COVID-19 disrupted all of our planned activities this spring, including school and organized sports. We all did our part to Stay Home and Save Lives, and many of us have lost some fitness along the way. However, as we move through the phases of reopening, it’s time to get back to fitness as our lives slowly start returning to normal.
If the lack of organized activities, sports, gyms, and weight rooms have left you a bit out of shape, it’s important to ease back into activity slowly to prevent injury. You can’t expect to return to the same level and intensity of exercise you were doing before the shutdown. If you try it, your return may be short lived, and you could soon find yourself injured and back on the couch.
Here are a few recommendations for avoiding injury and back to fitness. With a little patience, you can return to your previous levels of activity in time for the fall sports season.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) recommends that athletes returning to activity begin at about 50% of their pre-shut down volume and intensity. For example, if you were running six days per week, start again with three days If you could do drills for an hour, start with half an hour. In addition, you should spread your activities out evenly throughout the week.
When increasing your activity, whether its miles, time, or intensity, the general recommendation is no more than a 10% increase each week. That means, if you did 30 minutes of activity for three days this week for a total of 90 minutes, you could add roughly 10 minutes to your activity next week. Although this sounds like a tiny increase, it does add up over time, and will help you avoid injury.
Make time each day to take care of your body. Whether it’s gentle yoga, light stretching, or a dynamic warm up, maintaining and restoring your range of motion is key to not only preventing injury, but also recovering from injury. Likewise, a little self-massage can bring big benefits. Consider combining both stretching and massage together in your routine. For example, you could use a foam roller or lacrosse ball to work out any tight spots in your muscles, and follow it up with a dynamic warm up or light stretching.
Getting 6-8 hours of sleep each night is important for muscle growth, healing, and recovery. Look at this Sleep Infographic published by the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) to learn all about the amazing benefits of a good night’s sleep.
High quality food and proper nutrition provide your body with what it needs to be able to get back to fitness and recover from activity. Look at this previous blog from Bend High Athletic Trainer, Tessa Cashman, for more information about the role of nutrition and injury recovery.
Back to Fitness and Beyond
Finally, it is important to be patient and listen to your body. This is not the time to try to push through an injury or increase your activity just because the program you are following tells you too. Don’t expect to be able to lift the same amount of weight or run at the same speed as you could before. However, if you are patient and follow the recommendations above, you will find that you can get back to fitness. You might even find that, eventually, you are stronger, faster and fitter – all while staying healthy and resistant to injury.
If you are not sure how to get started, contact your local high school athletic trainer for help designing a program specific to your needs. You can find contact information for all of our Central Oregon high school athletic trainers HERE.
Written by: Stuart Schmidt, MS, ATC, CSCS athletic trainer supervisor for The Center Foundation in Bend, OR. Learn more about Stuart HERE.
The Center Foundation places dedicated athletic trainers in local high schools to provide sports medicine services to young athletes at no charge to the students or their families. Learn more about our work HERE.