Reconditioning the Deconditioned

Reconditioning the Deconditioned
Joe Seitz

It is now August. Most of us have been under various stages of pandemic restrictions for about 6 months. Unfortunately, we probably have at least another 6 months to go. Some have creatively found ways to move, adapt, and shift their personal fitness as the environment around them changed, others for whom this was not the biggest priority, not so much. 

Time for some hard truths. Your body does not really care why you may have decided to reduce your physical activity. It just adapts to what you do. I often meet people who are ready to “start” their training as they have not really been working out for some time. This is really only a mental date or line in the sand, often initiated by some sobering news from a health professional. The truth is, whatever activity you accomplish in the last 24 hours is your day’s work out. 

Maybe this was rising from bed, sitting around, watching various high tech devices, and calling it a night. That was your workout. Even while sleeping you burn calories just to function and maintain 98.6 degrees. The Harris-Benedict equation shows how to figure this out. (Men: BMR = 88.362 + (13.397 x weight in kg) + (4.799 x height in cm) - (5.677 x age in years) Women: BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 x weight in kg) + (3.098 x height in cm) - (4.330 x age in years) The point is, you are getting enough exercise or not right now based not on intention, but what you actually do. A definition for deconditioned is “a state of prolonged underuse of muscles which may trigger a cycle of increasing disability.”

If you have stopped training during the pandemic, then this is your new training level. The body will strengthen or weaken according to the demands put upon it. This is the difficult part about fitness (and many disciplines) it is not static, but always asking, “What have you done for me lately?” Well, you may be thinking, this has been an annoying observation, thanks for nothing.  

The good news is that you can go the other fitness and health direction whenever you want. At some point a difficult decision needs to be made about the risk of activity vs. the risk of inactivity. We know there are those at high risk in our population that may feel totally uncomfortable being in a public setting working out, that is understandable. My advice is to do what you can where you are. If you have questions reach out and get help to safely resume some kind of activity. Try some zoom classes being offered that are appropriate for your fitness level. Think mobility and cardiovascular first as these two may be enough to also trigger a strength response (you might be a little sore) if it has been awhile since you focused in this area. A yoga class may be a great combination to work gently on a balanced approach.

If you have no equipment only consider a gym that is strictly following CDC guidelines for a healthy environment. Some people like to come into our gym and really scout out the area before they want to try actually doing a workout. This is wise, as rules have changed and we are all adapting to working out with a mask on.  

There are plenty of body weight exercises to challenge all levels of fitness, but beware of looking at good ol’ YouTube and trying the latest celebrity’s happy advice. You may need to set up an area specifically for doing this activity. You must find an area that feels safe for you, but six months off has been a long time. Go easier than you think (50% of what you were doing in reps, weight, and duration). I have seen several jump in where they left off with less than pleasant results.  

We recently started Zoom personal training for those who just don’t feel safe yet coming in, but want to keep their health at as high a level as possible. Remember we are in this for the long haul, and starting slowly is prudent but also, I believe, vital in helping overcome whatever physical challenge we encounter. There are no guarantees, but If I need to face the COVID-19 monster, I would rather attempt to survive it with as healthy a cardiovascular system as I can muster.