As Illinois moves into the fourth phase of its reopening plan, normally active people are excited to get back to the gym. However, rushing back after a period sheltering-in-place or altered activity during a quarantine could increase your risk for a new version of "Weekend Warrior Syndrome."
I've seen a marked increase in patients with neck and back injuries since sheltering at home began. Workers are now sitting in front of their computers for longer periods of time while they connect virtually from nontraditional spaces that lack an ergonomically friendly setup. Some people are adding in intermittent workouts without the proper equipment or trainer oversight and that's a recipe for injury.
To avoid the potential of undue sprains, strains, and tears, here are tips for those of you who are getting back into action after leaving your quarantine bubble.
1. Begin increasing your activity level now. If exercise has taken a back seat for the past couple of months, gradually begin working activity into your daily at-home routine with walks, runs or bicycle rides around the neighborhood or at-home circuit training using your own body weight. This will help your body become re-accustomed to movement and help to re-awaken some of the major muscles that may have been taking a vacation during your time away from the gym.
2. Don't underestimate the value of warming up. Whether you've been somewhat sedentary as of late or not, warm-ups are a critically important part of every workout. Before starting any activities, spend some time "waking up" your muscles with stretches, a slow jog, or other moderately-paced cardio exercise. This will help to avoid trauma that could come from shocking your body with a high-impact activity before you ever get your blood flowing.
3. Set realistic goals. One of the top causes of gym-related injuries is not pacing yourself. It can be frustrating to feel like you've lost ground when it comes to workouts, but what is more frustrating is having to take an even longer hiatus due to injury. The key is gradually building up the intensity of your workout each week and not expecting to dive right in where you left off in March. With patience and planning, you'll get back to your optimal fitness level in no time.
4. Listen to your body. One important rule of thumb is to avoid pushing through serious pain. While mild soreness after a workout is not uncommon, a sudden, shooting pain or pain that is getting increasingly worse should not be ignored. Contact your doctor, physical therapist, or trainer for advice.
• Adam Bennett MD is a sports medicine physician with the NorthShore Orthopaedic & Spine Institute. He serves as a team physician for the Chicago Bears and U.S. Soccer