After an overly complicated year, it seems that the world is opening up again.
Restrictions are being reduced, locales are re-opening, and people are starting to feel comfortable gathering in public spaces again.
This is good news for the fitness industry which has had to adapt opening hours (if allowed to open at all), impose capacity limitations, and revise cleaning procedures.
Though many of us have found ways to adapt our regiments by training at home or outside, tried and true gym rats function best in their natural habitat. For some of us, returning to the gym has finally become an option again.
If you are reluctant to get back into the gym, don’t be!
Even if your reasons for ducking the gym are not COVID motivated, getting back into the groove (or finding one if you weren’t an avid gym-goer before) can be tricky.
So what do you do when you’ve been out of the gym several weeks/months/over a year?
You make a come back. Here’s how:
Have a plan
Going back after the first day can seem very overwhelming.
You step into the gym, and all you want to do is get your hands on all the machines and equipment that you haven’t been able to use since the “before times”.
Going to the gym shouldn’t feel like going to an all-you-can-eat buffet.
There’s little sense in trying a little bit of everything because your time, and more importantly, your energy is finite.
Going in with a plan assures that you’ll be productive so that you can get started on feeling more comfortable in the gym and get back on track. Aim to include the basic strength exercises
(squat, deadlift, press, rows/pull ups) as they will transfer to more advanced movements.
If you’ve been away for a few months, make sure that your current mobility level supports the weights and exercises that you hope to do in the gym.
Don’t do too much too soon
Here’s a very concrete piece of advice: Don’t max out.
It may seem like a good way to see where you stand compared to before, but what’s more likely is that you end up with an injury or bruised ego. Besides, it’s simply insensible to overexert your body doing something that you haven’t practiced for an extended period of time.
After months of working out with water jugs, broomsticks, and overloaded backpacks, it’s probably not in your best interest to get in the gym and suddenly start working with submaximal loads and high volume.
Unless you have a home gym, odds are that the sessions you did at home used less resistance (i.e., less weight), and more repetitions. Even if had a dumbbell lying around, your at-
home workouts were most likely bodyweight-based. With that in mind, your body will need to adapt to reaching intensity and coping with the stress of moving heavy external loads again.
Even if you’ve been training in the gym for years, taking several months off warrants a gradual return to using the same movements and weights as before.
Work with lighter weights and scaled movements for a few weeks until you can perform these exercises with relative ease.
Don’t think of it as starting from zero. You already have the ability, you’re just a bit rusty.
Working with lighter weights is an opportunity to polish your technique.
Make it positive
Even if you do wish to continue training at home, exercising in the gym once in a while is bound to benefit your training on some level.
The variety of equipment, taking classes, and being social are just some of the things we’ve missed about the gym while we were in lockdown so let’s take advantage of it all now!
Try to make the first few return sessions as enjoyable of an experience as possible.
This means having productive, fulfilling, and fun workouts.
Most importantly, don’t be hard on yourself if you find certain exercises more difficult now than they used to be.
Fitness is all about adaptation. Your body’s ability to cope with new stressors results in creation muscle mass, strength development, and improved aerobic capacity (collectively known as gainz).
You’ve been training in a different way for a few months now (or not..) so you’ll just need to adapt again.
So fear not because your gains will come back. Not in a day, not in a week, but they will come back.
For now, just enjoy the process.
- Instead of trying to get “back to normal” as quickly as possible, make enjoyment of the process your primary objective.
- Work with lighter weights and even go back to using scaled versions of exercises if necessary.
- Take this opportunity to perfect your technique (and maybe even get rid of some bad habits!).
- Just like the return from the pandemic gradual, so is the return to training at the gym.