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5 Physio-Recommended Tips for Returning to Sport After the Holidays

Just returned from the seasonal revelry and finding it hard to return to your sporting routine? As the festivities draw to a close, many of us lace up our running shoes or dust off the tennis racket, ready to re-embrace our active lifestyles. However, the transition from holiday mode to peak performance is often riddled with pitfalls—ramping up training too quickly, neglecting recovery, and facing potential injuries.

As a physiotherapist, I’ve seen countless athletes struggle with the return to sport, but it doesn’t have to be daunting. With the right approach, you can optimise your return post-holidays and set the stage for a successful year of sport.

1. Ease into It: Start Slow and Gradually Increase Intensity

Your body is adjusting from the sedentary festive period, so diving back headfirst into high-intensity workouts is a recipe for disaster. Instead, opt for a progressive approach that begins with lighter exercises. This could mean scaling back your usual running distance, lowering weight resistance, or lowering the number of repetitions in your workout routines. Give yourself time to build back up; the road to recovery is a marathon, not a sprint.

Remember, the goal is to re-condition muscles and cardiovascular fitness safely. Your first few sessions back should leave you energized, not exhausted. If you find that you’re straining or in pain, it’s a sure sign to scale back your activities even further.

2. Prioritize Rest: Help Your Body Recover

The holiday season can often be a period of poor sleep and relaxation, leaving our bodies without the rest they need. This rest deficiency can lead to diminished athletic performance and increased injury risk. As you return to the sport, prioritize rest as a critical schedule component.

Adequate sleep is the body’s time to repair and rebuild. Ensure you get between 7-9 hours each night, particularly after workouts when your body is primed for recovery. If you’re struggling to sleep, implement a pre-sleep routine, like reading or stretching, to signal to your brain that it’s time to rest.

3. Hydrate: Boost Muscle Function and Recovery

Water is your best friend when it comes to sport recovery. Dehydration can lead to decreased energy levels, muscle cramps, and a more prolonged recovery period. As you re-immerse in your sports, ensure that you’re consuming enough fluids to support your body’s functions.

Hydration needs vary, but a good rule of thumb is to drink at least eight glasses (2 litres) of water daily, plus extra during and after exercise. For rigorous activity, consider sports drinks that replenish electrolytes lost through sweat. Monitor your urine colour; clear or pale yellow is a good indication of sufficient hydration.

4. Feed the Machine: Maintain Energy with Quality Nutrition

You are what you eat, which is never truer than when it comes to the nutritional demands of sport. As you start training again, pay extra attention to your dietary intake. A balanced diet rich in natural foods—lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables—is vital to replenish energy stores and support tissue repair.

To kickstart your metabolism and help you build muscle, consider increasing your protein intake through sources like chicken, fish, eggs, or plant-based options. Don’t skimp on carbohydrates, as these are your body’s preferred energy source. Pile your plate with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to fuel your workouts. And remember, healthy fats are essential for vitamin absorption and hormone regulation.

5. Utilize Recovery Tools: Prevent Stiffness and Enhance Flexibility

Incorporating recovery tools and techniques into your routine can be the difference between a seamless return to sport and weeks sidelined with an injury. Foam rolling, stretching, and massage help prevent muscle stiffness, improve flexibility, and expedite recovery.

After a workout, take the time to roll out any tight spots with a foam roller. This can be especially beneficial for the back, legs, and shoulders. Follow this up with dynamic and static stretching to maintain and improve your range of motion. Finally, consider booking a massage to work out any knots and speed up muscle recovery. Self-massage tools like golf balls or handheld massagers work wonders if professional massages aren’t feasible.

Returning to your sporting activities after the holidays can be both exhilarating and treacherous. By integrating these physiotherapist-endorsed tips into your post-holiday return, you can substantially reduce the risk of injuries and set yourself up for a strong and healthy year of sport. Remember, patience and preparation are key. Your sports performance will be better for it in the long run.