With gyms in the UK opening up from Saturday we may be about to see a similar scene to January 1st, where the mad rush to make up for an indulgent Christmas sees the gyms busier than ever. Lockdown however has lasted a lot longer than Christmas and a lot of us have perhaps put health on the back burner for the duration of it (This confuses me in itself, we have a HEALTH crisis, during which people who are unaffected by it have let themselves become unhealthier?). Naturally people are going to want to make up for their shortcomings over lock down. Before you do, Let me tell you, the worst thing you can do is go all out at the beginning, so here are my post lockdown guidelines for getting back into the gym.
1. Have a thought out exercise plan.
Don't be the person who walks into the gym with no plan. Remember, you are not there to have the best session of your life, you are there to take the first step in a long journey to a healthier you. Having a plan is easy, there are plenty of fitness professionals out there that offer training plans. Like us! So Don't be shy about asking for an exercise plan. A few tips on choosing a good plan;
Make sure the plan includes activity outside of your prescribed gym sessions,
It should include a nutritional plan,
Choose a trainer who has proven results for not just themselves but for clients and perhaps even clients with goals similar to yours.
2. Warm up properly before you lift anything.
There is a very simple process to this. It applies to every single person in the gym so there is literally no reason that you should not be doing this. The process is called RAMP and you guessed it, each letter stands for a stage -
R - Raise your heart rate. 2/3 minutes on a cross trainer, rower or bike will do.
A - Activate. Using small isolation movements, wake up the muscles you will be using.
M - Mobilise. Make sure the joints that are going to be being used are good and freed up through doing exercises like 'Worlds greatest stretch', 'Ankle dorsiflexion tests' and the '90/90 drill'.
P - Potentiate. This is just a fancy way of saying mimic the movement you're about to do under less stress, volume or load.
3. Take it easier than normal.
Your first session shouldn't involve absolutely killing yourself. Here are two scenarios for you; You go to the gym, smash an amazing session, wake up the next day feeling so sore and don't go back to the gym.
You have a slightly reserved session, wake up feeling a slight ache but are hungry for more and end up going back again the next day.
Now which of those two scenarios do you want to be? Your body will no longer have the ability to recover from or manage load like it used to. This will come back relatively quickly but you should taper your sessions for the first week or two as you get back into the gym. Personally I would stay clear of Chest days, back days etc and spread the session throughout the entire body so that you get a good workout without having to overly stress any one muscle group.
4. Form before weight. You're not as strong as you used to be.
Some of the movements that we do regularly in the gym are difficult to replicate at home. So your form may suffer a bit due to a lack of flexibility and slightly rusty mechanics. So before you load up the bar, do some bodyweight sets of the movement and be ultra critical of your form. Asses the areas not moving as freely as they should be, mobilise them (Or ask someone how to) and then perhaps put some weight on the bar. This would actually be my advice regardless of not being in the gym for a while but we won't go there quite yet... Baby steps.
5. For the love of god, STRETCH!
The process of Hypertrophy or Strength development will in its nature result in some damage to muscular tissue. The more you can do to aid the repair of this tissue the better. The very first thing you can do upon finishing your session is to stretch. Other protocols such as eating a high protein diet, drinking enough water and getting enough sleep will help big time too but let's just focus on what you can do inside the gym for now.
We could add a million other things to this but if you manage to get these 5 right you will be fine. Just remember, if you put on a bit of weight, got a bit unfit or lost muscle during lock down, it didn't happen in one day or 1 week it happened over 4 MONTHS and it's a hell of a lot easier to get out of shape than it is to get into shape. So my advice would be to commit to a sustainable plan for at least 4 months. If you manage to reach your goal before that, Great! but if not then keep on track and hopefully the newly developed habits will stick.
I hope you found this blog helpful. Here are some others that might be of interest -