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Heading Back to the Gym? Here’s What to Keep in Mind.

At long last, a lot of people are beginning to open their doors and to actually be allowed out of them. Restaurants are opening up at lower capacity, religious institutions are having people come back for in-person services, and slowly but surely gyms are making their way back into the everyday life. While I’ve never believed gyms should be classified as an essential service, it will be great to be able to give our community the mental and physical benefits of coached fitness again. But, there’s a mistake you can easily make when you come back to the gym for your first month: going too hard. Here’s what you should keep in mind as you head back to the gym.

It is your chance to be a beginner again.

While many people have had a variety of online fitness offerings over the past eight weeks (writing this near the end of the COVID-19 quarantine) nothing really replicates your normal gym experience. Even if you are fortunate to have a home gym set up, your intensity level has been lower than usual outside of your gym environment. You don’t have your friends and coaches pushing you to move faster and work harder – so you don’t. It’s basic human nature. Even CrossFit legend Rich Froning has been known to say he’d take great training partners over a great coach. That’s because having people around you is so incredibly beneficial for your workout.

When you get back into a class, your intensity is going to naturally ramp up. Be careful of letting this happen too rapidly. You should always give a good effort when you come to the gym – or do anything for that matter – but see this as an opportunity to go back to the basics.

What’s the first basic? Mechanics – also known as – how you move. If you can make your air squat better, your back squat will improve with it. If you can do multiple strict pull ups in a row, your kipping is going to feel easier. This is the excuse you’ve been waiting for to do the right thing and really hammer home your movement quality before everything else. Not the excuse from your coach – they should be telling you to do that always – but the excuse from your ego and your desire to finish fast. You have a reason to not be fast. Use it.

Pay close attention to your body.

At Summit, we’ve implemented a green-yellow-red system for knowing how hard you should push it on a given day. If you have lots of energy and your body feels great, it’s a full on green day. Give it all you have. If you feel slightly sore, a little tired, and motivation is waning it is more of a yellow day and you have to pull back slightly. Feeling like napping while warming up? Your significant other complaining about you being moody? You’ve probably hit that red zone and your workout needs to be tailored appropriately. You should feel BETTER after you do the workout, not end up on your back wondering what happened.

While this system is always important, paying attention to these signs post COVID-19 quarantine is going to be even more vital. You’re heading back to the gym for the first time in something like two months. It’s the longest break you’ve had maybe ever. That extra physical stress is going to take its toll on you, and it’s your job to manage that. Communicate clearly with your coach about how your feeling, spend some extra time mobilizing your body before and after class, and ensure you’re not going too hard too fast.

Lower the beer, pick up the water.

Alcohol sales in the United States went up 55% year over year during the quarantine period. Something tells me that wasn’t purchased and then stockpiled for later. Everyone was cooped up at home, bars were closed, and frankly there was not much to do on a Saturday night but enjoy a drink over Zoom with your friends you were supposed to be hanging out with in person. It’s understandable.

But it’s a very bad long term decision. The negative health impact of alcohol notwithstanding, its effects on your ability to recover are truly incredible. Any excess alcohol consumption (three servings for a 155 pound male) causes muscle regeneration to not occur for three to five days. With proper nutrition, that number can drop. You can enjoy a beer or two with your friends as the world opens back up, but pair that with a new focus on your hydration and nutrition.

Dehydration is the quickest way to see your energy levels and performance simply tank. It also causes your body to be more inflamed, which leads to injury and discomfort in your workouts. As you head back to the gym, and summer hits, you’re going to be sweating. A lot. This causes more dehydration than when we left the gym in the cold month of March. Bring a water bottle with you everywhere you go, and keep it full. Sure, it may mean a few more trips to the bathroom initially, but your more pliable muscles will really thank you for the help.

Mostly, remember that things may look and feel different.

Just because your gym is open doesn’t mean there won’t be battle scars. Things will probably look and feel different initially. Class sizes will be capped. You’ll be kept at a proper distance from other people. You won’t be giving and getting the same high fives. I know I speak for many of us who will miss these things. Hopefully one day, they are back. But for now, remember that it’s a true blessing to have made it through quarantine and to be able to go back to the gym you love. Many others didn’t make it. To all the coaches and athletes out there, be patient, wash your hands, take it slow, and drink your water. It is going to be a different experience, but just like quarantine one that we will get through together. If you’re one of our Summit fam, we can’t wait to see you.

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