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How to Transition Back to the Gym Effectively

by Daniel Chapelle on Tuesday 16 June 2020


With the closure of gyms nationwide and globally due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I saw many people turning their garages or living rooms into gyms.

And if you were one of the many who missed out on equipment due to every sporting store selling out early on, many resorted to using household items as weights – hello, soup cans. 

As the social distancing rules unwind and life returns to some degree of normality, it got me thinking about the importance of training. Yes, there are vain reasons to work out (getting that sculpted body you’ve always wanted) but, exercise also plays an integral role to your physical and mental health. You may have found new ways to exercise outside of the gym during the pandemic but let’s face it: the gym is the best place to keep you motivated. It also provides accountability, a supportive community, and for many the feeling of belonging and purpose.

I know many of you are thinking about what it will be like back at the gym, and it got me thinking about strategies of how you can safely return to the gym and get back on track with your training. Yes, the gym is taking extra precautions to ensure your safety in not spreading germs, so let’s make sure you’re taking extra precautions to make sure your body is safe whilst training, as well. Here are my top tips. Let's get to it!

Adjust Your Mindset

For those with limited access to training equipment, you're likely to have lost strength and fitness, meaning the inability to lift the same loads and reps. This means lowering your expectations will be important to avoid overtraining and injuries.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

With any new phase of training, it's common to program an 'intro' week. Think of it as dipping your foot in the water to test the temperature. This will allow for a smoother transition into training and might look a bit like this:

  • Less frequency: Reduce the total number of weekly workouts. If you previously trained 5 days/week, starting with 3 - 4 will help improve recovery from the more intensive workouts. 
  • Less volume: Perform less sets per exercise due to a reduced work capacity. This could mean performing 2 - 3 sets compared to 3 - 5, and building up in the coming weeks. 
  • Less intensity: Reduce the load used for each of your exercises, meaning more reps are left in the tank. Repetitions in Reserve (RIR) or Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) can be useful tools to gauge intensity. 

Listen to Your Body 

How your body feels in response to your training will be a good indication of how to go about making progression in the weeks to come. If you're experiencing overlapping soreness between workouts you may have overshot it.

Tracking your biofeedback markers and comparing them between weeks may be a good way to assess your response to training. This can include the rating of variables from 1 - 5, such as motivation, energy, soreness, stress and mood. 

Prioritise Recovery 

This means acknowledging the importance of both nutrition and sleep to improve recoverability. Increasing the demands of your training means an equal increase in your required recovery. Don't burn the candle at both ends.

  • Eat sufficient calories: With an increase in your energy output it only makes sense to increase your food intake to fuel your training efforts. If you're not someone who tracks calories, eat intuitively based on your hunger and satiety cues. 
  • Eat sufficient protein: A simple guideline is to consume 2g/kg body weight. If you don’t track your macronutrients, aim to consume a sufficient serving of protein at every meal. 
  • Sleep hygiene: Set up a bedtime ritual to get you prepared for some shut eye. This means avoiding devices that emit light, setting the room at a comfortable temperature and going to bed at a reasonable hour. 
  • Mobility: "I do enough mobility work", said no one ever. It's as simple as use it or lose it. Set a timer for 10 - 15 minutes on your recovery days to perform some light exercise aimed to improving your flexibility and mobility. 

I hope these tips help you integrate back into the iron game.

Daniel Chapelle (AES, AEP) is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist and Virgin Active Personal Trainer based in Sydney. If you are interested in working with him more closely either in person or online, stop by reception or talk to us here

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Book in for a free guided tour. We'll show you all the facilities and answer any questions you may have. No obligation. Just lots of smiles. We'll call you to book your visit at a convenient time.

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