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

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

Just Posted

Two Kelowna flights have been flagged as having COVID-19 cases on board. (Black Press Media file photo)
COVID-19 cases on several Kelowna flights

The flights were on Nov. 19, 22, 24 and 27, according to the BC Centre for Disease Control

This microscope image made available by the National Cancer Institute Center for Cancer Research in 2015 shows human colon cancer cells with the nuclei stained red. On Friday, May 29, 2020, doctors are reporting success with newer drugs that control certain types of cancer better, reduce the risk it will come back and make treatment simpler and easier to bear. (NCI Center for Cancer Research via AP)
Vernon families give $200,000 towards cancer care in Kelowna

First ever chair in brachytherapy supported by Popowich and Bannister families

Paramedic Jason Manuel, dressed in PPE, inspects an ambulance at Station 341 on Nov. 30. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Second wave, twice the anxiety; Okanagan paramedics reflect on pandemic from the front line

‘I don’t know who that (next) person is going to be, I don’t want it to be me or my family’: Paramedic

Mission Creek Regional Park. (File Photo)
RDCO cancels in-person park programs due to COVID-19

The regional district said it supports the efforts to reduce the virus’ spread

(Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
COVID-19 cases at 4 more Central Okanagan schools

The Central Okanagan School District is confirming positive COVID-19 cases

JoeAnna’s House pictured in 2019. The house has been in operation for a year. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)
JoeAnna’s House celebrates its one-year anniversary

It’s been one year since JoeAnna’s House opened its doors to helping families

Melissa David, of Parachutes for Pets and her dogs Hudson and Charlie are trying to raise money for a homeless shelter that will allow pets and are seen in Calgary, Alta., Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘My only wish:’ Children asking pet charity to help their furry friends at Christmas

Parachutes for Pets says it has received 14 letters from children in the last week t

Melissa Velden and her chef-husband Chris Velden, stand in their dining room at the Flying Apron Inn and Cookery in Summerville, N.S. on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. The couple is hosting holiday parties with appropriate distancing and other COVID-19 health protocols in place at their restaurant. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Celebrities, Santa and Zoom part of office holiday parties being held amid COVID-19

Many will send tokens of appreciation to workers or offer time off or cash

Police responded to W.L. Seaton Secondary after reports of young man attempting to smash car windows in the student parking lot on Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2019. (Facebook)
Case of COVID-19 at North Okanagan high school

Member of W.L. Seaton Secondary exposure Nov. 26

The aftermath of the 3 a.m. fire in Keremeos. (Keremeos Fire Department)
Fire and explosion wakes Keremeos residents

A motorhome was consumed and a boat severely damaged after the 3 a.m. fire

A demonstrator wears representations of sea lice outside the Fisheries and Oceans Canada offices in downtown Vancouver Sept. 24, demanding more action on the Cohen Commission recommendations to protect wild Fraser River sockeye. (Quinn Bender photo)
First Nations renew call to revoke salmon farm licences

Leadership council implores use of precautionary principle in Discovery Islands

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps poses for a photo with his parents Amanda Sully and Adam Deschamps in this undated handout photo. Ten-month-old Aidan Deschamps was the first baby in Canada to be diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy through Ontario’s newborn screening program. The test was added to the program six days before he was born. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Children’s Hospital Eastern Ontario *MANDATORY CREDIT*
First newborn tested for spinal muscular atrophy in Canada hits new milestones

‘If Aidan had been born any earlier or anywhere else our story would be quite different’

Most Read