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April 9, 2020 - TCO

Get Active (Not Hurt) While Social Distancing

Hello to all of you out there who are doing their best to socially isolate – thank you for your efforts!

While we all work to stop the rapid spread of this virus, many people have taken this opportunity to get active. Luckily for us Minnesotans, mother nature has given us a few nice days to work with. As I see you all out walking your neighborhoods, pounding the trails and biking the roadways, I wanted to offer a few tips on how to prevent injury as you increase your exertion.

Opening Disclaimer: As always, if you have orthopedic injuries or limitations, consult your doctor before beginning a new workout routine. Also, listen to your body – if something is causing sharp pain or doesn’t feel right – STOP! TCO is offering virtual visits during this time if you would like to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with beginning exercise.

Below, I will outline some of the safe ways to start an exercise program, some of the tips to enhance the exercise and how to avoid injury by adding a few steps pre- and post-exercise.

People Starting Fresh (new to exercising, or it’s been awhile)

One of the benefits of exercise is the natural endorphin release that occurs which increases our “feel good” hormones – something we could all use right now. If you are new to exercise, this is hopefully one of the benefits you will start to notice right away.

Now that being said, if you are a novice to exercise, I want to encourage you to take things slow. Your body will reject exercise if you bite off too much on the first few days. Start slow! Beginners should plan shorter and more frequent exercise. For example, if you are someone who is typically sedentary (sitting at a desk all day) and now have found yourself with an extra hour because you no longer commute, you should splice that hour throughout your day.

Set an alarm for every 2-3 hours where you get up from your home work station and go for a 10-minute walk. Use this time to let your eyes, neck and brain take a screen break. A brisk walk will get the blood flowing to your body, jump your metabolism and leave you feeling ready to attack the next few hours. Do this for a few days and this will allow your body to get used to moving so you will be ready for more sustained, regular exercise.

The recommendation for exercise is 60 minutes (not all at once) per day and doing this 5-6 days a week.

People Ramping Up (ready to take on more)

If you are already used to doing some exercise but are finding yourself with more time to increase the intensity and duration of exercise, here are a few tips to avoid getting injured.

When we move our bodies for longer time frames and at a quicker pace, our tendons may not able to take the load. Think of a tendon as a rope that connects your muscles to your bones. If the rope is overloaded, it will fray and even rip. As we mature, our bodies become less efficient at repairing those frays as we sleep and so the next day when you are ready to exercise again, you can build more damage which can lead to a very painful and dreaded condition called “tendonitis.”

Patients often come into the office and report, “Doc, I’m just not sure how this happened, I didn’t have an injury.” But the above scenario is typically the cause, microdamage that accumulates in the setting of inadequate repair. But what you care about is this: How can we PREVENT this from happening?

The answer is stretching, strengthening, cross training, and foam rolling. I get it, however, most of us have been cooped up all day (winter) and want to get outside and do some cardio, but this can be a recipe for tendonitis.

What I would encourage you to do before your ramp up are the following steps:

  1. Always hydrate prior to exercise.
  • Drink water throughout your day, rather than soda or coffee.
  • Aim for urine to be nearly clear.
  1. Stretch AFTER a 5 min cardio warm-up.
    • This may be a new concept, but stretching a cold muscle is not nearly as effective as stretching a muscle that has been slightly warmed with movement.
    • I would not recommend running as your warm-up, but rather a brisk walk, followed by stretching the major muscle groups (quads, hip flexors, hamstrings, calves, lumbar spine, oblique abs).
    • Hold a stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat stretch 1-2 times.
  1. Add strengthening days.
    • When we strengthen our muscles and tendons, they are able to handle more load.
    • This allows us to improve our performance (speed and distance).
    • You do not need weights to strengthen, your body can do this with its own weight.
    • Simple exercises to add in every 2-3 days:

(start with 10 reps and 2-3 sets)

  1. Push-ups
  • Variation: against a wall, against a counter, on edge of bed (soft for wrists), knees down
    1. Plank-holds x 15 – 30 seconds
  • Variation: against a wall, against a counter, on edge of bed (soft for wrists), knees down
  • Add side planks if able
    • Lunges
  • Variation: if you have knee issues, do not bend as deep as you step forward
  • I like to do these outside in the middle of a walk
    1. Side Lunges (Left and Right)
  • Variation: Keep the leg straight as you side step
    1. Air Punches in Squat Position
  • Variation: No squat
  • Add overhead punch as well as straight forward
  1. Add Cross Training days
  • If you are typically a runner/walker, try adding in some biking.
  • If you like to golf, find a spot to work on your swing.
  • If you like to play tennis, find a wall to do some hitting.
  • If you have access to HOME cardio equipment make sure you are using them (EX: elliptical, rowing) 1-2 days a week to switch the stress on your body.
  • YouTube offers many free workouts – consider Yoga, Tai Chi, HIIT, or Core workouts for variation.
    1.     Yoga:
    2.     Tai Chi:
    3.     HIIT:
    4.     Core:


  1. Foam Roll AFTER workouts

This is something I learned from experience — as I’ve become a more mature athlete, I’ve learned my body does not recover from exercise like it used to. I now roll each of my major muscle groups after working out.

By adding some of the things above to your typical routine, I hope you can find yourself in better shape and equipped with new healthy habits to carry forward.

If you have any questions regarding the above information, I’d be happy to schedule a virtual visit to help you become and stay active.

Be Well!

~Maria Ryan, MD, CAQ