It can be hard to get back into the swing of things.

For many of us, particularly myself, the gym is a second home. Prior to the COVID-19 shutdowns, I went to my gym four to five times a week, always ready to cap off my workday or start my weekend mornings with a good sweat. I love the gym for its trainers, the friendly chats with the regulars, and the knowledge that I'm doing something great for my body and overall health. Last March, that all went away overnight.

I made the best of the situation by watching home workouts over YouTube with makeshift weights and old exercise bands while limiting my caloric intake. It was better than nothing, but I was losing my mind. The gym has always been my refuge from stressful situations—from rough days at work to heart-rending breakups. With pandemic-induced stress seeping into every aspect of my life, I couldn't go to the one place that would make it all better, if only for an hour. 

With gyms now opening back up under certain guidelines and regulations, it's not only important to follow the new rules, but also the rules of getting your body back in business. Below are a few tips to help ease yourself back into your routine and get on your way towards peak condition. 

1. Don't do too much too soon.

Start your routine with flexibility-enhancing movements such as yoga and stretching to get your blood flowing. Next, add in cardio and then, after a week, you can graduate onto strength training. When it comes to incorporating weights into your workouts, aim for 8-12 reps at a weight that's not too heavy but not too light.  

2. Listen to your body.

If a weight is too heavy or you're not able to maintain perfect form, go down a few pounds. The last thing you need is to get injured on your first day back at the gym. If a movement hurts or you start to feel dizzy, cease the activity immediately. Depending on your pre-pandemic health situation, you may need to visit your doctor to see if you have any underlying issues that could be exacerbated by exercise. 

3. Start with the basics.

We're not at the gym to play catch-up, we're here to make ourselves healthy. Don't feel like you need to run a marathon on the treadmill or do intense plyometrics right away. Start with a light jog, curls, squats, chest presses, and sit-ups to get your body used to more movement and conditioning. 

4. Set goals.

We all had goals at the start of 2020 which are now about as useful as a screendoor on a submarine. Don't beat yourself up for not making your goal weight or not achieving a certain amount of pull-ups. Make a goal each day to get a certain amount of steps or squats or see how long you can hold a plank. These little victories will make you crave more and you'll be on track to getting to where you used to be.

5. Always remember your rest days.

I know, it feels like we've had months full of rest days during lockdown, but your body still needs rest after workouts. Muscles grow and repair at rest, so enjoy a day off from the gym and curl up with a good book or TV show. 

Have any good post-lockdown workout tips? Let us know in the comments!