This Is the Biggest Mistake You're Making When You Go Back to the Gym

If you put exercise on the back burner during quarantine, make sure you don't overdo it.

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While some people had an easier time embracing the virtual fitness classes and home workouts of quarantine life, many others may have went on an inadvertent fitness hiatus without access to their gyms and exercise studios. If you're among the latter, but find yourself anxious to get back to the gym now that reopening is underway, experts say it's crucial that you don't resume exercising as if you hadn't just taken the last few months off. In fact, they say you should only start up at 50 percent of the workout level at which you left off.

"We already are seeing new patients hobbled by overly enthusiastic recent workouts," Monica Rho, MD, an associate professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, recently told The New York Times. "You can't go from zero to 60 as soon as things open up."

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If you had a regular exercise routine that you abruptly stopped, or significantly cut back on, during the pandemic, your body will not be ready to perform at the same level of intensity when you first resume regular workouts, Rho explained. "When you haven't been exercising, you lose muscle mass," she said.

To rebuild muscle and avoid injury, instead of going full tilt right off the bat, start off doing about half of what you were doing before the hiatus and gradually working your way back up, recommends Brad Schoenfeld, an associate professor of exercise science at Lehman College in New York.

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"If you have been doing almost no training, plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of your prior workouts," Schoenfeld told The New York Times. So if you used to run five miles regularly before the pandemic, start off doing between two and three miles at moderate speed. Schoenfeld notes that this approach also applies to resistance training and weightlifting, not just cardio.

In addition to exercising patience when you get back to working out, both Rho and Schoenfeld agree that it's pivotal to listen to your body. While minor muscle twinges and soreness following the first few workouts is normal, if sudden or increasingly intense pain occurs, you should stop exercising immediately. And for another fitness pitfall to avoid, check out The One Exercise That Makes Your Coronavirus Risk Skyrocket.

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