How exciting that gyms have reopened and we can start getting back into our normal training routines! That being said, there's a few things to keep in mind when getting back into it. As an athlete, I've been excited to be back doing what I love and wanted to share some of my personal tips that I've been using for a successful return to training.
1. Avoid large spikes in training volume
We all planned to keep training and exercising during our time in isolation and although that might have been easy for some people to maintain, chances are that training volume ended up significantly lower than normal. I know this was the case for me - I kept up regular training but my number of sessions per week dropped. Since I returned to normal training, we've added sessions in gradually, starting with 3 times per week, then 5 times per week, then 7 times per week. Our next phase will be 9 times per week before reaching our full training load of 10 times per week. Although this is a huge training load, it's a good example of how you can ease back into it by gradually increase training volume.
Starting off slow helps to reduce the risk of injury and fatigue and taking a day off between sessions initially is also a great strategy to help your body recover for the next session while it's getting used to it again. You can also keep a log of the amount of repetitions, kms, weights, etc. you're doing each session, so you can track your increase in volume. This is useful if you have injuries flare up so you can see exactly what exercises or increases in load may have contributed to it.
2. Start with the basics
I'm sure we're all over the moon to be back at our sports or in the gym and the excitement makes you want to go all out and push your limits. I felt exactly the same, especially my first session back and couldn't wipe the smile off my face. I automatically wanted to push myself to do hard skills to test whether I could still do them and gauge how much physical capacity I'd lost during COVID-19. But the voice in my head reminded me that training smart is the most important thing for a smooth transition back into my sport and will ultimately help me get back to my peak faster.
Remember that there's a lot to be gained from going back to basics during this time and building good foundations. It's not often we get to take a step back and focus on fundamentals, so enjoy it while it lasts and use the time to refine technique and improve on areas you might not get a chance to work on normally. Rebuilding with basics will not only have long term physical and technical benefits, but is also important for reconditioning your body so you can build up gradually and avoid getting injured.
3. Make a plan and set goals
Returning to training will be a real mental game not only in making smart decisions around training volume and intensity, but also in figuring out where you are in the season timeline and how the rest of the year will play out. For many of us, upcoming competitions haven't been confirmed yet and there may be doubt as to whether they will actually go ahead or not. This can be difficult to work around as it affects the ability to plan training sessions and prepare properly. I suggest planning the next few months as best you can and writing down your timeline of potential competitions so you can periodise your training as much as possible. This means you can plan the length of time you intend to focus on fundamentals, when you plan to to increase your volume and intensity and plan how fast or slow you ramp things up. In most cases, this is something that you work on with your coach so that you're both on the same page.
Planning is also super important for setting goals. I love setting goals because they make things really clear for me in terms of what I want to achieve and when. They keep me focused and motivated to stay on track and push me to keep going when things get tough. I personally like to set a big goal that is between six months to one year away and then set smaller goals to achieve step by step. I view these smaller goals as actionable steps or checkpoints that keep me on the right path to achieving my big goal. I would recommend writing down your timeline of competitions or events so you know what you're working towards and also writing down your goals so you know exactly what you want to achieve.