As we return to the gym, is important to understand that our current fitness level will not be the same as it was before gyms closed in March. You may be tempted to pick up right where you left off, but this may do more harm than good. Patience and consistency are important as you ease back into your fitness routine. Here are a few tips to help you return smoothly.
- Less is more.
Being consistent will help you make improvements in your overall fitness level, but you must not forget to include time for recovery. Your body needs time to rest in order to rebuild and come back stronger. Doing too much without proper time in between can lead to injury. Aim to take one to two days of rest between each training session.
- Start slow and build a solid foundation.
As you begin to resume your activities, try not to immediately rush back into a full exercise routine. Aim to focus on movement quality over quantity. When you haven’t been to the gym in months, it’s important to take some time to address any muscle imbalances Are your able to engage your core and maintain a neutral spine when performing a plank? Can you keep your hip, knee, and ankle aligned when balancing on one leg? Are you able to get your thighs parallel to the ground when doing a squat? Can you bring your arms overhead without arching through your lower back? Use this time to work on developing a baseline of core and hip strength, mobility and flexibility, and proper movement patterns.
- Plan ahead.
Get organized by setting up weekly training plans. Cardio can be done three times per week for high-intensity exercise and five times per week for moderate-intensity exercise. On the days that you are doing cardio, try to give yourself two to three options. That way you have alternatives if there aren’t enough of your preferred machine available. For strength, start out by following a total-body routine two to three times per week, including upper body, lower body and core exercises. For those of us who have not exercised in a while or are just getting started, a full-body routine can be completed with body weight exercises such as push-ups, squats, planks and bridges. Also, don’t forget to include flexibility exercises at least two to three times per week. Flexibility can be done after your strength and cardio workouts.
- Seek guidance from a fitness professional.
If you are coming back from an injury, currently working through one or not sure where to start and need some guidance, the right qualified fitness professional can help you achieve your goals. Don’t be afraid to seek guidance or ask questions.
Max Castrogaleas is an exercise physiologist at the HSS Tisch Sports Performance Center and the HSS Westchester Sports Performance Center.