Returning to Your Workouts Post-COVID

Written by: Diana Del Garbino, CEO of Muscles in Motion.

July 1 is the beginning of our second month of returning to the studio at Muscles In Motion, after the Covid-19 mandatory shutdown. We perfected our post-quarantine workouts to account for the prolonged absence of routine, lack of activity and most importantly to ensure a safe return.

For me, June 1, marked the first time I would use the weights again since my last workout on December 24th, 2019. Yes you read that right, Christmas Eve 2019. I’ve been in the hospital 4 times and had two surgeries, so there was only recovery time allowed during the closure. My return to the gym was harder than I first realized…

I was down about 23% of my workout weights in December. That might not sound like a lot, but what it looks like in real life is:

  • not being able to get up off the floor using just my legs.
  • not being able to push myself away from the table because my arms were too weak.
  • not being able to walk down the stairs without holding on to the rail because I felt like my legs would give out.
  • being tired after a long walk.

These are things that impacted my life and affected my confidence. The lack of confidence in my body left me feeling unable to go to the store because I wasn’t sure I could carry what I needed, that I wouldn’t have the stamina to work a full day, and that I was afraid if I walked too far I wouldn’t be able to make it back. 

I know this is much more intense than losing the ability to workout at the gym during the shutdown but I’m hoping you can see the relation between the two. I have experienced first-hand how intimidating it can be to return to working out and lifting weights after so much time away. I will say, it honestly is not nearly as painful as losing the ability and confidence to do the simple daily activities I once took for granted.

I want to guide you through this uneasy time with a couple of simple steps that I believe will help you regain your strength and confidence-

Go slow. This is the most important thing I can emphasize for returning to your workout after you haven’t done much during the closure. Here is what I mean by going slow: 

1. Move slowly through the exercise. At MIM we use High Intensity Training as our basis for safety and muscle hypertrophy (muscle building). This is an important component due to your muscles beginning to atrophy. Atrophy is a gradual decline in effectiveness or vigor due to underuse of muscle tissue.

By moving slowly during the exercise we limit the speed of movement so there is greater recruitment of the muscle tissue fibers. Moving slowly removes a lot of the momentum in the exercise so there is less time where the muscle is NOT under tension. This keeps the muscle working at a greater contraction rate.

It’s very easy to want to jump back in and start where you left off. This can be both dangerous and painful. Depending on how much sitting, sleeping or eating you did. Now, don’t think once you’ve lost it you can’t bring it back! The good news is that once you’ve had that muscle, it’s going to come back fairly quickly. 

Your trainer will know how to adjust your weights appropriately to account for any muscle loss during your time away, but make sure you’re talking with them and letting them know if it feels too light or too heavy so they can dial it in just right. 

2. Stop after you feel the burning sensation in said muscle group. Use this technique for the first couple of weeks to minimize soreness, and allow your body to adjust back into your workout. Don’t worry, you’ll be working plenty hard but remember we want to workout SMARTER not always HARDER. And you will always want to avoid an injury. 

Take your time increasing the weights. We use Time Under Load programming to determine when the weights need to increase. Once you’ve hit or exceeded the set time frame we’re looking for we will increase anywhere from 4-15% depending on the exercise. Smaller muscle groups will have a smaller increase compared to larger muscle groups. 

Don’t forget:

  • A POST workout snack- 20 grams of protein, 20 grams of carbohydrates and 5 grams of fat is plenty for recovery.
  • Drink HALF your body weight in ounces of water per day.
  • Get plenty of rest! Remember we all went from not doing a lot to doing more, so rest is going to be even more important to focus on as we get back to being more active. 

Working out isn’t just about looking good. It’s about so much more in your day-to-day tasks, how you feel about yourself and what choices you make. I know I am making the decision to use my time to build myself to be stronger so I can feel confident in my body.

3 responses on “Returning to Your Workouts Post-COVID

  1. Tammie Crane

    Thank you for sharing, Diana! Excellent perspective and encouragement. 🙂 And thank you so much for making the virtual workouts happen. That saved us for sure!

  2. Vikki Mee

    This is so thoughtful and positive! Although I am yet to make it back to MIM, I am looking forward to my return and really appreciate the continued acknowledgement and support during these confusing times. Glad to hear you are back working out and best to you and the staff. I loved this message; Thanks!!