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How To Approach Your Training Once Gyms Open Back Up

We know you’re probably like us… just counting down the days until gyms and fitness facilities open back up. And when that glorious day finally does arrive, it’s likely many of you will flock to your fitness facility of choice with the enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas morning.

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However, with that child like enthusiasm often comes a gross overestimation of what you should you be doing come your first session back. Of course you’d like to think that jumping right back into your pre-quarantine routine would be fine…. but you should probably pump the brakes a little bit.

If you’re like many people across the US, you don’t exactly have a wide selection of workout equipment just laying around the house. And if you do, it still probably doesn’t quite stack up to the equipment at your gym in terms of load, variety, or intensity. In order to offset this, you may have altered how your training sessions went by decreasing rest times, slowing down the tempo, adding pauses, creating circuits…. anything that you could do to keep intensity up with minimal equipment.

Now, this might not be too big of a deal if you did this for, let’s say, 7-14 days as a bit of a deload or while on vacation. But COVID has caused many of you to train like this for 70+ days… which is enough to create an adaptation in the body catered towards your new training methods.

So what does this all mean?

It means that immediately jumping back into your “normal” training routine once gyms reopen might leave you feeling more beat up than rejuvenated in the proceeding days. As painful as it may be to hear, swapping out 250lbs deadlifts for bodyweight squats for 70+ days… might be enough to cause some regression.

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Now, it very well may not have. If you’ve been diligent about staying active and training appropriately with what you’ve got available to you, it’s very possible you’ve maintained all your strength. But even so, suddenly re-introducing the loads and intensities you were using prior to all this may result in some achey and unnecessarily sore bodies the next day.

So here’s what you should consider before diving back into your old program.

  1. Consider cutting the volume for the first week. This means if you’re accustomed to performing 4 sets on an exercise, start with 2-3 to give your body a chance to “get its feet wet”, so to speak.

  2. Decrease the load. If you left off with 100lbs on an exercise back in February, maybe start off with 75lbs the first week back.

  3. Manage your expectations. Many of you won’t be breaking any personal bests during your first post COVID training session. Just accept that. Be happy to be back in there and enjoy the process of working back to where you were before all this.

  4. Decrease your training frequency for the first 1-2 weeks. If you’re accustomed to training four times per week, maybe consider 3 days until your body reacclimates itself to more intense training.

  5. Be excited… but be smart! Your first session back may cause your ‘eyes to be bigger than your stomach’, so to speak. But don’t let this overeagerness to train cause the risk to outweigh the reward. If you feel tighter, don’t force range of motion. If you feel weaker, don’t turn into an ego lifter. Enjoy the training, but don’t be stupid about it!

Once you’ve gone through an easier, let’s call it re-introductory week, then you can probably start to up the ante with weight, duration, intensity, etc. Starting slow might not sound appealing to you, but it’ll probably leave you feeling better in the long run!

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