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Woman exercising in the park

Returning to exercise after lockdown

The disruption to everyday life caused by the pandemic has made it hard to take part in your favourite activities. If you're thinking of getting back into sport, personal trainer Nicola Addison's exercises will make the transition as easy and safe as possible.

The hardest, most intimidating part of returning to an exercise routine is often the start, but remember – no matter how small that start may be, it is possible. Simply put, we need to use it or we will lose it, and there really is no benefit by putting it off until next week, or saying to yourself you need to get fit first – just start.

Top 3 tips to help you return to exercise

1. Little and often is key. Try not to be intimidated by exercise! Set yourself easy, tangible goals to begin with so that you can feel a sense of accomplishment once they are achieved. Simply doing ten minutes of activity every day will drastically improve your health.

2. Hide exercise in daily activities, such as vacuuming, washing the car, mopping the floor or going to work. All these will increase your heart rate and get you burning calories, and make all the difference to your overall activity level.

3. Walk, walk and then walk some more. In my opinion, walking is hugely underrated for its health and fitness benefits. Everyone should be walking for thirty minutes every single day. This is a non-negotiable baseline for health. To start, this can be broken down into three ten-minute walks, with the aim of building up from there.

Returning to exercise workout

The below workout can be completed 2-3 times each week, and is a perfect low-intensity workout for you to follow when returning to exercise. Remember to work within your own movement range and listen to your body. Re-starting a new exercise routine will place different demands on your body. If you have any concerns, check with your GP first and stop if you experience any pain or discomfort.

Complete 15-20 repetitions of each of the below moves in order (this makes one circuit). Depending on how you feel and your current ability level, feel free to complete a further one or two circuits.

Warm up

Warming up is incredibly important and is often overlooked. The warm-up prepares the brain and body for what is to come during the workout. Slowly increasing the heart rate and in turn blood flow will help mobilise the joints and lengthen the muscles. A good warm-up also reduces the chance of injury. We cannot expect the body to go from zero to hero instantly – think of it as a car that needs warming up on an icy day.

The warm-up requires no equipment and very little space. Simply complete 10 repetitions of each exercise in order. Exaggerate each move, attempting to make them as big as possible, which increases the body's range of movement. Repeat the complete routine three times until you feel mildly puffed out and your extremities feel warm.

Cool down

A cool-down is essential following your workout to decrease your heart rate and ultimately bring your body back to a restful state.

Cooling down and completing some dynamic stretches will aid recovery by returning the muscles to their normal length, will help any muscle soreness, will help reduce levels of lactic acid in the blood and will generally help your body along with its repair and recovery process.

The cool-down involves the same warm-up exercises, so no equipment is required. Simply complete the moves in order, but at a much slower pace. Repeat the complete routine twice.

 

Exercise 1: The Squat

  • Stand tall with feet hip-width apart.
  • Sit back as if sitting on a low imaginary chair, pushing your arms out in front.
  • Keep your body weight in your heels; your big toe should be able to lift.
  • Push through your heels to return to standing, squeezing your bottom cheeks at the top.
  • The aim here is for a full-depth squat, keeping your weight in your heels and your chest lifted, while getting as low as you can in the squat.

 

Exercise 2: Plank Press (on knees or full body)

  • Start on the floor in a high press-up position, with your hands directly under your shoulders.
  • Your trunk should be solid and your body weight should be on your hands.
  • Lower your right side so your right elbow is on the floor, then lower your left side. At this point both elbows should be on the floor.
  • Tummy tight and with as little movement through the hips as possible, place your right hand where your right elbow was, then do the same with the left, so returning to the start position.
  • Complete all repetitions on your right side, then switch to the left.

 

Exercise 3: Backward stepping lunge with twist

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart, arms directly out to your sides, palms up, thumbs pointing backwards.
  • Take a big step backwards with your left foot, bend the back knee and dip it towards the floor.
  • At the same time, rotate your left hand to touch your right knee; your right arm should move backwards behind you.
  • Drive through your outer foot to return to standing, then bring your arms back to your sides.
  • Alternate, so side-lunge your right leg backwards, then rotate your torso so your right hand touches your left knee. Your left arm should move behind you.
  • Keep your torso lifted.

 

Exercise 4: Helicopters

  • Lie on your front, keeping your nose and toes firmly on the floor.
  • Reach your arms out to the side, palms facing down, and try to keep your hands an inch off the floor.
  • Draw semi-circles with your arms, so from the bottom all the way to in-line with the head. Try to get your thumbs to touch at the top.
  • Work slowly and under control.

 

Exercise 5: Knee Up and Knee Down

  • Stand tall with feet hip-width apart.
  • Step one foot backwards and lower your knee to the floor.
  • Bring the other knee down to join it on the floor (both knees are now on the floor).
  • Raise one foot back in front, push through your heel and return to standing.

 

Exercise 6: Ab Crunch

  • Lie on your back on the floor.
  • Place your feet flat on the floor with a bend at the knee.
  • Place your hands on your thighs and look directly upwards to the ceiling.
  • Slowly raise your torso from the floor and slide your hands up your thighs.
  • Under control, slowly return to the floor and repeat.

 

As a Register of Exercise Professionals-accredited training provider, Nicola consults for leading health and fitness brands and regularly contributes to press publications.

Find out more about Nicola Addison, or read more about Healthspan's health experts.

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