If you take a few months off from sport or activity, while you will still remember how to do it, the body will not always be 100% ready to perform the first time that you come back to it. Many recreational athletes will tell you the first couple games of the season can be tough!
The gardening that we do early in the spring is no different than the first round of golf or the first hockey game of the season. If you haven’t used your body for a type of activity for weeks, months, or even years, it’s going to need some time to adapt.
“Too much, too fast, after doing too little, for too long”
What will often catch people off guard is by doing “Too much, too fast, after doing too little, for too long”. This last year has been particularly challenging when it comes to staying active and getting a chance to participate in our usual activities, but with some planning and foresight, this doesn’t have to affect the transitions coming up this year.
Spring - Gardening
- The last time they moved the flower pots was October and they’re heavier than they remember.
- On the 6th lift they feel a painful sensation in their lower back, which has the opportunity to sour the whole weekend.
- The flower pots haven’t gotten any heavier, and the individual is not even a full year older.
Summer - Golf
- By the 10th, that hip starts to act up again, the one that is always a little touchy.
- Or the shoulder that doesn’t appreciate it when the ball is sliced.
- This hypothetical person hasn’t done anything wrong, but may be wondering how many more games they’re going to get in this year.
Strategies that can help prepare us all for what’s ahead:
1. Pace Yourself
While we clearly remember spending hours outdoors or running that 5km while keeping our breath steady, the body may no longer be adapted to those activities after the last several months of winter. A lot of people who start out running for the first time, or after an extended break, will find difficulty getting the right pace for their heart rate and their breathing capacity. This can be assisted by having a way to measure these things such as:
- a heart rate watch or
- the “talk test” for jogging
When it comes to less obvious exercise/activity like gardening, having a timer set at 20-30 minute intervals to check in with your body can be very helpful.
While we would all like to get everything done as quick as possible, steady progress is still progress!
Pacing isn’t just for the activity or the day either, take a minute and think about your week.
- Is there enough time for rest and recovery planned?
- Have you been getting enough rest between all your activities and projects?
2. Variety Is Your Friend
While it is tempting to get that home renovation or gardening project done on the one day of the week where the weather is nice, or the one weekend of the month that everyone is available, see what you can do to avoid doing the same activity repetitively without anything to mix it up.
This is particularly relevant for things like walking, cycling, and running.
If you’re finding that the hips, knees, shins, or ankles aren’t loving the volume of activity that you’re doing, consider a different pace to stay active while allowing for adequate recovery.
Even if you’re an avid runner, consider a day of cycling, or a day in the gym to provide a different stress to your body and tissues.
3. Don’t Stop. Instead, Modify and Adapt
If you are surprised by an ache or pain following the first round of gardening, landscaping, or golf, don’t necessarily put yourself on the bench. Try your activity again, considering your pacing, and a variety of movements that you can still perform comfortably. Even the aggravating activity can be useful if we do it a little slower and with some breaks sprinkled throughout.
This happens to a lot of people who first start out in the gym. They’re very ambitious for the first couple of weeks, but quickly burn themselves out without a plan.
Fearing that they’ve injured themselves, they take 1-3 weeks off from activity and then start the whole process over again when they try it for the second time.
Remember, the body adapts to a lack of activity just as easily as it adapts to regular activity. So instead, consider smaller bouts of activity and mixing it up so that you can stay active while your body goes through the adaptation process. Once you get through the first few steps things can fall into a more comfortable routine.
I hope that this provides some food for thought when it comes to planning out your spring and summer activities. Finding ways to be more active is incredibly important this year and with a little bit of planning it can be an enjoyable way to take advantage of the upcoming opportunities.
As always, if you have any questions or comments. Please feel free to leave them below or contact the office for more discussion.