I have been going to the gym for the past 6 years or so, usually 5 days a week, and usually in the early morning before school (then) or work (now). When COVID-19 became a reality and the gym was no longer a safe or feasible option, I was a little worried at first that I would get out of shape or lose the progress in my strength that I had gained over so many months of consistent training. Now, more than 8 months after I have set foot in a gym, I feel stronger, fitter, and more energized than I have in a long time.
I have a few main takeaways from this realization:
- K.I.S.S. One of my professors would often mention this acronym and, it turns out, there’s a lot of truth to it. It stands for “Keep it simple, stupid.” I love mixing up my routine with various exercises and different equipment, but sometimes the most straightforward exercises are the most effective and can often be effective even with no or minimal added weight. Going back to the basics can be best; for example, doing a circuit of exercises like push ups and squats.
- Listen to the body. I know intellectually the importance of rest for injury prevention and insuring adequate time for muscle recovery and subsequent muscle building. I also realize that sufficient rest and variable intensity plays a big role in allowing exercise to remain an enjoyable activity that I genuinely look forward to rather than something which I dread when my alarm goes off. When I was commuting dailyish to the gym, I was much more likely to push through soreness and fatigue when I probably would have been better off resting because I wanted to optimize my gym visit and make sure it was “worth it”. Lately I feel much more in touch with my body and embrace days of simply walking and looking at the changing leaves, gentle stretching and mini-solo-basement-dance parties (aka MSBDP from here on out), and quick workouts with light weights. Presently, I sprinkle these into my routine much more liberally than I used to and it feels like a better balance point for me.
- Less can be more when it comes to equipment. As I mentioned before, I love trying new exercises and switching up my routine, but I do fall into the trap at times of wasting 10+ minutes (of my precious ~40 min) at the gym looking for an open squat rack, experimenting with various weight machines, or walking back and forth between different gym areas for the equipment I want to use. I got accustomed to having access to thousands of pounds of weights of every shape and weight, rows of cardio machines, resistance bands, exercise mats, foam rollers and more at my fingertips at my gym. In my “home gym” (aka an empty corner of the basement) I only have a few items–2 sets of dumbbells, 1 kettlebell, 1 thick resistance band, 1 yoga mat, 1 exercise ball, 1 pull up bar. And the truth is that there is not much I truly miss from the gym. It is amazing what a kick ass workout you can get with even just 1 dumbbell and it is often much more efficient than my previous gym workouts.
Even though the Covid-19 pandemic was a forced constraint which led me to my small yet might home gym set up, I am grateful to have this new perspective and I think it will alter my approach to my workouts for many years to come.