Train Smart, Not Hard: 5 Tips for Returning to the Gym Safely

Oh how long it has been since your last trip to the [insert exercise facility here]. Do you remember it? The smells, the sounds, the way the barbell knurlings feel on your palms seem like the distant past. Whatever your previous method of training and exercise was, we are very quickly approaching a return to normal, somewhat, or at least a new normal that opens an old familiar door. 

You may be sick and tired of running, biking, doing home workouts, etc. and are more than ready to return to your previous routine. But before you jump head first back into your previously scheduled programming, we all need to stop and consider a few important training principles in order to return safely and effectively. All too commonly rehab specialists encounter the ‘too much, too soon’ problem when someone begins an exercise routine for the first time in a long time and simply overdoes it. This doesn’t always result in pain and a barrier to your exercise routine, but it does increase your chances. Here are five training considerations that will help you train smarter, and not harder, when you first get back to your previously-loved exercise routine:

  1. Your warm up and cool down are still VERY important. Don’t go crazy when you step back into your fitness facility. Prepare your body by moving through common patterns that you use in your workouts (for example, do some squats, lunges, etc. with your body weight and build up the weight as you feel your movement improve). Don’t want to do that? Aerobic workouts like cycling/jogging/fast walking will also get you prepared for movement. 
  2. You probably aren’t as strong as you were before lockdown (someone had to say it). First and foremost, consider lifting/moving less weight when you exercise. Yoga is your thing? Maybe you need to start with an easier class for a short period of time before you return to the class you used to crush weekly. Re-master your technique and slowly add load from here.
  3. Your body is smarter than you. You may want to do more, but you have to listen to your body. Not only consider what your body tells you during a workout, but consider how you feel post-workout, the day after, and beyond. Fatigue is something that affects all of us to varying degrees and will therefore alter our performance the next time we exercise. 
  4. Recover properly. Nutrition, sleep, and rest intervals from exercise are understandably critical to recovery and will again vary depending on who you are and your current capabilities. Consult with experts (oddly enough we have a few on staff here!) and track your patterns to really dial in your return to your exercise routine!
  5. Wear a mask and wash your hands a lot. 

Everyone is facing their own unique challenge during this time, and if you are uncertain how to navigate your current situation and safely return to the exercise of your choice, please consult with the appropriate expert for guidance and a plan to get you moving in the direction you need to go. If you are ready to go: take it slow, build up appropriately, and remember that you are in this for the long run!

Thanks for reading!

Jordan Fortuna, Physiotherapist

Jordan Fortuna, Physiotherapist

Jordan is a graduate of the University of Toronto Physiotherapy program and has since been practicing in orthopaedic settings. He has developed an interest in sports physiotherapy through his many years as an athlete, participating in baseball, golf, snowboarding, and more recently rock-climbing, cycling, and strength training. He has worked with a variety of clientele including athletes from disciplines such as competitive dancing, running, rock-climbing, and mixed-martial arts, as well as non-athletes of a wide age range and ability. Regardless of activity level, he is dedicated to improving mobility, optimizing function, and strengthening to help achieve your goals through the use of an individualized exercise prescription and manual therapy. He also has additional training in acupuncture and sports taping.

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