On Friday Belfast entered the latest wave of restrictions in our battle against COVID-19. The new 4-week measures will hit many areas of healthcare and wellbeing – both physical and mental. At Smart Physiotherapy our clinic is still very much open for physiotherapy and sports injury appointments. However, we know that many Belfast based fitness studios and gyms will have to close their doors for the next 4-weeks, meaning you could be out of routine.
During the first lockdown, a large chunk of society moved to app-based exercises and live-streamed classes. Whilst these are great for keeping people moving they aren’t without their problems. You would be amazed at the range of injuries people get from downloading apps such as ’30 day abs’ without proper guidance and advice…
Thankfully, the current restrictions look set to only last 4 weeks. So even if you are planning to shift to street-running or home-based workouts over the next 4 weeks, it’s important to keep some things in mind to avoid injury when fitness classes and gyms reopen.
1. Take your time
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. If you haven’t done something for 4 weeks, that’s plenty of time for the body to lose a bit strength. 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 doing to a level that you think should be really easy. And we mean really easy. Just going through the motions almost. Then do the same workout at the same level 3 times. If you feel alright, 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 will get used to the new activity again and you’re much less likely to get injured.
2. Don’t be fooled
The body is intelligent and happens to be very good at compensating. Our bodies adapt to put up with us 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 exercise or sport, even if you start with 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 end up injured.
So, don’t be fooled. Just because your body manages to do a workout once (just like it did 4 weeks previous) doesn’t mean it’ll cope the next time too.
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. Do it 3 times before increasing it. Often the body will let you get away with it the first time. If you increase it each time you workout, you’ll often be fooled into doing too much too quickly and get injured.
It’s certainly no secret that 2020 hasn’t been the dream for dieting and nutrition. The last 7 months have seen takeaways boom and people fall into bad eating cycles. Who can blame us though, there hasn’t been a whole let else to do. 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 fueled for the exercise and well hydrated.
4. Stretch it out
A lot is made of stretching to prevent injuries. Like with most things these days, there’s evidence to suggest that it has a huge impact and some that shows less of an impact. However, the reality of a broken routine means that a lot of us have spent more time sitting than ever before, resulting in certain things being tighter. It’s important to work on getting things at least as mobile as they were pre-lockdown or you’ll be at greater risk of injury.
If you’ve been sat down for long periods then the key things to work on 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 – your body will thank you in the longrun.
The other thing to stretch is the middle of your back. As covered in our last blog, there has been a lot of hunching over laptops going on and so stretching your back out is super important.
5. Don’t dwell on it
When you haven’t done something for a while, it’s easy to get frustrated that you’re not as fit or as strong as you used to be. This can ruin the enjoyment of the activity or force you to push yourself too hard, resulting in injury (who could have known).
So be kind to yourself. Accept that you haven’t done something consistently for a couple of weeks and that this year’s routines have been patchy. Basically we are saying, enjoy the process of getting back into it.
6. Consistency is key
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. 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.
To find out more about our services, get in touch with our Belfast physiotherapists today.