“While people are excited to return to their gyms and fitness studios, it’s important to do so carefully,” says Olga Hays, an American Council on Exercise-certified wellness promotion specialist at Sharp HealthCare.
Hays shares 4 tips for getting back to the gym safely:
1. Slow and easy
If it’s been a while since your last workout routine, it’s important to start out slowly and give your body time to adjust. Your body is most likely deconditioned and you may not be ready to handle the same fitness volume and intensity. You also put yourself at risk of injury — such as muscle pulls and strains, joint stress and ligament tears — if you prematurely resume intense workouts.
Therefore, you should start with easier workouts (lighter weights, fewer reps/sets, shorter running intervals) and gradually build up your strength and endurance again. You may not be as strong, fast or fit as you were before the pandemic, so be patient. As long as you are consistent, you will be able to get back to your normal fitness routine in time.
Prioritizing recovery is important after a long break. Recovery means proper nutrition, hydration, adequate sleep and taking rest days between workouts. To help with recovery, make sure you warm up before exercising, stretch during every session, and cool down afterward.
After taking a long gym break, it may be hard to find the motivation to go back to your previous workout routine. Here are some strategies to help motivate you as you return to the gym:
- Don’t go to the gym with a complicated routine that makes you dread your workout. Create routines that are manageable and easy to follow.
- Set up an activity challenge with your friends. Adding a competitive element to your routine will boost your motivation.
- Set some SMART goals for yourself (e.g., go to the gym 3 times a week for 1 month) and announce them on your social media to stay accountable.
- Try new workouts and classes to keep things interesting.
Even if you are fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages everyone to wear a mask and follow other COVID-19 safety precautions when they work out in a public place — at least until a greater portion of the U.S. population is vaccinated.
People should also consider visiting and confirming that their gym is following the CDC-directed cleaning protocols for public places and there is a social distancing policy in place.
“When returning to the gym, cut yourself some slack and don’t do too much too soon,” says Hays. “Try and give your body time to adjust to the change.”
And if you are still not comfortable with the idea of working out in a public place, that’s OK too.
“It’s all about personally managing your risks and expectations,” says Hays. “We are still in the pandemic and if you are not ready to get back out there, continue working out from the comfort of your home or engage in some physical activity outside.”