I have some good news and some bad news. Let’s do the bad news first.
Upon returning from my month-long vacation and hitting the gym, I promptly threw out my low back. It’s so stupid—I wasn’t even doing back exercises. I felt my back seize up while I was doing overhead extensions for my triceps. A rusty back is vulnerable in all positions.
The good news is that this injury is actually proof that my low back recovery program works. I’ve enjoyed stability and mobility—for as long as I’ve been consistent with it.
As I get older, I’ve discovered that the calculus changes around taking time off from the gym. When you’re younger, long layoffs are great because you come back refreshed, stronger, and pain free. As you age, coming back from a long layoff means standing at the bottom of a steep slope, looking up at your prior level of conditioning.
Nevertheless, if you’ve remained active during your layoff, you can climb this hill quickly. The return from significant downtime actually gives you a bit of the Novice Effect, where your body makes fast, noticeable gains before you hit your adaptation plateau.
In fact, unless you’ve assembled a gym at home, we’ve all faced in the past couple years a return to the gym after substantial time away.
Here are 10 things I learned about fitness during lockdown when the gyms were closed:
10) You can miss the gym for a couple months and build back pretty fast to where you left off.
9) You can jump rope just fine without watching yourself in a mirror.
8) Taking a break from weight training stops injuries from weight training.
7) I’ve accumulated a lot of home exercise equipment over the years that can be dusted off during unprecedented government restrictions.
6) I need to buy even more home exercise equipment to be ready for the next time the government introduces movement restrictions.
5) There are good bodyweight exercises that should be part of your regular workout when you return to the gym. Here are five exercises you can do to strengthen your low back from home.
4) Running the stairs in my apartment building is killer cardio.
3) Without a gym, it’s a challenge to find effective exercises for back and shoulders.
2) I can simulate hitting the heavy bag by going outside and punching the trunk of a big tree.
1) You should never take a trip to the gym for granted.