Getting back in the gym after a long break can be daunting – and even a little dangerous if you try to go in with all guns blazing. Make your post-lockdown workouts smart, sustainable and enjoyable with this advice from fitness experts.
If you’ve been counting down to days to gyms reopening so you can get back to weight lifting, treadmill training or swimming, then we bet you’ve had your bags packed and leggings laid out ready for your first session back.
Whatever your case may be, don’t let the excitement of getting onto the gym floor or into the studio mean you forget the fundamentals of good training and sustainable fitness. Before you dive in head first, read this advice from eight experts and athletes.
“It’s normal to feel out of routine and out of practice, because, well, you are – but that’s okay. Don’t look at returning to the gym as a potentially daunting task and worry about how you’ll perform and where your fitness level might be. Instead, flip your mindset on its head and see it as an exciting opportunity to fall in love with the training process all over again.”
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Adrienne Herbert, runner and trainer, says:
“If your training routine has changed a lot over the last few months, then you might need to modify your workouts when you first return to the gym. Start off by lifting a lighter weight, allow yourself time to build your strength back up. If you’re wearing a mask to train then that may also impact your performance too, so take it easy.”
Alice Miller, fitness trainer, says:
“Don’t feel like you need to punish yourself at the gym. Try to use exercise as a reward for your body.
Think back to pre-lockdown: were you feeling good about your exercise? If not, why jump back into the same routine? Use this time to explore different forms of training, classes and trainers to find what feels good for you. There’s no rush to get back to a routine. What is a few more weeks of discovering what you enjoy on top of the five or more months you’ve already had off this year?”
FUEL AND REFUEL
Renee McGregor, sports dietician, says:
“Don’t forget the importance of fueling. With life slowly returning to a “new normal”, many of us will not only be returning to the gym but also to work. So, while we’ve had the freedom to appropriately and easily fuel around our training while working from home, this is a further challenge many of you will have to consider. Remembering to plan ahead and ensure suitable choices pre- and post-training will result in the desired progression. You want to ensure that you are a sustainable athlete with less risk of getting injured or ill.”
Laura Hoggins, fitness trainer, says:
“Don’t forget your warm-up! Preparing our body to move external loads takes time, especially if you haven’t been exposed to heavy gym kit for the last month.”
We know this is easier said than done when you’re excited at the prospect of being in the weights room and just want to jump straight back into your set. But you’ll only knock yourself back out of the gym from stiffness, pain and even injury.
“If some gyms have strict timing slots, consider walking to the gym or warming up at home to really maximise the time you have. And take the rest periods you need to move safely and effectively,” Laura adds.
MAKE YOUR FIRST SESSION A FULL-BODY ONE
Sam Briggs, former CrossFit Games Champion, says:
‘The goal of your first session should be to simply move and gently wake up your whole body (muscles, lungs, heart – everything) and prime them for action over the weeks to come, where you should gradually build back up the intensity level.
“Don’t worry about ‘leg day’, ‘upper body day’, etc. By working the whole body, you’re helping to best prepare and adapt to a training stimulus.”
HAVE A PLAN
Emma Obayuvana, fitness trainer, says:
“Have a plan in place before you step into the gym. Really think about what the focus of your workouts will be for the coming weeks so that you don’t feel overwhelmed with all of the equipment. That will also ensure you’re not overdoing it and give you time to ease in.”
Esmée Gummer, trainer, says:
“The biggest one of all is don’t compare yourself to pre-lockdown you. Your body is going to feel different and move differently. This is normal. Even if you have been working out from home, your fitness levels will have changed, especially if you are going back to using machines and equipment.”
This also stands for comparing yourself to others in the gym, she says. “Stay in your lane and focus on yourself rather than worrying about what other people around you are doing. You know yourself better than anyone else, so be proud of that. Comparison is the biggest killer of joy, be kind to yourself.”
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Images: Getty / Benjamin Youd / Gymshark / Adrienne Herbert / Sam Briggs / Laura Hoggins / Esmee Gummer
Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).