Here is your 5 point checklist for smashing your first few weeks back at the gym:
1) Don’t stress out about it - everyone except the most motivated people in the world and those lucky few that have a home gym at their disposal, will likely be experiencing similar feelings as our doors re-open. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, treat it as an extended de-load if you like and just use it as motivation to come back better, fitter and stronger!
2) The damage likely isn’t as a bad as you think - sure…you may have lost some strength in your primary lifts and your biceps may no longer be exactly 22.835 inches but the changes are probably not as bad as you think and muscle memory will help so don’t worry too much about it. Best advice is to just get back to training, be okay with not lifting the same numbers as before and build back up over the next few weeks (for example, if you’re used to training in the 3 sets of 8-12 rep range, why not reduce the weight and increase the reps to 2-3 sets of 12-18 for a few weeks to allow your body to get used to lifting weights again). Before you know it, you’ll be back to where you want to be, if not better. Remember progress is a process!
3) No crash dieting and no 4 hour gym sessions - whilst it may be tempting to do either of these things after such an extended period of “time off”, consuming half the calories you should be consuming is not sustainable and will likely only trigger your body’s starvation response which may actually hinder your fat loss goals. Equally, smashing the gym 15 times a week to “make up for lost time” is definitely not a sustainable approach, you’ll likely overtrain, risk injury and bring any potential progress to a halt, especially if you’ve not been training over lockdown, your body simply won’t be able to cope. Again, best advice, start off slow and build back up. If before lockdown, you were training 5 times a week, maybe start off with 3 sessions a week for a few weeks and then 4 and eventually back to 5 when your body feels ready.
4) Try a class - if all you think about when you hear the word “gym” is that it sounds a bit like “gin” and you feel like you wouldn’t know the difference between a squat rack and a bicep curl machine, why not try a class to help you get back into the swing of things. Not only do we have a huge variety of classes for you to choose from, but also, having an instructor there to take you and the rest of the class through a workout can be very motivating and really help you to get back into exercise. What’s more, you’ll likely pick up a few exercises and workout ideas which you can then introduce into your own training when you are feeling ready.
5) If in doubt, do something you enjoy - this may sound obvious but after such an extended period of time off from the gym, do not underestimate the importance of just exercising for fun. If having a perfectly planned fitness schedule that you have to follow every week, no matter what, seems a bit daunting right now then don’t. Whilst setting goals and having a gym plan are important, if just doing the exercise you enjoy for a few weeks whilst you ease back into things, makes the difference between coming to the gym and not, then forget about the plan for a bit, and just enjoy being back in the gym again. Maintaining motivation is so much easier when you enjoy what you are doing!
By Luca Samara