- From socially distanced workouts to tips on how to prepare your body for gym routines again, experts give their best tips for a smooth and effective return to the gym.
- Influencers, personal trainers, and regular gym goers voice their experiences in the new gym environment.
Google data shows that over lockdown, Brits increasingly became restless to return to the gym, with searches for “when will gyms reopen” rocketing by over 1,000% between April and June. Now, gyms are back, here are some top tips from fitness experts, and gym goers about how to cope in the new socially distanced environment and avoid injuries after a long time out.
The charitable social enterprise Better, spoke to a range of experts including Peter Mac, personal trainer of pop stars Kimberley Walsh, Alexandra Burke and Rochelle Humes, and an Instagram personality who helped tens of thousands over lockdown with his home workout videos, to build their top tips for a gym return.
The advice from all the fitness experts ranges from being extra prepared with a gym routine shaped to work in new gym time-limits and rules, how to try new things in the new environment, and how to prepare your body for the inevitable soreness having been out of action for several months.
Take it easy when getting back to the gym
Peter Mac, who shares tips on Instagram to his 70k+ followers, said that it is important to take it slow when first returning to ensure you avoid injury from overdoing your workout as you try to make up for the months you missed:
“Take it slow. Don’t expect to be able to lift as heavy as you did before or even recover in between sets as quick as you might have. Your body hasn’t done these movements for a while so take your time and listen to your body. Eventually, your body will adjust and get back to what you were used to do. If you rush it, you will probably get injured and then be unable to go to the gym at all. Going back to basics is the best place to start and ease yourself back in.”
Chepstow personal trainer, Daisy Jones, agrees with a slow transition back to the gym, adding that your body won’t benefit from overdoing it too soon and going too fast, so having “a structured programme will help you ease you back in your training. Make sure the methodology is relevant to your goals, start slow and build up, and remember your strength isn’t going to be the same as before and that’s ok.”
Create and Prepare your routine ready to go
Another frequent tip from the experts is to be extra prepared for your routines before you enter the gym floor, especially with time limits and limited equipment due to social distancing. Peter Mac said:
“Most gyms will require you to pre-book before you go and give you a certain amount of time in the gym so make sure you plan your workouts beforehand. That way, no time is wasted thinking and you’ll get the best out of your session.”
PT and online coach, Nathan Collins, who has over 10k followers on Instagram and over 30k on TikTok, agrees on the importance of making extra preparations for your routines before arriving. He said: “If your gym has the 1-hour rule, just make sure you know exactly where you’re going and how long you will be in certain areas and stations to properly implement your full training programme in time.”
“The worst thing would be to waste time going back and forth from too many areas of the gym, so try and create some sort of direction to make the most of each area and the whole hour in the gym.”
Try new exercises and focus on improving your fitness and health
Your health is the most important thing, especially now – so making changes to your routine in the gym to focus on improving this is crucial. Nathan Collins has suggested to all his clients, “to incorporate an element of cardio or high-intensity training throughout the week. Even if that is not necessarily your style, if you are into bodybuilding or strength training, there needs to be an element of high-intensity work that is completely different to the training that you’re normally used to.”
Indeed, Daisy Jones said to make the most of the fresh start in a new environment and “try to use this as a golden opportunity to try something new and be creative. If an area is too busy for you, grab a dumbbell, find a quiet spot and use your intuition.”
Prepare for muscle soreness and set regular rest days
Even if you were a home-workout fanatic throughout the lockdown, getting back to heavy lifting and intense workouts will have its effects. Be prepared for some painful DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and organize your training accordingly. Gym enthusiast, Azeem Ahmad, who couldn’t wait to return, cautioned his experience:
“Be prepared to be sore after your first few visits, DOMS will take effect. Pre and post-exercise stretching, and a nice bath will really help recovery, as well as staying hydrated.”
“Whatever you do, do not make your first visit back one where you go for heavy weights and the toughest exercises – the chance of injury is very high, and you’ll then have to stay home for a few weeks while you recover.
Personal Trainer, Diogo Ferreira said: “It’s very easy to want to get back in the gym after time off and go full throttle training with no days off. This is never a recommended approach and even less so after a long break from training. Your muscles will need to re-adapt so make sure you follow a plan that factors in enough rest days to allow your muscles to recover appropriately. Remember that the recovery process is when the muscles will adapt to new stimulus so factoring in rest days into your training plan is just as important as the training itself.”
Embrace the New Environment
Finally, with new rules in place for many gyms, it might take some getting used to, but it’s all part of the process, so looking out for others, and being a good gym member is the best you can do. PT Daisy Jones emphasizes the importance to remember everyone is in the same boat:
“Look out for everyone and remember that we’re all new to this. It can be quite daunting when you first go in feeling like you’re going to do something wrong. Don’t panic, it’s ok, this is a first for all of us. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or talk to the gym staff, they’re there to help.”
But the main thing is to get back to what you love doing best, making great progress towards your goals in a fun, friendly and welcoming gym, just as gym enthusiast Barry Adams explains.
“I’m just grateful to be allowed back in the gym, I missed it a lot. I had an improvised home gym set but those were just some dumbbells and resistance bands so I was quite limited in what I could do. Going back to a proper gym has been so good that I want to do my best to keep it and not jeopardize it, so I sanitize and sanitize and sanitize and do my bit to keep COVID free. I can only hope everyone else does the same”.
Better have created a dedicated page to help to assist gym-goers with their socially distanced workouts. It comes complete with gym floor, swimming and stretch recommendations. Find out more here: https://www.better.org.uk/lp/social-distancing-workouts