With only a day to go and the UK's roadmap out of lockdown appearing to be going to plan, gyms are due to reopen on April 12th – meaning you'll be back in your favourite workout class in no time.
Regardless of whether you entered into complete lockdown mode and barely moved throughout the year (except for the occasional trip to the fridge) or attempted to stay active but struggled to maintain your usual exercise routine, you need to listen up.
After several weeks or even months of not hitting the gym, you need to return to working out gradually and safely to avoid suffering from DOMS for the foreseeable future.
To help you return in the most efficient manner possible and avoid that unpleasant tightness on April 13th, we have developed a bullet-proof six-point plan approved by Elite Performance Strength and Conditioning coach Tom Archer.
1/ Increase Your Movement Now
If you have recently joined the working-from-home club or you've been forced to balance your job with home-schooling, you may find it hard to leave the house and stay active.
So, why not try walking up and down the stairs a few times before work or completing a lap of your block during your lunch break?
Sometimes walking is overlooked as a form of exercise, but just 30 minutes a day can increase your cardiovascular fitness, strengthen your bones and boost muscle power and endurance - and that's just physical benefits.
2/ Warm up and cool down
Wouldn't it be amazing if we could make one simple change to our exercise routine that would help us lift more, run faster, avoid DOMs and be less susceptible to injuries? Well, there is.
Warming up and cooling down takes a matter of minutes but helps prepare your body for exercise by increasing your range of motion, improving your flexibility and helping you recover faster by releasing your muscle and fascial tissue.
So, remember to put down the kettlebell, step away from the dumbbells and turn your attention to warming up and cooling down when you get back into the gym.
Plus, you could even dust off that foam roller under your bed or reacquaint yourself with that resistance band hanging on your bathroom door to maximise the benefits of your warm up and cool down.
3/ Set Realistic Goals
Picking up from where you left off is not a realistic goal. Having been out of action for the better part of a year, you will not only end up hurting yourself physically but mentally.
It is easy to get caught up in the rush of society opening up again, and you may feel obliged to set goals that are impractical, unsustainable, and otherwise unrealistic. But taking such measures will just leave you feeling more disappointed when you fail to achieve them.
Instead, you should pick one thing you want to master on your return to the gym - whether that be acing your form on your squats or reintroducing compound movements into your programme - and work hard on achieving that objective before progressing on.
Additionally, if you were hitting the gym six times a week before lockdown, don't force yourself to return to your original schedule straight away. Try setting a target of three workouts a week, and once you have built your fitness levels back up, look to add an additional session.
4/ Ease into it
April 12th is the time to leave your pride at the door and try to enjoy the process rather than the outcome. If you head into the gym all guns blazing and look to deadlift double your body weight on your first session back, it will probably be the last time you step foot in a gym for a very long time.
Begin your session with light or bodyweight exercises to reintroduce your muscles to the required movements before increasing the resistance. It's important to allow your body to adjust before adding additional stress.
To ensure your session is still adding to those all-important gains, start with lower sets and higher reps. For example, complete 1-2 sets of 12-15 reps of your favourite exercise. Then, when you feel ready, up the weight and lower the reps.
For those of you who just can't help but think about the outcome, we have good news. Your body is capable of amazing things, and as long as your general health hasn't dramatically changed, executing the right training programme after a period of inactivity can allow you to rebuild that strength and endurance you may have lost faster than you may have thought possible.
5/ Ask For Help
Don't be afraid to ask for advice. Speak to the personal trainers based in your gym and utilise their guidance on your return - this will not only help keep you safe, but it will help you get the most out of your session.
Having been out of practice for some time, it is vital you focus on developing the correct form, and personal trainers are effective in pointing out the areas you need to work on to maximise the results of your workout.
Plus, who doesn't love a bit of free coaching?
6/ Active recovery
As you ramp up your level of exercise, you will need to take additional care when it comes to your active recovery. Recovery is a key component to not only training, but health so you should really consider putting some time aside to relax. Although a bubble bath has a heap of mental and physical benefits, the emphasis needs to fall on your nutrition and sleeping habits. You should focus on getting seven to nine hours of sleep after training. You should also consider drinking several litres of water a day and nourishing your body with an adequate supply of protein.
All of that being said, what really matters is that you enjoy being back. Use this time to explore different forms of training, workout classes and sessions to find out what works for you. Remember, there is no rush to get back to a routine. After a year of lockdown, take the pressure off yourself and simply enjoy moving once again.