After 15 weeks in lockdown, gyms are finally re-opening in England this week, bringing with it plenty of excitement for those who love to train in the gym environment, see other people and use a much wider variety of equipment. Many people will want to continue training at home, due to the convenience and investment in their own equipment, while others will be relieved at seeing the back of home workouts.
However, there is a danger that over-excitement can lead to some poor first few sessions back in the gym and even potential injury. So, here are some important tips to make sure your return to the gym is enjoyable, productive and effective.
Have A Plan In Place
When you return to the gym it is essential that you have a simple, structured, and effective plan that is easy to follow. If not, you are going to be wandering around, doing a bit of one exercise, a bit of another, and then finish too early without pushing yourself. Not having a plan that gives you the exercises you need to be doing, as well as the frequency and intensity at which you should be doing them, will make you become lost very quickly.
Find someone, whether it be a coach or a friend who knows plenty about resistance training, and ask them to provide you with something to follow, whether it be a structured workout or some exercise ideas, so that you can get off the ground early. Once you do so, you will find that you become more comfortable in the gym, you will become more experienced, you will enjoy it more and, most importantly, you will start to see results, provided that you are executing the exercise correctly and that your nutrition plan is in line with your fitness goals.
Warm Up Well
Before you start lifting and training, it is very important that you get in a substantial warm-up first. The importance of this will depend on the individual and how much they have been training during lockdown – if you have been training well, then your body will be well-adapted, but if this is your first training session in a long time, your body will be much stiffer and not used to resistance-based exercise.
However, it is vital that you have blood flowing into your muscles, so that you are more flexible and your muscles are warmed and loose for the training ahead. Make sure your warm-up is based around dynamic stretches (stretches that require continued movement) so that your body is ready. Aim for 2-3 dynamic stretches which focus on mobility and flexibility, including bodyweight practice for the upcoming exercise. Then, once you start training, the movement should feel smoother and you will reduce the risk of a muscle injury.
Focus On Technique First And Take It Slow
Many people will be extremely excited to get back to the gym and start to lift heavier, as well as work with a wider variety of equipment. However, it is important that you don’t let this excitement take over. If you have either not been training consistently or you have been working lighter weights during lockdown, it will take a while for your body to adapt to your old training routine in the gym.
This applies especially to your strength levels. So, make sure that you have your technique perfected first before you start to add weight. This is vital not only for getting the most from your workouts, but also so that you protect yourself from injury. Do not try to lift too heavy, too early, as you will run the risk of doing damage to your body due to it not being used to heavier loads. The best method would be to start at a lower weight, get used to performing the movement again, and then gradually increasing the weight week-on-week, to what you were lifting before.
Train Your Favourite Muscle Groups First
If you are apprehensive or uncomfortable about returning to the gym, a good way of warming back into the routine is to do your favourite session first. This will help ease you back into the routine of training in the gym if that is something you aim to do over the coming months. Returning to a more social environment with many people using a variety of equipment can be an intimidating experience for people, especially after months of training of your own in a smaller space.
So, if you are slightly nervous about returning, doing your favourite session will be a great way of getting used to training with other people, in a bigger space, and with more equipment. You will then have got the first training session done, things should not feel as intimidating and you can start training more from then on.
Add Some Variety
During lockdown, you will have most likely got into a routine of doing the same exercises for the same muscle groups during each of your sessions. Given the limited equipment at your disposal, this is understandable, and there has most likely not been much you have been able to play around with. For some, with more equipment such as barbells and dumbbells, it will have been easy to find exercises for your sessions. However, many people may have been going off their own bodyweight for months and have found the process extremely tedious.
So, when you return to the gym, be sure to add some variety to your workouts. Of course, you should still prioritise the heavy, demanding compound lifts at the start, as they are the exercises that provide the most value, but also add in some machine isolation work so that your sessions are balanced, enjoyable, and effective. If you have been training off your own bodyweight for months, barbell and dumbbell exercises are also going to be an excellent transition for you.
So, if you are going to be moving your training routine back into the gym, there are some important considerations as you head into your first few sessions. Have an effective plan in place, make sure you are warming up well, take it slow, to begin with, train your favourite muscle groups first, and add some variety when it comes to exercises and types of workouts. Implement these points and your transition back into the gym will be a smooth and enjoyable one.
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