I believe that gyms are the “Laboratories of Life”. They teach us the ethics of hard work, pain tolerance, consistency and patience.
By Dr. Ashish Jain
This lockdown has been a double whammy for most. Confined to home without any access to physical activity along with the constant temptation to just vegetate in front of the TV with your fav comfort food. Finally after 7 months the gyms are opening and everyone is looking forward to hitting those weights with a vengeance. Let’s hold that thought and review the situation we are in. Unhealthy eating and lack of physical activity has changed our bodies over the months.
- Cardio endurance and stamina are the most affected
- Weight gain is common
- Muscle atrophy (wasting) with some muscle loss.
- Loss of body and joint flexibility
- Backaches, knee pains, shoulder and joint issues due to unaccustomed housework and bad posture while working from home.
- Nutritional deficiencies (protein, calcium, multivitamins and especially Vitamin D)
So no matter what level of Fitness you were prior to this lockdown or what kind of home exercise plan and diet you were following; here are some guidelines that will help you resume your hardcore gym training smoothly without any injuries.
- Get familiar with the COVID protocols followed by your gym and do your own bit (mask, hand sanitiser, towel, gloves, etc)
- Never forget the basic principles of Warm up, progressive resistance, cool down with stretches and hydration.
- Machines are a good place to start as they are least injury prone
- Start with a basic three body part split plan ( Upper body, Legs and abs)
- Circuit training using machines is an excellent way to acclimatise your body to the gym after such a break
- No ego lifting please, slow increase in resistance helps avoid injuries
- Opt a personal trainer guidance initially to reintroduce you to the equipment.
So what are the ‘Bad’ pains or danger signs to watch out for?
- Pre-existing pain in a joint or muscle that worsens with exercise
- Sudden sharp pain during a set that doesn’t allow you to continue
- Visible swelling or discolouration in a joint or muscle area
- Restricted joint range of motion with pain eg Knee
- Continuous ‘throbbing’ pain even at rest
- Muscle spasm (especially back) is usually protective. Don’t force or overstretch the movements
- If you are febrile with or without body ache please rest it out.
Fitness is a way of life and not a time bound stint. We need to work out smart for maximum gains and minimal injuries. Our bodies need some time to readjust to the gym setting. Muscle memory is an amazing thing and soon you will be lifting as heavy and as easy as you were earlier.
Needless to say, focus on your nutrition and supplements to help in recovery and growth. Yes your body will complain after a few days at the gym but don’t panic. Muscle soreness is often a sign of intensity but never neglect the ‘bad’ pains. Prompt and timely icing post heavy workouts helps reduce inflammation and swelling.
Gradually increase your days at the gym giving adequate days for your body to recover and heal. I believe that gyms are the “Laboratories of Life”. They teach us the ethics of hard work, pain tolerance, consistency and patience.
So yes, we are all excited about getting back to gyms but remember – Slow and Steady Wins the Race.
(The author is Consultant; General Orthopedics & Trauma, P.D Hinduja hospital & MRC. Views expressed are personal.)