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Army February 3, 2011
Here are some tips from Lt Rob Orr to help you get back into
shape after the festive break.
WHETHER a seasoned
athlete, an occasional
fitness participant real-
ising a fitness assess-
ment is looming or a beginner with
a New Year's Resolution to get fit,
many members will return in the
New Year and suddenly and vigor-
ously engage in a fitness training
Before starting with the fitness drive,
however, the most important piece of
training advice is to slow down.
One of the key causes of injury
when returning to physical training
and sport, as well as being a major
motivation buster, is the bull-at-a-gate
Members, feeling refreshed from
leave or under pressure to pass a fit-
ness assessment, decide to take the
plunge and get stuck into their fitness
Training diligently every day for
an hour, many push hard to reach their
goals. Unfortunately this approach
often leads to failure as the body and
mind tire rapidly.
For some, motivation is lost while
for others who push through mental
warning barriers, over training and
The key step in avoiding these pit-
falls and ensuring a successful return
to physical training is knowledge and
with this in mind this column will
look at the impact of postings and
leave on the body and how to start/
restart with physical training.
A new posting
With many ADF members pro-
ceeding to a new climatic environ-
ment on posting, acclimatisation to
the local climate is very important.
It is not just the temperature ranges
between positing locations that needs
to be considered but also humidity as
humidity reduces the effectiveness of
sweating as a means of heat reduction.
Solution: Depending on the sever-
ity of the climate change, acclimatisa-
tion is best achieved over a seven to
14-day period. This acclimatisation
period should include bouts of physi-
cal activity, predominantly aerobic in
nature, in the environment (not just in
an air-conditioned room). The activ-
ity should gradually increase in time
(and time of day -- ie cooler to hot-
ter) and intensity, up to the level you
were operating at before your posting.
Remember to remain well hydrated
and be sun smart.
A loss of fitness
As physical activ-
ity is typically reduced
over the festive sea-
son, physical fitness
declines. Some research
has shown that as much
as one per cent of VO2
(a measure of aerobic
fitness) is lost per day
In performance meas-
ures this equates to
an increase in 2.4km
run time of about one
minute. When it comes
to strength, although the
loss is not quiet as dras-
tic, muscle strength as
well as muscle strength-
endurance (for push
ups) and muscle power
(for explosive sporting
movements) is lost.
Often members expect
to be able to perform at
Hang on, not so fast
Easy does it: Beware of falling victim to bull-
at-a-gate syndrome. Photo by LAC Aaron Curran
the same level of fitness performance
before leave on returning to activity
They expect to be able to run at
the same pace or for the same length
of time, or do as many push ups or
lift as much weight. Many simply
continue with their training program
as if they had never taken a break.
Solution: Begin retraining slow-
ly, progressively increasing training
volume and intensity from your fes-
tive season levels to your pre-festive
The greater this divide between how
hard you were training before leave and
how much activity you completed on
leave the greater the period of time that
should be allowed to recover fitness lev-
els pre-festive season.
An increase in weight
Often, over the leave period, the
reduction in physical activity com-
bines with an increase in food and
The outcome of this equation of
calories-out versus calories-in is an
increase in body weight.
This increase in weight reduces the
aerobic fitness of the body, reduces
the body's relative strength, and, most
importantly, increases the weight your
body must now carry.
Solution: Consider the impact
of the weight gained over the festive
season on the muscles and bones of
With an increase in weight comes
an increase in impact so include some
non or partial weight-bearing aerobic
activities, like swimming, rowing and
Furthermore, now that the festive
season is over remove all junk food
from the house, donate it or store it
(out of the house) and focus on eat-
ing (and drinking) well.
In short, start slow and eat and
drink well ... and welcome back.
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