With gyms set to reopen on the 22nd many of us have pencilled a gym session into our diary, whether it be gym junkies that have been itching for a good workout or your everyday hero that is keen to lose some weight from isolation. It’s not uncommon for a person to “pick up where they left off” with their gym routine or even to start a program at a higher intensity to “make up for lost time”. After an extended period of time away from exercise a sudden spike in activity loads can lead to preventable injuries (1). Our bodies are slow to adapt to new demands and if they are put through excessive repetitive stress for a period of time then it is not unusual for things to go pear-shaped.
To start an exercise program after an extended period of time off, start at a level that feels comfortable. Whether it's weights or cardiovascular exercise, pick a starting point that you know you can achieve, now is not the time to experiment! A successful first few workouts should finish with you thinking “I probably could have gone a bit harder”. It’s important to remember that any results that you hope to achieve will not be determined by how hard your first few sessions are but rather how consistent your training volume is (2).
Once you have settled on a good baseline training intensity a rule of thumb for progression is 10% per week for moderately trained individuals (3). An example of this is if you do a 5km run then the following week you can trial 5.5km or if you do 10 reps 3 sets of 25kg weights then the following week you can trial 27.5kg.
It is important to keep in mind these tips might not be applicable for everybody and are not as effective as a tailored program, consider seeking the advice of your physiotherapist to determine how appropriate this guide might be for you.
1. Gabbett, T. and Domrow, N, Journal of Sport Science. no. 13 (2007): 1507-1519.
2. Wilmore, J. and Knuttgen, The Physician and Sportsmedicine, no. 5 (2003):45-51.
3. Johnston CA, Taunton JE, Lloyd-Smith DR, McKenzie DC, Can Fam Physician, no. 49 (2003):1101–1109.