Speaking as a former gym junkie, this quarantine has robbed some of us of a lot more than just our social lives and people skills. For those that dedicated the majority of their free time to pumping weights and chasing after the ensuing adrenaline rushes, gyms provided for them what churches do for the religious. All of us bowing before the altar of Greek gods, hoping they’d bless us with Adonis’ physique. Many of us were so dedicated that we would ignore poor sanitation standards, crowdedness around holidays, and a constant lack of enough barbells. At least until COVID-19 made most of these factors life-threatening.
Without any place to go, some opted to purchase weights to use at home or convert to solely a mix of cardio or bodyweight exercises. I myself purchased a bicycle after jogging became too monotonous, and, while I did enjoy biking through the many bike lanes available and my great improvement in endurance, there was a noticeable decrease in my muscle mass after the first few months. This translated into the lessening of overall arm strength and weight loss of around 5-8lbs. Putting my vanity aside —for the time being— I looked forward to the news that my city would be opening up its gyms, albeit obviously with strict regulations, and figured I’d be able to dive right back in; however, when the time came, I learned that things would not be so easy. For those of you in similar predicaments, here is what I learned.
Firstly, your muscles have not been trained to endure the kind of exercises your average gym rat performs in a long while. I for one used to warm up with around 50 pushups and 30 squats before even touching a free weight. As of now, I’m lucky to approach 40 and am usually too worn to even think about putting large weights on a bench press. Most of us will have to decrease our volume of intensity to accommodate until our muscle memory kicks in. On average, about three sets with repetitions on the lower end of double-digit numbers will more than suffice. Otherwise, be ready to fill your baths with Epsom salts every night to offset the strain you put on your muscles, which is the best-case scenario when taking muscle tearing into account.
You may also have noticed that your diet has changed during the quarantine. As your body wasn’t subjected to the intense strain of regular weight lifting, it no longer needed the fuel it once did. It’d be wise to start introducing a higher quantity of high protein food items like whey, lean meats, nuts, legumes, and fish as soon as possible to aid in recovery and the redevelopment of muscles. This is called ‘clean bulking: and will lead to weight gain that is mostly just muscle mass, so long as you are actually also working out. Supplements outside of your preferred protein and creatine powders are unnecessary, many studies in fact claim that one serving of chocolate milk has all the nutrients and calories needed for a pre or post-workout meal.
As for the actual mechanics, you should be sure to dedicate different muscle groups to different days of the week, with at least one day of rest in between each. Two days will tire out the same muscle and temporarily lower your mobility and also interfere with the muscle-building process. It may feel like you are beginning all over again, but you should notice a visible change in performance within a few weeks as opposed to a few months like the first time around, assuming that you have only been quarantining for a few months while still leading a somewhat active lifestyle.