Locked Down and Unloaded

Daniel Reeves (Physiotherapist – Burnie)

Due to the current environment we find ourselves in, a lot of us have gone from daily sport and exercise to a lot more couch sitting and inactivity.

With no idea of when sports and gyms will start up again this period could become an extended offseason for those who participate in sport and exercise.

This extended offseason may lead to an increased risk of injury for when sports eventually start up again and gyms re-open.

However, this increased injury risk can be minimised by following a few simple strategies and using this ‘offseason’ period to prepare for when sports resume and gyms reopen.

Young man in sportswear an exercise class in a gym Free Photo

  1. KEEP LOADING

Do not completely de-load and do your best not to detrain. Your energy systems, bones, muscles and tendons all respond to load and when they are not loaded enough physiological changes occur that will have a negative impact on your health and performance. For example, reduced strength, reduced muscle size and reduced aerobic/anaerobic fitness. This is also important to consider for those who work in physically demanding jobs and are currently not working.

Do your best to keep up some form loading/exercise/physical activity. This could be as simple as performing some bodyweight resistance exercises 2-3 x week. Another good option is to do some sprinting or high intensity running to continue loading the lower limbs in a way that is specific to your sport. Sprinting is one of the best activities for strengthening the muscles in your legs and graded exposure to sprinting reduces the risk of hamstring injuries, so it is a great addition to your iso exercise plan.

The final thing you want to continue doing is some form of sport/activity specific loading or task. This could be shooting hoops in the backyard (if school courts are off limits), kicking the football, hitting a few hockey balls or any type of skill that relates to your sport so that you are loading your body in as many specific ways as possible.

A woman fasten her shoelaces. person fastening shoelaces. Free Photo

  1. EASE BACK INTO SPORT

When the fields, courts and gyms finally open it would be very wise to ease your way back into your sport rather than going from 0 to 100 straight away.

Sports resume and young jimmy goes back to state development training 2x week, club training 1-2x week, individual sessions 1x week and 1x match a week. This is a recipe several overuse/under-recovery injuries. Injuries mean more time away from sport and that is the last thing anyone wants after already missing a large chunk of time away from sport.

Overuse injuries can also be thought of as underloading injuries. You are just not prepared to withstand the load. This is another reason why strategy number 1 is important. The more load you can continue putting on the body now the more load you will be able to withstand when sport starts up again and the quicker you’ll return to your full training load while having less risk of injury.

The same is true for the older athlete. If Susan stops going to her pump class (which she usually does 3 days/week), does nothing for 1-6 months then goes back into pump class the risk of (for example) knee or shoulder soreness are dramatically increased.

Crop athlete kicking soccer ball Free Photo

  1. AIM TO MAINTAIN WIEGHT

Less general activity and less exercise activity means less energy expenditure. This will potentially result in weight gain depending on overall energy balance.

Keeping active can help to keep your energy expenditure as close to the level it normally would be to help maintain your weight and reduce the chances of weight gain.

Making changes to your nutritional habits (to reduce/control calorie consumption) will also help to prevent weight gain at this time of reduced energy expenditure.

Maintaining your normal weight range is important because if you gain weight and return to your sport heavier than you were prior to Corona the load on your body will be higher which may increase your risk of injury.

More weight = more load on the body = more risk of injury

If you need to lose weight the best time to do this is during offseason (right now) rather than preseason or during the competition period. During preseason and competition, you need to make sure energy needs (calorie intake) are met to adequately fuel and recover from training/matches/exercise.

In summary

  1. Keep load on your body by performing exercise and sports/job specific skills
  2. When sport and gyms resume operation ease your way back to your normal load
  3. Take appropriate steps to maintain weight
  4. Do all of this to reduce your risk of injury