As we begin to return to our favourite sports after lockdown, physiotherapists and doctors are anticipating an influx of soft tissue injuries and strains as a result of people going too hard, too soon. Our bodies have just had a hiatus from sports, and although you may have remained physically fit (thanks YouTube!), it is hard to replicate sport specific agility, force, impact and strength.
Going too hard too soon or overtraining after a long break can have a negative impact on one’s performance and results. Training progress can be hindered if adequate rest is not provided to allow for essential muscle recovery. When we exercise, the body utilises glucose for energy and if it runs out of fuel, it reaches a catabolic state and begins to break down muscle tissue. This catabolic state is detrimental to the body and creates a highly stressful environment.
Especially after a long break, your exercise, rest and recovery requirements will have changed, so it is important that you go easy and listen to your body and how you feel to determine when rest days are needed.
At BodyICE Recovery we know that the best way to treat injury is prevention! So, we’ve put together this guide to help you safely return to your favourite sport after a break and to keep you in the game longer.
Although you might be really keen to jump straight in and start playing or training, without a proper warm up you can quickly cause damage and be out of the game even longer! Try some light cardio to get the blood circulating and if your muscles are tight, then you need to stretch. Take the time to hold and relax into each position and be careful not to overstretch, as this can irritate the muscles and cause a reflex that may increase tightness and lead to injury.
Active recovery is a resting period from strenuous exercise; however, it is not a rest period from movement altogether. When we exercise, we often experience acute muscle soreness either during or immediately after a workout and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMs) which can occur 24-72 hours post workout, and both are a result of exercise-induced muscle trauma. Improving blood flow to your muscles can assist in the healing process and undertaking an active recovery period can be very helpful in this recovery phase.
Performing light cardiovascular exercise can help to improve the rate of recovery by promoting blood flow which helps to increase flexibility and assists in repairing the muscles.
Some effective active recovery exercises are:
- Cycling- A great way to get the legs moving and increase the blood flow to the muscles.
- Brisk Walking- A simple form of light exercise that can easily be incorporated into your day.
- Swimming- A low impact form of exercise that will help to move and soothe the muscles.
- Yoga - Improves flexibility, muscle control and promotes relaxation. Yoga poses and stretches can assist in muscle repair, improve blood flow and reduce muscle soreness and by incorporating such routines into your return to sport, you can actively compliment your existing training schedule.
ALIGNMENT ASSESSMENT AND CORRECTIVE EXERCISES
Regular physical activity such as sport places the body under constant stress while tightening the muscles. If you’ve been on the couch for three months during lockdown and your body is misaligned, the muscles aren’t able to work evenly and efficiently and can increase your chances of being injured.
Muscle imbalances that are detrimental to your posture and if you exercise or train while in this state, it reinforces your negative posture and worsens the existing muscle imbalances. Taking the opportunity to perform corrective exercises will improve your long-term results and help you return to sport injury and pain-free.
You can do some simple alignment exercises like the ones listed below or see a physiotherapist for a balance check up if you are unsure.
- Glute Raise: Build the muscles of the glutes, strengthen the lower back and improve both muscle balance and hip alignment.
- Wall Angels- Improve posture, stretch the chest and open out the shoulders.
- Bird/Dog- A controlled exercise that assists in the strengthening of the core and glutes.
Self-massage and using trigger point balls is a great way to help increase the flow of nutrients and fluid to the fascia and to prevent injury. Trigger point massage balls are a useful piece of active recovery kit and can provide massive physical benefit when used regularly. These balls act as a massage tool, designed to break down tight muscle tissue, release knots and promote flexibility. They are great to use pre-workout for a warm-up, post workout during stretching and on active recovery days to increase blood flow and promote healing of the muscles. They are perfect for small, hard to reach areas or for muscles that require specific pressure. For best results, warm up with some light cardio beforehand. Try our eco-friendly ZONE cork massage balls.
ICE & HEAT
If you feel any aches or pains after training, use ice and compression to help reduce the inflammation in the area, before it becomes an ongoing issue. If you’ve injured yourself or felt a strain apply an ice pack for 15-20 minutes every two to three hours during the first 24 to 48 hours after your injury. Icing will also help stimulate the removal of excess fluid through the lymphatic system, which is increased for 25 minutes after application of a cold pack.
If there is still discomfort 48 hours after training, you can apply heat to the area for 15-20 minutes to cause dilation of blood vessels and increase local circulation. This is useful for tissue healing because it brings oxygen and nutrients for cell repair. Heat can provide soothing pain relief which is particularly effective on arthritic or chronic pains as it causes relaxation of muscle spasms and allows soft tissues to be stretched more easily. Head to BodyICE Recovery for our full range of joint specific ice and heat packs.
If the pain is sharp and acute, even after icing then always seek medical attention.
Your recovery period after exercise is just as important as the workout itself, and providing adequate rest is an essential part of the results process. Physical activity places the body under stress and creates microscopic tears in the muscles which heal to create increased strength and tone, and it is this essential resting phase that allows the body the time to do this efficiently. Much like your body needs time to recover from an illness, anything that physically drains the body of its energy and creates physical stress will require a resting period to allow for repair before being placed under this stress again.
A complete rest day is a day spent abstaining from physical activity and is usually taken to allow the body to recover from exercise. Although after not playing sport for a few months, this sedentary period may be tough to endure, it’s a vital part of the recovery process to protect your body.
Nutrition is an important aspect to round out your holistic training routine. Having correct nutrition while returning to sport will help you retain peak physical fitness as you commence training. By ensuring that well balanced nutritious meals are consumed, you’ll load the body up with useful nutrients and adequate quality calories to assist in both performance and recovery. Use your recovery time to hydrate too, water makes up 60% of the human body, is present in all cells, and is essential to our survival. By restoring nutrients with natural whole foods, and replenishing water with fluids, you are automatically rebalancing the electrolytes that are lost through sweat and helping the body to maintain internal homeostasis, which is vital for peak-performance.
Remember, your body needs time to adapt, so using these pillars of training will help ease you back into sport and help keep you injury free. use your rest day wisely and don't forget to ice any injured areas you are managing.