Returning to the Gym: 4 Tips to Optimize Success


Many places of business are headed back to the office for the first time since the pandemic began. Once again this brings more potential change and opportunity to redefine our schedules. Make sure you don’t forget to carve out space for physical activity in your routine as you head back.

Here are some tips to consider if your previous exercise routine was laid by the wayside or you’re just figuring out how to fit it all in.

Start Slowly

This may sound obvious, but too often an overly-ambitious plan can derail you right from the beginning. Set yourself up for success by not committing to too much too quickly. Ideas include selecting just one or two days per week to workout or starting with just 10 – 15 minutes. If you have worked out previously, don’t expect to jump back into the routine you had pre-pandemic. If you had a weight lifting routine, for example, consider cutting the amount of weight, sets and number of reps in half. For cardiovascular routines, lower the resistance, intensity and mileage. On the fields or courts, start back with just one game as opposed to several back to back. Bottom line, don’t expect to pick up where you left off.

Add Recovery Days

This tip may not sound as obvious and, in fact, may seem downright odd to think about taking days off when you’re attempting to establish a routine. However, every training plan should include recovery. Stress provides stimulus for growth, but growth for all systems (muscular, neurological, emotional, etc.) happens during recovery. Read more about the importance of days off and ideas for recovery - like rolling and icing - in this blog, 8 Ways to Maximize Your Performance with Recovery.

Implement Fitness Hacks

Make sure that you have planned for those things associated with a workout that will require additional time. Travel to and from the gym, packing your bag, changing and showering all take time. And if you workout before work or on your lunch break, you’ll likely also need to carve out time for breakfast or lunch.* Here are a few ideas from the RFC staff for helping you make it all fit.

*The three cafes available on campus make it easy to grab breakfast or lunch and even allow you to place a deli order in advance and pick up your order on the go. The nutritionists at the Health Care Center have more tips for Healthy Eating Strategies for Heading Back to the Office.

Use Varied Resources 

At SAS Campus headquarters, we have personal trainers available to help answer a question, show you an exercise or discuss your overall plan. Joining a group, class or program can help you to get started and stay motivated. In general, look for programs and classes with the word “beginner” or “instruction” in the title. SAS employees can take advantage of a variety of programs from our newsletter or bite-sized workouts in our video gallery, such as Just 10 and 5-Minute Fix.  If you simply want to take advantage of being more stress resilient, we have short meditations to help you achieve that as you return to campus.

As our friends from Work/Life remind us in their recent blog on Returning to Campus, be gentle with yourself. Recognize your baseline and where you are today and give yourself grace.

Finally, one of the best ways to hold yourself accountable to a new routine is to enlist the support of a buddy! Grab a co-worker and head to the gym like these SAS employees. You’ll strengthen your mind, body and work relationships. Welcome Back!


About Author

Pam Cole

Sr Manager, Recreation and Fitness

Pam has been at SAS Institute for over 20 years and has worked in fitness for over 25 years. An avid Tarheel fan, Pam graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a double major in Communications and Radio Television Motion Pictures. She began teaching group exercise classes while in Chapel Hill and still loves it. In addition to teaching group exercise, she is a certified personal trainer with the National Sports Performance Association as a Pre and Post-Rehab Exercise Specialist. In her spare time, she likes to garden, do rehab projects on her home and cook.

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