2020 was not a good year for those with an active gym membership. Repeated closures, while necessary for public health, have impacted the mental and physical health of countless people the world over. But, there is light at the end of the tunnel as we edge closer to gyms reopening.
Usually taking 4 days off the gym leaves you sore and tired on that first session back, so easing ourselves back into the gym after missing more gym time might be a struggle. It’ll be made even worse for those of us who haven’t delved much into those home workouts this last lockdown.
We can still make this easy on ourselves though — there’s really no need to worry at all. To help you get prepped, here’s some things you can do.
There are loads of things you could be doing to prepare yourself for the gym: home-workouts, runs, and getting your supplement and food cupboard in check. Do a little now and ease yourself back into full-time gym workouts.
Just starting to re-build strength with bodyweight exercises, or stamina by including a few weekly runs will help you to ease back into a gym routine a bit more easily.
Don’t worry if you’re “not as fit as you were” — very few people will be. The gym is a place for us to all work on this together, get better, and grow whatever level you’re at.
Read up on fuelling your first gym session back below.
Just turn up
With gyms open once again, this is No.1 and probably the only thing you should focus on once you decide to head back to the gym. Thinking about all those weights and all that cardio can be intimidating when you’ve just gotten used to home-workouts again.
So, just tell yourself that you only have to turn up: that once you go, you’ll be able to figure out any new systems or what you can and can’t do. Chances are, it’s not going to be the most productive workout, so come to terms with that too.
If you go and you don’t feel like lifting anything or if you think it’s too busy, just go home — don’t put any pressure on yourself to go straight back into your old routine. Eventually you’ll be back to your old routine and habits, so just have a bit of patience and keep trying little bits at a time.
If you just go to the gym, you have won. You have achieved that goal. If you do a good workout, even better.
This is a great way to get you inside the gym and that is the first step to easing yourself back into exercising.
Start with the exercise you missed most
Want something to look forward to? Then think of the exercise that you have missed the most.
Then go and do your favourite lift that you’ve been missing. Whether it’s squats, deadlifts, or bench, have something to look forward to when you return to the gym.
Going back should be a fun and exciting experience, so whether it’s being able to do more than just bodyweight exercises or to work your back, remember to enjoy it — no matter how heavy you’re lifting.
Lower your lifts
Go easy on yourself. Studies show that going too heavy too fast after a break can lead to muscle injury. So you need to ease yourself in physically, not just mentally.
Start off at about 40-60% of what your original lifts were and stick to that weight for about a week. After that, see how you feel and up the weight for week 2. You can ease yourself in, practice the movement patterns while still not hating yourself (and the exercise) too much.
Lower your reps
This is another one to make you feel a little better. If you’re still feeling fatigued and tired during your workout, lower the amount of reps you’re doing. Don’t push yourself too much, because you might have to take another break from the gym if you don’t take it easy.
Take slightly longer rests between sets
Taking longer rests is another way you can make things a bit easier for yourself and ease yourself back into the gym. You might be surprised how fatigued you can get if you go at the same pace that you used to.
This one is a balancing act though: you want to be well-rested for your sets, but taking long breaks can also make you lose momentum, feel tired and prolong the agony of it all. So, try to strike the balance between pushing yourself just enough and no overdoing it.
Enjoy it as much as possible
Like anything, so long as you enjoy doing it, you’ll want to do more of it. So, whatever makes you enjoy the gym more: setting goals, listening to podcasts/music, or doing your favourite lifts again, just try to have a little bit of fun in the gym when you go back.
Remember, you don’t have to work yourself up to the gym. It’s a place for you to grow, challenge yourself, and see change at whatever rate and in whichever ways suit you.
Take Home Message
Ease yourself into gym workouts the right way. Start preparing, lower your energy output, and ease yourself in both physically and mentally. Hopefully after that, you won’t loathe exercising as soon as you start again.