How to Return to Physical Activity
It has been challenging for many of our patients to remain active during COVID-19 while trying to stay safe and at home. Even though gyms and parks are open again, many of you still prefer to play it safe and avoid public gatherings as much as possible. Do not be too hard on yourself if you have not kept up with your physical fitness levels and are now looking for ways to get back into a routine. Especially with colder weather right around the corner, it is important to get back into the swing of things before possible winter hibernation mentality kicks in. We know returning to a fitness routine can be daunting after taking a break, but we want to encourage you to continue trying! Keep reading for some ways we recommend building yourself back up to your pre-COVID fitness level.
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Take it Easy
We know that sometimes it feels like you need to immediately jump back into a routine but doing too much too soon will almost always have the opposite effect. Ensure that you safely make your way out of inactivity to avoid overdoing it and risking injury. Set yourself up for success by just aiming to do 10 minutes of exercise every day, doing some sort of physical activity 3 times a week, or any other small goal that will help you slowly ease into a routine. Remember that setting your initial goals too high can actually make you feel overwhelmed and defeated which will not help your motivation or confidence levels.
Be realistic with yourself and don’t stress yourself out by thinking you will immediately be as fit as you used to be. If you are doing strength and resistance sessions, do not initially do more than three sessions a week and focus on the more basic movement patterns. Ease back into exercise, especially cardio or physically exhausting routines, within the first month of your return. Focus on low-intensity workouts to build your form back up and prepare your body for extra activity.
Every single physical activity you do should begin with a warm-up or stretching session to prepare your body for movement. Your previous period of inactivity may mean that you have lost some strength and flexibility, so you want to get your body used to movement again to prevent muscle soreness and pain. It is so important to not skip any corners with your warm-ups because your inactive muscles will experience some form of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). This means you will feel tight and achy for 24 to 72 hours after your workout, so warm-ups are important to prepare your muscles beforehand and reduce soreness. A 10 to 20-minute dynamic warm-up is great for progressively elevating your heart rate and mobility. You should also remember to do some sort of cool down activity after each workout to allow your heart rate to return back down to a normal resting rate. Both your warm-up and your cool down should always include some form of dynamic stretching to help with tightness often associated with getting back into a fitness routine.
Find Your Balance
We know that many of you have had a hard time feeling any sense of balance during COVID-19 but we want to encourage you to try to find some for your fitness levels. It is so important to remember how the rest of your daily patterns, like sleep schedule, work or academic responsibilities, and social life, impact how effectively you can resume your physical activity routine. Begin with a routine that works for you and you feel comfortable including into your schedule. Your body will respond to consistency over time so try to choose a routine and stick to its pattern and frequency.
Your fitness routine should also be balanced in the sense of the different types of physical activity you do throughout the week. Your plan should always include four important components: cardiovascular endurance, strength training, flexibility exercises, and rest days. If you want to build up to exercising five days a week, then a basic template for a balanced routine would incorporate two days of cardio, three days of strength training, and two active rest days, with flexibility exercises worked in throughout. Remember that this is all dependent on your goals so give us a call at (519)880-1733 so our Waterloo Physiotherapist team can help customize your plans.
No matter how you decide to make your return to physical activity, we want to make sure you keep safety as your top priority by doing everything you can to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. Avoid large groups at the gym or park, practice social distancing, follow all cleaning protocols, and stay home if you are not feeling well. While getting back into the swing of an exercise routine will do wonders for your physical and mental health during these uncertain times, remember to always do so without putting yourself or others at risk.
We hope that this blog helps you feel more comfortable and prepared to get back into your fitness routine! Remember that right now is a trying time for everyone, so don’t be too hard on yourself and take it one step at a time. If you are looking to try something new and getting back into a routine our Pilates instructor Amy Waters does provide one-on-one Pilates sessions in the clinic, in your own home, and virtually. Learn more about Pilates under the services tab and call to book at (519)880-1733 or fill out our contact form with any questions and to learn how physiotherapy can enhance your overall quality of life. We’re also always happy to help answer any general physiotherapy and wellness questions, provide you with health tips, and schedule a consultation. Just ask!