A graded return to exercise after any illness is always a good idea and from what we do know about Covid-19 there is certainly not a one size fits all approach.
The severity of the illness, your recovery rate, other co-morbiditiesand any residual breathlessness all need to be taken into consideration.
So what should you do to get back to exercising safely and where should you start?
Although you might feel anxious about meeting others or getting back to classes there are lots of precautions now in place to help you make that transition with more confidence, talking to your trainer about their new safety measures will help get you going and have a better understanding of what to expect.
From the start it’s important to get a thorough health screen so your trainer knows where and how to help you begin exercising again safely. This will help decide whether it’s safe for you to start back and what sort of a graded return would be appropriate for you. It also gives a good opportunity to benchmark your current state so that you can get a measure of your progress in the weeks to come.
Exercise tests can be used to measure your flexibility, your aerobic fitness and your muscular strength and endurance. Similarly to the health screen these tests are really useful to both measure your current fitness and help decide how to implement your individualised training plan.
‘Ready for Exercise’ means:
Asymptomatic for at least 7 days
Adequately screened and risk stratified (no signs or symptoms of long covid)
Motivated and psychologically ready to participate in exercise (no PTSD for example)
Any other pre-existing co-morbidities are under control and stable
If you still find that you are experiencing breathlessness it’s important to be able to quantify this and your trainer can help you do this using the Rate of Perceived Exertion (R.P.E or The Borg Scale) or Talk Test, another is the Visual Analogue Scale to help you understand and develop a self awareness of breathlessness. Your trainer can also help you with breathing coping strategies for when you need to get your breath back in a session or during your day at home – this will build your confidence and help you feel more in control.
Other considerations you might want to include in your training are longer, slower warm ups and cool downs to prepare your body more thoroughly for exercise. You might also try interval sessions (sub-maximal!) so that your can have active recovery rather between bouts of aerobic work to help you manage your oxygen requirements.
Lastly doing a little bit everyday and keeping a diary is a really helpful way to quantify your progress. Managing fatigue with adequate sleep, nutrition and rest is vital.
If you’re feeling a growing sense of stagnation with your exercise routine as well as lockdown this may help…the exercise side of things anyway. It generally takes 6 – 8 weeks of training in a specific modality to see the results of your labour so if you’ve been focussing on your fitness in your allocated exercise time from the start of lockdown it’s the right time to give your programme a shake up.
Regularly mixing up your exercise plan is crucial to achieving results. Periodisation is a method to plan phases of your training to optimise different aspects of your ‘fitness’ thereby maximising your gains whilst also reducing the risk of injury or overtraining….and getting bored!
4-6 week periodisation phases to typically cycle through include a stability phase focusing on consolidating your core connection, peripheral joint stability and proprioceptive awareness. Followed by a strength phase, prioritising load over stability to increase muscle strength and finally, if appropriate, a power phase.
Here’s some examples of how you might progress exercises from a stability phase (12-20 reps 1-3 sets) into a strength phase (8-12 reps 2-4 sets):
Single leg alternate dumbbell shoulder press –> Standing barbell push press
Scaption on a single leg –> Standing kettlebell overhead press
TRX fly on one leg –> Bodyweight press ups (or decline to increase load)
Single leg squat –> Kettlebell goblet squat
Single leg Romanian deadlift –> Romanian deadlift
TRX hanging bodyweight lunge –> Dumbbell lunges
For more info on tailored exercise training programs drop me a line via the contact page.
Or, even more boringly titled ‘Appropriate Exercise’…..
I had wanted to get going sooner and magically ‘win the internet’ with incredible Pilates and Corrective Exercise routines to wow the masses but it quickly become apparent that not only was social media at saturation point with offerings but homeschooling had won in the battle between professional development and parenting…..any ground made was largely due to Joe Wicks google searches misdirecting to movewithjo.com….
With so much on offer and many turning to running to get the most from their allocated Exercise Time it got me thinking about the choices that were being promoted. I read Facebook comments about overloaded abdominals from You Tube workouts, I listened to my friend tell me about her neck pain attempting The 100 whilst doing a virtual Pilates class her work had set up and I witnessed a lot of extremely unsustainable running styles in the park.
As a corrective exercise specialist I wanted to highlight the importance of self preservation in these exacting times and offer up an Appropriate Exercise Checklist!
Appropriate Exercise Checklist.
Is your body pain free after undertaking new exercise? (symmetrical delayed onset muscle soreness aside) Check your technique, if you’re not sure give it a miss.
Is your body pain free on a normal day to day basis – Are you incorporating maintenance exercises to help vulnerable areas? e.g pelvic floor, neck or back tension.
Try to think about ways to counter the positions you hold yourself in during the day – like sitting, screen-time to prevent muscle tension and imbalance.
(Similarly to 3) Try to think about supplementing your body with extra movements and positions that you are not getting through your daily life? Reaching, rotating, hanging, squatting, pushing and pulling through a variety of ranges of movement…?
Is the exercise you are doing the right impact for you if you’ve had pelvic floor or joint issues? If you feel you have to run, consider shorter hill sessions to help reduce the impact but still get cardiovascular reward.
Take rest days, vary your exercises and do sufficient stretching.