It’s not unknown that 2020 and the start of 2021 took its toll on us as individuals, as well as a country. We can’t control what has happened, nor really control the way we exit lockdown 3.0. But what we can control is how we better prepare our bodies and minds when returning to sport or exercise after a period of inability or altered training.
It is vital that when wanting to change an aspect of someone’s routine there is a plan in place to do this. This will reduce the risk of injury, but also allow a person to be accountable for their goal setting and achievements.
What has been studied over the past year is people’s activity levels. The use of fitness trackers and the data produced concluded that people, were in fact, remaining relatively active. However, evidence showed a significant fall in strength training regimens.
With this is mind, it would be fair to say that many people are keen to return back to their ‘regular’ fitness routines. Despite the cardiovascular activities undertaken during lockdown (we’re all accountable for the odd walk… or ten!). Individuals would have lacked the intensity and variety offered during a good gym-based workout.
Therefore, it is a fundamental and integral part to ‘returning to sport’ that personal trainers or individuals who train alone update programmes to suit peoples ‘current status’ not their ‘Pre-Coronavirus’ fitness levels.
But where to start…
While it’s important to capture moral and enthusiasm when it’s at its highest, trainers & therapists may need to rein clients back in the quest to prevent musculoskeletal injuries. Training errors cause the most athletic injuries whereby, mistakes in programming places training loads at a level beyond the tissues’ capability. REMEMBER adequate progression is KEY! (Gabbett 2016).
When progressing, the best method is using the 10% increase rule. Continuous monitoring of these progressions and tolerance of training load, will better help to avoid injuries and enable individuals to safely meet their training goals.
Why not try these baseline testing exercise’s remembering to log improvements;
10 repetition max for; bench press, squat and deadlift
Pull up test to fatigue
Push up test to fatigue
1 minute sit up test
Despite some players receiving individual programmes to complete during the COVID-19 pandemic when lockdowns were enforced here in the United Kingdom (UK) we ask ourselves the question; ‘How beneficial can individual programming be for a sport that is so dominant in team cohesion and multiple players?’. Now, don’t get me wrong, doing something is better than doing nothing at all, but at what point does constant individual training hinder an athlete’s ability of performing in a team? (Mohr 2020 et al).
What to remember when returning to team sport
While some athletes may have access to facilities and equipment, others, maybe limited or have nothing. The main concern with team sports and the COVID-19 pandemic/lockdowns is the inability to train with game-specific contact skills. Passing, tackling and rapid changes in direction all pose a threat to athletes with regards to injury when players are unable to reproduce these training elements.
Despite the physical implication’s lockdown has on our team sport athletes, something has to be said for required psychological support given to players when experiencing isolation and change in regular training routines (Stokes et al. 2020). With both potential inadequate physical qualities as well as an impacted psychological aspect the risk of soft tissue injuries are much more likely.
Everyone is different and it’s important to not be too hard on ourselves. I know this might be easier said than done, but we have to remember that we have experienced such unforeseen circumstances. We are quite literally only human, and we have to take care of our bodies both physically and mentally. Ensure you are ready to return to training. When ready, make sure you have a plan in place following baseline recordings, regimented progressions and desired targets. Allow time for you muscle memory to be refreshed both in the gym and playing in a team. You’ll be surprised how suppressed elements of your cognitive processing will be when you haven’t recruited them for a while.
But most importantly, have fun. You deserve returning to doing what you love. Riding out 3 lockdowns is NOT easy and YOU HAVE DONE GREAT!
Thank you in advance for reading my blog.
BSc Hons Sports Therapy MSST
MSc Strength and Conditioning
Gabbett, T.J, (2016), ‘The training—injury prevention paradox: Should athletes be training smarter and harder?’, British Journal of Sports Medicine, (50), 273–80.
Mohr, M, Nassis, G. P, Brito, J, Randers, M. B, Castagna, C, Parnell, D and Krustrup, P. (2020), ‘Return to elite football after COVID-19 lockdown’, Managing Sport and Leisure, 1-9
Stokes, K. A, Jones, B, Bennett, M, Close, G, L, Gill, N, Hull, J. H, Kasper, A. M, Kemp, S. P. T, Mellalieu, S. D, Peirce, N, Stewart, B, Wall, B. T, West, S. W and Cross, M. (2020), ‘Returning to Play after Prolonged Training Restrictions in Profession Collision Sports’, International Journal of Sports Medicine, 41(13), 895-911