How To Smash Your First Back-To-Gym Workout After Taking A Break

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July 14, 2021

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Gyms are re-opening, and that means you may be considering swapping some of your at-home workouts for gym workouts. Whether you’ve been eagerly awaiting this moment for months or feeling a little daunted post-lockdown, it’s important to take your time preparing to get back into a gym routine, both physically and mentally. 

This includes reassessing your goals and breaking them down into smaller steps, so that you don’t get overwhelmed, and thinking about how the gym fits into your new post-lockdown lifestyle. 

Physically, it’s important not to push yourself too hard right away, as your body might have changed in the last year (thanks lockdown!), and the last thing you want is unnecessary injuries causing setbacks, especially if the pandemic has meant you’ve had a more sedentary lifestyle than usual.

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How to prepare to go back to the gym

Preparation is your secret weapon when you’re starting or getting back into a new routine, and the gym is no exception.

Make a back-to-gym workout plan

The first step is to make a plan for your gym workout. Write down what you want to achieve after one week, one month, six months and one year. Be ambitious but also realistic – if your other commitments mean you can realistically visit the gym three days a week, don’t set yourself up for failure by setting a goal to visit every day. 

Think about what you need to achieve your goals. Do you need new workout clothes, a gym membership, or a workout buddy? Removing any obstacles means you’ll have fewer excuses standing in your way.

Set realistic expectations for what you’re able to achieve

It’s important to set realistic expectations for your first gym workout. Previously, you may have been able to do a higher amount of reps or lift heavier weights, but when you’re going back to the gym after taking a break, it’s important to ease into your workouts slowly and carefully. 

Turning up for your first session at the gym is a huge accomplishment in itself, and there’s plenty of time to focus on increasing intensity or doing more advanced exercises.

Prepare your gym bag with all the essentials

Packing your bag the night before with your gym bag essentials will make it easier to stick to your plan and prevent frustrating moments like forgetting to pack your sports bra.

You should aim to choose a comfortable outfit that’s suitable for your workout —  try your clothes on beforehand to make sure you have a good range of motion.

Fuel yourself for your workout

It can be uncomfortable to exercise on a full stomach, but it’s important your body has the energy it needs for your workout. Whether you grab a quick snack or you prefer to eat breakfast a couple of hours before you hit the gym, there are pre-workout meals to suit any eating preference – just make sure you avoid anything too heavy.

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Tips to make your first back-to-gym workout visit a success

If it has been a while since you’ve stepped into the gym — or if it’s your first time — here are four helpful ways to make your experience a positive one.

Remember gym etiquette 

Even if you’ve been to the same gym in the past, make sure you read their most up-to-date policy so you don’t get any surprises when you arrive. 

Respect other gym-goers and wipe down the equipment with disinfectant wipes after use, and use a towel. You should also return equipment to the racks once you’ve used them.

Orient yourself in the gym environment

If you aren’t sure how to navigate the gym or how to use the equipment – ask a trainer on duty! The trainers can give you tips on form and how to avoid injury.

Never feel intimidated in the gym: No one’s watching you while you work out, they’re all there for the same reason as you.

How to avoid injury

Warming up before your workout is so important. A good warm-up prepares you for the challenge you’re about to take on, physically and mentally — you can find the Sweat trainers’ recommended warm-up routine before each of their workouts in the Sweat app

During your workout, start by using lighter weights and fewer reps, or plan extra rest time between sets. If you’re following one of the Sweat programs, try the recommended routine first, and always pay attention to how your body feels — it is okay to stick to the basics and focus on your technique, even if other people are doing more advanced exercises around you.

Assess your recovery

After your first workout at the gym, monitor how your body feels over the next couple of days. Post-workout soreness, or delayed-onset muscle soreness, can emerge 24-48 hours after your workout and is a normal occurrence when you boost the frequency or intensity of your workouts or try a new training style

You don’t need to stop working out if you experience DOMS, but you can speed up your recovery by resting, stretching or foam rolling or other active recovery ideas.

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Make gym workouts part of your regular routine

If you want to make the gym part of your regular routine, give yourself the best chance to make it an enjoyable experience rather than a chore.

Think about what you can do, rather than what you can’t do

Having a positive mindset and focusing on how you’re choosing to exercise to care for your body is a good starting point to having a healthy relationship with your new gym routine.

Turn your gym workouts into a habit

There will always be days when you don’t feel like going to the gym, but if you’ve set yourself the goal of a less sedentary lifestyle, consistency with your routine is key! Once going to the gym becomes a habit, you won’t have to rely on motivation to choose knee-ups over Netflix.

You can start to create healthier habits by making time for your gym workouts in your diary. Be realistic about your schedule and everything else happening in your life, but if you have time blocked out for your workouts in your diary, you’ll be much more likely to follow through with your plan — and before you know it, going to the gym after work or on the weekend will become second nature and even the highlight of your week!

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Ready for your first workout?

Remember, everyone at the gym is in the same position as you

When you’re getting into the swing of a new exercise routine, it’s so easy to feel like everyone at the gym knows what they’re doing — but this absolutely isn’t true! 

Some people might be more experienced than others, but everyone has the same goal: To be a healthier, more active version of themselves!

Have you recently returned back to the gym after some time off? Let us know how you went in the comments!

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A more empowered you starts with Sweat, and our editorial team is here to bring you the latest fitness tips, trainer recommendations, wellbeing news, nutritional advice, nourishing recipes and free workouts.

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.


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