Best Practices: Returning to Regular Training Post-Quarantine
Written by C.J. Martin
With the reopening process beginning in many areas and the excitement surrounding getting back to the gym, we have been fielding questions about best practices for returning to regular training, including what to be careful of when you go back to lifting after more than 8 weeks of not touching a barbell and/or exercising with less intensity.
Most athletes (unless they already had a complete home gym set-up) – are going to fall into one of two camps – those who trained less frequently during quarantine and those who maintained their training as much as possible but with some modifications.
Athletes Who Trained Less Frequently During Quarantine
When returning to the gym, these athletes need to understand the principles of progression. If you lacked motivation at home, you may be really excited to jump right into gym training sessions, but the last thing we want to see is someone giving it their all on Monday and not coming back in again until Friday because they’re so sore.
I love seeing athletes use two-week progressions to build in their intensity. Finishing a training session and wanting more allows excitement for the next day. Each day you add a bit more intensity to the effort until you feel like you can give a solid effort and still recover well enough to repeat that solid effort the next day.
Executing the Strategy
On Day 1, start at 75% effort. Just start to move. Each day, add a little bit more effort and intensity and by the end of two weeks, you should be feeling pretty good and ready to give things your full effort.
Athletes Who Maintained Training Frequency During Quarantine
Even if you have been diligently exercising at home by running, working on bodyweight exercises and mobility, you need to observe the principles of progression when it comes to loading. You don’t want to step back in doing reps at 90+% of your back squat if you haven’t loaded heavy in the past 6-8 weeks. Even if your body is healthy and willing, your CNS probably isn’t primed for that effort, so give yourself a few weeks to get used to feeling load before jacking up the intensity.
We know you are excited to get back into your regular training but be patient as you ramp back into your program. Bodyweight and dumbbell training are excellent and should be a part of any athlete’s rotation, however if that’s solely been your plan for the past months, the same two-week progression plan (above) should be used.
Executing the Strategy
You have a couple of ways to go about this but any way you choose, Day 1 should still start around 75%. Let your body feel being under some weight again, swinging around on the rings, and the other gaps in your training in the past couple of months. If you think you can ramp backup to your regular program over a two week period then great! But if you’re concerned about too much volume as you get back to it, then consider starting with a similar program that asks a little less as far as the number of moving parts and your time spent in the gym each day. For example, if you normally follow multiple portions of the Invictus Athlete program, you might want to start with just the primary work, or if you typically follow the Competition program you may want to reduce the loading or number of sets/rounds on certain conditioning pieces for a couple of weeks to get you used to barbells and gymnastics again before upping the volume on those movements.
Probably the most important consideration – no matter which camp you’re in – is what your training has looked like during quarantine versus how it will look (or how you want it to look) when you come back into the gym. Be patient. Be smart. You’ll be back to your regular training intensity if you subdue your ego and follow the plan.