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Four Things to Remember When Returning to Exercise After a Break

The festive season is over, all the eating, drinking and lazing about crescendos at the end of January in the form of one last boozy weekend, a music countdown and perhaps a new personal weight record on the scales.

February signals the time to jump back into your regular sweat-sesh, or maybe even a totally new kind of sweat-sesh for you. Whether it’s getting back into F45, running the Tan or kicking off your pre-season footy training this sudden uptick in training represents a risky little period.

This time of year, we see a spike in overload type injuries in our clinic. Usually these injuries occur in our tougher connective tissues like tendons. But we also see them in bones and joint surfaces that have been asked to keep up with their owner’s fervent attempt to burn off the big night before.

So how should we avoid a frustrating start to 2019’s fitness goals?

  1. 24 hours rest

Connective tissues like tendons (think Achilles’ tendon for runners or rotator cuff tendon for swimmers) require at least 24 hours to recover from loading, particularly fast loading – think springy things like jogging or box jumps at F45 – before we hit them again with another bout of exercise.

Why 24 hours?

Tendons have lower blood supply than muscles, so it takes a little longer to get all of the nutrients required for growth and adaptation to get in. Tendons go into a period of breakdown for 24 hours after a workout before they then catch up and remodel themselves to become a little tougher than they were before. If you’re overenthusiastic and pack too many workouts too close together your tendons will let you know by painfully interrupting your next workout.

  1. Switch it up

If you’re not the resting type you can try splitting your program up. It’s common for people to split their program so that they work their upper body on Monday and lower body on Tuesday, for example. Tendons also tolerate some types of load better than others. Elastic loads, for example, plyometrics, are much more demanding on tendons than slower types of load – like a strength workout in the gym.

So, if your group fitness class involves jumping or skipping or throwing a medicine ball on Monday you can swap this for slower-paced squats and lunges on Tuesday and your connective tissues should fare just fine.

  1. Dial in your technique

Tendons are good at being pulled but not so good at being squished. Technique errors like over-striding in running or poor form in squatting can lead to joints losing good position and, in some cases, compressing tendons between hard bony surfaces. Consulting a physiotherapist on correct technique for your chosen form of fitness is one effective way to ensure that you don’t end up with an annoying injury.

  1. No Pain, No Gain

Lastly, if you do notice that you’ve picked up a sore tendon this is the time when you should apply the ‘listen to your body’ rule. This is your tendon’s way of telling you to cool it. If you continually push through this pain you could find yourself on an extended break from the gym. However, these injuries, if addressed early, are easy to treat with a little rest and some good advice from your physiotherapist.