For those who can't wait to get back onto the pre-COVID treadmill, Sarah McInerney got some tips from a couple of health experts about how to re-start the gym routine safely and avoid injury.
Chartered physiotherapist Jenny Branigan and Prof Niall Moyna of the School of Health and Human Performance at DCU took questions from listeners and shared their expertise on rest and recovery, the importance of strength training and the benefits of exercise to the immune system.
Moyna got straight to the point about the importance of keeping gym equipment clean. He had sobering news about the kinds of unwanted "gifts" gym users can leave behind for the next person:
"There was a paper published earlier this year looking at four different athletics training facilities in the United States. And what they found was that drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus and other pathogens were present on 25% of the equipment."
Moyna says that if these pre-COVID stats are anything to go by, people need to be all the more careful to keep gym equipment sparkling clean during pandemic times.
Physio Jenny Branigan’s first piece of advice was, basically: don’t delude yourself. She says we should imagine that our fitness levels are more like post-Christmas or post-holiday levels, as opposed to what they might be after months of consistent exercise:
"New Year’s Resolutions time we talk about this. This is like the most unusual pre-season ever, because people have been out of action for a long period of time."
Jenny says the way to avoid injury is to be realistic about where you are now, not where you might have been back in February:
"People don't have the same level of weights at home as they have in the gym. So if they’ve had 8 or 10 or 12 weeks of not lifting heavy weights, and now they suddenly go straight back in at that previous level, of course, they’re going to get injured. "
Rest and recovery must figure in your routine, according to Jenny Branigan. She says that if people will pay a price if they let that ‘first day back’ buzz delude them into thinking they can power through without a break:
"They need to be factoring those recovery days and feeling the effects of what they’ve done in the gym in that first session. They’ll feel it the next day, they’ll feel it the second day even, with this delayed-onset muscle soreness and they need to be mindful of that and actually allow their body to put them through that recovery before they put them through that heavy session again."
Varying the intensity from session to session is also beneficial, according to Jenny, as is getting advice on a new plan from a trainer and guidance from a health professional if you need it.
Jenny and Niall addressed a number of calls and questions on post-corona fitness during the programme which you can hear in their full interview with Sarah here.