Getting back to the gym after lockdown

Lost the drive to exercise after lockdown? Here’s some tips to help you along.

Throughout lockdown, we’ve all been waiting for the day we can get back to our local gym. However, as gyms reopen around the country, some of us might have felt unmotivated to return. We might need a new plan to get back into a regular fitness routine. Something to inspire us.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a few tips, both practical and motivational, to help you get back into the gym and back on your fitness journey:

Accept that it won’t be the same. Booking session times, limited member numbers, physical distancing, equipment not in use — these are all going to be the new normal, at least for the foreseeable future. All we can do is accept it and get the best workout done that you can within these new parameters. But look on the bright side: the level of hygiene will be extremely high and gym management will be doing everything they can to keep members safe. And you’ll still be getting your workout in.

Remember that staying active is important. You may have lost the drive but for both mental and physical health reasons, we all need to exercise. The Australian Department of Health notes reasons on its website that it’s especially important to exercise during this pressing time, including: reducing the risk of health conditions such as heart disease and stroke, reducing stress and anxiety and improving your sleep. They also have a physical activity planner and a meal planner to help people stay on a healthy routine.

Don’t become discouraged. After having so much time off, you might feel like you’ll never get back to your old level of fitness. But if you just take things one day and one session at a time, soon enough you will build back your fitness. And as you do, your motivation will increase.

Next, you need to physically prepare for getting back to the gym.

Exercise tips when starting back at the gym after a layoff:

Ease back into weight training

Your fitness level has probably changed, so take it easy when you first get back into the gym.

Unless you had access to quite a lot of fitness equipment while gyms were closed, it’s likely you weren’t able to perform your regular routine. That means your fitness level is different: your strength level has probably gone down, you reach your pain threshold quicker and you’re sorer after a workout.

Easing into it includes using lighter weights, doing fewer sets and fewer exercises per workout. There’s nothing you want less than hitting the gym really hard the first week and then getting injured because you can’t handle the loads you’re used to.

Go steady on the cardio

Similarly, when it comes to cardio, you might find your endurance level has also gone down. You might be only able to jog when you used to be able to sprint. That’s OK! You are likely deconditioned and it will take some time to build all those things up again. If you try to go too hard too soon, you risk injuring yourself and thus further delaying your return to fitness. Better to go slow, stay safe and achieve more in the long run.

Focus on form

You might think you remember all the pointers of good form but after time off, it’s always smart to have a refresher. For every exercise, focus on the muscle group you’re working and slow down the movement. Good technique is going to help you build back your strength and fitness level more than rushing into things. This is especially the case for higher risk movements such as the squat or deadlift. Train smart.

Don’t neglect warming up

Working out at home might have gotten us into the habit of being cavalier about warming up but it is going to be hugely important as you return to the gym.

You might think that because there are gym time limits, you can’t afford to spend any time warming up. However, it is something that will not only help your recovery but also set you up for a successful workout. In addition, it’s one of the main things that can help stop you from injuring yourself. Taking 10 minutes at the start of a session for stretching, foam rolling or a light jog on the treadmill can make a huge difference. Small investment, big payoff.

Reduce your frequency

As mentioned above, if your body is deconditioned after not being in a gym for a while, it also means that you probably shouldn’t be launching into workouts five days a week. Try to take it one workout at a time, see how you feel and go from there. Remember, we have rest days for a reason.

Assess your recovery

After a workout, assess how you feel and how much time you need to fully recover. For example, it’s likely that your DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness) will be more intense after a weights session. You also might feel more zapped of energy after a gym session. Listen to your body and give it the rest it requires. That includes getting decent sleep.

Keeping this in mind can help not only to motivate you but to get you back on your fitness journey.

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