Gyms Reopening in Mumbai: Experts Share Tips on How to Stay Safe

By Anindita Paul | Mumbai

Updated: 26 October, 2020 11:51 IST

As gymnasiums and fitness clubs reopen, experts share key pointers to ensure your workouts are safe and injury-free

Fitness enthusiasts have reason to rejoice as gyms across the city reopen, after seven months. Many Mumbaikars, eager to work off the weight they've put on, are raring to get back in shape. However, experts caution that rushing headlong into your neglected fitness routine could do more harm than good. "Don't expect your body to have the same strength and cardiovascular capacity after such a long break. Consider your first day at the gym as the starting point. Don't compare yourself with your pre-pandemic strength levels," advises Swapneel Hazare, strength and conditioning coach at Shield Fitness."

Start from scratch

Dr Siddhant Bhargava, a fitness scientist at Food Darzee recommends focusing on enforcing good habits such as consuming a well-balanced diet and getting back to the gym routine during the first week. "Graft in your fitness sessions in the second and third weeks," he says. Hazare suggests starting out by improving your muscle endurance and slowly progressing to increasing muscle strength. "Similarly, build your aerobic capacity by slowly increasing your mileage by about 10 per cent every week. When you resume working out, expect to experience Delayed Onset Muscle Syndrome, which will cause muscle soreness and stiffness. With consistent workouts, the soreness and stiffness will reduce, and your recovery will be faster. Take breaks between your sets and exercises to give your body enough time to recover. Gradually, build muscle memory over time by repeating movement patterns. Focus more on your form and technique rather than lifting heavier weights. Finally, learn to understand your body — if you feel strong and recovered after training, progress every two or three weeks by increasing the number of sets, reps or weight, or decreasing your rest period between sets," he advises.

Siddhant Bhargava

Exercise scientist Benafsha Gazdar emphasises not skipping your warm-up and mobility routines and cool down stretches. If necessary, seek the advice of a certified trainer or fitness coach who can customise your training plan to meet your fitness goals and spot you during heavy lifts.

Fitness instructor Varun Pande suggests experimenting with alternative training methods such as calisthenics and isometric exercises that strengthen your body and can be practised anywhere. "Ideally, your regimen should include light-weighted universal body part sets, instead of isolation movements. Keep your body hydrated to avoid muscle cramps. Also, focus on proper breathing techniques to maintain optimum cardio-respiratory health," he says.

Swapneel Hazare

Pande cautions against trying to emulate any social media challenges that will crop up as gyms reopen. Since your resting heart rate is higher right now due to a sedentary lifestyle over the past few months, do not train at 100 per cent like your previous capacity — exertion or failure of your muscles should not be the aim before starting a new set, he adds. Finally, avoid spiking caffeine and taurine intake for assisted adrenaline and heightened focus levels. If you have not been taking supplements during the lockdown, gradually increase your dosage as per your body's response.

Safety first

If you suffer from pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, or are pregnant, Dr Bhargava recommends skipping the gym. These conditions dampen your immunity, making you more prone to risk of infection. "Avoid wearing a mask during high-intensity workouts because it will act as a barrier to air flow and might increase your heart rate quickly. This may cause you to tire easily and make it difficult to catch your breath. You might experience dizziness," warns Dr Amit Kumar Shah, a consultant physician at AXIS Hospital, advising that you consult the gym instructor before doing so.

Varun Pande

Doing too much too soon can cause chronic pain, torn ligaments, and snapped wrists, says Dr Umesh Shetty, a senior orthopaedic surgeon at AXIS Hospital. "Lifting heavy weights elevates your blood pressure and can cause life-threatening aneurysms. If you haven't been exercising at all during the lockdown, make sure you seek medical advice before hitting the gym. If you suffer from arthritic pain, extend your warm-ups and cool-downs, as these enhance the production of lubricating fluid that facilitate easy movement. Stop exercising and consult a doctor if a new pain arises," he reminds.

Gym checklist

. Carry your own water bottle, towel, gym shoes, mask/face shield, yoga mat and belt bag (for your belongings)
. Wear gloves and arm sweatbands for minimal touch
. Disinfect machines before and after use with sanitisers
. Arrive on time, and leave soon after your workout
. Check if you need to sign a health undertaking. Enquire about time slots and the number of people allowed at the same time. At the gym, check if social distancing is practised

I'm adapting my fitness goals

Maria Kurkova, a 31 year-old-teacher, was doing weight training before the lockdown. "I will only commit to a gym that is enforcing rules and guidelines. To minimise risk of injury, I will not attempt new exercises or heavy weights. I will also balance my strength, cardio, and HIIT trainings, while extending my warm-ups and cool-downs because I followed a sedentary lifestyle," she shares.

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First Published: 26 October, 2020 09:12 IST

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