The festive season is out of the way. It is now time for fitness enthusiasts to once again hit the gym to shed the extra calories gained during the December holidays.
However, as much as individuals want to regain their great form as quickly as possible, fitness trainers call for caution as they resume workouts after an extended period of inactivity.
Fitness trainer Robinson Joel, popularly known as Robby-Piyo, explains that one’s body needs time to get used to a particular activity or intensity and can respond either positively or negatively. Resuming intense workouts can result in pain (including general muscle soreness, shoulder pain, knee pain, hamstring strains) from doing too much too soon.
He points out that being inactive for long not only leads to weight gain but also generalised muscle weaknesses as a result of the reduction in bone density, making an individual vulnerable to injuries resuming exercising without proper guidance.
This, therefore, calls for precautions to be taken by individuals while resuming working out to avoid unnecessary injuries.
“Restarting exercising after a long period of inactivity without preparing the muscles could be disastrous and a recipe for injuries in the joints, especially in the knees, which are one of the most unstable joints and vulnerable to injuries,” says Joel.
Consult a fitness coach to prescribe an appropriate workout before starting out
The fitness coach with AV Fitness Centre in Kilimani, Nairobi recommends that one should reach out to a fitness coach to design a workout programme taking into account the period one has been inactive.
The workout prescription will involve duration of the exercise, nature, and intensity. The goal, he notes, is to ease one into a fitness workout.
This is important as he points out that many individuals resorted to a sedentary lifestyle during the holidays leading to some of the body muscles becoming tight and others weak causing imbalance because they were not being used as often as when one was exercising.
Joel explains that sitting all the time makes the thigh, glute, and hamstrings tight with the muscles imbalances transferred to the lower back and this leads to problems as all the muscles are attached to the pelvis.
“If one just begins exercising suddenly, the inactivity will lead to injuries because of jolting the stiff muscles with sudden intensive workouts,” he states.
Shadrack Oracha, a personal fitness coach, adds that an individual should disclose any past injuries so that trainers can come up with an exercise programme that will take them into account.
“The trainer will use the information provided to design a supervised exercise programme taking into consideration the desirable intensity, frequency, and duration,” says Shadrack.
Start with aerobic exercises
Shadrack adds that one could start with aerobic exercises three to five days a week with between 20 and 30 minutes of moderate intensity as one builds fitness levels. For instance, a quick walk, a light jog, or a flat bike ride are just some examples of light workouts one can engage in.
He explains that an individual should be able to feel their heart rate and increase their breathing without getting out of breath and then after two to five weeks at this level, one can increase both the duration and intensity of their workout.
“Do not resume workout with full intensity but start slow and increase the intensity gradually to avoid injuries of the joints and knees,” he advises.
Build fitness gradually
Muscles and the general body need to be prepared to resume workouts, says Joel. While it is important to warm up, cool down, and stretch before any exercise, there is a need for gradual easing into bodyweight exercises.
He recommends that an individual should focus more on stability workouts rather than strength exercises by starting slow, pacing oneself, and then introducing three-leg exercises before moving on to bodyweight exercises.
This is because the body’s resistance needs to be built to levels where it is comfortable with handling weights.
“Increase repetitions and sets, from between 12 and 15 reps of one or two sets, slowly as you build your fitness. Be mindful of the duration and intensity of the workouts. A 20-minute programme should be ideal for a start for three or four days a week before gradually increasing both the duration and repetitions with time.”
Pace yourself and your goals
Shadrack advises that in as much as individuals might have a fitness goal in mind when getting back to the gym, one should set smaller goals as they resume workouts. It is those smaller goals that build-up to the bigger goals.
“Setting a bigger goal upon resumption will only lead to frustrations which may result in overworking the body and in the process risking injuries as one may find it difficult to achieve the bigger goals initially.”
Listen to your body
Above all Joel notes that a person should be able to listen to how their body reacts because there are peaks and valleys in getting back to full fitness or a certain level of activity after a long period of inactivity.
He adds that the body should be given time to recover from the new stresses of exercising by giving it rest days. “The body will react differently each day as one may be able to do more one day but not be able to do the same the next day.”