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A Guide To Gradually Getting Back Into Your Gym Groove

After months of home workouts (or skipping workouts entirely), getting back into your gym routine as coronavirus restrictions loosen can feel incredibly daunting. From safety concerns, to feeling unmotivated, to second-guessing your old workout style, there’s plenty to think about.

Don’t sweat it, though. Here are seven tips top trainers recommend keeping in mind as you ease back into the groove.

1. Set The Bar Low

If picking up where you left off sounds impossible, start with a goal you’re sure you can accomplish. “Set the bar super-low so that you’re not intimidated by your goal,” says Chicago-based trainer Stephanie Mansour, C.P.T.

For example, if you used to hit the gym four times a week, ease back in with just one or two days per week. Or, if you used to go for an hour, start with 30 minutes. The key is to start with a reasonable goal.

“Don’t build it up in your head,” Mansour says. “Just get in and get out, and make the transition [back to the gym] seem small.”

2. Start With A Hybrid Routine

If you were working out at home during quarantine, keep it going and just swap out one or two home workouts for gym workouts to build back the habit, suggests California-based trainer Cori Lefkowith, C.P.T.

Read More: Should You Do Home Workouts Barefoot?

When you do go to the gym, try to use equipment you don’t have access to at home. “Save your cardio for home bodyweight workouts and focus on using tools like kettlebells, cable machines, or free weights,” Lefkowith says.

3. Go In With A Plan

If you hit the gym without a sense of what you’ll do there, you likely won’t get in the best workout,” Lefkowith says. Even if you only have 10 minutes, a solid plan will help you get the most out of them.

To make sure you never walk into the gym without a game plan, set a workout schedule for the week, suggests Lefkowith.

If that feels like a lot of work, consider this: What you do at the gym is one thing you can control these days. “Take ownership of this experience and use it as an escape,” says Carlos Davila, C.P.T., instructor at Fhitting Room in New York City. Even if you can only squeeze in 30 minutes of gym time, take comfort in knowing you used those 30 minutes your way.

4. Reward Yourself

For extra motivation, set up some sort of reward system to incentivize you to get to the gym.

Pick something that isn’t food- or fitness-related, Mansour says. “Do something you haven’t been able to do in quarantine, like visiting a friend or stopping by a store,” she suggests. These types of rewards support overall self-care and enjoyment, and prevent thinking along the lines of ‘since I worked out, I get to eat a cupcake,’ Mansour explains.

5. Bring Your Quarantine Crew

If you participated in live workout classes during quarantine, you may have made some new (virtual) workout buddies.

See if you can keep those virtual relationships going as you head back to the gym. If members of your ‘quarantine crew’ live nearby, invite them to work out with you. “It may help normalize the ‘new normal,’” Davila says.

6. Start Light

Even if you were an avid lifter pre-pandemic, start with light loads once you get back to the gym. “It’s tempting to jump right back into our training routines as if we never left,” Lefkowith says. However, if you don’t ease back in, you may end up so sore you can’t stay consistent with your workouts.

Read More: How Long Does It Take To Build Muscle?

Instead, focus on rebuilding your pre-quarantine strength—and try to end your workouts with some gas left in the tank. “Give yourself a week or two to get back into a groove,” Lefkowith says.

7. Speak Up

“Now more than ever, you must make what you are (and are not) comfortable with clear to gym staff,” says Davila. For example, you may not want to share equipment during a group fitness class or receive manual assistance during yoga. Either way, be clear and vocal about what you need in order to feel comfortable.

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