Returning to the gym after a year of lockdowns

Date: 28 October 2021   Author: Energise Me

Although we have been out of lockdown for a little while now, it’s ok to still have nerves about returning to life as it was before COVID. For Sam, returning to the gym has been something she has put off doing due to fear. She shares how she found taking steps to return.

I got into the gym for the first time in university and loved it. I liked feeling strong. It was also something I could fit in between lectures. But, with gyms shutting through the pandemic, I resorted back to my home workouts. I enjoyed it at first, but stuck to it less as the 18 months went on. I lost a lot of confidence and felt my mood drop as I was mainly walking as a form of exercise. This was a complete change for me as I like to mix up my activity.

Like a lot of people, I struggled with my mental well-being during the pandemic. I am someone who thrives off social interaction, so having a lot of this taken away was a big shock to my system. Especially because I had to leave my university flat of 16 people to lockdown at home. There was also a death in my family, which affected me greatly. I was struggling with expressing my emotions and this led me to lose motivation completely. It is only recently that I have started to feel like myself again.

When restrictions lifted, I was very nervous about going back to the gym. I’m not as strong as I used to be, and I have forgotten a lot of what I used to do. I felt like I was starting before square one as my mental and physical wellbeing had never been affected this much. This was very disheartening, and my confidence was therefore much lower than before. I have also moved for my work placement, so the gym is in a completely new environment.

My main worry was that I wouldn’t be able to keep up and that I would be the only newbie. I hate feeling like the worst in the room.

Taking the plunge and returning to the gym

18 months after my last gym visit, I decided to take the plunge. As I was too nervous to put together my own workout, I thought that an exercise class would be better. Hopefully, I could stand at the back and follow along. I had heard about the new Winchester Sport and Leisure Park and thought I’d look at the classes they have on offer.

I went for Body Pump as I still wanted to challenge myself and do something new. The class is designed by Les Mills and I am familiar with their Body Combat classes on Youtube. This gave me a little bit of hope that I’d be able to follow it. I booked the class early in the day while I was feeling excited. As the day went on, I got more nervous. My main worry was that I wouldn’t be able to keep up and that I would be the only newbie. I hate feeling like the worst in the room.

My worries were so bad that I had struggled to eat my dinner as I was feeling slightly sick. But this wasn’t going to stop me from going. I had the courage to sign up, I had paid the fee, and I knew I would feel great afterwards. Before I left, I made sure to look up the route and find out about parking so there was one less thing to worry about. I definitely didn’t want to walk in late! I also had no idea where I was going.

First impressions

Shortly after I got there, I sparked up a conversation with a friendly lady who had been before. She was telling me everything about the sessions and showed me how to set up when we got in. I also let the instructor know that I had never been before and she was very encouraging. She gave me some tips on how to get the most out of the session and assured me I wouldn’t be the only new person there. She also said, “remember it’s not a competition, do what feels comfortable for you”. This stuck with me for the whole session as I reminded myself that no one was focusing on what I was doing.

So, I set myself up at the back and waited for it to start. As soon as it began, I knew that I had made the right choice. Everyone was focusing on themselves and there was no expectation to lift heavy weights. It felt amazing to learn some new exercises. Having the instructor demonstrate the correct form made it feel safe as I knew that I was less likely to injure myself! The energetic music playing helped me feel motivated to keep going.

I felt alive. I hadn’t felt that strong and proud of myself in a long time.

After the session:

Once I had finished the class, I felt alive. I hadn’t felt that strong and proud of myself in a long time. The instructor checked in on how I had found it and I assured her I’d be back for another. My legs were shaking getting down the stairs, but I couldn’t stop smiling on my way out! After the 18 months of the pandemic, this was a big achievement for me!

Since this first class, I have been back and will definitely continue to go! I have also tried other classes (Pilates and Body Jam) and have worked up the courage to buy the gym membership. This means I can go to these classes as well as get back into the gym. However, I haven’t quite managed to go to the gym yet! That one body pump class reignited my love for group exercise and reminded me that I can be physically active in a way that suits me! If I want to do a more challenging class, I do. But if I’m not up to it, I can just go for a walk or do an easy gym workout.

Sam’s top tips for returning to the gym or starting a new class:

  1. Yes, going with a friend can be great, but remember you can do it by yourself!
  2. If you are new, let the instructor know. They have new people every week and are very encouraging.
  3. Remember, everyone is doing what is right for them, so try not to compare yourself.
  4. Finally, always think of how amazing you will feel after! This always motivates me.

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