Returning to exercise safely at NK Active injury rehabilitation clinic

COVID–19: Charlotte’s advice on returning to exercise safely.

Lockdown might be over for the majority for us, but with the school summer holidays for some and working from home still a reality for many; pre-lockdown levels of activity are not our reality just yet. 

Over the last 4-6 weeks we have seen many patients in clinic and via video consultation with injury’s or aches and pains from overloading during a training – or just to much too soon.

NK Active Podiatrist, Dr Charlotte Dando, shared some of her own experience of exercising during lockdown and advice around returning to exercise safely in this blog.

“When we were in lockdown, Natalie (NK Active Exercise Rehabilitation Instructor) and I have found we have been a little lazy in keeping up our exercise regimes. Specifically, this has led to me eating way too much cake and so Natalie had been trying to motivate me to find my rhythm and love of exercise again!  Initially, I started well with yoga and Pilates at home, occasional cycling to the shop (to get biscuits and milk) and the odd hula hooping/dance class on Zoom but then, as lockdown progressed, my activities changed to walking, redecorating and renovating the garden. This was far less active than my pre-lockdown regime of weight sessions (2 times a week), cycling and gym classes (2-3 times a week), and so there was a need for caution when getting back into some serious exercise if I didn’t want to risk an injury.

This would be the same for anyone returning back to their exercise of choice after a break, for team sports such as football, cricket or hockey, or just a regular gym workout.

As the guidance is promoting the return to work and activities, there is now a need to re-introduce levels of activity and sport safely back into our routines. Here are some questions to consider:-

How do I increase load slowly? 

To increase the load there are two ways to do this. Firstly, you increase the amount of repetitions (reps) you do in a set. This will work your muscles for longer in a fatigued state. This is great training for muscular endurance events such as running, cycling and rambling.

Secondly, adding weight can increase the load to make the muscles work harder under stress. In lockdown, Natalie has been getting inventive with ways to increase load without actual gym weights. She has worked her way up the plant pot lifting scale, now reaching rose bush status!

What is load?

Load is the sequence of implementing certain muscle groups, the effort exerted, the duration and repetition of muscle tension to complete a certain task. 

How do I know when I have done too much?

It is common for you to feel something during activity, after activity or the morning after activity. We like to call this delayed onset of muscle soreness; sometimes known as DOMS. DOMS is commonly defined as ‘soreness that is felt most strongly 24 to 72 hours after the exercise’.

After this time, soreness has usually resolved. However, if you do too much you may experience longer periods of pain, stiffness, and discomfort. If this is the case, you would need to consider decreasing the load and duration of the activity. If pain/discomfort persists then you may have to seek a health professional for advice.

How do I know when I am not doing enough?

If you are not doing enough you may feel like you are able to repeat the activity/ session or class again (easily), you can hold a conversation comfortably without feeling out of breath or tired. Sometimes people may feel dissatisfaction with their activity/session or class if they do not feel they have worked hard enough.

How do I know when I am progressing physically and physiologically?

Physically you may notice:-

  • A change in body shape
  • A change in muscle development
  • Notice that activities such as climbing upstairs or moving the shopping out of the car are less demanding than previously
  • You may notice you have lost weight

Physiologically you may notice:-

  • Lowering of resting heat rate
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower respiratory status (breathing is calmer during exercise)
  • Better tolerance to fatigue
  • Increased endorphins which make you feel happy!
  • Reducing risk of injury

So, when you are thinking about getting back into activity or sport, remember to build the duration and load up gradually. Be patient and persistent, as it does take time for your body to adjust and tolerate something new. By introducing activity/sport gradually you will give your bones and muscles time to prepare and adapt thus reducing the chances of you picking up an injury.

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