Top 5 Things to Focus on For Your Return to the Gym

By: Tyson Moore, Health and Fitness Supervisor, YMCA Calgary

 
 

Chances are, most of you reading this have had some serious changes to your exercise routine over the past 4 months. The good news is that now that gyms across the country are opening again, we all have a chance to make some serious positive changes for ourselves and others when we get back to the gym floor. Here are 5 things to focus on when you’re ready to hit the weights again:

 
 

1) Focus on Improving Gym Culture
Fail videos, staring at anything wearing leggings, “Do you Even Lift Bro?”, fat-shaming.. mainstream gym culture wasn’t exactly the best role model for inclusivity prior to lockdown. Now more than ever is the time for us to be kind, ask for help, and respect differences between yourself and others. With enough focused effort and consideration, we can rebuild gym culture into a place for #goodvibesonly. 
 

2) Focus on Yourself.. the Right Way
Let’s not sugarcoat it, most of us go to the gym for ourselves only. While that’s definitely an appropriate mindset to have, it’s important to consider your mental well-being when focusing on yourself. If you get excited just to have a distraction-free workout and clear your head, you’re going to do great in your first days back. If you come to the gym beating yourself up because you can’t lift as heavy, or you’re busy focusing on how your arms/belly/everything have gotten too flabby, then you’re probably not going to have a very good time. Instead, focus on having fun, trying new things, and feeling positive about anything you accomplish in the gym!
 

3) Focus on Training Light for a Few Weeks
Studies have consistently shown that when you take a long break from training (15+ weeks seems relevant, doesn’t it?), you are going to lose some strength and muscle mass, while possibly adding on a bit of body fat as well. Thankfully, most of the research also shows that a return to baseline where you’re able to improve on your performance again is only around 5-6 weeks. This means you might have to train a bit lighter for 3-4 weeks before you start ramping up the intensity to pre-lockdown levels. If you focus on frequency as your primary goal setter (ex. How often you go to the gym), and resist the temptation to go all out in your first week back, you’ll be back to where you were in no time.

P.S No matter what you do for your first workout, there is a very good chance you are going to be SORE… so be prepared to have a recovery plan as well!
 

4) Get Your Rear in Gear – Focus on Your Backside!
Unless you had a pullup bar installed at home and were doing glute bridges while watching Netflix, your posterior chain (back of the body) is going to need some extra love in your return back to the gym. Focus on adding in more sets of exercises like glute bridges, deadlifts, pulldowns, hamstring curls and prone bench rows to balance out any excessive sitting that may have occurred in the last 4 months.
 

5) Focus on Focusing – Try a Yoga Class!
While it’s going to be tempting to quickly burn off any lockdown calories accumulated with high intensity activities only, you might want to focus on your mobility and your stress levels to make sure your body can handle everything you’re about to put it through. Yoga classes are a terrific choice for your first activity back in the gym, as you can expect a full-body check-in of how your entire body is feeling with slow, easy movements. Perhaps more importantly, the class will also provide an opportunity to take your face away from your phone, which can welcome some much-needed stress relief and relaxation that might be in short supply at home these days.  Find where a fitness class is being offered by viewing our drop-in fitness schedule here www.ymcacalgary.org/drop-in-fitness


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