Posted on August 15, 2020 by Jenny Cromack

Gyms have been open now for a few weeks… is it going for you? Have you made the first step of getting back into the gym? Returning to the gym after a long time off can be daunting to say the least (let alone after months of lockdown!) and as much as we don’t like to believe it, our fitness and strength just may not be up to the same level as before. It’s likely that your first few sessions will be taxing and hard but it’s important to remember your limits when it comes to introducing exercise back into your routine.

Depending on your current activity levels, whether you have continued to train during lockdown or your activity levels have taken a hit, this is going to affect the approach you may choose to take when you return to the gym. Even if you’ve kept training during lockdown, you might not have had access to any dumbbells or barbells, again, this may affect your return to the gym.

Like anything, it’s always good to start with a plan. Planning your workout in advance will not only allow you to be extremely organised, but completing a thorough warm up which will aid your session and prevent injuries from occurring.

Warm Up

The main purpose of a warm up is to get the blood flowing to deliver additional oxygen to the muscles, gradually increase your heart rate and to get you ready to start your session. A good and simple warm up would be using a piece of cardio equipment for around 5-10 minutes.

Generally speaking, it’s more likely that we have spent a lot more time sitting down and being more sedentary. Because of this, it’s a great idea to incorporate some mobility and dynamic stretches prior to working out. This will allow for a better range of movement when you’re doing your main workout and loosen up tight areas that are a common cause of sitting and slouching. Focus on areas such as the hip flexors, glutes and the thoracic region. Completing dynamic stretches will also allow for you to get a ‘feel’ for the exercises you plan to do and set the tone on how your body is responding and feeling when doing them.

Main Workout

Now for the main session. Depending on what you’re doing in your main workout, it’s good to take a more relaxed approach when returning to training after a break. There are lots of ways you can do this, so here are some examples:
1. Limit Your Exercises. It’s a bad idea to return all guns blazing, completing every exercise you can think of because you haven’t done them in so long! What is a good idea, instead, is setting a structure to maybe target one exercise per body part or two at the most… (if your session is aimed to target the full body)

2. Limit Your Sets & Reps. Complete two working sets rather than 3/4/5 etc. And don’t take an exercise to complete failure or until you can’t do no more. Leave a few in the tank ready for you to progress over the next coming weeks.

3. Have Longer Rest Periods. Rather than strictly measuring rest periods , listen and take note of how you feel and go when you are ready!

4. Leave Your Ego at Home. Don’t expect to lift your previous personal best, because its more than likely you won’t be able to. Instead work on technique again and build up strength that way. If you are simply chasing numbers its likely your form isn’t going to be great, and that is how you can get stuck into the cycle of lifting heavy weight but really poor technique which sets you up for future injuries and problems.

There are many ways in which we can adapt sessions as we slowly ease back into training but it is person dependant and its extremely important to listen to your body. If it’s sore and aching, you’re in pain or just really fatigued, it’s probably not best to go smash another session, instead rest. Doing more can lead to injuries and therefore lack of progress and resulting in less gym time. So one thing to take from this, train smarter not harder.