Going back to the gym (the not quite aftertimes story)

Image shows two worn dumbells with white lettering against a grey background. Photo by Cyril Saulnier on Unsplash

We’ve reached more than 30 days without an active case of COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador. My province is at level 2 in its COVID-19 reopening plans and the Atlantic bubble opens tomorrow.

I haven’t been to a gym environment since March 18, more than three and a half months.

During the lockdown, I kept moving but not in any focused way with a dedicated time slot for physical exercise.

And I was okay with that. I have been sidelined before by injuries to my hip and shoulder and I have learned to incorporate conscious movement throughout my day to compensate.

Mostly I tried skipping and yoga stretches. Now that summer is here, walking is on the agenda. If I get an appointment for my bike before the snow flies in the fall, I might get back to learning how to ride again.

But I miss the gym. I miss lifting things. I miss the chalk. I miss the bars. More than anything I miss pushing myself to do more.

I don’t really miss other people in the gym.

I realize that for me to go back to a regular gym, it will have to look very different. At my last gym, there were too many people around. I realize that too many people in my space now are more than distractions; they are sources of worry and fear. I don’t find it uplifting or motivating.

With life resuming a new pace and businesses reopening, things are different. There is a greater expectation for trust. I worked in public health for 10 years. I know what we all need to do to prevent infection and its spread. I know we have to rely on community commitment, but I also know we have to mitigate risk.

Gyms are great places for germs. Not everyone was careful about wiping down equipment in a couple of gyms I had memberships in during the before times.

It was one of the reasons I went with private training in private gyms. More control. Less worry. Less fear.

As our lives open up, we still need to be careful. My trainer is looking at options. What isn’t optional is maintaining a clean and safe space. We share that value and it makes me very happy.

The pandemic has taught me that it’s not about having access to all the wonderful equipment (you can actually do a lot with basic tools). What I really want is the direction, the instruction, the practice of training.

While I won’t be going back to a conventional gym any time soon, perhaps not at all, I know I am ready to train, to claim my time for conscious physical effort. In business there’s a saying: if 80 per cent of success is showing up, then 20 per cent is following through. When I think about the last four months, I think about the things we have lost. And yet we have also been given many other things — appreciation for boundaries, recognition of community and individual priorities, and respect for patience and peace.

Those have been good lessons and they are ones I can take with me every time I can step up to the bar. I’m ready now, to show up and to follow through. It will be different and that’s okay.

— MarthaFitat55 is a writer who trains as a powerlifter and moonlights with yoga and swimming.