As gyms begin to reopen in Arizona, many of us are ready to jump back in and get those endorphins flowing. However, it is important to be aware that after being less active for a few months, our bodies have new limitations. As an orthopedic sports medicine surgeon, I treated many patients who pushed themselves too hard, too soon, and suffered a serious injury as a result.
There is no doubt that physical activity plays an important role in the overall well-being of the body and mind, but the most common mistake is immediately trying to get back into the same intensity and duration of exercises as before the stay at home order.
Our bodies need time to build back up to the previous level of fitness. That is why it’s important to give our muscles a few weeks to gradually build back up strength and endurance. I advise all my patients at The CORE Institute to start slow, pay attention to how they feel during exercise and recovery, and let their bodies tell them if they are doing too much. A day of soreness after a workout is normal, but prolonged soreness for multiple days likely means you overdid it.
Jumping right back into cardio, weightlifting, boot camp and other classes can cause injuries ranging from tendon/ligament tears to extensive muscle breakdown that could cause organ damage. It is best to start with a combination of cardio and low impact resistance training, such as a stationary bike, swimming, bodyweight resistance, or low weight dumbbells. If you have pre-existing conditions or injuries, make sure you get clearance from your physician before heading back to the gym.
Exercise is important, as it lowers stress, improves mood, and enhances sleep. So, if you can comfortably and safely return to your previous workout routine, you should, and here is how you can safely get back into motion:
Most people should start slowly with low impact cardio and resistance workouts. If you want to resume weightlifting, start with 20-50% of your previous weight amount and build up by 10-20% or so each week.
It’s important to warm up your muscles before exercise with a quick, dynamic stretch for 1-2 second hold, repeated several times. To help prevent soreness after your workout, do longer static stretches, holding each one for 20-30 seconds.
Limit Time at the Gym:
In the beginning, try to limit time in the gym to 30 minutes and go during off-hours to limit exposure if possible.
Wearing a mask is important if you can work out with it comfortably. Good hand hygiene and social distancing are also important. If your gym supplies cleaning materials, consider wiping down the areas you will be using before and after your workout.
Take Your Own Stuff:
Bring a towel and a water bottle. Make sure to fill up the water bottle before getting to the gym, since water fountains are high-touch areas and bringing your own towel ensures no one else touched it without proper protective gear.
It’s common to experience soreness after restarting a workout routine. I recommend using a cold pack to numb the soreness for 10-minutes at a time, then apply heat and slowly stretch the muscle.
If you experience prolonged pain or numbness, call your specialist, or make an in-office or telehealth appointment with The CORE Institute to get a professional examination and understand your options. To learn more, visit https://thecoreinstitute.com/ or call 866.974.2673.
Written by: Dr. Michael B. Rose, MD, orthopedic sports medicine surgeon at The CORE Institute.
Dr. Michael B. Rose, MD is a fellowship-trained orthopedic sports medicine surgeon at The CORE Institute. He specializes in advanced shoulder and elbow surgery, knee ligament reconstruction, hip arthroscopy, knee cartilage restoration and meniscus transplantation, malalignment correction including osteotomies of the femur and tibia, and patellofemoral disorders. He is experienced in reparative medicine, featuring Lipogems® and Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) Injections.