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How To Safely Work Out At The Gym After The COVID-19 Lockdown

Gyms are reopening and fitness fans are cautious, but excited nonetheless! However, your workout routine at home may not have looked the same as your routine at the gym. Our physiotherapists are here to answer all your questions about returning to the gym safely — without injury.

Should I reduce the number of reps, weight, or both?

The number of reps or weight you work out with when returning to the gym will depend on whether or not you were able to continue the same type of workout at home. If you were able to keep the same type of reps and weight in your workout at home, it isn’t a big deal to continue those exercises when you return to the gym.

However, if you’ve had to limit your workouts, or stopped altogether during the COVID-19 lockdown you’ll want to reduce both — especially if your workout routine consisted of lifting weights.

How much should I reduce my reps and weight by to avoid injury?

Everyone is different, and everyone has a different workout routine (the number of reps per set and weight for a certain exercise). For example, some people find 10 repetitions repeated 3 times suits their needs, for others, it could be 15 reps repeated 4 times. The number of chosen reps and sets depends on what the person wants to get out of their exercise program and there is no magic number of reps or weight to reduce. The best thing to do, if you haven’t been able to work out like you would at the gym during lockdown, is to listen to your body and start slow.

A good place to start would be to take half the weight and then increase it by a small amount each time. Take at least a month to 6 weeks to get back to your regular routine to help avoid injury. If you’re over the age of 55, injury can come easier, so we recommend reducing both weight and the number of reps.

What kind of gym membership should I consider after lockdown?

Whatever membership you were comfortable paying with before the lockdown is fine, just be mindful of what you want to do when you get back to the gym. For example, if you only feel comfortable going back twice a week, consider purchasing daily passes (if offered). However, if you plan to go back full time, reinstate your monthly membership.

Important note: pay attention to whether or not you’ll be able to go back full time to make a full membership worth it. Some gyms are doing by appointment only — so make sure to take these changes into account!

Do I need to stretch more?

Stretching is an integral part of a person’s workout routine. If you haven’t stopped working out during lockdown then we hope you’ve been stretching and the answer would be to simply continue to stretch! There is no need for more stretching after the COVID-19 lockdown – we should all be stretching on a regular basis anyway.

Do I need to drink more water than I did before?

If you’re going to start working out more, then yes, drink more water. Your body runs best when it is well hydrated! The amount of water you drink now (getting back to the gym) will depend on how much physical activity you plan to participate in. You’ll want to increase your intake of water per your intake in physical activity. The more you sweat the more water your body loses.

How can I go back from being sedentary to my regular gym life fast?

There is no real quick way to get back to your regular routine without avoiding injury. If you push yourself too hard you’ll become injured. The best way to get back to your regular routine is to continue to work out on a regular basis. If you’ve truly become “sedentary” meaning you have stopped working out entirely during lockdown, then we recommend starting slow (with reduced reps, reduced weight, etc) to avoid injury — always remember to listen to your body!

The strength and muscle mass you gain takes a very long time to build up, while the strength you lose when you stop exercising happens very fast! It’s unfair, but it shows the importance of maintaining a consistent schedule in order to get back to your regular routine.

Are there any exercises that are more likely to cause injury when starting back at the gym?

There are a few exercises that are great exercises on their own, but are slightly higher risk if you’ve lost some of your strength while being away from the gym:

  1. Deadlifts: It takes a lot of technical skill to perform a deadlift properly without injury and the less strength you have the more likely an injury (e.g. back pain) can occur. We recommend starting with reduced weight.
  2. Shoulder press: Any movements above shoulder height put a lot of strain on your shoulders. Again, if you have too much weight or do too many reps too soon, it will most likely result in injury.
  3. Running: Ankle, foot, or knee injuries while running happen all too often when someone runs for too long or too hard after they haven’t run for a while. We recommend starting off at a reduced pace for a shorter distance, then working yourself up to the pace and distance you were used to before, or start with a walk/run program. For more information read our blog post about how to avoid running injuries.

How much exercise is too much after quarantine?

Determining how much exercise is right for you after quarantine is going to be dependent on whether you’ve been able to continue your regular routine at home. However, if you were quarantined because you were sick and unable to exercise, we recommend taking it slow. Again, low reps, low weight, and pay attention to how your body performs. Don’t rush back into it — the more you push your body the more chance you’ll develop an injury.

Does the difference in the type of workout I did at home versus at the gym matter?

If you’re already doing the same (or similar enough) workouts at home as you were when you were at the gym then you’re able to continue on without risking too much injury. However, if you’re starting up new exercises at the gym that you couldn’t do at home (e.g. lifting heavier weights, using different workout machines) take the precautions we’ve mentioned before like reducing the number of reps, reducing the weight, or avoiding more strenuous exercises that you’re not used to.

Will wearing a mask affect my breathing or my workout?

Wearing a mask while working out isn’t going to be too much of a concern if you’re doing a light workout, simply lifting weights, or if you don’t have any respiratory or cardiovascular conditions. You may, however, find yourself becoming fatigued faster or that your body temperature is rising. Does breathing into a mask during a workout actually affect your core body temperature? Not necessarily, but it can affect the perception of how warm your body feels, which in turn may affect how productive you feel about your workout. Simply take precaution and wear a mask to help stop the spread of the virus.

When it comes to high-intensity workouts, or what we refer to as cardiovascular workouts, wearing a mask will certainly affect your breathing and your workout. If you find yourself becoming tired quicker, feeling faint, dizzy, or generally not well, please take precautions. Performing a cardiovascular exercise means your breathing rate will increase and your body’s need for oxygen also increases, wearing a mask may prevent your body from getting all the oxygen it needs, so this may mean taking more breaks in between exercises, limiting how long you work out for or reducing the intensity of your work out. The best solution is to do cardio outside and maintain a safe social distance, this way you won’t have to wear a mask.

Are group fitness classes safe?

The answer depends. With any type of physical activity there is going to be increased heavy breathing. With heavy breathing comes the chance for more moisture particles to spread etc. Everyone should wear a mask but this may not be required at some fitness facilities. The important thing is to keep your distance (in this case more than 6 feet apart) and to wash your hands before and after exercising. If you do this you’ll most likely be okay, but this is ultimately up to you. Make sure you’re confident that your local gym is properly disinfecting all equipment and high touch surface areas and following appropriate social distancing protocols.

How do I prepare myself both physically and mentally for going back to my regular gym routine?

Everyone is different, but the best way to prepare yourself to get back into your regular routine is to:

  1. Hydrate! Again, your body runs best when it is well hydrated.
  2. Keep stretching! Stretching is incredibly important in avoiding injury.
  3. Start slow if you haven’t been able to work out during lockdown. For example, fewer reps or low weight.
  4. Listen to your body. Watch for fatigue or muscle strain to help avoid injury.
  5. Consider getting a trainer or talking with a physiotherapist. If you haven’t ever been very comfortable at the gym or with your workout routine now is a good time to get advice from a professional.

Have more questions about returning to the gym safely?

If there’s a question we didn’t answer on this post don’t hesitate to contact our team today — we’re always happy to help!

New clients are always welcome without a doctor’s referral.