How to start back in the gym
In the last 4 months during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown, you may have put yourself through a lot of bodyweight and endurance based exercise. Unless of course, you've managed to purchase some heavy gym kit or already own some. As a result, you've likely been able to maintain muscle mass, improve cardio fitness and maybe even lose a few kilos of unwanted body fat.
If you're an experienced weight lifter or gym enthusiast, it will be music to your ears that today the gym's have opened their doors in England and you may be heading back there as I type this!
Take a moment to consider that the styles of training you have had to do (or maybe you haven't trained for 4 months) may affect your gym performance right now. Changes to muscle strength, connective tissue, cardiovascular system and neuromuscular system, may have impacted your ability to pick up where you left off back in March 2020.
I have created some tips which will help you to ease yourself back in and consider a slightly different approach to ensure you do not get injured or feel unwell in the gym.
1) Full Body Workouts
Full body workouts are a great way to gauge your current levels of strength and start to adapt to different rep schemes. This will help you to reduce the training volume on each muscle group, providing a shorter but quality stimulation to muscle. Over time, you'll start to see improvements to your strength and you'll be able to lift heavier weights. Eventually, you'll feel as though you can head back to your usual routine, or maybe even find something new to try.
2) Reduce the number of days you train each week
By reducing the number of days you train each week, this will give you adequate rest between workout days. You may find you're a little sore once you start training again. Whilst it isn't bad per se to train on slightly sore muscles, those moments when you struggle to go up and down stairs, or sore to touch, may need an extra days recovery. Pair the extra recovery with good nutrition, sleep and hydration and you'll be feeling fresh for your next session. On my online training plans, I support my clients with 2-3 rest days, or active recovery if they enjoy gentle running/walking and provide advice on good nutrition protocols https://www.functionalfitnesscoach.co.uk/about
3) Reduce training intensity
Whether doing cardio or weight training, you may wish to reduce the intensity short term and gradually increase it over the period of a few weeks. This will allow you to recover properly between sessions and also help to improve your co-ordination/proprioception to movements you haven't completed for a little while. Just like a new exercise or movement pattern, it takes time for your neuromuscular system to learn and adapt. Going heavy too soon or going to fast/too far, may result in injury.
4) Lose a few extra kilograms of unwanted weight before performing certain styles of training
You may have picked up a little bit of extra weight which you may be in the process of losing as you start back at the gym. High intensity cardio and plyometrics (jumping, bounding etc) can place extra impact on joints and any extra weight which is carried can add extra load to the joints. If your previous programme contained such exercises, it may be worth taking them out to reduce the impact in the short term and change to joint strengthening exercises whilst continue to lose weight. Most to all athletes who use plyometrics will always use strength exercises to support their joints and performance to reduce the risk of injury - we are no different.
5) Seek advice from a coach/follow a programme
Personal Trainers, such as me, have experience of creating programmes for absolute beginners up to elite level athletes. We are trained in how to adjust exercise and intensity based on the individual requirements of the person we are working with. By investing in a coach, you will see improvements in fitness, strength, well-being and adherence to training. Going back to elite level sports, Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most famous footballers. Not just for his quality and accolades, but his insane level of elite fitness. Does he do this on his own? No. He has coaches (yes, plural!) who not only help to improve fitness, but aspects of his game such as co-ordination, tactics, mindset and wellness. Not saying you need to have 5 PT's, but having one coach will help you to progress well with your training and ensure you follow the right path. Many trainers will also provide coaching programmes online. I offer an online training package which can be done anywhere in the world, as well as Personal Training 1-2-1 in London, you can enquire here: https://www.functionalfitnesscoach.co.uk/contact
I hope you have found the above tips useful and I wish you all the best going back to the gym. Feel free to reach out if you need any help or wish to provide feedback/content for future blog posts.