Although gyms have finally reopened, things are certainly not as how they used to be and we have to get used to the new rules of working out in public. Gone are the days when we could just stroll in the gym and do whatever we wanted in a carefree way. No, in post-corona times, we must adhere to the new rules of the gym, set out by governments, doctors and fitness experts.
As much as we have enjoyed doing the best home workout on the best home gym equipment we can locate, it is good to be back in the gym, mainly because in one way or another, you will always be restricted at home. Deadlifts are best performed at the gym, not to mention barbell squats.
The 'new normal', as people like to call it, will involve cleaning machines more often, keeping your distance from others and just be more careful in general, as gym-director Chris Williams recommends. And careful you should be as the coronavirus can exist on surfaces for up to nine days, research suggests.
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Bringing your own supplies is also recommended: keep your gym clothing and workout shoes separately in your gym bag and make sure you bring your own gym water bottle and avoid using the communal water fountains. Wearing gym gloves is also recommended as it makes you less likely you'll accidentally touch your face.
To get a better understanding of what is to be expected when we gloriously return to church of iron this weekend, we asked doctors and fitness expert to share their best advice on the situation.
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Dr Daniel Atkinson – Clinical lead at Treated.com
Dr Daniel Atkinson, clinical lead at treated.com, recommends being vigilant and keeping a low profile when working out in the gym in post-corona times. His main advice rings true for even in times when the world isn't recovering from a global pandemic: ‘More people means an increased risk of transmission.’ comments Dr. Atkinson, ‘Some gyms have apps that let you check how many people are present, I would really recommend using these features if your gym has them. If not, avoid the peak times before nine and after five when people are finishing work.’
Dr Atkinson suggests alternating between exercising at home and at the gym to further reduce risk of infection. "If you like to do cardio at the gym, go to the park instead. If you enjoy cycling, perhaps consider investing in a bike. There’s also plenty of strength exercises you can do at home that don’t require equipment." he says.
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As mentioned above, the virus can exist on surfaces for over a week so only take the essentials to your gym sessions. Dr Atkinson advises keeping your gym gear to the minimum and to "come to the gym in your gym clothes, avoid changing at the gym. Leave any bags you may have in the car, or at home if possible. Only bring the essentials, such as water bottles and your keys."
Once back home after your session, you might want to clean your clothes/bags and yourself too by jumping into the shower (you don't have to wash your clothes in the shower). As Dr Atkinson says, "Remove your gym clothes and put them on a high temperature wash. You might also want to wipe down your phone with something like an alcohol wipe. Lastly, shower. Do this as you normally would. Make sure you wash all surfaces of the skin gently with warm water and soap."
Dr Fankie Jackson Spence – NHS Doctor and F45 boutique gym studio trainer
Dr Fankie Jackson Spence, Barebells ambassador and F45 boutique gym studio trainer, says it's all about being patient and sanitising your hands. "Make sure that you use hand sanitiser in between using different pieces of equipment." she recommends. You don’t have to go crazy, though, just squirt some gel on your hands when you leave a machine and go to a different area of the gym.
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Dr Frankie also recommends being patient: "Don’t get frustrated with the gym staff if there are longer waits for equipment or limits on classes. It’s important all the equipment is disinfected regularly and class sizes must be limited to maintain social distancing."
Gorka Marquez – Strictly Come Dancing star, dancer and choreographer
Gorka Marquez needs no introduction: even if you didn't watch Strictly Come Dancing you probably heard his name in passing at least once in the last few years. Gorka actually has useful advice for people returning to gyms (not surprised here, by the way, just clarifying the facts).
- Don’t compare yourself to your pre-lockdown fitness level. "Even if you’ve worked out at home, remember that you’ve had months off the gym and will need to rebuild your strength and stamina in specific areas." Gorka says.
- He also recommends taking breaks from the gym every couple of days to avoid injury. "Development will be progressive and you don’t want to jump straight back into a full and intense routine."
- "Start with sessions of no more than 45-60 minutes and go back to the basics." Gorka adds. "In your first sessions back you should use light weights in order to regain that all-important muscle memory of the movements."
- Have an organised structure for your workouts and divide the workload between sets. "A structure can help avoiding any kind of workout overload. Try to keep exercises in sets of 3-4 between 10-12 reps, as they will help you start to build muscle and joint strength."
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Faisal Abdalla – personal trainer and author of The PMA Method
Faisal Abdalla, NOCCO ambassador and author of The PMA Method, recommends focusing on the process and the enjoyment of the exercising as opposed trying to claw your way back to the form you had before the lockdown as fast as possible. "If you’ve lost certain strengths or you're not good at something like running or flexibility, that's exactly what you should be focusing on if you want to improve in all areas. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and turn those weaknesses into strengths." Faisal says.
Patience is a virtue, as they say, and despite the fact that we all want to see progress straight away after we did four sets of curls on the preacher pad, nothing happens overnight. Faisal suggests concentrating on getting back in the habit of going to the gym and not rushing the process.
It is also not to be intimidated. "Gymtimidation is normal. We've all had it. Those first steps are the hardest so be proud of yourself for taking them. You don't need to be the strongest or the fastest straight away, you just need to be brave enough to take those first steps to becoming a better you." Faisal concludes.
Chris Williams – Director of Sales & Marketing at Starks Fitness
Chris Williams, Director of Sales & Marketing at Starks Fitness, says it's paramount to clean all the equipment often and thoroughly. "Have a conversation with the gym about its new cleaning policy," Chris says.
He also recommends keeping your distance from others. Gyms should have set up a system by now to make sure you don't accidentally bump into other people as you exercise. Regardless, stay vigilant!
Also, although most gyms will have safety equipment such as hand sanitizer, paper towel and disinfectant, what they might not have now is a towel service so be sure to bring your own towel to wipe away the sweat to stop any unwanted sweat from flying all over the place.