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. While this should be applauded, Philadelphia physical therapist Chris McKenzie says people should be prudent as they strive to rebuild their fitness regimens.
“If you’ve taken some downtime from regular exercise, you’re not going to be able to pick right back up from where you left off,” said McKenzie, owner of McKenzie Sports Physical Therapy in Philadelphia. “Your strength, endurance and flexibility won’t be the same, and you should accept it before you even start a new routine.”
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.
“It’s a use-it-or-lose-it proposition,” McKenzie said. “So, if it’s been a while, and you want to avoid injury, take it back down to square one until your body becomes reacclimated and you have a good sense of your new fitness levels.”
In addition to this sage advice, McKenzie 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,” McKenzie said. “It’s a critical process for long-term health and fitness while helping you avoid injury.”
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,” McKenzie said.