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Returning to the Gym Safely

By Michael K. Butler, BA;PTA;CSCS*D;RSCC*D NMT

It’s been a very challenging time for our world, especially when it comes to our fitness. Over the past year, individuals and businesses have been trying to adjust to ever-changing CDC recommendations and requirements and attempting to adapt to new and different situations and environments. Many of us have been in lockdown and unable to go to work. Not only was our physical wellbeing challenged, but also our mental wellbeing.

Now that some normalcy has been restored, and most of our nation has been vaccinated, there are few excuses for avoiding the gym or your fitness routine any longer. We all look forward to the June 15 date when California plans to reopen fully (if numbers keep improving), but now is the time to ease back into your workout regime. 

For those who haven’t been working out since COVID first started, there are a few things to consider before jumping back in. Even if you’ve been doing a modified version of your standard pre-COVID routine, starting slowly and cautiously will be beneficial for long-term success.

For those who still have fatigue or a cough after being infected with COVID, I recommend seeing your physician for clearance before starting any exercise regime as your symptoms could worsen. COVID fatigue is real, and there are many walking around still coughing after just walking a couple of blocks and some that get exhausted from just going to the grocery store.

So what type of exercises and cardio should you do if I haven’t worked out in a year? To answer this question, you need to pay attention to how you feel and how fast you recover. Always play it smart and don’t spend any longer than 30 minutes in the gym for at least one month. The initial goal should be to start moving and build up your immune system. Don’t worry about your weight or overall strength; that will come; just focus on feeling good again and working out.

In the gym, remain cautious and considerate. Pay attention to your surroundings, keep a safe distance from others, wear your mask, wipe down equipment after use and drink plenty of water. Stay focused on what you are doing by warming up slowly on a bike, treadmill or elliptical, then move to weights, starting light and doing several repetitions of each exercise. It will take a couple of weeks to become accustomed again, so take your time and play it smart.

Recovery is probably the most important element to avoid injury or become ill from a weakened immune system. Plenty of rest, vitamins and healthy food is a recipe for success. Start by going to the gym two to three times a week, then increase as you adapt.

With a careful, slow and well-thought-out plan, you’ll be back in pre-COVID shape before you know it!

Michael Butler is owner of Kinetix Health and Performance Center in Palm Desert. He holds a state license as a physical therapist assistant, national certification of distinction through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) as a strength and conditioning coach, and a Poliquin International certification as a Full Body Active Release Techniques Practitioner. He can be reached at (760) 200.1719 or michael@kinetixcenter.com.

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