In less than a week we will see the state start to re-open.
This means gyms can re-open and for many that equates to a big shift or change in their exercise routine.
Some of us have kept active over the last 3 months. Some of us have not.
Your training may have included park sessions or Zoom classes. You may have taken up running (or running more) or walking. Maybe you just did your own thing at home.
With gyms about to open up there is going to be a mad dash to get back to normal exercise routines.
All of the above and then some.
But before you jump back into it we wanted to highlight how to be safe and smart about your getting back to the gym exercise.
If you haven’t been to a gym in over 3 months, start off slow. Start light. It should not be a race to get back to where you were in the shortest time possible.
If you used to train 5-6 days a week in the gym and have been doing a fraction of that, start off where you are and build back up gradually.
If you haven’t been training, start off with 2 sessions your first week. See how you recover so that you can tweak your upcoming sessions as needed. Then try adding more sessions each week as aligned with your goals.
If you haven’t been lifting heavy weights, start off light, ensuring you can perform quality repetitions. Lifting lighter weights for 8-12 repetitions to start, build up your repetitions towards 15. Establish a good level of endurance and then start to increase your weight. For strength, 6 repetitions at a higher load is a great place to start.
Remember to always work at your level. Your level will vary day to day. Some days that might allow you to go hard and heavy. And on others, you may want to go light and easy. Listen to your body.
Warm up before you exercise.
Warming up is essential for all, regardless of your exercise level. And something not to be neglected as you get back to the gym.
Key reasons to warm up include:
- Increases blood flow to your working muscles
- Readies your body and mind for exercise
- Increases flexibility
- Increases coordination
- Increase muscle elasticity and reduces tension in your muscles
- Lubricate your joints
- Boosts metabolism
- Activates your core muscles
For those training at a higher level and intensity your warm-up is even more important to assist with your performance and to help prevent injury.
Ideally your warm-up should be low intensity, with full body movements. Your warm-up may include a light jog or light cycle and some mobility work (to open and loosen shoulders, wrists and hips) or whole body movements (e.g. body weight squats, push-ups).
Proper hydration is important for a number of reasons.
Adequate fluid intake helps maintain blood volume, regulate body temperature and allow muscle contractions.
You often lose water faster than you can replenish it during exercise.
Thus it is essential to drink water during (and after) exercise to help replenish the fluids lost in sweat. This helps reduce heat stress risk, maintain normal muscle function and prevents performance fatigue due to dehydration.
Check your diet.
When dealing with injured clients a common issue they share is increased weight gain. This often comes due to not adjusting their diet as their activity level changes when injured (most often decreases and for some quite significantly).
On the flip side, if you are getting back to more exercise (or more intense exercise) ensure that you are getting enough calories in.
Depending on the type and intensity of exercise you want to ensure you are getting a good balance of your macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) to fuel your body for exercise.
Give yourself time to cool down.
Cooling down at the end of the is more often skipped than the warm-up. While a proper cooldown can assist in the prevention of injury, it is more important in assisting your recovery from exercise.
Benefits of cooling down:
- Return body to baseline (homeostasis)
- Allows your heart rate and blood pressure to return to normal
- Slows your breathing
- Prevents muscle soreness by flushing lactic acid from the working muscles
- Prevents blood from pooling in lower extremity/legs
A good cool down will include up to 10 minutes to slow gentle movements and stretching of the muscles worked. Hold stretches anywhere from 15 seconds to a minute, performing 1-3 repetitions.
Getting back to the gym should feel good, and ensuring you cool down properly will aid in your recovery before your next session!
Ensure that you give yourself plenty of time to recover between sessions. This means getting enough sleep – it is recommended adults get 7-9 hours per night and even more for adolescents.
As mentioned above, pacing your workouts may mean giving yourself 24-48 hours between sessions. This should allow for any post-workout muscle soreness to settle.
You may notice that as you get back into gym training you feel more tired – this is a normal response as your body adapts to your new routine.
It is while you sleep or rest that your soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments) get stronger from the stress and load you put on them during your workouts. As we get older, it often takes longer to recover from resistance training (and other forms of exercise), so give your body the time it needs to to recover so that you can come back stronger for your next session.
Not sure where you are at or where to start? Want to avoid injury? Or just in need of some guidance?
For some, getting back to the gym can feel overwhelming!
Our Physiotherapy team is here to assist you in achieving your goals in a safe, smart and effective way.
Get in touch or book online.
Now that we have summarised the 7 key things to be aware of as you get back into the gym, it’s also important to be mindful of the key principles of training to get the most out of your exercise.
These principles are not only important for resistance training but should also be applied to all forms of exercise (e.g. running, walking, swimming, etc).
Top 3 Principles:
The Principle of Overload
To see and feel changes and adaptations occur you must overload your body.
This should be in line with your capacity and your ability to cope with that load.
How much can you lift?
How fast or how far can you run?
You will improve by doing more, but relative to what you have been doing.
Add more weight. Do more repetitions. Run longer. Run further.
The Principle of Progression
To keep seeing changes, you must progressively overload your body. You will continue to see improvements by doing a bit more each session, each week, etc.
Building on the principle of overload, you want to continually be challenging yourself with increases in load, intensity and volume (e.g. weights, repetitions, sets, speed, duration).
The Principle of Reversibility
At this time one of the most important principles to consider is that not having exercised to the same level over the last 3 or months, you have likely lost some of your gains.
Use or lose it – they say it for a reason!
Once exercise ceases, all the beneficial effects are reversible. So once you stop exercising you will lose your gains.
There are a few other key principles to consider with your return to the gym.
What is your desired outcome? Bigger, stronger muscles? To run or swim faster? To do a headstand or handstand?
It is then important to ensure your training stimulus (exercise activity) is specific to your goal.
What works for one will not necessarily work for the other. We all respond to exercise differently, depending on a variety of factors.
So, what the Instagram influencers are selling will not make you look like them! We are individuals and our exercise needs vary.
A key factor to avoiding injury or overuse. This doesn’t mean changing your exercises all the time.
By adding variety to your workouts, you can assist in your recovery and reduce injury risk.
One thing we talk about a lot in our treatment sessions is to increase your options – when your body has more options available to it, you are more capable of doing a variety of things. If all you do is run or cycle your body gets used to doing the same thing over and over. Certain muscles get strong. But others can get tight. And weak. And this can lead to pain and injury.
For optimal adaptations from exercise, rest between sessions is essential for these adaptations to occur. Getting adequate sleep each night (7-9 hours) will assist in your recovery. Here is where your body does it’s best work to repair and rebuild your tissues stronger than they were before.
Rest may also include active recovery days. On these days you might do a lighter session – walk with a friend, a yin yoga class or bike ride around the Bay.
To maintain your current level of fitness you will need to exercise regularly at the same intensity while reducing volume (frequency and/or duration).