Back to the Gym - Easy As Pie?

Life is slowly returning to normal here in NSW, and with this comes the long awaited return to the gym! This might be simple for some, but for others being mindful is going to be really important.


Many of us have been forced to amend our workout routines while the gyms have been closed. Less vigorous workouts, altered routines, lighter weights, no exercise at all? There have been plenty of adaptations. Whether you are reluctant to get back to the gym or feeling ready as ever, this return to normal exercise requires some consideration. Here are a few tips on how to approach your return to the gym and prioritise staying injury free.



  1. Leave enough time between sessions

Muscle protein synthesis (muscle repair) after exercise generally occurs over a 24-48 hour period. Our bodies adapt to load very quickly, which explains why the amount of soreness and fatigue we experience after a workout dissipates the longer we stick to a specific exercise regime. So don’t think it is weakness or laziness that is causing the soreness, it is your body’s way of communicating its need for rest in order to regenerate damaged muscle tissue. The best way to ensure consistency (and to build muscle more effectively) is to honour this demand for rest and start off with a maximum of 4 sessions a week. A great way to ensure we don’t overload our bodies too early is to schedule your workouts & rest days regularly and stick to a plan. Also - think of this as a positive. Your body is now working harder at building different muscles!


1. Sleep and diet

Furthering the above point about allowing for adequate rest between sessions, studies have shown that rates of muscle protein synthesis are highest after sessions within the early stages of a new exercise program (for example weeks 1-3 of a 10-week program). During these early stages, muscle protein synthesis is directed towards the repair of damaged muscle from resistance training, and once exercise is more regular again muscle protein synthesis is skewed more to muscle hypertrophy. It’s important throughout every stage of a new exercise program to supplement exercise with a balanced diet (perhaps with a slight focus on protein increase) and enough sleep (7-9 hours) to encourage faster and more effective recovery.


2. Consider weights and reps

Here’s where things often go wrong. It’s easy to assume that our bodies will be prepared to pick up where we left off all those months ago, but if continued conditioning was not part of your lockdown routine, think again! There are a few ways to amend your previous routine to allow for safe and successful return to gym.

Firstly, reduce that weight! When it comes to lifting and resistance, drop down to half of what you were lifting before lockdown. From that start point, progress by increasing weight by a set amount at regular intervals; perhaps once a week or fortnight.

Second, lower your reps! Even if you have chosen to decrease your weight, it is recommended to lower your repetitions, too. It might feel slow, or not challenging enough, but a steady increase is far more advantageous than overdoing it on day one and coming home with an injury. Your nervous system and your musculoskeletal system will thank you.


3. Don’t skip your warm up

This step should go without saying, no matter what level of fitness or how far from lockdown we are. A warm up increases blood flow throughout the body, allowing oxygen to travel more efficiently to muscles, preparing them for more intense movement. A warm up should include some mobility work and targeted activation of muscles relevant to your workout. It’s also equally important to take some time at the end of your workout to stretch and cool down to avoid sore and stiff muscles.


4. Don’t let the “extras” fall away

With less time at home it is realistic that some parts of our lockdown routines might fall away. With a return to gym we often focus a lot more on the workouts themselves, and less on the maintenance routines around them. Supplementing your exercise regime with regular soft tissue treatment, mobility work and self myofascial release (foam roller, spikey ball etc.) can assist in muscle repair and decreasing soreness, ultimately optimising your workouts.


5. Know how to identify good and bad pain

Take time to listen to your body and identify the difference between DOMs (delayed onset muscle soreness) and pain that feels injury related. Things to look out for are any discomfort that is repetitive or recurring, sensations that are leading you to avoid certain movements or anything that is worse immediately after exercise. If in doubt, take a break, decrease the intensity and ensure to book in to see one of our therapists for treatment.





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