Although I might not look like it, I’ve been a regular gym-goer for the past 15 years and during lockdown, being unable to go to the gym was the second most difficult thing to deal with for me, second only to not being able to hug or spend time with my family and friends.
Some of you will already be familiar with my story, but for those who don’t know, the inspiration behind me starting this blog was a snowboarding accident. I broke my back and it was a very long and painful road back to recovery, and during that time, being unable to go to my usual body pump classes and do my usual workouts left me feeling terrible.
The depression that I had spent many years free from resurfaced and the pain was constant and draining. The doctors wrote me off, simply telling me to work less and adjust my expectations of what I was physically capable of doing.
Thankfully I’m stubborn and not for one moment did I accept that my life was now one limited by chronic pain and disability. Weight-bearing exercise was excruciating, my range of motion far too limited to do any of the classes I used to do, so just as I was considering cancelling my gym membership, I decided to give swimming a try, and it changed my life.
Even now, several years on, regular swimming is the only thing that reduces the chances of my back and hip from locking up and keeps my pain down to a mostly manageable level.
Your gym needs you more than ever
I know there are thousands of struggling businesses out there, and you might have different priorities and that’s OK.
If you’re waiting until this has all gone away, until there’s a vaccine or until you just feel less worried, your gym might not still be there for you to go back to.
I’m not trying to say that gyms are more worthy of your patronage than any of the other struggling businesses out there.
What I am saying, is that if you’re waiting until this has all gone away, until there’s a vaccine or until you just feel less worried, your gym might not still be there for you to go back to.
Duncan Bannatyne has been in the news recently after issuing a stark plea to the Scottish government, stating that he was close to having to close all 11 of his gyms in Scotland for good, putting some 600 jobs at risk.
Bannatynes is a relatively large gym chain, but as we’ve seen from all the businesses that have already gone under, the size of a business is no guarantee that they have enough capital in the bank to keep their businesses afloat indefinitely.
If a big chain is issuing such a stark warning, then what about all the smaller local independent gyms?
Alternative exercise options
Some people have turned to running outdoors, or have found that other forms of exercise are just as effective and perhaps even more convenient or suited to them as individuals and for those of you that have taken up a new form of exercise and kept it up and who don’t miss the gym, then I’m happy for you, I really am. If you feel liberated and like you no longer need to go to the gym, then obviously, that’s the right decision for you.
We’ve all had to adapt to get through the last few months and desperate as I was to alleviate the growing back pain, I took up open water swimming, but I can do this at most twice a week.
Even though I love it and am keeping it up now I’m back at the gym, on its own, it’s no substitute for being able to swim more frequently at my gym so there was never any question of me switching to my new lockdown fitness routine permanently and turning my back on my gym membership.
Of course for those who have sadly lost their jobs, or like me, who were furloughed, money has or continues to be tight, and of course, I recognise that I am lucky to be in a situation where I can afford to reactivate my gym membership, I know that’s just not the case for everyone.
What’s it like to go back to the gym post lockdown?
I understand too that some people are worried about how safe it is to go back, but I reactivated my gym membership on Thursday morning. By Thursday lunchtime I was at the gym in the pool. The social distancing measures, enhanced cleaning and many other very visible measures that had been implemented at my gym gave me full confidence in my decision to return.
I still can’t understand why people seem to be happily flocking to pubs and restaurants and non-essential shops to buy cheap throwaway fashion, but somehow returning to the gym is regarded as riskier.
Yes there is shared equipment, but everything is easy to wipe down before and after use, classes are still running with good social distancing between participants and of course swimming pools are open.
At my gym, masks are worn in communal areas, there are one way systems in place and everyone who enters has their temperature taken; these are measures that most gyms have introduced and so I don’t feel that my chances of contracting Covid-19 is any higher at the gym than in my local supermarket.
Support your gym, if you can
As I write this, it’s Saturday morning, and I’ve been to the gym again this morning. From my point of view, the fact that the gym has been super quiet on both visits in the last 3 days is a huge advantage, it’s always so much nicer working out or swimming when numbers are low, and in a post-lockdown landscape, low numbers are reassuring, but also indicative of the problem facing businesses like my gym.
After my swim I bought a snack and I booked a massage in the spa, partly because I’m able to do that, but also because I know that without paying customers, no business can continue to exist. Whilst shops, pubs and restaurants closing is one thing, I know that for me personally, the closure of my gym would leave a huge hole that’s impossible to fill.
Being away from the gym during lockdown proved one very simple truth to me. My regular gym routine is part of my mental health arsenal and it plays a critical role in my wellbeing.
I tried YouTube workouts at home, I got my bike out, I went walking, I even took up open water swimming, but none of these things gave me the structure or kind of feel-good factor I get from regularly attending my gym.
I’m glad I chose to reactivate my gym membership and I’m happy doing my own little bit to try and support the gym that has felt like me second home for well over a decade.
If you’re in a position to reactivate your gym membership, then please, consider doing it sooner rather than later – your gym needs you now more than ever.
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