It has definitely been a frustrating time for us all, after just completing our second lockdown in as many years. I’m sure there are lots of activities we are looking forward to returning to. One of these is returning to the gym and getting back to the healthy lifestyles we all once knew and loved.
With the excitement of being able to return to the gym some people may fall into the trap of attempting to go straight back to where they were pre-lockdown. Unfortunately, that isn’t the best strategy. From such a long break the research tells us that there are multiple outcomes such as muscle loss, strength loss, and our nervous system becoming less ‘fine-tuned’ then what it was. Whilst a number of us were trying our best to train at home, without the bigger weights, proper equipment etc we can only do so much.
It’s not all doom and gloom however. One positive we will see going back to the gym with a solid plan of attack will be quick gains in terms of strength, hypertrophy etc over the first few weeks as our nervous system kicks back into gear. Some important factors to put into our planning include goal setting, consistency, programing effectively, targeting potential weaknesses that may have occurred over the lockdown period (to avoid any possible injuries we may pick up), and balancing out our lifestyle.
SOME STRATEGIES TO ENSURE WE GET THE MOST OUT OF THESE FACTORS INCLUDE:
SMART goals: It is important that when we first go back to the gym we have a plan moving forward. The use of SMART goals may be an easy method for anyone to utilise. It stands for:
- Specific: Your goal should be clear and specific; this should help push you in the right direction. Think about what do you want to accomplish with this goal.
- Measurable: It is important to be able to track your progress. This allows you to stay focus and also keeps you motivated when you look back on how much you’ve been able to grow over a specific time.
- Achievable: Your goal has to attainable with the circumstances you set.
- Relevant: Ensure the goal is something that matters to you, or is going assist you in growing in the future.
- Time-Bound: Every goal needs a deadline date, having that deadline allows you to focus better on the goal and force you to fit it in better with the rest of life.
An example of a SMART goal could be: I want to manage my weight and keep fit and active to look after my grandchildren by returning to weight training 2 days per week and aerobic training 5 days per week within the next 2 months.
Consistency: Arguably the most important factor to working towards your goals. It’s about staying motivated. Whilst it is important to note that everyone is different and we all have different motivating factors, some easy strategies to help include:
- Having a gym buddy to keep each other motivated to get to the gym.
- Setting times and days that you intend on going, just like going to work or other events.
- Having a personal trainer, again motivating you to get there at the times you set. Additionally, it takes away from the effort of coming up with your own programs.
Programming: As we are just getting back into the gym it is important that our programs reflect that:
- Taking our exercises, weights or reps back a notch just to ensure we aren’t overloading ourselves.
- Including a warm up to avoid injury and cool down to avoid things such as DOMs the next day.
- Increase load slowly as you are able to. Whether that’s using strategies like adding one rep to every set every week, ensure you are cautious of progressing too quickly.
Fixing potential weaknesses: As a lot of us have been working from home and doing activities that we haven’t in a long time, and with that there is always the chance of injuries, aches and pains popping up in weird spots. Don’t be afraid to see a chiropractor or physiotherapist if it’s more then you were anticipating.
Balanced lifestyle: Going back to the gym is only part of the equation. There are other factors that will influence us returning to our full potential. These include:
- Diet: Eating a good balance diet including your carbs, proteins, fats and micros such as fruits and vegetables. Utilising apps like MyFitnessPal to assist with counting kilojoules or calories, or keeping a food diary may help with this process.
- Sleeping: 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Going to bed earlier, eating dinner earlier, getting off electronics before bed and reading are all great ways to assist with this process.
- Routine: Organising your new schedule including work, seeing friends etc. Fitting in your healthy habits like gym where you can and sticking to it.
- Social: Some people don’t realise that our social health is extremely important, it has been a while since we were all able to go out and see each other, take this opportunity to catch up with others, whether it’s training together at the gym, getting coffee going for a walk are all great ways to catch up with people.