In this article we will clearly explain the main reasons that lead athletes to suffer discomfort and injury in these first few weeks returning to normal activity.
After more than two months in confinement, and with our reduced daily activity and mobility, it is time to gradually resume the sports we were practicing as before.
In addition, this news has also jumped into the sports media with numerous professional football players injured after the first week back to training.
Loss of sports specificity
The starting point is to be aware of how our daily physical activity, mobility and the pace and volume of training have declined in recent months.
In addition, in most cases, the specific practice of sport has been almost impossible or zero.
- Runners, for example, unless they have a treadmill at home, have not performed the specific activity of the race.
- Swimmers, have not trained in the aquatic environment.
- Powerlifters, in most cases, have not had the opportunity to training with high loads due to the lack of material necessary for the practice of Powerlifting…
- In the case of footballers, they have also not been able to take part in specific training in spacious environments, in coordination ability games, speed ability training as well as team games.
On the other hand, having a reduced daily physical activity rate, spending more sitting time thereby reducing our mobility, has also caused certain skeletal muscle structures to have suffered atrophy, reduced mobility ranges and loss of muscle mass.
But it should also be noted that this inactivity has had a direct impact on all systems: endocrine, metabolic, nervous…
As when a person is sick in bed, or one of the members is inactive because of injury, and decreasing daily steps (decreasing daily physical activity).
María del Pilar Martín Escudero (Researcher in the Department of Radiology, Rehabilitation and Physiotherapy from the Complutense University in Madrid) states that:
“Studies show that after five weeks without training there is an increase in fat mass, an increase in waist circumference, associated with a decrease in maximum oxygen consumption, and a drop in the resting metabolic rate.
Another consequence of confinement is alteration in the bone structure through decreased bone density and mineralization caused by reduced exercise and hours of sun exposure.
There is a disturbance and loss of muscle mass with modification of the distribution of some muscle fibres, the musculature is shortened and elasticity is lost.”
Consequences of not having practiced sport
A recent study published on May 12th about the effects of sedentariness and inactivity due to the COVID19 pandemic describes the main conditions produced in all systems resulting from physical inactivity due to months of confinement.
Loss of muscle mass
The fact that there is loss of muscle mass implies a decrease or loss of enervation of muscle fibres, there is possible neuromuscular damage, and increased protein breakdown.
Reduced insulin sensitivity
On the other hand, a recent article highlights that inactivity affects the glucose homeostasis, reducing sensitivity to insulin.
Less aerobic capacity
Regarding aerobic capacity, as we have pointed out earlier, not only does oxygen uptake decrease, but it also affects the peripheral circulation and oxidative capacity of the muscle.
Accumulation of fat
Another notable feature of this decrease in inactivity is related to loss of energy balance, in favour of greater fat deposition and systemic inflammation is usually present.
Loss of bone minerals
To this we must add lack of sun exposure and, therefore, a decrease in vitamin D, which is necessary to strengthen bone mineralisation and which works to protect the immune system.
Loss of “cardio” and strength
A priori, it is common sense to think that, in order to be able to train at the same level (volume, intensity) as in the pre-confinement phase, the first thing is to recover, at least, to our previous state.
- We must bear in mind that after 2 weeks of inactivity in the case of aerobic training, the losses produced by adaptation may be as high as 30%.
- For strength levels, loss of adaptations can take up to 4 weeks.
In either case, after more than 60 days without these specific activities, there is a high decrease in:
- Maximum Oxygen Consumption Levels (VO2MAX).
- Aerobic capacity.
How can we recover and get to our previous level?
Advice No. 1: Progression
The first thing we need to consider in the coming weeks is to make small adaptations in a progressive manner to our specific workouts. We will start from the basic load levels, kilometres-volume levels, and work on the most important aspects like: muscle mass gain, aerobic base work, movement pattern techniques for the sport in question.
For runners, for example, these first few weeks have to be alternating minutes of smooth running with minutes of walking.
Sessions can be extended in volume as the weeks pass and the movement patterns recover, with the first aerobic adaptations being produced.
Advice No. 2: Complementary workouts
Don’t forget to keep going with the complementary training you’ve been doing throughout confinement such as: flexibility, mobility, general fitness exercises, and the use of foam rollers as a self-massage tool.
Advice No. 3: Healthy Habits
Control your daily caloric intake, hydration and rest.
Meanwhile, increase your daily step count now that it is possible to exercise out in the fresh air, allowing forsun exposure.
Advice No. 4: Supplements
The extra contribution from certain supplements such as Turmeric, which has an anti-inflammatory effect will help.
Zinc and Magnesium, are also good allies to strengthen the immune system.
- Narici, M. et. al. “Impact of Sedentarism Due to the COVID-19 Home Confinement on Neuromuscular, Cardiovascular and Metabolic Health: Physiological and Pathophysiological Implications and Recommendations for Physical and Nutritional Countermeasures”, European Journal Sport Science, 2020 May 12, 1-22
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