Written by Sarah Strong
As gyms start to re-open after months of being closed, it can be difficult to get back into the routine of lifting. Some of us were lucky to have home gyms during quarantine, but many of us were left without anything to lift other than random household objects (were you like me out picking up huge rocks on hiking trails?!). Getting back to the gym and back to powerlifting can be challenging. You might have to change gyms because your old favorite closed down. You might feel like you lost strength and endurance from not lifting. You might be dealing with new gym rules that are tough to get used to. Sure, there are hurdles. But you’re strong and you are going to overcome them.
The first step to get back into the gym is to physically go to the gym. Simple, right? I could talk your ears off about planning and preparing, which is great, but at the end of the day, you just need to bite the bullet and go in. Go in and talk with the gym about any new procedures and make sure you can live with them. Some things to consider:
CHILD CARE This has been a huge issue for many parents who lift. Many gyms have re-opened without opening their childcare centers. Obviously this can be a dealbreaker for going back to the gym. If you’re in this position, consider looking around at other local gyms. You might get lucky and find one with childcare or with at least a kid room. Some powerlifting gyms are kid friendly and have space for children to play safely while parents lift. If you can’t find that, other options would be a childcare trade with another parent.
AVAILABILITY Many gyms are re-opening with capacity regulations. Some are requiring members to reserve their time to lift. Others are making members wait in line outside until there is space available. If you’re short on time, this can be a hindrance. Research your gym’s policies and plan accordingly.
COVID-19 PROTOCOLS Is the gym requiring masks? What new rules are in place because of the pandemic? And are these factors a dealbreaker for you? If at the end of this evaluation you decide you’re not comfortable going back to your gym, it might be time to invest in a home gym. For tips on creating an efficient powerlifting home gym, check out my blog. And if you do not have the space for a home gym, consider finding someone local who has one. I have seen ads for people in the community renting out their home gym spaces to individuals and ensuring cleaning between renters.
After taking a break from lifting or having to change your lifting during quarantine, it might be difficult to mentally prepare for powerlifting again. THAT’S OKAY. Know that you are not alone in those feelings. In order to overcome those mental barriers, here are some tips:
ESTABLISH REALISTIC GOALS If you took months off of lifting altogether, your maxes are likely not your maxes anymore. And again, that’s okay! Don’t hold yourself to the strength you had pre-covid. Re-enter the gym with a fresh mindset and new goals. A good way to do this is to work with a knowledgeable coach who can hold you accountable and help you figure out what goals are within reach.
CHOOSE FORM OVER WEIGHT PRS It would be wise to start light and focus on form. The longer I’ve been in the sport, the more I have come to appreciate form PRs. Nail down proper, efficient technique and the weights will come.
GIVE YOURSELF GRACE I have talked with multiple athletes who are now back in the gym after months of not being able to lift. They tend to be very hard on themselves and make statements about how much strength they’ve lost. This negative mindset can derail progress. Again, be realistic about your goals and celebrate your accomplishments. We cannot live in the “well I used to lift...” mindset. Focus on the now. Focus on the future.
REMEMBER YOUR "WHY" Why did you start powerlifting in the first place? Was it for the camaraderie? Was it to compete? Was it for stress relief? Whatever the reason, hold it close and go back to it on the hard days.
ACCOUNTABILITY Even the best, most motivated athletes need some form of accountability. My first recommendation is to hire a coach because they will keep your workouts on track but also keep you accountable with form. If you can’t hire someone right now, try enlisting the help of like-minded friends. Whether these friends physically go to the gym with you or they just call or text you to encourage you, that kind of support can go a long way. Girls Who Powerlift has an online community on Facebook called Club GWPL. For more info on joining, click here.
NUTRITION During quarantine, healthy eating may have gone out the window for many people. But if you’re wanting to succeed in lifting, dialing in nutrition will help tremendously. If you don’t know where to start, reach out to a nutrition coach.
If this year has taught us anything, it’s how to adapt. Life is going to throw us off track sometimes. No one predicted a pandemic this year. Or planned for gyms to close. But we can always make our way back. I hope that you can view struggles as steps to overcome, not as barriers to stop you. We are powerlifters, and we are built to rise when life gets heavy.