April 26, 2021, by Mathilde Tighe
Returning to Sport Post-Lockdown: Things to Consider
These next few weeks and months will [hopefully] see us transition out of lockdown and back into the lifestyles and culture we crave. While we might feel like passengers on this roadmap to recovery, we can be in the driver’s seat for one thing: how we mentally and physically prepare ourselves for returning to our sports.
Whether you’re an athlete, recreational player, fitness enthusiast, coach or any sort of sport personnel, below are a few considerations to keep in mind when getting back to the court, field, track pool or gym to help avoid overwhelming our physical, mental and social systems.
Easing Back In
Even if your training intensity of home and outdoor workouts during the pandemic has matched or even exceeded your usual regime, odds are that replicating the specialised training environments and social elements of sport have not quite been equalled. Contact and/or impact sports are especially challenging to replicate away from a usual training space, so it is crucial to consider easing back into these components of our disciplines.
Running on concrete or grass isn’t the same as synthetic turf. Jumping on carpet or laminate flooring doesn’t condition the lower limb musculature and joints for bouncing off sports halls in the same way. And throwing bodyweight or external resistance around at home or the local park is great, but it’s a controlled method that doesn’t always prepare us for the unpredictability of sport. On top of this, sport is social. Being in large close-knit groups again is a drastic social and mental change from most our lockdown experiences that may take longer to adjust back to than we might realise.
Easing back into our sports will aid in avoiding preventable injuries and overwhelming the mental and social customs we’ve gained over the past year. Chat with coaches, staff and teammates with where you are now and what you are confident doing so that adaptations can be made. Get comfortable in the post-lockdown training environment and back into your game at an appropriate intensity.
We ought to be used to circumstances changing without warning by now. I mean, it’s been a year. And while the roadmap provides some needed and cliched light at the end of the tunnel, we’ve witnessed the tunnel stretch on longer than any of us could have probably foreseen. So be aware that dates can change, and it takes overcoming many hurdles to reopen facilities and make organised sport happen. Patience is key.
Also note that the experience of returning to our sport and training environment may not be exactly how we remember it. Read up on your sport’s NGB’s (National Governing Body) guidance and Return to Play plans, as well as policies and updates at the facilities you’ll be training at before you arrive. This will aid in mental preparedness for what we should expect when we get back to our beloved sporting spaces, and lessen our chances of being surprised or disappointed by changes to what we know.
Keeping the Community
Sport is community. Some returners may not even necessarily care about the sport itself, instead just getting back to an active social experience and being in groups again. Remember, everyone’s circumstances have been different over the past year, and getting back into sport will be a different experience for everyone.
Respect that some may be more comfortable than others with certain activities, and everyone’s reasons and priorities for being there could be hugely varying. And with that, we should find a balance in sessions between inclusiveness and performance, so that we all feel we have a place in our sport and fitness communities when we return.
The past year has been an opportunity to reflect. So, if we haven’t already, let’s aim to identify why we fell in love with our sports to begin with. Was it the social side? Tactical side? Improving skills every week? Whatever the affection/s, knowing what they are (or were) and how they may have changed over time can help re-establish our fondness and motivation to return.
Equally, the easing of rules may even be an opportunity to try a new sport that complements how our personalities, priorities and preferences may have changed throughout the pandemic. Whatever our reasons for returning to a sport (whether familiar or unfamiliar), we can collectively aim to make it as enjoyable for ourselves and those around us as possible by understanding why we and everyone in our communities are involved in the first place.
If you have any questions on the above, or would like any specific guidance on what has been discussed, please feel free to email me at Bharat.Samra@nottingham.ac.uk
For more information on the re-opening of our facilities and how to pre-book your gym sessions please click here.
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