JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, October 2020/ — South Africa’s remedial sports massage practitioner at Thesportmt, Nina Joubert has described this period as the most risky for athletes as they look to return to their professional sporting activities amidst the prevailing covid-19 pandemic.
Sport continues to be one of the most hard-hit industries after covid-19 forced the entire world to shut down. However, things are slowly returning to normal as most athletes and leagues have resumed even though coaches decry of the poor fitness levels in athletes. Joubert says due to a long break from all physical sporting activities injuries are likely to occur when one does too much, too soon.
Joubert noted that those who run the risk of getting injured include weightlifting with bad form, “especially when fatigued, can lead to many injuries such as disc herniations, Muscle Tears especially in the bicep, hamstring, and calf
Tendonitis like Achilles tendonitis, Lateral and medial epicondylitis (Tennis and Golfers elbow), Patellar Tendonitis alike.”
Describing how the body of an athlete reacts to long breaks, the Johannesburg-based trainer said most of the athletes fell a little deep in their fitness at some point in time during COVID.
“Throw in the emotional impact of COVID 19, the stress and uncertainty, and you have a massive impact on training routines and coping mechanisms all round. FitBit released a study that they did of the impact on people’s daily movement and experienced a statistically significant decline in average step count compared to the same time last year. The impact on the body when not exercising for a long period of time, really depends on a lot of factors: The fitness level of the person before lock down, what sport they were doing (If they are a runner, cyclist, boxer, power lifter) and Muscle tone.”
“First, we need to understand a little more about the muscle. Muscle tissue is naturally adaptive, and we subject it to a wide variety of physical demands. It adapts by changing its functional characteristics/structural composition. Muscles increase their strength and size when they are forced to contract at tensions close to their maximum. Muscles must be overloaded to hypertrophy and improve strength. So, the more active we are and the more we do, the more we build muscle to adapt to what we are doing. The less we do, our muscles will adapt to the reduced workload.”
Quizzed how athletes can recharge their energies, Joubert (28) said in the first week there isn’t much of a change in the body but for beginners, routine is important and taking a week off could potentially disrupt the routine or consistency of their training which is important when building a good foundation to start.
“A study done by the Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience shows that there is significant decreases in blood flow to multiple regions in the brains, including the hippocampus-this is the region that is responsible for memory and learning, within the first 10 days.
There is a slight decline (up to 7%) in aerobic capacity/ VO2 Max levels after just 12 – 14 days of detraining. Your muscle mass and strength at this point remains mostly unaffected. Most athletes have little noticeable reduction in strength and muscle mass after 4 weeks of detraining.
In the next 4 – 8 weeks there is a decrease in strength and muscle mass in most people. Over time your body will revert to a stable state that’s adapted to the workload that you’re giving it.
One of the most underrated impacts on the body from the lack of exercise is the emotional impact. Exercise improves mental health; it is an escape for a lot of people. It helps reduce anxiety and depression. It improves self-esteem and cognitive function and helps with social withdrawal. This is incredibly important and needed now, more than ever.
“We live in a world of instant gratification. As much as we are tempted to come back and pick up exactly where we left off, it is wise to start off slowly again. Allow for a good warmup, focused on mobility and activation and a cool down after each session. Start off by dropping weights to 50% of what you were doing pre lock down and slowly increase the weight.
The focus should be on your form and doing the exercises correctly first. Depending on if you have remained somewhat active during the lockdown period or if you were completely sedentary, the percentage that you would increase per week will be between 10 – 15%. Allow yourself adequate rest and recovery time between sessions. The focus should be on correct form and building a new routine and consistency. Remember that sleep and nutrition is just as important as exercise. Get your 7 – 9 hours of sleep in and remember to fuel your body. Pay attention to any niggles that you have and don’t try push through any pain”, she concluded.
Joubert has under her belt worked with top athletes such as Cris Cyborg, South African Pro Boxers, Kevin Lerena, Rowan Campbell, Boyd Allen, Keaton Gomes. She is a renowned massage therapist for African Strongman Union where she had the privilege of working with Gerhard Van Staden, Jerry Pritchett, Dimitar Savatinov, Matjaz Belsak, among others.