Getting Back into a Routine After Quarantine
Unless you are lucky enough to have a home gym (like me) or access to some kind of equipment, you might be one of the millions of people whose gym routine came to an abrupt halt in the early spring. Everyone with a fitness routine was forced to find some way to adapt. For some people, it meant buying their own equipment. In early April, online fitness equipment sales jumped 55%. Equipment could be purchased in the early stages of the shutdown, but eventually it became hard to come by. Rogue Fitness, one of the most popular fitness brands, transitioned their factory to make PPE in March and has been out of stock of most equipment like barbells, resistance bands and more since. Even as sporting goods stores reopened, fitness equipment was still difficult to find.
So, this meant those with a fitness routine had to adapt or even stop altogether. If you are someone who’s routine was put on pause, don’t beat yourself up about it because it happens, even when there isn’t a global pandemic. The good news is all you have to do is start again. Here are some tips for getting back to the gym after some time off:
- Create a plan.
There are two sides to this. First, figure out what you are going to do, where you will do it and when. For example, if you want to start running again, decide where you will run, what days, and what time of day. Having a clear-cut idea of what you want to do and how to accomplish it can remove a lot of wasted time. This can also help to plan out your day. “But I just don’t have time.” That’s a lie. Yes you do.
Second, get a program (like this one here). You need to have an idea of what you will be doing before you get to the gym. Even if you have been working out for years, creating a workout plan on the fly isn’t easy. Having to maneuver around other people in a crowded gym doesn’t help either. Going into the gym knowing that on that day you will be squatting for 4 sets of 5 reps supersetted with 3 sets of 6 box jumps on a 20in. box along with all of the movements, sets and reps to follow will save you a lot of time.
- Start slow.
If you have had a lot of time off (<2 months), this is especially important. It is pretty unlikely after some time off that you will be able to jump right back into the level of work you were doing before. And even if you can, you’re going to be so sore the next day that you’ll never want to work out again. A few years ago, in the summer after my freshman year at Pitt, before I based everything I do around fitness, I took some time off from the weight room. It wasn’t planned, it just happened. The next thing I knew it had been 3-4 weeks since I last lifted anything. My first day back in the weight room, we did 4x10 back squat. What was I going to do, say no? So, I worked my way up to 185x10 for the 4th set. It wasn’t crazy heavy, and I flew through it. About halfway through the set, I knew that mistakes had been made. The next day, I couldn’t walk. My legs were sore for the next 2 weeks.
Even if you think you have a good idea of how difficult you’re first session back should be, I would recommend taking it even a little lighter than that. There’s no rush. Make sure that you feel good enough the next day to want to keep coming back.
- Set a goal.
SMART goals are made up of 5 elements. They are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound. A goal needs to be specific. For example, I want to run a 6-minute mile. Measurable meaning that I can track the time (6-minutes) and distance (1 mile). Attainable meaning challenging but not impossible to achieve. Realistic meaning it makes sense for me to set as my goal. An example of an unrealistic goal would be wanting to bike 20 miles when you don’t know how to ride a bike. In this situation, the goal should be to learn to ride a bike first. Finally, time-bound means giving yourself a deadline. For example, I want to be able to run 6-minute mile 12 weeks from now.
Your first goal you want to accomplish can be really small. This will give you some momentum. Once you complete your first one, you will be excited and driven to complete the next one and the ones that follow.
- Get a partner.
Right now, it is more likely than ever that there is someone you know who is in the same situation and trying to get back into a workout routine. Having someone to workout with can make the whole process so much easier. It can help keep you accountable for the days when you don’t feel like working out. If you find yourself uncomfortable in a gym by yourself, having someone to workout with can ease that feeling. And last, my personal favorite, it adds some competition to what you’re doing. If you aren’t the most competitive person, that’s fine. There are still tons of benefits to having someone to workout with. Adding in some competition can boost drive, focus and accountability. Not everyone can be the best, but everyone can be better. For example, at the end of a workout, see who can do the most push-ups in a single set. If it’s not you, I can guarantee you’ll want to make sure it is you the next time.
Sometimes life gets in the way and that’s okay, but it doesn’t mean you can’t start again. Everyone has had this happen. For sure it is difficult to get going again, but it is not impossible. All you have to do it start.