The importance of not doing “too much too soon”

Normality is around the corner and we are all trying to get back into the swing of things, but where is the whole concept of easing back into it? The majority of people are back at work and wanting to get back into the gym, but tend to have the mindset of “I want to get back to where I was pre-covid as soon as possible”, but how do we get there?

Pushing yourself to your limit: Not always the answer. Any form of exercise that is either new or excessive can cause symptomatic rhabdomyolysis (a condition in which skeletal muscle breaks down rapidly). It doesn’t help going too hard too soon. Doing too much too quickly will result in injury or muscle damage, but doing too little, too slowly will not result in any improvement. The desired physiological response to a training stimulus requires both a gradual buildup period and a period of recovery in between training sessions.

Slow but steady wins the race: Consistent, effective effort leads to better results. The body needs to adapt to the stress of returning to exercise. It’s similar to learning a new skill; at first, it’s difficult, but over time it will become second nature. Once you have taken some time to adapt to a specific stress, you will then start to require additional stress to continue to make progress.

Rest and Recovery: When first starting again, rest and recovery are critical for numerous reasons. These reasons could be both physiological or psychological. Rest is physically necessary so that muscles can rebuild, repair or strengthen. Recovery allows the body to replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues. Without sufficient time to repair and replenish, the body will continue to break down and you won’t achieve anything. Building in rest days can also help maintain a better balance between home, work, and fitness goals.

Therefore, in combination, gradual buildup of training and appropriate recovery will allow beneficial muscular, cardiovascular, and body composition adaptations to occur, such as building muscle, increasing fitness and losing body fat. The Hare and the Tortoise is a great example, start slow, persevere and you’ll eventually get back to where you were pre Covid, or even better, an improvement from pre Covid.

Line Malan

Exercise Scientist 

References:

Rusnak, M., VanderMeulen, M., Byrd, B., Byrd, G., Rusnak, R., Martin, J. and Hew-Butler, T., 2020. Muscle Damage, Soreness, And Stress During Preseason Training In Collegiate Swimmers.Healthline. 2020. Exercise Rest Day: Benefits, Importance, Tips, And More. [online] Available at: <https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/rest-day> [Accessed 23 June 2020].