Mizar Fuentes-Ortega not only has a number of clients who were forced to train from home, he as a former CrossFit Games Regionals competitor, also had to train from home. And, like so many, Mizar is preparing to get back into the gym as the phased reopening of states (and provinces) begins. I wanted to pick his brain about some of the keys for people to think about as they come back into the gym after a long layoff.
A small caveat - we know that many people have been training from home in some capacity, but from our experience most people have had to keep the intensity of their training, be it maximal weights or very high effort painful workouts, to a minimum while they were under lock down orders. We will assume that training from home or not getting to train at all are similar in terms of the reduction of intensity.
What do you need to do physically to successfully come back to the gym properly and without injury?
Mizar kicked off our conversation by talking about the mental side of coming back to the gym. Many people need to examine why they are training prior to coming back to the gym. There is such a big desire for most fitness athletes to want to get back into the gym and “go ham” day one. That can lead to disaster for many people, however.
A number of people who were locked down, though still stressed in different ways, actually found great rhythm in their days whether that rhythm was eating meals at the same time, getting to bed and waking up at consistent times, cooking their food, and taking their time. That rhythm really changed their outlook on training because they began to see just how important the BLG’s - basic lifestyle guidelines - were/are to their ongoing success. These folks often wanted to ensure that they came back to the gym in a measured way so that they could keep that rhythm. Some of them actually are choosing to train some or all of their sessions at home still because they realized how much time they saved vs going to the gym. They found a net stress relief.
Some people, unfortunately people who fell into economic challenges or parents with children, often found that their stress levels increased because their daily responsibilities grew a lot. However, it still meant that they needed to find their on rhythm and BLG’s.
Whatever bucket you fall into, you need to ask why you are training so that you can design your lifestyle to support the training that you intend to do. This is one of the reasons why our coaches are always so highly sought after. They help their clients determine why they do what they do so that their clients can reduce stress, recover better, and see more success in training and in “real life” (competitions, boardrooms, at home with family, etc…)
Find your why and then prep physically to come back strongly in the gym (or while you remain at home).
It’s ok to shift your goals coming off of COVID-19
I asked Mizar how many of his clients shifted their goals during the virus. Mizar responded with “100%.”
That screams to me that people are likely feeling tension because the world has shifted so greatly. Don’t worry if you sense that you want to train for different purposes. Perhaps it’s the same purpose but your timeline has shifted. At any rate, be willing to look at yourself without negative judgement; shift your goals appropriately for where you want to go, big picture.
What are important physical considerations when you head back to the gym?
The key is that you need to work your way back into your training at the appropriate pace for you. Everybody will be a little bit different, and depending on how much training you did at home, you’ll be more or less prepared to go hard than somebody else. Some of the key components Mizar hit on were:
- Feel your training first - instead of going for a back squat max day one, just go in, grab a barbell, and move with it. See how you feel, and then see how you feel the next day. Based on your body, you can slowly work your way back into normal training
- Don’t test right out of the gates - If you haven’t expressed any real intensity in 2 months, it doesn’t make sense to go all out in a testing format right away. Wait till you’ve gone through a phase of training and have the requisite volume and intensity built up as well as the reps on your body.
- Work your way back in to movements that stress your joints/tendons - think about high rep butterfly pull-ups. Because of the eccentric stress on your body, you must be careful to not overdo volume in these types of movements. Build back volume and then repeated reps and sets before you push these movements
- When is your next competition or peak? - This depends greatly on what the competition is. If you are preparing for a 1 day, 2 event, local competition, you may be able to prepare for that event - ie prepare to recover for the volume of the competition that you’ll face - in 1-2 months. If you’re preparing for the CrossFit Games which may be 3-5 days of 1-4 events per day, you’ll need significantly longer to prepare yourself to recover properly between those events. It’ll likely take most people at least 1 month of quality training to retouch a former peak after having 2 months of semi down time. But, if you are trying to maximally express your talent after having been “off” for 2+ months you’ll likely want to shift your next competition back in order be more prepared for the week/end. Preparing for a competition in 1 month is a very tall order we wouldn’t recommend for most people because they’ll miss out on proper accumulation and intensification “reps.”
- Avoid destructive workouts and/or “lactic burners” - While it may be ok to do one of these workouts, if it makes sense for your goals and capabilities, you’ll want to avoid doing repeat days of those lactic burners because you can’t recover well enough consistently enough over time. Your body needs more recovery time for those big aggressive efforts
It’s ok for your goals to shift, and it’s really important to prep for the big picture goal vs coming back just go go hard. Best of luck, and let us know how we can help you get back into the gym with real and lasting success
Until the next time my friends!