TIPS TO RETURN SAFELY TO THE GYM

Sonja is our physiotherapist with a special interest in exercise-based rehab and functional strength. Here she give you a step-by-step guide as venture back to the training room.

Sonja has a very cute cat called kimchi.

As we approach the long-awaited re-opening of gyms on 22nd June, some of us are very excited and enthusiastic to get back into strength training. Whether you have been able to maintain some type of strength program with limited equipment, found an alternative workout routine, or decided to take a break during the lockdown period, there are a few tips that you can follow to ensure steady progress and reduce your risk of injury.

  1. Adjust your expectations: Approaching your return to the gym with the right mindset is the first step. The reality is that your overall exercise routine has been impacted in the last few months and your expectations must therefore be lowered initially. This means you need to expect to be going back to previous exercise/activity with less strength and conditioning.  
  • Have an introduction week: There is no need to rush back into working out. Rushing back into things can lead to injury. When you are deconditioned, your body has a decreased capacity to tolerate load, and inappropriate loading increases your risk of injury, which can set you back even more (Bowen et al, 2017). Studies have shown that when your training load for a given week (acute load) spikes above what you have been doing on average over the past 4 weeks (chronic load), you are more likely to be injured (Blanch and Gabbett, 2019).
  • Use the first week to ease into the exercises, and use this to see where your new starting point is. Some parameters you can adjust are:
  • Reduce volume: Perform less sets per week than you were previously e.g. Reduce total sets per muscle group by 50%
  • Lower intensity: Use lighter weights that you previously have e.g. by 50%
  • Lower frequency: Start with less total workouts per week

(Haas et al, 2001).

  • Progress slowly: Allow a 4-6 week accumulation period where you focus on technique and getting back into the groove. Slowly increase the parameters listed above in this time, as large week-to-week changes in training load can increase your risk of injury (Cross et al, 2015).
  • Monitor your recovery: Following each session, you should monitor your recovery, in particular any soreness experienced. Excessive muscle soreness is likely to reflect an overload in your previous session and a reduction of the 3 parameters would be suitable (Cheung et al, 2003). On the other hand, if you are progressing well your training programs volume, intensity and frequency can be steadily increased towards your normal program.

If you have any existing niggles that you would like to sort out before your return to gym, or if you would like some guidance with exercises, book in with our physios and they can assist you.

And lastly! Be a great gym member and make sure you always bring a towel, wipe down your equipment and wash your hands at the end of your session.

References:

Blanch, P., Gabbett, T.J. (2016). Has the athlete trained enough to return to play safely? The acute:chronic workload ratio permits clinicians to quantify a player’s risk of subsequent injury. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 50:471-475.

Bowen, L., Gross, A.S., Gimpel, M., et al. (2017). Accumulated workloads and the acute:chronic workload ratio relate to injury risk in elite youth football players. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 51:452-459.

Cheung, K., Hume, P., Maxwell, L. (2003). Delayed onset muscle soreness : treatment strategies and performance factors. Sports Med, 33(2):145-164

Cross, MJ., Williams, S., Trewartha, G. et al. (2015). The influence of in-season training loads on injury risk in professional rugby union. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. doi:10.1123/ijspp.2015-0187

Hass, C.J., Feigenbuam, M.S., Franklin, B.A. (2001). Prescription of Resistance Training for Healthy Populations. Sports Med, 31(14): 953-964