As our gyms begin to slowly reopen post COVID-19 lockdown, here are 5 tips written by conditioning coach & occupation therapy student Fancesca Richard to optimize your return to gym experience:
1. Always warm up
Warming up is an element of training that is often overlooked; however, it provides numerous important benefits that can truly enhance your workout! A proper warm-up increases blood flow to muscles, elevates the body’s oxygen consumption (i.e. increases your metabolic rate, making it easier to produce energy during your workout) and increases the body’s temperature which can enhance neuro-muscular communication as well as disrupt bonds formed between connective tissues. These effects contribute to better muscular reaction time, increased range of motion and increased muscular force and power generation. As a result, you will be stronger in your workout and less likely to experience an injury!
A great warm-up includes 5-10 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, a brief dynamic stretch/mobility routine as well as 1-2 light sets before engaging in any heavy lifts!
2. Always stretch after a workout
Stretching after a workout has numerous benefits! Not only does stretching your muscles after a workout mitigate muscle tightness and thus reduce the risk of muscular injury, increased flexibility and range of motion also allows for your muscle to be used at a greater overall capacity during your next workout! Stretching also increases blood circulation which helps transport nutrients to the re-building muscle as well as remove built up lactic acid, accelerating your post-workout recovery!
3. Provide adequate rest in between workouts, especially in the beginning!
Although we are all eager to return to the gym, it is likely that our body has not been placed under these high intensity training stresses in quite some time. When we exercise, we are producing microscopic tears in the tissue. When resting, specialized cells assist the tissue to heal and grow, resulting in stronger muscles! Without adequate rest, your body is incapable of repairing itself and can lead to muscle fatigue, weakened muscular performance and possibly even muscular atrophy! As such, we advise to give your trained muscle group 1-2 days of rest before re-training them again. This can be done by taking full rest days or by rotating the exercised muscle groups being worked in your routine!
4. Stay hydrated!
Water regulates body temperature, lubricates joints, and facilitates nutrient transport to keep your body energized! When dehydrated, you prevent your body from performing at its highest level. You also may feel more fatigued and experience muscle cramps during your workout. As a result, we recommend drinking about 8 ounces of water before, during and after exercise!
5. Remember your technique!
The better your form is during an exercise, the better your results. Therefore, always remember to brace your core during compound movements, move through the full range of motion of each exercise (don’t compensate quality for weight!) and don’t forget to breathe (exhale during contraction, inhale during elongation).