After nearly six months of home quarantines, social distancing, gym closures, and cancelled/postponed athletic seasons, it’s been difficult for many to maintain consistent workout routines.
But, as more people begin settling into “new normals” related to work, parenting, masking and so on, personal health is once again taking a greater role in people’s lives. Starting or re-starting an exercise program is beneficial on many fronts. Apex physical therapist Brock Monger notes that movement is medicine, exercise and activity is important to maintain or even improve our immunity, sleep, mental wellness and reduce pain.
“If you have taken some downtime from regular exercise, start with the concept that some exercise is better than no exercise, yet be simple and gradual. It takes time to build back where one left off if it has been weeks since regular exercise,” said Monger, co-owner of Apex Physical Therapy in Madras. “The human body is amazingly adaptable, just factor in if a routine is new or if has been a while.”
While various studies conclude different levels of strength or cardio loss when people skip workouts, most general conclusions show that deconditioning (as it’s known) can be significant after just a few days to a couple of weeks of inactivity.
Monger offers the following tips for easing back into a personal workout regimen:
1. Start Slow, Build Gradually
Again – and for the sake of both your body and your willpower – don’t try to do too much at once. This can leave you vulnerable to injury while making you feel defeated before your new routine has even begun to take hold.
Instead, start with briefer workouts with lower levels of intensity. Focus on doing and not your performance, paying particular attention to maintaining good technique and form as your conditioning ramps back up.
2. Focus on the Big Three:
Include resistance training, cardio endurance and flexibility into all of your workouts. Each of these three components are critical in keeping your body strong, balanced and free of injury.
3. Don’t Skip Rest & Recovery:
While you may be incredibly motivated to get back into shape, don’t lose sight of the role rest and recovery play in getting you there safely and successfully. Don’t over train, in other words.
“We need to give our bodies the chance to rest and repair itself following workouts,” Monger said. “It’s a critical process for long-term health and fitness while helping you avoid injury. Professional athletes rest and repair, we should as well.”
4. Be Consistent
As you build endurance, strength and flexibility, also work to build consistency in your workout frequency. This is essential for rebuilding good fitness habits, but it also leads to more considerable results than periodic workouts – despite the intensity of such workouts.
5. Check In with a Physical Therapist
As experts in optimal movement, function and exercise, physical therapists can play a key role in establishing an individualized, baseline routine to safely get you going on a new exercise regimen. In doing so, a physical therapist can also identify, then address, strength and movement deficiencies that may make it more difficult to begin a new fitness routine.
“And, when extreme soreness, pain or possible injury threatens to throw you off track, physical therapists are there to quickly identify its cause, then provide solutions for maintaining fitness levels while addressing the discomfort,” Monger said.