Getting Back to The Gym: 5 Tips to Stay Safe and Make the Most of Your Workout

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It’s been a while and the gym is FINALLY open!  Yippee!  But…it’s been months since you’ve done more than body weight exercises, you’ve never tried exercising in a mask, and what’s this about making reservations?  Let’s face it, gyms are looking a little different these days.  As you venture out, stay safe and make the most out of your workout time with these 5 tips:

Review the new COVID-related policies at your gym.

Know how your gym is cleaning, when and where masks are required, and the if and how of making reservations so you know what to expect when you arrive.  Group exercise options may be limited at your gym for a while longer.  Some facilities are offering socially distanced outdoor options.  In most cases, these are by reservation only, so be sure to sign up before you go!  In addition, many facilities are offering virtual opportunities such as live streamed classes or recordings to workout with familiar faces.  The RFC is offering both live streamed and recorded classes!  Employees may visit the RFC Website for more information.

Start slow!

If it’s been months or even 2 weeks since your picked up a barbell or climbed Jacob’s Ladder, start back slowly.  If you are able to pick up where you left off, you’ll pay for it dearly once DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) sets in.  Most likely, though, it won’t be physically possible to pick up where you left off.  That’s why we call it “training.” 😉 Give yourself some grace and know you’ll get there soon enough! If you’ve been working out at home, you won’t need to start at “0” per se, but you will want to start with lighter weights or, for cardio, begin at a moderate pace and duration.  Let those first couple workouts sink in, notice your recovery time, and then readjust your weights as necessary around workout 3 or 4.   For cardio, starting back with intervals is a great option.  Think 1-5 minutes of “work” followed by 1-5 minutes of “recovery” (aka catch your breath time!)

Exercising in a mask requires acclimation.

Start slow and allow yourself several workouts to get accustomed to your new workout accessory.  While it is safe to wear a mask when exercising, it may feel restricting when warm air circulates around face.  If you feel panicked, anxious, and lightheaded, move away from the people around you, preferably outside, and remove your mask.  Take slow, deep breaths to help calm your nervous system and catch your breath.  When you’re ready to return to your workout, begin slowly and mindfully and maintain an intensity that allows you to adjust to your mask.

Dress for the temperature of the room or workout space.

Your gym may not be using fans or may have the doors open to allow fresh air.  When exercising, dress in layers to account for varying temperatures.  I typically dress for what I’d wear standing when it’s 10-15 degrees warmer than the actual temperature.  I like to be a chilly to start so that after my warmup, I’m comfortable. For example, I wear a tank and shorts when running in 55 degrees.  Bring a sweatshirt for the ride home to prevent cooling down too quickly and getting chilled.

Make the most out of your time!

With reservations required in many facilities, you may not have that 1.5 hours you’d like on your favorite elliptical not to mention the check-in process may take a few more minutes than before. Make the most of your gym time by coming dressed to exercise, warming up in the check-in line or in the parking lot, and cooling down and stretching at your car post workout.  Here’s a Waiting Line Warm Up that works for anytime:

Not quite ready to head back to the gym?  As excited as we, your trainers and fitness and recreation staff, are ready to see you, we’re in it for your health!  First, remember, it is always ok to leave a situation where you do not feel safe.  Secondly, your workout should be helping you manage stress and anxiety.  If going to the gym is creating more stress than benefit or you are considered high risk, opt for at home workouts and classes until you’re ready to venture back out. Boost your motivation by virtually connecting with your trainer, gym staff, and workout buddies.  Many facilities and trainers now have tons of virtual resources just a click away and would be happy to direct you to these resources!  Movement is what’s important for your overall health including your immunity.  We want to meet you where you are today.

Are you ready to head back to the gym?  Have you been back?  What’s your experience? Share below.  We’d love to hear from you!

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About Author

Amanda Pack

Sr. Recreation and Fitness Program Coordinator

Amanda received her Bachelor of Arts in Exercise and Sport Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Passionate about health and fitness, Amanda worked in the fitness and wellness industry for 6 years prior to joining the Recreation and Fitness Center team in 2011. At the RFC, she enjoys sharing her passion with the SAS Community through personal training, group exercise instruction, teaching yoga, and coaching recreational endurance athletes. A wife, working mother, triathlete, and yogini herself, wellness is an important theme in both her personal and professional life. Amanda is registered through Yoga Alliance as a 200 hour Yoga Teacher (E-RYT200), certified in personal training and group exercise instruction through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA), and is an IRONMAN Certified Coach.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for having us back! it feels great, I haven't been so excited in months! thanks for all you do at the RFC.

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