So, you've missed a month- or 6, of training in the gym. And to be honest, you're even a bit hesitant about going back now, with the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing.
But what are you to do? Without a doubt, being away from training for such an extended period of time does your body no favors. If anything, you probably have to cultivate a certain mindset all over again.
But you've decided it's the best thing to do, so now comes the hard part- actually developing a system to keep you safe while you train in a setting such as a gym, which the CDC has classified as a place where the risk of transmission is high.
Yes, there's absolutely no way to lower your risk to absolute zero, since you can stay home all year and still be infected by something as innocuous as a paper receipt left by a food delivery guy, but that's not to say that by being smart you can't safely reduce your risk.
Without further ado, here are the best steps you can take to help get your fitness back on track while keeping your risk of infection low.
Wipe Down All Machines Before And After Use
This is a very big faux pas that many athletes are used to committing, without so much as a second thought. But in your case, by doing so you're just being careless (especially after reading this).
All it takes is one infected person to have been on a machine before you and for you then to touch the barbell with hands that haven't been thoroughly washed- BAM! Just like that, you've been exposed to whatever virus is hanging around.
Remember: virtually any non-porous surface, such as weight plates, dumbbells and even benches, can harbor the COVID-19 virus for many hours, making surface transmission a real nightmare.
It is an absolute necessity to sanitize equipment before and after using them to not only protect yourself but other people that might use them after you.
Maintain a Safe Distance From Other People in The Gym
The good news is that many people are also hesitant to return to the gym at this time, meaning that it is likely to be less crowded. This plays out in your favor since you won't have to rub shoulders with the long queue normally waiting to use the bench press, but even so, you still need to keep in mind social distancing the entire duration you're there.
Some gyms do the responsible thing by limiting admission to allow for optimal use by the largest number of people while maintaining spacing guidelines.
But if you find yourself engulfed in a sea of people, trying your best to maintain a 4-6 feet distance from everyone else will help reduce your chances of being physically close enough to someone who might be infected.
Wash Your Hands And Use Hand Sanitizer
There's no need to go through the entire song and dance of pretending you're a surgeon when you walk in. Not only is it likely unnecessary, but will make for an odd day at the gym instead of having fun lifting weights. But once you get done, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before leaving.
Even better, wash and sanitize frequently between sets to lower exposure risk even more than wiping and sterilizing equipment alone.
Wear Adequate Face Protection
Yes, facts don't lie. Face protection reduces your risk of infection from droplets that are expelled from coughing and sneezing, for example. Even normal exhalation during breathing passes out viral particles, so in a surrounding where there are other people around (and inside a building no less), protect yourself by wearing face protection.
Don't go for any fancy "athletic" or fashion masks, as these might be geared for improving lung performance and not necessarily protection. if you can access it, go for the highest protection level masks; N95, or if you are unable to do so, surgical masks will work too.
We know that breathing might be difficult in a mask while training at a high intensity, but it remains the safest course of action.
The CDC has revised guidelines to discourage the use of fabric or cloth masks as their porous nature offers low protection compared to the aforementioned two types.
Opt For Outdoor Training If Possible
When it comes to social settings, the more open and non-confined a setting is, the safer it is considered. This is because the risk of transmission is low under such circumstances.
If you have the option of training outside, you should really go for it. This is especially true if it's during the early morning hours before the sun starts to beat down on you and make it unbearable.
At the very least, ensure that the facility you are going to has a lot of windows to support adequate ventilation. Avoid closed-door facilities that use air conditioning since this isn't ideal to minimize your risk.
Train During Off-Peak Periods
It's no surprise that gyms get much busier during the late afternoon and into the evening period. Most people leave work around this time and go straight to the gym where they're met with crowds.
This is not ideal considering your safety. If possible, go during off-peak times. This can mean early in the morning, during your lunch break or even mid-morning. This way, you have the freedom of using most of the equipment without the wait and lowering your risk of infection significantly.
Don't Touch Your Face
Most of these tips aren't rocket science. In fact, they're pretty much common sense. But this one stands out as a no-brainer.
What do you do if you find yourself in a position where sanitizer is not available? Or even water for that matter? While this might seem quite avoidable, sometimes bad things just seem to stack up.
