Easing Back into Fitness... Safely!
Sunny mornings and warmer days are an irresistible invitation to get more active. This is also a busy time for Physiotherapists, who see a lot of exercise-related injuries that could have easily been prevented. Here are a few tips from our team.
1- Change those shoes!
Trainers are a solid investment. If you're running, the general guideline is to get a new pair every 500km. Hard to measure? Just look at the soles: if they look more worn on one side than the other, definitely get a new pair. Don't hesitate to spend a bit more on quality shoes and make sure that they suit your foot profile. Your Physio can help you with this.
2- Increase gradually
We use a 10% increase as a guideline for exercise volume. This works for all types of exercise you are doing and should also be considered as a total amount. For example, if you already run and decide to increase your distance by 10% per week, then don't add another form of exercise to your routine at the same time as you should only increase one aspect at a time.
For those who are just getting back into regular activity then keep it the amount the same for a few weeks before you start increasing.
Pushing yourself is good but listening to your body and not overloading is crucial for injury prevention and to get the best results.
3- Balanced exercise
A balanced fitness programme that incorporates cardio-vascular exercise, strength training and flexibility will provide a total body workout and help keep you from getting bored or injured. If you love running, consider adding weights to your routine or joining a fitness class –one that isn't running!
4- Warm up and stretch
Warm up to prepare for exercise by jogging on the spot or walking for a few minutes or gently rehearsing the motion of the exercise to follow. Warming up increases the heart rate and blood flow, loosens up muscles, tendons, ligaments and joints preparing you for the workout ahead.
Stretching is best done after exercising, starting slowly and carefully until feeling tension/stretch of the muscle. Hold each stretch for 15 to 20 seconds, then slowly and carefully release it. Never stretch into pain but always maintain control and never bounce on a muscle that is on full stretch.
5- Don't forget to rest
You won't be able to build muscle or increase fitness without rest. The more strenuous your training regime, the more rest days you need to plan for. For cardio-vascular exercise every 3-5 days is recommended and for strength training rest the muscles worked for 1-2 days.
Prolonged muscle soreness, fatigue and reduced performance are sure signs that you need to rest and recover.
Light activity like gentle stretching or low impact activity (swimming or cycling) can be undertaken during rest days, but don't overdo it!
Good sleeping habits are essential for good performance and optimal gains from your exercise routine.
Last but not least: never train when you are unwell as your body is already coping with fighting the illness.
6- Eat and drink right
Proper hydration is paramount to physical performance. It's not just about how much you drink but also when and maybe even more importantly what you drink. As for when: if you're thirsty, it's already too late! Drink regularly throughout the day. The best indicator that you're having enough to drink is clear urine. The amount you need to drink depends on your level of activity and the temperature, so be flexible and try to always have water within reach. Lastly, the best drink that you'll ever have is water! As long as your food contains all the electrolytes you need, there's no need to add them to your drink (your teeth and gut will thank you too).
As for keeping good eating habits to support your progress and achieve long term weight loss, see Andy's diet tip.
7- Get help!
An assessment from your Physiotherapist can save you a lot of time and help prevent injury. They can recommend the right type and intensity of exercise suitable for your body type, muscle balance and injury history. Knowing exactly how and how much to train provides peace of mind while ensuring that you're putting your efforts where they count.
The truth is that Physiotherapists are gentle souls: we would rather see patients only once before, rather than a bunch of times after they've hurt themselves!