Did you know that even with a week of not training, we regress and lose 2 weeks worth of progress? During lockdown your body will have adapted to your new way of training at home or temporarily paused training, and inevitable elevated levels of sedentary behaviours. So it’s really important that we consider that these lifestyle changes will have most likely dropped our performance (even if you have continued to train, you may have had restricted use of weights and a lack of equipment variety such as weights, resistance bands, battle ropes, barbells and many more!), we will also likely experience changes in muscular flexibility (elevated sedentary time may have tightened our muscles) and impairments in technique (from having limited feedback). Therefore, I cannot stress enough that you will not be able to go back into your old gym routine and that’s completely normal and nothing to worry about, we just need to be patient with our bodies.
Here’s some tips and tricks of what to do when we can head back to the gym:
1. The most important recommendation is that you build your training back up slowly. Especially
if you have not trained throughout lockdown your lean mass would have reduced which will have resulted in a reduction in your strength levels and so if you do not pace yourself and go back to your old routine (such as going back to lifting the same weights as before), you will be at a much higher risk of injury.
2. Don’t go crazy and train 6 days a week. For example those who haven’t trained at all during lock down should not dive into 5/6 sessions a week at high intensity. Alternatively 2/3 moderate intensity sessions would be the optimal training regime until your body can adjust to the new positive changes. On the other hand, even those that have trained 5 days a week in lockdown at moderate intensity (your intensity will have likely dropped when training on your own compared to at the studio) so you must still allow your body time to recover to the new stimuli that will be provided to the muscles when back at the gym, with 3-4 sessions being optimal for regular trainers throughout lockdown when returning to the gym. So break yourself in gently with 2-4 sessions a week depending on your exercise levels during lockdown.
3. Increase your NEAT (Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) which can also be referred to as physical activity which can include activities such as increasing your walking and taking the stairs where possible. This will not only help your muscles recover, but it will help boost your Energy expenditure and metabolism to help you get back on track with your progress.
4. Don’t start a crazy diet and cut out all your favourite foods. Not only is this diet not sustainable but it will likely lead to a heavy binge whereby you give in to your cravings and over-indulge on those naughty snacks and likely end up putting on any weight that you have lost within just a couple of days. Alternatively, choose a sustainable diet by potentially reducing your portion sizes or choosing lower calorie alternatives but still keeping in those weekend treats. Just be sure to be sensible with your treats and also consider that you may in fact need a little extra energy if you are increasing your exercise regime.
5. Do not stress about your potential weight gain from lockdown, we’re all in the same boat! We just need to take baseline measurements and use it as a motivational tool to get to where we want to be and progress from where we are now.
6. A way to help motivate you to keep making those positive changes is by taking pictures to monitor your progress. Although scales are the traditional progress method, we all know that they are somewhat unreliable as they do not account for elevations in muscle mass as a result of resistance training (which muscle weighs 3-4 times more than fat so although the scales may not change, your body composition will be improving)
7. Write down your current performance. For example, if you can bicep curl 6kg for 8 reps, write it down! Then in 6-12 weeks you may be able to complete 6kg for 12 reps or even 8kg for 8-12 reps! This will work as a great motivational tool to keep you working hard and progressing through your exercise regime 💪🏻
Take home message: do not stress! We are all in the exactly same boat. We need to ease ourselves back in and be patient and kind to ourselves. A positive and motivated mind is the most powerful tool to get to where you want to be. You’ll thank your future self!