Gyms were among the businesses that reopened when Illinois hit Phase 4 of its Restore Illinois plan in late June. Some fitness centers offered online classes during the shutdown and outdoor fitness classes during Phase 3. But if you took a break from working out the last few months, you’ll need to be careful when getting back into your exercise routine.
When the Stephens Family YMCA in Champaign began offering one-on-one training sessions after being closed for more than two months, trainer Eddie Edwards saw clients who had been inactive during that time.
Others had been physically active — taking walks, for example — but had not worked out with weights or any type of resistance during quarantine. Edwards recommends taking a conservative approach when getting restarted with an exercise program.
“I know a lot of people are anxious to get back in the gym and start their routine again. But it’s better if you start slowly,” he said. “It’s always going to be easy to get caught back up in a couple of weeks when you’re back in the gym. Your body will be acclimated again to what’s going on and will see gains quickly.”
This week, the Y started offering indoor fitness classes and reopened its wellness area, with limits on the number of participants.
For those getting back to the weight room, Edwards said readjusting to weight training should involve lower weights and fewer reps, whether working out with free weights or weight machines.
“With machines, the pulley system is helping you a little bit lift that weight, but the body is not ready for that stress,” he said. “Any time you start putting resistance on the body that it’s not ready for, there will always be a possibility of hurting yourself. If you’re talking three to four months off, if the body is not prepared for the resistance or load you once had on it, that’s putting a strain on it. Over time, it could hinder you. Compensations can occur and can be detrimental. Then you’re taking another two steps back to handle that injury and get back on track again.”
Likewise for cardio workouts, such as running on the treadmill: Don’t start at the same level you were at when the shutdown occurred if you haven’t been training since, Edwards said.
“We want clients to want to return to the gym without being so sore they can’t walk or can’t function in daily life,” he said.
“Just taking the process slow is very important,” Edwards said. “We want everybody to get their workout in because it’s stress relief and social interaction. We also want everyone to be safe while doing it.”
People who took time off can look at the downtime as an opportunity to try something new when they go back to their gyms, Edwards said. A different regimen working different muscles can improve fitness.
One adjustment everyone will have to make when they go back to their gyms is wearing a mask while exercising. The Y requires anyone exercising inside the building, other than swimmers, to wear masks.
Wearing a mask during exercise will likely increase the feeling of effort, particularly during high-intensity workouts. Some scientists have reported that wearing a mask will raise a person’s heart rate.
Wearing a mask made from a synthetic, breathable fabric and replacing a mask that becomes too damp during exercise with a dry one will help in making exercising with a mask more comfortable.
“It’s going to be a hindrance and probably a pain. But that’s the way we keep everyone safe,” Edwards said. “It may take only a few times to learn how it affects breathing.”
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