Life Fitness

Saturday 30 August 2014

Ease your way back to fitness after an illness

Karl Henry

Published 27/08/2013 | 05:00

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The longer you are out of training, the slower you need to take it when you go back.

I was doing great with my training – doing cardio and light weights four times a week and then I got sick with pneumonia. I would really like to get back to where I was, but I am a bit nervous. How can I do it safely?

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Ailish, 36.

Many people go back training too soon after being sick and risk getting sick again due to pushing the body too hard too soon. Remember, after 10 days of inactivity the body can start to lose fitness so the longer you are out of training, the slower you need to take it when you go back.

The first session back should be no more than 60pc of your maximum effort, you should be slightly out of breath but no more as you want to gauge your body's reaction to the session.

If you are very sore for days afterwards then that is an obvious sign that you need to slowly build your training back up.

Recovery is one important element of fitness that most people forget about; the fitter you are the faster you recover, so it's great to use this as a gauge.

There is no hard, fast rule as to how much less you should be lifting or how far you should run, you need to be honest with yourself and assess how you feel both during and afterwards.

The slower you build it up, the safer you will be. I applied this principle myself this year after a virus prevented me from training for the first four months, I went from running ultra marathons to zero and have spent the past few months building myself back up in terms of strength and running fitness – patience is key and that's the hardest part.

Don't forget that when you are sick you will also need to fuel your body with plenty of protein and lots of colourful fruit and vegetables.

Protein is essential for repair and growth and will help you to bounce back quickly. A good guide would be to eat 1.5g-2g of protein per kilo body weight.

Colourful vegetables are full of flavonoids and antioxidants, which will also help you to recover, so make the plate as colourful as possible.

You probably don't get this question much, but I can't seem to gain weight. I eat three good meals a day and lift weights but I can't seem to bulk up. Have you any tips? Mark, 29

Inability to gain weight can be down to several factors, one of the main ones is a very fast metabolism that burns up the calories as you eat them. Metabolic rates differ from person to person and for most of us slows down as we age, it's one of the reasons for the middle-age spread! But for some it remains very high and this can be frustrating for those who just can't gain weight. The good news is that it is generally easy enough to fix, but it involves lots of eating at certain times.

You need to be eating wholesome foods and protein, eggs and brown toast or a brown-rice stir fry or a brown bread chicken sandwich, for instance, every two to three hours.

Protein is the building block of the body so to gain weight, especially lean tissue, you need lots of it.

This is one of the few areas in which having a protein shake can actually be beneficial – although the ingredients are seriously processed, it can be an easy way to get extra calories into your day. If you are taking a shake, look for one with the highest biological value and the lowest sugar content, stevia is a healthier sweetener to use so look out for this!

If you up your food intake and combine that with some good resistance training you will see the best results. Lower reps and heavier weights are the way forward here too, as they will create the best environment for growth.

Keep your training simple, with maybe one exercise per body part. Guys, don't forget to train your legs – they are such a big body part they can make great gains very fast, maybe five sets per exercise and eight reps per set. This will have far greater an effect for weight gain than lots of different exercises.

Keep it simple, controlled and with good technique and before you know it you will be gaining weight, muscle and shape too.

By linking these two elements together, I have seen people gain a kilo a week and keep it there. It takes hard work, planning and commitment, but you will see the rewards so quickly that you will be amazed!

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