Returning to exercise after Covid

by Xavier Sant on Tuesday 15 February 2022

5 min read

You had Covid, and you're keen to get back to training. But you, like many others, are experiencing the after effects of time away from the gym and energy spent beating the illness. Now that you’re on the road to recovery and are starting to feel yourself again, the question of how to approach your return to the gym may be hot on your mind. 

My first piece of advice, and which is often the most challenging part of any fitness journey is to get the ball rolling. Inertia, the concept of objects in motion staying in motion - applies directly to your training, once you start, forward momentum will keep you on your path! 

Taking measured, gradual steps in intensity, frequency and goal setting during this time will make the process a whole lot easier and give you tools to track the return of your fitness level and beyond.

Here are the factors I believe to be most important when returning to the gym for the first couple of months, post Covid. 

Be kind to yourself

Following sickness or injury, expect that your standard of fitness will have dropped. Habitual regulation and motivation can also take a big hit during this time, understand that getting back to where you once were is entirely attainable, just not straight away. Aim to fall back in love with the process of training, or use it as an opportunity to change things up.

Before you jump into your sessions, identify what is going to keep you disciplined, inspired, excited and stimulated. These are the catalysts for any training program, and now more than ever will take you to where you want to be. 

Let's get down to the nitty gritty.

Dial down the intensity

After any sickness your body is temporarily unable to operate at the intensity it once did. Allowing yourself to ease up on the loads used (weights or resistances), total session volume (whether it be number of exercises, sets or reps), and increasing rest periods (between sets or between exercises) are all crucial factors to consider during your first few sessions back.

Don’t be too hard on yourself initially, and instead use your training as a benchmark for where you are now to where you want to be. 

Session frequency

Once you have considered training intensity, go on to address the number of sessions you are able to perform each week. If you were doing 5 - 6+ sessions before you became ill, you may find it very hard to achieve this when you first return to the gym.

In the initial weeks, perhaps reduce the number of training days where you are building a sweat / tiring out your muscles. Instead, focus on a few mobility and flexibility based practices to get your body moving without overdoing it. Once you are confident that your recovery between sessions has improved, you may begin to layer in more intense sessions more regularly. 

Recovery protocols

Speaking from experience, the first two weeks returning to the gym after Covid were the hardest. Sickness combined with the Christmas break made for roughly a month of inconsistent training. The first session back was a shock, my muscles were burning and my lungs were on fire. I followed the approach detailed above and initially took it easy, ensuring plenty of rest between sessions - it helped immensely. 

Nutrient dense meals, adequate supplementation, plenty of water and my personal magic antidote of 8 hours of quality uninterrupted sleep, allowed me to tackle each subsequent training session with additional vitality and vigour. 

Staying accountable and setting goals

Finally, and equally as important are the tenets of accountability and goal setting. In order to adapt physically and mentally, you will need to be consistent to steadily increase your stimulus. 

To do this you need to be honest with yourself and true to your training. Keeping a journal, working out with a buddy or seeking the expertise of a trainer will help you stay focused and engaged. Goals should be constantly evolving and you are most likely to succeed when they are small, attainable and with well defined metrics. 

With these factors considered, I sincerely hope you are able to kick off your 2022 block of training safely and effectively. The Virgin Active Staff and Team are always in your corner, please don't be a stranger when it comes to further questions and queries, talk to us today!

Take care, train with purpose.

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