Returning to Exercise When Restrictions Lift

Our bodies are amazing in that they adapt readily to what loads you expose them to. If you were to start lifting weights, within the first four weeks new neural and motor unit control adaptations would occur allowing you to recruit more muscle more efficiently and progress your performance rapidly. Sadly though the reverse also happens. Even before the Covid lockdown a large proportion of injuries that we saw at our Newport physio clinic, were the result of someone going back into their routine after a break or vacation. It is honestly quite shocking how quickly the changes we work so hard to achieve can begin to reverse. Cardiovascular endurance and performance can begin to see changes within a few days of stopping, while muscle strength will begin to drop after about three weeks. So in our case of lockdown restrictions for 6+ weeks, athletes will notice a decrease in their endurance of up to 25% while a beginner might drop back down to their starting fitness level. Yikes!

Due to this detraining, our ability to perform our normal routine is reduced and if we immediately jump into doing what we did before the lockdown, the risk of injury rises substantially. The good news is that those neural adaptations that helped us when we started lifting weights are mostly still there when we start training again so we rebound more quickly. Therefore, as restrictions lift and more exercise options return to “normal,” take your time coming back into “normal”. Once the beach is open, don’t go straight back into doing your daily 3km swim or once the gym is open, don’t throw on all the weight you could handle before. Start at about 50%, and increase gradually. You will get back your fitness! It might just take a little bit of patience.