Returning to the gym, post-pandemic

Olivia Yandel, Assistant Director, J.R. Holder Wellness Center

It is crazy to think it has been over a year since the pandemic started. For some, it means another day of working remotely, exercising at home and only leaving the house to get the essentials. For others, it means businesses are opening back up and returning to some form of normalcy. Your gym may be open again or has removed its restrictions. While many people are excited to get back in the gym, others may be worried.

“What if I can’t keep up in boot camp class?”

“What if I can’t lift as much weight as what I did before?”

“What if I lost everything I worked so hard to attain?”


These may be questions you are asking yourself, but getting back into exercising when you have taken a break isn’t the hardest part; the hardest part is removing these “what ifs” from your thoughts. While losing fitness is a lot easier than gaining it back, the following tips may help to ease your back into exercising.


  1. Make a plan. Scheduling exercise into your daily routine helps you stick to exercising. If you do not make a plan or schedule exercising into your day, you are more likely to not follow through. Taking 15 to 30 minutes to make a plan for your weekly exercise schedule is simple. Lay out your calendar, know when you can or cannot exercise and then work around it.
  2. Listen to your body. This is a crucial tip to ensure you are safely exercising. It is important to understand that your body may have lost some of its fitness capabilities during your time off and that it is okay to start slow. As you ease back into exercising, you gradually add more to your workouts. Following the 10 percent rule is a great tool to know how far to push yourself. Whether it is running, biking, lifting or yoga – push yourself 10 percent harder from one week to the next.
  3. Feel safe. If you are still worried about COVID or are just learning to live with it, it remains important you feel safe in your workout space. Most gyms are equipped with disinfectants, gloves and towels; some may still require masks. If you are worried about being around large groups of people, try to find a time at the gym that is less busy. If possible, go at that time. Washing your hands immediately after exercising and avoiding touching your face during exercise can decrease your chances of getting sick.
  4. Be kind to yourself. Above all, be kind to your body. This may be your first time back in spin class or lifting weights after a year. Understanding your physical fitness is not going to be where it was pre-pandemic is imperative to starting back at the gym. Lighten up on yourself. Say kind things. Find the positives of the workout you just completed. Your mental health is as important as your physical health. Be proud of your body for being able to do the amazing things it can do.
  5. Contact a coach or personal trainer to get restarted. There is nothing wrong with retaining a personal trainer or coach to get you back on track. Having someone to hold you accountable can be beneficial to your physical fitness. Your trainer can also help you stay positive during the hard days. However, be wary of online “health coaches”. There are plenty of these health coaches who do not have the professional background with certifications or the actual experience to train individuals through exercise. Find someone who is certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine or a similar affiliate.

Stepping back into the gym for the first time in over a year, while intimidating, is worth it. Exercise is crucial to not only our physical health, but also to our mental health. It can boost our mood or make us feel more relaxed. It can also boost our immune system to fight off unwanted infections and viruses. The benefits are endless.




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