You've already started training when you discover this, so what do you do? You continue training, most likely, but with more focus to not touch your face. If you wear adequate face protection, then the only other way something is getting into your respiratory tract is if you put it there- usually from rubbing your face too often.
Avoid Leaving Your Phone Or Other Personal Effects On Equipment Or Benches
Many people in the gym have the bad habit of leaving personal belongings on the equipment, be it their phones, towels, or other valuables. Unfortunately for you, this leaves them open to being stolen, but more importantly puts you at risk of being exposed to the COVID-19 virus from inadvertendly handling the items after they would have been exposed to someone infected.
It can be as simple as a sneeze from someone 20 feet away; it just takes a few drops of that secretion to fly on over to your belonging. What's better than walking with your own personal bottle of sanitizer? Use a spray bottle of 70% alcohol to mist over your stuff before handling them.
Stay Home If You Don't Feel Well
Sometimes, it's important to know when to throw in the towel. This might seem like an odd thing to say, but it's surprising how many people go about their lives without realizing they're sick. How can you tell? Well, if you feel nauseous for more than a day (or two), have the chills or fever that won't quit, or just don't feel well in general, then maybe it's time to rest up and let yourself recover.
Keep your hands away from your face and try to refrain from touching surfaces that others might have touched before you (or will touch themselves after you), especially those who might be sick. Remember, prevention is better than cure so keep these pieces of advice in mind next time you are thinking about going to the gym.
There used to be the "litmus" test that if you feel sick above the neck it was generally ok to workout, but right about now, it isn't a good idea to go at all if you feel under the weather unless you have had a negative Covid PCR test.
Get More Sleep
If you're feeling ill and taking the day off from training, it's a good idea for you to catch up on your sleep.
Your body is spending a lot of resources to fight off the virus and/or recover from it, and there's no better way to accomplish this than by giving yourself some shut-eye.
Just like you wouldn't drive a car or operate heavy machinery when tired, don't work out if you're feeling groggy and drained. Sleep is the single best thing you can do to support recovery as your body fights to get better.
Shower Immediately Upon Leaving The Gym And Change Out Of Workout Clothes If Possible
Again, it's not so much of a revelation that you should shower and change after hitting the gym. But there are some situations in which this is more important than others.
While most gyms have their own showers, do your due diligence when it comes to where your workout clothes are being stored. For instance, it is possible that the changing areas are poorly maintained, or even sanitized for that matter.
Try to use your own personal effects too, since even though it might be inconvenient it is one of those small things that can make a differcne for your safety.
When you arrive home, store your clothes in a separate laundry basket or wash them immediately if it is possible. You should not re-wear your workout clothes without washing them first.
Eat The Rainbow
There's this saying that you should eat the rainbow- and what this means is to consume a variety of colored foods which include fruits and vegetables. We understand that produce might not be readily available all year round, and in that case, it is important to winterize your diet and include more reds, yellows, and oranges.
At the bare minimum, do your utmost best to use a superfood powder supplement- one that supplies highly nutritive fruits and veggies in a convenient and easy-to-drink form.
We highly recommend Field Of Greens, loved by thousands of customers across the United States for its ease of mixability and taste.
Use Vitamin C
Do you get enough dietary Vitamin C? Most people don't. Sure, the occasional fruit helps, but the fact of the matter is that very few people do so multiple times daily and that even includes vegetarians and vegans.
Vitamin C is one of those things that don't have 100% ironclad evidence saying that it will prevent you from getting sick, but what it does have is a generally good track record.
It is known that your body rapidly uses up its stores of Vitamin C once it's infected with the Covid virus, and even more so if you're particularly run down.
So to stay ahead of the game, it is generally a good idea to stock up on this essential vitamin through diet or supplementation. Shoot for 1-2g daily, and relax, you are very unlikely to experience any noteworthy adverse effects since it is rapidly eliminated in urine since it is water-soluble and not stored in the body.
Vitamin D, Zinc, and Magnesium are also helpful in boosting the immune system in their quest to keep you safe. Keep in mind to use the resources at your disposal and you should be fine.
There should be no stigma attached to a COVID-19 infection diagnosis, but sadly this is very common. If you feel ill, the responsible thing to do is stay home and keep away from others.
And as always, don't hesitate to consult your doctor to help you determine the best way forward. Exercise, eat healthily and you're already on your way to an optimal functioning immune system.