Getting back to the gym after shutdown
In towns across America, gyms are starting to reopen after a long period of being shut down due to COVID-19. My gym, for example, was closed for nearly four months.
Can I level with you; try as I might, my home workout routine simply didn’t yield the same results as the gym. Sure, I was able to keep the weight off and stay somewhat toned, but muscle atrophy still happened, particularly in my upper body and legs.
Realizing that many people are facing the same dilemma – how to restart a gym routine after the lockdown – I decided to speak to ACE Certified fitness trainer Michael Elder about best practices for getting back into the groove.
“In many ways, it’s about setting back the dial to zero and then slowly approaching the rebuilding process. The worst thing people can do is rush back into things,” Elder said.
“If you are a bodybuilder or avid weightlifter, it’s critical to keep in mind that exercise involves the twin elements of cardio and strength conditioning. If you haven’t been able to focus on either because your gym was shut down, a slow approach is going to be key to success,” he adds.
Based on our conversation, here are five tips to consider.
1. Spend time warming up
Perhaps obvious, warming up will be more important than ever after restarting the proverbial workout engine. “If you haven’t been running or doing other forms of cardio, your body has been missing out on the warm-up process.
You’ll want to make this one of the very first things you do when you get back to the gym. It can go a long way toward stabilize your metabolism and conditioning your system for more rigorous exercise. An excellent way to do this is by stretching for five to ten minutes,” says Elder
2. Focus on your core
In a nutshell, your core contains the muscles that support and strengthen your midsection. Think obliques, glutes, and traps. According to Elder, he suggests making these areas of the body target zones for gym reintegration.
“If you want to lift weights and re-built muscle, strengthening your core is paramount. The reason for doing this is simple: it helps you to avoid injury. I’ve already seen instances where people have torn muscles because they tried to do too much, too fast, and didn’t have their core muscle ready for the weights,” Elder says.
To learn more about strengthening this part of the body, read our article on simple core exercises.
3. Diet matters
For many people, the Coronavirus lockdown acted as a kind of permission slip to eat like crap. I know this was true for me. Our expert offers the following insight.
“Getting back into a gym routine will require focusing on diet and exercise. This means slowly moving back to the foods you used to eat before everything closed. One of the best ways to do this is to make sure everything you put into your mouth lean and clean.
In other words, if you are eating chicken, make sure it is a chicken breast and not fried in oil. Replace the high carb sides of mashed potatoes and butter with vegetables,” says Elder.
4. Start slow on the weights
If you were benching 180 pre-shutdown, don’t expect to start lifting that amount when you return to the gym. Instead, start off with very little weight.
“This may be a hard pill to swallow, but in many ways, hitting the weights again will mean going back to the beginning. You may be eager to pickup up where you left off, but that’s not how the body works.
I recommend starting with super lightweights. For example, if you were curling 45-lbs before, use 15-lbs to 20-lbs now. Remember, half the battle is conditioning your body for strength training. Because of time lost [due to COVID], your system will need to move back into a groove over time. You can always increase the weight if it feels to light,” Elder says.
5. Expect soreness
If you have been working out for any length of time, you already know that Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is a very real thing. Elder suggests keeping this mind as you reintegrate the gym into your daily life.
“You are going to experience sore muscles after you start lifting again. It is a fact of life. Think of the discomfort you feel as a good sign that your body is beginning to grow again.
Research suggests a gentle message of the tight areas can help reduce some of the pain. A warm shower may also offer some relief,” he says.
If your gym has recently reopened and you are eager to get your exercise on, consider the five tips offered here.
The main message I got from my interview with Elder is take things super slow. It does you no good to rejoin your gym and then have to take time off again because of an injury.
“Don’t get discouraged by what you’ve lost. Instead, focus on what is being gained,” he said at the end of our discussion.
Has your gym reopened? Have you started working out again? What tips can you offer to other readers about the experience?