After a year of shutdowns, gyms are finally officially opening back up (hallelujah!). Whether you‘ve been working out at home, tuning in online, or just used lockdown as time to reset and recover, you might be itching to get back to your old routine. Before you hit the weights headfirst, here’s the good, the bad, and the unavoidable of starting back up.
- Prevent injury by easing into your new routine. You might be a Ferrari, but your body will likely feel like a Fiat, at first.
- Masks and cleanliness remain a requirement at most gyms.
- Social distancing protocols and growing demand mean peak hours (6AM-9AM & 4PM-7PM) are still busy.
- Indoor group classes are back and less crowded but still carry a risk for some.
- You might need to reserve your spot at your local gym ahead of time.
- After extended isolation, working out with a friend can improve your results and mental health.
Shaking off the rust and avoiding injury
The biggest temptation when stepping back into the gym is to hit it full throttle. It’s been over a year and your pent-up energy needs room to pump. But if you’ve ever had a brain freeze, then you know downing it all in one go doesn’t end well (even if it’s your favorite ice cream).
Injury tends to be the greatest obstacle to your fitness goals, and not to sound like your mother but if you go in there guns blazing you might sprain something…sweetie.
So, while home and gym became synonymous this past year, they’re not the same. Even if you’ve been working out at home, unless you’ve got commercial grade gear, it’ll take a bit of adjusting and that’s okay.
Instead of getting disheartened from seeing less plates on your squat rack or struggling to match your previous one rep max, start slow, ease into it and work your way back up. As a wise wrestler once said, “mucho take it easy”. You’ll get back to where you were and stronger if you focus on form instead of brute force.
Here’s a pro tip: Track your progress by percent increase instead of just total weight training amounts. If you increase your difficulty or weight by 10 lbs. it might not seem like much but for you it that could be a 10% growth, and that’s a solid return. Measuring your progress via percentages will help keep you motivated as you build momentum in your routine.
Mask mandates and “gym jerks”
Like most indoor venues, masks remain a mandate at most gyms, along with temperature checks. You’ll also probably receive a towel and some spray to disinfect the weights and equipment you use.
For some, masks will put them at ease, for others it’ll make working out uncomfortable. One thing is for sure, most gyms look like a bunch of athletes training for altitude, or a bunch of guys doing their best Bane impressions. I was born in the gym…molded by it.
Depending on where you stand it does take some getting used to. At any rate, something we can all get behind is that fellow gym goers are much more inclined to wipe down their machines (the way it always should’ve been). So, the good news is you’ve got way less “gym jerks” leaving their sweaty imprints on the best equipment. That’s a win.
More or less crowded?
One of the most annoying aspects of attending the gym is having to wait on your favorite machines to open up. You might be wondering if less people venturing to their clubs means it’s not as crowded as it used to be. Although some fitness centers require booking a reservation, unfortunately, for most the answer is no. Peak gym hours still suck.
To comply with social distancing standards, many gyms are adhering to the “every other” rule (i.e. blocking off every other machine for use). This might relieve some folk’s gym anxiety but it doesn’t help the laws of supply and demand.
So, if you can only workout during peak hours, you can still expect to awkwardly hover around your favorite equipment, occasionally removing an ear bud to ask, “you done with this one, bro?”
That being said, if you want to make the most of your time and you’ve got some flexibility in your schedule, we recommend avoiding the high-trafficked hours of 6AM-9AM and 4PM-7PM.
What about group classes?
It’s no secret that gyms were one of the hardest hit industries during the lockdown. While virtual group workouts through Peloton, Onnit, and many others sought to fill the gaps, most people agree it’s hard to replace the energy of a live class.
To adapt, most smaller gyms held outdoor classes or were forced to modify their space. Today, many group classes are limiting their attendance to a fraction of their maximum capacity or requiring a reservation to book your spot. So, when you hop back on the saddle of your soul cycle or roll out your mat for Pilates you might find it a bit emptier than you remember. Also, as classes return indoors, even with these precautions in place, it does carry an added risk.
If group classes are one of the gym things you miss the most, call your gym to ask what their policy is and if you’ve got to reserve your spot before going in. There’s nothing worse than making the trek only to find out the class is full.
Using the “buddy” system
This last one is tried and true and maybe even more so as we come out of the shutdowns. Being at home for some was a respite but for others it was hard to cope. There was a ton of uncertainty and isolation. Even though full shutdowns seem far behind us, and we’ve been coming into new normal, social gatherings are still finding their way back.
As life demands more and more of your time, it tends to pull more away from friendships and relationships that matter most. What does this have to do with working out? This might be trekking into territory beyond our scope but your health is holistic and taking care of yourself relationally and emotionally is just as important as physically and nutritionally.
Use what Lars, the lead trainer of Perkis Power calls “the buddy system”. Make the most of your gym time by working out with a friend. You’ll be optimizing your time and nurturing more than your fitness.
Plus, if you decide to ignore our advice and go all out on your first day back you’re going to need someone to spot you. One thing is for sure, we’re in this together. Okay, that’s our quota for sentimental advice. Get out there and work.