FILE – A fitness class takes place at Delta Train Liberty Village in Toronto, Friday, July 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Body changes, lost progress: mental hurdles face gym-goers as facilities reopen

While gyms are open for business, it’s not exactly business as usual

Sean Barron had been working out five days a week at a London, Ont., gym before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down fitness facilities across the country in March.

It wasn’t long into lockdown that he felt the flabbiness expanding around his midsection, and the progress he had built up over 2 1/2 years slipping away.

“I was doing really well working with (a personal trainer), seeing a lot of results, so it was a very frustrating time for all this to happen,” Barron said. “And then being at home, I was just getting too comfortable.

“Working from home, eating at home, having the kids at home. It was really tough to get into a routine.”

Barron has been back to his gym almost daily since it reopened three weeks ago, slowly ramping back up his fitness level. And despite feeling frustrated over his setbacks — and the extra 10 pounds he had gained during lockdown — he didn’t hesitate jumping back into gym life.

“I missed it like crazy,” he said.

Any concern Barron had about returning to a public fitness centre with a pandemic still lingering were assuaged by added safety measures at the facility, including spread-out equipment and machines, increased sanitization and widespread use of face coverings.

Those types of precautions are commonplace in gyms since they started reopening across Canada.

British Columbia was first to open its fitness doors in mid-May and Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia followed in early June. Quebec and Newfoundland opened their facilities later that month and most of Ontario opened mid-July, though some regions, like the Greater Toronto Area, were held back until last week.

Gretchen Kerr, a professor in kinesiology and physical education at the University of Toronto, says people will react differently to gym reopenings. Some won’t have any qualms about returning, while others will hold off until the pandemic subsides further.

But those going back to pre-pandemic routines have likely noticed changes in their bodies since March, Kerr added, and there are going to be learning curves as people start back up after a lengthy layoff.

While some, like Barron, can use body changes as motivation, Kerr says that can be a tougher challenge for others to overcome.

“For people who are fit, we remember how tough it was to get fit and get to the point where we enjoyed (working out),” Kerr said. “You need a certain level of fitness to reach that enjoyment, otherwise working out is really tough.

“And I think we’re going to be reliving that in some ways, going back to: oh my gosh, this is hard again.”

READ MORE: ‘We can’t just retreat’ during COVID-19 isolation, says Surrey fitness expert

Camille Charbonneau, a mental performance consultant in Montreal, says loss of progress will be hard for some to deal with.

It’s also an easy trap to fall into mentally.

“The main hurdle I’m seeing is my clients are always comparing themselves to where they were three, four months ago,” Charbonneau said. “They’re excited to be back but they have a lot of negative thoughts like: ‘can I push this weight again? And if I can’t why not?’”

Charbonneau says accepting changes in fitness levels and adjusting goals to fit realistic expectations for your current body are ways to help manage disappointment.

That might mean spending three to four weeks reacquainting your body with the types of workouts you used to do, she said, adding that ramping up too quickly can lead to injury.

“It’s normal to be feeling this way to have these negative thoughts,” Charbonneau said. “But I tell clients: let’s focus on your journey and your progress and forget where you were before because that’s not where you are now.”

While gyms are open for business, it’s not exactly business as usual — especially not for those who view working out as a social experience.

Group fitness classes will be limited if offered at all, and chatting with staff and other gym-goers can be risky at a time when people are expected to keep a safe distance from others.

Kerr says that lack of social interaction was part of the problem with online home workouts people turned to during lockdown.

While some will always prefer to keep their sweat sessions solo, Kerr says there is value in group fitness activities.

“Many of us were missing the social benefits of fitness. We haven’t had that kind of social aspect during the pandemic.”

While home workouts helped some people maintain routine and progress, Charbonneau said they often weren’t enough to advance a fitness regimen.

And dietary changes — with many of us eating or drinking more than usual while stuck at home — often compounded the problem.

Getting back to pre-pandemic shape will be tougher for some people than others, Charbonneau said, but it can be done.

“It really depends on the person’s foundation and how long they’ve been training,” she said. “But people will have to throw their egos out the window and not expect anything right now.

“Just do things safely and it will come back very quickly if they continue.”

Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusFitness

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Editorial: More LKB neighbours leads to more understanding

“Both proposals for Kinsmen Park serve each party’s stakeholders well. Each has the intention of strengthening and growing community. But only one truly offers a chance to heal the past and change the narrative for the future.”

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

Creston’s temporary worker camp for cherry-pickers wraps up for season

The camp provided accommodations for up to 50 temporary workers during the cherry-picking season

Creston RCMP report: 62 calls for assistance from Sept. 14 to 21

On Sept. 18, police attended to a report of a male causing a disturbance at a Creston business after he was denied use of the washroom facilities

Creston Fire Rescue report: 10 calls for action between Sept. 14 and 21

CFR responded to a carbon monoxide alarm in the area of Regina Street on Sept. 20, and found moderate levels of carbon monoxide after searching the residence with a gas monitor

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Vancouver Island sailor stranded in U.S. hospital after suffering massive stroke at sea

Oak Bay man was attempting to circumnavigate the world solo

Most Read