Thinking about working out again? First do this...
When the pandemic started, you may have thought I will get back to the gym once this passes. Well two weeks turned into a few months and who knows how long it will be before you are able to get back to your routine again. Your routine may never be the same and you may have second thoughts about going back to the gym even when they do reopen. With Covid cases on the rise it is important that you don't put off taking care of yourself any longer. Now is the time to start a whole new routine and start exercising to build your immunity.
Now that you are ready to exercise I want to address one issue that can hinder your progress and may even bring your new routine to a halt. That is...doing too much, too fast. After taking some time off your body is out of balance. You have lost some strength and have assumed new lifestyle patterns. Daily patterns, such as sitting, slouching, and texting are contributing to muscle imbalances. This leads to an imbalance of under-active and over-active musculature. When you start an exercise routine and do too much, too fast, the muscles that are weak can't do their job and the other muscles start to work overtime to do the job of the under-active muscles. Specifically, if the muscles used to stabilize the ankle, knee, hip, low back, and shoulder are not strong and balanced you will increase your likelihood of pain or injury.
You may feel eager to jump back into your old routine. However, if your old routine included lifting weights or high impact exercises like jumping you will need to rebuild your body's foundation to support intense exercise. It is important that you strengthen your core and your stabilizers first before lifting heavy weights or performing high impact exercises. Your core and stabilizer muscles are the foundation that keeps your body moving efficiently. If these muscles are weak, compensation patterns will develop and result in injury over time. Think of your body like a ship with big sails and a small mast. Eventually the mast won't be able to hold the sails and the sails are going to take the boat down. The same thing will happen with your body. If you don't prioritize your core and stabilizer muscles your body is sure to start breaking down.
Start a new exercise program safely by beginning with core, balance, and stability exercises along with lifting lighter weights at about 50-70% your max. Do 1-3 sets of 12-20 reps. Perform this routine for 4 weeks before increasing your intensity.
Here are some key areas to focus on:
The glute medius the muscle that stabilizes the hip
Exercises: side leg lifts, clamshells, mini-band squat walks
The glute maximus, the larger muscle (your buttocks) that stabilizes the hip
Exercise: Glute Bridges, Straight leg deadlift, Ball Squats
The Vastus medialis Oblique (VMO) or the inner quadriceps muscle (front of your thigh)
Exercises: Isometric contraction of the quads, static lunges, ball squats, wall squats, step-ups
Exercises: Balance exercises, Squat jumps with a 3-5 second hold at the bottom.
Exercises: Sea turtles, prone cobra, side raises with thumbs facing up, reverse flys, band or weighted external rotation, Y's, T's, and I's
Once you have progressed your exercise routine it is important to continue adding these exercises on a regular basis. If you can spend about 10 to 15 minutes three times a week you will improve and maintain your body's stability. With good stability you will prevent injury and you will see better results because your body will perform more efficiently. Here is a sample stability routine to help you get started.