Don’t be a hero!

Two days out until the gyms and fitness centres are allowed to re-open under Government restrictions being relaxed, and the whole country is chomping at the bit to get back!

Engaging in regular activity and exercise is chosen by many as part of a healthy lifestyle, whether to actively seek rewards in physical and mental health or to fight of the risk of either of those deteriorating. However, one person’s exercise heaven is inevitably another person’s hell, and nothing is more polarised than the landscape of fitness!

Whether through lack of passion, lack of resources or lack of confidence and ability, not everyone has been able to maintain their regular regimen of activity as a result of the lock-down imposed on the UK back on March in response to the Coronavirus situation. As gyms and fitness centres were closed, so too were people’s options to keep fit and active.

Alas, the time has come for these centres to re-open this Saturday, albeit with some hefty and serious adjustments to the normal way of working to maximise the health and safety of all members. When the news arrived a few weeks ago, the excitement and relief was palpable across all social media platforms (likely coinciding with the similar relief at people finally getting their hair attended to!) for the 25th July.

Aside from the concerns regarding the transmission of the COVID-19 virus, there are some additional yet vital factors for people to consider before returning to their hallowed ground – we’ve taken the time to list these below for you.

Know what you are going to do before you go

You might be able to keep this all in your head, but it would be worth considering writing out a plan, or asking a qualified trainer / coach / physio to help you with this. You may have to include alternatives for this as equipment may be limited.

Know your gym’s hygiene rules in advance

These should be made publicly available on their website, or they may have emailed them to you. Please check if they require masks or face-coverings as this is not in the government guidance but may still be required. Spend time finding out where the cleaning stations are and the additional measures on wiping down equipment. Also note that you will not be allowed to shower or change at these venues, so you should bring appropriate kit with you to clean up or tops to cover up with.

Spend the first few sessions focusing rediscovering your lifting movement patterns.

Take the time to re-groove the patterns you normally engage with in your regular training, as well as those that you might perhaps forget about or actively avoid. This does not require much load at all, if any.

A good example of this is the ‘1×20’ approach, which is considered a safe and easy way to build competency and volume within the gym space particularly for amateur lifters or those returning from a prolonged period of absence.

The idea would be to choose 15-20 different exercises that cover a wide range of movements and joints, focusing on regaining an understanding for how that movement should feel before increasing the load. The exercises should be performed smoothly, and different exercises should be performed each session.

This could be completed for 1-2 sessions before migrating to regular lifting arrangements, or you may wish to continue with the progression after a few weeks to 1 set of 14 repetitions and later 1 x 8, with the weights and complexities starting to advance.

Depending on the amount of movements selected, a session may time between 20-50 minutes. Due to this and the low loads, users normally report low levels of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) which may allow you to train move frequently. However…

Take a few weeks to discover the loads and volume of work you can achieve.

This includes frequency of attending the gym, the amount of exercises selected and the volume of work you are completing. We recommend no more than 2-3 sessions per week to begin with and would advise staying on the safe side of caution for the time being until you know for you sure you can handle more.

Compound lifts (e.g. squat; deadlift)

Select 2-3 exercises, building up to a moderate load (e.g. 50-75%) over a lower volume (e.g. 2-4 sets of 4-5 reps)

Isolated lifting (e.g. bicep curls; calf raises)

Choose 3-4 exercises to complete; select a weight you know you can easily lift and use ‘Repetitions in Reserve’ (RIR) to guide the volume you can do.

This looks at the amount of work you think you achieve before you hit failure (i.e. fatigue that prevents you from completing any more repetitions). RIR allows you to keep the weights at a safe level but still train to seek some of the adaptations you are looking for such as muscle growth.

For example…

Single Arm DB Bicep Curls (3 x RIR5) would be 3 sets of work, performing enough repetitions to the point where you feel like you could only manage about 3 more before you failed.

Build overall strength first before moving on to power-type exercises.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to follow a similar outline to the advice above, other than to suggest doing 1 set of 20 for power exercises would be VERY fatiguing VERY quickly and therefore not normally advised!

In short…

Don’t be a hero.
(And wash your hands too)

‘Too much, too soon’ is a sure-fire way to need to see a physio and make you miss the gym for longer. Stay safe, stay protected, and most importantly…enjoy it!

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