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How to Return to Your Normal Gym Workouts Without Getting Injured – Runner’s World

Posted: July 8, 2020 at 8:50 pm

This is a rapidly developing situation. For the most up-to-date information, check in with your local health officials and resources like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regularly. This story will be updated as new information becomes available.

With gyms closed during the coronavirus outbreak, weve all shifted to living room workouts, sweat sessions at the local park, or an extended rest period for the last few months. But as states begin to slowly reopen, that means your local gym will soon be open again if it is not already.

Though if you choose to go back to the gym, your workouts will probably look a little different and may include wearing a mask, reserving gym time, training outdoors, or wiping down equipment before and after use. You might also be worried about how this extended time away from access to gym equipment has affected your fitness, and what exactly you should do to resume strength training for the first time to avoid injury.

The key here is to keep working out safely. Its important to exercise, even during a pandemic as it can help boost your immune system, but its also vital that you dont overdo it, as too much exercise may actually compromise your immunities.

So, we tapped Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., founder of Core in Brookline, Massachussetts, Kara Miklaus, NASM-certified trainer and co-owner of WORK Training Studio in Irvine, California, and Guillem Gonzalez-Lomas, M.D., Sports Orthopedic Surgeon at NYU Langone Health to find out exactly how you can safely ramp up your workouts as you get back into the gym or take your home training to the next level.

(As coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country, before making any decisions, check with local health guidelines. You can find a directory of state health departments here.)

As you head back to the gym, your new routine should be based off of how much you worked out during quarantine. If you worked out five days a week, congratulations you are among the few! But if you didnt exercise at all or performed one to two workouts per week, add in one extra workout per week for as many weeks as it takes to hit your goal.

For example, if you didnt work out at all over the past few months, do just one workout your first week back. The next week try two, the third week try three, and so on until you meet your training frequency goal, suggests Miklaus.

As a general rule of thumb, you should keep it easy. Gyms have been shut down for around three to four months, and its going to take you that long to get back to where you were beforeits not going to take a week, says Gentilcore.

Doing too much too soon can easily lead to injury, Lomas says, even if you feel fresh and capable. A frenetic increase in activity can leave you with delayed onset muscle soreness, which may then incapacitate you for a few days, putting you right back to where you started.

Instead of trying to stubbornly will yourself into fitness in record time, use the re-initiation as an opportunity. Start light and short. Focus on proper technique and gradually increase the intensity, Lomas says.

For additional resistance, starting at about half the volume you were at when you were in the gym before is a good place to start, Gentilcore says. For example, if you were bench pressing 60 pounds, start back with 30 pounds and build from there.

He suggests selecting a weight which you can lift with 2 or 3 reps in reserve. That way, its heavy enough that youre building strength but not so heavy that you lose your technique or compromise form. The weight should not be so light that you could perform 20 reps when the workout calls for 10 reps.

Youll know how to properly scale up in weight when you can go beyond your failure point. This means, for whatever rep count youre doing (5, 10, 20, etc.), it should feel like you cant do one more rep after that.

For example, if youre doing 15 bicep curls with 15 pounds and you get to rep 15 and feel like I could do this forever! then its time to pick up those 20-pound dumbbells, says Miklaus.

As a general rule of thumb, you can add 5 percent to the previous weeks load. For example, if you can barbell squat 100 pounds comfortably and with good form for a week, increase the weight to 105 the following week.

Thats a conservative, but safe progression, says Gentilcore. If you havent been doing much, your tendons and ligaments may be cranky and weak. Ramping up gradually will help you avoid run-sabotaging injuries such as torn ACLs, hamstrings, and ruptured Achilles tendons, Gentilcore says.

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A proper warmup is essential, says Lomas. Functional warmups involving light jogging, cycling, light plyometrics (such as skipping and dynamic stretching) are most beneficial before a workout. It will also prep your mind as well as your body.

The idea is not just that your joints and muscles should get a healthy increase in blood flow before getting stressed. You also want your brain to be lasered in on your musculoskeletal system. Proprioceptionthe brains ability to locate its limbs in spacegets enhanced after warmups that stress coordination and flexibility. Its that unconscious focus that will minimize your chance of planting your foot the wrong way, or doing that last awkward clean, Lomas explains.

And, you should take time for recovery, too.

I think going for a walk is the most underrated form of recovery. A lot of people think they have to do ice baths, break out the massage guns, etc., for great recovery, Gentilcore says. But in reality, just going for a walk will really aid muscle recovery and alleviate soreness.

A massive hidden benefit of enforced rest is that it wipes the slate clean, Lomas suggests using this time to break your old patterns. If you didnt do bodyweight exercises, try them. If youve never done yoga, do a class. Adding cross-training can help reduce injury risk and make you an overall better runner.

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If you havent trained at all in months, you should expect it to take the same amount of time to get back into your precoronavirus shape as it took to get out of that shapemeaning, if you didnt workout for three months, you might have a three-month road ahead, says Miklaus.

In reality, most of us have been doing something at home. Within four weeks of regular and systematic training starting light and gradually increasing, you can expect to be close to your previous standards, Lomas says.

And, taking time for recovery is essential, says Gentilcore. He suggests setting up a simple mobility circuit using bands or body weight on your off days to give yourself a day of recovery while still working toward your goal. Even going for a brisk walk will be really beneficial.

Heres where you have to have an honest conversation with yourself, Gentilcore says. Have you done nothing? Have you been doing the best you can? If youve been doing anything, you shouldnt need to treat your return to the gym like a total newbie. Youll still want to be cautious and not go full-out right out of the gate.

But your return really depends on how intense your bodyweight workouts have been, Miklaus says. Your muscles wont have completely atrophied during quarantine even if you didnt work out. You just might have to go lighter in weight or lower your reps or sets, Miklaus says.

And, dont be too hard on yourself. Most people have taken some time away from the gym unless they have a really sweet home setup, and are probably in the same boat as you, Miklaus says. Dont let perfection be the enemy of progress. Moving at all is better than moving not at all.

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How to Return to Your Normal Gym Workouts Without Getting Injured - Runner's World

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