Change is what you make of it, breeding opportunity and prosperity or despair. As a podiatrist, I have noticed two distinct flavours of social distancing each with their strengths and pitfalls. On one end of the spectrum, are those people who have used the lack of social gathering to exercise even more than they usually do. On the other end of the spectrum are those binge-watching Netflix. I will admit to swinging wildly between the two depending on my mood and motivation, an almost certain recipe for mishap. I needed to be more consistent to capitalise on the opportunity by striking a balance between overtraining and deconditioning and help my patients do the same so that we can all get the best out of ourselves and come out of 2020 stronger.
Covid has been a catalyst for many to exercise. Apart from being a mere escape working from home or job seeking drudgery, benefactors boast improved fitness, mood and cognitive function along with a host of other enhancements. Danger comes when we more often than not are overzealous and over train, going for that one extra run after a string of sleepless nights or long days at work. On these days, mental and physical stressors increase the likelihood of overtraining injuries.
Individuals at the other end of the spectrum who have adopted sedentary habits or have been forced by lack of access to services to become sedentary are similarly at risk. In addition to missing out on the benefits of exercise, deconditioning, weakens the bodies’ tissues ability to cope with physical stress. Without the impact of walking, exercising and working, our bones, tendons and muscles become more prone to injury especially those without much reserve, the elderly and sick. Luckily, studies show that with appropriate loading, these groups respond the quickly and can make up the deficits in bone density, strength and endurance.
Both groups can benefit greatly from a few simple tools and tips:
· Goals: The SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time Based) formula is an easy starting spot for beginners and those more experienced.
Achievable is one of the most important parts of the formula. Activities become habits and have a lasting impact when completed every day. Research shows this is more likely to happen when we achieve our goal daily.
· Taking a holistic approach: No matter if you’re trying to line up for the Olympics or just building some strength, everything during your day has an impact. When we take into account intrinsic (things inherent to our own bodies that we can’t change such as heart conditions) and extrinsic (outside factors) when we are already overwhelmed we can reduce likelihood of injuries.
· Building slowly: Build slowly and take into account your current exercise load and fitness. Activities you pick should be challenging and progressive but realistic.
· Not putting things off: Niggles and pain need to be dealt with sooner rather than later.
It’s very easy to put off dealing with a pain or concern but if that leads to not exercising for 6 months it have a lasting impact on not only your health but your productivity so visit the doctor or local health professional sooner rather than later.
· Make time to be social: Exercising socially has been shown to improve success and help with creation of habits. Of course use discretion and adhere to the current restrictions but make efforts to be social and hold each other accountable even if over video call.
Personal reflection section:
At the beginning of 2020, I myself was nursing a stubborn hip and back injury which had resisted my best efforts at strengthening for the best part of a year. Undeterred, I ploughed on, foolishly and still in pain but determined to train in the vain hope that it would resolve itself. Covid has given me the unique ability to take a step back from the regular hustle and bustle and focus on the goal of getting back to running pain free. To begin with I reflected,
conducted biomechanical assessment, and reduced how much I ran and began afresh changing my orthotics and beginning a new strengthening regimen which targeted weaknesses I had neglected. Additionally I changed my diet and reassessed my sleep schedule.
Overall, the outcome of 2020 is in your hands, use this time to reset and come out strong.