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5 Tips for Easing Back into Your Gym Routine

A woman working out with weights at a gym.
Bojan Milinkov/Shutterstock

Finally, as businesses reopen, many of us are slowly returning to our regular routines. If you’re heading back to the gym after working out at home for the last year, we’ll help you ease back into it without injuring yourself.

Going back to the gym might be intimidating for some and exciting for others. Even if you were comfortable in the weight room before, the year-long break might have you feeling a bit anxious about it now.

These tips will help you return to your local gym with confidence and have the safest, most positive experience possible.

Start Slow

Most people who rely on the gym don’t have a basement full of dumbbells and machines. So, if you’re heading back to the gym soon, you probably haven’t been lifting weights, using the elliptical, or swimming laps for the last year.

Whatever gym routine you’re excited to get back to, be sure to take things slowly at first. Even if you stayed active at home, you probably aren’t going to be at the same level of fitness that you were when you left the gym for the last time. It’s easy to injure yourself by lifting weights that are too heavy or to overdo it on the stationary bike.

Start your workouts slower and lighter than what you think you can handle. If it feels too easy, slowly increase the difficulty until you find the ideal level.

If you’re lifting weights, for example, it should feel challenging, but you should also be able to complete every set using the proper form. You can always increase the difficulty of your workout safely, but overdoing it can quickly lead to a strained muscle that sets you back when you’re just getting started.

Don’t Get Discouraged

A woman who looks exhausted on an elliptical machine at a gym.

It can be frustrating to feel like you’ve lost progress in the gym. Push past that and remember that many people are in the same boat.

Negative thoughts not only affect you mentally but physically as well. A 2013 study found that teenagers who merely thought that they were overweight were more likely to become obese when they got older. If you fixate on any lost progress, you’ll probably just have an even harder time improving.

It might be helpful to keep a log to track your progress. Then, after a couple of weeks of hard work, you’ll be able to see how far you’ve come. This can be extremely motivational, especially on those days when negative thoughts are more persistent.

This fitness log offers plenty of space for daily workouts as well as a page to track your weekly progress.

Ignore Everyone Else

That guy next to you squatting over 400 pounds? He’s probably been at the gym during the entire pandemic. Never compare your fitness journey to anyone else’s. Focus on your own goals and what you’re doing and ignore everyone else.

If you’re easily distracted, blast your favorite music to help you block everything out. These noise-canceling headphones are comfortable, affordable, water-resistant, and sweatproof.

Get Some Help If You Need It

A male personal trainer helping a female client with a squat exercise.
Friends Stock/Shutterstock

You might want to consider working with a personal trainer for a few weeks to help you ease back into your routine. They can refresh your memory about how each machine functions and ensure that you feel comfortable using all of the equipment.

A trainer will also correct your form when necessary, which is extremely important. Poor form when lifting, or even when putting away weights, can cause an injury.

Many gyms offer a free training session when you first join and/or periodically thereafter to advertise new trainers or classes. Even a single session will help you get your bearings again.

Fight Germs

Whether you’re fully vaccinated or not, gyms can be pretty gross. It’s always smart to practice good hygiene (and follow gym etiquette) by wiping down equipment before and after you use it.

Carry your own bottle of hand sanitizer with you and apply it often to kill any germs that might be lurking. Throw one of these discrete sprays into your gym bag or clip it to your shorts or leggings for easy access.

Try to avoid touching your face—especially your eyes and nose—while you’re working out. Any germs on your hands can easily enter your body through those areas. Wear a sweatband to prevent sweat from running into your eyes or keep a small towel with you, like this absorbent microfiber set.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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