8 Tips For a Successful Return To The Gym
It's been a few months since Covid has slowed and shops, bars, and restaurants have started to re-open.
One of the other industries that have reopened his gyms.
With this in mind, I bet you're feeling ready to finally return back to your local gym?
After the recent lock down and restrictions in gyms across the UK, many people are now trying to get back into their daily exercise routines.
Some may be adapting by working out at home or from other places until they can return to what was once a normal routine of going to gym.
For so many, home training was the only option they had during the lock downs. However, data from sources such as Fitbit, has shown an average 12% decrease in activity levels by their users over the lock down period.
Those who have not been able to exercise the same intensity in the gym after using external resistance equipment, are at risk of overload injuries when they return to their gyms.
This is a problem...
The extent to which muscle strength decreases over the course of a number of months (such as the current lock down period) is not fully understood, particularly in recreational trained athletes/gym-goers.
Did you know that muscle strength decreases up to 50% in the first few months of a break from training? There's no telling just how bad it'll get overtime.
We recommend that you return to the gym gradually, by easing back into your regular routine and increasing workout intensity incrementally as you go.
How do you know if it's the right time?
We've got 8 tips for getting that successful return back on track:
Set realistic goals for the first month
With the lock down over, you're probably chomping at the bit to get back into the gym?
You might want to go full throttle for the first week or two, but it's important not to overdo it when you're just starting out again.
Write down your goals and be sure that they are realistic so that you don't set yourself up for failure right off the bat.
So many people injure themselves when they return to the gym and act as though they're still in lock down with zero pain and no limitations.
Give yourself at least 48 hours between sessions
It's a good idea to limit your workouts to no more than once a day.
Limit yourself to one hour of weight training per session, and adjust your reps accordingly as you get stronger.
It's also important to stretch after a workout to avoid injury and help your muscles recover.
Reduce weight-lifting for now to 50% of your original routine (pre-lock down)
Your first week back will be tough.
It's important to focus on form, not intensity.
People who have remained active during the lock down should be able to increase their weight lifting 15% each week, meaning they can return back to their regular workout schedule by week 4.
If you have been sedentary during the lock down, aim to increase weight by 10% each week.
Week 6 of your training program should be the first time that you return to pre-lock down weights.
Give yourself some space
If you're returning back to the gym, it's so important to give yourself some space.
Take it slow and don't push yourself too hard to avoid injury or burnout.
If anything, try to train with a friend or family member who will help you stay motivated to go the distance.
Don't set yourself up for failure by pushing too hard right from the start.
Invest in some new workout gear
Now, you won't thank me for saying this, but if you're going to go back into the gym, buy some new gear.
I only recommend this because it will make you feel more committed to the process.
You may also have changed clothes size during the lock down.
If so, you'll need a new set of workout clothes that are the right size for your body now. And it doesn't hurt to have some fresh-looking fitness gear either.
Re-learn how to exercise properly
Of course, you know how to exercise. However, you may have changed your workout routine and it's important to re-learn proper form.
Watch a few videos on YouTube or take an online class from one of the many fitness experts out there.
You'll be glad you did once you get back into exercise mode.
Review Any Medical Conditions
Now would be a good time to speak to your doctor about any medical conditions that may have been aggravated by the lack of exercise.
This is not something you would ordinarily think about, but it could be the difference between a successful return to exercise and an unsuccessful one.
The same might apply to any medication you're taking with respect to anti-depressants, blood pressure, or diabetes medications.
Consult your doctor and ensure they're aware of your exercise plans.
Some people find it easier to go back gradually, scaling up over time instead of jumping in all at once.
This is a good strategy if you don't know what level you should begin with or want to ensure that you have plenty of support for the first few weeks as things get going again.
Get used to being sore again! It'll be worth it in the end
Depending on the intensity of your previous workouts, you'll want to ease into anything new or different (i.e., running instead of walking).
If your gym has a strength training area, you may want to focus on those exercises first - before going over to the cardio section and doing aerobics for an hour straight.
This means you'll be able to work on a variety of different muscle groups instead of just one, and you'll be able to work with each group more intensely.
If going back into the gym feels like too much for you right now, consider trying out some other types of physical activity that are less intense such as yoga or swimming.
In fact, swimming will actually help you get your heart rate up and will increase the intensity of any type of workout.
It's by far the safest option for people who are just returning to after a long period out.
It'll also help you work on your endurance, balance and muscle tone without putting too much pressure on the rest of your body.
Swimming can be a great option for cardio as well - it's low impact and doesn't put any strain on your joints so it's a good way to build up your cardiovascular system.
It also takes less time than other types of workouts, which is great if you're just starting out and don't know how often or for how long you should be working out.
Bonus - Get Advice From The Gyms Personal Trainer
If you're lucky enough to attend a gym that has personal trainers on staff, this is a great opportunity to get advice.
You'll be able to ask questions about the type of workout that's best for you and how often or long you should be doing it - as well as any other queries related to your health and fitness goals.
You'll likely find that your gym will have a specific program designed for people new to the gym or coming back from a long break.
In some cases, you may even be able to attend personal training sessions with the trainer of your choice and work out in their private studio space while they give you one-on-one advice about how to get started on this journey again.
The first month of going back to the gym is always tough. You’re sore, you don’t know what equipment to use or how much weight should be on your barbells and it can feel like that one time you went was a total waste.
But once you get into an established routine with some positive momentum, everything feels so much better.
Give yourself a break between sessions so that your body can recover and get ready for next time.
And, don't worry about skipping one day here or there; what's important is sticking with it as often as possible over the long term.
Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day.
It is also important to be aware of any medical conditions that may prevent you from being safe at the gym, such as high blood pressure or heart disease.
A doctor can give guidance on how often and what type of activity will work for your body's needs.
I know it’s hard to find time in our busy lives but try not to put off going until tomorrow if something feels wrong today so speak with your physician about all this ASAP.