Reclaim Your Exercise Routine With These 4 Steps
Has the pandemic put a damper on your exercise routine? If so, you aren’t alone. Physical activities by Americans have plummeted 30 percent to 50 percent since the dawn of the pandemic, according to some recent studies. So, with the holidays — and all those pies and other tasty treats — it’s time to cut back on screen time and get your blood circulating again.
A word of caution, though: You can’t return to the gym, field or walking trail and pretend those months of inactivity never happened. If you aren’t careful, you’ll suffer overuse injuries, excessive fatigue and sore muscles.
Here are four tips to help navigate your return to a more active lifestyle.
Check Your Ego
Before the pandemic, you may have run a mile in 8 minutes, lifted 315 pounds on the bench press or walked around the neighborhood three times without thinking twice about it. But it’s important to understand that your extended break has consequences. Your body needs time to work back up to those previous levels. Plan to take at least four weeks to get back to where you were before the pandemic.
For example, instead of attempting your previous walking route, choose one that’s half as long and stick with it for a few weeks. Once the new course becomes easy — and you have no excessive soreness or fatigue — increase your distance to 75 percent of the original circuit. Once you feel comfortable with that, you’re ready to resume your old route.
Take Rest Breaks
More is not always better, especially when it comes to physical activity. Rest breaks between practices or exercise sessions are essential for muscle recovery, injury prevention and general well-being. Older adults should take a day of rest between sessions to give their bodies time to recover. Even with younger athletes, it’s important to listen to the body, which may not be ready for intensive exercise after a long layoff. Gradually build up your tolerance (two or three practices per week) over a two- to four-week period. This will reduce the risk for injuries that could sideline you for weeks or months.
Set a Schedule
Having a written schedule can motivate you on days when the couch looks more appealing than the gym. You also can avoid monotony by switching things up. Keep it fun and fresh by doing things like walking a different route, performing a high-intensity interval training session or going for a run on the beach.
Follow Recommended Norms
About 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and at least two days of muscle strengthening each week are recommended. That’s a great place to start. But your age, fitness level, goals and preferred method of exercise need to be taken into account. Your local physical therapy clinic can help build a customized plan that’s right for you.
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