Times of uncertainty call for response and adaptation.
At the point of writing this, we in the UK are faced with the gradual phasing into our ‘new normal’ (‘scusi the cliche…). Most, if not all, have found some way of keeping fit during lockdown, be it taking up running, smashing an IG Live Workout, or dusting off the dumbbells for a DIY strength sesh. It has been awesome seeing the ingenuity of people with their exercise routine, and I for one have enjoyed coming up with weird and wacky ways to maintain muscle mass at home.
As a wise sage once said: “There are a million and 1 things you can do with a resistance band….”
However, the time of our beloved gyms opening their doors draws ever-closer, as the government continue to lift restrictions across society and we as a nation are slowly returning to some semblance of normal life.
In eager anticipation of this fateful date (unknown as of yet), I thought it would be helpful to air my perspective on key considerations we should all make for the Return of the Gyms…
The following article is theoretical, as none of us know exactly how things are going to pan out. Please also note that these are just my opinions, that have been informed by a variety of physiological, psychological, and social theories
The ‘Blank Canvas’ Mentality
When the day comes, I imagine the urge to head straight to the platform and load up a barbell for heavy deadlifts will be potent to say the least.
Probably a sure-fire way to get a horrific injury that may render you housebound once again…
Since the majority of home workouts going down have been high volume body weight workouts, the training adaptations you have developed will temporarily limit your ability to lift heavy external loads (i.e. fully decked barbells).
The body is pretty cool in its ability to adapt to specific types of training. If you have, say, taken up running in the absence of access to the gym, you will have undergone physiological adaptations that make the body more suited to endurance training. Your muscles will have got accustomed to longer, steady-state activity, and therefore when the gym doors open, it is probably going to be best to ease back into it
Think of it as a starting point from which you can re-build your gym-specific strength to the level maintained before lockdown. Test the water, see where you’re at, and tailor your training accordingly. It might be helpful to record results in markers of strength, such as max press-ups (to failure), and re-test yourself every 4-6 weeks to give yourself a subjective measure of progress.
Don’t Underestimate the Lockdown Gains
All of your hard work on the fitness front in the past 3 months will, however, undoubtedly give you an extra edge in the gym.
The types of training that have been most popular in lockdown (running, home HIIT workouts, cycling etc.) will have done wonders for your work capacity (your body’s ability to maintain certain level of performance over time).
This means your body will may actually be able to train harder for longer, thanks to the old Soviet principle ‘General Physical Preparedness’.
Although it may take some time for you to reach pre-lockdown levels of strength, bare in mind that you may be able to train at higher intensities and frequencies thanks to your body’s enhanced recovery mechanisms.
Form > Load
This rule has always been a stalwart, but now more than ever does it need to be abided by…
People have been stuck with one, maybe two, fixed-weight kettlebells or dumbbells for the last 13 weeks, allowing for a heavy focus on perfecting one’s form.
Furthermore, the lack of equipment means many of have utilised alternative forms of progression that should not be neglected once you have a wide range of weights at your fingertips. I’m talking partial reps, tempo reps, explosive reps, all of which are lethal for the gains regardless of whether you are at home or at the gym.
Make the most of the improvements in technique achieved during lockdown, and don’t end out sacrificing exquisite form for larger loads!
A New Training Environment
For me, the time away from the gym has caused a high degree of melancholy; that is, the personal pbs on the platform, the sweaty spin classes in the studio, and my Sunday AM Circuits crew cracking a huge session out before most have woken. Absolute scenes….
But, as we march on through the unprecedented territory that is Covid, one thing remains clear: things are going to be pretty different once the doors do open. The whole environment may seem alien at first, what with all the strict health and safety measures; but time is the biggest healer, and what was once an overwhelming experience will soon seem normal.
Don’t get bogged down by the new, Covid-secure way of working out; as with everything at the mo’, it isn’t going to be permanent. The more we work together to create a safe space to train, the sooner we will be able to return to normal!
And most of all….REVEL IN IT!!!
Yes, it’s going to be strange; yes, we may have antibac the gear after every use; but the gym’s the gym, and the day that those doors finally open will be one to remember!
The Big Reunion is something I am absolutely itching for, and the mere thought of that first session back has been keeping me going through the tough times…
Whenever the day comes, I am going to enjoy and appreciate every single thing that comes with it; reuniting with barbells, teaching the classes, and seeing the smiles of all the members at my home gym.
When the day comes, be sure to enjoy each and every minute of gym-life; taste the sweet nectar of victory having weathered the worst of the Covid-Storm…
The Final Word
The Return of the Gym is something that we have all been waiting for; something that, if you are anything like me, is bound to do wonders for your mental health as we slowly begin the journey towards normality.
However, precautions need to be take, both from a health and safety perspective, as well as a programming perspective. Use the tips and ideas from this article to help guide you towards an effective, safe approach to reuniting with your gym routines in order to maximise your progress towards your goals.
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