Download my free 5-minute guide to stretching
Hopefully you’ve managed to remain active over the recent lockdown. In the first few weeks we were all encouraged to take an hour outside every day to exercise. I’m sure the anticipation was that the UK population would gladly bound out of their front doors every day to relish the fresh air and canter around their neighbourhoods like new-born foals. But the most recent studies show that, in the early stages of lockdown at least, most adults either maintained the same levels of exercise as before or – more worryingly – reduced it, either in intensity (through lack of access to the right equipment) or just not doing much if anything at all.
Many of us have also been sitting more during lockdown, either through adhering to a “Work from Home” policy, or binge-watching box sets out of sheer boredom. Whatever the reason, prolonged periods of sitting still contributes to tightness in our backs, shoulders and necks.
Since the end of July 2020 gyms, leisure centres and pools have been allowed to reopen – albeit with strict social distancing measures in place. If you’ve been relatively inactive since March either through the lack of facilities, motivation or because you’ve had ill health, you may be tempted to return to your usual exercise regime as though the last few months didn’t happen – and who can blame you?
Don’t rush back to the gym - yet
But there’s one thing you need to consider before you dust off your gym kit and strap on your trainers. When you haven’t been exercising on a regular basis you lose muscle mass, so you need to build your exercise levels back up slowly to reduce the risk of overloading your muscles and preventing long term injury. I’m sure that’s the last thing you need after so many months of relative inactivity, but there’s no point throwing yourself back onto the treadmill in the expectation of getting back to your pre-lockdown routines with no consequences. The basic fact is that you can’t suddenly go from 0 to 60 and expect your body to cope. The risks of harm skyrocket if you abruptly increase the amount or intensity of your workouts without preparing your body first.
If you’ve been stuck at home the chances are you are less fit than you were. “Lockdown Body” is a relatively new phenomenon but a serious issue: I’ve been hearing from many of my colleagues who work as physios and osteopaths that they’re already seeing an increasing level of injuries caused by patients trying to do too much too soon and immediately being hobbled by over-enthusiastic new workouts.
Warm up before you get out of bed!
If you’re a regular exercise fan then you will already know the importance of stretching both before and after a workout. Stretching keeps your muscles strong and healthy, giving you the flexibility you need to workout effectively.
I want to help you get back to regular exercising, so I recommend doing some gentle stretches first. In my free download (see the link below) I’ve specified a series of just nine short exercises for you to do at home. Those of you who know me may be surprised that I’m recommending land-based stretching, since I usually work in water as an AquaStretch practitioner. But like many people I haven’t been in a pool for weeks and I will always encourage any form of stretching regardless of how wet I am at the time!
The simple stretching exercises take about 5 minutes to complete. You can do them easily at home, and especially before you even get out of bed in the morning! These stretches will warm up your muscles and retrain your body and your mind for your new post-lockdown exercise regime, whatever that may be.
Build yourself back up slowly to allow your muscles to repair and grow and don’t overdo it. By all means get back into the gym, but please do it safely and look after yourself.
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