How to restart your body after lockdown
Restart after lockdown : Use your imagination !
Most of us have had to stay lockdown at home. The consequences are big on our health, some are suffering mental issues and for nearly all of us, we are facing Effort Deconditioning Syndrome (EDS). It’s a well known syndrome and documented, it occurs mainly after a really long hospitalization. It translates in loss of cardiac capacities, breathing shortness, and the loss of muscle mass, in some rare cases balance dysfunctions.
As we stayed home for weeks and weeks, sitting, laying down, working from home, waiting, binge watching Netflix between four walls, we all have a slight EDS and for some, gained weight as well.
Getting back on track takes time and it needs to be done properly. As a therapist I had to treat many injuries, back problems especially in the 40’s, 50’s years old range of people who just get back on training too quickly. And i m not mentioning cardiac failure.
To reignite our body, there is a curious way to prepare to get back fit : IMAGINATION
A recent study published in The Journal of Neurophysiology found that simply imagining exercise can tone muscle, delay atrophy, and even make your muscles stronger. And the results of the experiment are quite amazing. I am including this kind of mental exercises in my treatments and for myself as well.
Researchers at Ohio University, conducted an experiment using two sets of 'healthy individuals.'
The scientists wrapped the wrists of one of the sets in a cast and gave them instructions to sit still for 11 minutes, five days a week, for four weeks, and « perform mental imagery of strong muscle contractions » or, imagine exercising. Basically they had to imagine squeezing their hands.
The other set were not given any instruction.
The results illustrated that the body and mind are more intertwined than we though. At the end of the four weeks, the participants who engaged in the 'mental exercise' were twice as strong as those who didn't.
Additionally, those participants had a stronger brain because the exercises created stronger neuromuscular pathways. Exercising imagery techniques are even commonly used by professional athletes to improve performance.
What the study suggests is that imagery exercises could be a valuable tool to prevent or slow muscles from becoming weaker when a health problem limits or restricts a person’s mobility.
With the new developments, imagery can be used to help people undergoing neuro rehabilitation and can help control the effects of aging.
So basically how can we use this techniques regarding post lockdown time ?
From my experience and studies, light EDS leads to back pain, ankle and knee strains, neck issues, and cardiac dysfunctions (thanks my watch to surprised me as I was restarting jogging).
The most important, especially if you are over 40 years of age, is gradually restart your physical activities. It is an essential point to avoid injuries. So the mental exercise starts as follow: lay down in a quiet place, it can be your bedroom but doing so in a park is an excellent idea. Turn off your phone and avoid any type of distractions, playing your favorite tune can help. As i recommend walking only for the first week, visualize the effort of walking a steep street, try to imagine your quadriceps extending, your back muscles, and shoulder moving. Visualize a walk that you have done or not. Finish the exercise by mentally visualize series of squats until your legs burn. Breath deeply when doing it. You may have seen this downhill skiers closing their eyes and mimicking their moves, that’s kind of the same. Do this routine for a week, 10 minutes a day. This may sound a bit weird, but applying this discipline will rewire your nervous system to your muscle, like having more precise strings attached to a muppet.
As you were locked between four walls, try to avoid first the usual walks you were doing. Apply diversity to your experience, this usual walk to the food store might be done maybe by that street you never been. It’s part of a stimulating process to get yourself back on track. We can’t travel at the moment but you can travel and explore your neighborhood. End each walk by a squats series until it burns in your legs, it sends a natural chemical message to your body to rebuild muscle. If possible avoid lifts, and car ride.
Weeks 2 apply the same routine, but faster walks. Weeks 3 you can restart jogging, and again from studies in sport science and my experience wait at least 2 weeks to jog again. Week 4 start again your gym program using the same visualization prior to your session. Apply on each stage this visualization exercises. Progressivity is the most important key to success, the intensity you want to apply during exercises depends on your previous sports life. The best indicator used by cardiologists is your ability to speak during exercises. As you do your walk, your run, you have to stay on the limit of being able to talk and be out of breath, try to stick to this limit. It’s a simple way to monitor cardio and lungs capacities progress. Monitor your heart rate with a smart device if you have one. Keep in mind that the maximum heart rate per minute is 220-age, don’t go above that limit. Listen to your body and always restart gently. Back, hips pain is really likely to occur when restarting. As you restart to hit the gym week 4 combine your routine with visualization exercises ie abs, quadriceps, triceps. Keep well hydrated and don’t forget to warm up your muscles prior to your gym session. EDS makes you more likely to injure yourself, warming up before exercising will reduce that risk.
Again I am not giving a magical tip to be extra fit in one month. This visualization technique shows well that body and mind are highly connected. Consider this post lock down time as a global refresh to make a better you. Introspection is always the way to grow.