Once we all receive our COVID-19 vaccines and warmer weather arrives in the Seattle area, we will hopefully all be moving around more.
Some of us might enjoy more walking. Some may do more sporting. Others may try new activities. In time, COVID-19 cases will fall and our activity levels will spike, so then how should we all prepare to be significantly more active? By starting now.
While our muscles can easily recover from a sudden spike in activity with a couple of days of rest, persistent and sudden increases in activity can result in joint injuries and tendon injuries of insidious onset that can sideline us for months. Preparing for these movements early is the key to having an active and healthy summer in Seattle.
So here are some tips to help you prepare for all types of activities and an uptick in activity over the coming months. Whether you have been working from home, or you have been exercising every day, there are a few key things to consider and some tips to help you plan.
Measure your activities by using rate of perceived exertion.
Take Mary for example. Mary is a 50-year-old female who enjoys going for walks three days per week for 30 minutes and plays tennis three days per week for 60 minutes each (two doubles and one singles play). Mary should rate each activity for its average RPE on a 0 to 10 scale, with 10 being the most difficult activity imaginable, and then multiply that average RPE number times the number of minutes of that activity.
So, for example, if her 60-minute walks were a 4/10 RPE, her exercise load could be calculated to be 240 units. This calculation can be performed for her tennis sessions or any other bout of exercise, giving Mary a weekly exercise load score.
The goal here is first to track all your activities. The next goal would then be to increase the exercise load by around 10 percent per week.
This might seem easy, and, yes, it probably will feel easy, but some body parts don’t tell you when they are being over-worked, like tendons, ligaments and joints, unlike your muscles, heart and lungs, which do recover quickly after a strenuous effort, usually returning back to feeling good within a few days.
Taking a slow, gradual approach will give your entire body the time it needs to lay a solid foundation, while increasing the load by 10 percent a week will provide incremental stimulus for continuous improvement.
Be consistent, not heroic.
Being a weekend warrior might feel good in the moment, but it is risky behavior if you want to be consistent and injury free.
Good performances take months and years to build up to, and, as our bodies age, consistent movement with progressive challenge becomes even more important.
Think about playing today so that you can play tomorrow, but if you do have to be heroic, you will at least have a history of consistency that your body can draw from instead of asking your body to “write checks it can’t cash” so …
Use the “ball in a jar” method.
The “ball in a jar” method is a metaphor for consistency and quality. Every day you make your own ball, which represents the physical activity that you have done today, to be placed in the jar at the end of the day.
This jar is large, and it contains every ball from every day from the past 12 months. When a physical challenge presents itself, you must tap into your body’s reserves and take a ball at random out of the jar to “pay” for that challenge.
If you have been consistent, and you have had high-quality activities, you will meet the physical challenge with a “good ball” without difficulty.
The idea is that, if you approach daily activity with this method in mind, you will begin to understand what kind of daily activity you must do now, so that you can do whatever you want to do later.
— Dr. Dan Michael is a chiropractic physician at NW Sports Rehab, 1929 43rd Ave. E., in Madison Park. Call 206-328-5466 for more information.