As the UK starts to reopen after lockdown, it’s time to get back to the gym. But something strange seems to be happening among fitness fanatics around the country. It turns out, many of us rather enjoyed the freedom of training at home or outdoors. Sports like open water swimming have surged in popularity with many hardy folks taking the plunge throughout the Winter. Others turned to running and cycling whilst Joe Wicks the Body Coach has kept children, parents and grandparents moving at home. So, with gyms and leisure centres across the country preparing to fling open their doors and welcome us with open arms, will you be rushing back? We look at the benefits and necessary precautions for getting back to the gym, as well as examining a few alternatives.
In defence of the gym
The thought of leaving the house and dipping a toe back into your regular routine can be a little intimidating, especially if you haven’t kept up with many fitness activities during lockdown. But the benefits of using local sports facilities vastly outweigh the chore of the initial hard slog back to fitness. And it’s not just about earning your tasty protein dessert. The main reason we all go to the leisure centre is to sit less and move more.
The advantages of this can’t be underestimated. According to the NHS, physical activity decreases your risk of heart disease and stroke by 30%. The decrease in risk of type 2 diabetes and colon cancer is 50% whilst your risk of breast cancer decreases by 20%, osteoarthritis by a whopping 83% and hip fracture by 68%. Additionally, you are 30% less likely to suffer from depression, dementia and early death.
However even if you are doing plenty of exercise at home, there are other benefits to going back to the gym. Not least the social interaction you’re probably missing more than you realise. With exercise classes off the agenda, some of us don’t speak to anybody outside of the immediate family in person for months on end. It’s easy to underestimate the power of positive human contact. The satisfaction of showing someone the ropes in their first yoga class, a nodded acknowledgement to a passing acquaintance or a catch up with an old friend at the water cooler. Humans are social creatures and many of our social contacts have been lost as a result of being unable to keep up with normal exercise routines.
Precautions to take as we head back to the gym
As with any change in routine, it is always wise to proceed with caution as you start building your gym work back up. Beckwith Health Club have some useful pointers for getting back to fitness. The first rule of course, is to take it slowly to avoid injury. Don’t go haring back into the weights room with bigger and better goals, that time will come but it’s not now. Stick to your established goals and schedules and pick it up bit by bit. This might be a good time to enrol in some classes or even consider a few weeks with a personal trainer if you’ve saved a bit of cash on gym fees during lockdown.
People go to the gym for different reasons, but most of us have fitness goals we hope to achieve. Whether that is lifting more, running faster, losing weight or toning up, it’s easy to become preoccupied with attaining results. But it’s important to remember the bigger picture. A well thought out, regular workout routine will benefit you in a multitude of ways and should be considered from the point of view of health and wellness as well as fitness. With that in mind, it’s essential to eat well and consume all the nutrients you need to support the level of activity you’re doing. Of course, we’ve got your back when it comes to whey protein. In fact, ROAR desserts are great for seeing off that craving for sweet food too. Unfortunately, the rest of the balanced diet is down to you.
What’s putting people off returning to their usual exercise regime?
Here at ROAR, we’re counting down the hours until our local leisure centres open. Gym, pool, sauna, fitness classes look out, we’re coming for you. So, we were surprised to discover that lots of people are ditching the gym for good having discovered a love of other forms of exercise. It seems this change is largely led by the fitness tech sector. Most of us have some sort of fitness gadget nowadays. It might be a heart rate monitor or step counter like a Garmin or Apple watch or a Fitbit. Even those of us who don’t succumb to wearables probably use fitness tech. The Strava phone app to track runs and cycles or an array of at-home fitness apps.
Yet even without technology to help, exercise away from the gym does have its appeal. Getting outdoors for a trail run offers a connection with nature that you’ll never find on a treadmill. Stand up paddle boarding has become popular, effortlessly combining exercise with mindfulness and stress relief. Then there’s the at-home weights room or YouTube yoga and HIIT classes. Getting it done as and when you want without leaving the house does have a certain appeal.
If you turn your back on the gym for good, what are the alternatives?
Of course, if you are turning your back on the gym for good, there will be no judgement from us. The key to a successful fitness regime is enjoyment. Everything else will come with time. So, here are a few of the things people have taken up during lockdown that they’re sticking to. We’ve included some links in case you fancy giving any of them a try.
- At home fitness apps: There are a vast number of these out there. TomTom have listed their favourites for 2021 and Marie Claire have 56 exercise app recommendations for women.
- Running: It goes without saying that lacing up your trainers for a run is one of the easiest ways to exercise outside. These days, some people are going one step further and running every day. Advocates rave about the benefits of a run streak.
- Cycling: Both road and mountain biking are hugely popular these days. Many people even take it one step further and train for a triathlon. If cycling outdoors doesn’t do it for you, Peloton bikes are another craze sweeping the nation. Their interactive, immersive indoor cycling experience is said to relieve the boredom of standard static cycling.
- Open water swimming: We couldn’t leave the subject of alternative sports without a nod to open water swimming. A few of the ROAR team admit an addiction to the exhilaration of cold water dips all year round. Head to the Wild Swimming website for a beginner’s guide and some tips on where to swim.