Back to the Gym

As lockdown eases and gyms re-open for indoor workouts, it’s great to know we can all, finally, get back to a more normal workout routine.

That isn’t to say we won’t carry on with our home workouts as well – they’ve proved a great alternative over the last year of on-off lockdown. However, for the community and social aspect, the expert support, the sheer variety of workout options and equipment available, not to mention group exercise hopefully also re-starting in May… Suffice to say it will be great to get gyms back in the mix.

However, while some will be champing at the bit to get back, others may be feeling more cautious: still concerned about COVID-19, feeling body-conscious after too much time off, worried about getting re-started when fitness levels have suffered over the past year, perhaps even lacking motivation after lockdown played havoc with previously established workout habits.

If you count yourself among the latter group and are looking for ways to ease yourself back in to a gym routine, we’re here to help, with six great tips to get going again – safely.

#1 – Don’t try to go as heavy or fast as before

Even if you’ve been working out regularly during lockdown, whether at home or in the park, chances are you haven’t had access to as extensive a range of equipment as you’d normally enjoy in the gym. As a result, your fitness levels are likely to have dropped.

Take this into account with your workouts when you get back to the gym. Start with lighter weights than you’d normally choose, as well as fewer reps; far better to build up slowly than dive straight in at the deep end and injure yourself. Similarly, with cardio, take it back a notch from where you used to be and rebuild your endurance over time.

It will come, but in the meantime, listen to your body and don’t expect to hit a personal best the moment you get back to the gym!

#2 – Mobility and stretching

Make sure you warm up and cool down. It’s easy to skip over this part when you’re focused on all the kit you once again have access to, but now more than ever – when your body isn’t used to a full gym workout – a good warm-up and cool-down are vital in preventing injury and helping your body recover from each workout.

#3 – Plan a workout, but be versatile

If you’re normally a five-workouts-a-week type of person, it’s probably worth planning for slightly fewer workouts to start off with. Again, it’s about easing yourself back in.

Be prepared to be flexible within each workout, too. You might go in determined to use specific machines but – due to social distancing, time limits and/or the need for thorough cleaning between each use – find you can’t get on them. Have alternatives up your sleeve to ensure you still get a great workout that meets your training objectives for that day.

#4 – Stick to the rules

Speaking of cleaning, even with the COVID vaccine roll-out, special measures will remain in place at gyms for the foreseeable future – as they will across society. Expect social distancing, rigorous cleaning, sanitisation stations, workout slot booking, masks, temperature checks… and be ready to play your part too. Even if you’ve had your vaccine, others may not; mask-wearing, sanitising, wiping down kit, keeping a safe and respectful distance… all these things will still be the norm.

It’s about making sure not only that everyone is safe, but that they also feel safe – confident and happy to return to the gym.

#5 – Find your motivation

For some of us, getting back in shape after a long time out of regular gym-going will be motivation in itself to get back into a routine. However, don’t beat yourself up if that isn’t you. It’s been a long time since any of us were able to enjoy our usual workouts; if you’ve felt things slip and you’re struggling to get yourself fired up again, try looking to others for a helping hand.

Gym buddies aren’t really on the cards right now due to social distancing, but you can still ask one of your friends to check in and hold you accountable to the goals you’ve set yourself. Alternatively, consider a few personal training sessions to get yourself started in the gym again – great for motivation and to ensure you’re easing yourself back in safely.

#6 – Be a good citizen

Finally, a plea. Social distancing will mean reduced capacity in gyms – and with it, very likely a number of people who really want to work out, but who can’t secure a spot.

If you’ve booked a session in the gym and can no longer make it, please think of others and make sure you cancel, so someone else can take advantage of your slot.