Saturday 29 August 2020 11:30 am

How to ease back to the gym: What to avoid and how to set new habits

Back to work
I write a regular fitness column for City AM, covering everything from the best ways to work-out to how to stay on top mental form

August is usually a dead month for the City, with so many people travelling away for the month. But this year it’s a real ghost town. Thankfully, every week I write these articles, it gets a little busier. And now that office life is starting up again, it’s time to get back in the gym. Here are my top tips to ease back in safely and effectively.

  • Just go!

The hardest part is getting through the door. With everybody’s schedules being torn up over the last few months, it’s difficult for people to break out of their comfort zones. Understand that you will meet some resistance. The dreaded aches and pains, the thought of getting up early, the anticipation of the rowing machine. This is all normal, so try think about the rewards instead. More energy, less fat, more confidence, better sleep.

  • Your body is not what it used to be

When returning to your fitness regime, it’s important to remember that the person who went to the gym a few months ago is not the same as the person you are right now. Take it easy and gradually build up. Drop your weight selection right down, lower the intensity, and go for a full body approach rather than hammering one muscle group. Look on the bright side: no leg day. 

Your body simply won’t be used to the stresses of a heavy weights workout, and pushing too hard too fast is sure to result in pulled muscles, demotivating fatigue and days-long aches.

Be patient, get your body moving and do at least three sessions before starting to crank up the intensity. It’s been five months since most of us last visited a gym, just enjoy the endorphins for a while. 

  • Avoid these exercises

An extension of the last point: leave some sets out of your routine altogether. Avoid heavy deadlifts, squats and any sort of clean and press.

These exercises are very taxing on the body, involving lots of rhythm and timing, and if you haven’t been training for a while, it’s easy to get something slightly off, leading to injury.

Start with lighter weights or dumbbells with higher reps – anything above 12 will be enough to refamiliarise your body with these movements.

After three or four sessions, slowly start reintroducing these exercises into your routine. Don’t worry, it won’t take long to get back to where you used to be.

  • Set new goals

New world, new you. Take this opportunity to mix up your routine. Update and set new goals, ask what is it that you want to achieve. It’s important to have something to work towards as it will give you motivation and direction when training. 

Set some strength or distance goals. Set the bar high: give yourself six months to lift your record weight, or even to compete in an event. 

  • Take your diary to the gym

Over the first few weeks, take loads of notes. Write down the weights you lifted, distance you covered, how many reps and sets you completed, how good your technique was, how long each set took you to complete. Note any changes in posture, energy, clothes size, weight on the scales. Each session, challenge yourself to keep progressing. After a few weeks you will see huge improvements. 

  • Treat yourself

Time in the gym doesn’t have to be all the pain all the time. Treat yourself to a massage instead of a weights or cardio session. Skip the treadmill and head straight for the mats, where you can spend your session doing breathing exercises, meditation or light stretches. These first few sessions are about reacclimating your body to the environment and setting new habits. Try to enjoy it – we certainly deserve it right now.