Health & Wellness: Getting back to the gym

Health & Wellness: Getting back to the gym
Wipe down all exercise equipment for extra protection. (Photo/Old Town Sport&Health)

By Darline Buchannon

As health and safety restrictions are lifted, many regular gym goers are returning to their regular fitness routines. Experts are encouraging a return to a somewhat normal fitness routine for fully vaccinated individuals, citing concerns about the pandemic’s effect on mental health and weight gain.

“We’re doing things more now because we can, and I think that it’s important to realize that our mental health is equally as important as our physical health, and resuming some of these normal activities is a part of that,” Kelly Gebo, a professor of medicine and an infectious-disease expert at Johns Hopkins University, said. “But being safe while doing it is also a part of it.”

Being vaccinated can be a game-changer. Many fitness facilities implemented CDC, HHS, federal and local safety guidelines during the pandemic and have continued to maintain these safety guidelines even as restrictions have lifted.

Knowing a gym’s health and safety guidelines will help you determine if a facility is the right one for you. At Old Town Sport&Health, we have increased the number of sanitation stations, making it easier for members to wipe down equipment before and after use, and we continue to practice social distancing. We removed major touchpoints, such as towel stations, and have our gloved front desk associates folding and distributing towels upon request. We also installed the AIRPHX air and surface technology that kills germs and the virus 24 hours around the clock for that added measure of safety.

Here are some additional precautions to consider when going back to the gym.

Wear your mask. If you are not vaccinated, continue to follow the state’s guidelines to wear a mask. Wearing a mask while working out can be a challenge when breathing heavy, however, mask inserts are inexpensive and they do a great job at preventing the mask from collapsing when breathing heavy. If an insert is not convenient while exercising, wear your mask only when moving about the gym between exercises.

Distance yourself. Continue maintaining social distancing and maintain six feet between you and other people outside your household when exercising or when in conversation with other members of the gym.

Wipe down everything. Even though most fitness facilities have implemented additional cleaning protocols, wiping down everything you touch before and after your workout provides you and other gym goers with an added layer of protection.

Be flexible with your workout time. Find out the peak usage times of your gym and adjust your personal workout time to go at a less frequented time.

If you have any symptoms, please stay at home. Now that you feel safe to go to the gym, you need to consider how to get back to your workout routine safely. For some, staying fit during the pandemic became an exercise in creativity, getting in daily workouts by supplementing the gym with at-home inventive exercises or exploring outdoor workout activities. But for others, the pandemic put a crimp in all enthusiasm for staying fit. For the innovative fitness fanatics, getting back to the gym and resuming their exercise routines will be effortless, but for those who have taken a pause in regular exercise activity, resuming an exercise routine may require a progressive approach.

A progressive program eases you back into your fitness routine while allowing your body and mind to acclimate to the rigors of working out. Getting back to the gym five days a week will be a shock to your cardiovascular system and your muscular endurance will be suppressed. Start going back to the gym a few times a week and exercise at a moderate effort level for the first few weeks.

A progressive approach like this reduces your risk of injury, body fatigue and muscle soreness. Your body will love you for this and before you know it, you will be back on top of your game.

Seeking the assistance of a personal trainer is another good idea when getting back to working out after a long absence from a fitness routine. When considering the right personal trainer for you, look for a trainer that is highly skilled at developing specialized fitness routines for all levels of gym activity. You also want a personal trainer who is skilled in injury prevention and who implements recovery techniques during their training sessions.

What else should you consider when getting back into working out?

Take the time to warm up and cool down. Proper stretching, trigger point foam rolling, movement rehearsal, walking or light jogging before and after your activity can allow your body to properly warm up and cool down.

Pace yourself and your goals. Achieving your fitness goal may be difficult initially, so set smaller goals to get to larger achievement.

Finally, listen to your body. It’s also important to understand that your body will respond differently after each workout and that day, work, home and social activities will also have an impact on your workout performance. If an activity or movement doesn’t feel comfortable, consult your physician, an orthopedic doctor or a physical therapist immediately.

It’s vital to take every precaution you can while returning to sport and activity, especially during this unprecedented time. Remember that patience is key as you work yourself back into your routine.

The writer is group fitness director at Old Town Sport & Health.