Ask any of the team working at our Takapuna physio clinic, or the guys at any of our other clinics across Auckland, and they’ll tell you that this is a busy time of year for us. The warmer weather and longer days are to blame. They indicate summer is on the way, and this compels a lot of people to start exercising at the gym so they can have a beach body to be proud of. In their haste to look good, they do too much, too soon and injuries occur. That’s why this is a busy time of year for us!
We encourage you to take it easy if you’re starting to workout at the gym again, particularly after a long winter lay-off. Research has shown that following a period of 12 to 16 weeks of detraining, elite athletes suffer a strength decrease of 19%, while their shoulder strength decreases by almost half. This translates to a 300% increase in injury rate upon return to the gym for high-intensity exercises! Those figures relate to elite athletes – we shudder to think what they’d be for amateurs!
This is why you should ease back into it when you hit the gym. While it might sound obvious, you really need to pay attention to your warm-up before you do anything strenuous. Warming up primes your muscles and joints for activity, so it’s important to re-introduce yourself to the instructors at your gym and get their advice on what to do before you workout.
If you haven’t been to the gym in a while, don’t go straight back to the previous level of weights you were using. By starting at 50% of previous levels, you’ll be less injury prone and you can concentrate more on your form. If you increase the intensity by 10% each week, you’ll be back at 100% in a short space of time anyway.
You should also be careful with plyometric exercises like jumping, skipping or hopping. These explosive activities put extra strains on your tendons and their bony insertions, and we think you should exercise for at least a fortnight before restarting plyometrics. Even then, you should still limit these activities to twice a week as they can take about 72 hours to recover from.
Recovery is just as important as exercise. Take at least 48 hours to rest between each exercise session as you ease back into it. In other words, exercise three times a week to start with. And if you do feel discomfort or pain, don’t ignore the signs your body is giving you. Taking it carefully isn’t restricted to how you approach your exercise after a long winter break. It also means that you should seek professional advice from us whenever you feel a tinge, as it can lead to bigger problems if left untreated.