Whoa there. Why you shouldn't rush back to the gym in level two

With the gyms reopening and restrictions loosening, many of us will be keen to throw ourselves back into our workout routines. But is it a good idea?

Kiwis across the country are heading back to the gym and sports after weeks off. While many of us have managed to keep active with cycling, walking and jogging (does baking count - that requires some arm muscle, right?) it probably hasn't been the same type or level of exercise that we were doing before.

According to Active+, one of the country’s only 100% Kiwi owned physiotherapy and rehabilitation networks, there could be a spike in muscle and joint injuries as people push themselves too hard, too soon. The most common injuries are likely to be ankle, knee, elbow and shoulder sprains. Though back and neck strains could also be an issue with weight lifting.

Active+ director and sports physiotherapist, Andy Schmidt, explains:

“Most people don’t have a full set of fitness equipment or weights at home. While a lot have managed to keep active by walking, running and cycling, it probably hasn’t been the same type or level of exercise that they were doing at the gym. The same goes for sports, such as rugby, football and netball.

“When you haven’t used a muscle group or body region for a while, it’s important that you ease back into it. You can’t head back to the gym and expect to be lifting the same weights you were doing beforehand. Or think that you’re going to be hitting the same speed and resistance targets on the cross-trainer or rower. The outcome will be painful muscles and – if you’re unlucky – an injury that could set you back for months.”

Andy suggests increasing activity duration and intensity over a period of four to six weeks.

“Don’t do too much, especially during that first week. Keep intensity low and train as if you were a beginner – around 50-60% of your perceived ability. You can gradually move up as long as you don’t feel sore. It won’t take long if you were in a regular routine before lockdown but it’s important not to rush it. The last thing you want is a blown knee or shoulder putting you out of action.”

Andy adds that weight-lifters should also be careful. Patience is key.

“It only takes 2-3 weeks away from the gym to start losing lean muscle mass and you’ll be losing actual muscle around the 4-week mark. Don’t try to push yourself too hard from the get go. A good approach is to drop the weights back by a few kilos during those initial weeks back at the gym.

“Don’t try to do all of your previous exercises at once either. Stick to a few and give your body time to adjust to the change. Then you can gradually go back to your normal routine over time. You might also consider a longer time gap between your sessions for the first few weeks than you would normally do.”

If a sports or gym related injury does occur, Andy emphasises that it is important to get it checked out by a professional, sooner rather than later.

“Be sure to consult with your physio or health professional about potential treatment options if you’re in pain,” he says. “Don’t put it off or wait until the pain is more severe before making an appointment."

For those that are unable to attend a physio or dietitian appointment in person, Active+ is still providing virtual consultations, via video or phone chat.

For more details, visit activeplus.co.nz or follow Active+ on Facebook.