With COVID-19 restrictions beginning to ease, there is a real sense of excitement growing, with sports slowly coming back into the fold, and no doubt you are itching to get back onto the field, the track, or into the gym – we definitely are!
Excited as we all are to jump feet first back into our old training routines, that jump could potentially come with some serious risks if not done in the right way. To help make sure you don’t risk an injury plagued return to sport, here is our guide on how to safely return to sport after Covid-19.
What has happened to your body in lockdown
Being stuck at home and as a result being inactive, will have likely caused your muscles, bones, and ligaments to be tighten and potential weaken.
This occurs as our body adapts to our new sedentary lifestyle and as our tissues do not get the stress from exercise which is required for us to maintain and grow our tissues. As our tissues have become weaker and tighter than they were previously, a sudden return to sport can lead to fatigue, muscle strains, tendinopathies, excessive muscles soreness, and even stress fractures.
Knowing the very real risks of returning to sport after a long layoff, at Precision Physio we have put together our top four things to keep in mind to ensure that your comeback is as successful and healthy as possible:
1. Control the volume, frequency and intensity of your workouts
Going all out in your first training session back is a recipe for disaster. It is essential for you to create a plan to gradually build up your body’s tolerance to the stress of your sport.
For example, start with a couple of light sessions to help determine how fit you are, as well as allowing time for your body to adjust. To get a better idea of what is a “light” or “heavy” training session, there are a few ways to measure how much work you are doing with your training, some examples are:
- Heart rate
- Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
- Steps taken
- Tackles done in a session
- Distance run
It is always a good idea to keep a record of these outcome measures, in time they will become numbers which you can progress/improve as you return to your regular training sessions.
As you begin to improve your fitness and readiness for your sport, try alternating heavier and light sessions, and include Strength and Conditioning days to further ready yourself for game-day!
2. Address your flexibility and warm-up routine
Being stiff and tight after not moving around for months will lead to muscle strains and poor performance if you don’t address the issues early on. Sitting at home will often cause tightness in the upper back, hamstrings, and hip flexors, and these muscles need to be lengthened and strengthened to maximise your performance on the field.
Some stretches that can be done at home throughout the day and before your training can include:
Foam Roll Thoracic Extensions:
Performed by placing a foam roller under your upper back and doing a sit up motion while keeping your bottom and feet on the ground. Around 3 sets of 15 repetitions is sufficient prior to a training session.
Couch stretch for hip flexors:
Performed by holding this position for around 3 sets of 30 seconds. You should feel the stretch at the front of your hip and upper thigh.
Hamstring stretch with or without a band:
Performed by holding this position again for around 3 sets of 30 seconds. You should feel the stretch at the back of your leg.
Furthermore, light running and strengthening drills should be used as part of your warmup routine. A warm up program such as the Fifa 11+, which involves running, jumping, and balance drills, has been shown to reduce the risk of injuries for athletes in a wide variety of sports. Be sure to integrate these to optimise your performance in your next training session!
3. Ensure your recovery is on point
Coming back to sport after a long layoff can be difficult on the body, so be sure to listen to your body and recover! Recovery is essential to give your muscles the opportunity to grow and recharge for your next session.
After every training session, be sure to consider:
- Sleep! A “healthy” night of sleep has been suggested to be 7-9 hours for optimal performance and recovery
- Have water to replenish fluids lost during exercise and be sure to avoid alcohol and sugary drinks!
- How we fuel ourselves is vital to our performance and recovery
Stretch and warm down with the exercises above and stretch out any muscles you have used during training.
4. Train with proper technique
As we’ve already highlighted, staying at home for prolonged periods of time can lead to muscle tightness and weakness and this will negatively affect your technique. Your body will attempt to compensate for these weaknesses by overloading other ligaments and joints, leading to injury risks in those areas.
An example of this could be a baseball pitcher developing shoulder and elbow pain because they are unable to develop enough power from their torso and legs as previously. Equally a powerlifter trying to squat their previous amount of weight, is likely through weakness in their glutes and quads (from staying at home), to compromises their technique and therefore overload their lower back.
With technique in mind, it is incredibly important to make sure you are using proper form and for your sport, this might mean initially lowering the weight, reducing your running speed, or slowing down your movement. But, pulling back can allow for the progressive strengthening of the appropriate muscles, which will engrain your optimal technique to maximise performance and minimise future injuries.
If you want to be thorough with your return to sport, build a tailored plan that suits you as an individual, and learn the correct biomechanics for you’re sport, we at Precision Physio all come from sporting backgrounds, and are well versed in helping you be your best and live young!
There is a reason pro athletes work so closely with Physiotherapists, Exercise Physiologists and other related sorts coaches, it’s because every sportsperson is different and their risks of injury are as different as their routes to optimal performance.
If you don’t want to take any chances with your comeback and instead you want to make sure that you get as much enjoyment from your return to sport as possible, book in for a session with the Precision Physio team and we’ll take you through a thorough evaluation, understand your goals, your history and provide you with a plan to help you dominate on your return.
This article was written by Physiotherapist – Weir Kong, from our Precision Physio St Marys clinic. If you would like more information, or feel you might benefit from a session with one of the Precision Physio team, you can either come into our clinics, or work with us online.
How Do I Book An Appointment?
We’re taking the health of our clients, members and staff very seriously and our preference would be for you to call to book an appointment so that we can make sure to explain our approach to keeping you safe. You can call any of these numbers to schedule a session:
- Customer Support Centre: 02 8607 4000
- Precision Physio Concord: 02 9736 3950
- Precision Physio St Marys: 02 9623 2220
Evolving with the current environment, we are also now offering online appointments, meaning that we can support anyone who is unable to leave their home. Sessions are done via our state of the art Telehealth system and as long as you have a laptop or tablet with an inbuilt camera, or a phone with camera, we can help!
To learn more about online consultations, please call us on any of the numbers listed above.