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

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

Just Posted

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

North Westside residents can dispose of their unwanted bulky items between June 30 and July 14, 2021. (File photo)
North Westside residents can soon get rid of unwanted bulky items

Large household items can be disposed of at North Westside Transfer Station June 30 to July 14

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D area. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control to Electoral Area D; director calls for respectful discussion

The new Civic Memorial Park will incorporate pieces of the 80-year-old arena it replaces. (Artists rendering)
Pieces of Civic Arena reclaimed for new Vernon park

City centre space to incorporate wood from the historic arena

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Jaimee Peters photo of a Willow Midwives helping with a birth. Willow closed its doors March 31 because of a shortage of midwives. (Contributed)
South Okanagan’s only midwifery to re-open this summer

Willow Community Midwives was forced to close because of a shortage of midwives

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

Gord with a mom and her young son outside Pathways which was defunded on May 31. (Facebook)
Gord Portman with a mom and her child outside of Pathways. The sign says it all about the difference Pathways has made in people’s lives. They were defunded by Interior Health on May 31.
Penticton man takes the plunge for the recovery house that helped save his life

Gord Portman said Discovery House and Pathways have been everything in his 1 year sobriety

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Most Read