Experts offer key advice for getting back into your fitness routine after lockdown

woman lifting weights
Don't push yourself too hard too soon or risk a painful injury, warn experts. Photo credit: Getty.

With many gyms and fitness centres reopening under COVID-19 alert level 2, Kiwis will be enthusiastically hitting the weights again for the first time in weeks. I did my first pilates class back in the studio this week and to say it was a burn would be an understatement. 

But experts warn that if we rush back into fitness to soon in an attempt to shift those 'isokilos', we actually could be doing more harm to our bodies than good. 

Andy Schmidt, director of physiotherapy and rehab clinic Active+, says that while we've all been out running, walking and cycling during isolation, it probably hasn't been at the same level of exercise we were previously doing. 

"When you haven't used a muscle group or body region for a while, it's important that you ease back into it," he explains.

"You can't head back to the gym and expect to be lifting the same weights you were doing beforehand, or think that you're going to be hitting the same speed and resistance targets on the cross-trainer or rower. 

"The outcome will be painful muscles and - if you're unlucky - an injury that could set you back for months."

Reebok athlete and coach Zeke Grove agrees and has put together a list of tips for anyone getting back into a regular workout regime:

Be patient 

Don't expect to be at the same level as you were before. During lockdown you may have let your fitness slip, which means you would have lost some of your abilities. Thanks to a little something called muscle memory, you will be able to regain all of your strength back - but be patient. Work with the strength you have now and stay consistent so that you can quickly return to normal. Pushing yourself will only lead to injuries which can set you back, so take your time.

Warm up and cool down 

You are going to feel sore but contrary to popular belief, this isn't a good indicator of whether you've worked out hard enough. It's more likely because you haven't trained at the intensity you were before lockdown. To help you recover faster, remember to warm up before a workout and cool down afterwards. A simple jog or walk to the gym instead of taking your car can be the perfect way to warm up those muscles. 

Ensure you are wearing the right shoes 

Whether you are into HIIT, running or competitive training, it's important to have a shoe that fits right and is designed to support that exercise style. Injury caused by inappropriate shoes can needlessly derail your fitness goals. A shoe like the Reebok Nano X with enhanced stability and high-density foam is made for a range of movements so that you can go from running to squat jumps in no time.

Flexibility is key 

While it feels great to work up a sweat from a HIIT class, flexibility is often an overlooked aspect in fitness routines. Working on your flexibility in your transition back to regular exercise will allow your body to properly adjust to the demands of a workout. There are plenty of resources on the internet these days - my favourite is the book Becoming a Supple Leopard. If you're not a big reader, YouTube is full of content too.

Don't forget to take rest days

Recovery is part of being active. Even though you are taking a day off, it doesn't mean that your body isn't still working to repair itself - the key to helping you reach those fitness goals in the long term. Be realistic about your frequency of training and listen to your body. It will thank you for it!