- Be sure to bring hand sanitizer or other sanitation supplies to not only keep your hands clean, but also to wipe down equipment before you use it.
- It is still important to be mindful of your distance from other patrons and always keep distance from anyone not in your household.
- Flexibility here is key to helping you still get a meaningful workout when your original plan is no longer possible.
Gyms and fitness centers across the United States are beginning to reopen after their widespread closure due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Each location is instituting precautions and requirements to ensure the safety of patrons and employees alike.
Beyond following any requirements from your fitness center, here are five tips to keep in mind when returning to your gym routine.
1. Prepare before you go
Last year, packing a gym bag may have just meant including a towel, change of clothes, and a water bottle (which is even more important now that many states have required businesses to turn off public water fountains). However, there are a few more essentials to keep in your gym bag.
First, of course, is a face mask or other covering. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend cloth masks as they do not overly restrict air flow but still provide adequate protection against airborne pathogens.
Additionally, be sure to bring hand sanitizer or other sanitation supplies to not only keep your hands clean, but also to wipe down equipment before you use it. Many gyms and fitness centers will provide santiation supplies, but it is still best to bring your own incase access is limited or supplies are low.
Finally, even if your gym does provide a towel service, it is recommended to bring your own towels as you can be more certain of their cleaniness. Be mindful of where you place it as well, especially if you use it to wipe your face or hands.
2. Maintain social distance
Already, most gyms are required to physically distance their machines and other equipment so that users are at least six feet apart. However, it is still important to be mindful of your distance from other patrons and always keep distance from anyone not in your household.
Additionally, if others around you are breathing heavily, it is best to keep more than six feet distance from them. Be on additional alert in smaller spaces like locker rooms or fitness studios.
3. Limit group activities
Speaking of fitness studios, many gyms have restarted their group fitness offerings. While these may be a motivational way to get a workout in, consider the risks before signing up for one. There is evidence that infections spread faster in high-intensiy fitness classes that have more than 20 participants.
Therefore, if you are planning on joining a group fitness class, ensure that there are a limited number of participants who are properly distanced for the entire workout. Many gyms are also moving their classes online or even outdoors, which is a good alternative to studio based group fitness classes.
4. Focus on building a routine
Many people have been unable to visit a gym in months and do not have an adequate home setup to continue the same exercises at the same intensity that they were previously completing in the gym. Because of this, when returning to the gym, it is important to not push yourself too hard or focus on getting back to exactly where you were before the quarantine right from the beginning.
Instead, first focus on reintroducing the gym into your routine. Reacclimate your body with the movements and stressors involved in your gym routine before reattempting your one-repetition maximum or burnout record.
Building a routine and focusing on it will also help you get out of the gym quickly. Ideally, it is best to minimze the amount of time spent in the gym to reduce exposure risk. Working on a set routine helps with this efficiency.
5. Be flexible
If there is one thing we have all learned during this year, it is that flexibiltiy is key. Things may change last minute and our plans may no longer be feasible. This applies within the gym as well. You may have planned to exercise with a certain machine or piece of equipment, but it may be occupied or there may be too many people in that section of the gym. Flexibility here is key to helping you still get a meaningful workout when your original plan is no longer possible.
Ultimately, the choice to go back to the gym is highly personal. Medical experts recommend at-home workouts as they are still the safest option, but it is possible to exercise safely at gyms or fitness centers so long as certain precautions are taken, masks are worn, and social distance is maintained.