Things to know before returning to the gym

This weekend, with Phase 4 restrictions easing meaning that we can now go back to the gym full time, we need to stop and think about how we’re going to ease ourselves back into our gym routine. Staying indoors, team sport restrictions and working from home meant many of us were not able to maintain our normal gym routine. If you’re like me, you weren’t able to get on board with the home exercise equipment and move your gym routine home, because Kmart’s stock of kettlebells and dumb bells were swept up nearly as quick as toilet paper was.

We need to consider if some of us are heavier, due to lower energy expenditure. Not only this, you may have lost strength and conditioning, or mobility, and if you go back and hit the weights just like you did prior to all of the time off, you’re potentially setting yourself up for an injury.

You might have even grown a lot, not just outwards, but upwards! Younger people might be going back to sport and are adjusting to co-ordinating their new long and gangly limbs! I know I saw a patient of mine prior to COVID, and after, since getting back into sport, and his height has now nearly surpassed me!

So as physiotherapists, we’re asking you to ensure that you’re getting someone to spot your technique, that you’re slowing yourself down and making sure that you’re dropping the weights a little (or a lot) lighter than what you were doing pre-COVID gym closures. As a general rule, you could look at lessening your weights 30-50%, but it really depends on how much you’ve maintained your fitness and how much you were lifting before.

Make sure you do a good warm up, such as a few more reps of the exercise you’re doing prior to adding weight (to warm up the same muscle groups) and DYNAMIC stretches. Don’t push it too hard in the first few sessions because then you might put yourself back to square one when you weren’t able to go to the gym at all!

If you’re playing team sports, you also need to have a plan. Hopefully you were able to maintain your general fitness through running and walking, but I would recommend you consult your local physio to help you put together a graded return to sport training plan or work with your coach. Hopefully that local physio of yours is from Como Physiotherapy, as we are passionate about Strength and Conditioning, as most of us have undertaken extra training in this area.

During the time away from structured (key word here is structured) team and individual training sessions and games, it would’ve been quite difficult to maintain the same level of fitness and skill using the equipment you have at home. Take the AFL for example… we can see that even some of the high end athletes are struggling  getting back into it! It would be incorrect to assume that home training is enough to meet the demands of either full court, or full field (or pitch, whatever sport you play!) training.

The Australian Institute of Sport actually released a paper in 2015 showing the injury risk associated with time off activity, training at reduced rates and how long it can take to reduce that injury risk.

The gradual return to normality has accelerated as of recently with the easing of Phase 4 restrictions. Therefore, if you have any questions about gradually building up training loads, niggles or injuries, screenings to identify any areas that you need to work on for your performance, or reduce injury risk let us know! Or maybe you just need appropriate warm up ideas to prepare for activity. Whatever it is, reach out to the team at Como Physiotherapy, as the last thing anyone wants after a period of time away from sport or the gym is MORE TIME AWAY!

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Dayna Fimmano is a musculoskeletal physiotherapist practicing at the Como Clinic. She is a keen sportswoman herself, having played for Western Australian Junior basketball teams and now wanting to help keen athletes and non-athletes with all the same niggles and aches she has experienced. Contact 93674966 or book online to see her in the clinic today.

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