Getting Back into Exercise Safely
Are you anxious to getting back to the gym? Or are you finding yourself not as active due to spending more time at home during these unprecedented times? Most of us are feeling sluggish and want to begin exercising or jump right back into the gym. However, the gyms are still closed until the end of the month and we have a great opportunity to possibly start, get back to, or progress a lasting workout routine at home. We also know starting where we left off two months ago can result in injury, so it is best to start now with a small routine to get back to your previous level of exercise before the gyms open up again!
Exercise is GOOD for us:
Physical activity has numerous health benefits, both mentally and physically. Benefits include improving muscular strength/endurance, decreasing blood pressure, and reducing stress and anxiety. There is a great sense of accomplishment when you reach a new fitness goal or can perform activities you couldn’t before.
Every journey starts with a single step:
Try not to get overwhelmed. Getting back into exercising or even beginning a workout regimen doesn’t need to be difficult, scary, or overwhelming. Start small and start easy. If you start with light weight or a shorter walk and it goes great, WOOT WOOT, then don’t be afraid to increase a little. Emphasis on a little! For example, if you start walking for 10 minutes and do that for a few days then try increasing that time by 5 minutes and continuing with this progression at a gradual rate. Before you know, you may find yourself walking for 30 minutes with ease! This goes for weight progression as well. Start with no weight while performing exercises, focusing on proper form. Once your form is good then try adding light weights. You may progress to a heavier weight when you feel you can complete 3 sets of 10 of an exercise with no difficulty and maintain proper form.
If you are someone who was exercising before and are trying to get back into your routine make sure you ease yourself in, do a percentage of that activity and work up to your previous level of activity slowly. For example, if before quarantine you were running 3 miles, start with running 1 or 1 ½ miles. If this is tolerated well for one week you start progressing ¼ mile each week until back to 3 miles. The human body is amazing in how it can change, but it doesn’t like to do it in a day. The way to avoid overuse aches, pains, and injuries is to slowly work up to more and more intense activities.
If you are just starting to get into exercising or have decreased balance, then you can still get a good workout in! Exercises performed in a chair are a great way to get moving and stay safe at the same time. If you start to feel like chair exercises are easy, progress to performing standing exercises at a counter, in order to hang on for balance.
Keep in mind, as you begin to exercise you may experience some muscle soreness. This is ok and normal, but it should not last more than a few days. If it is, then try decreasing weights, distance, sets or reps of an exercise, as you may be over doing it. A good way to prevent overuse of a muscle group is to work different areas of your body on different days. Split up which days you perform arm exercises and leg exercises. And you only have to begin with 20-30 minutes a day to get back into a routine!
No matter what type of exercise you are performing, a good way to gauge intensity level is with an RPE (Rated Perceived Exertion) scale. The RPE scale ranges from 1-10, with 1 being light level activity and 10 being max level activity. For most cases, when you are exercising you should be in the 3-4 range (moderate level range) of activity level. You may also use this scale to gauge progression with activities. If you are performing an exercise and feel like it’s a 2 in terms of intensity, then maybe it is time to increase the distance you are running or weights you are using to get yourself back up to that 3-4 range.
Where to Start and How Much should you start with?
Ideally you want to perform 3 sets of 10 of an exercise, 3-5 days a week. As you are starting out you may need to perform fewer sets and repetitions of each exercise or take rest breaks throughout and that is ok! As long as you are performing these exercises with proper form and maintaining pain free movements you are doing great! It is always important to remember to start out at a level of activity that you are comfortable with.
When it comes to walking or running, it depends on your previous level of exercise. If you have not done any walking or running in months or even years, then start with 10 min a day until you can do it without soreness and shortness of breath. Then increase 5 min every few days as your body allows. If you were a runner before, then start at a quarter or a third of what you were doing before stopping. Here a few running and walking charts we have found are good for beginners and those trying to work back into a long running program. As always, you can adjust a day based on how you are feeling. And make sure you stay hydrated!
You can do the walking challenge if you have never ran and want to start off slow! You can also make the 30-day walking challenge into running if you had been running shorter distances and need to start slow again! The second chart is for runners who are more trained but need a way to ease into things at a higher level. Remember, you can increase or decrease each day based on what you can tolerate!
In addition, It is important to incorporate a warmup into your exercise routine to prevent injury. The purpose of a warmup is to gradually increase your heart rate and get your muscles stretched in preparation for physical activity. Some examples of warmups are a short walk, jumping jacks, or arm circles. Once your heart rate is increased it is important to stretch the muscles that you are going to work out. Examples of common muscle groups in your legs to stretch are your hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps. Arm and neck stretches may include biceps, triceps, pecs (chest), upper traps, and levator muscles. These stretches can all be found on our website! Once you’ve completed your warmup and stretches you are ready to exercise!
If you are someone who is interested in getting back to exercising again safely, but are having any pain, difficulty or discomfort while doing so, then stop and consult with your Doctor or a physical therapist. A physical therapist will perform an evaluation and assess your body movement, flexibility, strength, balance and endurance. Based on the findings, we will work with you to create a customized exercise program that will help you reach your goals. Along with an exercise program, various manual techniques, such as soft tissue massage, Astym (tissue regeneration using various tools), mobilizations and manual stretching may be utilized to further improve your rehabilitation.
Let’s get off the couch and get started!