We know that rest is good for the body.
However, periods of prolonged rest (i.e. over 6+ weeks) or "absolute" rest can be deleterious, leading to injuries down the line. These injuries typically occur when people commence a new activity that their body isn't used to, or do "too much too soon". Normally, our body is able to adapt to new activities over time, but if you introduce a new activity, new weight or new movement too quickly, it may fail - leading to an acute tissue injury.
I've come to know many runners who have taken a "break" from the gym, in response to the fluctuating COVID-19 restrictions or while marathon training. “Rest” during the COVID-19 lockdown is unique as many have experienced prolonged ‘absolute rest’ with some having little to no access to the gym.
So, whether you've taken a break from the gym or you are thinking of joining the gym for the first time, it is important to take it slow and seek guidance if you aren't confident with weight-based training.
Here are 5 tips to help you safely return to the gym after a period of "prolonged rest":
- Drop your weights to 30-50% of your pre-"rest period" e.g. marathon or COVID-19 lockdown period
- Train every 2-3 days: bones and tendons require about a 48-72hr adaptation period especially after plyometric tasks (e.g. jumping).
- Sleep, eat and keep hydrated: poor sleep, nutrition, hydration and stress can inversely reduce tissue capacity and increase your risk of injury (despite keeping the same load).
- Monitor your intensity rather than reps/sets: start at 5-6/10% intensity (or RPE).
- Respect your niggles and see your friendly physio ASAP to get you back on track!