The thought of returning to a workout routine after months of lockdown and at-home workouts can seem a bit daunting. After a long break, whether due to quarantine or just needing some time off, it’s important to return to a workout routine and strength training safely. A sure-fire way to injure yourself is rushing the process – going too hard, too fast. This often leads to overuse injuries like tendonitis and shin splints.
The good news is the human body is amazing. So, as long as your health hasn’t dramatically changed, getting back into a training routine after a long period of rest can allow you to rebuild all the strength you may have lost. But, remember to listen to your body as you go. Most importantly, don’t stress!
Here are a few tips to get back to normal in no time:
1.) Don’t Overdo It
Not only can doing too much too soon overwhelm your body, but it can also overwhelm your mind. If you overplan your workouts to the point where you’re stressed with no time in your day to accomplish simple things like running to the grocery store, your routine will soon become a burden and you’ll be right back where you started. Ease back into a routine and find a time that works for your new schedule. Perhaps you were an evening gym goer pre-pandemic but now you love early mornings! Rise with the sun and get your workout done before the day begins to avoid any added stress.
2.) Gradually Increase Resistance, Duration, and Intensity
When returning to strength training after months away from lifting weights, consider increasing duration, intensity, and resistance before you load on extra pounds. Moving lighter weights efficiently (with good form) will prevent overuse injuries and still allow you to get an amazing workout.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, you should begin with 20-60 minutes of continuous aerobic activity three to five days a week, with 20 to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise. Start with bodyweight exercises and steady-state cardio, combining the two to create an efficient HIIT workout with no weights. After 2-3 weeks with body weight and moderate intensity, increase the duration or add in resistance bands to level up your workouts safely.
3.) Don’t Forget the Warm-Up and Cool-Down
You might be eager beaver when it comes to returning to the gym, but that’s no excuse to skip your warm-up and cool-down. When returning to a strength training routine after a long period of inactivity, waking up the body and properly bringing it back to stasis is ultra important.
Muscles that have not been accustomed to working out for some time will experience some form of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), which basically means you’re going to be tight and sore for a couple of days after the workout. A proper cool-down can help reduce some of the pain and inflammation from muscle soreness.
4.) Focus on Form
Returning to the gym after a long break is a great excuse to go back to square one and focus on the correct form. Do you have a knee that tends to cave in during your back squat? Go lighter on load for the first couple of weeks and focus on glute activation to work on correcting a collapsed knee. The same can be said for any exercise. Be deliberate and conscious of your movements and especially focus on how your breath connects to each exercise.
5.) Don’t Skip Rest Days & Focus on Sleep
If you’re choosing between squeezing in a gym sesh or getting 8-hours of sleep…choose sleep! It’s ok to take a few days between workouts to let your body unwind and catch up on sleep. Your body (and brain) will thank you!