Many people are wondering how to re-establish a workout routine after fitness centers that were closed for the Covid-19 pandemic are opening back up. Besides the added precautions of wearing masks, wiping down the equipment, and maintaining social distance, we must be careful about jumping back into physical activity after a prolonged break in our routine and potentially causing injuries to our bodies.
It can be discouraging and overwhelming when thinking about getting back into shape after not having the availability of a well-equipped gym. The key is to start slowly. Rebuilding strength, mobility, and cardio endurance takes time. From my own pre-Covid experience, let me describe how not to go about restarting a workout:
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the gym and lately, I’ve had a little voice in my head telling me I really need to start exercising again and get in better shape. I can usually shut that little voice up with massive quantities of chocolate and lie down until the urge to exercise goes away. However, my twelve-year-old son has been bugging me to take him to the gym so he can build up his muscles for football. He weighs all of eighty pounds. I keep telling him he has to be at least bigger than the cheerleaders. But I finally gave in and succumbed a few weeks ago. However, let me be clear—just because I have gone back to the gym doesn’t mean I have to like it.
We started out on the ellipticals. After about five minutes, my son informed me he was done. He’d done his twenty miles. I looked over at his machine and gently explained that the distance read 0.2 miles. Back to the drudgery of my own elliptical, while I watched the little distance indicator move at a snail’s pace. After finally doing my mile in the record time of thirty minutes, I was rather proud of myself. Next, my son dragged me over to the free weights, where sweaty, grunting, muscle men pumped iron. I felt a little out of place among these body-builders, with my scrawny, saggy old lady arms and legs, as I grabbed the five-pound weights. But, hey, at least nobody else was using them. I would have used two-pound weights, but five pounds were the lowest weights available. And at least nobody had sweated all over them.
After a brutal five minutes, we headed into the equipment room, where we could spot treat our problem areas. I sat down at the first machine, designed to strengthen the shoulders and upper back. They had set the weight load to one hundred pounds. With a little embarrassment, I moved it to ten pounds. After ten reps, I was huffing and puffing and ready to move on, so I sauntered over to the quadriceps machine, where a guy sat, busily texting.
It boggles my mind when I see people sitting around on the Nautilus equipment wasting time texting instead of working out. Especially if I want to use that piece of equipment. Seriously, what is so important that must be posted right at that minute? Sometimes I receive Facebook posts that So-and-So is at the gym. I love it (not) when I get Facebook pictures of So-and-So at the gym. My first thought is who cares? My second thought is why is So-and-So posting selfies of himself (herself) at the gym instead of actually working out? Besides, who wants to receive pictures of sweaty, out-of-shape people in skimpy work-out clothes?
I don’t know about you, but when I go to the gym—which takes a tremendous amount of willpower just to force my contented body off the sofa, into exercise clothes, and out the door—I want to get in, do what I have to do, and get out so I can get back to the sofa as soon as possible. I don’t want to text or post selfies. Yes, I grudgingly admit I always feel better after working out. However, I don’t particularly want to spend any more time doing so than I absolutely have to. As I leave the gym and see people coming in, I always think to myself, haha, I’m done and you’re not!
The man on the quadriceps machine ignored my overt hovering, which is why my quadriceps are still in such awful shape. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Because of that guy, my quadriceps didn’t get their turn to cry out, “Enough already! Have mercy on us!” So now I am walking around with unbalanced muscles. My gluteals, hamstrings, and calves got a great work-out, but my quadriceps, zilch. Can you just see my legs? I probably look like that guy in the Liberty Mutual commercial with the bulging calves. All my toned muscles are in the back of my legs with nothing to balance them in the front. If I was less of a pacifist introvert, I might have been tempted to say something snarky to him, but I’m too nice to do that, which is why I’m taking out my frustration at the computer instead of the gym.
I finally gave up and moved on to the crunch machine for abdominal muscles. I always hated crunches. This time was no exception, as I think I tore something. There’s no obvious hernia, however, I just have to lay off that machine until the burning sensation in my lower left abdomen goes away. After a few other exercises, my son grew bored and was ready to leave. The texter was still on the quadriceps machine not using it to exercise.
As we passed the room with the ellipticals on our way out, I tried the stair stepper, as I still hadn’t worked my weak quads. I turned on the machine, set the pace, and climbed step after step. Everything was going great until I tripped on my own feet and fell down the moving steps, banging both my shins. It has been several weeks now, and I still have big black and blue lumps on both legs. But you know what they say, “No pain, no gain!”
Award-winning author, Ellen Fannon, is a practicing veterinarian, former missionary, and church pianist/organist. She originated and wrote the Pet Peeves column for the Northwest Florida Daily News before taking a two-year assignment with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. She and her husband have also been foster parents for over 40 children, and the adoptive parents of two sons. Her first novel, Other People’s Children, is the humorous account of the life of a foster parent.
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