We have gone through a terrible second wave. This time the virus seemed to attack with greater ferocity. Thankfully the numbers are going down and cities have started opening up slowly. People who have been lucky enough to not get infected, can go back to their fitness routines, though they need to start slowly, ramping up intensity over the next few weeks. But if you have had the virus and now have been cleared by your physician to start exercising, then this column is for you. Please remember your physician’s directions OVERRIDE anything that I suggest in this column.
The systemic effects of Covid
Covid affects almost all the major systems of the body. From the lungs, the intestines to the heart. If any of the major systems of the body have been affected by the virus, then getting back to your fitness routine will get pushed down by as much as 3-6 months after the symptoms subside. “Go slow” is the mantra that is repeated by the doctors for post Covid fitness routines. But this does not mean that no exercise should be done as being sedentary has other deleterious effects on overall health like loss of strength, muscle tone and conditioning. No can deny the positive impact physical activity has on mental health as well. So getting back to physical activity should be a priority for all.
How to restart the fitness routine
For people who are ready to exercise, the first step is to focus on breathing. Pranayama is particularly effective here, do it if you know how to. A simpler form of breathing, known as Box Breathing is what I teach.
•Breathe in for 4 seconds
•Hold the breath for 4 seconds
•Breathe out for 4 seconds – this makes one cycle.
•Do ten cycles
•Once ten cycles can be done easily. Increase the duration to 7 seconds and finally to 10 seconds.
•Breathing exercises can be done twice a day.
The walk of life
Walking is a great way to re-introduce Cardio-vascular exercise.
•Start by walking whatever distance feels comfortable. It could be as little as 100 meters.
•Gradually increase the distance/time. Remember now is not the time to set personal records.
•Add slow jogs to the walking. Monitor your breathing and heart rate while doing so. Avoid pushing yourself for the first month.
Work the muscles
Strength and muscle mass are required for being functional and carrying out activities for daily living. But now is not the time to hit the weights, even if you have access to them! Start with bodyweight squats and push-ups.
•10 squats, 10 push-ups every day for the first two days. If this seems easy, then do it twice in the day. Do this for a week.
•Next week 10 squats, 10 push-ups and 10 lunges, twice a day for a week.
•Continue adding reps and set for the first month.
•The second month, weights can be added.
•Go slow. Always closely monitoring how you feel. Pull back on the exercises, if not feeling okay. Leave the ego outside the workout zone.
Putting it all together
Since Covid 19 is a new virus and we do not really know its long-term effects on those affected. So, getting properly screened after recovery is very important. My recommendation is not to rush to get back to your training routine. Going slow is prudent when we really do not know if effects of the disease are going to be long lasting. To briefly summarize the steps for post Covid infection return to fitness:
•Work on improving the capacity of the lungs/pulmonary system by doing breathing exercises.
•Start with short walks, adding slow jogs to the walks over weeks.
•Work the muscles with bodyweight squats and pushups. Keep the repetitions low.
•Do not dwell on what you could do before getting infected. Focus on the now and the future.
Now go and do it.
Kamal Singh is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who has been coaching for 15 years
From HT Brunch, June 13, 2021
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