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How to get back in shape after a long period of physical inactivity?

Have you examined the length of your muscles yet?

In recent months, a large number of patients who show up at the physiotherapist's office are those who complain of back pain. If you work or have worked from home for a long time and have significantly reduced physical activity, this may be the main cause of these complaints. So what will be the best solution...?

Start physical activity!
But is it safe for you, after such a long break?

Let's make sure it is!

The first choice in such situations is running and cycling. We will focus on the former discipline, which is as good for us as possible, provided that:

  • our hip, knee and ankle joints have full physiological mobility,
  • The ischiofemoral muscles and hip flexors have the correct length,
  • have active muscles that stabilize the lumbar region, the so-called "core",
  • We will prepare the respiratory and circulatory system for such a large effort.

These are important elements that should function properly in our body so that you don't get injured or exacerbate back pain while running.

Joint pain, muscle pain, shortness of breath during exercise?

If this is the case, you may wish to go to a Physiotherapy Specialist for advice to assess, among other things, the mobility of your joints, the length of your muscles and flexors, or the activity of your lumbar muscles. The physiotherapist will interview you, examine you and suggest what can be done to improve, for example, joint mobility, how to intensify physical activity.

In a nutshell, we tell you how to check if your joints and muscles are ready for running.

How do you test the length of your muscles yourself?

You can perform some basic movements yourself to assess muscle length, mobility in the joints of the lower extremities or the activity of the stabilizers:

P-P (toe-to-floor) test - stand so that your feet stand hip-width apart and try to get your toes to the floor. If you are missing a few centimeters, you have no reason to worry.

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The squat test - an exercise known by everyone, but the correct execution, unfortunately, no longer. A well-executed squat requires full mobility in the hip, knee and ankle joints. Stand so that your feet are shoulder width apart and parallel to each other. During the entire squat movement, the heels should be in contact with the ground, and the knee joints should not come down inward.

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Test of activity of lumbar stabilizing muscles - Lie on the floor, extend your arms in front of you (toward the ceiling), legs bent 90 degrees at the hips and knees (as when sitting in a chair). Press your lumbar region firmly against the floor, so that no gap is left there. Try to straighten one leg so that the heel is a few centimeters above the ground, keeping your back pressed all the time. If you succeeded then try to attach the other leg. Pay attention to whether your lumbar region lifts toward the ceiling as your lower limbs move. This means that your stabilizing muscles are not in the best shape and it's time to work on them.

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If you have done these 3 simple tests and something is bothering you, a visit to a physiotherapist will certainly help.

How to start training safely

If everything is working as it should, your muscles and tendons are the right length, it's almost a success. Before you embark on a running or cycling adventure, make sure you intensify enough at the beginning.

Here are some tips: ...

  1. Always start physical activities like running, cycling, swimming with a general warm-up - not with static stretching, leave that for last.
  2. Start physical activity with quiet workouts:
    • in the form of walking: 3 times a week for a period of 3 weeks,
    • 2-3 marching workouts for a period of 3 weeks, consisting of alternating walking and running, e.g., 2 min. running and 2 min. walking for 20-30 min,
    • the next stage is interval running - for example, 2 min of running followed by 1 minute of steady jogging, repeat such a sequence about 8-10 times,
    • continuous running - we can control the intensity of such training by adjusting, for example: the pace of running, the distance, the terrain on which we run.
  3. Calming down - after each training unit, the body should be calmed down by calm static stretching of the muscle groups that worked harder, breathing exercises will also be a good option at the end.

Everyone is completely different and it is safest if the type of physical activity, intensity of training is selected for you individually by a physiotherapist. If you experience pain/discomfort, swelling of the joint and other discomforts during sports or right after, it is a sign that something is wrong and you should consult a specialist.

Written by:
Fabian Burakowski, M.D.