With summer approaching and so too the pending “freedom” day looming, it will have been some 15 weeks since community sport was played and local gyms were open for business.

There’s a possibility that people have endured the entire lockdown period without exercising or have had to alter their exercise routines to suit the lockdown restrictions. As frustrating as that is, these changes consequently have an effect on our bodies, meaning that our muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments can lose the resilience and strength it once had, increasing the risk of injury.

Once gyms open up, there may be the misconception that we need to make up for the time lost and push our bodies harder than what we did previously. However, this is simply not the case.

Being able to manage your training load and your expectations will be important in mitigating injury risk. Any sharp rises in training load can lead to an earlier onset of fatigue, which in turn increases your injury risk (such as overuse injuries, muscles strains, and even bone stress injuries)

To ensure that returning to sport and exercise is safe, here are some recommendations to keep in mind:

1. Manage your expectations
It’s important to remember that long periods of inactivity comes at a cost. It’s not as simple as picking up where you left off, you need to be realistic and honest in knowing where your current training level is at and have a plan handy prior to returning.

2. Start slow
It’s important to gradually build your body’s tolerance back up again. Unless you have been lifting consistently throughout lockdown, chances are your level of training is not where it was pre lockdown. Think bigger picture, have a have a longer outlook and aim to regain your strength levels within 6+ weeks.

3. Find your groove
Your focus should be on technique and not the weight on the bar. We recommend that you use the first week to practice your technique, drop your weight by at least 50% and get your groove back first!

4. Less is more
You can rest assure that the muscle soreness will be quite high after your first few sessions back. To ensure your body has enough time to recover in between exercise bouts, reduce the number of sessions you exercise per week initially and then gradually increase your training days over a 3-6 week period. A 48hr window in between exercise sessions is a good starting point.

5. Targeted warm up/cool down
Finally, an ideal warm up/cool down routine prior/post exercise can have both physical and mental benefits. A quality block of 10 minutes warm up prior to exercise is all that is needed to ensure that your body is prepared for the demands of the activity you are performing.

A simple approach to use is stretch and prime!

  • Stretching muscles and improving mobility at each joint will help limit any restrictions and increase range of motion.
  • Priming the body allows you to prepare for key exercises involving multiple joints and muscles while reinforcing good technique

For example, if squatting is key movement for the session.

  • Stretching back, calves, hamstrings and hip flexors
  • Mobility exercises for hips and ankle (static/dynamic options)
  • Prime by performing hip hinging, froggy squats with thoracic rotation + body weight squats encouraging thoracic extension

Have a look on our Instagram/facebook page for a video on how to perform these great warm up exercises prior to squatting! Good luck with your return to the gym and let us know how you go!


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