How to avoid breaking yourself when you return to training

After months of home workouts, many gym goers, along with many people who have found fitness throughout the lockdown period, are itching to return to training. Although gyms aren't allowed to fully reopen yet, outdoor classes are a thing - specifically at GT Fitness - and as such, people have access to movements and weights they might not have done for quite some time. With all the excitement, it would be easy to rush back in, and want to do everything at once, and to return to your former levels of strength and fitness as quickly as possible. I'm completely with you, I want nothing more than to be lifting the same weights as before, moving as quickly, and feeling as fit and healthy as ever. Be cautious though; too much of a rush will likely lead to injury, and this time you'll be stuck on the sofa at home while the gyms are open, and everyone else is training! Here are my top 5 tips to avoid injury on your return:

  1. Focus on full range of motion, compound movements, but with moderate loads. There's a good chance you haven't hit certain ranges of motion for quite some time. Your joints need to reacquaint themselves with this, but your muscles and connective tissue especially does. Higher reps with lower weight is great for conditioning the connective tissues; which is where most injuries occur.

  2. Be progressive with reintroducing weight. Right now you can lift more than you should lift. You can lift as much as you're able, and you may not get injured, but even if you avoid injury, this likely isn't a smart move. Why not? Well you know that pain, DOMS, that people chase? It isn't such a good thing. It means longer recovery periods, which means less training, and it also increases

injury risk. If you make it through the first month without really getting sore, that's a good thing! I'm not talking no soreness here, I mean specifically avoiding that crippling level of muscle soreness a day or two later that throws you off your plans.

  1. Use plenty of bodyweight exercises. For similar reasons as point 1; these are great for connective tissue, and reintroducing full ranges of motion. It's also a great way to rebuild that mind muscle connection, making movements like the squat, push-up or pull-up, automatic again, ready to load up a back squat, bench press or weighted pull-up, without worrying too much about mechanics.

  2. Avoid heavy eccentric work. That controlled lowering phase is what makes you sore; what gives you DOMS. People often include tempo work in training programmes, or negatives where the eccentric phase is emphasised. Whilst these can be useful tools, now is not the time. Some eccentric loading is of course unavoidable, but it certainly shouldn't be the focus. There's also an increased risk of rhabdomyolysis if you were previously well trained, or if you were particularly untrained.

  3. Return to lower order skill and drill work. If you previously included some movements in your training that challenged your coordination (hint: you really should) then take some time to reintroduce them using skills and drills that are progressive, and avoid intensity. For example, if you use the Olympic lifts, or more advanced gymnastic movements, keep these out of workouts for now, or use only simplified versions, and spend time drilling positions and movements to rebuild neural connections and reintroduce joints to more challenging and dynamic loading patterns.

Of course one way to achieve all of this, and get coached and supervised through the process, is go to a gym that runs classes, with a well trained coach, and this should all be taken care of in the programming and the coaching. If you train yourself though, hopefully these tips will help keep you on track now you're back! Remember you're training your body, not your ego!

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