This weekend indoor gyms and swimming pools re-open in the UK, after four months of closure. But how safe is it to train indoors? Hira Shah is a Personal Trainer at Nuffield Health and you may recognise her as being an Asiana Wedding Magazine cover star and catwalk showstopper. She’s glad that gyms haven’t rushed to re-open and instead have taken their time to re-adjust. She told Asianatv: “This is not something minor, it’s about the safety and importance of people’s lives. We can’t afford to take any risks. Remember, no one has dealt with this type of situation before so I’m pleased that gyms have been patient, it’s allowed them to get prepared behind-the-scenes: going to the gym now will be a different experience to life pre-Covid-19.”
If you’re a gym bunny eager to get back, or are just fed-up of feeling like a couch potato and are keen join a fitness class, is it safe to do so? We asked Hira to share her advice on how to approach going back to the gym post-lockdown.
1. Go when it’s right for you
At Nuffield where I work and at many other gyms too, we’re re-opening on Saturday but we’re offering members the chance to freeze their membership for anyone who perhaps doesn’t yet feel confident to go back and that’s totally fine.
No gym should re-open unless all the safety measures are in place. This includes reducing the number of people allowed in the gym at any one time (advance booking is advised), shorter fitness classes, a session that was 45 minutes may now be half an hour, markings on the floor so that you maintain your distance from others, and of course everyone wiping down their equipment, as well as enhanced cleaning by professional cleaners overnight.
As long as the gym does their part and members following the guidelines then I’m confident that it’s safe. However, I think you shouldn’t go back because someone tells you to – go when you personally feel confident.
I’ve told many of my clients who are feeling nervous to let others return first, hear what they have to say about the experience and if you then feel confident, go in for a session.
2. Follow the guidelines
If you’re a sociable person you’re probably looking forward to seeing your friends again and naturally you’ll want to get close to them for a proper catch up, but be mindful of this. Social distancing must be adhered to.
Similarly just as the gym is undertaking special measures, consider what you can do to make the gym safer for everyone. Always clean your equipment after use; you’d expect someone to do the same for you. Take your own water in a bottle and yoga mat. Arrive dressed for your session to reduce the need to go to a changing room and avoid using the showers. Keep in mind that staff will be more vigilant, no more sneaking into fitness classes that you haven’t booked for!
3. Don’t over do it
Be honest with yourself. If you haven’t done any or only limited exercise for the last four months then you can’t go straight back into a vigorous regime. For a start, you risk being injured. Give your body a chance to ease back in. Start by going for a walk and then do low-impact exercises. This could mean opting for lower weights, working out for shorter times and certainly not going straight into a physically demanding HIIT Class.
Once you’ve eased your way in then you can start to work out for longer and do more intensity. Similarly, review what you’re eating. If you’ve been at home snacking more than you did pre-lockdown, it’s time to go back to healthy eating.
4. Exercise outdoors
Training alfresco has been allowed for a few weeks now and I’ve been back running regular sessions for my clients. There are so many benefits to exercising outdoors and if you’re not yet feeling confident to train indoors then this is a good option for you.
The benefits of exercising outdoors are multiple and I’m a big fan. I lead my sessions in a local country park and the setting is so glorious that on many occasions in my circuits class my clients want to continue when the session is over. I make the location as much a part of the workout as the exercises and I encourage my clients to look at the clouds and trees, it’s so liberating. If you’ve not tried an outdoor class before, the summer is the perfect time to give one a go.
5. Try online fitness
One of the positive things that lockdown has shown us is that there are many exercises we can do at home without having gym equipment. Bodyweight exercises like squats and push-ups don’t require them. However, it is good to have guidance to make sure you’re doing your exercises properly. Over lockdown I held fitness classes on Zoom, which you’ll find on my YouTube channel and they were really useful for when I couldn’t meet up with clients and for giving other people an opportunity to try exercising at home. Online videos are also a great way to keep fit in an environment you feel safe in.
6. Book a session with a Personal Trainer
If you’re not feeling ready to go to a public gym and you’ve tried online classes but miss being with someone in real life then book a personal trainer. PT sessions can be carried out safely with social distancing, you won’t feel intimidated by other people and best of all you’ll get the full attention of an expert who will ensure you do each technique accurately to get the maximum benefits.
Whatever you do, don’t stop being active. There are so many options: walking, cycling, swimming, online classes, going to the gym. The longer you leave it the harder it will be. My advice is to stand up now, have a good stretch and decide which type of exercise you’d like to try first!
Follow Hira Shah on Instagram and keep an eye on Asiana.tv for her exclusive workout videos coming soon.
Interview: Momtaz Begum-Hossain