Gyms are set to reopen this weekend, and many of us are itching to get back to working out. For those of us who don’t have the space or equipment they usually like to work out with, the Covid19 crisis has meant we have had to adapt our routines or meant we have stopped working out altogether. However, not only is it important to be safe when going back to the gym to stop the spread of the virus, but it’s also important to protect your body against injury by going in too hard, too fast.
Some of us started lockdown working out furiously at home, going for runs and taking part in daily online workouts. But many of us have fallen off the wagon. The Gym Group found that at the start of lockdown, 26% of their members were finding other ways to exercise daily, but that fell to 14% as the weeks went on. For all our best intentions to stay active, many of us let is fall by the wayside and became more inactive as the weeks went on and we settled into the new normal. As much as we may be dying to get back to the gym, our body and muscles might not be quite as prepared for it. So how can we make sure working out doesn’t result in an injury that puts as back stuck in our houses?
No matter how many times you visited the gym before lockdown, or if you feel your level of fitness hasn’t changed, it’s important not to just start where you left off. Even if you have been working out, you may not have been working out to the same level, or using different muscle groups. It’s important to start with steady cardio exercise to test your fitness before you throw yourself back in. Gradually push the intensity and spend longer times at the gym, rather than committing to a 2 hour session straight away.
Try to set your expectations low. If you have been inactive during lockdown, you would expect to lose about 5% of your fitness per week, leading to a 50% drop. This doesn’t just mean adjusting your workout, but also not committing to working out every day even if you used to. Make sure you schedule in recovery days. If you are going from nothing, to working out again, try to just start with 2 days a week. If you have been relatively active, start at 3 – 4 times a week.
Arrive in your gym clothes and take sanitising wipes
The governments advice is that we should arrive ready to go. If possible, we should change and shower at home, as changing rooms will be open but should only be used if necessary, such as for swimmers.
Most gyms will be cleaning equipment regularly, but many will be providing wipes and gels to sanitise yourself. To be extra careful, try to sanitise everything you have used and not just wipe it down with a towel.
Reduce your weights
Levels of lean muscle mass can decline drastically in just two weeks, so it takes time to build this back up. Your joints and tensions will also be weaker which makes you prone to injury. If you usually do weights, reduce your usual weight levels by 20% if you have been doing some strength training during lockdown, and 30% if you have been inactive.
You may have also lost some of your usual technique if you have been taking time away from weights over lockdown, so your muscles will need to be reprogrammed. Getting your technique back could take anything from 2-6 weeks. It is best to use resistance machines instead of free weights whilst you build back up.
Expect shorter opening hours and a different layout
In accordance with government guidelines, classes will likely be shortened so there is more time to clean between sessions. Class sizes will also be reduced to ensure social distancing so there will be less availability. Some gyms may also be using a booking system to make sure they don’t go over capacity.
Many gyms will have changed their layout to ensure they can keep everyone far apart with suitable margin for circulation or one-way routes. Treadmills and cross trainers will have to face walls to reduce potential spread.
Even if you have been training at home, it’s still important to stretch, take care and expect that you will be sore and need to rest. At times like this, it’s even more important to take care of ourselves, and the health of the people we share the gyms with by socially distancing and keeping everything sanitised!