If you are like me and have been reading the news every day, waiting impatiently on the edge of your seat, then you will already know that gyms reopened on Saturday, 25 July, after a mere 18-ish weeks. But before everyone goes rushing back in, eager to queue for a bench or hog the dumbbells, there are some things that may save you from injury. Read on for Returning to the Gym? — 5 Things to Consider Before You Go!
1. Take it Slow
Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a home gym or some form of weight set up (and can motivate yourself at home), it has been an incredibly long time since you will have lifted anything heavy.
This means diving straight into squats with 180kg on your back and going rear to heels as you did in February may well end badly – nobody wants to return to a gym after 18 weeks only to injure themselves at the first session and be forced out of training again.
Take your time, spend a week or two at lifting lighter weights, reawakening those muscles you forgot about at home and definitely consider stretching before a session. It may be dull, but it may also save you from injury.
2. Routines May be Harder to Stick to
With social distancing still in place, some gyms are requiring members to pre-book classes, swims and gym-time. I’m certain that like me, you will have a routine meticulously planned out for your return, but the reality is it may be significantly harder to squeeze all your lifts into a set time.
Not to mention, if many are returning to their offices, the typical gym peak times will be returning with them – so there may be days where you’ll be stuck training late at night, or not at all.
If your gym requires booking or is operating a restricted max capacity system, it could be worth getting up early or setting daily reminders to book a session. If you believe it to be reliable enough, check online for the ‘busy time” activity graph to get a real-time idea.
3. Good Gym Etiquette Could Save Lives
With everybody happy to be back at the gym (or reluctant after spending 3 weeks at pubs) the key thing to remember is that the deadly pandemic is ongoing. This means gym behaviour you used to be able to get away with (not wiping down benches, being close to other gym-goers) is no longer acceptable.
However, whilst this seems obvious, it may be worth considering that drop sets with dumbbells are no longer acceptable, cross gym supersets will raise eyebrows and failing to regularly sanitise your hands could risk lives.
Larger gyms will likely have clear guidelines, but it’s worth remembering that your actions in the gym (or failure to act) could harm other, less healthy members.
4. Consider Altering Your Fitness Goals
During the lockdown, I realised the majority (99%) of my fitness motivation is tied to the gym. Going to the gym with my headphones on was a place to unwind and forget about work. Even though I have a bench at home and a good amount of free weights, I hardly used them, unable to motivate myself to even walk outside to the shed!
Getting annoyed by the constant Instagram stream of shredded athletes still able to work from home, I decided to do the bare minimum; by running. It was torture and reflected how unfit I actually was. It is good to be strong, but it is not a reflection of overall health and fitness. My heart rate reached worrying levels and I spent most of my time out of breath. I’ve resolved to spend more time doing cardio, via the cross trainer, stairmaster or the treadmill.
5. Enjoy Yourself!
Aside from the necessity for good hygiene, the most important thing is to enjoy yourself. I realised over lockdown that I did the majority of my exercise in the gym and that it was tied to my mental health. When gyms shut, my mental health suffered as did my physical wellbeing.