons Learned from Those Working in Isolation
We need to find a new routine. A new rhythm of life. Instead of waiting for things to go back to the way they were, we need to realise that they may never, and if they do, it will be some time before we feel a sense of normalcy.
A new routine may include:
- Morning daily walks (or bike rides) as a substitute for your commute to work. This can also be a great opportunity to spend some 1:1 time with your partner or child.
- Pilates or Yoga Zoom sessions instead of your typical studio class. Find a time that works best and that may even help boost your focus and productivity. Morning, lunchtime or evening.
- Check out your local PTs who are offering 1:1 or group training outdoors.
Ask if it needs to be a zoom meeting? Never before have there been so many zoom meetings, and zoom fatigue may be setting it.
To break the monotony of the zoom after zoom, ask – can it be a phone call?
Can you talk while you walk around the house or yard?
Or even an email. Mix it up!
Clock in and clock out. Many people are working more hours than they did before, but is it because you no longer have to commute home via the bus, ferry or car? Instead you just have to walk into the next room.
Create a barrier between work life and home life (if you can). For some, workload has increased and if this is the case I would still recommend all of the above .
The 10% rule. This rule is often applied to activities such as running, whereby you increase your running distance (5k run) or volume (50k/week) by 10% each week.
For beginners this rule is too general, so if you are new to an activity aim to give yourself 24-28 hours in between sessions and keep your distance/volume consistent for 2-3 weeks before increasing. Pace yourself!
It is great that so many people are becoming more active, taking up new activities or activities given up for lack of time/motivation, but in addition to pacing oneself, it is also important to have some variety. Including some body weight training, online Yoga or Pilates sessions can benefit ones running (as opposed to running everyday 5-7 days/week).