4 ½ steps to a successful return to the gym
It's been a long wait. It'll be 125 days since you've last been able to get into your gym but many UK gyms are due to reopen on 25th July, in line with government guidelines. I hope you enjoy getting back into the swing of your fitness regime.
Many of us will have had a reduction in training time or intensity during lockdown and the last thing you want is to pick up an injury in your first week back, and face more delays to getting back to full fitness.
With that in mind here are my 4½ tips to help you stay injury free and enjoy your return to the gym and training.
1. Start slow and light
A few you were easily completing lengthy sprints on the rowing machine and benching a cart horse, but things changed during lockdown. You may have stayed active, walking and cycling for example, but don't expect to go straight back to lifting your pre-lockdown weights straight away. Start slow and light and gradually work back up as your body adapts. The last thing you want is to delay your fitness anymore by picking up an injury.
2. Give yourself sufficient rest days
You pride yourself on going to the gym 5 days a week and recovering quickly, ready to go again. Does that sound like you?
Over the lockdown period, unless you have maintained the same frequency and intensity of workouts, you will have lost some conditioning as well as strength. What this means is that you may find that it takes longer to recover from exercise than you are used to. My advice would be to reduce the frequency of your gym sessions initially and allow your body the rest it needs to recover and build.
Tired bodies tend to be more prone to injury - the last thing you want is an extended lay off, just as the gyms are open and you're paying for that expensive membership, so start with maybe 2 or 3 days a week and increase as your conditioning comes back.
3. Look after yourself
If you have been working hard in the gym make sure that you war down properly, including some good stretches. It is important to maintain a good range of movement through joints and length through muscles to help prevent injury. If there are areas that are tight and restricted your body will make adjustments to movement patterns to compensate and these compensations can lead to muscle fatigue and strains.
4. Eat well
How has your diet been during lockdown? Maybe that normally healthy diet has gone out of the window a bit and a few extra pounds have been gained.
The temptation, going back to the gym and getting back to your previous lifestyle may be to eat less as you try to get that pre-lockdown bod back. Do remember though that your body needs fuel to recover from the gym sessions you are putting it through. So think about what you eat rather than just cutting down. Maybe try to increase your intake of fresh fruit and veg and make sure you get plenty of water - working out in the hot weather can cause dehydration with can affect both performance and recovery.
Also - don't forget to include good quality protein in your diet - your muscles will need it to recover and grow.
4½ Ask for help if you need it
If you need help - just ask. There are plenty of experts who will be able to offer professional help and guidance, from personal trainers to help with technique and programmes, nutritionists to help with diet and massage therapists to help with post workout recovery.
It can also be worthwhile visiting an Osteopath before you really get back into it - I can give you an MOT to check that your are moving well and in a good place to start your fitness regime, and if you find something doesn't feel quite right a trip to see us for an osteopathic evaluation and treatment can help to nip issues in the bud and reduce the chance of a lengthy injury lay off.
So why is this half a step for you? Well as the saying goes a problem shared is a problem halved. I work in partnership with my patients, understanding your needs and forming a plan together to achieve the desired outcome.
If you have any questions then please do get in touch. I offer a free 15 minute consultation to discuss your needs and how osteopathy can help you. To book this or a full appointment please call or book online.
Ian Thornley M.Ost, B.Sc