Don’t stand, don’t stand so; don’t stand so close to me…

This week is probably the most painful week that I had had since the lockdown eight weeks ago. Don’t get me wrong; it’s nothing to do with work or the mental drain from excessive hours. But it’s my body which felt so achy and sore because I got back to the gym on Monday after seven weeks of lockdown. However, the pain was somewhat satisfying. Reluctantly stopping the gym before lockdown and eagerly going back to it after weeks of not being active is like plunging into an ice-cold bath.

You’re reminded of the aftermath days later! I’ve always used this analogy because the shooting cold up your spine when you are in an ice-cold bath resembles the pain from the enormous amount of lactic acid being produced and accumulated in your muscles after a long-overdue workout. Just when you think that your body is getting used to the cold and not feeling the pain; you hop out of the bath and the wind chill factor starts to kick in. It makes you wonder whether stopping the gym was a good idea because you just feel so sluggish when no workout is being done. Many people would agree that’s the worst feeling of all. For me, it is something that I’m used to, and I have trained myself over the years to love that feeling. Quite frankly, I think everyone should have that feeling regularly.

The problem with our bodies is that they’re too smart. They’re so adaptable, and yet this is our downfall because our body can quite comfortably get used to any routine. Getting used to a routine is not good at all when it comes down to exercise and achieving health goals. Your body requires constant challenges for it to function effectively and efficiently. From a non-crazy perspective, it is reassuring to feel the pain because it is merely a way of telling you that you have given your 100% in your workout.

One thing I always tell my patients is not to work out for months and then go back to it at full speed. The crime I see many people in the gym commit – whether it’s the first day back from holiday or after months of un-fit routine – is overworking their body to try to compensate the lost time in the gym.

Simply do not expect your body to perform after a period of inactiveness. Just like myself on my first day back to the gym, I didn’t try to lift the same weights as I was doing prior the lockdown because of 2 reasons; 1) my body can’t handle it, and 2) I’ll put myself at risk of injuries if I do.

Your body is like your car; you can turn it on in the morning and rev it up to 3,500 RPM hoping it to warm it up faster. But in reality, the engine of your car will wear out more quickly because you are not letting the fluids reach optimal operating temperature, adding stress to the engine’s metal. So, go easy at the gym and give your body at least a week before you consider reaching full speed.

I’m sure many of you enjoy a good workout and are probably hankering to get back into the game if you have not done so already. Many of you might wonder whether it is safe to hit the gym. This is an excellent question. To be honest, whether you hit the gym or not is a personal decision. However, one thing I do say is that if you are over the age of 65 or have a high-risk medical condition or a weakened immune system, it may be worth delaying the gym for the time being only because of the higher risk of being in close proximity with other gym-goers. Consider doing some bodyweight exercises at home. Getting a good workout doesn’t require fancy equipment. You could get a decent workout with what you have already had at home.

If you’ve decided it’s time to go back to the gym, then you must know what you need to do to stay as safe as possible. Have a conversation with your gym manager. Ask about their disinfectant practices. How often do they disinfect the weights and machines? What have they done to ensure gym-goers are maintaining social distancing? I’m sure your local gym is doing the best to try to keep you safe. However, if you still feel uneasy, then it may be worth finding another gym or working out from home, at least for now.

Speaking of social distancing, when I was in the gym on Monday, I dutifully observed social distancing guidelines. However, what I noticed was that the buff guy next to me was huffing and puffing while he was doing barbell squats. Considering he was probably only 1 meter or less away from me, and we shared the same air, it made me felt a little uneasy. However, nothing could prepare us what happened next is that he did not sanitise the sweaty barbell and weights he was using. This made me annoyed that he could potentially expose everyone else in the gym with COVID-19 if he were a carrier when everyone else is doing their best to maintain social distancing and sanitise the equipment they use.

What the seven weeks of lockdown have taught us is that social distancing and personal sanitisation practice works. Unfortunately, even if you obey the rules and are strict with the concept of practising social distancing, the chances are that there is a small group of people that screw it up for everyone.

What I’ve noticed since we entered level 2 is that although many of us seem to understand the need for social distancing to prevail in the battle against COVID-19, many people are being less careful and not observing the 2-meter distance guidelines. I know it’s tempting to confront a stranger about their social distancing practices. However, at the end of the day, everyone has a very different view of what constitutes a safe and effective social distancing. We usually believe that confrontation is needed in a situation like this. However, confronting a person is complicated and sometimes it could have the opposite effect. What’s worse is that during the confrontation process, you are not only prolonging contact with the person but could potentially trigger a violent reaction. Instead of taking the matter in your hand, why not express your concerns to the manager of your gym?

During times like these, we tend to resort to judging and assuming the worst in others. Who wouldn’t feel that way when other people’s level of sacrifice doesn’t match yours? When you are going out your way to make sure everyone in the community is a little safer during the pandemic, you then start seeing someone huffing and puffing next to you, and not taking any precautions is hugely frustrating.

To not let this frustration, take over your thoughts and actions, it is imperative to make the kindest interpretation for why others aren’t being as cautious as you are when it comes to maintaining social distancing. A lot of the times is not that they are “selfish” and “self-centred.” They might just have a different interpretation of risk and think they’re doing a great job of social distancing. For example, they might think of standing close to you in the supermarket it is okay because they are wearing a mask. For whatever reasons they might have, try not to judge others about their reasons. By not judging, you’ll feel less upset by their behaviours. At the end of the day, it is tough to change your behaviour, let alone change others. Sometimes we just have to focus on what is in your control instead even though the amount of control is limited.

To you and your family’s health