After a long time off of your usual routine, your workout plan, your gym buddies and your usual active lifestyle, getting back into the gym can seem like a mountain climb. Finding our way back to a normal kind of life, one which we used to take for granted, isn’t an easy feat.
Our whole lives have been turned upside down, inside out. Our hormones, metabolisms, diets and lifestyles have been unrecognisable for months now, and it isn’t a case of snap your fingers and take off where we left off, we need to be mindful of how we have been affected, both physically and mentally, be kind to ourselves, and encourage ourselves back into a workout that is right for us now.
Regular training has changed for most of us, with national gym closures and group workout sessions forbidden for many months. Online workouts have been a saving grace, and a great stop gap, but there is no comparison between a bustling gym with high quality equipment, and professionals on hand, or an emotionless TV screen.
Revisit Your Workout Plan
Being kind to yourself doesn’t mean giving up, nor does it mean going full speed ahead. Assess your current fitness levels and work out within your own limits. If you have almost stopped working out since the beginning of lockdown, begin again as though you are a beginner.
Begin with more gentle cardio sessions than you were completing before your break. Moving slower and for less time, and building up gradually. Once you begin to see improvements and feel more comfortable with cardio workouts, you can take it the next level up, but ensure you have a great foundation for your training first.
Understand that your stamina may not be what it was before, and begin to increase your stamina. Training sessions like fartlek speed training, HIIT training and circuits classes are great ways to build your stamina quickly. You work your body much harder and see results much more quickly when you work hard for short, sharp bursts, as opposed to running for 45 minutes+ non-stop. Your cardio health will improve more quickly with this style of training, you will burn more fat and this will happen in a reduced amount of workout time.
That said, remember the previous point. Don’t go in all guns blazing and begin with the HIIT, build that foundation and only up the ante when you and your body are ready. Too much too soon can lead to injury, and can also lead to burn out, leaving you feeling demotivated and useless, compared to where you used to be.
Many of us have done a bit of walking, or a lot more sitting than usual, but stretching can easily be neglected when our workout routine changes; it is easily forgotten. Whilst we may not see this as a huge problem, lack of flexibility, results in lack of mobility. Lack of mobility, results in the inability to work out, an increase in injury, and pain and discomfort in later life. Postures can slip, muscles and joints can tighten. We can regain our pose, stability and flexibility, however we need to do this gradually. If we overstretch, we can in fact, cause more tension in our muscles, leaving us less flexible as a result, not more.
Gym classes, such as yoga, are great for mobility, or even just simple stretches after a workout, when your muscles are warm can work wonders. Exercises like lunges, chest openers and stretches can make you feel brand new again. Just listen to your own body, and work within your limits, and again, increase as you feel able.
We lose muscle definition and strength when we stop training, and although muscle memory makes it easier to get it back, than it would be for a complete beginner, we still need to be mindful of the fact that we need to retrain and strengthen our muscles again. Limiting your workout and focusing on a few of the main muscle groups, such as your back, abdominals, quadriceps and shoulders is a great starter as these muscle groups build the foundations for many other strengthening exercises. Also, using lighter weights, but doing increased repetitions is a good way to prevent injury. Ideally, 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps of a lighter weight is a great starting point.
Getting back into the gym can seem daunting, especially in these unprecedented times. It may be that you’ve invested in some new gym equipment and are looking at continuing with your home or outdoor workouts. It may be that you have started online yoga or rebounding classes, or it may be that you have done none of the above and are dreading getting back to anything. Whatever category you fit into, you can still get your passion for the gym back: that time to yourself without any outside interruptions, the buzz of working out with your gym buddies, the support of a professional on tap for any of your workout questions. This doesn’t mean you need to give up any new-found workout plans, just focus on the bits you want to keep, and the bits you miss and find a healthy combination of the 2. Your gym can always advise you on the best way to blend your new workouts too, they will want what works best for you. Even when socially distancing, working out with someone, can improve your goal achievement success rate by up to 95%, so it’s worth investing back into the gym time, especially with Winter around the corner, when our energy levels are typically lower, and it is all too easy to give up on our outdoor workouts, or choose our sofa over our yoga mat in the comfort of our own home.
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