With COVID-19 lockdowns hopefully behind us, our outdoor training groups, gyms, fitness studios etc are opening their doors and increasing sunshine is coaxing us back outside, you might find yourself returning your focus to your health and fitness.
However, getting back into an exercise regime is not always as simple as we would like! After only 1 week of in activity we start to lose our fitness. Even those who were quite active.
With that in mind, we need to be careful when returning to our past exercise routine. Studies have shown a marked increase in attendance to physiotherapists and other allied health professionals due to the fact we all think we can hit the marks we were prior to our extended breaks. It should be a gradual measured return to training and your training load prior to an extended break.
Here is a typical response over 12 months on the return to exercise.
On the first day of your return to exercise
Exhausted and breathless? That’s OK. You may feel the first workout has left you feeling less accomplished as you might have hoped for.
Your brain is doing a lot of work to re co-ordinate all the links between brain and muscle. The pure concentration required can leave you exhausted. When you take an extended break from training, your muscles start to shrink and your body starts to conserve energy. Then when you return, your body is going into overtime, pumping oxygenated blood to all those muscles that have just been awoken!
The day after
OUCH! Sore aching muscles that for so long have remained dormant, have all of a sudden been woken up and broken due to the demand you have placed on them in training. This pain will normally set in 24-48 hours after your session. And may last for 3-4 days!
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Don’t stress, this is quite normal. The process of building muscle is a continuous overloading, causing micro tears in muscle fibres, then rebuilding stronger / larger to cope with the upcoming load from your next sessions. Your muscles adapt over time to the continued work.
After a week
At the end of the first week, you will be a little sore, hopefully not injured (a problem that make occur if you went out too hard), but feel you are up for the test with more energy and craving your next work out.
Your brain will release feel-good hormones called endorphins while training which assist this shift in mindset. Exercise is well-known for its mood-boosting powers and commonly prescribed to assist with depression and anxiety. Both of which can be common during long periods of lock down or sedentary lifestyles.
After one week there won’t be any real physical changes. You will start feeling better about yourself and may have lost a little weight, if that is what you are trying to do.
After a month
After a month of regular exercise, you will be noticing improvements to your strength and fitness. Your body will start to adapt to the load you are putting on it and you will start to feel more confident with the moves you are doing and you will start to be able to add more weight or increase the amount of reps for the same weight.
If you are training for cardiovascular fitness, (walking, jogging Cycling etc) you will find that for the same perceived effort you will be able to travel a little further or get to a certain distance a little quicker. Although one month is not a long time, your body will start to adapt even quicker to your training loads.
At one month you should really start to see some physical differences. Maybe a slight change in your shape. Maybe some of your clothes are fitting better. You may feel that some items of clothing actually feel tighter due to the fact there maybe some muscle growth in certain areas. Most importantly, you should really start to be feeling better about yourself. Your mood will improve, you will become for mentally alert and you will have more energy to get through the day.
After a year
You will see significant improvements with strength, co-ordination, balance and cardiovascular fitness compared to your first month. You should also feel more flexible, agile and have less back and joint pain.
A by-product, even if it’s not one of your goals, you’ll probably see changes to your physical appearance, be it your body weight or muscle mass. Your posture will improve and you will get through day to day tasks with ease. You will live pain free and confident.
If you’re a parent or grandparent, playing with children will be less taxing and become fun again. You will find that Sunday stroll along the beach or in the hills has a whole new sense of accomplishment.
Most importantly as you age, a stronger heart, bones and muscles play a key role in reducing your risk of developing serious health conditions, including heart disease, type two diabetes, cancer and obesity.
And just generally, you will likely be feeling happier than you did a year ago. It’s proven that people who work out even once a week tend to be more cheerful than those who never exercise.
So, what are you waiting for, get started back into your health and fitness plan and you will see that the effort you put in will be rewarded and well worth it.